Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clement of Alexandria on 1 John 3:2

These remarks are taken from Cassiodorus' Latin translation of the Fragmenta from Clemens Alexandrinus. Cassiodorus lived in the sixth century CE, whereas Clemens lived approximately 150-215 CE.

'“Beloved,” says he, “now are we the sons of God,” not by natural affection, but because we have God as our Father. For it is the greater love that, seeing we have no relationship to God, He nevertheless loves us and calls us His sons. “And it hath not yet appeared what we shall be;” that is, to what kind of glory we shall attain. “For if He shall be manifested,”—that is, if we are made perfect,—“we shall be like Him,” as reposing and justified, pure in virtue, “so that we may see Him” (His countenance) “as He is,” by comprehension.'


Monday, December 28, 2009

Reply to Jason on Matthew 12:5ff

Hi Jason,

You write:

"Edgar, how does one account for the words 'not lawful' in Matt. 12:4 and 'profane' or 'desecrate' in Matt. 12:5, if Jesus was in fact arguing that His disciples were not breaking the sabbath, instead of arguing that He has the authority to dispense them from the obligation of keeping the sabbath?"

I do not believe that Jesus is agreeing with his opponents, who charge the disciples with practicing what is "unlawful" on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-2). The Lord is replying to the baseless aspersions of the Pharisees who suggest that what the disciples of Jesus are doing on the Sabbath is unlawful or forbidden. But Christ uses the examples of David and the priests who work on the Sabbath to prove that God allows those engaged in his work to do what could be viewed as "unlawful" or could be seen as technically profaning the Sabbath. However, notice that Christ says the priests who work on the Sabbath are blameless (Matthew 12:5). A fortiori, why should not Christ's disciples also be considered blameless while they carry out God's work and pluck grain from the fields through which they walk (Matthew 12:6)?

There are some interesting observations found on this account in Aquinas' Catena Aurea. John Chrysostom states that the disciples broke the Sabbath law, but not "absolutely." They were given an "out," so to speak, because they were hungry. Jerome thinks that the disciples "broke the letter of the Sabbath," but he appears to believe that the charge of the Pharisees was false. Jerome writes:

"But the laws of God are never contrary one to another; wisely therefore, wherein His disciples might be accused of having transgressed them, He shews that therein they followed the examples of Achimelech [sic] and David; and this their pretended charge of breaking the sabbath He retorts truly, and not having the plea of necessity, upon those who had brought the accusation."

John Nolland (The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text) notes that the first mention of the Sabbath in Matthew's Gospel is found at our text in 12:1. After providing commentary that centers on what ancient Jewish writings (including the Philonic texts) stated about the Sabbath, Nolland then writes:

"a sympathetic viewpoint on the situation of the needy is likely to have treated their [the disciples'] eating in the fields on the sabbath as not constituting work that would violate the sabbath. Such was not the view of Philo or of the Pharisees we meet in the Gospels. But it clearly is the view of Jesus" (p. 482).

Commenting on Matthew 12:5, Nolland also maintains:

"Again what is established in that the non-work requirement of the sabbath is not absolute . . . Once more at best the comparison creates a space in which apparently unlawful behavior may be justified on other grounds" (p. 484).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Some Recommended Books

Armstrong, Karen. _A History of God_. New York: Ballantine, 1993.

Black, David A. _Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A
Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications_. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker,

Brooks, James A. and Winbery, Carlton L. _A Morphology of New Testament
Greek_. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994.

Grant, Robert M. _Heresy and Criticism: The Search for Authenticity in
Early Christian Literature_. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John
Knox, 1993.

Porkorny, Petr. _Die Entstehung der Christologie_ (The Genesis of
Christology). Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd., 1987.

Russell, D.S. _The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (Old
Testament Library)_. Philadelphia, PN: Westminster, 1964.

Silva, Moises. _Philippians_ (Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary). Chicago,
Ill: Moody, 1988.

______ _Explorations in Exegetical Method: Galatians As a Test Case_.
Grand Rapids MI: Baker, 1996.

Trakatellis, Demetrius C. _The Pre-Existence of Christ in Justin Martyr:
An Exegetical Study with Reference to The Humiliation and Exaltation
Christology_. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1976.

Young, Richard A. _Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and
Exegetical Approach_. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1994.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Didache on Baptism

One question that comes up with regard to the Didache is, when was it written? Is it a first or second century document? While there is no unanimous consensus on this question, a number of scholars believe that the Didache was actually produced in the second century. If so, this would comport with the observations of Origen and Tertullian regarding infant baptism taking place in their day.

Stanley Burgess observes that the Didache is "an early second century document" (The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions, page 21).

Howard Vos simply writes that the Didache "is also believed to have originated in Alexandria (though some think it came from Syria), probably during the first decades of the second century" (Exploring Church History, Page 12).

Moreover, The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology states that the Didache "comes from the late first to mid-second century, and is more in the style of a compilation of practices for a group of churches than the work of a single theologian-author" (page 100).

But the magisterial study by W. H. C. Frend dates the Didache circa A.D. 70 (See The Rise of Christianity, page 29). So we have respected scholars from both sides offering (as usual) possible, but contrary opinions on this important matter. Personally, I think the evidence favors the second century dating. I am certain that some would heavily dispute this conclusion or question my motivation for deciding on that date. But as I said earlier, the contents belonging to the work incline me to assign second-century dating for the Didache. This factor along with what other writers say about the practice of infant baptism in antiquity influences my decision.

I think that baptism started out as the immersion of believing adults (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 8:12-13). However, in time, infants began to be baptized on what Jaroslav Pelikan calls "biblical warrants that [are] somewhat ambiguous." This famed and late ecclesiastical historian argues that "the first incontestable evidence for the practice [of infant baptism] appeared around the end of [the second] century" (Cf. The Christian Tradition 1:290-292 and 1:316-318). As is well known, Tertullian vehemently rejected the practice of infant baptism (Baptism 18.5).

So I would say that the historical evidence indicates that there were different kinds of baptism from the second century onward, though it seems that the Primitive Christians started out immersing new believers under water when they baptized them (Acts 8:34-39).

Harold O.J. Brown writes that "Although a critical reaction against its [the Didache's] significance took place in the earlier part of this century, its place as a valuable composition of the earliest of Apostolic Fathers texts is secure."

I would add that the Didache does help us to understand what was happening in second century Christianity. This does not mean, however, that all
Christians practiced infant baptism in the second century. It also seems
highly unlikely that all believers in Christ practiced sprinkling at that time (Compare Hermas, ANF Series, 2.49; Apostolic Constitutions 7.53, Tertullian ANF Series, 3.669-671).


Friday, December 11, 2009

Revelation 1:1 and SHMAINW

Regarding Rev 1:1: for SHMAINW, BDAG has

(1) to make known, report, communicate

(2) to intimate someth[ing] respecting the future, indicate, suggest, intimate

(3) to provide an explanation for someth[ing] that is enigmatic, mean, signify.

Rev 1:1 is categorized under (1) in this lexicon.

On the other hand, _The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament_ explains that ESHMANEN (the aor indicative active of SHMAINW) can mean "to signify." Moreover, we read that "The word strictly means to show by some sort of sign, and it is esp[ecially] used of any intimation given by the gods to men, esp[ecially] concerning the fut[ure]" (page 610).

David Aune provides substantial textual evidence that suggests the NWT (New World Translation] is most certainly on the right track in its handling of ESHMANEN at Rev 1:1. After reviewing how the Greek verb SHMAINW is employed in extra-biblical literature and the NT, he writes:

"In Rev 1:1, SHMAINEIN cannot mean 'to indicate clearly.' By using the term SHMAINEIN, the author expresses the difficulty in understanding the revelation narrated in the text that follows, and perhaps even emphasizes the necessity of informed interpretation" (Word Biblical Commentary on Revelation 52A:15).

One pivotal classic text in this regard is Plutarch's De Pyth orac which reads:


"[Apollo] neither declares, nor conceals but signifies."

Aune comments:

"This [text' refers to the fact that the Delphic oracle gave ambiguous advice using images and riddles and that such advice required interpretation (see Kahn, Heraclitus, 121-23)."

Quoted from Aune, ibid.

Best regards,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mellone on Tertullian's Christology

Sydney H. Mellone on Tertullian's Subordinationist Christology

"He [Tertullian] has not avoided a subordination not only in the order of revelation to mankind but in essential being. Even if we set aside his purely metaphorical illustrations, we find it clearly stated that the Father is the originating principle of the Son and the Spirit, and therefore holds in relation to them a certain superiority: 'The Father is wholly essential being (SUBSTANTIA): the Son is derived from the Whole as part thereof (PORTIO TOTIUS): the Father is greater than the Son, as One who begets, who sends, who acts, is greater than the One is begotten, who is sent, through whom He acts," (Leaders of Early Christian Thought, London: The Lindsey Press, 1954, Page 178).

The salient point that I wish to extract from Mellone's writing is the one that he makes about Tertullian subordinating the Son "in essential being" and not simply in the order of divine revelation. In Adversus Praxean 12 and Adversus Praxean 3, Tertullian suggests that the Father is superior to the Son in essential being, not just in the order of Heilsgeschichte.

Sydney H. Mellone (M.A., D.Sc.) was external examiner in Philosophy at the University of London.

Best regards,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Justin Martyr and the Soul

"And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding [the truth] when they assert contradictories" (1 Apology 44).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Latest Book Reviews


Among some of the books that I have reviewed, the most up to date review is the book written by R.M. Grant Gods and the One God. Please check out my reviews on amazon.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Brief Thoughts on ALHQINOS/ALHQHS

Here are some brief thoughts on the ALHQINOS/ALHQHS:

Louw-Nida point out that ALHQHS and ALHQINOS may possibly denote that which pertains to actual existence, "real, really, true, truly." See John 6:55.

This source comments on John 17:3 (in semantic domain 70.3), noting that this Johannine passage could be rendered "that they may know you, the only one who is really God." We are then told that the rendering "the only one who is really God" could be understood in some languages as "the only God who exists" or "who is God and there are no other gods."

In semantic domain 72.1 of Louw-Nida, we also read ALHQHS may signify: "pertaining to being in accordance with historical fact" or "true, truth." Cf. John 4:18. Compare John's use of ALHQINHOS (ALHQINH) in John 19:35.

LSJ observes that ALHQHS (the Doric form is ALAQHS) can mean "unconcealed, true, real" with its opposite being "false" or "apparent." On the other hand, in classical Greek, ALHQINOS can mean "agreeable to truth." When used of persons, it may denote "truthful, trusty"; when employed with respect to things, "true, genuine."

I would encourage our brothers and sisters on this site to study the entry for ALHQINOS in BDAG. It is very informative, especially if one also consults the entry for MONOS in BDAG.

Your brother,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Plotinus and Birthdays

"Plotinus was so fervently committed to his Platonic ideas regarding the imperfection of his physical body, in contrast to the perfection of his eternal soul, that he refused to celebrate his birthday. His reasoning was that he was ashamed that his immortal soul had to be contained in such an imperfect vessel as his body, and that celebrating its birth was a cause for regret, not celebration" (John Chaffee, The Philosopher's Way: A Text with Readings, page 105).

Now I'm not citing this information to prove that we should not celebrate our day of birth (although I believe that celebrating birthdays is not a biblically based practice). However, I never knew that Plotinus did not celebrate his birthday and I found his reason for not celebrating his it to be an interesting one.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Thomas Hobbes on Genesis 3

Taken from Hobbes' work Leviathan (chapter XX):

Whereupon having both eaten, they did indeed take upon them God's office, which is judicature of good and evil, but acquired no new ability to distinguish between them aright. And whereas it is said that, having eaten, they saw they were naked; no man hath so interpreted that place as if they had been formerly blind, and saw not their own skins: the meaning is plain that it was then they first judged their nakedness (wherein it was God's will to create them) to be uncomely; and by being ashamed did tacitly censure God Himself. And thereupon God saith, "Hast thou eaten," etc., as if He should say, doest thou that owest me obedience take upon thee to judge of my commandments? Whereby it is clearly, though allegorically, signified that the commands of them that have the right to command are not by their subjects to be censured nor disputed.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Walter Kasper on the Son of God Concept in the Old Testament

The following is taken from Jesus the Christ (page 164):

"Although the Old Testament uses the title of Son for
the people of Israel (cf., among other texts, Exod
4.22-3; Hos 11.1), for the king as representative of
the people (cf., among other texts, Ps 2.7; 2 Sam
7.14) or - as in late Judaism - for any devout and
righteous Israelite (cf., among other texts, Ecclus
4.10), this usage is not based either on the
background of mythological-polytheistic thinking or on
the pantheistic background of Stoic philosophy,
according to which all men in virtue of their common
nature have the one God as Father and are therefore
called sons of God. The title Son or Son of God in the
Old Testament must be understood against the
background of election-faith and the theocratic ideas
based on it. Consequently, divine sonship is not
founded on physical descent, but is the result of
God's free, gracious choice. The person so chosen as
Son of God receives a special mission within salvation
history, binding him to obedience and service. The
title of Son of God therefore is understood, not as
natural-substantial, but functionally and personally."

I would add that the title "son of God" is also used as a scriptural metaphor for Jesus Christ and others.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

John Gill on Divine Omnipotence

Here is part of what Gill has to say about the almightiness or omnipotence of God:

The power of God reaches to all things, and therefore is, with propriety, called Omnipotence; all things are possible with God, and nothing impossible; this is said by an angel, and confirmed by Christ, (Luke 1:37; Mark 14:36) what is impossible with men is possible with God; what cannot be done according to the nature of things, the laws, rules, and course of nature, may be done by the God of nature, who is above these, and not bound by them, and sometimes acts contrary to them; as when he stopped the sun in its course, in the times of Joshua; made iron to swim by the hands of the prophet Elisha; and suffered not fire to burn in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, so that the three persons cast into it were not hurt by it, nor their clothes so much as singed, nor the smell of fire upon them: whereas, it is the nature of the sun to go on in its course, without stopping, nor can any creature stop it; and for ponderous bodies, as iron, to sink in water; and for fire to burn. There are some things, indeed, which God cannot do, and which the Scriptures express as, that "he cannot deny himself", (2 Tim. 2:13) nor do anything that is contrary to his being, his honour and glory, or subversive of it; thus, for instance, he cannot make another God, that would be contrary to himself, to the unity of his Being, and the declaration of his Word; "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord", (Deut. 6:4) he cannot make a finite creature infinite; that would be to do the same, and there would be more infinites than one, which is a contradiction; he cannot raise a creature to such dignity as to have divine perfections ascribed to it, it has not, which would be a falsehood; or to have religious worship and adoration given it, which would be denying himself, detracting from his own glory, and giving it to another, when he only is to be served and worshipped: in such manner it is also said of him, that he "cannot lie", (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18) for this would be contrary to his truth and faithfulness; he can do nothing that is contrary to his attributes; he cannot commit iniquity, he neither will nor can do it; for that would be contrary to his holiness and righteousness; (see Job 34:10,12, 36:23) he cannot do anything that implies a contradiction; he cannot make contradictions true; a thing to be, and not to be at the same time; or make a thing not to have been that has been[4]; he can make a thing not to be, which is, or has been; he can destroy his own works; but not make that not to have existed, which has existed; nor make an human body to be everywhere; nor accidents to subsist without subjects; with many other things which imply a manifest contradiction and falsehood: but then these are no prejudices to his omnipotence, nor proofs of weakness; they arise only out of the abundance and fulness of his power; who can neither do a weak thing nor a wicked thing, nor commit any falsehood; to do, or attempt to do, any such things, would be proofs of impotence, and not of omnipotence.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Death of My Dad (Correction)

Hello friends, I just experienced a deep loss. My dad passed away this Saturday afternoon (9/19/09): he was almost 78, so I got to enjoy his loving presence for many years. I'll miss him dearly. He taught me about God and opened the way up
(ultimately) for there to be an Edgar Foster who was interested in biblical Greek and
theology. Thanks to all of you! If you reply personally, I probably will not
have the ability to respond to every email, but please know that I appreciate you
all. What did the Romans say? Memento mori? At least I have my mother who has faithfully served Jehovah for more than 30 years. As for my dad-I trust in the God who can raise up redeemable humans from the dead (2 Cor 1:9).

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dialogue on Christian Materialism

A friend and I had a discussion not too long ago about "Christian materialism." Since that conversation is already public, I reproduce a portion of our dialogue for your consideration.

My friend writes:

> Although the view of those "Christian materialists"
> might be
> practically the same as ours, I always saw us (or
> myself) more
> as "idealists".

I reply:

The term "materialist" admittedly is somewhat confusing in this context. When thinking about a materialist, those who espouse atheism might come to mind. However, what the "Christian materialist" wants to assert (among other things) is that while the human body is not identical with what we are as persons--it does *constitute* what we are as persons. Think of "Christian materialism" in this way. The marble of a statue may not be identical with the statue; nevertheless, the marble does constitute the statue. Similarly, it is possible that our bodies constitute what we are as persons without being identical to our respective personalities. Maybe conscious states arise from neurobiological processes (started by God) and only neurobiological processes. It is possible that what we are as persons is primarily determined by synaptic connections and sensory experiences. I am speaking with respect to humans and not with regard to the angels.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Revelation 5:10 and EPI

Greetings everyone,

What I've written below was addressed to an interlocutor who believes that the decision to translate Revelation 5:10 as "over" rather than "on" is not a Greek but an English issue. I would like to see what the members of Bible Translation think. I wrote the foregoing to my interlocutor:

Dear ****,

There are scholars who prefer to render EPI in Revelation 5:9-10 as "on" even though the context has reference to the authority of men and women, whom God (through Christ) has bought or redeemed from the earth.

Robert L. Thomas does not offer a justifying explanation for why he chooses to translate EPI as "on" rather than "over," but he does render this portion of Revelation 5:10: "and they shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary, page 402).

David Aune (in his Word Biblical Commentary on Revelation) prefers the translation "on" for EPI in Revelation 5:10. See his text Revelation 1-5, page 362. But this scholar also does not offer an explanation for his rendition of the verse.

However, both Charles B. Williams (New Testament in the Language of the People) and William F. Beck (New Testament in the Language of Today) choose to translate EPI as "over." I reproduce those renderings below:

"and they will rule over the earth" (Williams)

"and they will rule as kings over the earth" (Beck)

Is this issue simply one of how English treats [Greek] prepositions that function within the context of descriptions about authority or rulership? That is not what I glean from reading Greek grammars. Moreover, BDAG Greek-English lexicon (the authoritative NT Greek lexicon) states that EPI can be a "marker of power, authority, control of or over someone or [something], over." The examples that are listed in the lexicon include Revelation 5:10; 17:18, 20:6; 2:26. It doesn't seem like this is a matter of how English treats [Greek] prepositions within the context of authority (cf. Matthew 24:45-47; Acts 12:20; Ephesians 4:6).

Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon (semantic domain 37.9) also notes that
EPI (in particular contexts) can function as "a marker of the object
over which someone exercises a control or authority." This resource
suggests the rendering "over, with responsibility for." The examples
given in this work are Acts 8:27; Luke 1:33. Again, I do not see how
it is just a matter of English idiom. However, it is possible that I
am not seeing matters clearly. Nevertheless, let us consider some other sources.

William Douglas Chamberlain writes: "A metaphorical use [of EPI] with
the idea 'over,' in the sense of ruling, grows quite naturally out of
'upon': hO WN EPI PANTWN (Rom 9:5), 'the one who is over (rules) all

See _An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament_, pages 122-123.

"EPI with any of its cases can express the object of one's control,
authority, or rule. Jesus gave his disciples authority over the power
of the enemy (Luke 10:19 acc.)" is what one finds in Richard A.
Young's _Intermediate New Testament Greek_ grammar, page 98.

LSJ states that EPI can be used with the causal sense "over, of
persons in authority, EP' hOU ETAXQHMEN Hdt. 5.109; hOI [EPI] TWN
PRAGMATWN the public officers, D 18.247." See the entry for EPI (A.III.1).

Finally, I will quote Max Zerwick: "The accusative and the genitive are found together and in a quite similar sense in Mt 25,21: 'because thou wast faithful over little (EPI OLIGA) I will set thee over much (EPI POLLWN).' This example, however, belongs to the metaphorical use, where e.g. of rule 'over' we find in the NT, alongside the classical genitive, the accusative as in BASILEUSEI EPI TON OIKON IAKWB Lk 1,33." See Zerwick's _Biblical Greek, page 42.

Best wishes,
Edgar Foster

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Ralph Earle (when discussing Matt. 24:1) says that NAOS finds it etymological roots in the verb NAIW ("dwell"). This Greek word was used in classical Greek to delineate the "dwelling place of the gods," and it was also used in the LXX to describe God's temple at Jerusalem (Earle 21). Earle then quotes Thayer, who writes that NAOS is "used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies" (Qt. in Earle 21). So this source seems to indicate that NAOS is confined to the sanctuary of the temple (the Holy and Most Holy place). But let's continue our examination before we come to any set conclusion.

About hIERON, Earle exclaims that it is the "substantive neuter of the adjective hIEROS, 'sacred.'" The adjective hIEROS is used of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Acts 19:27); twice in the LXX for the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezek. 45:19; 1 Chron. 29:4); "71 times in the NT--45 in the Gospels, 25 in Acts, and only once elsewhere" (1 Cor. 9:13). After this analysis, Earle concludes that "hIERON in the Gospels and Acts . . . refers to the whole Temple area" (Earle 21). He claims that "only the priests could go into the NAOS, the sanctuary itself."

In the interest of fairness, Earle cites Michel (TDNT 4:882) who believes that there is "no real distinction between the terms [NAOS and hIERON] in either meaning or range," although Michel appears to temper this comment somewhat on page 4:885. So Earle says, but I do not interpret Michel in the same way. Please read the TDNT entry and decide for yourself. At any rate, Michel appears to believe that Matt. 27:5 supports the view that NAOS can also be used of the whole temple area (i.e., it is not limited to the sanctuary).

BAGD has an extensive examination of NAOS that I'm not about to post in full here. Nevertheless, some of the observations found in this lexicon bear repeating. NAOS means, "temple," says BAGD. It refers to the temple at Jerusalem--to the "whole temple precinct" in Matt. 23:17, 35; 27:5, 40 (BAGD 533). But cf. Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.

Some more important references to the "heavenly sanctuary" are Rev. 14:15; 15:6; 16:1, 17. BAGD also lists Rev. 7:15; 11:19b; 15:5 (cf. Rev. 3:12; 21:22, 23). There is more to be said in BAGD under figurative uses. I suggest that this information be read and analyzed by all interested parties.

Louw-Nida reads: "NAOS . . . a building in which a deity is worshiped (in the case of the Temple in Jerusalem, a place where God was also regarded as dwelling)--'temple, sanctuary.' " (See Mt 23:35; John 2:21).

"hIERON . . . a temple or sanctuary . . . and the surrounding consecrated area." See John 10:23; Mt 21:12; 1 Cor. 9:13. Note an apparent exception at Acts 19:27. "hIERON in the NT refers to the Temple in Jerusalem, including the entire temple precinct with its buildings, courts, and storerooms."

I'm going the leave the matter at this right now.

Best regards,

Edgar Foster

"A logic must work in some way, and it must be possible to show how it
operates and to characterize this operation" (John M. Ellis).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

John Locke on the Soul

Greetings to all:

I have been reading John Locke's (1632-1704) The
Reasonableness of Christianity
and found the foregoing comments interesting. The text that I own is edited by I.T. Ramsey. Concerning Gen 2:17, Locke reasons (on p. 26):

"I shall say nothing more here, how far, in the
apprehensions of men, this [the idea of eternal
torment] consists with the justice and goodness of
God, having mentioned it above; but it seems a strange
way of understanding a law [such as the one found in
Gen 2:17], which requires the plainest and directest
words, that by death should be meant eternal life in
misery. Could any one be supposed, by a law, that
says, 'For felony thou shalt die', not that he should
lose his life, but kept alive in perpetual exquisite
torments? And would any one think himself fairly dealt
with, that was so used?"

The obvious answer to both questions for Locke is
"no." He then defines what the word "death" as used in Gen
2:17 means to him:

"I must confess by death here, I can understand
nothing but a ceasing to be, the losing of all actions
of life and sense" (p. 27).

Warm regards,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Richard Kearney on Exodus 3:14

Richard Kearney's text The God Who May Be discusses the controversial passage found at Exodus 3:14. I believe that what he has to say about EHYEH ASHER EHYEH is pertinent for this blog. The following quote can also be found at

'The great medieval Jewish commentator Rashi (Rabbi
Solomon ben Isaac, 1040–1105) renders the burning-bush
encounter as follows: "And God said unto Moses, 'I
shall be what I shall be.' And he said, 'so shall you
say to the children of Israel, I shall be has sent me
to you.'" And lest there be any lingering doubt, God
adds the binding promise: "This is my name for ever
and this is my remembrance from generation to

Rashi interprets the "name" in terms of mandate and
mission. He offers this daring commentary on God’s
address to Moses on Mount Horeb: "the vision that you
have seen at the thornbush is the sign for you that I
have sent you—and that you will succeed in My mission,
and that I have the wherewithal to save you. Just as
you saw the thornbush performing My mission without
being consumed, so too, you will go on My mission and
you will not be harmed." And Rashi adds, tellingly,
that this mandate itself prefigures the fact that
three months later Moses and his followers would
receive the Torah upon the very same mountain. Going
on to render the key passage of Exodus 3:14, he
writes, in very much the same spirit of futural
promise: "I shall be what I shall be—I shall be with
them during this trouble what I shall be with them at
the time of their subjugation at the hands of other
kingdoms." In other words, Rashi tells us, the
transfiguring God of the burning bush is pledging to
remain with those who continue to suffer in future
historical moments, and not just in the present
moment. Rashi attributes a similar sense to the phase
"This is My Name forever, and My Remembrance from
generation to generation" (Exodus 3:15). The
transfiguring God is not a once-off deity but one who
remembers the promises of the past and remains
faithful to them into the eschatological future.'


Kearney's own translational preference for Exodus 3:14
is stated thus:

'My ultimate suggestion is that we might do better to
reinterpret the Transfiguring God of Exodus 3 neither
as "I who am" nor as "I who am not" but rather as "I
am who may be"—that is, as the possibility to be,
which obviates the extremes of being and non-being.
EHYEH ASHER EHYEH might thus be read as signature of
the God of the possible, a God who refuses to impose
on us or abandon us, traversing the present moment
while opening onto an ever-coming future.'


Yet, Kearney concedes that Rashi's "eschatological"
reading of Exodus 3:14 is "arguably more attuned to the
original biblical context of meaning."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lily Ross Taylor on PROSKUNHSIS

The following is taken from Lily Ross Taylor's _The Divinity of the Roman Emperor_, Philological Monographs, no. 1 (Middletown, Conn: American Philological Association, 1931).

This post deals with PROSKUNHSIS

"The Greek word PROSKUNHSIS denotes an act of devotion to a god that consisted either in kissing the hand toward the image or--less often--in kissing the ground before it. The Greeks used the word to describe the Persian custom of greeting the king by bowing down and kissing the earth. Alexander's conquest of the great Persian empire had brought him into close contact with Persian customs and manners, and in general he found it wise to adopt them" (pp. 18-19).

"Of course the PROSKUNHSIS did not always imply 'worship' in our sense of the word. It was a form of greeting extended among the Persians by inferiors to those far above them (Hdt. 1.134). For an analysis of the material on the PROSKUNHSIS, see Schnabel, Klio, XIX, 118ff."

The full reference for the article to which Taylor refers is
Paul Schnabel, "Die Begründung des hellenistischen Königskultes durch Alexander," Klio 19 (1925) 113-27.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Frederick Danker on the Greek word BLASFHMEW

"Distortion of the source text can also occur when a translator uses an expression that loads the source text with a negative intensity derived from a receptor's term that has acquired a specialized sense. For example, the Greek verb BLASFHMEW means 'to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns.' The word is thus used in Greek about humans or transcendent beings, whereas in English the transliteration 'blaspheme' has acquired an exclusive association with sacral aspects, and when used in translations of the Bible obscures the cultural breadth of the Greek term" (Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), page 26.

Danker also proffers remarks on how one should understand the Greek verb rendered "blaspheme" in Acts 19:26-27. See the aforementioned publication.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The 24 Elders and Golden Crowns

Why do the 24 elders (older persons) depicted in Revelation 4:4 have golden crowns on their heads? I am not sure, but certain suggestions have been set forth. They are:

"Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office. There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both 'kings and priests'" (Barnes NT Notes).

"An emblem of their dignity. The Jewish writers represent human souls as being created first; and before they enter the body, each is taken by an angel into paradise, where it sees the righteous sitting in glory with crowns upon their heads. Rab. Tanchum, fol. 39, 4" (Adam Clarke's Commentary).

"they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the honour and authority given them of God, and the glory they have with him. All these may in a lower sense be applied to the gospel church on earth, in its worshipping assemblies; and, in the higher sense, to the church triumphant in heaven" (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible).

"Four and twenty elders sitting. These ancients were (1) twenty-four in number; (2) they were clothed in white, the color of victory and purity; (3) on their heads were golden crowns, not the diadem which means a kingly crown, but the golden crown of honor (Stephanos). Critics are not agreed as to the signification of these elders, but most of them think that they symbolize the glorified church of God gathered round the throne. They disagree as to the significance of the number twenty-four. There were twenty-four courses of priests. There were twelve tribes, and twelve apostles" (People's NT).

Any other suggestions? I am particularly interested in why the crowns of the 24 elders are "golden."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Genesis 22:1-18: Abraham and Isaac

There has been a lot of hand-wringing over the narrative found in Genesis 22:1-18. Skeptics and critics have wondered how a loving God could ask a parent to sacrifice his or her child up to a divine being. Some even accuse God of playing a "trick" on Abraham. Others, while considering themselves believers in God, have also spent countless pages trying to analyze and somewhat explain how God (YHWH) could make such a request from his beloved servant. I have also spent hours teaching this account, trying to understand it and mulling it over. There are numerous ways that one could understand the account of Abraham and Isaac, but two things seem clear to me. First, Genesis 22:1 says that God was testing Abraham, not tricking him. As Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state:

"God did tempt Abraham--not incite to sin ( Jam 1:13 ), but try, prove--give occasion for the development of his faith ( 1Pe 1:7 )."

The writer of Genesis (traditionally viewed as Moses) states from the outset that what is about to be read in the narrative is a "test": God is trying to see what is in Abraham's heart. That is why YHWH later utters the words "now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me" (Genesis 22:12 KJV).

Open theist Gregory Boyd writes concerning this passage:

"if the classical understanding of foreknowledge is true, God's statement 'now I know' seems disingenuous. The meaning of God's explanation for this knowledge — 'since you have…' — is also obscured. Indeed, if the future is exhaustively settled there would be no point in his test of Abraham, because God would never have to find out anything."

So, Genesis 22:1 seems to offer firm evidence that God did not trick Abraham but tested his faith. The account must be read with Genesis 22:1 in mind. Secondly, the Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures (the Old Testament or Tanach) make it abundantly clear that God does not want nor did he ever want or desire child sacrifices. Read Micah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 7:31. The account of Abraham and Isaac (also known as the Akedah or Aqedah) is understood more easily when read in context.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Theodoret on The Death of Arius

Theodoret relates the words of Athanasius:

"The followers of Eusebius were covered with shame, and buried him whose belief they shared. The blessed Alexander completed the celebration, rejoicing with the Church in piety and orthodoxy, praying with all the brethren and greatly glorifying God. This was not because he rejoiced at the death of Arius—God forbid; for 'it is appointed unto all men once to die'; but because the event plainly transcended any human condemnation. For the Lord Himself passing judgment upon the menaces of the followers of Eusebius, and the prayer of Alexander, condemned the Arian heresy, and shewed that it was unworthy of being received into the communion of the Church; thus manifesting to all that, even if it received the countenance and support of the emperor, and of all men, yet by truth itself it stood condemned."

See The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret (Book 1, Extract from the Letter of Athanasius on the Death of Arius)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Augustine of Hippo on 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13

Why they are called signs and lying wonders [in 2 Thess. 2:8-13], we shall then be more likely to know when the time itself arrives. But whatever be the reason of the name, they shall be such signs and wonders as shall seduce those who shall deserve to be seduced, "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved." Neither did the apostle scruple to go on to say, "For this cause God shall send upon them the working of error that they should believe a lie." For God shall send, because God shall permit the devil to do these things, the permission being by His own just judgment, though the doing of them is in pursuance of the devil's unrighteous and malignant purpose, "that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Therefore, being judged, they shall be seduced, and, being seduced, they shall be judged. But, being judged, they shall be seduced by those secretly just and justly secret judgments of God, with which He has never ceased to judge since the first sin of the rational creatures; and, being seduced, they shall be judged in that last and manifest judgment administered by Jesus Christ, who was Himself most unjustly judged and shall most justly judge.

See Augustine's City of God (De Civitate Dei), Chapter 19.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflections on the Eastern Idea of Theosis (QEWSIS)

Personally, I think that QEWSIS [deification] is a doctrine that has a certain element of truth, but it is also capable of being distorted.

In the New Testament, there are scriptures that support the idea of deification
(at least, in a limited sense). 2 Pet. 1:4 speaks of Christians
becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (GENHSQE QEIAS KOINWNOI
FUSEWS). 1 John 3:2 also says that the sons of God will "see God and
be LIKE him." These Scriptures indicate that at least some Christians
will experience QEWSIS.

The doctrine of QEWSIS is a beautiful teaching insofar as it is delineated in
the NT. The only danger is that it could be misconstrued to imply that
humans will become equal to God. MH GENOITO! There is a sharp eternal
[ontological] distinction between the Creator and the creature.
For this reason, Alister McGrath has suggested that we speak
of deification as QEIWSIS rather than QEWSIS. That is,
those deified will be godlike, but not God.

At any rate, I think that QEWSIS for those Christians privileged to
inherit it, will entail being clothed with immortality and
incorruption--with self-existence. They will also share in ruling with
Christ Jesus for 1000 years, transforming the present world order into
a new age devoid of death, sickness, and crime (Revelation 20:6; 21:1-5).

My thoughts,


Note: I wrote these reflections a number of years ago. At the time I quoted McGrath but did not document where I found his distinction between QEIOSIS and QEOSIS. I went to Googlebooks, however, and found two references. See and

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saul Kripke on Necessity, Possibility and Rigidity

The following dialogue is one that I had with a friend and colleague back in 2004. I am not including his name in order to protect his identity:

Saul Kripke is speaking the language of modal logic when he uses the operator "possibly" in Naming and Necessity. He appears to have in mind counterfactual situations (i.e., counterfactual conditionals) or possible worlds such that if P is logically or modally possible in one or more possible world, then there is a counterfactual situation [a possible world] in which P is evidently not logically or modally impossible. In other words, it could have been the case (possibly) that mental states obtain without brain states. It also might have been the case that my arms were white instead of "black." One Kripkean example of possibility addressing this issue is that there is a counterfactual situation (call it W1) in which the first Postmaster General is not identical with the inventor of bifocals. He doesn't come right out and say that he is using "possibility" thus; however, Naming and Necessity
turns on counterfactual situations and possible worlds. And I now know that Kripke basically ignores the question
about whether something might have existed or not.

Concerning "necessity," Kripke writes, "Thus the identity of pain with the stimulation of C-fibers, if true, must be necessary" (N & N, 149).

What does he mean by "necessary" here? Hasker makes a
distinction between logical (i.e. conceptual)
necessity and metaphysical necessity, noting that
statements such as the one above are metaphysically
necessary, meaning that they are true in all possible
worlds. Kripke also asserts that "This table is not
made of ice," IF TRUE, is necessarily true or true in
all possible worlds (i.e. counterfactual situations).
so necessity evidently means "true in all
counterfactual situations or possible worlds."

For "rigid," Kripke simply writes that the RD or "rigid designator"
(which is apparently stipulative) names the same object in
all possible worlds. The RD, Nixon, names the same
object in W1, W2, W3 . . .

Now here is what I also found on a website article written by
Quentin Smith:

<<[Tyler] Burge then identifies Kripke's essays as the first "account of names [in terms of] a theory of necessity. He counted names as 'rigid designators' - expressions that maintained a certain constancy of reference through variation in the possible worlds by reference to which modal sentences might be evaluated" [1992: 25]. However, these ideas about names and rigid designators were not presented first by Kripke, but earlier presented by Plantinga [1967], Føllesdal [1961] and Marcus [1961].>>


Smith thinks that Kripke posits a similarity of
identity between logical and metaphysical necessity.
Nevertheless, he still defines it [i.e. necessity] as "true in all
possible worlds."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Anonymous God Tradition

John Cooper argues that the term "name" can have four basic denotations: (1) a personal name (e.g. Jehovah or Peter); (2) a proper noun (e.g. Father, God, King); (3) a general designation (e.g. dog, cat, slanderer); (4) any linguistic reference (e.g. "God is light" or "the greatest possible being").

While it seems that the pre-Nicenes generally acknowledged that God had a name in the sense of (3) or (4) above, the early church writers often appear to be denying that God has a name in the sense of (1) or (2) above. I am reminded of Marcus Minucius Felix, who writes in Octavius 18:

"Nor should you seek a name for God: God is His name. We have need of titles in cases where we want to separate individuals from a large group; we use, then the distinguishing mark of personal names. But God is unique; all He has for title is God" (Nec nomen deo quaeras: Deus nomen est. Illic vocabulis opus est, cum per singulos propriis appellationum insignibus multitudo dirimenda est: deo, qui solus est, dei vocabulum totum est).

There is an anonymous God tradition in early Christianity that is manifested in the East and West. The tradition asserted that God does not have a proper name.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Alister McGrath on Understated Tritheism in the Cappadocians

The notable writer Alister McGrath (a Trinitarian himself) writes concerning the Cappadocian notion of God in three persons:

"We are asked to imagine three human beings. Each of
them is distinct; yet share a common humanity. So it
is with the trinity: There are three distinct persons,
yet with a common divine nature. When all is said and
done, this analogy leads directly to understated
tritheism. Yet the treatise in which Gregory of Nyssa
develops this analogy is entitled That There Are Not
Three Gods! In fact, Gregory develops his analogy with
a degree of sophistication which blunts the prima
facie charge of tritheism; however, even the most
studious reader of the work is often left with the
lingering impression of three distinct independent
entities within the trinity" (Christian Theology: An
Introduction, page 302).

New Ads


I am trying the Google AdSense to generate extra income which means that discreet ads will be placed to the side of this blog. Currently, I am changing my preferences from interest generated to non-interest generated ads. I prefer not to direct people toward religions other than my own. :) Please bear with me on the transition. Nothing else about this blog will change. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Animals, Language and Speech (A Short Paper)

Animals, Language, and Speech

Dr. Edgar Foster

Is language strictly a human activity or do animals also use language? What is language? Is there a difference between speech and language? The following brief treatment of these questions in no way claims to be comprehensive or exhaustive. It is merely a short reply to specific claims regarding language and animals.
Rodolfo R. Llinas (author of I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self) claims that language simpliciter, but particularly human language, "arose as an extension of premotor conditions, namely, those of the increasing complexities of intentionality as abstract thinking grew richer" (242). Llinas defines intentionality as "the premotor detail of the desired result of movement through which a particular emotional state is expressed: the choice of what to do before the doing of it" (228). Notice that intentionality, as opposed to being primarily mentalistic, is associated with "a motor representation of what is happening inside our heads" (ibid). Intentionality expressed in premotor activity essentially predicts or adumbrates genuine motor patterns, according to Llinas. Language, he argues, arose because premotor activity increasingly grew more complex as abstract cerebration became richer.

The upshot of Llinas' analysis is that language is not simply a human possession (228-230). He contends that non-rational animals also use language. For language, on this view, is "the given methodology by which one animal may communicate with another" (229). Is Llinas correct? Do animals really implement or deploy language in their daily activities? Did non-rational animal language precede the use of language by Homo sapiens?

Most psycholinguists now believe that human language acquisition is not based on external stimuli. Scientific studies of “language” deployed by apes and by children indicate that human language is somehow innate since there evidently is such a discrepancy between the lingual performance of apes and that of humans. This difference is so profound that it moved Noam Chomsky to argue that humans possess a "language acquisition device"(LAD). Based on the foregoing, is it accurate to say that animals utilize language?

Linguist and NT scholar Moises Silva thinks that non-rational animals do communicate with one another and this point seems hard to deny. Nevertheless, Silva also holds that "the most successful experiments to date serve, if anything, to emphasize the enormous difference between the 'language' of the most intelligent animals—even after extensive training—and the linguistic competence of even a three-year old human being" (Silva, "God, Language and Scripture" in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, 207). At any rate (Silva insists) animals do not use speech. This leaves us with two questions to consider. What is language? Secondly, what is the difference, if any, between language and speech?

Ferdinand Saussure famously made a distinction between la langue and la parole. The former refers to an abstract system of different phonological signs, whereas the latter has reference to the use of abstract language in communication. La langue additionally has both an internal and external aspect in that phonology, morphology, syntax (internal features) and semantics (external feature) all constitute language. Ergo, if we define language as Saussure and other linguists or philosophers have defined the phenomenon, then it seems that animals possess neither langue nor parole. The matter will no doubt remain controversial, yet there are good scientific and logical reasons to doubt that animals use language, as one commonly understands that term.

In conclusion, I affirm the uniqueness of human language and speech. I will close with quotes from Sophocles and King David to support my case:

"And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods
that mould a state, hath he [i.e. man] taught himself;
and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis
hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of
the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all;
without resource he meets nothing that must come: only
against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from
baffling maladies he hath devised escapes"(Antigone 332-340).

"What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere
mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them
little less than a god, crowned them with glory and
honor" (Psalm 8:5ff NAB).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pouring Out of the Spirit as a Metaphor (Joel 2:28-29)

I have not researched this point thoroughly but I have been wondering if the language that Scripture employs regarding God pouring out his spirit of holiness is metaphorical or not. For example, Joel 2:28 states:

"It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions" (NASB).

We also read in Isa 32:15:

"Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest" (KJV).

The argument is sometimes made that a "person" of the triune Godhead cannot be poured out. But the thought has crossed my mind lately that a "force" also cannot be literally "poured out" in the manner described by the prophets, can it? If a force or person cannot be "poured out" it seems that the language employed by the holy prophets and apostles is metaphorical.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Early Church Fathers on John 1:3-4

Jason (my self-made nemesis) has insisted that my view of the way John 1:3-4 was understood by the pre-Nicenes is wrong. He has adduced no textual evidence to support his conclusion but he has been critical of the note I posted from the Catholic NAB and I do not believe he has replied to the quote I posted from Clement of Alexandria concerning John 1:3-4. Now I present more quotes from the pre-Nicenes on this subject:

"Understand now for me the mystery of the truth, granting pardon if I shrink from advancing further in the treatment of it, by announcing this alone: 'All things were made by Him, and without Him was not even one thing.'" (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.11)

"But it is said Providence, from above, from what is of prime importance, as from the head, reaches to all, 'as the ointment,' it is said, 'which descends to Aaron's beard, and to the skirt of his garment'(that is, of the great High Priest, 'by whom all things were made, and without whom not even one thing was made' not to the ornament of the body; for Philosophy is outside of the People, like raiment." (Stromata 6.17)

"Ruling, then, over himself and what belongs to him, and possessing a sure grasp, of divine science, he makes a genuine approach to the truth. For the knowledge and apprehension of intellectual objects must necessarily be called certain scientific knowledge, whose function in reference to divine things is to consider what is the First Cause, and what that 'by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made'" (Stromata 7.3)

“ 'And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.' Immediately there appears the Word, 'that true light, which lighteth man on his coming into the world,' and through Him also came light upon the world. From that moment God willed creation to be effected in the Word, Christ being present and ministering unto Him: and so God created. And God said, 'Let there be a firmament . . . and God made the firmament;' and God also said, 'Let there be lights (in the firmament); and so God made a greater and a lesser light.' But all the rest of the created things did He in like manner make, who made the former ones—I mean the Word of God, 'through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made.' Now if He too is God, according to John, (who says,) 'The Word was God,' then you have two Beings—One that commands that the thing be made, and the Other that executes the order and creates." (Tertullian, Adversus Praxean 12).

"Let him who is inclined to entertain this suspicion hear the undoubted declaration of Scripture pronouncing, 'In wisdom hast Thou made them all,' and the teaching of the Gospel, that 'by Him were all things made, and without Him nothing was made;'" (Origen, De Principiis I.2)

"John also, who lived after him, said, 'That which was in the Logos was life, and the life was the light of men;'" (Contra Celsum 6.5)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Revelation 16:21

The following is a message from my old yahoogroup named greektheology:

Revelation 16:21

Hi [you guys],

Thanks for posting to this thread. Your comments were quite helpful.

I also found the following data:

TALANTON: "a weight ranging from about 108 to 130 lbs., or a sum of money equivalent to a talent in weight" (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 624).

"TALANTIAIOS (#5418) talent. The talent varied in weight among different peoples at different times. The range seems to be about sixty pounds to over a hundred (Mounce)." (See The New Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 642.)

"Even an abnormal hailshower (cf. the fourth Egyptian plague) fails to bring pagans to their senses. hWS TAL., i.e., literally about sixty times the weight of even the enormous hailstones (MNAAIAI) which Diodorus Siculus (XIX. 45) records" (Expositor's Greek Testament, 5:449).

"There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below" (NLT).

"And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, *came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague *was extremely severe" (NASB).

"and great hailstones, heavy as a hundred-weight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague" (RSV).

Joe wrote:

"But maybe I need to read up on non-metric weights in the UK and US. :-)

lb = pound, < libra. Pound sterling, £, was a lb of silver. Can someone explain me me if the usual lbs are pounds troy or pounds avoirdupois?" Joe, one website says: <>

Edgar Foster

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Dialogue with An Atheist or Skeptic


A skeptic writes:

I understand your viewpoint, but I was hinting at 2 distinctly
different ideas. First, that if God does in fact, as they say, have infinite
ability, then he most definitely could have (could have and can) will G [good]
out of E [evil] if he wants. According to Christian beliefs at least. Infinite
ability would imply ANYTHING is possible, including a real Utopia.
That, in my eyes, would be more desirable than Earth as-is. I'd be more apt
to say it was a product of "love" than what we've got now. The idea
that a world with free will is much more desirable than a Utopian world
is absurd. Free will spawns good AND evil, but in a Utopian world, only
good come about. Free will is enjoyable because it does hold the
potential to spawn good. In Utopia, life would be enjoyed to its utmost and
one would ALWAYS feel good. I can't imagine anyone who would pass up the
opportunity to live in such a paradise for "free will." I would
sacrifice free will to live in a controlled Utopian world in a heartbeat!

Part of my response to his remarks is:

The term "infinite" is ambiguous. It seems to me that Christians have been wont to deny that God is quantitatively infinite but they have usually contended that God is qualitatively infinite. Moreover, although God is by hypothesis (EX HYPOTHESI) omnipotent or has maximal power [omnipotence], God evidently cannot do that which is logically or conceptually impossible. That is to say, God cannot do that which results in a contradictory state of affairs. Hence, certain "Christian" philosophers argue that it is logically possible that God cannot bring it about that a rational creature has free will, yet always unequivocally does what is right. Be that as it may, you raise another issue. Is a utopian world in which people always do what is right because of being determined to do X or Y (certain actions) preferable to a world in which people are free and have the ability to do what is morally wrong or what is morally right? You suggest that option A is superior or preferable to option B. But I submit that it is difficult for you to know how you would like a [deterministic] utopia in comparison to the world we have now since neither you nor I have ever experienced a utopia. Moreover, if we lived in a world where everything was determined (including our actions), would we really prefer [or have the ability to prefer] that world to a world where free will obtained? I might add that as a parent, I can tell you--and this is the testimony of a number of parents--that I prefer my child to love me because he or she wants to, not because he or she has been programmed to love me. I submit that God also wills that his creatures love him freely, not because they have been programmed or determined to love him.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Augustine on the Trinity and A Person Being Able to Love Himself or Herself

The following is from an email I wrote to a colleague some time ago.

I quote Augustine of Hippo:

"But what if I love none except myself? Will there not

then be two things--that which I love, and love? For

he who loves and that which is loved are the same when

any one loves himself; just as to love and to be

loved, in the same way, is the very same thing when

any one loves himself. Since the same thing is said,

when it is said, he loves himself, and he is loved by

himself. For in that case to love and to be loved are

not two different things: just as he who loves and he

who is loved are not two different persons. But yet,

even so, love and what is loved are still two things.

For there is no love when any one loves himself,

except when love itself is loved. But it is one thing

to love one's self, another to love one's own love.

For love is not loved, unless as already loving

something; since where nothing is loved there is no

love. Therefore there are two things when any one

loves himself--love, and that which is loved. For then

he that loves and that which is loved are one. Whence

it seems that it does not follow that three things are

to be understood wherever love is" (De Trinitate


Augustine then proceeds with an argument about mind

and love to establish his case for the triunity of

God. But notice that he insists it is possible for one to

have a love of self in the absence of an alterior




Friday, April 17, 2009

Divine Exemplification Theory

From time to time, I review my notebooks to see what projects I started and never finished or may never finish. One such project is what I have called (for lack of a better term) "divine exemplification theory." I might one day go forward with work on this idea, concept or theory, but what I am trying to figure out is how one can intelligibly and accurately talk about forms or abstract concepts without being a Platonist of one stripe or the other.

Concepts or properties like treeness, rockness, doghood or humanity seem fairly "easy" to discuss intelligibly or coherently. But where the waters become rough is when one discusses justice, goodness, courage and wisdom (inter alia). Aside from the difficulties that come from trying to define these terms (as anyone who has read Plato can attest to), a problem also resides in trying to explain the primordial locus of these concepts/properties/attributes.

Are the aforementioned "qualities" Forms that "exist" in some transcendent realm of Being (Plato)? Do putative "Forms" like justice obtain in acts performed by free agents rather than in some intelligible sphere of Being? Or do the Forms reside in God's mind (Philo, Augustine). Or should one say that the Forms have their locus in the human mind?

I humbly submit--more work needs to be done here--that what have been called "Forms" do not reside in some intelligible (i.e. noetic) realm nor do they reside in the mind of God. But the "Forms" (especially things like justice or wisdom and beauty) reside and have been everlastingly exemplified by God Himself. Notice, I am not limiting the Forms to the mind of God. Nor do I think they are immutable, even though they are everlasting. I am suggesting that the so-called Forms like justice or goodness have been everlastingly exemplified by God in his actions and eternal purpose. They have not just resided in the mind of God. Hence, the name, Divine exemplification theory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Early Fathers on John 1:3-4

The evidence from the pre-Nicenes suggests that they took the expression hO GEGONEN in Jn 1:3-4 with what follows rather than with what precedes. For example, Clement of Alexandria evidently writes:

Ver. 2. "The life was manifested." For in the Gospel he thus speaks: "And what was made, in Him was life, and the life was the light of men."

See his Comments on the Epistle of John in Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus.

Also see Contra Celsum 6.5 by Origen of Alexandria

Monday, April 13, 2009

Abstaining from Blood and The Council of Gangra (343 CE)

Canon II. If anyone shall condemn him who eats flesh
which is without blood and has not been offered to
idols nor strangled, and is faithful and devout, as
though the man were without hope of salvation because
of his eating, let him be anathema.

Quoted in The Evolution of the Late Antique World by Peter Garnsey and Caroline Humfress (page 193).

Best regards,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Lord's Evening Meal as Sacrifice

One Scriptural passage that has really helped me to
appreciate tomorrow night's upcoming Memorial of Christ's
death on Nisan 14 is 1 Corinthians 10:18:

"Look at that which is Israel in a fleshly way: Are
not those who eat the sacrifices sharers with the

When posing this rhetorical query, Paul alludes to the
OT practice of communion sacrifices. One can find a
lovely description of such offerings in Leviticus
7:1-38. I want to recount briefly what that Biblical
chapter says and apply it to the apostolic words found in 1
Corinthians 10:18ff.

The communion sacrifices were peace offerings designed
to restore the broken relationship that obtained
between God and His ancient worshipers. It was a holy
presentation to Almighty God (YHWH), and when offering
a communion sacrifice, the Israelites were fittingly
obligated to give their best to Jehovah (YHWH).

Leviticus 7:28-30 mandates that one presenting a
communion sacrifice to Jehovah should offer the "fat
upon the breast" to God as a wave offering.
(Leviticus 7:30 briefly explains what a wave offering
entailed.) In addition to offering the fat and the
blood to Jehovah or YHWH (Leviticus 7:33), the one presenting
peace offerings to God was also commanded to give "the
right leg" of his sacrifice as "a sacred portion" to
the officiating priests. Furthermore the High Priest
and his sons were to have a share in this communion
offering. What a privilege all those who offered
communion presentations enjoyed! Paul rightly said
that those who sacrificed upon the altar became (by
their respective gifts to God) sharers in the altar.
But how does this levitical practice apply to
Christians today?

As Paul intimates, the Lord's Evening Meal (1
Corinthians 11:20) is the antitype of the OT peace
offerings. Just as ancient worshipers of God brought
their sacrifices to Jehovah in order to repair the
breach that obtained between themselves and God, so
anointed Christians annually observe the Memorial of
Jesus' death in order to remember how God repaired the
figurative breach between God and sinful humanity and
thus fully reconciled His sons to Himself.

Anointed Christians share in the antitypical communion
meal by partaking of Christ's blood (the cup of wine)
and his body (the bread). The emblems at the Memorial
are emblems or signs of the spiritual reality effectuated
by God and Christ. Those who partake of the cup and wine
today share with God's altar as they partake
of a meal, in effect, with Jehovah, His High Priest
(Jesus) and other fellow anointed ones (underpriests). It
is still an inestimable privilege to sit down for a
meal with God. Anointed Christians therefore esteem
the undeserved kindness that has been shown to them
through the Son of God's ransom sacrifice. However
they are not the only ones who benefit from being
present at the yearly communion meal.

The great crowd of other sheep who possess a hope of
living forever, while not partaking of the emblems and
thus sharing in the altar, still have their
appreciation for Christ's sacrifice deepened as they
listen to the discourse given about Jesus' death and
watch the symbols of his death being passed around the
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. I thus hope that everyone attending the
Memorial this year reflects on what Christ's death
means. May you continue to grow in love and
appreciation for Jehovah God (YHWH) and His Son.

Brotherly love,

Monday, April 06, 2009

Reductio ad Absurdum

A little more on this type of argumentation. Stephen F. Barker in The Elements of Logic points out that the type of argumentation which contains a conditional premise and which is known as reductio ad absurdum ("reduction to the absurd" or "reduction to absurdity") can be illustrated as follows. Assuming p is true,

If p, then not p (e.g., If there is a largest integer (a positive number), then there is not a largest integer.)

Conclusion: Therefore, not p (e.g., Therefore, it is not the case that there is a largest integer.)

The reasoning above is valid because the antecedent of the proposition "If p then not p" is false. By reducing the antecedent of the proposition "If p then not p" to absurdity, it shows that the antecedent is false. For if the antecedent were true, then the consequent of the proposition "If p, then not p" would be inconsistent with the propositional antecedent. So the antecedent must be false.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Dogs in Scripture

Concerning dogs: In Philippians 3:2, Paul told the Christians living in that Roman outpost to be wary of the dogs (βλέπετε τοὺς κύνας), that is, "those who mutilate the flesh" (or those who practice circumcision for the purpose of salvation). His words reflect the common Jewish view of dogs (particularly scavenger dogs).

Also, in Rev. 22:15, "dogs" (οἱ κύνες) are debarred from the heavenly city of New Jerusalem. They are left outside of the gates along with those who practice spiritism and fornication, as well as idolators and liars and murderers. Bible commentator David Aune has a very informative section in his Revelation commentary. He notes that the MT (Masoretic Text) has the term KELEB for dog (Cf. Deut. 23:18 which has כֶּ֗לֶב).

Aune writes that κύων (dog) is ambivalent in Greco-Jewish literature, even though a number of pejorative references appear vis-a'-vis dogs. For while dogs were "economically beneficial" as "watch dogs and herding dogs," and while they were not necessarily considered unclean in halachic traditions--the term is clearly used pejoratively in 1 Sam. 17:43; 24:14; 2 Kings 8:13; Isa. 56:10-11; Matthew 7:6; 2 Pet. 2:22; Didache 9:5; Ignatius, Eph. 7:1.

Norman Hillyer (in his commentary on 2 Peter) likewise observes that κύων in 2 Pet. 2:22 denotes: "the wild scavenger of the streets and rubbish tips, not a pet house-dog" (208).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Subordinationism in Clement of Alexandria

Here is what scholarship says about subordinationism in Clement of Alexandria:

The Son is EPEKEINA TOU NOHTOU, Strom, v. 6. 38. He is PANTOKRATWR, Paed. i. 5. 24; iii. 7. 39 ; Protrep. viii. 81; Strom, iv. 3. 148 : KURIOS, Paed. i' 7- 56, 57 : the Father alone is perfect, for in Him is the Son, and in the Son the Father, Paed. \. 7. 53. The passages usually quoted as showing Clement's tendency to Subordinationism are Strom, vii. I. 2, PRESBUTERON EN GENESEI; vii. 2. 5, the Father is hO MONOS PANTOKRATWR; Strom, v. I. 6, the Son is DUNAMIS, vii. 2. 8 an ENERGEIA, Paed. iii. I. 2 a DIAKONOS of the Father; Protrep. x. no He is made equal to the Father; Paed. iii. 12. 98 He is the AGAQON BOULHMA of the Father; Strom, vi. 7. 59 Creation runs up to the Father, Redemption to the Son. Rufinus, Epil. in Apol. Pamphili, Clement sometimes ' filium Dei creaturam dicit.' This must refer to the word KTIZEIN used of Wisdom (Prov. viii. 22), Strom, v. 14. 89. Even POIEIN might be used, Strom, vi. 7. 58 (in a quotation from the PETROU KHR.), hOS ARXHN TWN APANTWN EPOIHSEN. Cp. Adumb. in I Joan. p. 1009, ' hae namque primitivae virtutes ac primo creatae ' of the Son and Holy Spirit. On the interpretation of this passage of the Book of Proverbs, see Huet, Origeniana, ii. 2. 21 (Lomm. xxii. 176); Rosenmiiller, Hist. Interp. iii. 216, 229; Baur, Dreieinigkeit. Bull and Domer do not regard Clement as a Subordinationist. Huet maintains the opposite view. Redepenning occupies an intermediate position. The statement of Photius that Clement spoke of two Logi must rest upon a blunder ; see Dr. Westcott, Clement of Alexandria, in Diet. Christ. Biog.; Zahn, Forsch. iii. 144; and Lect. viii.

The above quotation is from The Christian Platonists of Alexandria by Charles Bigg. See pp. 69-70. This work can also be accessed online at,M1

Another quote is taken from a work entitled History of Dogmas (pp. 248-249) by Joseph Tixeront:

And yet some have thought that in his works there are traces of subordinationism: for he not only applies to the Son the appellations Philo gives to the Word : but he also declares that the Father is PRESBUTEROS EN GENESEI, that the Son's nature (FUSIS) is the nearest to Him who alone is all powerful, that the Son can be demonstrated and known, while the Father can be neither known nor demonstrated. Nay, if Photius is to be believed, Clement looked upon the Son as a creature; and it must be said that the Alexandrian doctor has, on this subject, expressions somewhat perplexing. These, however, can be explained and do not destroy the impression that results from his doctrine taken as a whole. Even, some authors are unwilling to believe that he was truly subordinationist.


See John Patrick's work on Clement of Alexandria here and what he writes about subordinationism in Clement:,M1

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Millard Erickson on Subordination in the Trinity

Roman Catholic theologian James Bellord

In nature, the offspring is inferior to, and dependent on the parent, and owes a duty of submission. This is not the case in the Blessed Trinity. The Son is, and always has been, equal to the Father in all things (emphases in original).

See Matthew Alfs, Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, page 9.

With these preliminary observations, I will now review Millard Erickson's discussion of subordination found in his
Making Sense of the Trinity.


I. The Eternal Subordinationist View

Erickson describes Trinitarian subordination as the
view that "there is an eternal, asymmetrical
relationship within the Trinity between the Father and
the Son, and by extension, the Spirit as well"
(Making Sense of the Trinity, page 85).

This theological position is based (in part) on
biblical passages that speak of the Father generating
the Son. Such Bible verses are construed as applying
to the Son, not simply during his time on earth, but
from all eternity. Since the Father has putatively
been generating the Son from all eternity and continues generating the Son eternally (according to some ancient fathers), "The subordination of the Son to the Father was therefore not simply during his earthly life. It is from all time" (ibid., 85).

Erickson also notes that those advocating this view "take considerable pains to disclaim an inferiority of the Son to the Father," avidly contrasting their position with that of Arianism (ibid).

II. The Eternal Equality View

Contra this intra-trinitarian model, there are other
trinitarians who contend that the three persons are
eternally equal and symmetrical in relation to one
another. Therefore,

The biblical statements about the
Father begetting the Son are to be applied to the
earthly incarnation, when the second person of the
Trinity stepped down to earth and added humanity to
his deity. Similarly, his statements of apparent
subordination, such as 'the Father is greater than I'
(John 14:28), are to be interpreted within this
framework. This subordination is to be understood as a
subordination of function, not of essence (ibid).

Note that those advocating an eternal equality view with reference to the tres personae generally argue that Jn 14:28 only applies to the incarnate Son. They speak of functional subordination in the sense that God's Son is subordinate to the Father while incarnate on earth. This type of subordination is thus viewed as temporary (i.e. economic) and ceases once Christ ascends back to the Father. Whereas some Trinitarians use the terminology "functional subordination" to reference the Son's pre-incarnate status and incarnate mode of being, others strictly limit the nomenclature to the incarnate Christ. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity, 85-86.

At any rate, an important point that should not be overlooked is what Erickson writes next:

On this latter view, there is NOT an asymmetrical
relationship of generation. Not only do the Son and
Spirit derive their being from the Father, but they
also derive it from one another, as does the Father
from each of them. Beyond that, this view claims that
each member of the Trinity serves each of the others.
There is a mutual subordination of each to the other
(ibid., 86).

According to Erickson, the eternal equality view
posits an intra-trinitarian model wherein the three
persons are mutually subordinate to one another in
that the three relations (i.e. persons) serve each other or
derive their very being from one another. I read "mutually
subordinate" here as co-equal in view of what Erickson
later writes. However one interprets Erickson at this
point, one can definitely say that the author of the
work promoting understanding of the Trinity favors the
latter view and affirms the fact that orthodoxy has
traditionally maintained that the Son is not eternally
subordinate to the Father:

The interpretations the orthodox gave to the passages
appealed to by the Arians are basically that these
should be taken as referring to Jesus' earthly
ministry, rather than his eternal status. The logic of
the argument would seem to apply to the passages
marshaled in support of the subordinationist view as
well. Thus, the begetting passages should be seen as
referring to the earthly residence of Jesus, rather
than some everlasting continuous generation by the
Father (ibid).

III. Erickson Highlights A Difficulty With the Eternal Subordinationist View

Erickson argues that the eternal subordinationist view
finds it difficult to prevent eternal subordination of
the Son to the Father and the Holy Spirit to the
Father and/or Son from "lapsing into the inferiority
of the Son," a position synonymous with Arianism
(ibid., 86-87).

Erickson then alludes to Geoffrey Bromiley's article
in the Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, which avers, based on the eternal generation theory, that there is an eternal "superiority and subordination of order" in
the triune Godhead. See page 368 of Evangelical
Dictionary of Theology
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984).

Bromiley further qualifies his statement by noting
that eternal subordination does not imply inferiority
amongst the three opposed relations of the Trinity.
Yet, Erickson thinks that Bromiley's position seems
logically absurd. Why is this the case?

Bromiley's position is evidently that "The Father is superior to
the Son and the Son is subordinate to the Father but
without being inferior" to the Father (Erickson,
Making Sense of the Trinity, 87).
But Erickson suggests that Bromiley is working with "some ambiguity of
superiority and inferiority that enables A to be
superior to B without B being inferior to A. Without
justification of this distinction of meaning we have a
logical contradiction. And I would contend that if
that distinction were to be made clear, the
significance of the Father's superiority would vanish.
In other words, if the ambiguity is not removed, there
is a logical contradiction. If it is removed, the
meaning of the assertion is lost" (ibid).

Erickson's point is that the Son cannot simultaneously
be subordinate to the Father (and the Father superior to him) without the Son being inferior to the Father. The only way that such a situation can obtain is
if one uses the term "subordinate" or "superior" in an ambiguous or
non-standard fashion. But if the word "subordinate" is
not used ambiguously, there is a logical
contradiction. For how can a personal entity be
subordinate to another entity and have another entity be superior to it without being inferior to the said entity in some way? On the other hand, if
one defines "subordinate" in a manner that
disambiguates the term, then the Son's putative
eternal subordination to the Father disappears. Either
way, there seems to be an unsolvable problematic feature
associated with the eternal subordinationist view.
Erickson therefore favors the temporary
subordinationist model to account for Jesus'
subordination to the Father.

In conclusion, I believe that Erickson's discussion
demonstrates the position that orthodoxy has
traditionally maintained concerning intra-trinitarian
relations. Church creeds, councils, and post-Nicene
fathers have generally expressed themselves in the way
that Owen Thomas describes. To recap his observation:

God the Father is the ground or presupposition of God
the Son, and God the Father and God the Son are the
ground or presupposition of God the Holy Spirit. God
the Son is of or from God the Father, and God the Holy
Spirit is of or from God the Father and God the Son.
But the Church interpreted this in such a way that
there is no temporal priority or subordination
(Thomas, Introduction to Theology, page 68).


My Short Amazon Review of Kevin Giles' Book

Kevin Giles has written a provocative work entitled
The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (Downer's Grove: IVP,
2002). While I disagree with him doctrinally, I concur with Giles' overall assessment of Christian history concerning the status that the post-Nicene church assigned to the Son.

Giles' book is divided into three parts and contains
three appendices along with subject and author
indices. He packs so much historical information into
his 282-page book that scholars should be able to benefit from his study. Yet, students and laypersons will also find this book a delightful read since it is accessible and flows because of its quality prose.

Giles further appears to have a broad knowledge of
church history and his erudition is on full display in
The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. Buy it today!

I did a longer review of the book in a series on my yahoogroup, Greektheology.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jason on John 1:1 and Parallelism

Jason writes:

Hi Hollis,
If hO GEGONEN is to be taken as belonging to what follows it instead of what
precedes it, then why is it that it is not preceded by KAI, as is the case with
all of the other 'connected' phrases in John 1:1-5? Also, note that if hO
GEGONEN is taken as belonging to what follows it instead of what precedes it,
then St. John's otherwise perfectlyconsistent [SIC] usage in John 1:1-4 of only
one tense of verb, not only per clause, but also per series of 'connected'
clauses, is thereby 'broken'.

In view of these remarks, I find the following observation from the Catholic NAB interesting (see the notes for the Johannine Prologue):

The prologue states the main themes of the gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn. Its closest parallel is in other christological hymns, Col 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:6-11. Its core (John 1:1-5, 10-11, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by "staircase parallelism," in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next. Prose inserts (at least John 1:6-8, 15) deal with John the Baptist.

The operative portion of this quote above is how the NAB defines the expression "staircase parallelism." The definition is important in view of Jason's claim. But contra the assertions of Jason, we read further in the NAB notes:

What came to be: while the oldest manuscripts have no punctuation here, the corrector of Bodmer Papyrus P75, some manuscripts, and the Ante-Nicene Fathers take this phrase with what follows, as staircase parallelism. Connection with John 1:3 reflects fourth-century anti-Arianism.

Let one assume that John 1:1ff does contain staircase parallelism. Notice that the Ante-Nicene Fathers or the pre-Nicenes took the phrase in John 1:3 with what follows, yet they understood this passage to contain "staircase parallelism." Hence, the fact that this verse may contain the poetic features of staircase parallelism does not subvert the notion that hO GEGONEN goes with what follows rather than with what precedes it.Notice that the NAB points out that connecting hO GEGONEN with what precedes the phrase resulted from "fourth-century anti-Arianism."

For the record, I have done extensive research on this issue before. Jason need not try to upbraid this post since I am quoting another source.Those familiar with the relevant issues admit in which direction the textual evidence points.

Theophilus of Antioch on the Trinity

First, we will give quotes from the primary literature:

And first, they taught us with one consent that

God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things. He is called "governing principle" [arkh], because He rules, and is Lord of all things fashioned by Him. He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with Him (Ad Autolycum 2.10).

For the sun is a type of God, and the moon of man. And as the sun far surpasses the moon in power and glory, so far does God surpass man. And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man. Wherefore also on the fourth day the lights were made (Ad Autolycum 2.15).

But as to what relates to the creation of man, his own creation cannot be explained by man, though it is a succinct account of it which holy Scripture gives. For when God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness," He first intimates the dignity of man. For God having made all things by His Word, and having reckoned them all mere bye-works, reckons the creation of man to be the only work worthy of His own hands. Moreover, God is found, as if needing help, to say, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." But to no one else than to His own Word and wisdom did He say, "Let Us make." And when He had made and blessed him, that he might increase and replenish the earth, He put all things under his dominion, and at his service; and He appointed from the first that he should find nutriment from the fruits of the earth, and from seeds, and herbs, and acorns, having at the same time appointed that the animals be of habits similar to man's, that they also might eat of an the seeds of the earth (Ad Autolycum 2.18).

Certain scholars write (in agreement with my assessment of Theophilus):

I think that all of this Trinitarian language is derived from the modern historian's anticipation of later theological developments and, therefore, is anachronistic when directed towards Theophilus. Theophilus does not speak of plurality within the so-called Godhead, let alone present a primitive or alternative form of the Trinity.

Quoted from Rick Rogers, Theophilus of Antioch: The Life and Thought of a Second Century Bishop (Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2000), 75.

Robert M. Grant states:

A passage in Theophilus of Antioch is sometimes invoked for the doctrine of the Trinity, but it proves nothing. He is offering symbolical exegesis of the 'days' of creation in Genesis (Grant 156).

Stanley Burgess comments about Theophilus' so-called Trinity as follows:

The members of the Trinity are not named as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, however; rather, they are God, His Word (Logos), and His Wisdom (Burgess 32).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jason and Subordinationism (Weinandy)

Jason writes:

Hi again Allen,
I am most happy to read Edgar's most recent posts on his blog concerning St.
Justin Martyr and Athenagoras of Athens, because what Edgar has to say
here provides extremely clear examples of the kinds of AMBIGUITIES which he
HABITUALLY uses as the primary basis for his frequent EQUIVOCATIONS. "Less
divine"? Well, in WHAT SENSE, precisely? Edgar doesn't tell us. Though what
he is trying to imply (hiding behind what other people have written, as is his
'style' - which serves his purposes quite well, in that when juxtaposing two or
more authors with each other, one can easily create the appearance that they are
using the same terms in PRECISELY the same 'sense' as eachother) is quite
obviously, that St. Justin taught that the Son was 'subordinate' to the Father
as respects ESSENSE, when, in fact, St. Justin not only taught no such thing,
but EXPLICITLY stated in his writings that the Son is INSEPARABLE from the
ESSENCE of the Father; and in the same context spoke of the Son as being 'numerically distinct' from the Father:

Jason shows his tendency to be a dogmatist and also demonstrates that he is not capable of sticking to the subject matter of a thread. No worries, for I am getting used to it. He is playing a game that is as old as Jesus. Whatever I say (as long as it does not comport with his "orthodox" worldview) is wrong. If I quote Trinitarians I am relying on other people or misrepresenting them. If I quote the pre-Nicenes, I am twisting their words. Whatever! It is actually Weinandy who uses the phrasing "less divine." In what sense he uses the wording, we are not told. But in the same work, Weinandy speaks of the "subordinationism" of Justin Martyr. I assume that he is employing that term in its standard technical manner. If Jason fails to understand what Weinandy means by "subordinationism," maybe Jason would like to ask Weinandy. As for me, I am familiar with what such words mean in this discourse context. Subordinationism generally does refer to creaturehood concerning its referent or to inferiority vis-a-vis essence. That Justin Martyr speaks of the Son being "numerically distinct" from the Father does not prove that he believed the Son is hOMOOUSION with the Father. That proposition "The Son is consubstantial with the Father" does not logically follow from the proposition "The Son is numerically distinct from the Father." Additionally, it did not escape my notice that Jason had nothing to say about Justin's words in 1 Apology 6.1-2. That text clearly implies that Justin possibly adhered to a form of subordinationism. There are other texts at my disposal whenever Jason is ready to discuss the primary literature produced by the Martyr.

Jason continues:

his meaning, once again, as is READILY discerned from the CONTEXT, being that the Son is PERSONALLY distinct, BUT MOST DEFINITELY NOT 'essentially' distinct
from the Father.

Assertions do not cut it in this game. Where is the evidence that supports your asseverations?

Again, we read:

"In touch with the creation"? Well, of course! (Col. 1:15-20
with Eph. 1:3-14; also Rev. 3:14 and Prov. 8:22-31 LXX with Gen. 1:1-5 and John
1:1-5) But hardly in the same sense in which Foster is attempting to imply!
For, the doctrine of the distinction between the "internal Logos' and the
'uttered Logos' which Athenagoras explicitly held to (as Foster's quotation of
him demonstrates) is implicitly - but nonetheless CLEARLY - contained in St.
Justin's writings. (And Eastern Christian theology, to this day, STILL has a
'place' for these concepts, as it, differentiates just as clearly as Athenagoras
did, between the Trinity in Its 'Essence' and the Trinity in that which
'surrounds' Its Essence, namely the Divine 'Energies'/'Operations'.) And, to
use a modern day analogy borrowed from science, which corresponds very closely
to what the Fathers were trying to convey via usage of the 'science' of their
times, one can think in terms of what physicists have to say concerning the
'initial singularity' at which the universe begins. It is INCLUDED within
space-time as a 'boundary' or a 'limit' to space-time, yet in such a manner as
to form neither any actual spatial nor actual temporal PART of it.

If memory serves me correctly, Weinandy articulates the view that Justin's doctrine of the Son or Logos places God's Son in touch with the created order. What Weinandy means, for those not versed in church history or historical scholarship, is that Justin views the Son as the intermediary or mediator of creation. Like Philo, Justin appears to believe (in some sense) that while God the Father cannot be in touch with creation, the Logos or Son can be. See Dialogus cum Tryphone 127. Justin believes that the Father absolutely transcends the created order and necessarily mediates creation through the Son. As for Athenagoras' remarks concerning the internal/external Logos and the comments on the "initial singularity," I know these subjects all too well. I fail to see their relevance, however, with respect to the present discussion.

Trinitarian 'in utero'? 'Precursor' to trinitarianism? What is that supposed to MEAN? EITHER Athenagoras held to the homoousion OR he did not. (Law of excluded middle) If the homousion, then Athenagoras was DEFINITELY trinitarian by anybody's standards EXCEPT that of Foster's EXTREME view of what 'authentic'
trinitatianism consists in, based upon his preferred radical interpretation of
the 'Athanasian' Creed (which, BTW, doesn't even use the term homoousios! - What could be a surer sign than this that it does not originate from the 'Athanasian' tradition?!). If, against the homousion, then surely not in any sense a 'precursor' representing 'trinitarianism' 'in utero'; but RATHER - if anything - an implicit ARIAN! The wonderful thing about 'ambiguity' is that Foster can have it both ways - he can have his cake and eat it too! On the one hand, he can trace the alleged 'development' of 'trinitarianism'; while on the other hand, he can avoid being honest in admitting that the ante-Nicenes were ACTUALLY 'trinitarians'. He can attribute the 'subordinationism' of the ante-Nicenes to the 'influence' of Hellenistic philosophy WHEN this 'subordinationism' allegedly LEADS to 'trinitarianism', while at the same time denying this attribution, WHEN - in his opinion - the very same ante-Nicenes were simply following biblical 'revelation' (or, RATHER, Foster's heretical interpretation of that 'revelation'.) And, of course, here's the clincher: The more PRECISE in their usage of language the Fathers become - and thus, the less susceptible they become to being ABUSED for the purpose of 'supporting' Foster's interpretation of ISOLATED statements in their writings,
all the more this becomes taken by Foster as positive evidence of their
'Hellenization' - the impact of the conflicts first with Gnosticism and
Sabellianism, and then later with Arianism (all of which 'systems' were clearly
PAGAN to the core) being regarded, to all appearances, as a 'negligible' factor
to take into consideration when considering WHY it is that the Fathers 'slowly
BUT SURELY' become more and more precise in their manners of expression as
regards the Trinity and the Incarnation, as far as Foster is concerned!

I do not see what is so difficult to understand about Trinitarianism in utero. First, I do not believe that Athenagoras adhered to the belief that the Son or Holy Spirit is consubstantial with the Father. But what "in utero" means can be discerned by reading R.M. Grant's book Gods and the One God. In the context of discussing Theophilus and other pre-Nicenes, he observes that one does not find a doctrine of the Trinity in these early writers, but what we have rather than a doctrine of God's triunity as such are "materials" for the Trinity doctrine. Grant defines the Trinity doctrine as a doctrine "that tries to explain the relation of three Persons to the one God" which is not what we evidently find in the early pre-Nicenes (See Gods and the One God, p. 156).

To make sure that Jason does not misunderstand my point again, I want to make it clear that I have not said Athenagoras was "against" the hOMOOUSION formula: he simply did not affirm anything like it. Nor have I referred to Athenagoras as an "implicit Arian." These categories are just more fictions attributed to me by Jason. Jason seems to have a hard time understanding that just because the materials for Trinitarianism exist in a certain writer does not mean that the writer is Trinitarian simpliciter or Trinitarian in the proper sense of the term. It is really quite simple: when the Fathers make statements that are completely incompatible with the basic claims of Trinitarianism (e.g. the Son is omnipotent, omniscient, fully God), then it is fair to conclude that they adhered to a form of subordinationism. As R.P.C. Hanson noted:

"With the exception of Athanasius virtually every theologian, East and West, accepted some form of subordinationism at least up to the year 355" (The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988, p. xix.).