Sunday, October 01, 2023

Words of the Month (October 2023)

1. χάρις (Greek)-The KJV famously translates this word as "grace," but that is somewhat vague. χάρις apparently occurs 156 times in the NT and KJV renders it "grace" 130 times. However, other ways to render the word are "undeserved kindness" or "unmerited favor." Paul employs the term over 100 times.

2. δόξα (Greek)-Depending on the context, the word may denote "glory, reputation, opinion" or "splendor/radiance." See

Compare 2 Corinthians 3:18

3. Secularism (English)-"the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country" (Cambridge English Dictionary).

Friday, September 29, 2023

Opinion, Belief, Understanding and Knowledge in Platonic Thought--How Applied to Theology?

Plato makes the following epistemic distinctions in his work, the Republic (509d-510a). These steps go in ascending order: in other words, d) comes before c), etc. I have called these steps--"the epistemic ladder." Others make use of this terminology but sometimes apply it differently at times; see

In any event, here are the four distinctions that Plato makes along with the objects of their episteme:

a) dialectic thought (noesis)-contemplation of the Platonic Forms/Ideas

b) understanding (dianoia)-reflection on or use of mathematics/geometry

c) belief (pistis)-immediately apprehends sensory sensation

d) opinion (eikasia)-rooted in sensory phenomena

How do these distinctions apply to theology? Thomas Aquinas delineates one potential way:

"The truths that we confess concerning God fall under two modes. Some things true of God are beyond all the competence of human reason, as that God is Three and One. Other things there are to which even human reason can attain, as the existence and unity of God, which philosophers have proved to a demonstration under the guidance of the light of natural reason" (Aquinas, SCG 1.3).

To be clear, Aquinas' theology owes more to Aristotle than to Plato, but I'm just showing how the epistemic distinctions of Plato might be applied to theological methods in general. Historically, theologians did make use of Platonic philosophy to shape the contours of their thought: Augustine of Hippo and Justin Martyr are prime examples among the church fathers.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Dative in Colossians 1:16

Greek: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι· τὰ πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·

I think it would be fair to say that ἐν + the dative case here could be rendered "in him." As for the dative case itself, I originally learned that it describes how action affects the indirect object: I equally learned that casus dativus/ἡ δοτικὴ πτῶσις is the "to" or "for" case. But while these observations are technically correct, the matter becomes more complex with Greek prepositions and cases.

For instance, context is a factor that one must consider when translating the dative case. Additionally, one must reflect on the usus loquendi of the particular dative being analyzed. What is its particular usage within a determinate context?

For example, ἐν + dative could be locative (maybe locative of sphere) or it could be instrumental. The Old Vine's Dictionary used to describe constructions like Colossians 1:16 that way. Compare 2 Cor. 5:19.

Nevertheless, I prefer to say that Colossians 1:16 is probably a dative of agent while I acknowledge that it could be understood differently. Cf. also Heb. 1:1-3.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Word of God and the Will of God (A Brief Reflection)

I think it was Bruce Laurin who wrote (or he penned words to this effect): "not everything that happens in the word of God is the will of God." From what I recall, he was talking about the "holy war" that occurs in the Hebrew Bible. Yes, there is war in the Tanakh: people are slaughtered, hacked, and run through. However, I believe that Laurin has a point. For while some of the "violence" in the Hebrew Bible was certainly said to be sanctioned by YHWH (Jehovah), not all of it was. There is also a question about how we should define violence or categorize it. For example, is all violence morally objectionable? Furthermore, what counts as violence?

Another way I want to address the violence in the Hebrew Bible is to distinguish between prescription and description: much of what I find in the Tanakh is a description of how imperfect humans acted as they rebelled against the dictates of God, not a prescription to commit violence. In fact, Psalm 11:5 condemns the person who loves violence and says that YHWH "hates" such an individual. Another consideration is that even when YHWH used Israel or other nations for the cause of war, God set limits, which limits imperfect humans transgressed.

The accounts of holy war are part of the Bible's candor; Scripture may utilize euphemisms at times but it likewise supplies very open accounts that honestly lay bare human iniquity. On the other hand, the justice of God can be severe and Scripture doesn't hide that fact either. See Hebrews 10:26-31.

In the spirit of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, I believe we can learn many lessons from the accounts of war found in the Hebrew Bible.

The McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia contains some interesting remarks under its entry for "war":

It has been questioned whether wars are, under any circumstances, justifiable from Jewish example. While it is certain that the practice of offensive' wars cannot be defended by reference to sacred history, it is equally clear, if wars must be, that they can only be consistent with the light of that dispensation which breathes forgiveness and forbearance on the clear and obvious ground of necessity and self-defense. When the principles of the Bible shall have illuminated the minds of all nations, wars shall cease from the ends of the earth, and all men will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will will universally prevail (Ps 46:9; Ps 76:3; Isa 2:4; Eze 39:9; Lu 2:14).

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Matthew 6:22 and the Simple Eye

Commenting on Matthew 6:22, Blomberg writes:

[Note] 76: “ 'Good' is actually the more specific word , [haplous] implying single-minded devotion and/or generosity."

Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) (p. 135). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the context of Matthew 6:22 also supports this understanding of the text (Mt. 6:24-33).

On the other hand, Zerwick-Grosvenor take haplous in 6:22 to mean "simple, unmixed, clear/clear-sighted" when used of the eye in contrast to an eye that is poneros (possibly unhealthy or not clear-sighted).

From Vincent's Word Studies:

"Single (ἁπλοῦς)

The picture underlying this adjective is that of a piece of cloth or other material, neatly folded once, and without a variety of complicated folds. Hence the idea of simplicity or singleness (compare simplicity from the Latin simplex; semel, once; plicare, to fold). So, in a moral sense, artless, plain, pure. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and indecision condemned in Matthew 6:24."

See BDAG, page 91.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Matthew 6:9 and the Tetragrammaton

Greek: ὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· Ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers: "The words 'Jehovah, hallowed be His name,' were familiar enough to all Israelites, and are found in many of their prayers, but here the position of the petition gives a new meaning to it, and makes it the key to all that follows. Still more striking is the fact, that this supplies a link between the teaching of the first three Gospels and that of the fourth. Thus the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray—thus, in John 12:28, He prayed Himself, 'Father, glorify Thy name.' "

Additionally, here is a footnote from a Journal Article, "The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-7:12)" written by Glen H. Stassen:

"83 Dale C. Allison, Jr., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 172-73, 176-77, 180. Allison demonstrates the connection between Matt 5:1-2 and Moses ascending Sinai in Exod 19 and 20; he also shows that it was understood well before Matthew's time that Moses ascended to heaven to get the commandments. This could be another connection with 'Our Father who art in heaven.' Allison's account does not connect Matt 5:1-2 with 6:9, although in a personal communication, he did connect Matt 6:9 with the Tetragrammaton. For insightful discussion, see also Davies, Setting, 85, 93, 99, 116-18."

On page 305, Stassen writes: " 'Hallowed be thy name' (surely the Tetragrammaton, YHWH) in the first petition of the Lord's prayer is probably also connected with the revelation of YHWH in Exod 19 and 20."

So at least three scholars agree with Jehovah's Witnesses that Matthew 6:9 alludes to the Tetragrammaton. I'm sure that research will uncover more who agree, but it would be nice to find some ancient witnesses who likewise concur. However, one problem is what happened with the divine name during the Second Temple period. 

Two Kinds of Sealing (Ephesians 1:13-14)

I wrote this piece back in 2012 on another forum; edited 9/18/23.

A friend recently asked me about the subject of "sealing" in the Bible. For example,
"in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,-- in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14 ASV).

Notice that the Ephesians "were sealed" (past tense) with the holy spirit. But if they were sealed in the past, then why does the Bible indicate that a future sealing will occur? See Ephesians 4:30; Revelation 7:1-8.

A beloved Christian sister once explained to me that there are two phases of God's sealing. Jehovah seals a Christian when he/she is anointed, but the seal must be kept until death or the system's end (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:1-5; Matthew 24:13; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). When anointed, the seal is written with a pencil (so to speak), but the final sealing is done with a pen that is made of indelible ink. I always liked her explanation. It helped me to see how there could be two phases to the divine sealing carried out by Jehovah. See also Romans 8:23.