Friday, May 26, 2017

John 1:3 and Christ as Creator - From Louw-Nida

Something I discovered in 2001.

While reading Louw-Nida's Greek-English Lexicon tonight, I came across
something I had never read in this tool before.

On page 793 (volume I) under semantic domain 89.120, this source makes this
observation about XWRIS in John 1:3:

"It would be wrong to restructure Jn 1:3 to read 'he made everything in all
creation,' for in the Scriptures God is spoken of as the Creator, but the
creation was done 'through the Word.' If one must restructure Jn 1:3, it may
be possible to say 'he was involved in everything that was created' or 'he
took part in creating everything.'

I thought this comment was interesting. It buttresses what others have already pointed about the use of the passive voice in Col 1:15-17 vis-à-vis the Firstborn of all creation.

A Little More Concerning Exegetical Fallacies (Once Written to a Friend)

Let me first qualify what we have been discussing
about etymology. I think D.A. Carson (Exegetical
) provides a balanced presentation on this
subject. After giving a caveat about word
meanings, he then notes that "the meaning of a word
may reflect the meanings of its component parts" (page
32). The denotation of EKBALLW (a compound of EK +
BALLW = "I cast out," "I throw out" or "I put out")
illustrates the validity of Carson's observation.

Carson even supplements the foregoing points by
writing: "Finally, I am far from suggesting that
etymological study is useless. It is important, for
instance, in the diachronic study of words (the study
of words as they occur across long periods of time),
in the attempt to specify the earliest attested
meaning, in the study of cognate languages, and
especially in attempts to understand the meanings of
hapax legomena (words that appear only once)" (page

Like Carson, I do not reject etymological studies in
. My point, however, is that synchronic data takes
precedence over diachronic data. Therefore, before we
assume that hUPARXWN or any other term possesses the
same meaning at each point in Greek history, we must
first ascertain how a word is used by speakers and
writers at a particular time period. I thus find
no major problem with what you note above, although I
think there are instances that militate against
espousing diachronic priority as I will try to show in
this email.

I do not think linguists generally say that most or
all words completely change their meanings over time.
But semantic change is usually inevitable and it
appears that one is wise to look at how a word is used
at a particular time rather than depending on how it was
used 800 years earlier.

So I would say that one can grasp how a term is
employed in the NT, if he or she relies on the LXX or
Greek papyri and related sources rather than depending
too heavily on Plato, Aristotle or Homer.

I agree that compounds can and do often retain their
original meanings in English. But we must not
automatically conclude that such is always the case. It
would behoove us to note how a word is used in context
or at a particular time. Consider the terms "gossip"
(from Godsibb), overjoy, and overhear. Just looking at
the etymology of each word will not be helpful in
understanding what the terms now mean. Moreover,
please note that The Concise Oxford Dictionary of
English Etymology
says that "over" (after the Middle
English period) underwent various modifications and
developments vis-a-vis its meanings. Ergo, even the
word "over" acquired new significances as time went

I think careful scholars will not
dogmatically assert that PRWTOTOKOS means "pre-eminent
one." BAGD simply questions whether the "force of the
element -TOKOS is still felt at all" in the NT period
(page 726). Compare the notes in Louw-Nida on this
word and Col. 1:15. One cannot anachronistically graft a
fourth-century meaning onto a first-century setting.

As for MONOGENHS, it could mean either "only-begotten"
or "only." It is used both ways in Classical and Koine
Greek, and the Early Church Fathers also utilize the term
both ways (see Lampe's Patristic Lexicon).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Exegetical Fallacies

I recently watched a video done by Dr. Michael S. Heiser that reviewed so-called "exegetical fallacies." Of course, the scholar, who put such terminology on the map was D.A. Carson--the author of a book with that title.

Exegesis (especially used in the biblical sense) means to explain, interpret or unfold a text (see John 1:18); the act of exegesis involves drawing meaning from (out of) a text, not reading sense/meaning into it. Exegetes base their explanations on close readings of textual sources in their respective biblical language, whether that language is Hebrew-Aramaic, Greek, Latin or other. Nevertheless, like any task, there are right ways to undertake exegesis: bad exegesis usually entails committing exegetical fallacies or one sort or another. In logic, "fallacy" is normally defined as "a mistake in reasoning." E.g., argumentum ad hominem.

Other definitions for fallacy include:

a) a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.

b) a failure in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.

c) faulty reasoning; misleading or unsound argument.

Two kinds of exegetical fallacies are grammatical and presuppositional/historical fallacies. For example, to understand the Greek aorist as the "action that happens once in the past" tense is fallacious, since many uses of the aorist do not fit this definition. Furthermore, aspect research now suggests that aorists are default Greek verbal forms; and they likely portray action as a whole. See Matthew 4:9; Philippians 2:12; 1 John 2:1-2.

Historical fallacies might occur when exegetes try to reconstruct historical circumstances for Gospels or NT Epistles. We do not have access to precise historical conditions for the ecclesiae at Corinth, Philadelphia or Pergamum, apart from NT records. So while reconstructions of history might be interesting, they can lead to fallacies when imposed on the text from outside. But many other traps await interpreters of Scripture.


My Book Review of Robert M. Grant's "Gods and the One God"

The book Gods and the One God is written by Robert M. Grant. It is part of a series entitled the Library of Early Christianity edited by Wayne Meeks. This publication attempts to situate early Christian theology within its appropriate Greco-Roman context. But contrary to one of the blurbs that appears on my copy of this work, Grant does not simply document "the similarities and differences between beliefs of the emerging Christian movement" and beliefs held by the "larger world" in the first century or early second century CE. Rather, he seems to argue that there is a sense in which certain Christian beliefs depended on pagan beliefs or concepts about God (i.e., they were possibly shaped or influenced by pagan thought). An example of this phenomenon is when one analyzes what Grant has to say about the gradual development of Christology (the systematic doctrine of Christ's person and work) and its concomitant teaching, the Trinity. Grant argues that the early church fathers were almost universally subordinationist in thought (concerning the relationship between Christ and his divine Father) prior to the Council of Nicaea (page 160). As Grant writes in his description of Theophilus of Antioch and other early Christian authors like him, "we find the materials for such a doctrine [of the Trinity] but not a doctrine as such" (page 156). He also points out that "The doctrine of the trinity in unity is not a product of the earliest Christian period, and we do not find it carefully expressed before the end of the second century" (page 156).

Regarding the structure of this work:

There are three parts to this book and 13 chapters. Grant begins his study with an account of how the Christian God is portrayed in Acts of the Apostles and then discusses how philosophy, Judaism and Christianity depicted God in antiquity. He concludes his study by focusing on divergent Christologies and the Trinity doctrine. I highly recommend Grant's text--it is illuminating, intellectually honest and mainly objective.

Grant, Robert M. Gods and the One God. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Yet More Evidence Against the Johannine Comma

The weight against 1 John 5:7 is monumental, according to our present knowledge. Both Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians normally discount the famed Comma. In the work The Johannine Literature (by Barnabas Lindars, R. Alan Culpepper, Ruth B. Edwards, and John M. Court), we read that the Comma does not appear "in any Greek manuscript before 1400 CE" (page 16). The work says the reading is a "gloss" evidently motivated by Trinitarian debates.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review of "Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian"

The groundbreaking study written by Michael B. Simmons has advanced our knowledge of Arnobius and his theology. Despite some problematic elements such as the claims made about religious conflict and competition, Simmons' investigation clarifies Arnobian thought by attempting to establish a socio-historical context for Adversus nationes. Simmons indicates that "Saturnian theology" possibly informs the Arnobian concept of God. The terminology that he uses refers to the doctrine of God that prevailed in Roman North Africa during the age of Emperor Diocletian (284-305 CE). Saturn was the chief god of North Africans and his cultus revolved around agrarian matters like crops, farming implements and weather control.

Certain factors that lead Simmons to adjudge that "Saturnian theology" informs Arnobius' theology are portions of Adversus nationes that disputably attribute Saturnian epithets to the omnipotent deity of Christianity. One readily encounters the terms genitor, pater, dominus and frugifer in Arnobius. Of course, this linguistic phenomenon does not necessarily confirm that the cultus of Saturn functions as a backdrop for Arnobius' thinking about God. Nonetheless, Simmons considers it a strong possibility.

While pagan concepts may shape the Arnobian understanding of divine fatherhood, it seems more feasible that polemical strategy or ignorance respecting certain doctrines as well as situational context influences his doctrine of God and Christ. Simmons' work is documented thoroughly and well-written--it has proved to be indispensable for my studies of the Latin Patristics.

Theophilus of Antioch on Inspired Prophets

"But men of God carrying in them a holy spirit and becoming prophets, being inspired and made wise by God, became God-taught, and holy, and righteous. Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. For they predicted also pestilences, and famines, and wars. And there was not one or two, but many, at various times and seasons among the Hebrews; and also among the Greeks there was the Sibyl; and they all have spoken things consistent and harmonious with each other, both what happened before them and what happened in their own time, and what things are now being fulfilled in our own day: wherefore we are persuaded also concerning the future things that they will fall out, as also the first have been accomplished" (Theophilus to Autolycus II.9).

Greek: Οἱ δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι, πνευματοφόροι πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ προφῆται γενόμενοι, ὑπ' αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐμπνευσθέντες καὶ σοφισθέντες, ἐγένοντο θεοδίδακτοι καὶ ὅσιοι καὶ δίκαιοι. διὸ καὶ κατηξιώθησαν τὴν ἀντιμισθίαν ταύτην λαβεῖν, ὄργανα θεοῦ γενόμενοι καὶ χωρήσαντες σοφίαν τὴν παρ' αὐτοῦ, δι' ἧς σοφίας εἶπον καὶ τὰ περὶ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ κόσμου, καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἁπάντων. καὶ γὰρ περὶ λοιμῶν καὶ λιμῶν καὶ πολέμων προεῖπον. καὶ οὐχ εἷς ἢ δύο ἀλλὰ πλείονες κατὰ χρόνους καὶ καιροὺς ἐγενήθησαν παρὰ Ἑβραίοις, ἀλλὰ καὶ παρὰ Ἕλλησιν Σίβυλλα καὶ πάντες φίλα ἀλλήλοις καὶ σύμφωνα εἰρήκασιν, τά τε πρὸ αὐτῶν γεγενημένα καὶ τὰ κατ' αὐτοὺς γεγονότα καὶ τὰ καθ' ἡμᾶς νυνὶ τελειούμενα· διὸ καὶ πεπείσμεθα καὶ περὶ τῶν μελλόντων οὕτως ἔσεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ τὰ πρῶτα ἀπήρτισται.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Additional Links for Theopneustos

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Translating Psalm 33:3

Psalm 33:3-"Sing to him a new song; Play skillfully on the strings, along with shouts of joy" (NWT 2013).

"Sing to him a new song; Do YOUR best at playing on the strings along with joyful shouting" (NWT 1984).

"Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise" (KJV).

Albert Barnes:

Play skillfully with a loud noise - literally, "Do well to play;" or, "do well in playing." That is, do the work well, or with all the skill of music. The word rendered "loud noise," means properly "a shout of joy" or "rejoicing:" Job 8:21; 1 Samuel 4:5. It is especially applied to the sound or clangor of trumpets: Leviticus 25:9; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1. There is rather the idea of "rejoicing" than of "noise" in the word. The meaning is that the music should be such as would be expressive of the highest joy.

JFB mentions 1 Samuel 16:17.

John Trapp's Commentary:
Play skilfully (or lustily) with a loud noise] Make good music, set all your skill and might at work to magnify the Lord. It is not an easy matter to praise God aright; it must be done Corde, ore, opere, with the very best of the best. Benefacite canendo, cum iubilatione.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible:
"Play skillfully with a loud noise" (Psalms 33:3). Some modern translators love to inject instrumental music into as many passages of the Old Testament as possible; and, in keeping with that intention, the RSV renders this place, "Play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts." "The words on the strings are not in the Hebrew text."[8] The words were simply added to the sacred text by the translators!

NET Bible: Sing to him a new song! 2 Play skillfully as you shout out your praises to him! 3

Notes from NET:

2 sn A new song is appropriate because the Lord is constantly intervening in the lives of his people in fresh and exciting ways.

3 tn Heb “play skillfully with a loud shout.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Logical Possibility and the Existence of God

Vincent Brümmer distinguishes four types of modalities:

1) Conceptual impossibility-impossible by virtue of definition.
2) Logical impossibility-if an assertion that something has been done results in a contradiction, regardless of how one defines the terms used in the assertion.
3) Factual impossibility-things are impossible according to the known structure of reality.
4) Normative possibility-a form of possibility that involves rights and duties (i.e., employees and employers each have prescriptive responsibilities toward one another by means of some formalized agreement).

Some things clearly appear to be factually, conceptually or logically impossible like square circles or events that have happened, then unhappened (Nicomachean Ethics 6.2). Nothing is also red and green all over: that too is factually impossible. Nor is Lebron James both taller than 6 feet and not taller than 6 feet at the same time and in the same respect (law of non-contradiction).

Furthermore, God does not do things that by their very nature are impossible; if one maintains otherwise, he/she land himself/herself in numerous contradictions.

I define logical possibility as "terminological congruity" or internal coherence. The wording is mine, but the idea has been expressed by other writers (Anselm of Canterbury)--something is logically possible when it does not result in a contradictory state of affairs. For instance, there is no logical impossibility contained within the proposition: "All unmarried men are bachelors." The statement is analytically true by virtue of the terms involved. Conversely, to say that "A circle is round and a circle is square" lands one in a terminologically discordant situation: a round and square circle is not logically possible. Yet logical possibility should not be confused with truth or untruth; nor should it be confounded with causal or physical possibility. See Paul Herrick, Introduction to Logic, 61.

Atheists will sometimes insist that the existence of God is logically impossible; however, if this claim were true, then it would mean that predicating God's existence is self-contradictory. Wherein does the supposed contradiction lie? What is terminologically incongruent about asserting, "There is a being such that no being is greater than that being"? The onus probandi falls upon the atheist to explain and demonstrate how the foregoing proposition is logically impossible. But the fact that Anselm's ontological argument is not prima facie incoherent, suggests that atheists who want to deem God's existence logically impossible are guilty of overreaching their target.