Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dialogue On Sheol, the Soul and Politics (Originally An Email Message)

I have made a few corrections for ease of reading, but the message is fundamentally the same as it was sent to my colleague:

1) Jehovah's Witnesses view Sheol in the light of Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, passages which speak of the dead knowing nothing and which portray Sheol as a locus of non-activity. Similar verses are found in Psalms and Job. I'm sure you're also familiar with the Jewish metaphor "sleep" for death. This imagery for death suggests that no activity occurs in Sheol. As for the account where prayers for the dead supposedly transpire (in Maccabees), it has been interpreted various ways. But the bottom line is that one does not necessarily have to construe the account as an instance of prayers for the dead. See the NAB footnotes on 2 Macc 12.

2) How do we know that physical organs are only capable of apprehending particulars? What incontrovertible proof do we have that intellects (of the Thomistic caliber) even obtain? I admit that an intellect qua a power of the soul is logically possible. However, I am not convinced that such a faculty is factually possible. So I guess my first line of attack would be to question the existence of the intellect, in the relevant sense we're discussing. Secondly, I would argue that what has been called "intellect" is really nothing more than a higher-order process of the brain: intellection is a biological phenomenon. The brain consequently makes it possible for us to have the facility for grasping what appear to be universals.

3) I have never participated in the election process because of my religious beliefs. We Witnesses think this world is beyond reform; it's incorrigible or irreformable. That which is crooked cannot be made straight (said Qoheleth). Therefore, politicians are inherently limited when it comes to positive reforms. No wonder Jesus fled when people tried to make him a king (John 6:15). He solemnly proclaimed that his kingdom was not of this world. These Johannine accounts regarding Jesus deeply influence my political stand. But from a pragmatic standpoint, it's difficult for me to vote Republican or Democrat since I disagree with a number of things each party advocates. Whether it's abortion, same-sex marriage or cutting social programs that help the poor--there are significant points of disagreement between me and Obama/Romney.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Ephesians 5:12 (Grammatical Breakdown and Comments)

Ephesians 5:12:

τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπ' αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν·

1)From the NET Bible: "tn The participle τὰ . . . γινόμενα (ta . . . ginomena) usually refers to 'things happening' or 'things which are,' but with the following genitive phrase ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν (Jup’ autwn), which indicates agency, the idea seems to be 'things being done.' This passive construction was translated as an active one to simplify the English style."

2) From Robertson's Word Pictures: "In secret (kruphēi). Old adverb, only here in N.T. Sin loves the dark.

Even to speak of (kai legein). And yet one must sometimes speak out, turn on the light, even if to do so is disgraceful (aischron, like 1 Co 11:6)."

3) κρυφῇ-"adv. in secret" (Grosvenor-Zerwick).

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Parousia of Christ and His "Epiphany"

BDAG reveals that ἐπιφάνεια is used as a technical term for "a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known." But if you consult entry 1b (or its equivalent in the older BAGD), you will find out that Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich associates ἐπιφάνεια vis-à-vis the "manifestation" of Christ with a time of 'appearing in judgment.' You also discover the statement about 2 Thessalonians 2:8 under this lexical entry.

While this same reference work does state that παρουσία may denote Christ's Messianic Advent in glory when he comes to judge the world at the end of the age, it also indicates that there is some type of distinction between παρουσία and ἐπιφάνεια as revealed in 2 Thess. 2:8.

The ἐπιφάνεια seems to take place amid the παρουσία and it is actually connected with the divine meting out of judgment--παρουσία, however, does not seem confined to the judgment executed by Christ. It is an extended period of time in which Christ rewards his servants, but wages righteous warfare against his enemies.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another Post Regarding the Trinity, Reason/Revelation and Aquinas (Summa Theologica)


Acts 1:6-7: Knowing the Season

The Scriptures warn against predicting a day or an hour that Jesus is coming to execute judgment (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:6-7). However, nothing in the Bible prohibits the Christian from trying to discern the time or season that Christ might return (Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Even the apostle Peter wrote that the prophets who foretold the undeserved favor that was to be manifested in the first century CE kept inquiring about "the time and circumstances" that the "Spirit of Christ" in them was signifying.

Although it was revealed to them that certain truths about the Messiah were sealed for later times, they are commended for endeavoring to discern God's times and seasons. Why, even angels strive to peer into these things (1 Pet. 1:10-12 NIV). And it seems that God also expects us to know the season in which we are living.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tertullian (De Carne Christi 6)

The whole section is worth reading, but here's a portion of it:

"But the Lord Himself at that very time appeared to Abraham among those angels without being born, and yet in the flesh without doubt, in virtue of the before-mentioned diversity of cause. You, however, cannot admit this, since you do not receive that Christ, who was even then rehearsing how to converse with, and liberate, and judge the human race, in the habit of a flesh which as yet was not born, because it did not yet mean to die until both its nativity and mortality were previously (by prophecy) announced. Let them, then, prove to us that those angels derived their flesh from the stars. If they do not prove it because it is not written, neither will the flesh of Christ get its origin therefrom, for which they borrowed the precedent of the angels" (Tertullian, De Carne Christi 6).

The Concept "Power" in Revelation

Here's a project I've been working on for months. I've tried to catalog all the uses of the word or concept "power" in Revelation, then I want to offer commentary on each verse from the aspect of how it contributes to the motif "power." I don't know if I'll ever finish this project, but it's been fun so far. Lots of editing remains.

A Commentary on the Concept of Power in Revelation (Apocalypse) of John

Rev 2:26--And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power (ἐξουσίαν) over the nations:

Rev 4:11--Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power (δύναμιν): for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Rev 5:12--Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power (τὴν δύναμιν), and riches, and wisdom, and strength (ἰσχὺν), and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Rev 5:13--And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power (τὸ κράτος), [be] unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

Rev 6:4--And there went out another horse [that was] red: and [power] was given to him (ἐδόθη αὐτῷ) that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

Rev 6:8--And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them (καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἐξουσία) over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Rev 7:12--Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Rev 9:3--And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

Rev 9:10--And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power [was] to hurt men five months.

Rev 9:19--For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails [were] like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

Rev 11:3--And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

Rev 11:6--These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

Rev 11:17--Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

Rev 12:10--And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Rev 13:2--And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as [the feet] of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

Rev 13:4--And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who [is] like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

Rev 13:5--And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty [and] two months.

Rev 13:7--And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Rev 13:12--And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

Rev 13:14--And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

Rev 13:15--And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

Rev 14:18--And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.

Rev 15:8--And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.

Rev 16:8--And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

Rev 16:9--And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

Rev 17:12--And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

Rev 17:13--These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

Rev. 18:1--And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.

Rev. 19:1--And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:

See Rev. 19:6-7

Rev. 20:6--Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Friday, January 29, 2016

J. A. T. Robinson and John 1:1c

In the words of J.A.T Robinson:

"The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God, but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that" (Honest to God, page 70).

Paul Tillich has also observed that the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation can be regarded as "inadequate" since:

"'nature' in the Greek sense implies a static essence. Two such essences cannot be joined together to create one whole person" (See Daniel Day Williams' What Present-Day Theologians Are Thinking, page 133).

An Argument That Sheds Light on Identity and the Trinity

1) X and Y are the same object, if X has every property that Y has, and Y has every property that X has.
2) Christ has a metaphysical property that his Father does not have (his humanity).
3) Christ's Father has a metaphysical property that his Son does not have (the Father is innascible).
4) Therefore, Christ is not the same object (i.e., person) as his Father.

The argument is presented from the perspective of a Trinitarian. The doctrine of the Trinity claims that Christ and his Father are the same God, but they are not hypostatically identical, that is, Christ and his Father are not the same in a personal sense.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

John 20:28 (Johannine Exegesis of God)

I've read part of this book, but not all of it. This post does not constitute an endorsement of the author's views, but I just find his approach to the issues somewhat different from other works I've read.

Robert Knopp, Christology, and Logical Consistency

How are we supposed to explain (rationally and Scripturally) three Persons who are self-existent in se? Do we not have three gods in this situation? Is it not contradictory to speak of tres personae una in substantia sui generis? Trinitarian scholar Robert Knopp demonstrates the problems with viewing the Godhead as three self-existent centers of consciousness. As we read the Biblical testimony, we must acknowledge that Jesus is said to be self-existent. Yet what is the ground of his self-existence? Is Jesus in his very being capable of functioning as his own Autopator? Does he need (logically or ontologically) a distinct Autopator to account for his aseity?

Knopp endeavors to handle these difficulties when exegeting John 5:26, where we are told that the Father has given the Son "self-existence" (Amplified Bible). He offers these remarks: "It is obviously contradictory to say that the Father gives the Son life in himself . . . How then can the Son have life in himself if he has been given it by the Father? John is trying to make human language do what it cannot do--express the infinite--and of course his human language breaks down in the attempt, as must all theological language that tries to express divine mystery" (Knopp 274).

It is obvious at this point that Knopp is trapped in a cognitive labyrinth from which he tries to extricate himself via linguistic acrobatics. Knopp is hard pressed to explain how Jesus can be God and be self-existent while looking to his Father to supply aseity. He appeals to the failure of language to adequately express John's thoughts. Such invocations--although possibly well-intentioned--are factually erroneous. Knopp therefore concludes: "[John] is saying that by generation the Son derives his life from the Father and that, nevertheless, this divinely generated life is
the very life of God, the very being of God, absolute equality with the Father" (Knopp 274). While seemingly, the writer has successfully delivered himself from the pit of contradiction, he has done nothing more than stay the inevitable. Furthermore, some trinitarians would take exception to Knopp's idea of divine generation.

For example, Spiros Zodhiates writes that there is no evidence in the Bible for such a phenomenon as divine begettal (Cf. Zodhiates' comments on Col. 1:15 in his word study). Leonard Hodgson also notes that such theological positing could be the result of pagan philosophy that has not "fully assimilated the Christian revelation." As noted by these scholars, the concept of derived divinity raises many seemingly insoluble problems. The problems associated with the divine generation concept have caused some theologians to contend that each individual Personage in the Godhead does not enjoy a se esse independently. Rather, the Godhead as a whole is self-existent. Therefore, the Father cannot exist without the Son (or the Holy Spirit) and the Son cannot exist without the Father (or the Holy Spirit), and the Holy Spirit cannot exist without the Father or the Son (because a se esse is a collective experience).

By resorting to this explanation, however, even more difficult questions are raised. How is it possible for a persona in the Godhead to enjoy deity in the fullest sense, yet not exemplify personal aseity? Where in the Bible is it ever intimated that the Father needs the Son or Holy Spirit to exist? Where are we ever told that the Holy Spirit is dependent upon the Son for existence? Truly, examining the issue of aseity in relation to the Trinity raises many dilemmas for those who propagate this confusing doctrine. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the idea of the Father being dependent upon the Son or the Holy Spirit has normally been viewed with repugnance. Orthodox theologians generally have viewed the Father as the pele [source], the arche [principle], and the aitia [cause] of the Godhead.