Wednesday, April 01, 2015

John 6:56-57, The Eucharist, and the Son's Present Existence

In the fateful and controversial passage, John 6:56-57, Jesus Christ exclaims that "he" who feeds on the flesh and blood (ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ πίνων μου τὸ αἷμα) of the Lord remains "in union with" him (NWT).

This account has caused no little dissension among scholars and Bible students as some have taken the verse as an allusion to the Eucharist while others view it as a call to discipleship in general. Vs. 57 seems to help us out here when it goes on to say: "Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me" (καθὼς ἀπέστειλέν με ὁ ζῶν πατὴρ κἀγὼ ζῶ διὰ τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ὁ τρώγων με κἀκεῖνος ζήσει δι’ ἐμέ).

So Jesus posits a "just as" (καθὼς) relationship between the believer who feeds on the Son, and the Son who exists because of the "living Father" (ὁ ζῶν πατὴρ). John 6:57 indicates that 6:56 does not have reference to the Eucharist, but instead speaks of the faith that followers of Jesus personally exercise in his ransom sacrifice. Nothing about the context indicates that the Eucharist is the focus:

"These words are at the heart of the discourse on the Bread of Life, and have created great misunderstanding among interpreters. Anyone who is inclined in the least toward a sacramental viewpoint will almost certainly want to take these words as a reference to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because of the reference to eating and drinking. The participle in verse 54, τρώγων, is almost shockingly graphic: it means to eat noisily, often used of animals ('gnaw,' 'nibble,' 'munch'). When used with reference to people, it often has the idea of enjoyment (Matt 24:38) and close comradeship. Some have thought it refers to a literal feeding, and thus to the Eucharist. But this does not follow: by anyone's definition there must be a symbolic element to the eating which Jesus speaks of in the discourse, and once this is admitted, it is better to understand it here, as in the previous references in the passage, to a personal receiving of (or appropriation of) Christ and his work" (W. Hall Harris). See

Moreover, scholar J.R. Michaels suggests that 6:57 still applies to the Son: He continues to live (even now) by virtue of the Father. This understanding would be in harmony with John 5:26; 14:19. At any rate, John 6:56-57 is not about the Eucharist; its contents pertain to the faith that Christians have in the Messiah (John 6:40).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Arnobius of Sicca Rejects the Graeco-Roman Myths

I have plenty of quotes from Arnobius and Lactantius that demonstrate how they viewed mythic accounts of the "nationes/gentes."

Appealing to the consensus omnium, a move which was indicative of Stoic influence, Arnobius of Sicca reasons: "For by the unanimous judgment of all, and by the common consent of the human race, the omnipotent God is regarded as having never been born, as having never been brought forth to new light, and as not having begun to exist at any time or century. For He Himself is the source of all things, the Father of ages and of seasons. For they do not exist of themselves, but from His everlasting perpetuity, they move on in unbroken and ever endless flow. Yet Jupiter indeed, as you allege, has both father and mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, and brothers: now lately conceived in the womb of his mother, being completely formed and perfected in ten months, he burst with vital sensations into light unknown to him before. If, then, this is so, how can Jupiter be God supreme, when it is evident that He is everlasting, and the former is represented by you as having had a natal day, and as having uttered a mournful cry, through terror at the strange scene?" (Adversus Nationes 1.34)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

John D. Barrow's "Take" on Entropy ("The Book of Nothing")

"John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952) is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright" (Wikipedia).

The Book of Nothing:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Brief Notes on Colossians 1:18

καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας·
ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχή,
πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,
ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων

The reading above is from NA28.

ἡ κεφαλὴ-some want to understand this noun phrase as meaning "the source," but an article by Vern Poythress knocks down the argument. The phrase quite probably refers to one who has authority over another: Christ is the head of his ecclesia (ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας). See 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Although ἀρχή is anarthrous, it is likely definite ("the beginning").

NET Bible: "He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning . . . "

πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν is a partitive genitive.

ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων: "that in everything he might be preeminent" (ESV).

But compare YLT: "And himself is the head of the body -- the assembly -- who is a beginning, a first-born out of the dead, that he might become in all things -- himself -- first"

Young places the stress on Christ 'becoming' preeminent in all things and renders ἀρχή, "a beginning." But many commentators would agree with Richard R. Melick (Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), who insists that the verse should be translated: "He is the beginning, that is, the firstborn out of the dead."

While I part ways with John Eadie theologically, I still continue to admire his grammatical/exegetical skill:

Two distinct meanings have been assigned to ἐν πᾶσιν. 1. It may be taken as masculine, “among all persons,” as is the opinion of Anselm, Beza, Cocceius, Heinrichs, Piscator, and Usteri. If the clause referred simply to the νεκροί, of which Jesus is the first-born, then we should have expected the article- ἐν τοῖς πᾶσιν. That ἐν following πρωτεύω may refer to persons, Kypke has shown in his note on this verse, though παρά is the preposition as frequently employed, and more usually the simple genitive. 2. The phrase ἐν πᾶσιν is more naturally taken by the majority in a neuter sense, “in every thing,” or “in all respects.” This is the ordinary meaning of the phrase in the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 11:6; Ephesians 1:23; 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 2:7; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 4:11. The usus loquendi is therefore in favour of this interpretation, “first in all points;” or as Theophylact says, in all things- τοῖς περὶ αὐτὸν θεωρουμένοις—“in all things which have reference to Himself;” as Chrysostom has it, πανταχοῦ πρῶτος. The verb γένηται is not to be confounded with the verb of simple existence. The meaning is not that He might be, but that “He might become.”

Finally, NWT (2013) handles Colossians 1:18 thus: "and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might become the one who is first in all things"

Cartesian Dualism and the Resurrection

Kevin Corcoran, Resurrection and the Afterlife

Rene Descartes insists that a substance either has mental or physical properties (e.g., being in pain OR having a certain mass/weight), but not both.

What kind of dualism is Descartes espousing? He argues for two categories--res extensa (extended substance) and res cogitans (thinking substance). The French thinker says that he is the latter rather than the former; that is to say, he's not absolutely identical with his body.

But Descartes allows for the possibility of disembodied existence as a thinking thing. Yet there are questions that can be asked concerning resurrection when it's understood within a dualist framework. For example, does substance dualism satisfactorily account for a resurrection of the body? Physicalist acounts of the resurrection are often heavily critiqued or discounted, but I wonder if dualism (especially of a Cartesians kind) fares any better.

How can the resurrection body be numerically identical with the body that preceded it? That question is difficult to answer using Cartesianism, although hylomorphic/hylemorphic dualism thinks it can provide a plausible, even solid, answer to the question.

Scripture does not deal with, nor does it answer these kinds of questions. We're just assured that the resurrection will happen (John 5:28-9; Acts 24:15).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Two Links That Offer Explanations of Genesis 1:1ff (More on BARA and Beresit)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Augustine and Creatio Ex Nihilo (The Dynamic Energy of God)

Augustine of Hippo writes these words in reference to
the creation of the heavens and the earth: "non de
ipsa substantia dei sed ex nihilo" (Confessiones XII).

That is, God has not created the material world out of
his own substance, but rather from nothing. While I believe
that such talk of creation EX NIHILO needs to be
qualified, there is a fundamental insight contained in
Augustine's observation: God does not create the
universe from his own substance or being; the
Judeo-Christian account of creation rules out
pantheism. It thereby seems that the energy mentioned in
Einstein's famous equation is not the same "dynamic
energy" of Isa 40:26.

The energy that pervades our universe and which is
interchangeable with mass can be quantified, measured or tested.
Do we want to say that Jehovah's energy can be measured in a quantitative
manner or that it is the flip side of mass?

The equation e=mc² means that energy is equal to mass
times the speed of light squared. Of course, we know
that the speed of light (c) is 300,000 km/sec.

Brain Greene writes: "From e=mc², we know that mass
and energy are interchangeable; like dollars and
euros, they are convertible currencies (but unlike
monetary currencies, they have a fixed exchange rate,
given by the speed of light times itself, c²" (_The
Fabric of the Cosmos_, page 354).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Numbers 16:30--Other Perspectives

George Bush Commentary (not the former U.S. President):

Adam Clarke: "If the Lord make a new thing - יהוה יברא בריאה ואם veim beriah yibra Yehovah, and if Jehovah should create a creation, i. e., do such a thing as was never done before."


NET Bible: "But if the Lord does something entirely new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up along with all that they have, and they go down alive to the grave, then you will know that these men have despised the Lord!"

Footnote from NET Bible: "tn The verb בָּרָא (bara’) is normally translated 'create' in the Bible. More specifically it means to fashion or make or do something new and fresh. Here the verb is joined with its cognate accusative to underscore that this will be so different everyone will know it is of God."

"But if a death which hath not been created since the days of the world be now created for them, and if a mouth for the earth, which hath not been made from the beginning, be created now, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them and all they have, and they go down alive into Sheul, you will understand that these men have provoked the Lord to anger" (Targum on Numbers: Pseudo-Jonathan).

[From The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel On the Pentateuch With The Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum From the Chaldee by J. W. Etheridge, M.A. First Published 1862.]

Rashi's Notes on Numbers 16:30:

"But if . . . a creation: A new one."

"the Lord creates: to kill them through a death by which no man has died until now. And what is this creation? 'And the earth will open its mouth and swallow them up.' Then you will know that they have provoked the Holy One, blessed is He, and I [Moses] have spoken by Divine word. Our Rabbis interpret it: If there was a mouth already created to the earth from the time of the six days of Creation, well and good, but if not, let God create [one now]. - [Mid. Tanchuma Korach, Sanh. 110a]"

Revelation 4:11 (Commentaries)-More on TA PANTA

Barnes' Notes on the Bible: "For thou hast created all things - Thus, laying the foundation for praise. No one can contemplate this vast and wonderful universe without seeing that He who has made it is worthy to 'receive glory, and honor, and power.' Compare the notes on Job 38:7."

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary: "all things—Greek, 'the all things': the universe."

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: "for thou hast created all things; the whole universe, the heavens, the earth, and sea, and all that in them are"

Vincent's Word Studies: "All things (τὰ πάντα)

With the article signifying the universe."

Henry Alford's Greek Testament: "because Thou didst create all things (τὰ πάντα, 'this universal whole,' the universe), and on account of Thy will (i. e. because Thou didst will it: 'propter voluntatem tuam,' as Vulg.: not durch Deinen Willen, as Luther, which represents διὰ with a gen."

Here's A.T. Robertson on Colossians 1:16: "All things (ta panta). The universe as in Romans 11:35 [36], a well-known philosophical phrase. It is repeated at the end of the verse."