Tuesday, April 25, 2017

1 John 3:1-2 and AUTOS (Latest Rendition)

I once studied the Apostle John's use of AUTOS in his first Epistle to see if one could discern how AUTOS is employed in 1 John 3:1-3 and other places throughout the first Johannine letter. One conclusion we can definitely reach is that AUTOS doesn't always refer to the nearest literary or contextual antecedent: the troublesome unit in 1 John 2:22-29 possibly demonstrates the seemingly obscure and varied Johannine use of pronominals. But with these facts in mind, I would like to take another look at 1 John 3:1-3.

Personally, along with R.E. Brown, I believe that these verses have reference to the Father. In 3:1, John recalls the love that the Father has shown Christians by bringing them forth as "children of God" (TEKNA QEOU). Therefore, God (the Father) is clearly the subject of verse 1 and John appears to continue developing this theme in 3:2 when he again reveals the status of spirit-begotten believers and their being recognized as "children of God."

What may of course seem problematic is John's use of FANERWQHi in 1 John 3:2 and his utilization of the verb in 2:28. 1 John 2:28 is evidently a reference to Jesus Christ and his royal PAROUSIA though I have often wondered whether it is really speaking of the Father (cf. 1 John 2:27). Leaving that problem aside for a minute, it appears safe to assert that even if FANERWQHi describes the manifestation of Christ in 2:28--God the Father is assuredly the subject in 3:1, 2.

D.E. Hiebert discusses the view of Westcott, that Christ is the subject of 1 John 3:1-2, before he poses some objections to this stance. Firstly, it's quite possible that 2:29 begins a new division of the missive. Regardless, one raises more exegetical problems by suggesting that Christ begets (spiritually) the TEKNA QEOU of 3:1-2. The verses in question (3:1-2) specifically mention the Father, and refer to those children of God. 1 John 3:9 makes a similar point and Hiebert even cites the Gospel of John 3:8 in order to demonstrate that Christians are children of God, "born of the spirit," but they are not born of Christ. See D.E. Hiebert, "An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12," Bibliotheca Sacra 146(1989): 198-216. Compare 1 Peter 1:3, 23.

It may also appear problematic to speak of Christians one day being like and seeing God: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is" (ESV). But Jesus made a similar promise in Matthew 5:8 and John also writes that the anointed conquerors who will rule as kings and priests in the city of New Jerusalem will see God's face (Revelation 22:1-5). Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 15:49 promises that those who are privileged to live immortally and incorruptibly in the heavens of God's presence will bear the image of Jesus Christ (who bears and is the image--the express reproduction--of God's very being). So there is no difficulty in saying Christians will be like God, for there will be a number of ways in which they will always be unlike Him.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"In "Him" or Other Such Expressions (LXX and NT)

1) Colossians 1:16-19:

vs. 16: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

vs. 17: καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν

vs. 19: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι

Colossians 1:16 has ἐν αὐτῷ or ἐν + the dative case. We must not only consider the preposition, but how the writer uses ἐν with the dative.

From Murray J. Harris:

The prep. phrase ἐν αὐτῷ may be instr. (“by him,” NASB, HCSB, ESV), comparable in sense with δἰ αὐτοῦ (“ through him,” v. 16d; so BDF § 219[ 1]; Zerwick, Analysis 448) or even causal (“because of”) (T 253; but cf. later Turner, Insights 124), but a locat. or local sense is to be preferred. “All things in heaven and on earth” were created in God's beloved Son (v. 13), not in the sense that he was the preexistent or ideal archetype of creation but in the sense that creation occurred “in association with” Christ (BDAG 327d) or, better, “within the person of” Christ. In his person resided the creative energy that produced all of creation (Vincent 897; cf. R 587– 88); in the work of creation God did not act apart from Christ. But Barth-Blanke 198 regards the ἐν as explained by the following διά and εἰς (v. 16d).

Harris, Murray J. Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 1664-1667). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harris, Murray J. Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 1659-1664). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2) Acts 17:24:

ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ, οὗτος οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὑπάρχων κύριος οὐκ ἐν χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς κατοικεῖ

Notice the contrast that Paul makes: the Creator of the universe made all things "in" the cosmos but as κύριος of heaven and earth, he fittingly does not inhabit (dwell in) handmade temples.

Compare Acts 17:25

3) Revelation 10:5-6:

καὶ ὤμοσεν ἐν τῷ ζῶντι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ, ὅτι χρόνος οὐκέτι ἔσται,

ὁ ἄγγελος gives an ascription of praise to the Creator, who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things therein.

4) Psalm 24:1/23:1 (LXX/OG):

Ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυΐδ· τῆς μιᾶς Σαββάτων. - ΤΟΥ Κυρίου ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς, ἡ οἰκουμένη καὶ πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ.

NETS renders the last part, "the world and all those who live in it"

Charles Spurgeon offers these remarks on Ps. 24:1:

The term "world" indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah's rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.

See http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps024.php

5) Genesis 1:15 (LXX/OG):

καὶ ἔστωσαν εἰς φαῦσιν ἐν τῷ στερεώματι τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ὥστε φαίνειν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hebrews 10:12

A friend once asked me this question about Hebrews 10:12.

Some say "he" and some say "Christ." What is the correct Greek word or phrase here?

As you can see from my transliteration of the text, what some translations render "priest" or "this man" is literally "this one." That is, hOUTOS is the so-called near demonstrative in Greek and thus points to something or someone who is either near spatially, grammatically or that is near in the mind of the writer. Note the use of hOUTOS in 1 John 5:20: hOUTOS ESTIN hO ALHQINOS QEOS KAI ZWH AIWNIOS. The American Standard Version renders this passage: "This is the true God and eternal life." The writer's use of hOUTOS in Heb. 10:12 is similar.

Personally, I do not see anything particularly offensive about the rendition "this priest." It seems that certain Bibles have elected to translate Heb. 10:12 this way because of the context of the aforesaid passage. Literally, however, one might say "this one" or as the ASV puts matters: "but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever . . ."

Lastly, I might just add that English classes I've taken in the past have encouraged me to associate substantives with demonstrative pronouns. So instead of saying, "This really makes me nervous," it is more preferable to write, "This side of town really makes me nervous." In that way, your deictic symbol (i.e., finger-pointing word) is "pointing" to a person, place, or time. At any rate, there seems to be nothing wrong with translating Heb. 10:12 as "this man" or "this priest."

NWT 2013 handles the verse thus: "But this man offered one sacrifice for sins for all time and sat down at the right hand of God,"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review of Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation" (Ongoing Revised Edition)

Sam Harris has written a brief but fairly clear book which makes some telling indictments of traditional Christianity and Islam. He also questions certain elements of the Bible which any honest theist has to struggle with; nevertheless, there are aspects of this book that seem deficient and lacking in nuance. It is those aspects that I will concentrate on in this review.

Harris contends that the Bible counsels parents to beat their children with a rod whenever children misbehave (page 8). However, Harris fails to consider the fact that the "rod" spoken of in Proverbs 13:24 is probably metaphorical (see 2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 10:5). Even if ancient Jewish fathers were encouraged to strike their children literally, however, this counsel only poses a difficulty for the contemporary permissive mindset. While the view is not popular in our day, there are still some psychologists or officers of the court who advocate spanking children in the proper way. Similarly, the Bible's counsel does not advocate abusing children, but rather encourages parents to train their children out of love. Harris' thoughts regarding the Bible sanctioning the killing of one's children is also a misconstrual of the biblical text and shows ignorance of the ancient judicial process found in ancient Israel. It took more than mere "talking back" to one's parents to suffer execution. See the relevant accounts in Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

Mr Harris claims that all of our "primate cousins" are "generally intolerant of murder and theft" (page 21). This statement seems difficult to square with reality in view of the fact that animals probably cannot "murder" anyone or anything since they lack the ability to engage in the premeditation that is involved with murdering someone or something. Primates cannot form criminal intent (mens rea), therefore, they cannot commit murder. Two things required in English law for the commission of a crime are a guilty act (actus reus) and a guilty mind (mens rea). Moreover, it appears that one would also have to use the word "theft" very loosely with respect to the actions of primates. It must be emphasized that they lack the ability to form criminal intent.

Finally, I must say that Harris' comments on blastocysts and stem cell research are chilling (pages 29-32). One does not need to believe in an immaterial soul or even be a Christian to oppose the destruction of blastocysts for the purpose of stem cell research. Immanuel Kant argues that human life has dignity in se. A blastocyst is a potential human person--that is, there is a sense in which the blastocyst has entered the human community even if one wants to fuss about human personhood. If this is the case, then the dignity of the blastocyst should be respected or treated with esteem and care. Harris' argument about any cell in our bodies being a potential human being is just less than intelligent. The potential of the blastocyst becoming a fully grown human person and the potential of cells from my nose becoming a human person are not analogous situations. We know that the blastocyst has the potential to become a fully formed human person; we cannot say the same about a cell from my nose.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Notes on Letter to the Colossians

Notes on Colossians

I. Possibly originated from Rome circa 60-61 CE (Efird).

II. Did the Apostle Paul write Colossians?

Reasons that some do not consider the letter to be Pauline: a) the vocabulary supposedly differs from "genuine" Pauline epistles; b) letter potentially alludes to the Gnostic heresy; c) the letter seems to contain an advanced Christology. The second and third points are alleged to suggest that Paul likely did not write the letter. Raymond Brown claims that 60 percent of "critical scholarship" thinks Colossians is not genuinely Pauline. See http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/colossians.html

Counterpoints: While the style and vocabulary differences might be noticeable, one primarily encounters such differences in the part of Colossians that revolves around a discussion and refutation of potential heresy in Colossae (e.g., Col. 2:1-8). The so-called "cosmic Christ" is also introduced to confront the Colossian opponents.

Compare Petr Pokorny, Colossians, page 3. He thinks Colossians is probably a deutero-Pauline Epistle.

For a brief review of issues surrounding authorship of Colossians, see http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t280/e88?_hi=0&_pos=1936

III. The identity of the heretics is uncertain. Efird lists some possibilities on page 136 of New Testament. Cf. Colossians 2:8, 16-17; 2:23.

If Gnosticism was the heresy that Paul confronted, it's good to recall that the Gnostics usually took two divergent paths: some were libertines, whereas others tended to be ascetics. All reportedly believed that spirit is good, but flesh (matter) is bad. This view clashed with Jewish and Christian writings.

IV. The word pleroma has an important function in Colossians. Notice how Col. 1:19; 2:9 uses the term.

V. Main Points from Selected Chapters of Colossians

Col. 1:15-17: Christ is God's agent in creation, his firstborn, and the image of the invisible God.

Col. 1:19: God saw good for all fullness to dwell in his Son. However, the word "God" is not in the Greek: neither is "Father."

Possible hymn in Col. 1:15-20. See https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/ntesources/ntarticles/bsac-nt/bruce-colossianheresy-pt2-bs.htm

Col. 2:3, 9-10: all that the Colossians need is found in Christ, not in some incipient Gnostic heresy.

Col. 3:1-10 is a description of the Christian life (how it should be lived) and the primacy of Christ.

Col. 3:18ff discusses the famed Haustafeln (household tablets or tables, i.e., household codes).

Col. 4:1-6, 16, Paul makes his concluding remarks.

Sources: Pokorny, Eadie

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tonight's Lord's Evening Meal (The Memorial): Sprinkling with Blood

I thought the verses that dealt with "sprinkling" were some of the Lord's evening meal's most thought-provoking texts. Great work by our local speaker tonight.

A biblical account that discusses sprinkling with blood is Exodus 24:1-8. Compare Leviticus 8:30; 16:11-19; Hebrews 9:18-22; 12:22, 24; 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Ecclesiastical Latin: Future Indicative Active, First Conjugation

Ecclesiastical Latin:

Future indicative active first conjugation

Formed by the present stem + the tense-making suffix -bi + active personal endings.

Example of the first conjugation:

laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatus (meaning "praise")
present stem: lauda
future base: lauda + -bi = laudabi


1) laudabo
2) laudabis
3) laudabit


1) laudabimus
2) laudatis
3) laudabunt

Sunday, April 09, 2017

TRIAS, TRINITAS, and Gottschalk

During the medieval period, a monk named Gottschalk begin using the terminology "trine deity" (TRINA DEITAS). What Gottschalk apparently meant is that God is "trine in person and one in nature" (See Jaroslav Pelikan, Christian Tradition, 3:60). This monk from Orbais (north-eastern France) was accused of violating sacred tradition, however, and he reportedly taught that which was at odds with Scripture. In the long run, Gottschalk lost and his adversaries won; the formula "trine deity" was condemned by the Synod of Soissons in 853 (Pelikan 3:61). Nevertheless, this account just goes to show how those who affirm the Trinity sometimes wrangle with one another about what the triune God should be called.

Interestingly, systematic theologian Robert Jenson, who has written much regarding the Trinity has something interesting to say about the doctrine. Quoting from my work Christology and the Trinity:

"Robert Jenson similarly remarks that the Trinity
doctrine is 'less a homogeneous body of propositions
than it is a task.' The ontological dogma of the
Trinity is actually, 'the church's continuing effort
to recognize and adhere to the biblical God's
hypostatic [i.e., personal] being.' See Systematic
(New York and Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1997), 1:90. Jenson's comments suggest that the
formulation of the Trinity doctrine is a perpetual,
ongoing ecclesiastical task."