Sumballo: Bundling Phronema
Sumballo is comprised of two Greek words; sum meaning together and ballo, which means to throw. However, a closer study of this word brings more insight into its definition and meaning.
Sum: together Ballo: to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls1
Sumballo is defined by different Lexicons as follows: “to throw together, to bring together.”2 “To throw together, hence, to discuss, consider, meet with.”3 “To throw together with…people, thoughts, things, etc.”4
This almost sounds hit or miss, something that occurs almost by accident. But is that how God uses this word in the Bible?
Sumballo has a design to this casting together. Sumballo is more accurately “to place together with a purpose, with an intent.”
Let’s look and see for ourselves.
Or what king, going to make [sumballo] war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
“To make” is translated from the Greek word sumballo. What is being “thrown together”? The concern in these verses is making war. Can my 10,000 troops overcome his 20,000? How about if I fight from inside the castle? Do I have the supplies to withstand a siege? How many framers can I allow into the city? What is my best strategy for victory? How much will a war cost?
We can begin to see there has to be some precision in this thought pattern concerning war. It isn’t just something that is haphazardly thrown together.
We can see the precision and intent behind this Greek word. Areas and aspects of waging war are about to come together so this king can arrive at a decision that is good for him and right for the kingdom.
Since the mind works by association, many aspects will be pulled together with a need for precision on the exact subject.
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped [sumballo] them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Before we get to sumballo in these verses let’s look at our context. Eloquent has the same meaning in Greek as it does in English; he was a very good speaker, persuasive in his arguments having been trained in Alexandrian philosophy and powerful in his presentation. The bonus, he was mighty or strong in scriptures, meaning the Old Testament since the only doctrine concerning the Age of Grace was written a short time before this event to the believers in Thessalonica.
Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and taught him God’s Word more exactly.
And *he* began to speak boldly in the synagogue. And Aquila and Priscilla, having heard him, took him to [them] and unfolded to him the way of God more exactly.
Here is a man that God has just identified as eloquent and mighty in scriptures and he steps aside with this couple and listens to them say, “your good but your doctrine is off.” What’s even more revealing, he receives their correction! You can add meek and humble to his list of character traits.
You’ll remember that Aquila and Priscilla had only recently come to Ephesus while traveling with Paul. For a time, while Paul was in Corinth, he had lived with Aquila and Priscilla. Then, they left Achaia with Paul, all three stopping at Ephesus while Paul continued to Jerusalem and Antioch.
Now here is Apollos who is mighty in scriptures, and eloquent, and obviously meek to hearing God’s Word as he receives correction from two strangers, and he desires to move on to Corinth. So, Aquila and Priscilla, with other believers, write a letter of commendation5 to the believers in Corinth about receiving Apollos. Then Apollos helped [sumballo] the believers in Corinth.
So how does sumballo fit with this context?
Sumballo is to place together with precision. Sumballo isn’t a happy accident but a precise placement of two things together. How would Aquila and Priscilla know this was a precise placement? To begin with, common sense says it’s a good match, but more than common sense, Aquila and Priscilla have the spirit of God working within them.
Aquila and Priscilla’s time with the Apostle Paul should have made them aware of the accurate doctrine for the Age of Grace.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship [CT and MT texts have the Greek word for administration here]6 of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Part of Paul’s ministry was to “make” or enlighten [Greek photizo; to enlighten] all concerning the administration of the mystery, the administration, or age, of Grace.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
This is what Jesus Christ said to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus when Paul was called to teach this doctrine of the mystery spoken of in Ephesians. The point is that Aquila and Priscilla lived in the same home as Paul in Corinth and should have been well acquainted with Paul’s doctrine. Placing Apollos with those Paul had taught in Corinth is a precise combining.
And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed [Greek – diatasso – dia; through or entirely and tasso; to put in order] minding himself to go afoot. And when he met [sumballo] with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
We can see with the word “appointed” that Paul walking while the others went by ship to Assos that this was a prearranged separation and a re-meeting in Assos. The word “met” is our word sumballo and again is showing us that it isn’t by happenstance that they met in Assos but rather a putting together two things with precision.
But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
Again, we need to see the context for a complete understanding of the situation. In Acts 3:1-11 God heals the lame man at the gate Beautiful and all the people were amazed and marveled at the miracle. Then, for the remainder of chapter 3, Peter steps forward and teaches the people and the priests, Acts 4:1, about Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead.
And his name through faith [believing] in his name [Jesus Christ of Nazareth] hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith [believing] which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Then, in Acts 4:2-3 the Apostles are arrested but about 5,000 men believed what Peter was teaching. Now that’s a response to God’s Word and the power of God. After these things, the High Priest calls other leaders together and they put the Apostles in the middle and demand answers. The problem here is that the Jewish leaders don’t like the answers and the miracle is undeniable.
This is the stone, which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
After this confrontation even the High Priest and the leaders of the Sanhedrin marvel at these men knowing they must have been with Jesus. So, in Acts 4:15 they sumballo.
But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred [sumballo] among themselves,
The religious leaders came together, apart from the Apostles, the man who was healed, and the other people to put their heads together looking for a specific means or method to end this teaching of Jesus and in the name of Jesus Christ.
However, the best the religious leaders could come up with when they put their minds together, looking for a solution to “their” problem, was to threaten the Apostles not to speak or teach in the his, Jesus Christ’s, name.
Therefore, disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered [sumballo] him. And some said, what will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
In Luke 14 we saw a king making ready for war. In Acts 18 we saw Aquila and Priscilla deliberately place Apollos with those Paul had previously taught in Corinth. In Acts 20 we saw Paul and his traveling companions prearrange a precise meeting at Assos. Now in Acts 17 we find our first reading of what appears to be an accidental meeting.
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among [peripipto] thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
“Fell among” is the Greek word peripipto and it means to have a chance encounter.
“Encounter (peripipto from peri = around + pipto = to fall, to fall into, to fall down) means literally to fall around, and so to fall in with or among (trials, James 1:2 robbers Luke 10:30). This verb can also convey the sense of falling into something suddenly or unexpectedly -- isn't that what most trials do?”7
But in acts 17 we have the word sumballo not peripipto. What we have in Acts 17 is interpretation by means of preconceived theological determination. What I mean by that is, the translators had it in mind that sumballo was to throw something together without any concern for where the thing would land, as we saw in the opening of this teaching concerning the definition of sumballo in a few Lexicons.
Now, let’s consider this series of events with local customs and Roman laws brought into the picture.
In verse 17 Paul is holding forth the gospel of grace.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul is declaring this gospel of grace in the synagogue to the Jews and to the devout persons. Now the devout persons could either be Gentiles that worship Jehovah or as in Acts 198 they could very well be those who worship the pagan gods already worshiped in Athens. Finally, Paul goes to the Agora, or marketplace, to speak his message of the gospel of grace.
Speaking to the Jews would upset no one in Athens except the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Scribes that led that synagogue, much like how Paul and Jesus before him, upset so many of these religious leaders. If the devout persons are those who believe in the pagan gods of Athens, then the leaders of the city would be upset at introducing a new god; the Romans would also find this to be a problem; but we’ll see more on this in a moment.
In the agora there is a place called the “Painted Porch.” It was from here that Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, taught his philosophy. The Epicureans believed in no god. Their philosophy was basically enjoying life to the fullest, this life is all we have. While the Stoics were pantheists, meaning god was in everything so don’t be too happy or too sad, take life as it comes.
The agora was a microcosm of Athenian society. Here you bought and sold, here you took people to public court, as Paul was in Philippi or the place Demetrius would have led the crowd in Acts 19. In the agora slaves were bought and sold, the unemployed sought work, philosophers shared their musings. Notice also that in Acts 17:17 Paul did these things daily.
Therefore, disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
All the events of verse 17 would have caused an uproar in the city both from the Jews and the unbelievers. But there is one more Roman law that must be understood considering this “encounter” with the Epicureans and the Stoics in verse 18.
Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, what will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
Verse 18 begins with the word “then.” Then is a time word, meaning, after all the events of verse 17 Paul and these local philosophers meet one another. Too often verse 18 is read as though it begins with the word “and” as though it is in correspondence with verse 17. It’s not in correspondence with verse 17 but after the events of verse 17.
Verse 18 gives us a list of charges these philosophers are laying at the feet of the Apostle Paul. They call him a babbler; “It means, what would this picker up of seeds wish to say, if he should get off an idea? It is a contemptuous tone of supreme ridicule and doubtless Paul heard this comment. Probably the Epicureans made this sneer that Paul was a charlatan or quack.”9
Next, they say he is a “setter forth of strange gods.” This is a serious charge that could cost Paul his life. It was against Roman law to add any new gods to the ones Athens already had. A.T. Robertson wrote, “Socrates does wrong, introducing new deities. On this charge the Athenians voted the hemlock for their greatest citizen. What will they do to Paul? This Athens was more skeptical and more tolerant than the old Athens. But Roman law did not allow the introduction of a new religion. Paul was walking on thin ice…”
Notice they didn’t bring Paul to the agora for a public trail, they took Paul to Mars Hill. Look at verses 19 and 20.
And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
Paul stood in the middle of Mars Hill as he began his oration, his proclaiming of the gospel of grace. When you can see and understand the depth of God’s Word you can see why the hearts of the men Jesus met on the road to Emmaus burned within them! Later Paul would stand in the Palace of Festus to proclaim the gospel of grace before King Agrippa and representatives of the Sanhedrin.
“Mars Hill is the Roman name for a hill in Athens, Greece, called the Hill of Ares or the Areopagus. Ares was the Greek god of war and according to Greek mythology this hill was the place where Ares stood trial before the other gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son Alirrothios. Mars Hill served as the meeting place for the Areopagus Court, the highest court in Greece for civil, criminal, and religious matters.”10
Now, let us consider the word “encounter” [sumballo] in Acts 17:18. This was no chance meeting between the Athenian philosophers and the Apostle Paul, this was a prearranged meeting, set up by the philosophers that they might bring Paul to Mars Hill to stand trial for the introduction of new gods, strange gods to Athenian culture. But the God in Christ in Paul set them all on their heels as he taught them of the Unknown God they had yet to truly met and know.
Sumballo is only used by God six times in His Word. So far, we have considered five of the six occurrences, now let’s look at the final record of sumballo in God’s Word.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered [sumballo] them in her heart.
Mary has just delivered the baby Jesus and shepherds are now standing with her declaring what they were told about the baby by angels.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Mary pondered, sumballo, these things in her heart, the kardia. First, this shows us that these thought patterns are in the kardia. That is important because we have already seen the importance of the heart regarding believing and the issues of life. Next, we need to understand what is being put together with precision and accuracy.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, how shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
This is a lot of information for any person to receive, let alone a teenager.
“One very remarkable thing about Mary is that she would almost certainly have been 12-14 years old when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. We know this because the common custom at that time was for girls to marry early, at that age.”11
“First, since Jewish women were typically betrothed around the age of 13, Mary was probably very young when she received this most weighty message from the angel Gabriel about her call to serve as the mother of the Messiah.”12
Think back into your own life, how would this information be received by you at such a young age? This is some of what Mary had to ponder, to sumballo in her heart. Yet, there is still more to ponder.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
A young teenage girl has a great deal to ponder, to bring together and process in the heart of her mind. Mary’s response to Elizabeth is overwhelming and inspiring.
And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.
In our eyes Mary may be considered a child, but by any evaluation, Mary is a woman in believing God.
It is clear from these six records that sumballo is to bring thoughts, phronema, together but with a design, a purpose, an intent. This is not something that just happens. Sumballo is not an accident or circumstances lining up. A definition of sumballo would be, a bundling of thoughts that are stored in the heart, the home of believing. This is done by association with exact precision. This bundling brings strength to a thought pattern while also strengthening the emotion attached to the thought pattern.
1. Blue Letter Bible https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G906&t=KJV
2. Blue Letter Bible https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4820&t=KJV
3. Strong’s Concordance https://biblehub.com/greek/4820.htm
4. E.W. Bullinger A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament pages 501 and 590
5. Interestingly, letters of commendation come up later with the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 3:1
6. The CT text is the Critical Greek Text and the MT text is the Byzantine Majority Text Textus Receptus from which the King James Version is translated.
7. Precept Austin, peripipto, https://www.preceptaustin.org/james_12_commentary#e
8. Acts 19:27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also, that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
9. A.T. Robertson, from Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, commentary on Acts 17,
12.Truth or Tradition, https://www.truthortradition.com/articles/mary-a-teenage-bride-and-mother
13.Catholic Resource Education Center, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-original-mary-our-lady-s-life-before-the-annunciation.html
All verses quoted in this teaching are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise identified.
© Auxano Ministry 2020