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).