Friday, September 23, 2011

APANTHSIS as a TERMINUS TECHNICUS (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

The Greek term APANTHSIS is used in the ancient Hellenistic world as a technical term (TERMINUS TECHNICUS) to describe citizens who would go out to meet a visiting dignitary and escort him back to the city from which the citizens emanated. See The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament by Rogers and Rogers (page 479); Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan), page 53; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1:380-381.

I think we should not read too much into the metaphorical language in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The imagery that Paul uses regarding APANTHSIS should probably be correlated with John 14:2-3, which suggests that Christ the bridegroom goes away to prepare a place for his bride (the EKKLHSIA), then returns to carry his figurative bride home. A.T. Robertson (Word Pictures) thus states that there is not enough evidence (based on APANTHSIS alone) to tell us whether the risen holy ones continue heavenward with the Lord or continue descending to the earth. F.F. Bruce argues similarly and R.L. Thomas unequivocally contends that one should not infer too much from Paul's utilization of a word that functioned as a technical term in other ancient documents.

In conclusion, I would submit that it is ill-advised to construe or apply every little aspect of a metaphor. As Max Black maintains, metaphors both emphasize and suppress meaning. They also possibly create new meaning through an interaction of what Black calls the "frame" and "focus." For Black, a metaphor constitutes a sentence (the frame) in which primary and secondary subjects (i.e., concepts) appear. One example of a metaphor that might illustrate Black's distinction is "Man is a wolf." The sentence is the frame, "man" is the primary subject and "wolf" is the secondary subject. The term "wolf" emphasizes and suppresses meaning about wolves and man. Most people interpret the turn of phrase to mean that man is ferocious or ravenous. However, wolves have a number of positive traits (e.g., altrusism, social traits) that we frequently overlook due to what Black calls "associated commonplaces" (ENDOXA) about wolves.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interesting Blog Post About Pietersma's View of the Tetra




Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Metaphorical Use of "Father" for God

One friend once asked me: "Why the reticence about its [the term "Father"] applying to God's being? Why think that it couldn't?"

I replied:

First, let us prescind from the matter of God being
"Father" with respect to the eternal generation of the
Son or the Son's creation, as I believe. In whatever
sense God is Father, and we both agree that He is
"Father" in some sense, let's agree to bracket such
notions and consider the concept of divine fatherhood

I hesitate to think of "Father" as an ontological
designation because I don't believe one can hold this
position consistently when it comes to theological
metaphors. Let's also be clear what I mean by saying
the title "Father" does not apply ontologically. I
mean to say that God is not masculine (which I
distinguish from maleness) ontologically nor has the
deity somehow brought forth (in a manner closely
resembling the human reproduction process) a Son.

When I state that it seems one cannot consistently
believe God is Father in that the divine one is
transcendently masculine, some examples may explain my
position better than propositions would detail it.
Consider that Ps 23:1 refers to YHWH as David's
Shepherd. If we think of God as a Shepherd in His very
being, what sense does that make? Are we to believe
that God exemplifies the properties of a shepherd,
whatever they are to some eminent and transcendent
degree? Moreover, the apostle John's Apocalypse speaks
of God and the Lamb as the temple of New Jerusalem. To
me, the description is a metaphor of God and the
Lamb's function in relation to the figurative
eschatological city. Do you believe that Revelation
21:23 refers to God ontologically as the temple of New
Jerusalem? That is, is God more of a temple than the
temple in Jerusalem was? Stated another way, does the
Christian deity instantiate the properties of a temple
more transcendently than Solomon's Temple did?
Finally, Paul refers to Jerusalem above [edited] as the "mother"
of Christians. Please explain to me how Galatians 4:26
applies to the Church's being [ontos], rather than to its
function. In what sense is the Church ontologically

[Note: My interlocutor believes that Jerusalem above is the ecclesia.-EF]

John Cooper writes:

"From the time of the Church Fathers, teachers of the
faith have used this doctrine [of divine genderlessness]
to explain that calling God Father does not imply that God is MASCULINE.
Thus the doctrine helps us rightly to interpret Scripture. It
prevents us from wrongly inferring from the gendered
language in Scripture that God is MASCULINE while we
work to understand what this language does mean . . ."
(_Our Father in Heaven_, page 188-189).

On this issue, I must concur with Arnobius of Sicca (a
somewhat controversial early church figure) who
evidently is not being unorthodox when he queries:

"For who, however mean his capacity, does not know
that the sexes of different GENDER have been ordained
and formed by the Creator of the creatures of earth,
only that, by intercourse and union of bodies, that
which is fleeting and transient may endure being ever
renewed and maintained?" (Against the Nations 3.8)

IN NUCE, there is no need of gender where there is no
reproductive activity. God doesn't need to be
masculine or feminine QUOAD SE because God doesn't
literally produce little boys and girls, wee angels
and angelettes. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Origen's Commentary on John (Regarding the Deity of Christ)

Taken from Commentary on John II.2:

We next notice John's use of the article in these sentences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue. In some cases he uses the article, and in some he omits it. He adds the article to the Logos, but to the name of God he adds it sometimes only. He uses the article, when the name of God refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the Logos is named God. Does the same difference which we observe between God with the article and God without it prevail also between the Logos with it and without it? We must enquire into this. As the God who is over all is God with the article not without it, so "the Logos" is the source of that reason (Logos) which dwells in every reasonable creature; the reason which is in each creature is not, like the former called par excellence The Logos. Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other. To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, [John 17:3] "That they may know You the only true God;" but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, "The God of gods, the Lord, has spoken and called the earth." It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is "The God," and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God is at all times God, not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father, and not continuing to be God, if we should think of this, except by remaining always in uninterrupted contemplation of the depths of the Father.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cotterell and Turner on KEFALH

While actually looking for something else,
I found some helpful information concerning
KEFALH in Peter Cotterell and Max
Turner's Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation(London: SPCK, 1989). See pp. 141-145.

Turner and Cotterell review GNT examples such as Col
2:19; 1 Cor 11:3 and Eph 5:23. They write:

"Now contextually it is by no means certain that Col
2:19 presents Christ as the origin, rather than as the
Lord of the Church, but clearly it would considerably
weaken the thesis if the sense 'source' was part of
the lexical meaning of the Greek word KEFALH ('head');
that is, if it were one of its established senses"
(page 141).

But is "source" one of the established senses of
KEFALH? After discussing LXX and Classical examples
where KEFALH is employed by ancient writers, these
scholars conclude:

"In other words, as far as we can tell, 'source' or
'origin' was NOT a conventional sense of the word
KEFALH in Paul's time. This does not preclude the
possibility that Paul himself began to use the word in
such a way, but we would need very strong evidence to
support such a view, and in our judgment nothing like
such strength of evidence is forthcoming" (145).

While, as Cotterell and Turner show, there does not
appear to be enough evidence in favor of
"source" being one of the lexical senses of KEFALH in
Paul's time, we do have attestation for the meaning
"ruler" or "authority over." Paul apparently used
KEFALH in this way, when he penned these inspired
words to the Ephesians:


Friday, September 09, 2011

Paradoxes of Jesus, Bowman and a Possible Sleight of Hand

On pp. 74-76 of Why You Should Believe in the
, Robert M. Bowman, Jr. includes a section dealing with so-called "paradoxes of Jesus." Bowman seemingly puts a nail in the coffin of non-Trinitarians
(particularly, Jehovah's Witnesses) who think that the Incarnation of Christ concept is notionally meaningless or incoherent (i.e contradictory). Bowman argues that since Christ was both 100% God and 100% man (fully God and fully human) while on earth, we should not be surprised to read Bible verses that picture the Son of God both professing ignorance of the "day and hour" in Mk 13:32 and knowing "all things" in Jn 16:30.

Bowman also contends that while it is true that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) and Jesus could be (and was) tempted in the days of his flesh (Heb 4:15)--Jesus could not sin (Jn 5:19).

There are other texts that Bowman appeals to in order to support the Incarnation as a biblical concept. I pick these two arguments to focus on though because they seem blatantly problematic to me.

Firstly, Jesus' disciples did say that he knew "all things" (OIDAS PANTA) in the Johannine verse mentioned by Bowman (Jn 16:30). As with other biblical texts, however, we must not only note what the Bible says; we must also seek to ascertain what a given scriptural utterance means. Were Jesus' disciples actually saying that they believed he was omniscient? If so, this would be a remarkable confession from a group of first century monotheistic Jews. In fact, it is highly unlikely that Jesus' followers were attributing omniscience to him. Mr. Bowman seems to be engaging in what a friend of mine has called "prestidigitation." His handling of Jn 16:30 does not appear to be all that rigorous, and it is evidently driven by some type of personal ideology. Simply put,
Jn 16:30 does not teach that Christ was or is omniscient.

PANTA is apparently not employed in an absolute sense at Jn 16:30. John's use of the Greek word should be construed in a relative sense, meaning that Christ knew "all things" to a degree. To illustrate what I am saying about Jn 16:30, I appeal to 1 Jn 2:27:


In this passage, John informs his readers that God's "anointing" teaches spirit-begotten Christians about "all things." Yet, John is not employing PANTWN here in an absolute sense. The spirit of God does not teach those whom God anoints about physics, geometry, logic, foreign languages or marine biology. The children of God are taught subject matter that concerns everlasting life or salvation (1 Jn 2:25), not knowledge associated with the famed quadrivium or trivium (et al.).

Trinitarian commentator Gerald Borchert explains Jn 16:30 thus:

They [the disciples] were partly correct in their
assumption that Jesus had great knowledge . . . Their
generalization of how much knowledge Jesus had ('all
things,' PANTA) was, however, a typical human
overstatement that was far beyond their actual
capacity to comprehend. It was merely one of their
assumptions. Such an assumption has often become part
of our theological assumptions about the incarnate
Jesus' knowledge, even though elsewhere, for example,
he states that he did not know the time of the end
(cf. Mark 13:32). Moreover, Paul states that he
'emptied himself' ('made himself nothing,' NIV;
hEAUTON EKENWSEN, Phil 2:7), although we are not quite
sure of the full implications of that statement
(John 12-21, page 180).

In Alford's Greek testament, we read this paraphrase
of Jn 16:30:

Thou hast spoken so clearly of our feeling towards
Thee and of Thyself, that we have no occasion to ask
Thee anything;--and this was what Thou didst announce
would be;--we know therefore, by its being so, that
Thou knowest the secrets of our hearts (PANTA by
inference),--and hence believe that Thou camest forth
from God.'

Notice that Alford limits PANTA to the "secrets" of the disciples' hearts. Bowman may claim that only God can read hearts, but the disciples did not necessarily believe that only God could discern hearts. They affirmed that Christ was "from God" and it is conceivable that they believed Christ had knowledge of human thoughts based on the things he learned from his Father (Jn 7:16-18) In any event, it seems clear that the disciples were not imputing omniscience to Christ. A "great knowledge" of many things or an intimate acquaintance with a vast array of facts does not make one omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. Contra Borchert, I tend to believe that the words of Jn 16:30 simply constitute an idiomatic way to use a Greek term that can mean "all things." It is not necessarily an "overstatement," but Borchert nonetheless illustrates why one need not interpret the text as an apostolic declaration of Christ's omniscience.

As a closing note, has anyone else noticed how problematic it is to use Jn 5:19 as a proof that Christ was sinless or could not sin? The context of the passage is dealing with Christ observing and emulating the works of the Father toward the creation. The text has nothing to do with Christ's ability or inability to sin.