Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Son of God = Possessing the Nature of God?

I first encountered this type of theological reasoning when reading the works of Charles Ryrie. It seemed "fishy" to me then and it appears highly suspect now. Can anyone provide solid lexical data that buttresses the claim that the phrase "Son/son of God = possessing the nature of God?

For instance, the Bible calls angels "sons of God," but do they possess the nature of deity, as this nomenclature is defined by Trinitarians?

Secondly, BDB Hebrew-English Lexicon supplies an example where the expression "son of" most certainly does not mean "possessing the nature of X." Take the idiom, "sons of the prophets" (1 Kings 20:35). Are we to assume that it denotes: "possessing the nature of a prophet"? Not according to BDB. Moreover, the phrase "son of a messenger" most clearly does not mean "possessing the nature of a messenger." That is why I am requesting those who take this stand to produce lexical evidence that supports this claim.

Another pertinent example is Ephesians 2:2. The Greek there reads: TOIS hUIOIS THS APEIQEIAS. This linguistic formula or construction does not signify: "possessing the nature of disobedience." It could simply refer to "disobedient [ones]" or "disobedient sons."

"hUIOI THS AP. Hebr. those given to disobedience" (Zerwick's A Grammatical Analysis of the GNT, p. 581).

For more details, see sections 42-44 of Zerwick's Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples.

Some argue that the expression "Son of Man" supports the notion that "Son of God" = "possessing the nature of God." Again, it appears that theology and not lexical semantics is controlling this discussion. Why should the title "Son
of Man" have to mean "possessing the nature of a man"? As the Complete Word Study: Old Testament points out, the OT nomenclature "son of man" simply denotes "a man" or "an individual." One could also understand the terminology to connote a "mortal being of flesh." But "Son of Man" (in some contexts) also has "Messianic overtones" (Daniel 7:13-14). That is the way in which the Gospels primarily make use of the title or formula. Son of Man identifies Christ as the Messiah without a need to cart in a "possessing the nature of X" theory.

Hippolytus of Rome's "Exegetical Fragments"--Michael the Archangel

Here are some thoughts from Hippolytus of Rome:

"And lo, Michael." Who is Michael but the angel assigned to the people? As (God) says to Moses, "I will not go with you in the way, because the people are stiff-necked; but my angel shall go with you."

And after a little He says to him: "Do you know wherefore I come unto you? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia. But I will show you that which is noted in the Scripture of truth: and there is none that holds with me in these things but Michael your prince, and I left him there. For from the day that you gave your countenance to be afflicted before the Lord your God, your prayer was heard, and I was sent to fight with the prince of Persia: "for a certain counsel was formed not to send the people away: "that therefore your prayer might be speedily granted, I withstood him, and left Michael there."

And who was he that spoke, but the angel who was given to the people, as he says in the law of Moses: "I will not go with you, because the people is stiff-necked; but my angel shall go before along with you? " This (angel) withstood Moses at the inn, when he was bringing the child uncircumcised into Egypt. For it was not allowed Moses, who was the eider (or legate) and mediator of the law, and who proclaimed the covenant of the fathers, to introduce a child uncircumcised, lest he should be deemed a false prophet and deceiver by the people. "And now," says he, "will I show the truth to you." Could the Truth have shown anything else but the truth?


The Possible Meaning of "Torment" in Revelation 11:1-6 & 20:10

There are a number of factors that we must not ignore when treating Rev. 20:10. For one thing, its quite possible that torment in Rev. 20:10 does not mean literal torture (the infliction of physical or mental pain). It could either refer to imprisonment or denote a subjection to punitive measures (Matt. 18:34). It is the figurative imprisonment or testing of the Devil and his cohorts that could occur both day and night. Furthermore, if the beast and the false prophet are not sentient beings per se but representative of symbolic entities, then it makes no sense to speak of their torment anymore than someone might speak about tormenting death and hell in a literal sense (Rev. 20:14-15).

Robert W. Wall points out that Revelation's description of the two witnesses could very well be symbolic of the church's faithful testimony in the face of its enemies (Wall, Revelation, 145ff). The terminology "two witnesses" might be an example of synecdoche; therefore, the imagery could aptly represent the faithful (anointed) conquerors who overcome the wild beast by means of their faith. Notice that the prophets (witnesses) dress in sackcloth, are described as having powers akin to Moses and Elijah, they are killed and their dead bodies remain unburied for three and a half days as those on the earth exult (temporarily) over their unjust death. In view of the overall literary features of Revelation and the context of Rev. 11:10, I suggest that the two witnesses symbolically depict some kind of Christian testimony reminiscent of the ancient Jewish prophets.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Another Interpretation of Aquinas' John 14:28 Explanation

Revelation's Symbols and Eternal Torment

Revelation often uses numerals in a symbolic manner. John mentions four angels holding back the four winds of the earth (Rev. 7:1-4). Is this depiction literal or figurative? Four angels release a calvary from the great river Euphrates and a woman in heaven is seen with a crown of twelve stars on her forehead (Rev. 9:13-19; 12:1ff). Are these references literal? They are apparently symbols in light of Rev. 1:1 and other passages like Rev. 12:1 which explicitly identify some references as signs. Individual persons are employed at times to signify groups of people or inanimate entities in the Bible. For example, it's possible that the woman in 12:1 symbolizes a group of persons and not an individual woman in heaven. We also read about four living creatures and 24 elders (Rev. 4:1-11) in the so-called "throne-room vision."

However, I concede the point that not everything in Revelation is symbolic. What one views as literal or symbolic is often governed by his or her theology although context should also be a strong determining factor. While I may believe that Satan's torment is symbolic, others understand his torment to be literal, but then inconsistently claim that Rev. 20:14-15 and its mention of death and hades being cast into the lake of fire is at least partly--if not completely--symbolic. In the final analysis, I would submit that Scripture as a whole and our understanding of God's nature must also govern our understanding of Revelation.

The Bible indicates that Satan and all those who follow him will be eternally destroyed or annihilated (Matt. 7:13, 14; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 17:8). Furthermore, I wonder how a God of love could torment sentient and rational beings for all eternity (1 John 4:8). Additionally, if we construe a number of the symbols literally in Revelation, then it seems to makes nonsense of the book and possibly makes a liar out of John.

GRB Murray said it best in his commentary on Revelation, when he noted that John writes: "with parables and symbols which point to ideas beyond their verbal expression" (Murray 299). Therefore, we have to be careful when we conclude that God is going to torture people in a literal lake of fire for all eternity. Other verses show that God will bring evildoers to a fitting end by annihilating them forever (Ps. 145:20; Isa. 66:24).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Will, Predestination and Necessity

God foresees that certain events will happen or Jehovah knows that He will bring about certain occurrences in history. He therefore announces these events in His Word, the Bible, thereby binding Himself to the fulfillment of these prophesied events (Isa 55:10-11). If God has foreseen the future acts of volitional agents, then they may necessarily happen, but these acts take place within the parameters of creaturely freedom. We cannot righly infer that God necessarily causes that which He foresees. God does not cause the rebels mentioned in Rev 20:8 to rebel--yet they will exercise their free volition and rebel against God according to the prophecy.

Boethius provides a way out of this apparent dilemma by employing Aristotle's distinction between simple and conditional (hypothetical) necessity. De Consolatione Philosophiae (Book V) uses the example: "Necessarily, all men are mortal." This proposition is an example of simple necessity. This kind of necessity issues from a thing ut natura. But knowing that if S is walking, then it is necessary that S is walking, is an example of hypothetical necessity. We could also say: "If Socrates is sitting, then it is necessary that he is sitting." But it would not be correct to infer from this proposition: "Necessarily, Socrates is sitting."

Applying this example to Cyrus, we can say that there is a difference between the proposition: "It is necessary that Cyrus the Great will overthrow Babylon" and "If Cyrus overthrows Babylon, then he will necessarily overthrow Babylon."

Boethius writes: "Without doubt, then, all things which God foreknows do come to pass, but certain of them proceed from free will."

I obviously disagree with Boethius in a number of ways, but the Aristotelian distinction between simple and hypothetical necessity might be helpful for understanding how events necessarily happen without implying fatalism.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hebrews 2:14 (A Dialogue)

Under the entry for KATARGEW, BDAG has "to cause [something] to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside . . . TON TO KRATOS EXONTA TOU QANATOU destroy the one who has power over death Heb. 2:14" (page 525). This understanding of KATARGEW is consonant with Paul's words in Rom. 16:10 as well (note his use of SUNTRIYEI there and the part that Christians will play in the said "crushing" of the Devil).

[Jean] Why do you not mention the first meaning listed in BAGD for KATARGEW: "make ineffective, powerless, idle"? The fact that KATARGEW can mean "abolish" does not necessarily mean that Heb 2:14 automatically implies the destruction of the devil, although it may. According to LSJ the verb KATARGEW means "leave unemployed or idle." Other glosses includes: 1) make useless, cumber (the ground), 2) cause to be idle, hinder. LSJ also mentions as a second large category of meaning the idea to "make of no effect."

I did not mention the first definition because you had already alluded to it in your comments earlier. Secondly, BDAG lists Heb. 2:14 under the second definition (not the first one). While the significance attached to KATARGEW by BDAG is surely not definitive just because the lexicon construes KATARGEW in this manner, I think that BDAG's comments on KATARGEW in Heb. 2:14 certainly deserve consideration because we must not only ask what a word means: we must ask what a certain signifier denotes in a particular context. Based on other Scriptures that talk about the Devil, I believe that it makes more sense to group KATARGEW under the second definition found in BDAG (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20).

LSJ is fine and its unequalled in the information that it provides. But we must keep in mind the priority that synchronic definitions have over diachronic ones. BDAG lists a number of Bible passages where KATARGEW seems to denote destruction or annihilation. This defintion seem apropos vis-a'-vis Heb. 2:14.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Another Discussion on the Lake of Fire/Second Death

Lastly, the language dealing with "torment" evidently does not refer to literal pain or torture. The term is commonly utilized in a figurative manner throughout the book of Revelation (Rev. 11:10).

I do not know why you conclude that the torment in Rev 11:10 cannot refer to literal pain or torture. I admit that much of the affliction will evidently be on the spiritual level. But the two witnesses have power to send fire from their mouths (perhaps the idea is "power to send fire at their command") and consume their enemies. Their enemies will be killed in this way (Rev 11:5). They also have power to shut up heaven so that there is no rain upon the earth during the days of their prophecy, those days lasting three-and-a-half years. They have further authority to turn the water into blood. Additionally, they can smite the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish (11:6). So the conclusion that the "torment" in Rev 11:10 is merely figurative seems quite likely to be incorrect.

I base part of this understanding on what the new BDAG says under the entry for BASANIZW: "of prophetic testimony as source of annoyance Rv 11:10.--9:5; 14:10; 20:10; GPt; Hv 3, 7, 6; s 6, 4, 1f; 4; 6, 5, 3f; 6" (Page 168). Furthermore, the context of Rev. 11:10 shows that the two prophets use their powers to kill and devour their enemies. How could such powerful feats literally torment all those who dwell upon the earth? It is more likely that the testimony of the witnesses serves as an annoyance [figuratively] for those who live upon the earth (Cf. C.H. Giblin, "Revelation 11:1-13: Its Form, Function and Contextual Integration." NTS 30 (1984) 433-59.)

What is interesting to me about the Rev 14:9-11 passage is that the text mentions the absence of rest after speaking of the smoke of their torment going up:

Rev. 14:11 and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

The text implies that the smoke of their torment goes up forever because they have no rest from their suffering day or night.

Well, the verse says that the smoke of their torment ascends forever. It does not say that the "smoke" results from their toil and suffering. And what is more, the pain inflicted on those worshiping the beast could be symbolic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Who Is the Ruler of the World? (Johannine Texts)

"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world (νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) be cast out" (John 12:31)

"Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh (ἔρχεται γὰρ ὁ τοῦ κόσμου ἄρχων), and hath nothing in me"(John 14:31).

"Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (ὅτι ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται)." (John 16:11).

All biblical quotes from the KJV.

Do these texts have any bearing on our understanding of 2 Corinthians 4:4?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another Catholic Reference That Seems to Argue John 14:28 Applies to the Human Nature of Christ (David)

Hi David, again I'm not saying that your understanding of Aquinas is not viable, but Levering seems to understand Aquinas' position on John 14:28 like I do. But he may qualify these statements elsewhere.

See pages 42 and 269.

All the best,


"God of This Age" (Link to a Dissertation)

We've discussed 2 Corinthians 4:4 in the past and the different ways that scholars understand the passage, so I thought some blog readers might appreciate this link for a dissertation that analyzes 2 Cor. 4:4 and related verses. My suggesting this link in no way implies that I am advoccating the contents or overall thesis of the author's work. I am providing this link for informational purposes only. I'll let you all decide if you'd like to check out the author's work. Please see