Friday, December 19, 2014

God and the Future (the Grand Cosmic Play Which Allows for Genuine Freedom)

Let us assume that God is the director of a great cosmic drama. As grand director, He chooses to let those starring in the cosmic play, follow the script according to their agent-causal powers. Now the director knows both the AB INITIO of the play and the TERMINUS (Isa 46:10); however, the events that transpire in the middle are not tightly scripted and thus occur spontaneously. But, since He is the director, God can make adjustments here and there during the play in order to ensure that the TERMINUS
winds up to His liking.

Furthermore, being the superb director that He is, God knows that a number of "actors" will adhere closely to the script: He knows the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (1 Sam 16:7). Nevertheless, those who refuse to act according to the script will not thwart God's drama since He remains omnipotent (or almighty), qualitatively infinite and omniscient.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christ as the EIKON of God (Philo)-Part of a Working Paper

In The Son of God, Martin Hengel notes (based on 1 Cor. 8:6) that "the Father is the primal ground and goal of creation, whereas Christ is the mediator" (13).

Next, Hengel discusses the Alexandrian philosopher Philo; according to Philo, the Platonic realm of transcendent Forms (Ideas) is God's 'eldest and firstborn son' and is synonymous with God's LOGOS (divine reason immanent in the cosmos). To Philo, the LOGOS is the "mediator between the eternal Godhead and the created, visible world." At the same time, the Logos is also God's "image" (EIKWN).

Philo is never quite clear about what he perceives the LOGOS to be. In varying delineations, he refers to the LOGOS as the sinless mediator, the spiritual primal man, the spokesman, the archangel, and the second god (deuteros theos). This deuteros theos is neither created nor uncreated, yet Philo does not equate the EIKWN of God with God himself (52). This claim is proved by referencing Somn. I, 157, 228-230.

In this portion of his famous work, Philo calls the EIKWN THEOU, both kurios and archangel. This point is significant because it is here that he distinguishes the LOGOS from the Father who brings forth the LOGOS. The Father is ho theos, but the LOGOS can only be considered theos (without the article). This datum substantiates the point that Philo viewed this agent as mediator of creation and a secondary god, possibly inferior to the Father of Israel (Isa. 64:8).

This philosophical detour alerts us to the fact that EIKWN when used by Philo does not mean that a thing is to be equated fully with its prototype. The sun's reflection in the water is not the same as the actual sun: it does not possess the same nature (essence or quidditas) that the sun does. Similarly, Jesus as the EIKWN of God, does not possess the substance of the Father, but is homoiousios with him. One day anointed Christians will enjoy this same privilege, to a lesser degree of course, when they experience glorified life in the EIKWN of the Son--being made like unto his image and that of his Father's.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dogmata and Early Apostolic Authority (τὰ δόγματα)

A person once sent me a private email in which he questioned the idea of Christian teaching being dictated (governed) by a select group of men in a central location. Part of his argument was based on Acts 16:4 which uses the Greek expression τὰ δόγματα.

My response:

The apostles and older men at Jerusalem constituted an authoritative body of men who governed early believers and made important decisions regarding matters of doctrine, faith and morals. According to Acts 2:42, early Christians (after Pentecost) obeyed apostolic teaching; the preeminence of the apostles is likewise suggested by the vision that John received of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. That account depicts the apostles as foundation stones of the holy city.

In order to make a proper determination about what τὰ δόγματα may denote, we need to have more up to date resources than Strong's Concordance or Thayer's Greek-English lexicon since these publications do not include the contemporary work done after the Greek papyri of Egypt were discovered: knowledge of the Greek language has advanced since the publication of Strong or Thayer.

Granted, the term "dogma" evidently does not have the force of an imperial command in Acts 16:4 as one finds in Luke 2:1. Rather, the more probable meaning in Acts 16:4 is "a formal statement concerning rules or regulations that are to be observed" (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, 254) Compare Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14.

Every Greek text that I own (including UBS4 and NA27) has the reading τὰ δόγματα in the main text. τὰ δόγματα further seems to be attested in the homilies (Acts of the Apostles) of John Chrysostom. [Compare the new NA28 as well.]

I see no good reason to eschew the reading τὰ δόγματα in view of what we find in ancient writers and modern Greek texts. For a useful diachronic approach to the Greek term "dogma", see Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 2:231-232. This source demonstrates that a number of early Christian writers understood "dogma" as a term that could be applied to "the teachings and prescriptions of Jesus." TDNT itself describes the word (within the context of Acts 16:4) as referring to "the resolutions and decrees of the early church in Jerusalem which are to be sent out to the cities of the first missionary journey" (ibid). Even if the word is used to describe philosophical notions or imperial edicts in antiquity, TDNT suggests that "dogma" appears to reference divine law in Acts 16:4.

The apostles and older men mentioned in Acts 15 and 16 were dealing with a certain problem, namely, circumcision and its relation to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). There was no need to impose further burdens at that time on the Gentiles. While some who oppose the structure discussed in Acts want to imply that the apostolic model may be too confining or restrictive, I do not believe that "all powerful" is the right way to view the "Governing Body" that resided in first century Jerusalem--nor is that how I view today's Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The apostles and older men were servants of God who endeavored to provide guidance for the budding first century congregations: they exercised due humility and modesty while relying upon the Most High God, Jehovah. Their official functions in setting forth "dogma" must be viewed in the light of Acts 20:28ff; Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Joseph Kelly--The "True Meaning" of Christmas



Friday, December 12, 2014

Whence the LOGOS of John 1:1-18?

There is substantial evidence that the Apostle John did not borrow pagan ideas to formulate his idea of the LOGOS. Of course, we all know that the term LOGOS has a long history in Greek literature and was used in ancient writings to possibly describe an immutable and necessary rational ordering-principle (Heraclitus) or "the meaningful structure of reality as a whole and of the human mind in particular" (Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, page 12).

Certain scholars have also wondered whether the word LOGOS denotes a primal cognate of the universe in Greek literature, while others point to Philo's LOGOS as somewhat of a locus classicus for John's LOGOS.

Despite the signifier's prolific use in Greek literature, however, it appears that John's
deployment of the term is firmly rooted in ideas from the Tanakh:

"While the term is Greek, the roots of the Johannine meaning seem to be more in Jewish-Hebrew soil" (Gerald Borchert, John 1-11, page 104). Cf. Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22-35.

"This word [LOGOS] was used by many ancient philosophies, but we must not import their meanings into this passage. John gives the LOGOS its own meaning; the standpoint is that of the Old Testament" (AT Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, page 185).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Habakkuk 1:12-You/We Shall Not Die?

הֲלֹ֧וא אַתָּ֣ה מִקֶּ֗דֶם יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהַ֛י קְדֹשִׁ֖י לֹ֣א נָמ֑וּת יְהוָה֙ לְמִשְׁפָּ֣ט שַׂמְתֹּ֔ו וְצ֖וּר לְהֹוכִ֥יחַ
(Habakkuk 1:12, BHS)

ESV: "Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof."

ASV: "Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction."

NET Bible: "LORD, you have been active from ancient times; my sovereign God, you are immortal. LORD, you have made them your instrument of judgment. Protector, you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Justin Martyr and the Septuagint (OG/LXX)

"If therefore, I shall show that this prophecy of Isaiah refers to our Christ, and not to Hezekiah, as you say, shall I not in this matter, too, compel you not to believe your teachers, who venture to assert that the explanation which your seventy elders that were with Ptolemy the king of the Egyptians gave, is untrue in certain respects?" (Dialogue with Trypho LXVIII)

"I [Justin] continued, to contend against you about the reading which you so interpret, saying it is written, 'Till the things laid up for Him come;' though the Seventy have not so explained it, but thus, 'Till He comes for whom this is laid up.' But since what follows indicates that the reference is to Christ (for it is,'and He shall be the expectation of nations'), I do not proceed to have a mere verbal controversy with you, as I have not attempted to establish proof about Christ from the passages of Scripture which are not admitted by you which I quoted from the words of Jeremiah the prophet, and Esdras, and David; but from those which are even now admitted by you, which had your teachers comprehended, be well assured they would have deleted them, as they did those about the death of Isaiah, whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw" (Dial. CXX).

"But in the version of the Seventy it is written, 'Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes,' in order to manifest the disobedience of men,-I mean of Adam and Eve,-and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent,
who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve" (Dial. CXXIV).

Also, in Dial. LXXIII, Justin quotes Ps. 96:10 [95:10 LXX] as it evidently appeared in some copies of the LXX concerning the Lord reigning from a tree (Ειπατε εν τοις εθνεσι, ὁ Κυριος εβασιλευσε απο του ξυλου). He apparently had to get this reading from some version of the LXX although he may be the only Greek writer to quote the psalm in this way (a number of Latin writers cite the psalm as the Martyr does).

Robert Kraft offers these insights:

We have already noted (above, p. 209) that Justin thought Jews had excised the words [apo tou xylou] from Ps.95/96.10. Numerous preserved MSS and versions (especially "western" and south Egyptian) also support this reading, which Justin viewed as Pre-Christian, prophetic and original\31). It is not, however, found in the extant Hebrew text or in the well attested northern Egyptian Greek text. Its origin remains a mystery. If it is a Christian addition, it predates Justin (and probably Barnabas, as well -- see Barn. 8.5) and thus developed in the first century of Christian existence.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Grammatical Antecedents and Acts 14:4

Acts 14:4: ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς πόλεως, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἦσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, οἱ δὲ σὺν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις (NA 28).

Acts 14:4 serves as an example of the Greek pronominal's content being discerned from the literary context of the passage (i.e., from the cotext). In the construction, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἦσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, the plural pronominal οἱ (functioning as an alternative pronoun) does not have an explicit antecedent; however, we discern the identity of those who sided with the Jews (οἱ) and we recognize the "others" who elected to go with the apostles by appealing to the context. See Acts 14:1-2.