I thought I understood what was happening between Jesus and Peter in Mark 8:32,33 but after reading it in the Greek I’m not so sure anymore.

Peter pulls Jesus aside and ἐπιτιμᾶν him for revealing to the 12 that he (Jesus) will be killed by his enemies.  Jesus looks at his other disciples, turns to Peter and ἐπετίμησεν him right back saying, “Get behind me Satan!”  

The Greek verb, ἐπιτιμάω, looks a lot like “epitomize,” but is usually translated as “rebuke.”   I think of rebuking as akin to scolding -- someone does something that upsets another person and the injured party lets the offender know that the action is unacceptable.  Undoubtedly, hard feelings arise on both sides of such an exchange.  However, if I replace “rebuke” with “epitomize,” my expectations change.

To epitomize, is to be the perfect example of something.  For instance, the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota epitomizes civil disobedience.  The four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska (pop.14) that sold approximately 3.5 million cans of beer last year epitomize the exploitation of the vulnerable.  The Keokuk, Iowa blockade of the Dakota Access pipeline’s path under the Mississippi River epitomizes nonviolent protest.

My first inclination is to scold the governors of North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa for not doing more to protect human rights in each of these situations.  As I compose my letters to them, I can feel myself growing angry and frustrated.  Not “Get behind me, Satan” angry but close.

If instead I think about my letters as invitations to the governors to be more perfect examples of the best that is in them, then my hostility dissipates.

Ἐπιτιμάω can be defined as “to warn by instruction in order to prevent something from going wrong.”  The one doing the ἐπιτιμάω sees a potential threat, grows concerned, and is motivated to intercede.  Peter thought Jesus was making a terrible mistake and was moved to speak out.  Jesus saw the effect Peter’s words were having on the other disciples and quickly stopped him from causing more harm.

More than likely, the three governors are receiving a lot of instructions explaining how to correct a variety of wrongs.  That they also are receiving instructions on how to be more perfect examples of their better selves seems less likely.  How about it readers; any suggestions on possible epitomizing instructions to offer them?  At the moment the only thing I can think of is Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8--

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

In the Greek, Paul’s command to “λογίζεσθε such things!” appears to be based on a conviction that the specified virtues will guide the reasoning process to a logical conclusion.  Maybe the governors could use the virtue list as a checklist for evaluating their decisions and then revising them if they find that their actions have fallen short of the ideal.