Scripture Words Defined and Explained

This short note provides a definition of the term “schema” in the New Testament. In reaching my present definition of the term schema, I will review how I determined its meaning.

  1. 1 Corinthians 7:31. God wrote: “and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the “schema” (“σχῆμα”) of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). Therefore, I know several things about the term “schema” from that single verse. First, I know that “schema” links to this world (“κόσμου”). Second, I know the present “schema” is temporary, in the sense that it is passing away (“παράγει”–present active indicative, third singular). Having examined the verse, I then turned to the context to understand the substance of the term “schema.”
  2. 1 Corinthians 7:29-30. To understand the substance of “schema,” I noticed that 1 Corinthians 7:29 described the “epoch” (“καιρὸς”) as being shortened (“συνεσταλμένος”–perfect middle/passive participle, nominative masculine singular). Therefore, I understood that just as “schema” was temporary, so also this “epoch” was temporary. Furthermore, because this “epoch” was being shortened, I also recognized the similarity to “passing away.” Next, I noticed that this “epoch” had certain activities of daily life in this world. Those activities included (a) having wives (1 Corinthians 7:29); (b) weeping (1 Corinthians 7:30); (c) rejoicing (1 Corinthians 7:30); (d) buying (1 Corinthians 7:30); and (e) using this world (1 Corinthians 7:31). Therefore, the context just provided the substance of “schema.” Basically, “schema” means the normal activities associated with life in this world, according to the epoch of that time, which is subject to change. God was making the point that these things would be changing as the world passes away. In some sense, they would be negated because saints would live as if they did not have those activities. In other words, those saints lived in that “epoch” of New Testament times with its “schema” of those days. Having now defined and explained the term “schema” from its use in 1 Corinthians 7, I can now turn to Philippians 2:8.
  3. Philippians 2:8. God wrote the Philippians to have the same attitude which was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Then God described Christ Jesus as “in schema” (“σχήματι”–dative neuter singular) having been found (“εὑρεθεὶς”–aorist passive participle, nominative masculine singular) as a human (“ἄνθρωπος”), then Christ Jesus humbled Himself, having become obedient to death (Philippians 2:7). Therefore, we use our definition of “schema” derived from 1 Corinthians 7 to understand that Christ Jesus not only emptied Himself, having taken the form of slave, in the likeness of humans having become, but also Christ Jesus participated in all the “schema” of His age. In other words, He wept (John 11:37), He rejoiced (Luke 11:21) and participated in the other normal activities of daily living. He not only became the God-Man with both a human nature and divine nature, and a human will and divine will, and a human body, but He also enmeshed Himself into the activities of normal, human daily life (the schema of that epoch, which was passing away). Within that schema, Christ Jesus was also tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). 


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