Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does Having a Physical Body Place Limitations on Christ?

It's been a long time since I read some of the early fathers regarding this question, but I'm inclined to think some post-Nicenes might argue that Christ qua his humanity has limitations, but not qua his divinity. Indeed, it's hard to see how Trinitarians avoid the implication that the risen Lord, if he still has a body, must also have limitations associated with that body.

1. All human bodies have limitations.
2. Jesus has a human body.
3. Therefore, Jesus' body has limitations.

If Jesus Christ possesses a human body, then he has limitations by virtue of his corporeality just as I have limitations by virtue of mine. For instance, I can only inhabit one region of space-time moment by moment, not more than one region.

Now someone might insist that Christ has a glorified material body which is suitable for the heavenly sphere. This glorified body likewise is supposed to be free of the limitations that those of us with mundane (non-glorified) bodies now experience. However, granting that assumption/belief, it's still hard to understand how a human body becomes divested of all limitations since body by its very nature (analytically) implies limitation because a body by definition is what occupies space-time. Hence, why would a glorified body be immune to this general feature of all human/animal bodies?

I have not even dealt with the question of how the Incarnation assumes many things without proving them. Nor have I broached the question of how we know that the body Christ allegedly now has is the same body he sacrificed for our sins. Those questions will be saved for another day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Brian Shanley Discusses Angelic Being and Activity

Brian J. Shanley maintains that while angels qua spirits don't move from place to place, because of their immateriality or incorporeality: "there is some mutability in their being." Thomas Aquinas apparently discusses the nature of angels in Questions 52-53 and 58-59 (inter alia) of the Summa Theologiae. The upshot of Shanley's remarks is "natural angelic activity is measured by time because there is a succession of before and after. So angels occupy a midpoint between temporal before and after and eternal tota simul. Angelic being is altogether at once and measured by the aevum, while angelic natural activity (with the exception of self-knowledge) is measured by time" (The Treatise on the Divine Nature: Summa Theologiae 1a.1-13, page 283).

Brian Shanley is President of Providence College.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

John 13:34--hINA + the Subjunctive

John 13:34 contains the Greek conjunction ἵνα + a verb in the subjunctive mood (ἀγαπᾶτε).

This construction evidently means that a particular result is being expressed by the ἵνα clause or ἵνα + subjunctive. It is conveying an idea regarding the new commandment's content (see Rogers and Rogers Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek NT, page 216).

For the use of ἵνα as a result conjunction, see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 677. Compare John 9:2.

Think of the ἵνα + subjunctive clause as being translated "with the result that . . ."

NET Bible Footnote: tn The ἵνα (hina) clause gives the content of the commandment. This is indicated by a dash in the translation.

"I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another" (John 13:34 Revised NWT).

"I give you a new commandment, that you are to love each other: that as I loved you, you too are to love each other" (Byington).

Some understand the construction to be a purpose clause instead of communicating the result. From Vincent's Word Studies
That (ἵνα)

With its usual telic force; indicating the scope and not merely the form or nature of the commandment.

See also

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Is the Trinity Doctrine Scriptural? See B.B. Warfield's Answer (Quote and Link)

From Warfield:

The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such un-Biblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine.


How Should Luke 3:38 Be Translated?

I once had someone criticize the way NWT translates Luke 3:38. Here was my reply to him:

Our English translations, with good reason, translate
Luke's TOU ADAM TOU QEOU (3:38) as "[son] of God"
(NWT). That Luke does not employ hUIOS here is not
relevant or germane at all. One can communicate
concepts without using specific terms such as "Son" or
"daughter." TOU QEOU in this context clearly means
"Son of God." The burden of proof is on the one who
denies this clear, manifest fact. As the NET Bible

"The reference to the son of God here [in Lk 3:38] is
not to a divine being, but to one directly formed by
the hand of God. He is made in God’s image, so this
phrase could be read as appositional ('Adam, that is,
the son of God'). See Acts 17:28-29."

NET renders the verse in question, "the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God."

Addendum: John Trapp offers this explanation--

Ver. 38. Which was the Son of God] Not by generation, but creation. Therefore the Syriac translator hath it Demen Elaha, A Deo, of God, not Bar Elaha, the Son of God.

Also from Joseph Benson's Commentary:

Luke 3:38. Adam, which was the son of God — Adam, being descended from no human parents, but formed by the power of a divine creating hand, might with peculiar propriety be called the son of God, having, in his original state, received immediately from God, whatever the sons of Adam receive from their parents, sin and misery excepted.

Joel 2:31 and The Moon Will Be Turned Into Blood

Joel 2:31 reads: "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes" (NASB).

I see nothing in the Hebrew which would suggest another radically different translation like introducing "as" into the verse. Moreover, the LXX also reads:


Peter invokes Joel 2:31 in his discourse on Pentecost (see Acts 2:20). He also quotes the verse to the effect that the moon will be turned into blood. However, John seemingly alludes to Joel 2:31 in Revelation 6:12, yet he employs hWS ("as") rather than saying that the moon will become blood or turn into blood. Is he interpreting Joel 2:31 (under inspiration) or is there some other explanation for his use of hWS?

NET Bible: tn Grk “like blood,” understanding αἷμα (aima) as a blood-red color rather than actual blood (L&N 8.64).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

God Creating Ex Nihilo (Creel and Ryrie)

From Richard Creel's book about divine impassibility:

"God does create ex nihilo in the sense that what he creates he does not create from antecedent individuals or matter" (page 72).

On the same page, Creel insists all that creation requires is an act of divine volition. Jehovah is unlike Plato's Demiurge (see Timaeus) that brings the cosmos into being by impressing form on recalcitrant matter.

In Basic Theology, Charles C. Ryrie supplements Creel's account by pointing out that God creates ex nihilo by dint of his "omnipotent resources." That is all God needs to create the universe--his almighty power and only his almightiness.


Ledoux and Animal Consciousness

Joseph LeDoux offers this account of animal consciousness: "Other animals may be consciously aware, in some sense, of events going on in their world. They may have domain-specific consciousness, or in the case of nonhuman primates, domain-independent nonverbal consciousness, but lacking language and its cognitive manifestations, they are unlikely to be able to represent complex, abstract concepts (like 'me' or 'mine' or 'ours'), to relate external events to these abstractions, and to use these representations to guide decision-making and control behavior" (Synaptic Self, 197).

So Ledoux possibly recognizes the existence of "complex, abstract concepts" and the symbolic manipulation of such abstractions, but he associates them with the human capacity for language which is viewed as a natural (biological) phenomenon rooted in the human brain and its neural activities. In other words, we are equipped with a huge neocortex that makes us lingually capacious: that's why humans can think abstractly. To quote the late Sir Francis Crick: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons."

While I don't agree with LeDoux calling us "animals," I like other aspects of his "synaptic self" approach.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Parcels of Matter Forming Concepts

It is a challenge to reconcile Thomas Aquinas' approach to "nothing exists in the mind before it exists in the senses" and the physicalist account of concept-formation. Sadly, neuroscience has not yet developed a robust account of how we form concepts: Joseph Ledoux (The Emotional Brain) has a great picture whereby he shows how sensory stimuli become "conscious content." Alas! He describes the whole process as a "black box" that involves stimuli being processed and stored along with more processing and storage before stimuli become the contents of consciousness.

The complex feature about this whole process is that memory has a role in sensible phenomena becoming conscious contents. For instance, I've seen many apples in my relatively brief lifespan. So when I perceive my 1000th apple, things are not so simple as the apple/stimulus being converted into information, which eventually becomes a representational concept (on the physicalist explanation of things) or sensible matter (according to the Thomist account). Yet my brain does not engage in this process every time that I perceive an apple. Are we not thankful for the hippocampal region, the amygdala, synapses, and other parts of our neurobiology?

See also by Owen Flanagan.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Craig Evans on Luke 17:21 and ENTOS

The inexpensive set of commentaries from the series New International Biblical Commentary (NIBC) has a volume about Luke's Gospel wherein Craig A. Evans remarks concerning Luke 17:21:

"The phrase translated 'within you' should probably be translated 'among you,' for the kingdom is not within people in some sort of mystical or spiritual sense (as Marshall [p. 655] supposes), but it is among people in the sense of Jesus' presence (so Fitzmyer, p. 1161; Tiede, p. 300)."