Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thomist Souls Versus Cartesian Souls

Thomas Aquinas considers the soul to be subsistent, but not in the Cartesian sense. Kevin Corcoran quotes Summa Contra Gentiles II.69 to demonstrate this point: "body and soul are not two actually existing substances; instead, one actually existing substance arises from these two" (See Rethinking Human Nature, 38). So it's the human person (body and soul) that constitutes one thing or two incomplete substances for Aquinas and those who follow in his wake.

Porter, Et Al. on the Greek Article

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Galatians 2:15-16 (EAN MH)

The basic issue in Gal. 2:15-16 is whether EAN MH is adversative
('but') or exceptive ('except' or 'but only'). The NWT treats it as
exceptive and, admittedly, I had never stopped to verify this reading
until someone brought up the question. But I am familiar with the
construction EAN MH(EI + AN) in Attic texts and, with those texts in
mind, I have never thought that the NWT handling of this passage was

"We who are Jews by birth, and not sinners from the nations,
recognize that a man is declared righteous, not by works of law,
but only through faith in Jesus Christ. So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be declared righteous by faith in Christ and not by works of law, for no one will be declared righteous by works of law."

However to make sure that my theological presuppositions are not
unduly affecting my reading of this Pauline passage, I checked a few
commentaries on Galatians and here are my findings.

Ernest De Witt Burton (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the
Epistle to the Galatians
, pp. 120-121) writes that EAN MH in Gal.
2:16 "is properly exceptive, not adversative." He adds, however, that
the "preceding statement taken as a whole" or "the principal part of
it" may be excepted in this case. Nevertheless, in the final
analysis, Burton opts for EAN MH excepting OU DIKAIOUTAI ANQRWPOS only. He thus understands Paul to mean that we cannot be justified by works of Law at all. In order to make the English translation intelligible though, Burton suggests the reading "but only."

Ben Witherington III (Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St Paul's
Letter to the Galatians
, pp. 178-179) concurs with Burton. He
supplements Burton's observations, however, by noting that even an
adversative construal of the operative phrase would still rightly
yield the translation "but only." Witherington thinks that EAN MH
is unequivocally exceptive, and he argues that this treatment
of the construction makes the best sense of the words in the context of Paul's letter. Even if one opts for the adversative sense here, Witherington insists, we should still understand Paul to mean "but only."

He writes:

"It is hardly believable that Paul would have said to the Galatians
that 'works of law' plus faith in Christ could justify. Indeed, it is
precisely this sort of combination that he is arguing against in the
remainder of his letter!" See page 179 of Witherington's commentary.

On the other hand, Frank J Matera (Sacra Pagina Series) gives an interesting Catholic perspective. He seems to favor the adversative sense and he of course indicates that one can be justified by works of Law accompanied by faith in Christ. However, this reading might conflict with Paul's letter as a whole and it possibly does not do justice to Paul's well established antithesis between works of the Law and faith. So we have options for translating EAN MH in Gal. 2:15-16. But it's also instructive how theology informs one's understanding of Greek syntax.

Friday, May 20, 2016

"My Father" (John 5:18)

Regarding Jn. 5:18, Christ was not making himself equal to God by claiming the Divine One as his Father. Contrariwise, the context shows that Jesus' remarks were egregiously misinterpreted. The Expositor's GT is correct about the reasoning of the Jews in John 5 when it states:

"The Jews found in hO PATHR MOU [Jn 5:17] and the implication in KAGW ERGAZOMAI a claim to some peculiar and exclusive (IDION) sonship on the part of Jesus; that He claimed to be Son of God not in the sense in which other men are, but in a sense which involved equality with God" (1:738).

While the Jews were justified inferring that Christ viewed himself as a/the unique Son of God, they were mistaken to assume that he was thereby claiming ontological equality with his Father:

"Since the discourse that follows [John 5:18] denies the 'Jewish' understanding of the equality of the Father and the Son, is the 'Jewish' charge that Jesus had broken the sabbath to be taken seriously? I suggest that in John's view the 'Jews' are wrong both in their understanding of the equality of the Father and the Son and of Jesus as a sabbath breaker."

See Herold Weiss, "The Sabbath in the Fourth Gospel," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 110, No. 2. (Summer, 1991): 311-321.

Compare James F. McGrath, "A Rebellious Son? Hugo Odeberg and the Interpretation of John 5:18," New Testament Studies 44 (1998): 470-473.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Leon Morris and John 6:51ff (Remnants of a Dialogue)

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51 HCSB).

Eucharist-"The name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar in its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of Mass, and in which Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine" (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Leon Morris presents some excellent objections to viewing John 6:51ff as eucharistic. He explains: "The objections already urged [against a eucharistic interpretation] remain. The very strength of the language is against it. The eating and drinking spoken of are the means of bringing eternal life (v. 54), and they are absolutely unqualified. Are we to say that the one thing necessary for life is to receive the sacrament? Again, 'flesh' is not commonly used with reference to the sacrament. In every other New Testament passage referring to 'flesh,' the Scriptures use the word 'body'" (John, 376-377).

Morris thus concludes: "I am not contending that there is no application to the sacrament. But I very strongly doubt whether this is the primary meaning. It seems much better to think of the words as meaning first of all the appropriation of Christ" (Morris, Leon. John [The New ICC], 377).

He continues to point out in footnote 122 (on page 377) that other scholars see the terminology "flesh and blood" as applicable to "the demand for faith in [the enfleshed] Christ" and the words may further apply to his death. A suggestion I would also make is that its quite possible the wilderness motif (found in Exodus) is applicable in John 6:51ff too. A symbolic "feeding" and "drinking" would be quite appropriate in that case. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote: "our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they used to drink from the spiritual rock-mass that followed them, and that rock-mass meant the Christ" (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Cf. John 6:31-34, 41-51.

If you will forgive my saying that does, to me at least, seem a eucharistic formula. So I would suggest that the Greek does indicate that the eucharist is under consideration as is confirmed by the question in verse 52. Jesus answer is that truly his flesh and blood are food and drink, and where else is this association found? Only in the eucharist I would suggest.

I think you're missing a very important point here. Jesus is clearly using metaphorical language here as we see by the words: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world" (John 6:51).

Jesus was not literal bread and he was not going to offer up literal or physical bread as he plainly demonstrated by his utterance in 6:51. Notice too that Jesus uses SARX in this account whereas in Matthew 26:26 and other related discourses, he employs SWMA. Jesus' use of SARX in 6:51 undoubtedly points back to John 1:14 where John tells us the Word became flesh (SARX) and dwelled among us. The evidence for a eucharistic interpretation seems to be lacking.

G. R. B. Murray writes in his "Theology in the Fourth Gospel" concerning John 6:51-58:

"The concept of Jesus as the Bread of Life can be related not alone to Jewish thought but to other cultures of the nearer and remoter East. The most remarkable parallel to John 6, however, is found in an utterance of Rabbi Hillel, son of Gamaliel III . . . He astonished his contemporaries by saying, 'there shall be no Messiah for Israel, for they have already eaten him in the days of Hezekiah' " (See Page 98).

Interestingly, as Murray points out, Jewish translations of the Talmud into English render the language for "have eaten" as "enjoy." So John 6:51-58 must be viewed in the proper context to be rightly understood.

For additional information, see http://fosterheologicalreflections.blogspot.com/2015/04/john-656-57-eucharist-and-sons-present.html

What the Son Knows-Final Part of a Dialogue with Barnabas

"and you raise the question, on what is supposedly, the ignorance of Jesus on certain things. Let's first of all understand that Jesus' knowledge was never on a level as our own limited awareness, people seem to just look at what Jesus appears not to know, and ignore what He does know. He knew an individual's undisclosed past (John 1:47; 4:29), and the thoughts of His enemies (Luke 6:8) and friends (Luke 9:47), which is a sole attribute of God (Acts 15:8; 2
Chron. 6:29; 1 Kings 8:38). And Jesus understood the Old Testament Scriptures in an unprecedented manner (Matt 22:29; 26:54-56; Luke 24;27).

The Son of God certainly knew what was in the heart of humans (Jn 2:25). The question is, how did he know it? Was he omniscient? Alternatively, did God's spirit and his pre-existence as the first creature of God allow him to know the interior life of humans? The Scriptures answer that Jesus of Nazareth was anointed with God's spirit and power. Because of this fact, he was able to go through the land of Palestine doing good (Acts 10:38). The prophet Isaiah (11:1-3) foretold that the Messiah would be filled with "a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD [YHWH], and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD [YHWH]" (NAB).

"in fact Jesus even says this about Himself, "no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). From this passage, both the omniscience and
incomprehensibility of Christ are declared by Himself. He who knows the Father is omniscient, and He who is known only by the Father is incomprehensible, we get glimpse of the divine nature only as Jesus will reveal."

Again, I think you're reading far too much into this text, rather than extracting meaning from it, as one should do. If the Son fully knowing the Father and vice versa functions as proof of Christ's "omniscience and incomprehensibility," then what about the latter part of the passage? When Jesus reveals the Father to one of his disciples and the enlightened disciple comes to "fully know" the Father and Son, would you say that he/she then becomes omniscient or incomprehensible? Notice that OUDEIS (in Mt 11:27) is qualified by KAI hWi EAN BOULHTAI hO hUIOS APOKALUYAI.

"christ omniscience is further expressed in the fact that He hears and answers the prayers of His people (John 14:14). This ability to hear and answer the prayers of His disciples is a claim to omniscience. To be able to hear each prayer of His disciples—offered up to him night and day, day in and day out throughout the centuries—keep each request infallibly related to its petitioner, and answer each one in accordance with the divine mind and will, would require Him to be omniscient!"

Jn 14:14 neither teaches that we should pray to Christ nor does it prove that he hears prayers. We are instructed to pray to God the Father through the Son in the spirit. Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified" (Mt 6:9 NWT). He did not encourage or exhort his disciples to offer prayers to him. Asking the Father for something in Jesus' name does not mean that we pray to Christ.

"but why does it show that Jesus didn't know certain things? Why for example, when His friend Lazarus died He knew about it without being told and set off for Bethany, but when He got there He asked where Lazarus had been laid (John 11)? The answer is quite simple. Just as in Genesis 18:20-21 and 22:12 where it is clear that God chooses to know and not know certain things, Jesus chooses not to know certain thing, that is He chooses not to exercising His omniscience. And so if we were to use the same line of reasoning that you employ that deny Jesus' Deity because it appears He has limited knowledge of certain things, then from Genesis 18:20-21 we can assume that Yahveh has limited knowledge and is not omniscient also."

The two situations that you mention are not analogous. In the case of YHWH in the OT, we are told in no uncertain terms that He is "perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:16); no explicit statement of this sort is posited with respect to Christ. Furthermore, if your theory corresponded to reality, then one would expect that if the Father knows the day and hour, then the Son, if he is Almighty God, would also know the day and hour, which only the Father knows (Mt 24:36). To argue that the Son can choose not to know what the Father knows--yet they are supposedly hOMOOUSION--implies
that the Son has a different divine consciousness than the Father does, which implies tritheism rather than trinitarianism.

"my friend it seems that it is your theology that is getting in your way of understanding the scriptures; for only one that has a poor grasp of the idiom of certain phrases would read into the passage of Rev 3:14 that the subject was created."

Evidently, BDAG Greek-English Lexicon also is controlled by the editor's theology and he also must have a poor grasp of the idiom in Rev 3:14 since this magisterial source states that the meaning "first created" for ARXH is "linguistically probable" which was upgraded from the older BAGD, which said this meaning is "linguistically possible."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Another Response to the Son = "Nature of X" Argument


"I gathered my 'data' on the matter from a wide range of sources, over many years, here are a few; New Bible Dictionary (second edition) says, 'Son' is commonly used in Semitic languages to denote membership of a class, as 'son of Israel' for 'Israelite,' 'son of might' for 'valorous.' 'Son of God' in Hebrew means 'God.'"

My Response:

So, are you now saying that one who is called or identified as a "Son of God" is a member of the "class" God?

BDAG states that when hUIOS is followed by the genitive of the thing, it denotes "one who shares in [the thing named] or who is worthy of it [i.e., the thing named in the genitive], or who stands in some other close relation to it, oft[en] made clear by the context; this constr[uction] is prob[ably] a Hebraism in the main . . ." (p. 1025).

One example of this usage provided by BDAG is Lk 16:8: hOI hUIOI TOU AIWNOS TOUTOU. Also, hUIOS POLEWS, both of which refute your [earlier] "possessing the nature of X" suggestion.


"Vine's Expository Dictionary says, 'huios primarily signifies the relation of offspring to parent…It is often used metaphorically of prominent moral characteristics…the word `Son' is used sometimes (a) of relationship, sometimes (b) of the expression of charater [sic]."

My Response:

This source, at least, as you quoted it, does not say that a "son" (hUIOS) in the Hebraic idiom "sons of" (followed by the genitive of the thing) necessarily possesses the nature of the thing named (i.e., of X).


"niv Bible Dictionary, 'Son… Another very common biblical use of this word is in combination with another word to express something about the individual or individuals described…'Son of perdition' is used of Judas.' Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "The word "son" is also used in a figurative sense in the Bible." Many good theological dictionaries and word books will also explain it for you.>>

My Response:

First, I own and have consulted "many good theological dictionaries and word books," Barnabas. Second, what you have cited here does not support your previous assertion about "son" referring to one "possessing the nature of X." Are we to believe that Jesus meant Judas possessed the nature of destruction, after his defection from the Son of God (Jn 17:12). Rather, was not Jesus pointing out that Judas was given to destruction or intimately related to it, as suggested by BDAG and Zerwick?


"Friend, an angel is NEVER defined as "a son of God" like you say (see Hebrews 1:5), they are termed thusly in the plural only. It is interesting that when used with reference to creatures, whether men or angels, the phrase is always in the plural (sons of God), the singular with the definite article is only used of Jesus. To equate the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere would be to deny the plain truth of the Bible."

My Response:

Who is "equating the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere," my friend? I have not seen anyone here doing that. Besides, your argument that the plural usage "sons of God" somehow differs in meaning from the singular "son of God" is just wrong-headed from a logical or lexical semantic standpoint.


jesus is more than one of God's chosen people, more than one of the heavenly messengers, more than one who rules on God's behalf on earth. Even a casual reading of the verses where Jesus is called the Son of God will show the difference in both quality and extent from the other uses in the plural, read them and see. When applied to Jesus it is a title of nature, the plural form is of office.

My Response:

(1) I agree that Jesus is the unique Son of God. No argument there.

(2) It seems that you've now changed the direction of your argument, now wanting to make a distinction between the plural denoting one's "office" and the singular "son" denoting Jesus' "nature," whereas previously you said that the "nature" of the sons mentioned in Eph 2:2 was being delineated. Have you thus adjusted your understanding of the plural "sons of" construction?

(3) Your distinction does not seem to hold water when we actually take the time to look at real examples of the construction "sons of" in the relevant texts or literature. hUIOI most certainly does not refer to an office in Lk 20:36 or in Mt 5:9 or in 2 Thess 2:3.


"in 2 Kings 20:35 [1 Kings 20:35], "a certain man of the sons of the prophet" means that the man is a prophet, as the rest of the verse verifies…everything that makes a prophet a prophet is what this man was."

My Response:

"Actually, according to BDB, the Hebrew word BEN here (used in the plural) refers to one who is a member in a guild or certain order. It does not mean that the man possesses every quality that a prophet has or should have. In fact, the NAB translates this verse, "One of the guild prophets was prompted by the LORD to say to his companion . . ."


"Interestingly, one definition entry in my BDB for ben has "sons (as characterisation, i.e. sons of injustice [for un-righteous men]…"

My Response:

This definition does not help your argument at all, considering how you define the term "nature" in relation to Jesus, the Son of God.


"on Ephesians 2:2, I agree that 'the sons of disobedience' means nothing more than 'disobedience ones' or 'those that are disobedient,' the characteristic of these ones is of a disobedient nature, but you would be stretching the idiom to mean 'disobedient sons,' for the term, as the context shows, is not referring to offspring.>>

My Response:

The terminology "sons" is most certainly being employed metaphorically in Eph 2:2, just as we find in 1 Thess. 5:5 or Lk 16:8. And since we evidently have an instance of the descriptive genitive in Eph 2:2, why can we not render the construction "disobedient sons"? [The Greek word is also hUIOI in Eph. 2:2 which would most naturally be rendered "sons" contra my interlocutor's suggestion. See ASV and Darby's translation.]

My Interlocutor:

"jesus used the term 'Son of man' for Himself to indicated that He was Himself human, lets remember how He carefully guarded His identity that He was the Messiah (Matt 16:20; Luke 4:41), so it would be quite contrary for Him to go about, using the term Son of man in that sense you claim when you say that that was the way Christ 'primarily made use of the title or formula.'"

My Response:

There are places in the Gospels, which if we accept them as historical texts, seem to verify Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" as a way to identify him as the Messiah (Jn 5:26-27). Let us assume that he did not utilize this expression as a title. Does this mean that he was merely indicating that he was human by his use of these words? Not necessarily, since Geza Vermes and E.P. Sanders (among others) have pointed out that Christ could have been availing himself of an Aramaic idiom, "that man," which was really a circumlocution for the first-person singular pronoun, "I." I consider this as a good possibility in light of the findings made by both Vermes and Sanders. But see BDAG under the entry hUIOS.

Addendum: While I no longer think the explanation of Vermes or Sanders is likely, although it's possible, the overall position advanced in this dialogue remains the same.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Campbell, Aspect, and John 17:3

Hebrews 1:4 (ONOMA)

In Heb. 1:4, it's possible that the "name" (ONOMA) refers to the increased privileges of the resurrected and elevated Messiah. Isa. 9:6 prophesied that the Messiah's name would be 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace." Interestingly, the prophet writes that all of these titles or descriptions constitute one name. The "name" mentioned by the writer of Hebrews is pretty much co-extensive with the description listed in Isa. 9:6.

Cf. Rev. 19:11-13.

George Buchanan also writes (in the Anchor Bible commentary on Hebrews) that "since his [Christ's] inheritance was associated with his sonship, which name he inherited, he was evidently made Son, heir, apostle, and high priest (1:2; 3:1; 5:10) all at once" (Buchanan, Hebrews, 9).

Daniel Wallace lists the phrase KREITTWN GENOMENOS TWN AGGELWN as a genitive of comparison and in addition to this construction in the passage, the datival form of hOSOS (hOSWi) indicates that Jesus became better than the angels since he inherited ('to the degree that he inherited') a name superior to their name. See the entry for hOSOS in BAGD 586.

Paul Ellingworth calls attention to the fact that ONOMA is anarthrous here and its reference is vague. He suggests that the name (ONOMA) in this context might be "Son," but he suggests that it might also refer to the exaltation of the "eternal Son" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 106). At any rate, one should not place too much emphasis on the anarthrousness of ONOMA (see BDF 254.2).

For 1:4, the RSV reads: "having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blasphemy in the First Century CE (Darrell Bock)

What exactly constituted blasphemy in the first
century has been a cause of much debate among NT
scholars. One of the most thorough and helpful studies
I've read on this subject is Darrell Bock's Blasphemy
and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge against Jesus in
Mark 14:53-65

Bock reports that one form of blasphemy (according
to m Sanh 6.4; 7.5) was improperly using the divine name (YHWH)
or pronouncing it at all(p. 234). But other acts
constituting blasphemy were acts of idolatry and
wanton disrespect for God and His chosen
representatives. With this historical data in mind,
Bock explains:

"Jesus' blasphemy [in Mk 14:53-65] operated at two
levels. 1) There was a claim to possess comprehensive
authority from the side of God. Though Judaism might
contemplate such a posiiton for a few, the teacher
from Galilee was not among the luminaries for whom
such a role might be considered. As a result, his
remark would have been seen as a self-claim, that was
an affront to God's presence. 2) He also attacked the
leadership, by implicitly claiming to be their future
judge (or by claiming a vindication by him). This
would be seen as a violation of Exod 22:27, where
God's leaders are not to be cursed" (p. 236).

Admittedly, Bock seems to think that the claims of
Christ in the Gospel of Mark differed from other
exalted figures of Judaism since Mark records that the Son
of Man would come "seated at the right hand of power
and coming with the clouds of heaven." Nevertheless, I
believe his discussion illustrates that the charge of
blasphemy was not as narrow as some imply.