Monday, July 16, 2018

Translating Proverbs 22:13

A question I once posed to some friends. Any input is appreciated.

Dear "Hebrew" brothers,

I have a question about the translation of Proverbs 22:13. The NWT renders the passage: "The lazy one has said: There is a lion outside! In the midst of the public squares I shall be murdered!"

Yet, the English morpheme "murder," denotes (in this particular context):

"transitive and intransitive verb kill somebody illegally: to kill another person deliberately and not in self-defense or with any other extenuating circumstance recognized by law."

The term "murder" also carries the idea of one human being killing another human with premediation or willful/criminal intent (mens rea). Therefore, would "kill" be a more fitting rendering of RTSH (ratsach) here?

Wilma A. Bailey (author of "You Shall Not Kill" or "You Shall Not Murder"?) writes:

"The word RTSH [ratsach] appears in this verse [Proverbs 22:13] in verbal form, but it cannot mean murder. Animals may indeed kill, but they do not make moral judgments" (page 13).

I will defer to you brothers who know more Hebrew than I do.

Addendum: See Insight on the Scriptures for more details. NWT 2013 renders Prov. 22:13 with "I will be killed" instead of "murdered."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Notes for the Gospel of Mark 2:1-12

The Gospel of Mark tells a vivid and swift-moving story: it is a dynamic Gospel that's relatively short but still contains a lively narrative. Mark reports that unclean spirits and violent winds obey Jesus (1:25-27; 4:36-39). The Lord also performs miracles, but commands people not to talk about being healed (8:30). So what encouragement can we derive from this Gospel when it comes to sin and disease?

In Mark 2:4-5, four men carry a paralytic to Jesus while the Lord is teaching at a house in Capernaum, his usual center of activity. Yet the men cannot directly enter the house since the place is too crowded: there is no more room, not even around the door (Mark 2:2). Hence, these determined persons remove the roof that is above Jesus--they make an opening, then lower the paralyzed man down to Jesus. When Jesus beholds their faith, he's motivated to declare that the paralyzed man's sins are forgiven. Yet some Jewish scribes are at the house and they inwardly begin to question Jesus' authority and his ability to forgive sins. "Only God can forgive sins," they reason (Mark 2:6-7). These scribes consequently accuse Jesus of blasphemy.

Remarking on this account, Eckhard J. Schnabel observes:

Blasphemy is not only the pronouncement of the divine name (Yahweh), as in the technical rabbinic sense (m. Sanh. 7:5), but covers a wider range of offences, including idolatry, arrogant disrespect towards God or insulting God's chosen leaders.

Larry Hurtado adds these informative details about Mark 2:8ff:

Blasphemy is usually regarded as the worst sin among religious people, and so the issue is by no means a small one. The direct forgiveness given by Jesus here in 2:6 is very different from John's "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" in 1:4, and prompts the theological complaint of these teachers in 2:7: Who can forgive sins but God alone? We should note also that the charge of blasphemy anticipates the condemnation of Jesus in 14:63–64, and it seems likely that in this first controversy scene in his Gospel, Mark intended to give the reader a foretaste of the final opposition and the issue that would lead to Jesus' execution (see note on v. 7).

Jesus knows what these men are thinking in their hearts (Mark 2:8). Admittedly, it's possible for someone to claim authority to forgive sins, but with no evidence, the person making such a pronouncement could be defrauding others. However, Jesus banishes all room for doubt by commanding the paralytic to pick up his stretcher and walk. The man thus picks up his stretcher as he proceeds to walk home; all subsequently glorify Jehovah God for the marvelous work that he's performed (Mark 2:11-12).

Jesus accomplished at least three things by performing this miracle:

A) He demonstrated that sickness is associated with sin.

B) Jesus shows that he possesses the God-given authority to forgive sins on earth and he wields this power to heal the sick.

C) Finally, the Lord provides a foregleam of how, as the rightly appointed King of God's Kingdom, he will eradicate sin and imperfection forever.

This biblical account gives us the strength to keep our eyes not on the things seen, but on the things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). If we are suffering from illness or have loved ones dealing with serious maladies, Mark's account of the healed paralytic helps us to endure as we intently consider our Lord and exemplar, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Jehovah long ago promised to heal all maladies. [Ps 103]


Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

Image is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

John Duns Scotus and Universal Hylomorphism

Warning: Recondite Post Ahead

Hylomorphism is the philosophical thesis that posits "every physical object is a compound of matter and form" (SEP). By "matter" (hyle), Aristotle potentially denotes the structural material of X (a concrete particular). On the other hand, "form" (morphe) signifies what X is: the essence or substance of X. To use a hackneyed example, wood might be a chair's matter but its form would be chairness. A tree is material--its treeness presumably is not.

Philosophers normally trace hylomorphism back to Aristotle, but in this brief discussion, my comments about hylomorphic entities will be confined to the metaphysical framework of John Duns Scotus (1266-1308 CE), who built on Aristotle's work like many other philosophers and theologians did.

Scotus denies "universal hylomorphism," which maintained: "all substances except God were composed of matter and form, whereas God is entirely immaterial."

It is common to find God portrayed as the being, who is pure form (without matter) and thus simple, that is, God is supposed to have no spatiotemporal parts. He is thus purportedly non-spatial and timeless--existing completely outside of space and time. That is the basic claim of classical theology. So while finite beings may be constituted of form and matter, since Scotus' theology is classically conditioned, he would not say that God is a hylomorphic compound. Nevertheless, by denying universal hylomorphism, Scotus would also insist that material entities have more than one form. According to Thomas Ward, "the Subtle Doctor" contends that material things have a number of substantial forms. Furthermore, what about angels? Would Scotus believe they are pure form with no matter?


Compare John Duns Scotus on Parts, Wholes, and Hylomorphism by Thomas M. Ward (pages 76-77).

Notice the thoughts expressed here:

Source of Duns Scotus Image:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sergius Bulgakov and the Pre-Nicenes (ANF)

I once acquired a book written by an Orthodox theologian from Russia named Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944). As I began to peruse Bulgakov's work, I was surprised at how critical he was of the "subordinationism" evidently found in the writings of Tertullian and Origen. He even talks about the "patristic failure" of theology and not only because the early writers of the church were "subordinationistic."

I do not have time to post much from Bulgakov's book which is entitled The Comforter, but I'd like to briefly relate what he says in a paragraph or two of his book.

Bulgakov insists that the church eventually conquered the pagan philosophy which it assimilated over time. However, the church did not "conquer" or transform the SOFIA TOU AIONOS without a perilous fight or "struggle," he argues:

"At times pagan philosophy infiltrated Christian theology without dissolving in it; and therefore it colored, and even distorted, this theology, having on it an inappropriate and excessive influence. Of course, this influence remained subtle and was not perceived by the theologians themselves. It was chiefly manifested not in specific doctrines but in the problematic, in the manner in which problems were approached or posed, which was what determined the paths thought was to take" (p. 5).

While I believe Bulgakov goes a little easy on the ANF and their relationship with philosophy here, he does admit that pagan philosophy "at times" seeped into Christian theology without being effectively reworked. My disagreement with him aside here, what Bulgakov states on page 6 of The Comforter is quite incisive:

"But we must also mention Stoicism, NeoPlatonism, and Aristoteleanism [in addition to Platonism], for they too color various systems of Christian theology, which therefore cannot be fully understood without taking this influence into account" (p. 6).

This is what I'm saying about Tertullian, Justin or Origen. One cannot grasp where they are coming from theologically without having some knowledge of the schools of philosophy mentioned by Bulgakov. One other point I want to make is that I believe there is great value in studying the ANF. While I primarily examine their writings from a historical perspective, I would not say that it is just an academic exercise for me. The ANF help us to see what "Christianity" believed at certain points in history. As Jesus foretold, the wheat and the weeds would exist in the field together until "the conclusion of a system of things" (NWT), so both truth and error would obtain in the congregation of Jesus Christ until this momentous distantly future age. And while the Bible is the norma normans for Witnesses, the ANF may in some ways possibly function as a norma normata for us.

I hope my last statement here is rightly construed. I
am not saying that ANF teachings should determine Witness
belief, but I am suggesting that the way Justin or
Tertullian exegeted certain scriptural passages may
give us food for thought as we try to perceive God's
will (Eph. 5:15-17). As Origen was fond of saying,
sometimes a drunkard stumbles upon a certain part of
the truth or he/she gets a figurative "thorn" stuck in
his/her hand (as it were).

Monday, July 09, 2018

The "Dishonest Steward of Jesus' Parable in Luke 16: Scholarly Comments

καὶ ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν· ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι ὑπὲρ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν εἰσιν. (Luke 16:8, Nestle GNT 1904)

The steward in Luke 16 is commended because he acted φρονίμως. The term usually rendered "dishonest" (even by the ESV) is ἀδικίας. Earlier, we're told that the steward is wasteful and Joel Green thinks all attempts to explain the commendation of the dishonest steward ultimately fail. But here are other thoughts on Luke 16:1-8:

James R. Edwards:
Positive appraisals of the steward run aground on the reef of v. 8, for the steward is summarily described as “a steward of unrighteousness.” Thus the actions of the steward are not upheld as models in the parable. They are expressly called adikia, which in Greek means “wickedness, injustice, wrongdoing.” Moreover, the steward is not called a “son of light,” but rather a “son of this world” (v. 8; NIV “people of this world”). What the steward is praised for is not his unrighteousness but his “shrewdness” or “prudence.” This is the key that unlocks the parable.²² The Greek word for “shrewdly,” phronimōs, occurs only this once in the Bible, although its adjectival form characterizes “the faithful and wise [Gk. phronimos] manager” in 12:42. Throughout the Wisdom literature this same adjective is upheld as the ideal of the wise and prudent person. “Shrewdness,” no less than “praise,” is a commendation in v. 8.

Mikeal C. Parsons:
The manager's actions can be interpreted in one of two ways:

1.His action is not dishonest at all. Either he is foregoing his own commission on the deal (so using what is properly his own quite legitimately and to good effect) or he is canceling out that part of the debt that is interest on the loan, thus bringing his master into line with the OT prohibitions on the charging of interest (Lev. 25:36). It is doubtful, however, that the steward's own commission would be included in the state- ment of the amount owed to the master.
2.More probably, the manager’s action effectively puts the master into a corner: the relieved debtors will be so full of gratitude and praise for the master for his unexpected generosity that either the master has to risk great bitterness by disowning the steward’s action, or he is forced, what- ever he really feels privately, to praise the steward for his action: Then the master commended the crooked manager because he had acted shrewdly (16:8a). In this sense, the story is again part of the larger stock of slave-as-trickster stories (as in the Life of Aesop), in which the shrewd slave outwits the master. These stories found their way into Jewish tradition as well (see Culpepper 1995, 310).

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible:
became he had done wisely
for himself: the wit, and not the goodness of the man is commended; which, in the language and sense of the Jews, may be thus expressed F16:

``because a man, (עושה טובה לעצמו) , "does good" for himself with "mammon" which is not his own.''

James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke, The Pillar NT Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2015.

Mikeal C. Parsons, Luke, Paideia Commentary on the NT, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.

Other articles may be found here:

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Notes on Acts 11:26

From the NIDNTT:

NT 1. In the NT chrēmatizō has 2 distinct senses. It may be connected with chrēsmos, oracle, and with chrēmata, business. (a) In the infancy stories of Jesus, it is used of the instruction of people by revelations. It is usually in the pass., and the recipient is regarded as an instrument of God. Thus the wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod (Matt. 2:12). Joseph is likewise warned not to go to Judea where Archelaus ruled and so withdraws to Galilee (2:22). It was "revealed" to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Messiah (Lk. 2:26).

In a similar way, in the account of the opening of the church to the Gentiles, an angel "told" Cornelius to send for Peter to come to his house in order to speak to him (Acts 10:22). Heb. 11:7 speaks of how Noah responded "when warned about things not yet seen," and 12:25 encourages professing Christians not to ignore any message from God, for the Israelites did not escape a less serious message from Moses, "who warned them on earth" (cf. also the use of this vb. for the warning given to Moses in 8:5).

(b) In two instances chrēmatizō means to appear as something, bear a name. Thus in Antioch the disciples "were called Christians" for the first time (Acts 11:26). In Rom. 7:3, a woman "is called an adulteress" if she lives with another man while her husband is still alive.

In one of his big Acts commentaries, Craig Keener maintains that ancient Gentiles (prominent Romans in Antioch) scoffed at early followers of Jesus by deeming them "partisans of Christos," a sham king of the Jews: that seems to be how Keener understands Acts 11:26. I.e., he believes it is saying that "Christians" initially could have been a derisive term.


Rogers and Rogers: Inf. as subject. χρηματίσαι aor. act. inf. χρηματίζω to bear a name, to be called, to be named, to bear a title (Jos., JW, 2:488; BAGD; TWNT). Inf. as subject. Χριστιανός Christian, adherents of the Anointed One (Barrett; EDNT; TDNT; Haenchen; BC, 5:383-86).

Compare Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

1 John 2:20--All of YOU Have Knowledge?

This blog entry focuses on ὑμεῖς in 1 John 2:20.

Greek: καὶ ὑμεῖς χρίσμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου· οἴδατε πάντες (WH 1881)

I.H. Marshall applies these words to "the true members [of the ecclesia] to whom John is writing." They are starkly contrasted with those who go out from the community (see 1 John 2:19). Due to their "spiritual insight," emanating from the sacred anointing (χρίσμα), these early Christians had the ability to distinguish truth from falsity. Because of the distinctions John makes here, Marshall thinks καὶ ὑμεῖς possibly ought to be rendered "And you" rather than "But you" as numerous translations do (see NIV, KJV, ESV). NWT 2013: "And you have an anointing from the holy one . . ."

Marshall appeals to BDF 442 and Schnackenburg to support the notion that καὶ can have adversative force ("and yet"). Robert W. Yarbrough (Baker Exegetical Series) concedes that John uses καὶ adversatively in 2:20; however, he thinks the conjunction appropriately ought to be rendered "but" to mark the contrast between those who leave the community and those who remain--the readers of John's missive. Furthermore, Yarbrough suggests:

The contrast is probably underscored by the second word of the verse: ὑμεῖς (hymeis, you [plural]). This often superfluous but in this case emphatic[13] pronoun has the effect of heightening the distinction between those who departed and those who remain.

Again, it is the anointing that protects members of the ecclesia even though different commentators exposit the anointing from varying perspectives. It cannot rightly be denied that whatever the anointing is, John proclaims its source is "the Holy One."

Some construe the Holy One here to be Christ (see the Cambridge Bible), but Yarbrough rightly understands the Holy One to be God himself. See Isaiah 48:17; Habakkuk 1:12; 3:3 and numerous occurrences in the Tanakh.

Karen Jobes (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series) offers a somewhat different understanding of 1 John 2:20: she considers the anarthrous χρίσμα to be a pun on Christos. In any event, Jobes identifies the Holy One as the Holy Spirit while acknowledging that the Father or Jesus Christ are grammatical possibilities. Finally, Jobes calls attention to the fact that οἴδατε possibly has no direct object even though most manuscripts supply πάντες/πάντα.

If the more difficult reading (without the direct object) is correct, Jobes suggests John could have been saying, "you are in the know." That is, by virtue of the anointing, you have the cognitive resources to know what's happening with respect to the false teachers.