Sunday, December 26, 2010

Plantinga on Atheism and Proof of Other Minds

Hi Sammy (a pseudonym),

I don't want to go too deep into this point, so I'll
keep things brief.

Some years ago, a theistic logician named Alvin Plantinga wrote a book God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. In this work, Plantinga argued that belief in God is analogous to belief in other minds. What are minds? How do we know that minds other than ours exist?

By "minds" here, I mean "mental entities." Beliefs and desires are two mental or intentional states, but clearly not the only two states of mind.

Plantinga (similar to Bertrand Russell) seems to contend that one can never demonstrate (apodictically) by rational argumentation that other minds exist. By means of introspection, I can know that I experience certain mental states. But I cannot know that S1 experiences similar mental states because I cannot get into the head (so to speak) of S1. All I can do is
infer that S1 experiences mental states in a manner analogous to my experience of mental states. But the inference is a belief based on probabilistic factors. For all I know, if I could get into the head of S1, I might find that S1, for some reason, does not experience mental states such as beliefs or desires. Maybe S1 is really an android or automaton. But I seem justified in believing S1 does have beliefs or desires, even though I cannot know or prove apodictically that this is the case.

For more insight on this matter, I suggest the
website:
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~jegibson/Lecture21.html

I guess the bottom line is that we believe in many things that can be neither proved nor demonstrated by logic or science. How can science demonstrate or prove that other minds exist? Granted, I believe minds other than my own exist. But I did not arrive at that belief by logical or scientific means. Keep in mind that I am here explaining what the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist is saying. I believe it makes a good point about things science cannot prove. Astrophysicist Paul Davies also points this out in The Mind of God.

Your brother,
Edgar

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Addressing Translation Issues in Lactantius

Matt13weedhacker:

You write:

"(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): ...Et quamvis alios postea innumerabiles per ipsum creavisset, quo angelos dicimus...' - (Latin Text of Divinae Institutiones Book 4, Chapter 6, Section 1. MGL.)

Does Latin ( alios ) mean 'another'?

Or does it mean 'other'?"

According to Lewis-Short Latin Dictionary and John C. Traupman's Latin-English Dictionary, the word can mean either "another" or "other" or "different" along with other denotations in determinate speech contexts.

"Is Latin ( alios ) the equivelant of Greek ( ἄλλος ) '...another (numerically) of the same kind and quality...'?

TRENCH says: '...( ἄλλος ) identical with the Latin 'alius' ... But ( ἔτέρος ) equivalent to the Latin 'alter'..." - (Page 357 SYNONYMS OF THE NT)

Is Latin ( alios ) a plural word?"

ALIOS is accusative masculine plural of ALIUS.

"Could it be (paraphrased): '...created innumerable others of the same kind, whom we call angels...'

Or would that be stretching it to far?"

I could be wrong, but I don't think "others of the same kind" would convey the notion behind the Latin ALIUS/ALIOS. IMO, the word usually stresses difference rather than sameness. See Lewis-Short at Perseus for many examples of how ALIUS is used.

You also write:

"The other two translations render it this way:

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...and though he later created countless (OTHERS), whom we call angels...' (Divinae institutiones 4.6.1)

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...And although He had afterwards created by Himself innumerable (OTHER-BEINGS), whom we call angels...' - (ANF Roberts & Donaldson)"

I like the second translation best since it preserves subtleties like the use of creavisset, etc.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Scattered Quotes from Lactantius

Maybe these quotes will prove to be helpful. They come from my years of researching the church father named Lactantius:

Divine Institutes 4.14:

"Nor did He [Christ] at any time say that He Himself was God; for He
would not have maintained His faithfulness, if, when sent to abolish
the false gods, and to assert the existence of the one God, He had
introduced another besides that one. This would have been not to
proclaim one God, nor to do the work of Him who sent Him, but to
discharge a peculiar office for Himself, and to separate Himself from
Him whom He came to reveal. On which account, because He was so
faithful, because He arrogated nothing at all to Himself, that He
might fulfil the commands of Him who sent Him, He received the dignity
of everlasting Priest, and the honour of supreme King, and the
authority of Judge, and the name of God" (Divine Institutes 4.14).


"God, then, who invented and constructed all things, as we said in book 2,
before approaching the remarkable task of making this world CREATED a
holy and incorruptible spirit whom he called his son and though he
later created countless others, whom we call angels, this, his first-
born, was the only one he distinguished with a name of divine
significance, presumably because he had his father's qualities of
power and supremacy" (Divinae institutiones 4.6.1).

"For if God, who made all things, is also Lord and Father, He must be one
only, so that the same may be the head and source of all things. Nor
is it possible for the world to exist unless all things be referred
to one person, unless one hold the rudder, unless one guide the
reins, and, as it were, one mind direct all the members of the body"
(Epitome 2).


All such utterances must be construed in accord with the literary context in which they appear. For instance, Lactantius argues that the
Father and the Son share a moral unity: "Because the son is loyal to
the supreme father and precious to him, he is never separated from
him, just as a river cannot be cut off from its source nor a sunbeam
from the sun . . ." (DI 4.29.5). See 4.29.7-8. For Lactantius, the
Father (strictly speaking) is the exclusive master over the created
order or universal household: "the world has one king, one father and
one lord only" (DI 1.7.3). The Father and Son are one in a moral or
legal sense as demonstrated in DI 4.29.7-8.


Another passage that also leads me to believe that Lactantius does not believe that the Son is fully God is the passage at DI 2.8.3-4:

"Since nothing existed at the time [of creation] apart from himself,
because the source of full and perfect good was in himself, as it
always is, in order that good should spring from him like a stream and
flow forth and on and on, he produced a spirit like himself, which was
to be endowed with all the virtues of God his father . . . Then by
means of the one he made first he made another, liable to corruption.
In this one the divine inheritance was not to abide."


Charles Thomas Cruttwell writes these words about Lactantius:

"Theologians have detected many flaws in his [Lactantius'] orthodoxy. It cannot be denied that he is unsatisfactory in his definition of the Godhead of Christ; that his theory of the part assigned to the angels in the government of mankind is unscriptural and unwarranted; and that
his omission of all mention of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity
is a grave theological defect. In fact, as has already been stated,
his contribution to Christian dogma is of little theological value.
It is rather to his earnestness, his purity of spirit, and his
soundness of moral judgment, that he owes his high position as a
Christian writer" (A Literary History of Early Christianity Including the Fathers and the Chief Heretical Writers of the Ante-Nicene
Period
, page 650).


I also offer a quote which was reproduced above, from another translation:

"in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father. But how He willed that, I will endeavour to show in the fourth book. Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. " (Divine Institutes 2.9 in some editions).


"It is evident from the testimony of the poet, that there is one God who inhabits the world, since the whole body cannot be inhabited and governed except by one mind. Therefore all divine power must be in one person, by whose will and command all things are ruled; and therefore He is so great, that He cannot be described in words by man, or estimated by the senses" (De ira Dei) 11.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Photius on Origen's De Principiis

Taken from Photius' Bibliotheca

See http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/photius_03bibliotheca.htm

"Read Origen's four books On First Principles. The first deals with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. In this his statements are often blasphemous; thus, he asserts that the Son was created by the Father, the Holy Ghost by the Son; that the Father pervades all existing things, the Son only those that are endowed with reason, the Holy Ghost only those that are saved. He also makes other strange and impious statements, indulging in frivolous talk about the migration of souls, the stars being alive, and the like. This first book is full of fables about the Father, Christ (as he calls the Son), the Holy Ghost, and creatures endowed with reason. In the second book he treats of the world and created things. He asserts that the God of the Law and the prophets, of the Old and the New Testament, is one and the same; that there was the same Holy Spirit in Moses, the rest of the prophets, and the Holy Apostles. He further discusses the Incarnation of the Saviour, the soul, resurrection, punishment, and promises. The third book deals with free will; how the devil and hostile powers, according to the Scriptures, wage war against mankind; that the world was created and is perishable, having had a beginning in time. The fourth book treats of the final end, the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the proper manner of reading and understanding them."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Word "Father" as Metaphor for God

There is a long section on PATHR in TDNT (volume V). This reference work states that "when the term father occurs [in the Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh], it is fundamentally applied to God only in a metaphorical sense, and if we are to understand it everything depends on finding the right point of comparison [tertium comparationis]" (TDNT, V:970). See Deuteronomy 8:5; 2 Samuel 7:12-14; Psalm 2:7; 89:26; 103:13; Proverbs 3:12.

LSJ just notes that PATHR is used of God the Father of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:6), the Father of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21) and the Father of men (Matthew 6:9). It then states that the usage of PATHR at James 1:17 is metaphorical. But I would include the OT and Matthean passages as well as other authors do.

I looked at the entry for PATHR in the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. It too mentions that God is a metaphorical Father to Israel or creatures. But this work insists that the term is not metaphorical in the case of Jesus Christ being generated by God the Father.

See http://tinyurl.com/37z8ya

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trinitarian Redactors, Novatian and Origen

Matt13weedhacker,

Here is something I posted on another forum. At the end of this message, you'll find a reference to Studer's work.

Greetings!

One of the most important works on the Trinity
doctrine is Novatian's _De Trinitate_. This work has
been admired in the western church and became somewhat
of a VADE MECUM in ancient times. In English, we
usually call Novatian's treatise _On the Trinity_.
However, one wonders whether Novatian himself appended
the word "Trinity" to the title of this document?
Alternatively, is it possible that early copies of the
text were edited or redacted and the word "Trinity"
was added to Novatian's work?

Russell J. DeSimone (in his translation of _De
Trinitate_) points out that we do not know the
original title of what is now known as _De Trinitate_.
He suggests that the "correct title" of the work
appears to have been _De regula veritatis_ or _De
regula fidei_ (DeSimone 23). The latter title may be
more likely in view of what Novatian writes in _De
Trinitate_ 21 regarding the general thesis of his
work. In any event, Novatian the Presbyter never
utilizes the term "Trinity." DeSimone thus notes that
an amanuensis living after 381 probably altered the
title in view of what transpired in 325 and 381 CE at
the ecumenical councils (DeSimone 23).

Joseph M. Hallman (_The Descent of God_, page 70)
similarly observes that _De regula fidei_ may have
been the original title of _De Trinitate_. Again, the
possible work of a redactor is acknowledged.

One may also find evidence for Trinitarian redaction
in the Latin versions of Origen's _Peri Archon_. See
Basil Studer's _Trinity and Incarnation_, page 84.

Regards,
Edgar

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Notes on Matthew 10:29

Text: OUXI DUO STROUQIA ASSARIOU PWLEITAI KAI hEN EX
AUTWN OU PESEITAI EPI THN GHN ANEU TOU PATROS hUMWN.

OUXI, in a manner analogous to the Latin NONNE,
introduces a question with the expectation that the
answer will be "yes." See Zerwick and Grosvenor, page
31.

ASSARIOU-diminutive form of Latin AS (= 1/16 denarius
or less than a half hour's wage).

ASSARIOU is a genitive of price (Zerwick-Grosvenor).

Genitive of price-"The genitive substantive specifies
the price paid for or value assessed for the word to
which it is related. This is relatively rare in the
NT" (Daniel B. Wallace, GGBB, page 122).

Brooks and Winbery use the terminology "adverbial
genitive of measure" which includes the genitive of
price or genitive of measure.

ANEU TOU PATROS hUMWN is an example of the substantive
with an adverbial preposition (see Brooks and Winbery,
22).

KAI-"And yet."

NET Bible translates the latter portion of this verse:
"Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from
your Father's will."

The NET Bible footnote, however, states: "Or 'to the
ground without the knowledge and consent of your
Father.'"

"nonne duo passeres asse veneunt et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro" (Matthew 10:29 Biblia Sacra Vulgata).

Vincent's Word Studies

Sparrows (στρουθία)

"The word is a diminutive, little sparrows, and carries with it a touch of tenderness. At the present day, in the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa, long strings of little birds, sparrows and larks, are offered for sale, trussed on long wooden skewers. Edersheim thinks that Jesus may have had reference to the two sparrows which, according to the Rabbins, were used in the ceremonial of purification from leprosy (Leviticus 14:49-54)."

Regards,
Edgar

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brunner's Distinction Between Omnipotence and Almightiness

Thomas Aquinas essentially defines omnipotence as the power to do all that is logically possible. Other theologians have similarly defined omniscience as the ability to know all that it is possible to know. In his interesting study on evil and providence, Peter Geach suggests that God is not omnipotent but rather "almighty." Emil Brunner also develops this concept in The Christian Doctrine of God (volume I, page 248ff).

Brunner contends: "The Biblical conception [of God's almightiness] means God's power over the whole universe; but omnipotentia means the abstract idea that 'God can do everything.'" See Brunner, p. 248.

This distinction seems theologically meaningful or substantial. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hippolytus and the Trinity Doctrine (A Dialogue)

Here is another dialogue between me and a Trinitarian friend and interlocutor:

Greetings [Sam],

[Foster]
Hippolytus died circa 236 C.E. While his writings may
have been "unsystematic," as you say, there is almost
no doubt (historically) that he was accused of being
a "ditheist" by Bishop Callistus. W.H.C. Frend thinks
that the bishop may have been justified in labeling
Hippolytus thus. He also thinks that Hippolytus
thought of the Logos as a created being, deified for
a time. The Catholic writer Edmund Fortman in his book
_The Triune God_ also informs us that Hippolytus
"rather deliberately seems to avoid putting the Holy
Spirit on the same personal plane with the Father and
the Son, and to regard Him more as a divine force
than a divine person" (page 119). Granted, as Fortman
writes, Hippolytus may not have highlighted the
"personality" of the Spirit because he was not
dealing with a heated issue that arose prior to 381 C.E.,
namely, the Pneumatomachi Controversy. Nevertheless,
he does not seem to ascribe personhood to the Spirit
of God and he appears to subordinate the Son
(ontologically) to the Father.

["Sam"]
I have no serious quarrells here, as far as I
can tell. Muslims regularly accuse Christians of
tri-theism, and Christians aren't always cautious to
avoid being thus misunderstood. If you ask nearly
any rank-and-file Christian to explain "God," he will
almost always, if he ventures the least bit beyond
the confessional formulations, end up saying things
that could be understood either in the direction of
modalism or tri-theism. Beyond that, it's an
empirical fact that trinitarian concepts are refractory to
facile understanding and that many people-- even theologians
otherwise known for reasonably careful thought-- have
expressed themselves incautiously or misunderstandingly
on the Trinity.

[Foster]
The primary point I want to make about Hippolytus,
however, is that his views do not stem from lack of
precision or conceptual clarity. Nor do they originate
from his being less than circumspect when it comes to
articulating his theological concepts. Hippolytus
expresses himself the way he does, I contend, because
he believes that Christ is a deified creature, one who
has gradually progressed from LOGOS ENDIAQETOS to
hUIOS (i.e. LOGOS PROFORIKOS) to QEOS.

[Foster Previously]
The problem, as Swete notes, is that the language of
Hippolytus does not allow for the Holy Spirit being
an eternal divine relation or Person--he also believes
that the Son as such is not eternal--and his thought
evidently contains elements of subordinationism. That
is, Hippolytus is not just maintaining that the Son
or Spirit are subordinate to the Father as respects
function; they are subordinate PER ESSENTIAM. Such
claims are utterly at odds with Nicene Christianity.

["Sam"]
I find it difficult to be surprised by any of
this. Until controversy compels the Church to
publicly clarify her mind on a doctrinal issue such as this and
define it (as at Nicea), one expects to find a great
deal of latitude in what is believed and asserted
about the question. This is the case at present with
questions such as those eschatological questions
concerning the anti-Christ, the meaning of the
'millenial' reign of Christ, the tribulation, the
'binding of Satan', etc., etc. And it was the case
with other doctrines before they were defined.

[Foster]
I don't think the Church allows that much latitude.
Bishop Callistus (who was evidently a modalist or
Monarchian) accused Hippolytus of being a ditheist.
Frend thinks Callistus was quite justified in
appending this descriptive term to the Roman
theologian. Moreover, if Hippolytus really did believe
that Christ was a deified or apotheosized creature as
suggested by _Refutation of all Heresies 10_, this
would put him outside the bounds of orthodoxy. We are
not just talking about imprecise God-talk: the
Christological ideas contained in the writings of
Hippolytus are at odds with basic Trinitarian thought.

["Sam"]
Hence, if Hippolytus held a form of subordinationism
of the Holy Spirit or Son, this should not surprise
us. Further, as mentioned before, there is a legitimate
respect in which these two Persons of the Trinity ARE
subordinate to the Father and proceed from Him, even
if this isn't clearly articulated in the possibly
deficient formulations of Hippolytus.

[Foster]
According to orthodox Trinitarian thought, the Son and
Spirit may be subordinate to the Father in a
functional sense--though Kevin Giles disputes this
point--but no orthodox Trinitarian is going to openly
or knowingly concede the second and third Persons of
the Trinity are inferior in essence, which (as you
know) is what subordinationism entails.

[SNIP for editorial purposes]

[Prior Foster]
The problem with God willing the Son into existence,
even if He did so by means of His own essence or
substance, have been detailed by Jesuit Edmund
Fortman (quoted earlier). Fortman lists what he calls two
"grave defects" with Hippolytus' "theory" of the
Father metaphysically (!) willing the Son into
existence: (1) The Logos was not a person or the Son
eternally, but only precreationally [if the Father willed him intro existence];
(2) "The generation of the Son was not essential to God but
only the result of a free decision of God.
Hence God might have remained without a Son and thus might have
remained only one Person" (Fortman, page 118). In
other words, the generation of the Son, according to
Hippolytus as interpreted by Fortman, was something
that may or may not have transpired.
It was a contingent divine act [if the Father willed the Son into existence].

["Sam"]
Yes, indeed. I don't dispute this [what has been said hitherto about Hippolytus]. What I dispute is the notion that he can be taken for a
careful trinitarian theologian. He's the theological
equivalent of an Empedocles, and the notion that his
writings can meaningfully be adduced against Nicea
seem not more plausible to me than that Empedocles
metaphysic should be proposed as counting against
the Periodic Table of Elements developed in the 19th
Century. At most, it seems to me, Hippolytus gives
us one snapshot of the kinds of inchoate Trinitarian
opinions that existed in the ante-Nicene period.

[Foster]
I wonder if Hippolytus can be taken for a "trinitarian
theologian" at all. At what point does a person become
a non-Trinitarian theologian? The problem I see with
the paragraph above is that you appear to assume that
Hippolytus is expressing an "inchoate" form of the
Trinity doctrine in a non-precise manner. But I submit
that a comparison between Ptolemy and Copernicus would
be more apt. Hippolytus does not seem to espouse an
inchoate form of Trinitarianism at all. His writings
help us to see that the famed "way to Nicea" was
filled with twists, turns and diversions. Nicea was
firm in its insistence that the Son is begotten, not
created. He is consubstantial with the Father (says
Nicea), not by promotion or progressive divinization,
but UT NATURA or PER ESSENTIAM. I don't believe that
Hippolytus' statements were even headed in this
direction.

[Foster Previously]
If the pre-Nicenes truly did not view Christ as
"fully God," then the early Christians were not simply
saying that Christ is subordinate to the Father. Augustine
of Hippo writes that each divine Person is fully God or
that the whole of the Godhead is in each Person. To say
otherwise, to deny that Christ is "fully God," is to
blatantly contradict what Augustine averred. One who
makes such a declaration is not merely insisting that
Christ is subordinate in function to the Father.
Rather, a Christian who does not affirm the full
deity of Christ is subordinating him to the Father
vis-a-vis being, essence or nature.

["Sam"]
This is assuming that "fully God" can mean only
what you think it means. But why should we believe
that? It is also to assume that each ante-Nicene
utterance regarding a Person of the Trinity is to be
accorded the same weight you would accord it in a
theological treatise on the Holy Trinity. But why
should we think that? It seems to me that there are a
wide variety of contexts in which men made reference
to "God" ("Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit") in the
first three centuries. If I were to respond in the
affirmative to my young son's question "Daddy, did
Jesus pray to God?" would this mean that I was denying
that Jesus is "fully God"?

[Foster]
I use the terminology "fully God" as the Nicenes used
it and as Augustine employed the nomenclature. For
Augustine of Hippo, the whole of the divine substance
is in each Person somewhat perichoretically. For
Auggie, the Son is VERE DEUS, VERE HOMO. I understand
this to mean that Christ (in Augustine's paradigm)
exemplifies or instantiates every divine property
exemplified or instantiated by the Father and the Holy
Spirit, EX HYPOTHESI. One Catholic theologian writes:

"There are various aspects hence arising, which do not
belong to the Divine Essence as such, but are peculiar
to one of the other of the Persons and not common to
all. These are the only differences between the
Persons. They are not differences of substance or of
the essential divine attributes; so they mark, not a
multiplication of the Godhead, but of the
personalities in the one Godhead."

Hence, "fully God" (as I see it) has reference to the
divine essential attributes or necessary properties.
So, in answer to your question, I would say that you
are not necessarily denying that Jesus is God because
you answer in the affirmative. Of course, your example
has to do with Christ in his incarnate state though,
and not with intra-Trinitarian relations per se. In
any event, what I'm trying to say is that God is
supposed to instantiate or exemplify certain
properties or particular attributes. If a being does not
possess (i.e. exemplify) such attributes EX TOTO, then the said entity [in question]
cannot be "fully God." Therefore, if the Son
(according to Hippolytus) is a deified creature or not
eternal as such, how can he be fully God? Since God is eternal or everlasting.

Regards,

Edgar

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho Chap 125:3

Matthew13weedhacker writes:

'Can I get your opinion please?

CXXV(125):
3 καὶ τὸ οὖν Ἰσραὴλ ὄνομα τοῦτο σημαίνει· ἄνθρωπος νικῶν δύναμιν· τὸ γὰρ ἴσρα ἄνθρωπος νικῶν ἐστι, τὸ δὲ ἢλ δύναμις. ὅπερ καὶ διὰ τοῦ μυστηρίου τῆς πάλης, ἣν ἐπάλαισεν Ἰακὼβ μετὰ τοῦ φαινομένου μὲν ἐκ τοῦ τῇ τοῦ πατρὸς βουλῇ ὑπηρετεῖν, θεοῦ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι τέκνον πρωτότοκον τῶν ὅλων κτισμάτων, ἐπεπροφήτευτο οὕτως καὶ ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος ὁ Χριστὸς ποιήσειν.

Chapter 125:[3] "...That Christ ... in that Christ ministered to the will of God, yet He is God, because He is the First-begotten of all creatures..." (KET)

CHAPTER CXXV:[III]: "...And that Christ ... in that He ministered to the will of the Father, yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten of all creatures..." (R&DT)

θεοῦ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι τέκνον πρωτότοκον τῶν ὅλων κτισμάτων

"(of) God but out-of (of) the to be a child first-born (of) the (of) entire/whole (of) created things"

What is your opinion?'

REPLY:

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about how the bold part of the quote from Justin's Greek text has been translated. Frankly, I can see that the Greek is not rendered literally, but I don't personally believe that it has been mistranslated. At least, not the part in bold. δὲ is functioning adversatively here. It can be rendered "but," "however," or "yet" in this context.

The translations you quote above have also left out τέκνον in their renderings, but that choice does not pose a major difficulty for me. I notice that one translation has "He ministered to the will of the Father" where the other says "Christ ministered to the will of God." These renditions may be due to textual variants, although the sense of the passage remains fairly the same. Let me know if I have understood you correctly.

Regards,

Edgar

Monday, October 18, 2010

Conscience (Moral Intutition) and Neuroscience

In her book The Moral of the Story: An Introduction to Ethics, Nina Rosenstand discusses a study published in 2007 by Antonio Damasio (a neuroscientist) and others working in the scientific field. The study appeared in the journal Nature and I have read similar observations in Damasio's books.

The study in Nature continues Damasio's work on individuals who have suffered ventromedial frontal lobe damage. It concludes that damage to one's frontal lobes usually makes it difficult for humans to make decisions that involve the lives of others. We evidently have "an emotional reluctance" (Rosenstand, 22) to make decisions that will bring about the death of others. However, persons who have experienced damage to the ventromedial frontal lobes evidently do not hesitate to make decisions that possibly save numerous lives but also bring it about that one or at least a few humans die.

The upshot of this study is supposed to be that we have a center in the brain that is responsible for providing a "moral compass" (ibid). In the words of Rosenstand, "we do appear to have been equipped with some sort of moral intuition from birth" (ibid). Furthermore, the study by Damasio (et. al.) indicates that our moral decisions are probably based on both emotional and rational factors. Rosenstand points out that the scientific study of where moral decisions are made does not exhaust ethics. Moreover, there are admittedly other studies that balance the one undertaken by Damasio and his colleagues. But I think that Damasio, other scientists and philosophers have made a good case for viewing human conscience or moral intuition as a neurobiological phenomenon.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ben Witherington on Exodus 3:14 and HAYAH

Hi all,

This is taken from the book The Shadow of the
Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in Biblical
Perspective
(pp. 10-11):

"Notice that we do not have in v. 14 ANI ASHER ANI but
a paranomastic use of the verb HAYAH. This suggests on
the one hand that we ought not to translate the phrase
'I am that I am' as if it were an ontological
statement, a statement about God's being, but rather
we seem to be being told something about God's
activity or self-revelation in his activity. The focus
then is not on God's being a self-contained,
self-existent being . . . God then is not speaking
about what God is in the divine essence, but rather
what Yahweh is or will be in relationship to his
people--in his self-revelation."

Best wishes,
Edgar

Friday, October 08, 2010

Exodus 3:14, Being, and Reading Texts as Discourse

I once had a conversation with a colleague and friend who suggested that Exodus 3:14 teaches us that God is Being. Here is my response to this claim:

I'm not sure how a metaphysician goes about
concluding that God IS being from Exod 3:14 or any
other sacred passage, for that matter.

As you well know, reading is a complicated affair. One
key to reading a text closely is taking note of the
multifaceted discourse levels that constitute a
particular text. As J.P. Louw argues in the essay,
"Reading a Text as Discourse," discourse
considerations are linguistic, para-linguistic and
extra-linguistic. In order to avoid going beyond a
text, one needs to be mindful of the discourse
constraints that govern conclusions derived from the
text.

Linguistic features refers to things like syntax,
style, nominalization and embedding; some
para-linguistic features are punctuation, intonation,
speech acts and genre, whereas extra-linguistic
features include spatio-temporal context, the medium
of presentation and textual history and background.

The point of alluding to Louw's paper is that I see
nothing in the grammar of Exod 3:14 that would lead
one to conclude that God IS being. Witherington points
out that Moses probably would have employed ANI ASHER
ANI, if he was calling God "I AM." Moreover, the
imperfect state is used for the verb in Exod 3:14
indicating what God will be, rather than delineating
what he is, per se (compare how HAYAH is employed in
Exod 3:12). Even one famous ancient Greek translation
of the Hebrew scriptures renders EHYEH ASHER EHYEH at
Exod 3:14 as ESOMAI hOS ESOMAI. In light of this data,
I find it difficult to accept [Etienne] Gilson's suggestion.

Pax tibi,
Edgar

Friday, October 01, 2010

Gregory M. Reichberg on Beyond Evil as Privation

Reichberg contends:

EVER SINCE PLOTINUS SOUGHT CLARITY
in the notion of privation to dispel our
human perplexity about evil, philosophers have debated
whether this concept is adequate to the task.
The intensity and scope of evil
in the twentieth century--which has seen the horrors
of world war and genocide--have added fuel to the
debate. Can the idea of a falling away from the good,
however refined, come anywhere close to capturing the
calculation, the commitment, the energy, and the drive
that underlie the most virulent projects in
malfeasance? While the privation account might appear
a reasonable strategy for explaining passive
wrongdoing--indifference to people in grave need, or
cooperation with injustice--the more active and
dynamic forms of evil would nevertheless seem to elude
its conceptual net.


See his article Beyond Privation: Moral Evil in Aquinas's De
Malo

The Review of Metaphysics - June 1, 2002

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Doctrine of Theosis (QEWSIS)

An interlocutor wrote:

"[Charles Taze] Russell, in the following issue of his publication, again elevated his followers to Godhood, announcing, 'Ye are Gods.' He further concluded that, 'When we claim on the scriptural warrant, that we are begotten of a divine nature and Jehovah is thus our Father, it is claiming that we are divine beings - hence all such are Gods.' Absent from Russell's assertion that we can become gods is any reminder of Satan's lie to Eve in the garden, 'You will become like God!' (Genesis 3:5), Lucifer's fall from glory for wishing to be as God (Isaiah 14:14), and the words from Yahweh himself, stating that 'The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish [SIC] from the earth and from under the heavens.' (Jeremiah 10:11)"

My comments are below:

In Eastern Christendom, an often heard refrain has been: "God became
man, in order that man might be shown how to become God (divine)." The Greek
theologian Maximus wrote: "All that God is, except for an identity
in OUSIA, one becomes when one is deified by grace" (Max. Ambig. 41).
His explanation of QEWSIS left a way for the Greek theologians to preserve a distinction between the Creator and the creature. Gregory Palamas also suggested that "the deifying gift of the Spirit is not the superessential OUSIA of God, but the deifying activity [ENERGEIA] of the superessential OUSIA of God." In other
words, 2 Peter 1:4 was not viewed as describing an identical participation of
the finite referent in the "superessential OUSIA of God." To the contrary,
humans were supposedly able to participate in the divine OUSIA by the wonderful
divine work of deification. Thus one would go from corruptibility to incorruptibility, as a result of God's XARIS (See The Christian
Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 267-268).

This view of Eastern Christendom is not just an obsolete, antiquitous
view. Even in 1953, Russian writer Vladimir Lossky, while presenting a
synopsis of the Grecian idea of QEWSIS said:

"The descent (KATABASIS) of the divine person of Christ makes human
persons capable of an ascent (ANABASIS) in the Holy Spirit. It was
necessary that the voluntary humiliation, the redemptive self-emptying
(KENOSIS) of the Son of God should take place, so that fallen men might
accomplish their vocation of QEWSIS, the deification of created beings
by uncreated grace. Thus the redeeming work of Christ--or rather, more
generally speaking, the Incarnation of the Word--is seen as directly
related to the ultimate goal of creatures: to know union with God. If
this union has been accomplished in the divine person of the Son, who
is God become man, it is necessary that each human person should in
turn become god by grace, or become 'a partaker in the divine nature,'
according to St Peter's expression (2 Peter 1:4)" (See Alister McGrath,
Christian Theology: An Introduction, pp. 413-414).

As we read the thoughts of orthodox theologians and the ancient fathers of the church, Russell's comments seem mild by comparison. In actuality, his views were
evidently scriptural. Christians who are "born again" DO have the hope of sharing
in the divine nature. By making this statement, Russell was not saying that some mystical type of QEWSIS would take place whereby the individual Christian referent would be absorbed into God Himself. No, to draw this conclusion from 2 Peter 1:4 would be to cross the forbidden line between Creator and creature. McGrath warns against this danger:

"A distinction must be drawn between the idea of deification as
'becoming God' (QEWSIS) and as 'becoming like God' (HOMOIOSIS QEOI).
the first, associated with the Alexandrian School, conceives of
deification as a union with the SUBSTANCE of God; the second,
associated with the Antiochene school, interprets the believer's
relationship with God more in terms of a participation in that which is
divine, often conceived in terms of ethical perfection. The distinction
between these approaches is subtle, and reflects significantly
different Christologies." (McGrath 414).


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

James Pustejovsky on Mass and Count Nouns

James Pustejovsky's (in the context of discussing polysemy) book also examines mass and count nouns in his text The Generative Lexicon. Pustejovsky sets forth a few examples of mass and count nouns that I want to present. He writes that sand, "although in fact composed of individual grains," is a mass noun because it refers to "undifferentiated stuff in our daily experience of it" (Pustejovsky 17). But the word "house" (he writes) "is obviously perceivable as an individuated object and is classified as a count noun."

Pustejovsky goes on to provide the following examples:

Mass nouns: much sand, more water.
Count nouns: several houses, every child.

Examples of nouns which are both mass and count simultaneously are
given:

1a. Texans drink a lot of beer.
1b. Patsy relished every beer she drank.

2a. More e-mail is arriving every day.
2b. Every e-mail I send gets bounced.

From Pustejovsky's discussion, it seems that he classifies mass/count nouns
on the basis of individuation potential.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

1 Corinthians 5:1 Interpretation

Back in 1999, I discussed 1 Cor. 5:1ff with a couple of interlocutors on a public forum. One suggested that the Corinthians text refers to the Lord's Supper. Here is my reply:

I must admit that a reference to the Lord's supper is a possibility (1
Cor. 11:23ff). But my analysis rules out that conclusion for the
following reasons.

In 1 Cor. 5:1, Paul describes the sin of the brother in Corinth. He is
cohabiting with his father's wife, living in an incestuous relationship.
Even worse, the older men of Corinth--[part of] the EKKLESIA--are tolerating this
immoral conduct. Paul laments that the Corinthians are "puffed up"
rather than mourning over the abhorrent deeds of the immoral "brother"
in their midst.

In 1 Cor. 5:3-5, the "apostle to the nations" recommends that the one
practicing sin be "delivered up to the adversary." This act is done in
order to destroy the sinful "flesh" and preserve the spirit of the
believer "in the day of the Lord."

Next, Paul continues to expound on the reason [that] the sinning believer must
be turned over to the Devil. By allowing such a one to remain in the
midst of the congregation, the EKKLESIA will suffer corruption and will
not be able to rightly observe the antitypical passover: "for even our
Paschal Lamb, Christ, was sacrificed" (Emphatic Diaglott). Therefore,
the congregation of God must take the action prescribed in 1 Cor.
5:9-13. What is the thrust of this counsel? What action is the EKKLESIA
urged to take?

1 Cor. 5:11 says: "NUNI DE EGRAYA hUMIN MH SUNANAMIGNUSQAI EAN TIS
ADELFOS ONOMAZOMENOS hH PORNOS . . ."

The phrase that really catches my attention here is NUNI DE EGRAYA hUMIN
MH SUNANAMIGNUSQAI.

This part of the verse indicates that Paul is not simply talking about
ceasing to share "the meal" [i.e. Lord's Supper] with a brother who practices sin--although clearly the congregation should take this action as well. The present
infinitive middle SUNANAMIGNUSQAI tells me that all association should
cease with this person (not just the Lord's evening meal). Elsewhere we
are told, "do not receive him into your house nor wish him success" (2
John 10, 11). If you want to discuss the applicability/inapplicability
of 2 John 2:7, we can examine that verse too. In sum, I would say that 1
Cor. 5:11 is talking about general association (i.e., "don't even eat
lunch with this man"!).

For now, I am inclined to agree with the words of Kathleen Callow concerning 1 Cor. 5:6-8:

"In this unit Paul urges the expulsion (EKKAQARATE, v. 7a) in the light
of the effect of evil on their fellowship as a whole, and of their own
status as AZOUMOI--a purified community" (See Linguistics and NT Interpretation, edited by DA Black, page 202).

Regards,

Edgar

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are There Three "I Think's" in God?

The following quote is taken from John J. O'Donnell's The Mystery of the Triune God. This snippet convincingly demonstrates the problem with viewing the TRES PERSONAE TRINITATIS as three separate centers of consciousness.

"In contemporary parlance, person is spontaneously identified as centre
of consciousness and freedom. However, if we bring these pre-reflective
categories to theology, we are immediately confronted with a problem.
For if we say that God is one being in three persons, and if we
understand by person centres of consciousness and freedom, then God
becomes three centres of consciousness and there are three I think's in
God. But such an understanding is the same as tritheism" (O'Donnell
103).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can We Get To "Know" God By Reading Scripture?

The following is a dialogue that occurred publicly on another forum. I have left the discussion in its original form. This post was originally written in 1999 when I was an undergrad at Lenoir-Rhyne College. I would now characterize it as a dialogue about religious epistemology. My responses are outside the quotation marks after the post begins.

Hi George

I'm glad we got all the details worked out about polemics, etc.

George writes:

From: Edgar Foster

"OIDAMEN DE hOTI hO hUIOS TOU QEOU hHKEI KAI DEDWKEN
hHMIN DIANOIAN hINA GINWSKOMEN TON ALHQINON."

"True, John does write that our DIANOIA comes from
the Son of God. This verse is in harmony with John 1:18, where we read
that the Son of God came and explained (exegeted) the Father, thus
revealing Him to humanity in a way not hitherto experienced.
Nevertheless, I must ask--where do we find the words and deeds of the
Son of God? Is it not in the written Word of God? Does not the Bible
report God's revelatory activities?"

[George]
"Of course it does. It is a report ABOUT God. It is
NOT God. It is written by men who are inspired DIA TON QEON."

Not only is it a report ABOUT God: it is a report BY God. God speaks to
us DIA His written Word.

DESPOTA SU hO POIHSAS TON OURANON KAI THN GHN KAI THN QALASSAN KAI
PANTA TA EN AUTOIS hO TOU PATROS hHMWN DIA PNEUMATOS hAGIOU STOMATOS
DAUEID PAIDOS SOU (Acts 4:24, 25).

"I am noticing the three levels of our 'knowing' in the above passage:
OIDAMEN is a visionary term of perception here, imho.

DIANOIA is the understanding [through mind] we are given when the Son
of God comes to us and gives it to us. I take this 'giver' to be the
"Spirit of Truth" [PARAKLEITOS] GINWSKAMEN is the actual knowing in the
fullest sense, the identity of self, mind, and God. When one knows in this way, there is no need of other "proof", because ANY proof rests upon IT. This is the goal of our study of scripture, and not the proofs that we are so convinced that we 'know'..."

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not the teaching of
the GNT [Greek New Testament]. At least, not at its surface level. :-)

It is very difficult to prove that we come to know God solely through
the inward mediation of the Spirit, and not by [means of] Scripture (Cf. Acts
18:24-28). 1 John 5:20 (in its first century context) does not say that
the Spirit of truth has given/gives us DIANOIAN. John is talking about
a historical event in the past: "EKEINOS EXHGHSATO" (that one unfolded
our understanding of the Father).

hOUTOS ESTIN hO ELQWN DI' hUDATOS KAI hAIMATOS IHSOUS XRISTOS (1 John
5:6).

The tenor of the entire first Epistle of John is historical. Jesus came
and provided us with DIANOIAN--the capacity to understand the Father.
He came and taught us how to love others by dying PRO NOBIS (1 John
3:16). He CAME and bore witness to God, glorifying Him and zealously
announcing His heavenly kingdom in fulfillment of the numerous
prophecies that bore witness to him. All of these historical events are
recorded in the GNT. John even wrote:

POLLA MEN OUN KAI ALLA SHMEIA EPOIHSEN hO IHSOUS ENWPION TWN MAQHTWN hA
OUK ESTIN GEGRAMMENA EN TWi BIBLIWi TOUTWi TAUTA DE GEGRAPTAI hINA
PISTEUHTE hOTI IHSOUS ESTIN hO XRISTOS hO hUIOS TOU QEOU KAI hINA
PISTEUONTES ZWHN EXHTE EN TWi ONOMATI AUTOU (John 20:30, 31).

[George quoting Edgar]
"When the Beroeans came to know the true one, was it not through their
dilligent study of the Scriptures?"

[George]
"Their diligent study brought them to the 'EIDOMEN'
level, in terms of the above passage, and from there came the Son, etc.
[I am guessing here, because in my scriptural ignorance I have not even
heard of the Beroeans before!]"

Beroea was about fifty miles from Thessalonica. It lay on the eastern
slopes of Mt. Vermion in the Olympian mountain range (See Pohill "Acts"
363).

The Beroeans are reported to have carefully examined the Scriptures
everyday to determine whether Paul and Silas were speaking the truth to
them. This search resulted in 'many Jews' becoming believers. I would
say they were past the point of OIDAMEN. They entered into a
relationship with the Most High God and His Son. They were at the level
of GINWSKW via their study of the Scriptures. (IMHO) Knowledge in a
Biblical sense is not only "head knowledge": it is relational
knowledge.

"The point here is that we do not KNOW God through
study of scripture, but only through God. There are tons of folks who
can read and study scripture till their eyes wear out and still not
know God! Reading God's Word does not give us KNOWLEDGE of God, in the
GINWSKW meaning of knowledge, but only in the EPISTHMH sense... Which
is knowing ABOUT God, you see..."

In view of Matt. 22:29-32, I would respectfully disagree. In this
Matthean pericope, Jesus offers a stinging rebuke to the Sadducees. He
informs them that that [sic] the reason they misunderstand the resurrection
of the dead is because of their Scriptural ignorance: "You know neither
the Scriptures nor the power of God."

"As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was
spoken to you hUPO QEOU LEGONTOS" (Matt. 22:31, 32).

Then Jesus references the account of the thornbush in Ex. 6. He
concludes that God is a God of the living, and not of the dead. How
does he arrive at this conclusion? By reflecting on the grammar of the
written record. This indicates that we can come to know God through a
careful reading of the Scriptures. I will concede your point, however.
There are many folks that read the Bible diligently and do not
understand [or know] God. This fact doesn't mean that one can't obtain knowledge of
God by reading Scripture (John 5:39ff).

[George quoting Edgar]
"Whenever Paul participated in his ministerial work, he reasoned with
people from the Scriptures, proving to them by references that Jesus is the Christ
(Acts 17:3, 4). I believe that he set an example for us, in this regard."

[George]
"No question about that, and what we overlook so
often is that he "came to them EN DUNAMIN..." His scriptural proofs
and reasonings would have had no impact at all without that power of the Spirit of the risen Christ actively supporting his efforts."

I agree 100%.

Take Care, George.

Edgar Foster
Classics Major
Lenoir-Rhyne College

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Remarks on Stephen Hawking's New Book from the Pertinacious Papist

See http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2010/09/stephen-hawking-god-did-not-create.html

Friday, September 03, 2010

Luke 2:22

Certain scholars have claimed that Luke made a mistake
when he spoke of the purification of "them" (hAI
hHMERAI TOU KAQARISMOU AUTWN) in accordance with the
Law of Moses (Luke 2:22). Should one hastily conclude
that Luke the doctor-cum-historian was mistaken in
speaking of the need for "them" to be purified rather
than "her" (i.e. Mary, the mother of Jesus)?

The KJV says "her purification" rather than alluding to
the purification of "them." The interpretive or textual problem is that
we know of only one Greek MS that reads AUTHS as opposed to AUTWN (a 12th century text). This change was probably made because of the supposed
difficulties with the Lukan account. The evidence from MSS
dating from the fourth century onwards is that the
text should read AUTWN. Yet, the Law of Moses only
prescribed that the mother of a male child should make
purification for herself (Leviticus 12:1-8). How then,
can one account for Luke's wording of this account?

Ralph Earle offers three possible explanations for the
use of the plural AUTWN:

(1) The pronoun could refer to Joseph and Mary; (2) it could reference the Jews (i.e. "Jewish" purification) or (3) Luke may have "run together the cleansing of the mother and the offering of the child" (Word Meanings in the NT,
55).

Rogers and Rogers New Linguistic and Exegetical Key
to the Greek NT
suggests that the genitive plural AUTWN possibly refers to Mary and Joseph (indicating family solidarity) "or it may refer to the purification of Mary and to the redemption of the
firstborn" (page 112).

I. Howard Marshall writes (after examining different factors): "It is most likely that Luke has run together the cleansing of the mother and the offering of the child . . ." into one act" (see The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text).

Avo,

Edgar Foster

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Thomas Aquinas on Ecclesiastes 3:19 and 12:7 (SCG 2.79)

Aquinas on Eccl 12:7 (from Summa Contra Gentiles 2.79)

"Hereby is banished the error of the impious in whose person it is said: We were born out of nothingness, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been (Wisd. ii, 2); in whose person again Solomon says: One is the perishing of man and beast, and even is the lot of both: as man dies, so do beasts die: all breathe alike, and man hath no advantage over beasts (Eccles iii, 19): that he does not say this in his own person, but in the person of the ungodly, is clear from what he says at the end, as it were drawing a conclusion: Till the dust return to the earth, from whence it came; and the spirit go back to the God who gave it (Eccles xii, 7)."

What a way to explain Ecclesiastes 3:19.

Regards,

Edgar

Monday, August 09, 2010

My Amazon Review of S.M. Baugh's "A First John Reader"

Baugh's reader is about 150 pages in length. It is a unique work that I think will be of value to anyone who wishes to learn Greek in a fun and orderly manner.

What makes Baugh's work unique is how he teaches Greek to the neophyte. By the time that the beginning Greek student has progressed through Baugh's book, he or she will have acquired a solid foundation in the Greek language and will also have worked his or her way through the entire book of 1 John. That is no little accomplishment for the beginning Greek student.

In my humble opinion, Baugh's method is much more effective than simply
learning paradigms and morphological forms by rote memorization. His approach provides a methodological way to learn Greek that is simultaneously educative and
stimulating. Baugh also sets forth penetrating exegetical questions as the student
works his or her way through the reader, thus prompting the beginner to
continue in the hopes of finding grammatical or exegetical treasure.

Some Examples

Each section of Baugh's reader deals with some particular grammatical issue
(the Greek article, pronouns, cases, and tenses). Instead of just discussing
these matters abstractly, however, Baugh provides numerous examples from the
book of 1 John. On p. 3, Baugh points out that hO is "repeated four times in
[1 John 1:1] at the beginning of the first four clauses (and once in v. 3)."
But why does John keep employing hO in this passage? Baugh answers this
question in his reader and gives supplementary information buttressing his
stand vis-a'-vis the Johannine use of hO.

On p. 50, Baugh also has a very insightful discussion about Greek aspect and
its relationship to 1 John 3:9. He concludes that the standard interpretation of
3:9 is probably the best one. When exegeting the passage, Baugh skillfully
interacts with the views of D. Wallace and S. Smalley who do not espouse the
habitual sin view of 1 John 3:9 which Baugh advocates. This interaction is
appreciated, because it helps the student to make up his or her own mind
about 1 John 3:9 and Greek aspect.

The same cannot be said for other parts of Baugh's grammar. Overall I like his reader and do not regret that I purchased it. Nevertheless, there are some places where I have "quibbles" with his presentation.

When discussing 1 John 3:2, Baugh talks about the dative of respect (hOMOIOI
AUTWi), but never says to whom the dative of respect might apply. Does it possibly apply to the Father or to the Son? Granted, he writes concerning 1 John 3:1b that "the quality of God's love is John's focus.". But the author does not say whom Christians will be like, when commenting on 1 John 3:2c. Also, when speaking about 1 John 5:20, Baugh asks--"Who is the antecedent of hOUTOS? Jesus, the Son of God? Is this not an unambiguous statement of his deity?" Personally I think this section would have been better if Baugh asked the question and left it at that or offered grammatical possibilities. The student must decide who the antecedent of hOUTOS is, not the teacher. The instructor can guide, help, and point out little details here and there, but instruction is much more effective when a professor sets forth possibilities before students and lets them make grammatical decisions.

I am not just taking Baugh to task because I disagree with him theologically at a number of different points. Rather, I just feel that his reader could have been more effective had he not pushed certain viewpoints at particular junctures in his work. Since I thrive intellectually from examining conflicting views and arriving at a conclusion that I believe is theologically and grammatically warranted, I can read Baugh's book and derive great benefit from it in spite of my "quibbles." In the final analysis, I give it 4 stars and would recommend this reader to those who are interested in learning ancient Greek. Baugh's work is valuable in its own way.

You can find Baugh's Reader at http://www.amazon.com/First-John-Reader-Intermediate-Reading/dp/0875520952/ref=cm_rna_own_review_prod

Edgar G. Foster

Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Scholarly Information on Ancient Jewish Monotheism

In his work Old Testament Theology, theologian Ralph Smith writes:

"In line with the thought of Deuteronomy 32:8, God had given the welfare of
the other nations into the hands of these subordinate divine beings, but they
failed to establish justice and righteousness in the earth among the nations"
(page 231).

The "subordinate divine beings" Smith references are the angels as shown by his earlier comments on Israelite monotheism (see page 231). These angels (according to this OT theologian), surround the throne of YHWH and loyally
serve Him in the capacity of seraphs, cherubs, and messengers. While I do not agree with Smith's treatment in toto (especially some of his comments concerning Deut. 32:8)--one cannot help but note the propriety of calling the angels (as Smith does), "subordinate divine beings."

Smith concludes by quoting G.E. Wright, who contends that the term monotheism "has always been used to define Judaism and Christianity in which the angelic host has survived and has been elaborated." Furthermore, D.S. Russell notes:

"There is ample evidence to show that [the OT] conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being, of God" (The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, page 235).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Maurice Casey on the Term "God" in Second Temple Judaism

Greetings,

Casey writes:

"Some beings [in 2nd Temple Judaism] seem to be of
almost divine status. At Wisdom of Solomon 7:21ff,
Wisdom is described in such terms. In 11Q Melchizedek,
Old Testament passages containing two of the words for
God (EL at Ps 7:8-9 and ELOHIM at Ps 82:1) are
interpreted of Melchizdek. Both ELIM and ELOHIM are
used with reference to angels in 4Q Shir Shabb. Philo
describes Moses as 'God and king of the whole nation'
(Life of Moses I, 158), and the LOGOS as 'the second
God' (Qu in Gen II, 62). At 3 Enoch 12:3-5, God crowns
Metatron, who is enthroned in heaven, and calls him
'The lesser YHWH'" (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile
God: The Origins and Development of New Testament
Christology. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John
Knox Press, 1991), p. 79.


ERRWSO,
Edgar Foster

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Augustine of Hippo on "Better" and "Greater"

I found this quote in Augustine's writings that I'm still mulling over. Augustine says: "In things in which greatness goes not by bulk, being greater means being better" (De Trinitate Vi, 9).

Could this passage constitute a response to those Trinitarians who contend that "greater" does not mean "better" in John 14:28?

Regards,

Edgar

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Revisting Lightfoot and "Ut Deo"

Previously on this blog, we discussed the saying by Pliny which Tertullian also quotes in his apology regarding Christ, namely, "ad canendum Christo et Deo" or as Bishop Lightfoot has suggested "ut Deo."

While my investigations on this subject are not completed yet, one thing that I have been trying to ascertain is Lightfoot's rationale for his emendation of Tertullian's text; particularly, his suggestion that we should read "ut" rather than the Latin conjunction "et." Granted, we could just chalk everything up to Lightfoot's bias (which may be the case), but I would like to know his stated reasons for choosing the emendation "ut" over against "et." And it is also of interest that G.A.T. Davies writes:

"as Lightfoot observes (op. cit. i 57, note), there can be no question that the correct reading is ut." See http://www.tertullian.org/articles/davies_tert_pliny.htm

At http://books.google.com/books?id=ZqcQAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA537&dq=lightfoot+and+christo+ut+deo&hl=en&ei=msszTMmhFcT48Aap9NnMCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

one can find Lightfoot's three stated reasons for preferring the reading "ut" to "et" in Tertullian's Apology. Check out page 537. One thing that does not make sense to me in this debate is why Lightfoot would insist on "ut" rather than "et" to uphold Trinitarian belief. One could still argue that "ut" does not necessarily support a Trinitarian reading of Tertullian's work.

Lightfoot appears to be basing his suggested emendation on Eusebius' reading of Tertullian which is TON CRISTON QEOU DIKHN hUMNEIN.

If you want to see Lightfoot's text, you can also click on the title of this blog entry.

Regards,

Edgar

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gunnar Samuelsson and the STAUROS of Christ

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7849852/Jesus-did-not-die-on-cross-says-scholar.html

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Origen of Alexandria (On Prayer 10)

It remains, accordingly, to pray to God alone, the Father of All, not however apart from the High Priest who has been appointed by the Father with swearing of an oath, according to the words He hath sworn and shall not repent, "You art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." In thanksgiving to God, therefore, during their prayers, saints acknowledge His favors through Christ Jesus.

Just as the man who is scrupulous about prayer ought not to pray to one who himself prays but to the Father upon whom our Lord Jesus has taught us to call in our prayers, so we are not to offer any prayer to the Father apart from Him. He clearly sets this forth himself when He says, "Verily, verily, I tell you, whatsoever you may ask of my Father He shall give you in my house. Until but now you have not asked aught in my name. Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled."

He did not say, "Ask of me," nor yet simply "Ask of the father," but "Whatsoever you may ask of the Father, He will give you in my name." For until Jesus taught this, no one had asked of the Father in the name of the Son. True was the saying of Jesus, "Until but now you have not asked aught in my name"; and true also the words, "Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled." Should anyone, however who believes that prayer ought to be made to Christ himself, confused by the sense of the expression make obeisance, confront us with that acknowledged reference to Christ in Deuteronomy, "Let all God's angels make obeisance to Him," we may reply to him that the church, called Jerusalem by the prophet, is also said to have obeisance made to her by kings and queens who become her foster sires and nurses, in the words, "Behold, I lift up my hand upon the nations, and upon the isles will I lift up my sign: and they shall bring your sons in their bosom and your daughters they shall lift up on their shoulders; and kings shall be your foster sires, their queens they nurses: to the face of the earth shall they make obeisance to you, and the dust of your feet shall they lick: and you shall know that I am the Lord and shall not be ashamed."

And how does it not accord with Him who said, "Why callest you me good? None is good save One—God the Father" to suppose that He would say, "Why pray you to me? To the Father alone ought you to pray, to whom I also pray, as indeed you learn from the holy Scriptures. For you ought not to pray to one who has been appointed high priest for you by the Father and has received it from the Father to be advocate, but through a high priest and advocate able to sympathize with your weaknesses, having been tried in all points like you but, by reason of the Father's free gift to me, tried without sin.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Herman Bavinck on the Tetragrammaton

On page 105 of The Doctrine of God, Herman Bavinck writes regarding Exodus 3:14:

"God does not call himself 'the One who is' in the abstract. He gives no explanation of his aseity, but he declares very explicitly what he is and what is his character. Now what is he and what is his character? This cannot be expressed in a single word, but 'he will be that he will be.' Everything is included in this expression; to be sure this qualification is general and indefinite, but for that very reason it is so rich and so full of meaning: he will be what he has been for the patriarchs, what he is now, and what he will remain: for his people he will be everything."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

IS THE TRINITY AN EXPLICIT BIBLE TEACHING? (Some Revisions)

IS THE TRINITY AN EXPLICIT BIBLE TEACHING?

The foundational teaching of theology is the ontological dogma of the Trinity. Owen Thomas remarks that "in the doctrine of God the most fundamental thing we have to say is that God is self-revealed as triune, as threefold, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Thomas "Intro" 59). Thomas F. Torrance concurs by stating:

"there is in fact no real knowledge of God except through his revealing or naming of himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the three Persons are the one true God" (Torrance "Christian Doctrine" 15). So according to Christian theology proper, humans cannot know God unless they know Him as a threefold Being. Supposedly this is the manner in which He has revealed Himself--as triune. Commenting further on the Trinity, Torrance adds: "the New Testament does not speak of the Holy Trinity in parts or in various statements, for it is his one indivisible Self that God utters in his revelation" (Torrance "Christian Doctrine" 43). This Protestant theologian therefore concludes:

"the central focus of the Gospel upon the Deity of Christ is
the door that opens the way to the understanding of God's triune
self-revelation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Quite clearly a
theological interpretation of the New Testament Scriptures must be at
once both Christological and trinitarian" (49).

It is manifest prima facie where Torrance stands vis-a'-vis the Trinity doctrine. He unequivocally testifies to its alleged truthfulness and avidly insists it is a Biblical teaching. Despite Torrance's utilization of ipse dixit and his frequent appeal to Holy Writ, serious questions linger concerning the Trinity. Is the Trinity teaching implied in the Old Testament? Is it explicit in the New Testament? Does the Bible teach the Trinity?

As with any theological question scholars are divided. Some scholars
say that the Trinity is implicit in the Bible; others say it is not.
Some theologians even claim that the Trinity is explicit in the New Testament. What are we to think?

One reference work that thoroughly discusses this issue is the
excellent book entitled _The Genesis Debate_. This anthological work is filled with intriguing issues derived from the book of Genesis. On
every issue two scholars take opposing viewpoints and argue either for
or against a particular proposition. The crowning point of the book is when two Trinitarians discuss the issue--is the Trinity teaching implicit in the book of Genesis? One erudite says yes,
the Trinity is implicit in the Bible (particularly in the book of Genesis). The other scholar says no, Genesis does not imply a Trinity. He further asserts that the Trinity is not taught in the NT. How does this learned man come to this conclusion? Let's review his arguments.

The scholar I am referring to is Alan J. Hauser (professor of religion
and philosophy at App State). Although possessing definite views
regarding the triune Godhead, his ideas are remarkably objective. On page 110 of the book _The Genesis Debate_, professor Hauser (while debating Eugene Merrill) discusses his views of the Trinity with respect to the Biblical book of Genesis. Hauser contends that "the doctrine of the Trinity is not implied in Genesis 1." In this basic contention, Hauser is not alone. Even Thomas F. Torrance who believes the Trinity without equivocation, offers the same sentiments. After providing extensive documentation from the New Testament to support his belief in the Trinity, Torrance cautions:

"This does not imply that the New Testament presents us with explicit
teaching about the Holy Trinity, far less with a ready-made formal
doctrine of the Trinity, but rather that it exhibits a coherent witness to God's trinitarian self-revelation imprinted upon its
theological content in an implicit conceptual form evident in a whole
complex of implicit references and indications in the gospels and
epistles" (49).

So what is Torrance saying? Is the Trinity an explicit
Bible teaching, according to this theologian? No, it is not. What is
more, Torrance says that the revealed dogma of the Trinity derives from "implicit references and indications in the gospels and epistles." Is it wise, however, to base our understanding of God on "implicit references and indications" recorded in the Bible? Can it lead to an accurate understanding of Almighty God and the "Son of His love"?

Both Hauser and Torrance are trinitarians. Both scholars also admit that the Trinity is not an explicit Bible teaching. Torrance justifies his belief in the Trinity by appealing to implicit Old and New Testament references. What about Hauser, however? How does he justify his position? He explains:

"since there are so many other factors on the basis of which one can affirm or deny the doctrine of the Trinity, it should be obvious that a Christian can simultaneously affirm the doctrine and yet deny that it is implied in Genesis 1" (Hauser "Debate"
111).

These comments help us to appreciate two very significant points.
Firstly, we are not dealing with an adversary of the Trinity when we read the comments of Hauser. Secondly, Hauser admits that there are other factors which influence his decision to affirm the Trinity doctrine, whether it is an explicit Bible teaching or not. In contradistinction to this professor of religion, most Trinitarians say that the Trinity existed in seminal form in the Old Testament (like an acorn)--then it gradually grew into an oak tree in the New Testament (Merrill). It has also been asserted that the second and third century church taught the Trinity doctrine. There have been
many discussions back and forth over this matter and quite a few works
have been published to support both sides. But the evidence indicates
that "the doctrine of the Trinity is a relatively "late" development" (Hauser 111).

Charles Ryrie, Owen Thomas and Jaroslav Pelikan have all outlined the historical developments of the Trinity. All concur that the doctrine of the Trinity is a relatively "late" dogma. Ryrie states that the Trinity is implied in the writings of the early church (first century ecclesia), but it is not explicitly taught in those writings. It was not until 325 C.E. that a formulated creed was published, which "defined" and "clarified" the essential relationship between the Father and the Son. Even at that point, a full-blown doctrine of God' triunity did not exist. The Nicene Council only concluded that the Father and Son are ontologically one: it did not include the Holy
Spirit in the co-substantial relationship supposedly obtaining between the Father and Son. There was simply an implication that the Holy Spirit was in some way associated with the Godhead.
Yes there was an affirmation of belief in the Holy Spirit, but the
Nicene Creed did not put forth a triune statement about God. It would
take another fifty-six years and more "heretical" developments, before
the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was clarified.

Although activities were predicated of the Holy Spirit that can only be predicated of God, the Trinity was still not explicitly called God.
Further addenda or adjustments would be made before the church would
explicitly state that the holy spirit was equal to the Father and the
Son.

One early witness who testifies to these early developments regarding
the Trinity doctrine is Gregory of Nazianzus. In the work _Epistles 58_ Gregory Nazianzus explained the absence of the Holy Spirit from the ancient discussions about the Godhead, by stating that "the
Old Testament proclaimed the Father manifestly, and the Son more
hiddenly. The New [Testament] manifested the Son and suggested the
deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself is resident among us, and
provides a clearer explanation of himself." As late as 380, he wrote, "to be slightly in error [about the Holy Spirit] was to be orthodox." This statement too proves that the orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit was not "clear" until 381. As a matter of fact, this statement further demonstrates that the church neither subscribed to nor affirmed the teaching of the Trinity until 381 C.E. It is clear that the "details" of the Trinity still had to be worked
out (The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. I, p.
213. Cf. also Gregory Nazianzus--Orations 31.5). From a brief look at
these developments, it seems warranted to conclude that the NT does not present a clear expression of the Triune Godhead. Therefore, we could reasonably conclude that neither the primitive church nor the ante-Nicene fathers taught the Trinity. Gregory Nazianzus even proclaimed that Scripture did not, "very clearly
or very often call him [the Holy Spirit] God in so many words, as it does the Father and later on the Son" (Gregory Nazianzus, Orations 31.12).

Gregory's testimony is so important because he lived at the time when the Trinity assimilated its way into Christian didache. Concerning this prominent Christian "father," Jaroslav Pelikan says: "In remarkable summary of the controversy within the orthodox camp, composed in the same year, he [Gregory Nazianzus] declared: "Of the wise men among ourselves, some have conceived of him
[the Holy spirit] as an activity, some as a creature, some as God; and some have been uncertain which to call him . . . And therefore they neither worship him nor treat him with dishonor, but take up a neutral position." He did add, however, that "of those who consider him to be God, some are orthodox in mind only, while others venture to be so with the lips also."

It was apparently not only "careful distinctions, derived from
unpractical philosophy and vain delusion" that could be blamed for this confusion, but also the undeveloped state of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Son in the Trinity." ( The Christian
Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan, p. 213. Cf. Gregory Nazianzus, Orations,
21.33, 31:5. Also Basil, On The Holy Spirit 3.5). Gregory Nazianzus makes it very clear that the Bible is not explicit in the matter of the Trinity. It does not call the holy spirit God "very often or clearly." In fact, German theologian Karl Rahner writes that the NT never applies the Greek term QEOS to the holy spirit. It is also of interest that Scripture never enjoins Christians that prayer should be offered to the Holy Spirit, nor are Christians ever instructed to worship the Spirit of God. These omissions and more appear strange if the Spirit is fully God. Furthermore, we read that "the liturgical usage of the church did not seem to provide instances of worship or prayer addressed to him [The Holy Spirit]" (The Christian Tradition, Vol. I, p. 212). Based on the foregoing information, it seems that one may safely conclude that Hauser's conclusions are valid when he says that the Trinity is of a relatively late origin:

"While the church eventually came to view as
heretical many of the positions presented by early
Christian writers about the nature of Christ, his
person and work, the relationship of the Father to
the Son, etc., most of these nonorthodox positions
are not specifically and unequivocally ruled out by
the New Testament itself. Many of those whose
teachings were later declared unorthodox
maintained that certain New Testament passages
supported their views and argued, sometimes
eloquently, in support of such claims. They could not
have done so if the New Testament were so clear in
delineating the doctrine of the Trinity that positions
other than those eventually spelled out by the
councils were automatically ruled out. We do well to
remember that, on balance, most heretics were not
evil persons who deliberately tried to pervert the
teachings of the New Testament. Many of them were
sincere and well-intentioned interpreters who
advocated theological positions that the Church, in
its wisdom, eventually came to view as wrong" (128).

Lest it be concluded from the above-quoted material that Hauser
denounces non-Trinitarian Christians, note the following:

"There is an excellent example in Mark 15:33-36 of the way in which
different people will place the same words in different contexts . . .
The evangelist, writing for a Christian audience, leads his readers to
understand Jesus' words as an expression of the spirit of affliction
described in Psalm 22. Those standing by the cross, however, understand the same words in the context of their suspicion that Jesus was a messianic revolutionary who planned a rebellion against Rome and conclude that Jesus still expects help from Elijah . . .Thus the same words are understood in two different ways by persons who place them in different contexts of meaning" (128).


Hauser further asseverates that neither John 1, Colossians 1 nor
Hebrews 1 explicitly spell out the doctrine of the Trinity. These
verses "are only individual statements and ideas, which were later
incorporated into the church's doctrine"
(129).

Further evidence is thus provided that the Trinity evidently is not a clear Bible teaching. We must therefore pose the query, should we put faith in a doctrine that does not have explicit Bible support?

Continuing with Hauser's analysis of the explicitness or lack thereof
vis-a'-vis the Trinity, we now turn to the book of Genesis and what it
has to say about the triune Godhead. Genesis 1:2 is one verse invoked
by some who believe that the Old Testament implies the Trinity. This
verse (according to the RSV) reads: "the earth was a formless void and
darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters" (NAB reads similarly).

One of the significant terms in this Scriptural passage is "wind". The Hebrew word translated "wind" is ruach. Some translations render ruach as "spirit" or "active force." Either translation is philologically acceptable. Based on the context of Genesis 1:2, however, Hauser opts for ruach meaning "wind" in this case. He bases his conclusions on the use of ruach in Genesis 6:17; 7:15; 7:22. In early church usage, it seems that there was an extensive debate about how ruach should be translated. Hauser relates: "a number of early church fathers favored 'spirit'; Tertullian vacilated; Epharaem and Theodoret favored 'wind.'" See W.H. McClellan, "The Meaning of Ruah 'Elohim in Gen. 1:2," Biblica 15 (1936) 519-20. H.M. Orlinsky, "The Plain Meaning of RUAH in Gen. 1:2," Jewish Quarterly Review 48, 174-80, cites numerous commentators . . . who argue for "wind" (129).

It is also good to note that ruach is translated "breath" in Psalm
18:15 with reference to the "breath" of God. Concerning God's "breath," Hauser explains:

"unlike the breath of all flesh, the breath (ruach) of God is clearly a powerful force, one that can shake the cosmos. Combined in the idea of the "breath of God" are the analogies of breath (as in human breath) and of a powerful wind" (114).

God is therefore said to possess "breath" in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In actuality, God does not have "breath". This is a Biblical analogy that helps us to appreciate Jehovah's possession of an irresistible, potent, awesome invisible force through which He accomplishes His inexorable sovereign will. This "force" can "shake the cosmos" and I believe that it was employed by God to shape the universe (Ps. 33:6). Genesis does not portray this "breath" (ruach) as a persona, but rather as the active force of God the Father.


This point is suggested by a further analysis of the word ruach in Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament canon. The OT utilizes ruach to denote not only symbolic "breath" but a literal "force" (wind) as well. It is used in this manner in Genesis 8:1 (Cf. also Numbers 11:31). God is also said to walk through the Garden
of Eden in the 'breezy' part of the day. These texts show the manner in which ruach can be translated or understood. Hauser thus concludes
that "wind" (not "spirit") is the best translation of ruach in Genesis 1:2. He bases this understanding on the meaning of ruach as well as the context of Genesis 1.

Can we make a definite assertion about what the ruach is in Genesis 1:2? Was it just "wind" or the ruach Hakodesh of Yahweh? I must admit that I lean toward the idea that the ruach mentioned in Genesis 1:2 refers to God's Holy Spirit. My views are based primarily on Psalm 33:6 and 104:24ff. Although I part ways with Hauser as to what the ruach is in Genesis 1:2, I can agree that there is no implication of a Trinity in Genesis. While the ruach may belong to God, this doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit exists as some third "person" in a triune Godhead. To the contrary, God's Spirit is likened to the "breath of his mouth" in Psalm 33:6. True, God does not literally depend upon some type of "breath" to keep His life sustained--He is completely self existent, with God is the source of life, by light from Him we live and see light (Psalm 36:9)--it is therefore not literal breath discussed in Psalm 33:6, the Bible is simply using analogous language. Yet the analogy teaches us that God's Spirit is not a Person: it is a force. 1 Corinthians 2:11 seems to buttress this notion when it compares the holy spirit to the self-consciousness of God. The appearance of ruach in Genesis 1:2 thereby provides no proof for the Trinity doctrine.

Another significant word we need to analyze is Elohim. Genesis 1:2
associates Elohim with ruach. Some therefore point to the use of Elohim as proof that ruach in Genesis 1:2 denotes God's Spirit (i.e., the supposed third Person of the Trinity). Hauser insists that this is erroneous thinking for two primary reasons: 1)Elohim doesn't always mean "God." At times it can evidently mean, "awesome" or "powerful." WE RUACH ELOHIM would thus denote "a powerful wind sent from God." (Hauser, 117) This definition would harmonize with the thoughts in Hosea 13:15 and Job 30:22. At any rate, no proof would exist for calling the Spirit of God a person. To further elucidate this point, let us notice Hauser's line of
reasoning:

"Let us briefly examine the use of 'spirit of God' in the Old
Testament. The first part of the phrase, 'spirit of,' is commonly used
in the construct state in Hebrew to denote the motivating force or
dynamic power of a person or of God. In 2 Chronicles 36:22 we are told
that 'the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia' to issue
a proclamation allowing worshipers of Israel's God to rebuild His
temple (cf. Ezra 1:1). In 1 Chronicles 5:26 God stirs up 'the spirit of Pul king of Assyria - that is, the spirit of Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria' to carry away some of the tribes of Israel" (118, 119).

Additionally:

"In these instances 'spirit of' does not denote an
entity in any way separate from the person but rather
the active, forceful power of that person (cf. also
Gen. 45:27; 2 Kings 2:15; 1 Sam. 30:12; Hag. 1:14).
Why should we presume that it is different when the
object of the phrase 'spirit of' is God? When we are
told in Judges 14:6 that the 'spirit of the LORD
came mightily upon' Samson, and that Samson tore
apart the lion, does this mean that the Holy Spirit
seized Samson? What is meant instead is that
God's power came upon Samson and gave him
strength (see also, for example, Judg. 6:34, 11:29).
There is *no hint* of a separate person within the
Godhead from the Father acting upon the individual .
. . see, for example, 2 Kings 2:16; 1 Sam. 10:6;
11:6) (119).

Thus Hauser summarizes his view of Genesis 1:2 by demonstrating very
thoroughly that the Old Testament concept of the Spirit of God is not
synonymous with the Trinitarian concept of the Holy Spirit as God. In this evaluation and analysis he is supported by P.K. Jewett who believes that the Holy Spirit (as recorded in the Old Testament) never refers to "a Person distinct from the Father and the Son," but rather "the divine nature viewed as vital energy" (Jewett qtd. by Ryrie 346). While Genesis 1:2 does not provide support for a triune God, there are other passages that scholars turn to in Holy Writ to buttress the Trinity doctrine. In particular, some Trinitarians appeal to Elohim passages.

One of these verses is Genesis 1:26. The ancient lawgiver Moses there
recorded "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness.'" To support their position, Trinitarians often invoke this
verse as proof that God is triune. Does the fact that Genesis 1:26 uses the word "us," and also employs the plural
possessive pronoun "our" mean that Genesis 1:26 endorses or adumbrates the ontological dogma of the Trinity? Before we hastily conclude that this is the case, please note the comments of Charles Ryrie:

"We have . . . suggested that the plural
name for God, Elohim, denotes God's unlimited greatness and supremacy. To conclude plurality of Persons from the name itself is dubious. However, when God speaks of Himself with plural pronouns (Gen. 1:26, 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8) and plural verbs . . . it does seem to indicate distinctions of Persons, though only plurality, not specifically Trinity" (51).

Hauser expands on this argument. He does not think that the use of the
Elohim in Genesis 1:26 proves that Genesis teaches God's triunity. One reason that Hauser concludes this has to do with the Hebrew
word Elohim. Granted, Elohim is morphologically plural as are "us" and "our." But these words, while they might seem to indicate plurality, definitely do not suggest triunity. It must also be kept in mind that in Hebrew it is common for the plural noun to cause the verb to be plural (Cf. Genesis 20:13, 35:7). E.A Speiser therefore renders Genesis 1:26 as follows: "The God said, 'I will make man in my image, after my likeness.'"


Commenting on Deuteronomy 6:4 and its use of Elohim, Baptist seminarian president John. D.W. Watts reports that Elohim conveys "to the Semitic ear the idea of the total sum of divine attributes and powers . . . 'One Lord' conveys the essential idea. He is unique, different, exclusive. He is not many, but one . . . Yahweh is a single unified person. In no sense is he to be understood as represented in diverse forms and appearances in different
places as Baal and other nature deities were" (The Broadman Bible
Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 214).

There is also another probable explanation for Genesis 1:26 and its use of "us" for God. The Hebraic expert Gesenius described the Hebrew word for "us" as a "plural of self-deliberation." Both Gesenius and C. Westermann have upheld this view and classed Isaiah 6:3 in the same category. In other words, what Gesenius says is that God could have been talking or 'deliberating' with Himself at Gen. 1:26. While this is a grammatical possibility, I personally concur with the view which holds that the Father (Jehovah) was addressing His Son at Genesis 1:26 when he said "us" and "our." The New Testament would also appear to support such a conclusion (Col. 1:15-17). At any rate, if God spoke to His Son, this still would not prove the Trinity. Only two persons would be involved, not three. The view that God was "self-deliberating", however, cannot be easily discounted and seems less problematic.

From all these points, what are we to conclude? The weight of the
scholarly and Biblical evidence is that Genesis does not imply a
Trinity. The ruach mentioned at Genesis 1:2 is ambiguous and the plural pronouns found in Genesis 1:26 also don't per se indicate a Trinity, but possibly a plurality. The O.T. does not contain the Trinity in seminal form, but teaches about a God who is truly ONE--the God of the Shema, whose name is Jehovah.

Regards,

Edgar

A Link for Sir Isaac Newton's Work on 1 John 5:7 and 1 Timothy 3:16

See http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cIoPAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA1&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Reliability of God's Word

Frederic G. Kenyon is noted for observing that the "last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed."

Kenyon's statement seems to be correct: Scripture has substantially come down to us as it was written. Despite the attempts to change, alter or corrupt the written Word of God, the Most High Deity Jehovah has protected or guarded His Word, as He duly promised in Holy Writ.

For example, in ancient times, the famed Johannine Comma was added to the first Epistle of John (1 John 5:7). However, many noted scholars (themselves Trinitarians) have produced mounds of evidence showing that the Comma Johanneum should not be included in the Bible. Granted, some may still contend that the Comma belongs in Scripture, but the preponderance of evidence is certainly not in their favor.

Somewhat more innocuously, we find examples of textual variants in the book of Philippians. Philippians 3:21 (in the Majority Text) reads:

EIS TO GENESQAI AUTO SUMMORFON.

But this reading does not appear earlier than the seventh century CE.

The Majority Text also adds XRISTWi in Phil 4:13.
Moises Silva points out nonetheless that while this variant is
attested as early as the fourth century CE, "the omission
has much wider and stronger attestation" (Philippians,
236). All the same, I don't find either reading
particularly problematic for my faith.

Finally, we have 1 Timothy 3:16, which has QEOS in some
texts rather than hOS. But If one seriously examines this
matter, he/she will find that the reading
QEOS appears no earlier than the eighth or ninth
century CE. Metzger demonstrates the superior status of
the lectio hOS over QEOS in 1 Tim 3:16, something even Isaac Newton discerned years prior to Metzger and
other textual critics.

In closing, I'd also like to refer you to a book
written by Neil Lightfoot entitled "How We Got the
Bible." Lightfoot's work is accessible but scholarly.
He convincingly demonstrates that we can put trust in
the 66 holy books that we have in our
possession today. He also shows how claims about
textual variations have often been exaggerated. For
instance, let us suppose that we have 1000 copies of a
work and 500 copies contain one clausal variant. That
is, there is one clause in 500 copies of the book that
differs from the other 500 books that have the same identical
clause in each of them. In this kind of situation,
how many variant readings might one be justified in
saying there are in the 500 books? Would there be one clausal
variant that occurs 500 times or 500 clausal variants altogether?

Some who (wittingly or unwittingly) desire to magnify
biblical variants would probably--in fact, many times
are--be inclined to say that there were 500 different
readings in the scenario presented above. But why
could we not say that there is simply one variant that
occurs 500 times? My point is that sometimes disparate
readings are counted where there is really no need to
do so. Lightfoot discusses this point and provides a
lucid account of why it is wrong-headed to tabulate
repeats of a distinct reading as additional
occurrences of the said variant.

Agape,
Edgar

Sunday, May 16, 2010

F.C. Conybeare on 1 John 5:7

See http://www.1john57.com/conybeare.htm or just click on the title of this blog entry.

Regards,

Edgar

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tentative Outline for a Book on Divine Property instantiation

1. What is a PROPERTY?

a. Concreta
b. Abstracta
c. Monadic
d. Polyadic
e. Relational
f. Functional
g. first-order
h. second-order

2. The Problem of Universals

a. Plato
b. Difficulties with Platonism
c. Aristotle and Hylomorphism
d. Philo
e. Augustine of Hippo
f. Medieval Scholasticism
g. Ockham, Aquinas and Scotus
h. Peter Abelard

3. Divine Property Instantiation

a. Which Properties might God instantiate?
b. Scriptural testimony to divine property instantiation.
c. How Divine Property Instantiation May Provide a Coherent Account of Universals
d. Addressing a Possible Kantian Objection to the Approach Used in this Work

Elizabeth Anscombe on Murder

What is murder? How should we define the word?

Elizabeth Anscombe argues that the central idea of murder is the "unjust killing of humans" (see p. 8 of her work Ethics, Religion and politics). Murder is thus not simply a legal concept. For instance, think about the horrific acts that were committed during the Nazi regime. Whether there was a written law against the Holocaust or not, one could still rightly contend that Hitler and his forces murdered other human beings on a grand scale. Anscombe points out that if we restrict "murder" to a legal concept, we will end up committing the error of Thrasymachus, namely, legal positivism.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Interesting Quote from John the Damascene on God and Time

Before the world was formed, when there was as yet no sun dividing day from night, there was not an age such as could be measured, but there was the sort of temporal motion and interval that is co-extensive with eternity. And in this sense there is but one age, and God is spoken of as AINIOS and PROAIWNIOS, for the age or æon itself is His creation. For God, Who alone is without beginning, is Himself the Creator of all things, whether age or any other existing thing. And when I say God, it is evident that I mean the Father and His Only begotten Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and His all-holy Spirit, our one God (John the Damascene, De Fide 2.1).


I included the part about the one God being the tripersonal God in order that I could not be accused of clipping the quote or taking it out of context.

Best regards,

Edgar

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Loren Johns on the Rhetoric of Revelation

Some of you might be interested in this piece by Dr. Loren Johns on the non-violent ethic and rhetoric of John's Apocalypse.

http://www.ambs.edu/ljohns/LambRPAJ.htm

Best regards,

Edgar

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gerald Bray on Tertullian's "Trinitarianism"

Church historian Gerald Bray writes:

"In his counterblast to Praxeas, Tertullian came as
near as he could to trinitarianism, without abandoning
his fundamentally monotheistic and, to our minds,
unitarian position. The Father always remained God in
a way which did not apply to the other two persons,
however much he might share his power and authority
with them."

See Bray's _The Doctrine of God_, pages 130-131_ for the full
details. Similar points are mentioned in my work on
Tertullian.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Figurative Language Regarding God in the Early Fathers

I am often amazed at the part that figurative language and metaphor played in the early church. For example, note how Melito of Sardis interprets the scriptural language about YHWH and his Son:

See http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.x.v.xvi.html#x.v.xvi-p48.1%20Melito