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,