Friday, December 21, 2012

My Review of Edward Feser's work The Last Superstition (Abbreviated)

Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Feser for producing a work that effectively (for the most part) dismantles the fragile straw house of ideas that has been constructed by the so-called "new atheists" (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens). Feser employs wit, mental acuity and reason to refute the claims made by Dawkins and company. I have enjoyed reading his work, although like any other book, it has strong points and weaknesses. In reviewing this publication, I have pointed out what I perceive to be strengths or weaknesses.

1. The discussion on nominalism versus realism (theory of universals) was one of the best parts of Feser's book. While I do not agree with his depiction of nominalism in toto, I believe that the discussion is relatively simple. The author's illustration of realism which involves the example of a rubber ball was excellent. Since I teach undergraduates, I really appreciated his approach and how it helps one to understand the Aristotelian or Platonic claims regarding universals. See pages 57-62 for Feser's treatment of Aristotelian hylomorphism along with a discussion of both moderate and extreme realism.

2. Feser also critiques the Humean "attack" on causation/causality (pages 105-110). David Hume (1711-1776) argues that he is able to conceive a thing (a bowling ball, for example) coming into existence without a cause. However, Feser addresses this "argument" by noting that Hume is conflating or confusing the verb "conceive" with the verb "imagine." But the two actions delineated by the respective verbs "conceive" and "imagine" clearly are not the same acts. It is conceptually possible to grasp the concept of a "chiliagon" (a thousand-sided figure) but that does not mean it is conceptually possible to form a distinct mental image of a chiliagon. Hume's argument suggests that he fails to understand this important distinction.

3. The Last Superstition continuously exploits the notion of Aristotelian final causality. The final cause is the telos (i.e. end, result, goal, function or purpose) of a thing. One might say that an oak tree is the final cause of an acorn or that the final cause of a human embryo is a full grown adult. Aristotle believed that most everything in our natural world has a final cause: trees, humans, animals, and artificial objects all have a telos. Thomas Aquinas thus used Aristotle's thought on causes to build a case for the existence of God via unaided natural reason. See pages 114-119 of Feser's work.

4. Having mentioned some positive things about Feser's work, please allow me to include some critical feedback in this portion of my review. Feser has a wry sense of humor. Sometimes his jokes hit the mark and sometimes they do not. There are paragraphs in this book wherein the sarcasm and cockiness just drips like water. Some of the remarks are indeed amusing. Moreover, Dawkins and company probably deserve the sarcasm directed at them. Nevertheless, I would have loved to see less sarcasm, less of a smart-alecky tone and more seriousness pertaining to the task at hand.

5. Feser might also have stayed on task a little more rather than being diverted by political issues or didactic moralizing about contemporary moral topics. The arguments that he makes, for example, against abortion do not contribute directly to his general thesis, although I concur with his take on the issue.

6. Finally, Feser responds to the new atheists on the subject of mind. He contends that universals must exist and if they do in fact exist, then our thoughts about triangularity or squareness (two universals) must be immaterial. After making these observations, Feser maintains that neuroscientific findings cannot rightly be used to refute this Aristotelian and Thomist concept since Aquinas is not doing science (understood in the modern sense of the word) but metaphysics when he insists that universals especially qua concepts and the mind cannot be material things. I do not agree when Feser says that the findings of neuroscience (for instance) should not count against Aristotelian metaphysical demonstrations. Nor does it seem that one must construe mental concepts as immaterial, based on what neuroscience and reflections from modern philosophy of mind have yielded. The findings of neuroscience (like other forms of human knowledge) are provisional. But accounts regarding consciousness being a higher-level brain process have already been developed by philosophers and neuroscientists.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Gospel of Mark's Rhetorical Style

The Gospel of Mark is generally portrayed as being plain or uncultivated and even ungrammatical at points. In his NIB commentary on Mark, Larry Hurtado observes:

"To begin with basics, Mark's account is heavily narrative, conveying the feeling of fast-paced action. His Greek style is simple and unsophisticated, using many simple sentences connected by the word for 'and.' A comparison of events found in Mark and in the other Gospels will show that his version often seems wordy and less well constructed" (page 11).

However, Hurtado offers this qualification of his opening statements regarding the literary style of Mark:

"Yet, Mark did employ certain techniques that demonstrate some skill and literary intent. As we shall see, he sometimes quotes, but more frequently alludes to, the OT and seems to have expected his readers to be sufficiently familiar with it to appreciate these allusions" (ibid.).

(1) According to Hurtado, Mark's Gospel is "heavily narrative" and fast-paced. Therefore, we would expect certain literary devices or discourse markers to be present in Mark and they are. Indeed, one feature of the Gospel of Mark that is striking is the writer's continual use of the Greek EUQUS. It is no wonder that A. T. Robertson (A Grammar of the Greek NT) writes:

"broken and parenthetic clauses are frequent (cf. 7:19 KAQARIZWN); at times he is pleonastic (2:20 TOTE EN EKEINH TH hHMERA); he uses EUQUS (W. H.) 41 times; he is emotional and vivid, as shown by descriptive adjectives, questions and exclamations (cf. 1:24; 2:7); the intermingling of tenses (9:33ff., EPHRWTA . . . LEGIE . . . EIPEN) is not due to ignorance of Greek or to artificiality, as Swete well says, but to 'a keen sense of the reality and living interest of facts; there are 151 historic presents in the W. H. text against 78 in Matthew and 4 in Luke; there is frequent and discriminating use of prepositions (2:1, 2, 10, 13); the connective is usually KAI rather than DE, seldom OUN; there is little artistic effect, but much simplicity and great vividness of detail; the vernacular KOINH is dominant with little literary
influence, though EIPEN, PAIDIOQEN and OYIA are held so by Norden" (pp. 118-119).

(2) It has often been said that Mark's account of Jesus' life contains ungrammatical constructions. But one scholar, who challenges this charge, is David A. Black. Black faces this oft-mentioned criticism of Mark by utilizing the tools of discourse analysis and descriptive linguistics. Black's essay can be found in Linguistics and NT Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis. Nashville: Broadman
Press, 1992.

The name of Black's study is "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations" on pp. 90-98 of the above referenced publication, which he edits along with Katharine Barnwell and Stephen Levinsohn.

Discourse analysis refers to the inspection of macrostructures (i.e. phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs and entire compositions) as opposed to lexemes or individual units of sound-meaning (otherwise known as words). Richard A. Young points out that discourse analysis examines genre, structure, cohesion, propositions, relations, prominence, and setting as well.

Discourse analysis is a top-down approach to communicative situations. It probes context (the socio-political and religious climate or Sitz im Leben), the co-text (literary context of a text) and the text itself rather than simply focusing on the potential significations of sound-forms.

In any event, Black avails himself of discourse analytical principles and a descriptivist approach (linguistically) to refute the charge that Mark's Greek is ungrammatical at times. I highly recommend his essay along with Robertson's big grammar which contains information on each NT book and its style. Moreover, Nigel Turner has penned a book on style that also deserves consideration.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Revelation 22:3 and Daniel 7:27

George W. Buchanan contends that the singular third person pronoun in Rev 22:3 (AUTWi) could refer to God or to the Lamb: he does not argue that the pronoun must refer to both referents or antecedents.

One line of reasoning that indicates God receives LATREIA, writes Buchanan, is the fact that the hOI DOULOI could potentially be priests of God, and then they would be rendering LATREIA to the God whom they serve as priests and "slaves" (Rev 1:5-6).

On the other hand, Buchanan continues, Dan 7:27 (LXX) shows that the present nations and governments will one day become "subject to the saints and, of course, also to their leader, the Son of Man, who is here [Rev 22:3] called the Lamb" (Buchanan 612ff).

Buchanan thus seems to argue that strictly speaking the "saints" (holy ones) of the Most High actually receive the honor and obedience mentioned at Dan 7:27; but it seems that he wants to suggest that by the nations subjecting themselves to the holy ones, they also by default render homage to the leader of the holy ones. In this regard, Buchanan may be correct. But this line of reasoning does not seem to demonstrate that the Son of Man is the one who receives LATREIA in Rev 22:3. LATREIA is evidently not mentioned in Dan 7:27.

As Buchanan continues, however, it becomes clear that he is not claiming that the Messiah technically is worshiped or is ever ontologically on par with the Divine One. He appeals to his notion of forensic agency in which one has a principal and a legal agent to establish this point.

The legal agent may receive deference that is really directed toward the principal. But this fact does not indicate that the legal agent is equal (ontologically) to the principal. The concept of legal agency may well illustrates the relationship between the Father and the son of God. At any rate, it is clear that Buchanan is in no way arguing that the Lamb receives worship as the Father receives worship (LATREIA). But as we have also established hitherto, God is the most likely referent of AUTWi in Rev 22:3. He is the one whose face will be seen by those who are part of the first resurrection (1 Jn 3:1-3; Rev 20:4-6). God likely is the object of priestly LATREIA.

As a side note: Edward J Young (The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary) writes that the antecedent of the pronoun in the latter part of Dan 7:27 "is people, not Most High."

Louis Hartman and Alexander Di Lella (Anchor Bible Commentary on Daniel) also note that the pronominal suffix of MALKUTEH refers to 'AM ('people') and not to the Most High. It thus seems possible that both the Hebrew text and the LXX say the "holy ones" are obeyed in Dan 7:27.

Source: Buchanan's Mellen Series Commentary on Revelation


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Does Revelation 20:9 Necessarily Rule Out the Heavenly Hope?

In his 3-volume commentary on Revelation, David Aune delineates the hermeneutical possibilities for the Greek expression τὴν παρεμβολὴν τὼν ἁγίων in Revelation 20:9a. They are

1) The heavenly city.
2) The encampment of the people of God which is identical with "the beloved city."
3) The encampment of the people of God stationed outside the city in expectation of the impending attack.
4) The martyrs with Christ in Jerusalem (Revelation 14:1-5).
5) An army of angels (perhaps the force mentioned in Revelation 19:14) that is "bivouacked" in Jerusalem's vicinity. In fact, Eichhorn renders the phrase with the Latin wording "castra angelorum" (cf. 2 Kings 6:17; 1QM 7:6 and 19:1).

Number 1) is taken from the commentary on Revelation by R. H. Charles. He argues that the heavenly city descends to the earth, but as I've noted previously, his interpretation is not necessarily the correct one. The heavenly city could be under attack insofar as its representatives are being assailed. Jesus taught that if you harm his brothers, you hurt him. Remember the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me"?

Number 5) might also be a viable possibility.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Etymological Significance of the Preposition DIA

Romans 11:36 has DIA + the genitive which can be translated either as "through" or "by." Either translation is able to communicate the notion of intermediate agency, I would say. Colossians 1:16 is also DIA + genitive and Hebrews 2:10 is DIA + the genitive case (DI' hOU). What will determine how one renders the construction should be context or translator preference. But, as I see it, nothing is wrong with communicating agency with "through" or "by." BDAG shows that DIA may be used as a "marker of instrumentality or circumstance whereby someth. is accomplished or effected, by, via, through" (page 224); DIA can also be a "marker of pers. agency, through, by" (BDAG, 225).

In John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16, DIA is used of "Christ as intermediary in the creation of the world" (BDAG, 225).

I examined a number of grammars that I own and one helpful resource I found was A.T. Robertson's A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. On p. 580, Robertson quotes Delbruck who has "nothing to say" about the origin of DIA. Nevertheless, Robertson proceeds to offer a number of illuminating comments on this Greek preposition, wherein he notes that "there is no doubt about DIA being kin to DUO, DIS. (cf. Sanskrit DVIS, Greek DIS, b = v or U); German ZWEI; English two (fem. and neut.), twain (masc.), twi-ce, twi-light, be-tween, two-fold, etc."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Discussion on 1 Peter 3:19

Paul J. Achtemeier has a very thorough discussion on 1 Pet. 3:19 in his commentary on Peter's First Epistle that you can find in the Hermeneia series. He carefully reviews the explanations that have been posited vis-a'-vis 1 Pet. 3:19 and he then writes: "There is a clear Jewish tradition, however, in which the angelic beings of Gen. 6:1-6, whose disobedience caused the flood, were subsequently imprisoned" (Achtemeier 256). He adds: "That it is this tradition which underlies the reference to 'spirits' in our verse seems therefore likely to be the case" (256).

So while Achtemeier is not really dogmatic about the identity of the spirits in 1 Pet. 3:19--he does suggest that the view which I have advanced is probably the least problematic approach.

My questions to you would be, what is the point of introducing angels at 3:19, and what was Jesus accomplishing by going to a special group of angels already in prison?

According to the discourse structure or context of 1 Pet. 3:19, there are a number of good reasons why Peter introduced the wicked spirits or angels in his discussion. Keep in mind that Peter is trying to show his brothers and sisters why they should suffer for the sake of righteousness (1 Pet. 3:16,17). In 3:18, he employs the example of Christ as a (the) model for all Christian believers. Since Christ suffered and subsequently died for our sins, though he was and is righteous, and since his ignominious and painful death opened the way for humans to approach God with a clean conscience, since he was also put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit and in this state (as the NWT says) he went and assured the angels of their doom--we too should suffer as Christ did and desist from sins, while asking God for a good conscience by being baptized in water through the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 3:18-4:1, 2). So the example of the fallen angels helps us to see the consequences of apostatizing from God. The mention of these rebellious spirits also impresses on us the fact that the waters of baptism (the antitype of the flood) can either serve as a salvific step to those who avail themselves of this godly provision. But baptism will not profit those who refuse to be immersed through the resurrection of Christ. Achtemeier thus suggests that Peter employs the story about the angels so that "Christians can face their future with confidence, despite whatever suffering that future may portend, because Christ has triumphed over the most powerful forces of the universe. The salvation Christ promises is therefore sure, and confidence in that Lord can sustain Christians until the final judgment, whose coming is sure and whose advent will rescue Christians from their tormented lives" (Achtemeier 246).

[Edgar continued]
As I will show later, KHRUSSW does not always refer to proclaiming the Gospel.

I said that it does so when Jesus is used with it, that is when he is the
one doing it in the NT. I did not say that it always referred to
proclaiming the Gospel.

In your message dated 00-11-26 17:15:20 EST, you wrote: "i think of Jesus' preaching as positive because the Greek word kerussw, when used with Jesus in the NT, always has a positive connotation of a preaching of the Gospel."

But please notice that Jesus himself evidently used the word KHRUGMA to describe the message that Jonah preached to the men of Nineveh (Matt. 12:41; Lk. 11:32). The LXX also has KHRUSSW at Jonah 1:2 in delineating Jonah's message of doom. Achtemeier concludes that KHRUSSW "does not automatically mean that the content of the proclamation is forgiveness or salvation" (262).

Another work states: "In 1 Peter 3:19 there is no reference to evangelizing, but to the act of Christ, after his resurrection, in proclaiming His victory to fallen spirits"(Zodhiates, Complete Word Study: NT, page 928).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Answering Objections to the New Jerusalem Post

Certain objections have been set forth in reply to my New Jerusalem blog entry that I will now address:

1) I have written that the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-5) descends from heaven in John's vision, but it does not light upon earth in the vision. That view may be logically inferred; however, it's not exactly what the text itself says. Revelation 21:2 states: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (NIV). Later, we read: "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." In both sets of passages, we have the Greek structure καταβαίνουσαν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ which includes the present active participle καταβαίνουσαν. The present morphology of the verb suggests progressive (not completed) action. The visionary never claims that the city became situated on earth. Some have interpreted the city's descent as an ongoing thing, whereas Gregory K. Beale understands the descent as a reference to the future because of how participles function in relation to finite verbs. In either case, we don't have to understand the city's descent in terms of completed action.

2) A further objection contends that the city and its descent are literal "within the apocalyptic imagery" of John's revelation. Revelation 3:12 supposedly buttresses this line of reasoning. But the language contained in 3:12 can be interpreted figuratively. One can become a symbolic "pillar" in the temple of God (Galatians 2:9) and emblematically have the name of God's holy city written upon one's person (Revelation 14:1). There's no need to interpret the discourse literally. For notice that Christ also promises to write his new name and the name of his God upon the loyal overcomer. Are we to construe all of these promises literally? Beale (The Book of Revelation, 295) writes that the pillar imagery of Revelation 3:12 "is a metaphor for the believer."

3) It's clear that we're talking about a symbolic visionary city (Revelation 21:9). If the city is actually the Lamb's bride, then a literal polis is not the focus of John's discourse. Additionally, this city has representatives on earth who suffer attack in the city's behalf. Just as Jehovah is personally distressed when opposers persecute his people, so the holy city is affected by attacks that are launched against its representatives. Compare Zechariah 2:8; Revelation 12:13. I thank "a servant of Jehovah" for reminding me of that last reference.

4) My criticism of Middleton invoking Revelation 5:9-10 is that he prefers the rendering "on the earth" whereas it should more likely be "over the earth." As I have written elsewhere, I do not understand the translation "over the earth" as a reference to location. Rather, it signifies authority: the kings and priests will exercise authority towards the earth. The text is not communicating the idea that Christian kings and priests will be located above the earth in terms of spatial orientation.

But Middleton renders the verse incorrectly, IMO. And while Exodus 19:5-6 may constitute a hermeneutical lens through which Revelation 5:9-10 may be read and understood, the latter text does not technically quote the former. It's an allusion at best. Finally, my interlocutor accepts the inference that since Exodus 19:5-6 is probably a restatement of the promise to Abraham, therefore, the blessing promised to Abraham must entail living forever on earth without any hope of heavenly life. But no such logical entailment necessarily follows from any of these premises.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Historian Brian Tierney on Papal Infallibility

"If the popes have always been infallible in any meaningful sense of the word--if their official pronouncements as heads of the church on matters of faith and morals have always been unerring and so irreformable--then all kinds of dubious consequences ensue. Most obviously, twentieth century popes would be bound by a whole array of past papal decrees reflecting the responses of the Roman church to the religious and moral problems of former ages . . . To defend religious liberty would be 'insane' and to persecute heretics commendable. Judicial torture would be licit and the taking of interests on loans a mortal sin. The pope would rule by divine right 'not only the universal church but the whole world.' Unbaptized babies would be punished in Hell for all eternity. Maybe the sun would still be going around the earth. All this is impossible of course. No one understands the fact better than modern theologians of infallibility. If past popes have always been infallible--again, we must add, in any meaningful sense of the word--then present popes are hopelessly circumscribed in their approaches to all the really urgent moral problems of the twentieth century, problems involving war, sex, scientific progess, state power, social obligations, and individual liberties . . . Real infallibility has regrettable implications. In the years since 1870, therefore, theologians have devoted much ingenuity to devising a sort of pseudo-infallibility for the pope, a kind of Pickwickian infallibility" (Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility: 1150-1350, pages 2-3).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Will New Jerusalem Literally Descend to the Earth?

J. Richard Middleton has written an article in which he posits the view that earth will be the only eternal home for mankind post-eschaton.

While I obviously agree with Middleton concerning the hope for everlasting or eternal life on earth, I could not disagree with him more when he argues that no Christian will find his/her everlasting dwelling place in heaven (Daniel 7:13-14, 27; 2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

First, I believe that much of his problem derives from weak exegesis in connection with the relevant texts. I am not a professional exegete but I have been reading the Scriptures for over twenty years with an intense desire to understand what they say. I find that Middleton arrives at sweeping conclusions based on a hasty analysis of the germane Biblical verses he discusses.

For instance, it is true that Revelation 21:2, 10 speaks of New Jerusalem "coming down out of heaven from God" (KATABAINOUSAN EK TOU OURANOU TOU QEOU) arrayed as a bride. However, the text does not explicitly say that the city lands on earth, even if that is a valid inference that one might derive from its language. Moreover, we must remember that John was beholding a vision of things that would occur in the Lord's day. Revelation 21:10 tells us that the apostle was taken to a mountain on which he saw New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. The curious thing about the city, however, is that one wonders how it could ever fit on earth in view of its dimensions (Revelation 21:15-17). It is obvious that the city is figurative (Revelation 21:9) and that the motif of descent (KATABASIS) should not be literally
construed (Compare Exodus 19:11). Other commentators have interpreted this passage in similar ways.

Bruce Malina notes that the "holy city" is "of astronomical proportions, since it measures 12,000 stadia in length, width, and height" (_The New Jerusalem in the Revelation of John_, 54).

After pointing out that the city of New Jerusalem is a cube, Malina cites Pliny's Natural History which tells us that a Greek stadion is equivalent to 125 Roman paces or 625 feet. The holy city, if measured in accordance with Pliny's comments, would thus extend through half of the USA and "reach the height of 260 Mount Everests (the top of Mount Everest stands 29,028 feet above sea level). Furthermore, the city was of transparent gold, 'gold like pure crystal'" (Ibid).

John does not seem to be saying that the city, even in a metaphorical sense, would land on earth. This interpretation seems to be a misreading of the text.

Albert Barnes says the following about Revelation 21:2:

"On the phrase 'new Jerusalem,' See Barnes 'Galatians 4:26'; See Barnes 'Hebrews 12:22.' Here it refers to the residence of the redeemed, the heavenly world, of which Jerusalem was the type and symbol. It is here represented as 'coming down from God out of heaven.' This, of course, does not mean that this great city was literally to descend upon the earth, and to occupy any one part of the renovated world; but it is a symbolical or figurative representation, designed to show that the abode of the righteous will be splendid and glorious. The idea of a city literally descending from heaven, and being set upon the earth with such proportions--three hundred and seventy miles high, (Revelation 21:16,) made of gold, and with single pearls for gates, and single gems for the foundations--is absurd. No man can suppose that this is literally true, and hence this must be regarded as a figurative or emblematic description. It is a representation of the heavenly state under the image of a beautiful city, of which Jerusalem was, in many respects, a natural and striking emblem."

Another problem that I have with Middleton is his use of Revelation 5:9-10 to demonstrate his point. EPI in that verse probably should be rendered "over" based on how it is employed in that particular context (See BDAG Lexicon and Richard A. Young's intermediate grammar).

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Ancient Ecclesiastical Views on Proverbs 8:22

Many more examples could be provided [EF]

I added: "You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, CXXIX).

This power and disposition of the Divine Intelligence is set forth also in the Scriptures under the name of Σοφία, Wisdom; for what can be better entitled to the name of Wisdom than the Reason or the Word of God? Listen therefore to Wisdom herself, constituted in the character of a Second Person: "At the first the Lord created me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works, before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled; moreover, before all the hills did He beget me;" that is to say, He created and generated me in His own intelligence. Then, again, observe the distinction between them implied in the companionship of Wisdom with the Lord. "When He prepared the heaven," says Wisdom, "I was present with Him; and when He made His strong places upon the winds, which are the clouds above; and when He secured the fountains, (and all things) which are beneath the sky, I was by, arranging all things with Him; I was by, in whom He delighted; and daily, too, did I rejoice in His presence." Now, as soon as it pleased God to put forth into their respective substances and forms the things which He had planned and ordered within Himself, in conjunction with His Wisdom's Reason and Word, He first put forth the Word Himself, having within Him His own inseparable Reason and Wisdom, in order that all things might be made through Him through whom they had been planned and disposed, yea, and already made, so far forth as (they were) in the mind and intelligence of God. This, however, was still wanting to them, that they should also be openly known, and kept permanently in their proper forms and substances. (Against Praxeas VI)

See also


Friday, October 05, 2012

Question Regarding Athenagoras

Hello Matt13,

My replies will appear below. You wrote:

Hello Edgar.

I would like to ask your advice on a translation question once again please.

GREEK TEXT: “...πρῶτον γέννημα εἶναι τῷ πατρί, οὐχ ὡς γενόμενον...” - (Legatio Chapter 10, MPG)

ATHENAGORAS (circa 177 C.E.): “...the first offspring of the Father. I do not mean that he was created...” ” - (Legatio Chapter 10. Library Of Christian Classics)

ATHENAGORAS (circa 177 C.E.): “...the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence...” - (Chapter X. Pages 133-134, Roberts & Donaldson ANF.)

It is in regard to this word Gk., ( γενόμενον ) in particular.

The Persus Lexicon gives this information:

come into a new state of being
part sg aor mid neut acc
part sg aor mid neut nom
part sg aor mid neut voc
part sg aor mid masc acc

My question is, could Gk., ( γενόμενον ) be translated as:

“...[then] coming-into-a-new-state-of-being/existence...”

I'm not sure how the aorist tense works in this construction.

Is adding "...then..." inaccurate?

REPLY: Of course, you have to account for the presence of οὐχ. Therefore, the translation must include some form of negation. With aorist participles, translated woodenly literal, the rule is usually "having Xed" or "having been Xed" as in Philippians 2:6-7 (see the KIT). So, "having come into being" or "having come into a new state of being" might work. James A. Brooks and Carlton Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek, page 146) also point out that aorist participles may be rendered by "when," "since" or "after." We could use "as" or "while" to render aorist participles too. But I'm wondering what the reason might be for using "then" in translation. It could be possible, but I just wonder about the rationale for using it.

You wrote further:
One reason I think that Athenagoras ( possibly ) meant this ( sense ) is the close context where he quotes Proverbs 8:22 LXX just a few lines later saying the Logos was Gk., ( ekitzen ) "....created..."!

Which appears to be self-contradictory.

A second reason is perhaps the text has been tinkered with. Although I'm pushing that.

REPLY: I'm not sure that Athenagoras is alluding to Proverbs 8:22 in order to establish the created status of Christ. According to Donaldson's rendition, "The Lord," it says, "made me, the beginning of His ways to His works." It seems that Athenagoras understands the Son to have been generated rather than created (strictly speaking). He believes that the Son of God is also the beginning of God's works. Notice his statement regarding the holy spirit being "an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun." The ideals found in Athenagoras are reflected in other early writings as well.

A third reason for my interpretation is the internal ( non )-personal existence with-in the mind of God --- verses --- the external-projection theory which is shared among the Apologists. In which he, (the Logos), ( then ) with-in God's mind, did not have a real or substantial ( personal ) existence, but ( later ) before the creation of the Universe/Kosmos came into existence as an inteligent living being when he was projected.

REPLY: It does seem that this kind of distinction can be ascertained in Athenagoras. There is probably a difference in his mind between the internal and external Logos.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

John 7:8 and OUPW

Bruce Metzger observes that OUPW in Jn 7:8 "was introduced at an early date (it is attested by P66, 75) in order to alleviate the inconsistency between ver. 8 and ver. 10" (A Textual Commentary). However Ernst Haenchen (in his commentary on John) seems to think that OUPW is original. He reasons: "If Jesus does not know when his time is fulfilled and the Father calls him to Jerusalem (to die?) then logically he cannot say 'not,' but must say, as in v 6, 'not yet.' "

Even if OUK is not original, and we cannot be positively sure about its status, John's possible use of OUK does not mean that Jesus lied. A.T. Robertson points out that Jesus "did not change his plans . . . He simply refused to fall in with his brothers' sneering proposal for a grand Messianic procession with the caravan on the way to the feast" (Word Pictures in the NT).

Another scholar also makes this observation: "the more definite--and more difficult--reading, 'I am not going,' is undoubtedly the correct one. Jesus is represented as clearly refusing his brothers' proposal. He will not go to this festival at their request or initiative but only as his Father directs" (J.R. Michaels, John, 127).

C. K. Barrett writes: "He refuses in the plainest terms to comply with human--and unbelieving--advice, acting with complete freedom and independence with regard to men, but in complete obedience to his Father" (Barrett, John, 313).

Finally, we have these words from George Beasley-Murray: "That Jesus eventually goes to the festival EN KRUPTWi is to be interpreted strictly in relation to [John 7:4]: he journeys quietly to Jerusalem, without making any ostentatious entry into the city or drawing attention to himself on arrival at the festival" (Beasley-Murray, John 107).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scotus, Aquinas and Infinity

John Duns Scotus defines infinite being as "a measure of intrinsic excellence that is not finite." For the Subtle Doctor, God is qualitatively infinite or exemplifies all of His divine qualities without limit. The Most High is therefore infinite power, infinite wisdom and infinite goodness. Infinity, for Scotus, is an intrinsic (non-relational) property.

Thomas Aquinas also considers divine infinity to be a negative property: it describes what God is not. He writes in Summa Contra Gentiles 1.43.1:

"But in God infinity can be understood negatively only, inasmuch as there is no term or limit to His perfection. And so infinity ought to be attributed to God."

In the same part of SCG, Aquinas supplies this data about infinity:

"Infinity cannot be attributed to God on the score of multitude, seeing there is but one God. Nor on the score of quantitative extension, seeing He is incorporeal. It remains to consider whether infinity belongs to Him in point of spiritual greatness. Spiritual greatness may be either in power or in goodness (or completeness) of nature. Of these two greatnesses the one follows upon the other: for by the fact of a thing being in actuality it is capable of action. According then to the completeness of its actuality is the measure of the greatness of its power."

Many years later, Louis Berkof similarly construes God's infinity in a qualitative (intensive) sense. He argues that infinity (as a descriptive term for God's perfection) "should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God. Infinite power is not an absolute quantum, but an exhaustless potency of power; and infinite holiness is not a boundless quantum of holiness, but a holiness which is, qualitatively free from all limitation or defect. The same may be said of infinite knowledge and wisdom, and of infinite love and righteousness" (Systematic Theology, p. 60).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

DIKAIOW and BDAG Greek-English Lexicon

For DIKAIOW, Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich (BDAG) state that the potential senses of this word are (1) to take up a legal cause, show justice, do justice, take up a cause; (2) to render a favorable verdict, vindicate (Luke 7:35; 16:15); (3) be acquitted, be pronounced or treated as righteous and thereby become DIKAIOS (Galatians 2:16ff); (4) Concerning the view that DIAKAIOW can mean "make righteous," BDAG says the following:

"For the view (held since Chrysostom) that [DIKAIOW]
in these [Romans 3:24; 8:30, 33, Galatians 3:8] and
other pass[ages] means 'make upright' s[ee]
Goodsp[eed], Probs. 143-46, JBL 73, '54, 86-91."

LSJ observes that DIKAIOW may denote "set right, proved, tested, hold or deem right, claim or demand as a right, pronounce judgment, do a man right, chastise, punish, pass sentence on, have right done one, and pronounce and treat as righteous, justify, vindicate" (Exodus 23:7; Jeremiah 3:11; Luke 7:35; 16:15).

Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament Based on Semantic Domains observes that
DIKAIOW has the semantic range:

(a) to put right with
(b) show to be right
(c) acquit
(d) set free
(e) obey righteous commands

There are some interesting comments made regarding the forensic interpretation of DIKAIOW in semantic domain 34.46 of Louw and Nida. They basically argue that Paul stresses the covenant relationship between God and Christians as opposed to legal aspects of forensic judgment when he employs DIKAIOW. Under semantic domain 56.34, they also expand on the significance of the potential denotation, "acquit" by including the definition: "the act of clearing someone of transgression." See Acts 13:38; Romans 5:16, 18.

Finally, TDNT (2:215) states:

"For Paul the word DIKAIOUN does not suggest the
infusion of moral qualities, a justum efficere in the
sense of creation of right conduct. It implies the
justification of the ungodly who believe, on the basis
of the justifying action of God in the death and
resurrection of Christ."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Revised Book Review of Tim Weldon's "Subtle Wisdom" (Link)

Tim Weldon has written a brief, but helpful introduction on John Duns Scotus. It's one of the simplest works I've ever read on Scotus. Please see



Saturday, September 08, 2012

How Augustine Explains the Relationship Between Christ and the Holy Spirit


Maybe this quote from Augustine will be helpful. I post this information to promote understanding:

Therefore also the Lord Jesus Christ Himself not only gave the Holy Spirit as God, but also received it as man, and therefore He is said to be full of grace, and of the Holy Spirit. And in the Acts of the Apostles it is more plainly written of Him, "Because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit." Certainly not with visible oil but with the gift of grace which is signified by the visible ointment wherewith the Church anoints the baptized. And Christ was certainly not then anointed with the Holy Spirit, when He, as a dove, descended upon Him at His baptism. For at that time He deigned to prefigure His body, i.e. His Church, in which especially the baptized receive the Holy Spirit. But He is to be understood to have been then anointed with that mystical and invisible unction, when the Word of God was made flesh, i.e. when human nature, without any precedent merits of good works, was joined to God the Word in the womb of the Virgin, so that with it it became one person. Therefore it is that we confess Him to have been born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary. For it is most absurd to believe Him to have received the Holy Spirit when He was near thirty years old: for at that age He was baptized by John; but that He came to baptism as without any sin at all, so not without the Holy Spirit. For if it was written of His servant and forerunner John himself, "He shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb," because, although generated by his father, yet he received the Holy Spirit when formed in the womb; what must be understood and believed of the man Christ, of whose flesh the very conception was not carnal, but spiritual? Both natures, too, as well the human as the divine, are shown in that also that is written of Him, that He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and shed forth the Holy Spirit: seeing that He received as man, and shed forth as God. And we indeed can receive that gift according to our small measure, but assuredly we cannot shed it forth upon others; but, that this may be done, we invoke over them God, by whom this is accomplished.

This quote is from De Trinitate 26.46.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Augustine of Hippo's Delineation of the Trinity Doctrine

"Wherefore also the Holy Spirit consists in the same unity of substance, and in the same equality. For whether He is the unity of both, or the holiness, or the love, or therefore the unity because the love, and therefore the love because the holiness, it is manifest that He is not one of the two, through whom the two are joined, through whom the Begotten is loved by the Begetter, and loves Him that begot Him, and through whom, not by participation, but by their own essence, neither by the gift of any superior, but by their own, they are 'keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;' which we are commanded to imitate by grace, both towards God and towards ourselves" (De Trinitate VI.5.7).

Source: Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Order in which the Gospels Were Written (Origen)

Quote from Origen's Commentary on Matthew (Book 1, Fragment)

Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a publican and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first; and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, "The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you; and so does Mark my son." [1 Peter 5:13] And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. Last of all, that according to John.

Addressing the Charge of Dualism

A gentleman once accused Jehovah's Witnesses of being dualists. He wrote:

"Perhaps more to the point, the JW (and, indeed, the Platonic approach, generally) association of our being and identity with something that is NOT that dust [of Genesis 2:7] is very troublesome. It's not just the JWs, of course, who do this; unreflective Christians have been doing this since the beginning."

I say that Jehovah's Witnesses believe the body + the breath of life mentioned in Genesis 2:7 jointly constitute the human soul (NEPES). Witnesses believe that humans do not have souls but are souls. According to Witness belief, I am body and the force that animates my being, which must include cognitive and conscious states. My own personal take on anthropology is that the self is neural (i.e. syntactic), as Joseph Ledoux argues. The self is ultimately realized brain activity (synaptic connections or higher-order brain processes). But there cannot be a neural self without the body proper, a point which neuroscientist Antonio Damasio helps us to appreciate.

My interlocutor then writes:

"As for your observation that hylomorphism is a type of dualism: I think you are greatly underestimating the distinctions between Plato's concept of the soul and Aristotle's (and Aquinas'). Applying the 'dualism' tag to the latter probably obscures a great deal more than it reveals, in my estimation."

MY RESPONSE: With all respect, I've taught classes about each one of these thinkers for a number of years and I've used Catholic, Protestant and secular works to do it. I believe that I understand the distinction between Platonic and Aristo-Thomist anthropology well. I don't see how one cannot place the label "dualism" on each one. Now to avoid conflation, I did call Aristotle's theory and that of Aquinas, "compound or holistic" dualism. Kevin J. Corcoran also uses this label. Furthermore, I've seen hylomorphism described similarly in major academic works.

Interlocutor again:
"I think you may be missing the key elements of the Catholic thinking on this question and conflating that thinking with the more casual, 'folk' anthropology. Aquinas, for example, doesn't take the approach that he wants to show we have souls at all -- rather, he agrees with Aristotle that all living things have souls: you, me, my dog, a lion, whatever. The interesting question is: what kind of sould [SIC] do we have and how do they differ from those souls of lower animals. So, the kinds of questions you are asking in this paragraph are not going to be productive, since they are coming from a very different set of assumptions."

MY RESPONSE: In my view, it begs the question to assert that all living things have souls. How do we know (with any degree of objective certitude) that each living thing has a soul? Besides, I believe that Aristotle possibly means something different by the word "soul" than Thomas Aquinas does. Be that as it may, it seems to me that before we talk about rational, nutritive or sensitive souls (or elements of the soul), we should first try to determine whether or not souls (in the relevant sense) exist.

Interlocutor: "Finally, I'm not sure where, exactly, you are coming from. I thought I read you to say that you were in favor of some sort of materialism. If so, then I am confused that you find the body is not essential to identity. These seem to be quite contradictory statements, so I must be missing something."

MY RESPONSE: I do favor some kind of Christian materialism. IMO, Ledoux states matters almost exactly as I would put them: we are our synapses and the self is neural. But identity is a very complex notion. We humans cannot truly be selves without bodies: a brain is not much good if there is no body to accompany it. However, as Nancey Murphy has written, many factors contribute to our identity (memories, personal character, our external relations and human embodiment). In addition to Murphy's list, I might add DNA as a factor in identity (associated with embodiment). So, to answer your question, I think that I need A body to be identical to the person "Edgar Foster" but I don't need THIS particular body to preserve my personal identity. If time goes on, I'll die one day and THIS body will decompose as it returns to the dust. Let us assume that God will one day rearrange my decomposed body with the same atomic constituents that it formerly had, after it has decomposed. Would that reconstituted body be identical with the body that existed during my former lifetime on this earth? I think you run into the problem of Theseus' ship at this point. Either way, I believe it's fallacious to call Witnesses "dualists."



Friday, August 24, 2012

Stephen Smalley on 1 John 5:20

From Stephen Smalley's Word Commentary on 1 John:

"the most natural way of construing hOUTOS in v 20 (which need not refer to the nearest antecedent, and may allude to the main subject of the preceding statement as a whole; cf. 2:22; 2 John 7) is to take it as a reference to God: the God whom we recognize as genuine through the insight given us by his Son, and with whom we are in fellowship through Jesus Christ. 'This is the real God.' It is precisely through knowing him, as the Gospel [John 17:3] maintains, that eternal life itself becomes a reality" (p. 308).

Smalley does go on to write that if hOUTOS in 1 John 5:20 in fact refers to Jesus, then "we are presented with a NT christological witness which is rare in the NT." He cites John 20:28 as clear proof that Jesus is called God. Romans 9:5 is disputed, he says, and "Titus 2:13 is uncertain, since the Gr. can either mean, 'our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,' or 'the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ' " (Smalley 308).

Lastly, Smalley concludes that the writer of 1 John 5:20 may be ambivalent in this passage, but all of these remarks must be considered in the light of the initial statements I cited: the most natural way to construe hOUTOS is with TON ALHQINON.

A friend who uses the name "Martin Smart" provides these remarks on 1 John 5:20:

Zerwick, page 733 In A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament by Max Zerwick, Mary Grosvenor (4th edition) they say regarding 1John 5:20 with regards to hOUTOS

"the ref. is almost certainly to God the real, the true, op. paganism (v21)."

I have confirmed this quote in my personal copy of Zerwick and Grosvenor.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

John 1:18: The Best Reading According to Textual Criticism

F.J.A. Hort played a major role in bringing the textual problem associated with Jn 1:18b to light (F.J.A. Hort. Two Dissertations. London: Macmillan, 1876). These variants are discussed further in Elizabeth Harris' Prologue and Gospel: The Theology of the Fourth Evangelist (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994). She outlines three readings of this controversial text as follows:

(1) ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός

(2) μονογενὴς θεός (ὁ μονογενὴς θεός)

(3) ὁ μονογενὴς

The Byzantine text (including A and C) contain variant (1). The Western tradition likewise has this variant in the OL, Syriac and "what came to be called the Caesarean tradition, fam 1, fam 13" (Harris, Prologue and Gospel, 102).

Harris also notes that there is evidence in the Fathers for this reading, although the patristic corpus is difficult to evaluate since there are times when it is not clear if an early writer is citing Jn 1:18 or not (Ibid.).

Number (2) is the variant contained in Sinaiticus, B and C and L, P66 and P75 (hO MONOGENHS QEOS), the Peshitta, the Harclean margin, the Coptic boh., Ethiopic and the Arabic Diatessaron (Ibid). Irenaeus likewise claims that some Gnostics such as Valentinus preferred the lectio, MONOGENHS QEOS.

The problem with option (3) above is that there is "no Greek MS support" for this variant (Ibid). J.N. Sanders and B.A. Mastin (A Commentary on the Gospel According to St John. London: A & C Black, 1968. Page 85) note that hO MONOGENHS appears in the Latin Vulgate, Ephrem, Aphraat, Cyril of Jerusalem and Nestorius. Despite such lack of Greek MS support, however, they think that this reading is "to be preferred," and Sanders and Mastin translate it: "No one has ever yet seen God; the only-begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, is the one that revealed

The rendering of Mastin and Sanders appears to sidestep the problems that usually accompany this verse. But is this reading truly to be preferred? After a stringent analysis, Elizabeth Harris concludes that MONOGENHS QEOS, if correct, would not only round off the statement made at the beginning of the prologue (KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS), but it would also prepare the way for other so-called divine prerogative motifs in John's Gospels. While I prefer to bracket the question of John's ontological teaching vis-a-vis the Son in this submission, it seems clear that the MS evidence supports reading number (2).

Note what J.H. Bernard also writes in the first volume of his critical commentary about John's Gospel (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St John. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1928):

"This [MONOGENHS QEOS] is the reading of aleph, B C *L 33 (the best of the cursives), Peshitta, Clem. Alex., Origen, Epiphanius, etc., while the rec. hO MONOGENHS hUIOS is found in all other uncials (D is lacking from v. 16 to 3:26) and cursives, the Latin vss. and Syr. cur. (Syr. sin. is lacking here) Chrysostom and the Latin Fathers generally. An exhaustive look at the textual evidence was made by Hort, and his conclusion that the true reading is MONOGENHS QEOS has been generally accepted. There can be no doubt that the evidence of MSS., versions, and Fathers is
overwhelmingly on this side" (Bernard, page 31).

But vide Edwyn Clement Hoskyns. The Fourth Gospel (Volume 1). London: Faber and Faber, 1940. Consult pp. 150-152.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Joseph Priestley on Using the Divine Name in the New Testament

Interesting data!


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Henry Alford on Matthew 5:48

Here is the quote from Alford's Greek Testament:

"No countenance is given by this verse to the ancient Pelagian or the modern heresy of perfectibility in this life. Such a sense of the words would be utterly at variance with the whole of the discourse. See especially vv. 22, 29, 32, in which the imperfections and conflicts of the Christian are fully recognized. Nor, if we consider this verse as a solemn conclusion of the second part of the Sermon, does it any the more admit of this view, asserting as it does that likeness to God in inward purity, love, and holiness, must be the continual aim and end of the Christian in all the departments of his moral life" (Volume I:48).

Luke 18:14 (NIV)

Luke 18:14 (NIV) reads: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God" rather than the wording "justified by God."

But knowledge of the NIV's theological orientation suggests that NIV is not trying to say the tax collector was proved righteous by his actions. With all due respect, I believe that it's attempting to convey the idea that God (as the implicit agent of the verb DEDIKAIWMENOS) justified the tax collector. I also checked my commentary on Luke written by Alfred Plummer and he writes concerning the Greek wording KATEBH hOUTOS DEDIKAIWMENOS: " 'This despised man went down justified in the sight of God,' i.e. 'accounted as righteous, accepted'" (see p. 419).

Studying this verse has also helped me to understand what the NWT is doing in Luke 18:14: it is treating DEDIKAIWMENOS as a reflexive passive whereas other translations appear to construe the word as a simple passive. A comparison of the verse in Luke with Genesis 44:16 and Revelation 22:11 is interesting. The KJV and the NWT both render Genesis 44:16 in a way that suggests the brothers of Joseph want to know how they might justify themselves (i.e. prove themselves righteous). But see BDAG for information on Genesis 44:16 and Luke 18:14.

None of these remarks should be interpreted as me taking issue with the NWT rendering. I'm simply reviewing translational possibilities for this verse.

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Short Bibliography for "Sheep and Goat" Studies (Matthew 25:31-46)

Cope, Lamar. "Matthew XXV: 31-46: 'The Sheep and the Goats' Reinterpreted." Novum Testamentum, 11, Fasc. 1/2 (Jan. - Apr., 1969): 32-44.
Published by: BRILL.
Article Stable URL:

Evans, Craig A. Matthew. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. (See page 423ff)

Michaels, J. Ramsey. "Apostolic Hardships and Righteous Gentiles: A Study of Matthew 25:31-46," Journal of Biblical Literature , 84.1 (Mar., 1965): 27-37.
Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature.
Article Stable URL:

Via, Dan O. "Ethical Responsibility and Human Wholeness in Matthew 25:31-46," The Harvard Theological Review 80.1 (Jan., 1987): 79-100. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School.
Article Stable URL:

See also

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Closing Thoughts on Heaven For Now

Those who disagree with my thoughts on heaven can feel free to pose questions about the comments in this entry.

1) John 14:1-3 suggests that Christ will receive his anointed followers home to himself. He has prepared a place for those disciples. That place is not on earth.

2) I wonder how those who reject the heavenly view understand 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 where Paul speaks of being absent from the body and present with the Lord. In what sense will people living on earth forever be absent from the body? I understand the corporeal language in those passages as a refeence to the human body of flesh and blood.

3) Albert Barnes understands the word "until" in Acts 3:21 this way:

"Until - This word implies that he would then return to the earth, but it does not imply that he would not again ascend to heaven."

I would submit that the verse in Acts somehow must have applied to Peter's audience: Jews who have long since been dead. For example, in 3:21, Peter told his listeners to repent in order that Christ might be sent to them. After all, the Messiah was appointed for the people of Abraham (his seed). Then later, the apostle uses "sent forth" language again in 3:26. But the words are referring to Jesus having come in the past. That's why I say that the verse may not clearly affirm that Christ will forever be on earth with his ecclesia.

Friday, July 27, 2012

hAMA SUN in 1 Thessalonians 4:17

I once wrote to a friend:

Greetings [name deleted],

It seems like what we have in 1 Thess 4:17 is another rhetorical device, namely, pleonasm (PLEONASMOS). Pleonastic speech is basically another way of describing redundancy. While redundancy normally gets a bad rap, linguists have shown that it is a normal part of human speech. At any rate, David A. Black defines pleonasm as "the use of more words than necessary, as in 'He was appointed temporarily, for the time being.' Pleonasm is evident in such redundant language as hUMAS . . . hUMAS in Colossians 2:13 and MALLON KREISSON ('more better') in Philippians 1:23"(Linguistics for Students of NT Greek, page 136).

Under the entry for hAMA in BDAG, we also read:

"Apparently pleonastic w[ith] SUN (cp. Alex. Aphr., An. 83, 19 hA. AISQOMENH SUN AUTWi; En. 9:7; Jos., Ant. 4, 309; cp. SIG 705, 57 hAMA MET AUTWN) to denote what belongs together in time and place (about like the Latin UNA CUM): hA. SUN AUTOIS hARPAGHSOMEQA 1 Th 4:17. hA. SUN AUTWi ZHSWMEN 5:10."

The Latin UNA CUM means "together with."

1 Thess 5:10 seems to be a clear example of hAMA being employed pleonastically with SUN. It is even more stark there than the same phrase found at 1 Thess 4:17.

David J. Williams (1 and 2 Thessalonians) adds that the whole phrase hAMA SUN "is emphasized by placing it early in the sentence before the verb" hARPAGHSOMEQA
(Williams, page 85).

Williams also notes that hAMA "reinforces" SUN here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Exact Quote from Robertson's Word Pictures on 1 Thessalonians 4:17

"Then (EPEITA). The next step, not the identical time (TOTE), but immediately afterwards. Together with them (AMA SUN AUTOI). Note both AMA (at the same time) and SUN (together with) with the associative instrumental case autoi (the risen saints). Shall be caught up (ARPAGHSOMEQA). Second future passive indicative of ARPAZW, old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin RAPIO. To meet the Lord in the air (EI APANTHSIN TOU KURIOU EI AERA). This special Greek idiom is common in the LXX like the Hebrew, but Polybius has it also and it occurs in the papyri (Moulton, Proleg., p. 14, n. 3). This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul's argument of consolation. And so (KAI OUTW). This is the outcome, to be forever with the Lord, whether with a return to earth or with an immediate departure for heaven Paul does not say. To be with Christ is the chief hope of Paul's life ( 1 Thessalonians 5:10 ; Philippians 1:23 ; Colossians 3:4 ; 2 Corinthians 5:8 )."

Based on the Greek term PAROUSIA, I believe it is hard to say what the final destination will be. But Plevnik (et al) helps us to see that other aspects of the passage suggest that heavenly life is the eternal destination of those in Christ.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1 Thessalonians 4:17-Proof of Eternal Heavenly Life?

I remember when I started going from door to door back in the early 1980s, as Witnesses, we had to demonstrate that most people will live forever on earth, not heaven. So it feels strange to be making an argument that is designed to convince people that there will be Christians exalted to heaven. Let's begin with 1 Thess 4:17. Here is a journal article that makes a case for the passage in Thessalonians being one line of evidence which supports the idea of heavenly life for those "in Christ."

Please try this updated link. It works better for the journal article:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Standard Principles of Enlightenment Historiography

Vern S. Poythress has clearly outlined three fundamental principles that govern historical research within the Enlightenment (Aufklärung) context. These are the principles of criticism, analogy and causality. I will review and offer suggestions on each guiding principle.

(1) The principle of criticism essentially states that no ancient document should be accepted without requisite judiciousness. Whether the text in question is the Bible (Old and New Testament), Homeric poetry or Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, the first principle indicates that all truth-claims must be evaluated circumspectly by established historical methods. Of course, as Luke Timothy Johnson points out, modern-day historians should realize that empirical data is filtered through human cognition which inescapably partakes of creaturely finitude. Historical studies consequently have their epistemic limitations. Critical evaluations of ancient literature should thus be undertaken with checks and balances on the relevant historiographies.

(2) According to the principle of analogy, past events must be similar to contemporary occurrences: what happened in the past must reflect that which occurs in the present. This principle significantly affects one's understanding of miracle narratives or accounts of preternatural events. If no miracles are being witnessed today, what reason do we have to believe that supernatural events took place in antiquity? But it remains an open question as to whether the past is wholly analogous with the present. The second principle assumes that nature is basically uniform. Nevertheless, it seems that a genuinely critical approach will vet this common metaphysical assumption.

(3) A third related principle involves causality. In essence, the causality principle entails that all events have an antecedently immanent and sufficient reason that accounts for their existence. The implications of this guiding precept are that the historian advisedly must bracket divine intervention in past human affairs from the outset (ab initio). If all causes are "immanent," then no cause is transcendent in relation to historical events (no causes originate from outside the closed space-time continuum). The logical outcome of this claim is that miracles which Jesus of Nazareth performed or divine acts like splitting the Red Sea do not come under the purview of historical criticism. But despite its claims to scientific objectivity, the historical-critical approach to ancient texts is laden with philosophical assumptions that seem to determine what counts as "history" from the outset. This methodology is ostensibly a view from nowhere (standpointlessness). In reality, however, principle three represents a value-loaded postulate.

Source Material:

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (San Francisco: Harper, 1996).

Vern Poythress, "Science and Hermeneutics" in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation (edited by Moises Silva), page 442.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Irenaeus, Tertullian and 1 Cor. 15:50

Ancient Examples of Interpreting 1 Corinthians 15:50

The belief in being raised to heavenly life (devoid of flesh) is not uniquely part of any particular Christian religious group per se. Origen of Alexandria believed that the EIDOS of the body would be raised. He drew on Platonic thought to formulate this idea. Some orthodox commentators today also insist that an exaltation to spirit life is what the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, the most common view today is that resurrection is and will be a bodily event. These eschatological notions are based partly on the literary contents of Paul's first century correspondences with congregations in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Numerous attempts to exegete the Pauline letters can be found within treatises produced by the early patristic writers. But examining 1 Cor. 15:50ff leads me to conclude that Irenaeus of Lyons and Tertullian of Carthage were probably wrong in their explanations of how faithful Christians would be raised by God. Firstly, it seems that Greco-Roman philosophy banefully infilitrated their views about God and the resurrection.

Irenaeus writes: "Among the other [truths] proclaimed by the apostle, there is also this one, 'That flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.' This is [the passage] which is adduced by all the heretics in support of their folly, with an attempt to annoy us, and to point out that the handiwork of God is not saved. They do not take this fact into consideration, that there are three things out of which, as I have shown, the complete man is composed — flesh, soul, and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion [the man]— this is the spirit; while as to another it is united and formed—that is the flesh; then [comes] that which is between these two— that is the soul, which sometimes indeed, when it follows the spirit, is raised up by it, but sometimes it sympathizes with the flesh, and falls into carnal lusts. Those then, as many as they be, who have not that which saves and forms [us] into life [eternal], shall be, and shall be called, [mere] flesh and blood; for these are they who have not the Spirit of God in themselves. Wherefore men of this stamp are spoken of by the Lord as 'dead;' for, says He, 'Let the dead bury their dead,' because they have not the Spirit which quickens man" (Against Heresies V.9.1).

Correspondingly, in Tertullian, we find these claims: "For it is not the resurrection that is directly denied to flesh and blood, but the kingdom of God, which is incidental to the resurrection (for there is a resurrection of judgment also); and there is even a confirmation of the general resurrection of the flesh, whenever a special one is excepted. Now, when it is clearly stated what the condition is to which the resurrection does not lead, it is understood what that is to which it does lead; and, therefore, while it is in consideration of men's merits that a difference is made in their resurrection by their conduct in the flesh, and not by the substance thereof, it is evident even from this, that flesh and blood are excluded from the kingdom of God in respect of their sin, not of their substance; and although in respect of their natural condition they will rise again for the judgment, because they rise not for the kingdom. Again, I will say, 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;' and justly (does the apostle declare this of them, considered) alone and in themselves, in order to show that the Spirit is still needed (to qualify them) for the kingdom. For it is 'the Spirit that quickens' us for the kingdom of God; 'the flesh profits nothing.' There is, however, something else which can be profitable thereunto, that is, the Spirit; and through the Spirit, the works also of the Spirit. Flesh and blood, therefore, must in every case rise again, equally, in their proper quality. But they to whom it is granted to enter the kingdom of God, will have to put on the power of an incorruptible and immortal life; for without this, or before they are able to obtain it, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God. With good reason, then, flesh and blood, as we have already said, by themselves fail to obtain the kingdom of God. But inasmuch as 'this corruptible (that is, the flesh) must put on incorruption, and this mortal (that is, the blood) must put on immortality,' by the change which is to follow the resurrection, it will, for the best of reasons, happen that flesh and blood, after that change and investiture, will become able to inherit the kingdom of God— but not without the resurrection. Some will have it, that by the phrase 'flesh and blood,' because of its rite of circumcision, Judaism is meant, which is itself too alienated from the kingdom of God, as being accounted 'the old or former conversation,' and as being designated by this title in another passage of the apostle also, who, 'when it pleased God to reveal to him His Son, to preach Him among the heathen, immediately conferred not with flesh and blood,' as he writes to the Galatians, (meaning by the phrase) the circumcision, that is to say, Judaism" (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 50).

With the help of modern exegesis, however, the viewpoints expressed by Irenaeus and Tertullian can now be proved false. For instance, concerning 1 Cor. 15:35-41, we read:

"Having contended vigorously for the Resurrection as the form of life after death, Paul now makes important concessions concerning the nature of the resurrection body. Some Palestinian believers in the Resurrection taught the restoration of exactly the same body that was laid away. 'For the earth will then assuredly restore the dead . . . making no change in their form, but as it has received, so will it restore them' (II Baruch 50:2). Paul must have been compelled many times to distinguish his belief from this crude hope. He resorts to an analogy from human experience to show how totally different the resurrection body will be. Jesus had appealed to the power of God to create entirely new conditions in life" (Mark 12:24-25).

The Interpreter's Bible quoted above (Vol. X:243) notes that the idea of a fleshly resurrection was taught in ancient Palestine. Reading the apocalyptic books written around this period (first century BCE-CE) also helps us to grasp the prevalence of variant beliefs in the fleshly resurrection. This teaching of a fleshly ANASTASIS was admittedly different from the ante-Nicenes' theological understanding. Yet knowing about the Patristic resurrection teaching does help us to comprehend how some have understood the Pauline words at 1 Cor. 15:50ff.

In 1 Cor. 15:37, 38--we encounter the analogy of a seed which depicts how the heavenly resurrection works: "And what thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain: it may be of wheat, or some one of the rest: and God gives to it a body as he has pleased, and to each of the seeds its own body."

Commenting on these verses, The Interpreter's Bibleproclaims that "both a body and a seed are put into the ground and something entirely different comes out of it" (Vol. X:243).

What is this reference work saying? Is it stating that a totally different body will be raised from the dead (i.e. a spirit body)?

Remarking further on 1 Cor. 15:35ff:

"the translation bare kernel [RSV] is not meant to suggest a connection between this discussion and that on being found 'naked' (2 Cor. 5:2-3) after death . . . But the clothing about which Paul is concerned [in 2 Cor. 5:2ff]is the 'building from God' (2 Cor. 5:1), his resurrection body. Until he is clothed with this he is in a state of nakedness. The problem of an intermediate state is not faced in the letter before us because the apostle expected to survive until the Parousia" (Vol. X:244).

Thus we now approach the answer to our question--what does Paul mean in 1 Cor. 15:50? Will the body of flesh be raised to heaven? Is the regenerated body of flesh, the "building from God" mentioned in 2 Cor. 5:2ff?

The Interpreter's Bible (Vol X:246) makes it clear that a spiritual body is not a disembodied spirit. It is a body of "glory or splendor." This spiritual corpus appears to be an immaterial, massless body (one that is devoid of all flesh).

Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon says the following about the term PNEUMATIKOS in 1 Cor 15:44:

"pertaining to not being physical-'not physical, not material, spiritual.'" This resource adds the following observation: "In some languages the concept of 'spiritual body' can only be expressed negatively as 'the body will not have flesh and bones' or 'the body will not be a regular body'" (semantic domain 79.3).

Elsewhere, the IB calls the spiritual body, an "ethereal body" which is akin to light. But just what does all this discourse mean? How should we understand the language "ethereal body"?

As with many subjects, the same terminology may signify different things from one writer to another. What it means in the IB is not all that clear to me. At any rate, the nomenclature "ethereal body" allows one to understand the resurrection as an event in which a non-physical body is raised. The corpus delineated by this wording suggests that we're talking about an aerial, fiery and possibly non-material entity. But I would reject all theosophic associations one might read into such language.

Exegeting 1 Corinthians 15:50ff Today

The Apostle wrote: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50 KJV).

We now come to the locus classicus of our discussion. It is fitting to ask just what do Paul's words indicate about the future? Initially, we note the phrase BASILEIAN THEOU. Without going into a lot of needless detail, let me just briefly say that regardless of how we view the Kingdom of God, the Bible evidently shows that heaven is the reward held out for God's anointed ones (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:1-8). People disagree about the terminology or have varying ideas about the referents of the expression "anointed ones," but that issue does not have to be settled now. I'd rather examine whether "flesh" will enter the kingdom or not.

When answering the first query, it is tempting to split up SARX and hAIMA, which has led some readers to insist that SARX may enter the Kingdom of God, but not hAIMA. Others like Irenaeus may say that a fleshly body can enter the kingdom, so long as it is regenerated and fully guided by God's Spirit. Tertullian understands the passage in a similar way. Does this view, however, do justice to Paul's words at 1 Cor. 15:50?

According to BAGD, the expression SARX KAI hAIMA denotes: "a man of flesh and blood . . . a human being in contrast to God and other supernatural beings Mt. 16:17; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 6:12 . . . because they are the opposites of the divine nature SARX KAI HAIMA BASILEIAN THEOU KLERONOMESAI OU DUNATAI 1 Cor. 15:50" (JoachJeremias, NTS 2, '56, 151-159 [See BAGD, p. 743]).

Based on what we read in BAGD, we could paraphrase 1 Cor. 15:50 thus: "Humans are not fit for the kingdom of God. Their flesh and blood--their entire being (humanity)--cannot enter into the kingdom of the heavens." To the contrary, humans must undergo a radical change--a "refashioning"--before God allows them entry into his heavenly BASILEIAN (Philippians 3:20-21).

What are we therefore to conclude from this discussion? For one, I think it is
important to realize that although there is much we can learn from the ante-Nicene Fathers, their word is not the final authority. Modern-day exegesis has provided us with marvelous insights on God's word. These insights show us that Irenaeus and Tertullian were likely wrong in their interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:50. See John Paul Heil, The Rhetorical Role of Scripture in 1 Corinthians, page 254.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Clarification on Gestalt Psychology Paper (Please Read)


I just want to emphasize that I'm not advocating Gestalt therapy, eastern philosophy or anything of the sort. My paper simply dealt with the 19th and early 20th century theory of Gestalt (dealing with perception) that stressed perceiving whole patterns instead of discrete elements.



Monday, July 16, 2012

Aorist Verbs Vis-a-Vis Present Tense Verbs

Kendall H. Easley (User-Friendly Greek: A Common Sense Approach to the Greek New Testament, 36) offers an interesting example of how the aorist tense evidently works (in some contexts). He explains:

"What about the frequently stated idea that aorist verbs are punctiliar or point-of-time or once-for-all? This idea does not stand up. Consider this example.

ἐπορεύθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς σάββασιν διὰ τῶν σπορίμων.

Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath (Matt.12:1).

The action took up an extended period of time; in fact, the other Gospel writers use present tense forms to record this incident (Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1). Nor is there any hint that the action was completed so that it was once for all, never to be done again. In the aorist tense the action occurs, with no notion of its beginning, duration, or conclusion."

I've often wondered why Mark and Luke employ the present when describing this event instead of using the aorist. Any ideas?



Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Holistic Approach to Restructuring Greek Studies (Link)



How the Greek Present Tense Works

"Greek tense stems convey time distinctions in most uses of the indicative and in a few uses of the infinitive and participle. But the fundamental distinction conveyed by Greek tense stems is one of aspect, that is, of the type of action or state of being denoted in terms completion vs. noncompletion, customary action vs. single occurrence, general truth vs. a specific occurrence, or some similar distinction." (Donald Mastronarde, Introduction to Attic Greek, page 145. Emphasis is mine.)

Regarding the present-stem aspect, Mastronarde points out that "The present stem has the aspect of action not yet completed, or in progress, repeated, customary, or pertaining to general truth" (146).

Therefore, the aspect or Aktionsart for the Greek present tense is varied.

For example, the verb LEGW can be understood as "action in progress" (e.g. "I am talking"). But we cannot infer that Greek present tense always denotes ongoing action:

"The exegete should remember that the present tense normally expresses continued action going on at the time of writing, or speaking. There are, however, several phases to this meaning. The context should make clear the exact shade of meaning" (An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 70).

Richard A. Young presents evidence that could support the multivalent nature of the Greek present tense: "In our study of the present indicative, for example, we will find that it can have past, present, future, and even non-temporal reference" (Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach, 105). The examples that he gives are John 1:29 (past reference time), Acts 16:18 (present reference time), Luke 19:8 (future reference time), and John 3:18 (timeless reference).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Theologian John Macquarrie Differentiates Between the Ecclesia and Scriptura

John Macquarrie writes concerning Matt. 16:18, etc.

" 'The powers of death shall not prevail against it.' But this is not to claim infallibility for the Church. It is indeed to assert a measure of authority for it and to declare its normal superiority over individual judgement. But since the Church is at any given time less than the kingdom, its authority is not absolute and, as has been shown already, must be counterbalanced by the authority of scripture and also that of reason. If the statement that General Councils 'may err and sometimes have erred' seems to be somewhat negative, it is not to be taken as implying in the slightest degree any disrespect for the Church, but is simply an acknowledgement that the Church, understood as process rather than fulfillment, and so less than Christ and less than the kingdom, does not have absolute authority 'even in the things pertaining to God.' " (Principles of Christian Theology, Page 390. 2nd Ed.)

And as one of my heroes from the 17th century said: "[it is] true and certain that the church can stray from the path and choose error instead of truth," thus the Bible's authority (AUCTORITAS) "is far superior to the authority of the church . . ." (Cyril Lucaris qt. in Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition 2:284-285).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dialogue About Identifying the True Ecclesia

I've changed my dialogue partner's name to protect his identity.

For one, I do not define the word "Church" (EKKLHSIA) in the same way that you do. The Church is not an institution as understood by the RCC and I have never said that I believe it is.

Then you’ll have to specify what you mean by “church.” Also: (a) Was the early EKKLHSIA an institution in *any* manner at all? Was it organized? Was it visible? What criteria characterize an institution? (b) What, then, did Jesus mean when He said that He was building His EKKLHSIA upon Peter (cf. Matthew 16:18-19)? What type church, exactly, did He build? Which is more reasonable and makes more sense to say—that Jesus established an invisible communion of believers upon Peter or that a visible institution was founded upon Peter?

(1) I define the word "church" (EKKLHSIA) in the same way (MUTATIS MUTANDIS) that Ralph Earle does: "the whole Body of Believers (the Church of Jesus Christ) and . . . local congregations--but never for a building, as today"(Earle 16).

Louw-Nida has this: "EKKLHSIA, AS [feminine]: the totality of congregations of Christians-'church' (Semantic Domain 11.33).

In contrast to the RCC, I think the Church is primarily made up of Jesus' anointed followers (those Christians who have the hope of subsisting immortally and incorruptibly in the heavens) and secondarily is composed of Christians with the hope of living forever on a paradise earth (Heb. 2:5). At any rate, the Church is never tied to the Bishop (in the NT) and it is never expressly linked to the Pope. That is where we differ, [sir].

(2) In his work "An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament" theologian Hans Conzelmann has a section entitled "The Church As An Institution." On page 303, he makes the following observation: "Paul knows no fixed organization. True, there are particular activities and positions (Phil. 1:1; 1 Cor. 12:28), but there is no hierarchy. There is a church order, but it does not in itself represent the nature of the church."

Therein lies my objection to the term "institution." I am not against defining Christianity in terms of community and even in terms of an organizational structure. Where I part ways with you is when it comes to construing the Church in hierarchical terms. In the first century there were no "bishops." The word itself is an anachronism superimposed on the biblical Greek text. It is manifestly clear that the first century Church did not have a system of bishops, priests, and deacons. As Elaine Pagels ("The Gnostic Gospels") points out--these developments were a result of second century Church politics.

(3) Jesus did not build his Church on Peter. You cannot conclusively demonstrate this assertion to be true. In BAGD, we read that PETRA either refers to "the apostle so named, or [to] the affirmation he has just made" (BAGD 1b). In context, I would choose the latter. Or to be more precise I would view the rock-mass as Christ himself. Certainly Peter seems to have thought that Christ and not he (Peter) was the foundation upon which the Christian EKKLHSIA was built. In 1 Pet. 2:6-8, Peter wrote in part: IDOU TIQHMI EN SION LIQON EKLEKTON AKROGWNIAION ENTIMON . . . KAI LIQOS PROSKOMMATOS KAI PETRA SKANDOLOU.

Okay, so how was it that at any point in the history someone could readily and accurately identify those “true believers”? If true believers always existed, how could a person living in the 4th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 15th centuries *properly* identify those true believers? After all, the WTS itself says that one criterion for salvation is identifying Jehovah’s organization and serving him as part of it. If Jesus’ Church were not a visible organization (i.e., an institution), then how was this identification made throughout history? Or did God leave a critical component of our salvation to mere happenstance or guesswork?

The statement that you quote from the WTS must be viewed in its proper context. In the United in Worship (WTBTS) book, we are plainly told that Jesus originally planted "wheat" but the Devil scattered "weeds" in the same "field" that Jesus has sown "wheat." The "slaves of the householder" asked their Master whether he wanted them to collect the "tares" out from among the wheat. The Master (Jesus Christ) answered "no" because he did not want the wheat to be simultaneously pulled up with the weeds (indicating that true Christians would be hard to identify for a period of time).

The information that you cite from the WTS must be construed with the previously mentioned information in mind. While it is true that today one needs to identify God's organization in order to obtain salvation--such was not the case during the time periods you speak about. That is, there was a time when it was very hard to differentiate between false and genuine Christians. According to Scripture, God allowed this situation to obtain until the last days. In the harvest, Jesus foretold, there would be a separation work taking place. Until the weeding out occurred-true worshipers were dispersed and eternal salvation was not based one's religious group.

Also, if true believers always existed, there must be some way to trace their *visible* existence through history; otherwise we’re left with saying that true believers exist, but we have no way of knowing who they are—and therefore we have no way of being able to identify Christ’s Church (and proper doctrine) and consequently we cannot serve Jehovah as part of it.

I've answered your concern about not being a part of God's organization above. But please note that I am not saying we could not know who was and who was not practicing true Christianity. I hesitate to pass value judgments because I am not God (James 4:11, 12). Yet if Christians were living their lives in harmony with the Bible and imitating the first century apostles (even imperfectly)--I would say that we could safely conclude such individuals were truly "Christians" in God's eyes (2 Tim. 2:19). One member of the Greek Orthodox Church that I have long admired is Cyril Lucaris (17th century) whom the WT recently wrote about. This man was by no means perfect and he admittedly held what I would term "erroneous beliefs." But his views on Scripture and justification are quite impressive and he may well have been one of those whom Jehovah recognized as "wheat."

Some Commentators on Romans 8:11

I concede that certain scholars understand Romans 8:11 as a reference to the future. But these comments below are posted to show the other side of things:

"Your mortal bodies. That this does not refer to the resurrection of the dead seems to be apparent, because that is not attributed to the Holy Spirit. I understand it as referring to the body, subject to carnal desires and propensities; by nature under the reign of death, and therefore mortal—i. e. subject to death. The sense is, that under the gospel, by the influence of the Spirit, the entire man will be made alive in the service of God. Even the corrupt, carnal, and mortal body, so long under the dominion of sin, shall be made alive and recovered to the service of God. This will be done by the Spirit that dwells in us, because that Spirit has restored life to our souls, abides with us with his purifying influence, and because the design and tendency of his indwelling is to purify the entire man, and restore all to God. Christians thus in their bodies and their spirits become sacred. For even their body, the seat of evil passions and desires, shall become alive in the service of God" (Barnes' New Testament Notes).

"By mortal bodies he understands all those things which still remain in us, that are subject to death; for his usual practice is to give this name to the grosser part of us. We hence conclude, that he speaks not of the last resurrection, which shall be in a moment, but of the continued working of the Spirit, by which he gradually mortifies the relics of the flesh and renews in us a celestial life" (Commentary on Romans, John Calvin).

"The apostle believed in a present participation in those revivifying forces which broke into the history of the world with the advent of Jesus Christ; the power of God is now active in the believer who yields to that action. In particular the doctrine of the Spirit included the assurance and the present experience of the power of God; on this point Paul shares a very widespread tradition. Hence the allusion here [in Rom 8:11] is to the vivifying energy of the Spirit, who liberates from the tyranny of sin, according to the framework of ideas already sketched out in [Rom] 6:12-23" (Franz J. Leenhardt, The Epistle to the Romans. London: Lutterworth Press, 1961. Pages 209-10).

Others could be marshaled.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Why Divine Revelation Should Not Be Contradictory (Yahoo Link)

Please see



Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Greek Text of John 12:11: Senseless?

A gentleman once claimed that John 12:11 in the Greek form does not make sense. He wrote:

"Now I have translated the Aramaic of this passage as follows:

because many of the Judeans, on account of him, were trusting more and more ('EZAL) in Yeshua."

The Greek version makes no sense. Why would believing in Him cause them to "go away"?"

I replied:

As I pointed out on December 26 [2002], the Greek in Jn 12:11 is fine. There is no difficulty with the text as it now stands in the GNT. I consequently suggested understanding the text as a reference to Jews departing from the tutelage of religious leaders, who left the sheep of Judaism skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.

But after I made this reply, I decided to do a little more research. What I found interesting in my studies is how different Bibles render this verse.

"because on account of him many of the Jews were going there [hUPHGON-imperfect indicative active 3rd pl of hUPAGW] and putting faith in Jesus" (NWT).

"for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him" (NIV).

"because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus" (NASB).

"Because on account of him many of the Jews were going away [were withdrawing from and leaving the Judeans] and believing in and adhering to Jesus" (Amplified Bible). Words in the bracket are in the original text of the Amplified Bible.

"because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus" (YLT).

"for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus" (NET Bible).

The quotes listed above quickly reveal that a number of translators think that hUPHGON (Jn 12:11) refers to the Jews "going away" from the Jewish authorities in order to follow Jesus. However, the NWT does not necessarily communicate this idea but instead simply says that the Jews were going to Bethany, where Jesus was staying. Why does the NWT read so differently?

BDAG informs us that hUPAGW is used only intransitively in our literature and is found most frequently in John. The verb can mean "to leave someone's presence" or to "go away." In Mt 4:10, for instance, we read: "TOTE LEGEI AUTWi hO IHSOUS hUPAGE SATANA . . ."


While hUPAGW can delineate the action of departing or going away, however, BDAG reminds us that the line between "going away" and "going" is not fixed. See Mk 6:31; Jn 13:3; Rev 17:8, 11.

A second sense listed in BDAG for hUPAGW is "to be on the move, esp. in a certain direction, go." After listing a number of instances illustrating this usage, the Greek lexicon mentions that hUPAGW can also be used to simply mean "go" (absolutely) and in these cases, "the context supplies the destination" of the movement thus delineated. See Mt 8:32; 13:44; Lk 10:3;Jn 15:16. Finally, BDAG categorizes Jn 12:11 as an example of hUPAGW meaning "to be on the move, esp. in a certain direction, go." The idea of movement away from or in a certain direction therefore seems to be supplied from the context. BDAG also states that P66 omits hUPAGW in Jn 12:11.

At any rate, we can now more clearly discern why some render it either "going away" or "going there" in the case of the NWT. Either way, the Greek of Jn 12:11 is not really problematic.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Is ARXH Timeless in John 1:1a?

Some years ago, a person with whom I was conversing tried to argue that ARXH in John 1:1a is timeless and dimensionless because the word is anarthrous there. Here is my reply to that claim:

What grammatical evidence do we have that ARXH when employed anarthrously, has a special or unique lexical content? I don't know how you feel about the issue of Johannine authorship, but I personally believe that the apostle John wrote both the Gospels and the three Epistles. If this is so, the opening verses of the first Epistle shed illumination on the Prologue of Jn 1.



Please notice that ARXHS in the first Epistle is also anarthrous. Yet there is no indication that the writer is employing ARXHS in a timeless--from a human viewpoint--sense. He goes to great lengths to locate the ARXHS within history (within time). "From the beginning," the disciples "heard" "saw" "looked upon" and "handled" TOU LOGOU THS ZWHS. There is no indication of a dimensionless ARXH in the Johannine Epistle. This seems significant in view of the fact that ARXH here [Jn 1:1a] is also anarthrous. Of course, my argument relies heavily on a literary nexus between the Johannine Gospel and Epistles. But even if different writers composed these Scriptural works, 1 John 1:1 still serves as an example of an anarthrous ARXH that is manifestly historical.

The same can also be said of Jn 1:1:

"ARXH, HS, ARXOMAI: a point in time at the beginning of a duration--'beginning, to begin.' ARXH: EN ARXHi HN hO LOGOS 'in the beginning was the Word' or 'before the world was created, the Word (already) existed' or 'at a time in the past when there was nothing . . .' Jn 1:1" (Louw-Nida 67.65).

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Question about First Clement Text

A reader of the blog sent these questions. I've edited the comments for the sake of time and length:

Hi Edgar.

I have a grammar question, (or a sense in translation, on a text in 1st Clement Chapter 7:4 in the Codex Alexandrinus and Rufinus of Aquileia's Latin version of Clement of Rome's 1st Epistle.

Here's one version of MPG critical text:

GREEK TEXT: “...[Ἀτενίσ]ωμεν εἰς τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, [καὶ ἷδ]ῶμεν, ὡς ἔστιν τίμιον τῷ Θεῷ [αἷμα] αὐτοῦ...” - (Chapter 7:4, [MPG] Jacques Paul Migne's “Patrologia Graeca,” or “Patrologiae Cursus Completus,” Series Graeca, Imprimerie Catholique, 1857–1866 .)

Here's another different version of MPG that I found:

GREEK TEXT: “...Ἀτενίσωμεν εἰς τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ γνῶμεν, ὡς ἔστιν τίμιον τῷ Πατρὶ αὐτοῦ...” - (Chapter 7:4, ΚΕΦΑΛΑΙΟΝ Ζ’. Epistula i ad Corinthios Τοῦ ἁγίου Κλήμεντος τοῦ Ῥώμης ἐπισκόπου ἐπιστολὴ πρὸς Κορινθίους Α ’. Ἐκ προσώπου τῆς Ῥωμαίων Ἐκκλησίας γραφεῖσα, [MPG] Jacques Paul Migne's Patrologia Graeca (Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Graeca) Imprimerie Catholique, 1857–1866.)

Rufinus has this reading:

LATIN TEXT: “...Fixis oculis respiciamus in sanguinem Christi, cernamusque quam pretiosus Deo sit ejus sanguis...” - (Chapter 7:4, AD CORINTHIOS EPISTOLA PRIMA. SANCTI CLEMENTIS EPISCOPI ROMANI, ( EX VERSIONE RUFINI ) Tomus Primus [Book I], Patres Apostolici, COLLECTIO SELECTA SS. ECCLESIAE PATRUM, Complectens Exquisitissima Opera. By D. M. N. S. Guuillon. M. DCCC. XXIX.)

Now I need help interpreting:

1.) Grammatically who Ltn., ( sanguis ) applies to
2.) Sense

Of the two texts.

Who do you think Rufinus and the MPG version is trying to say it applies to:

1.) God?
2.) Jesus?

Are they trying to make it look like it is: “...God's blood...” in the Tri{3}nitarian sense here?

Like what has been attempted in some of the MSS with Chapter 2:1 of Ist Clement, (See link below for more info), and in the Bible at Acts 20:28.

MY RESPONSE: I don't think there's any doubt that sanguis ought to be construed with eius and understood as a reference to "Christi." Sanguis (nominative case) is the subject. Moreover, the accusatival use of "sanguinem" earlier in the construction helps us to know the referent of "sanguis."

The sense appears to be (similar to 1 Peter 1:18ff) that Christ's blood is highly valued by God. Notice the dative form "Deo" which suggests who is viewing the blood as precious.

Finally, the "blood" terminology seems applicable to Christ in Rufinus and MPG. Both texts have the subject term for "blood." While someone might try to use this passage for Trinitarian purposes, it's a stretch to use it that way.

Hope this helps,