Monday, March 26, 2012

Apparent Sexism in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Donald Bloesch (Is the Bible Sexist?, pages 94-95) thinks that "later Judaism" manifested an increasingly hardened attitude toward women as indicated by daily prayers like "I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast not created me a woman." However, this disposition apparently was not limited to ancient Jews since Augustine of Hippo believed that man chiefly, not woman, is the image and glory of God, while Ambrosiaster considers women inferior to men and even Thomas Aquinas evidently thinks that women are (in one sense) defective males within whom reason does not predominate. Of course, I've read articles that try to ameliorate Thomas' position. But such arguments don't seem all that convincing in light of the ST 1.91.1, Reply 1:

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the
masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence; such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes (De Gener. Animal. iv, 2)."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Was Christ Absolutely Ignorant of the Day and Hour? (Matthew 24:36)

The following was once posted on greektheology by me:

Dear list-members,

While we were talking about the dual nature of Christ the past few days, something crossed my mind: the issue of Christ's Omniscience or lack thereof. In Mark 13:32, we read: PERI DE THS hHMERAS EKEINHS H THS hWRAS OUDEIS OIDEN OUDE hOI AGGELOI EN OURANWi OUDE hO hUIOS EI MH hO PATHR.

The NIV translates the Greek:

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

My question is--does this passage teach that the LOGOS become flesh was absolutely ignorant of the day and the hour mentioned in Mark 13:32 (Matt. 24:36)? First, it would be helpful to define "absolute ignorance." But before we do that, let me pose my query in this way. If Jesus existed in two natures in the days of his enfleshment (and still does subsist in this manner, according to orthodoxy), how could he have been absolutely ignorant of the day and the hour that is only privy to the Father? If he did not know as man, it seems that he should have known the day and the hour as God. But there is an escape hatch, some may say.

Commenting on Matt. 24:36, Ralph Earle writes:

"The oldest Greek manuscripts add this ["Nor the Son"] after "angels of heaven," so Matthew agrees with Mark (13:32) in reporting Jesus as saying that He did not know the time of his second coming. This is part of His KENOSIS--His self-emptying (see Phil. 2:7, NASB)--connected with his incarnation" (Earle 22).

Thus Earle's "escape hatch" is that Jesus did not know the day or the hour because he emptied himself when he came to be in the likeness of finite men and women. In the incarnation--the Son supposedly did not subtract his deity, but simply added humanity. His "ignorance" of the time when his Father would initiate pivotal eschatological events associated with his PAROUSIA was due to his self-emptying: it did not mean that the Son was not Almighty God the second Person of the Trinity). But does this "escape hatch" really serve Earle's purpose?

There are two objections that I have to Earle's proposition. One, if Jesus existed in two natures and had two wills, how could he be totally ignorant (as Mark 13:32 implies) of the day and the hour known only by the Father? Secondly, there seems to be indirect proof that Christ was not Omniscient in his pre-existence. This fact would seem highly problematic for those who affirm Christ's "Deity." Besides, I have argued elsewhere that the temporary relinquishing of divine attributes is highly problematic.

As for absolute ignorance, I will expound on that term if others want to discuss this issue. Suffice it to say for now that I define "absolute ignorance" (in this case) as total unawareness of a fact or some particular datum (or set of data).

Best regards,

Edgar Foster

How Does "Chance" Exist, If We Live in a Deterministic World?

A list-member of greektheology once said:

"I agree with you, there are definite paradoxes with omniscience in correlation with and predestination verses free will. But, with respect to omniscience (in the classic sense) and foreknowledge (which actual is rather redundant); I think that if you have the free will to choose T1 to cut the grass and change your mind to T2; T2 is ultimately your choice. T2 is what would have always been known to God, not T1. Now how does that answer a verse like Luke 10:31? One possibility, that it is the perception of chance. There are instances where God appears to change his mind. But, does the Alpha and the Omega, say one thing and later decide not to follow through? An example could be found in Jonah chapter 3. God tells Jonah again to go to Nineveh but on this time he goes. Jonah tells the people of Nineveh that if they will keep sinning, Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days. After a little while the whole city became religious and started obeying God. Did God know all along or did he change his mind and spare them? Or is this "change of heart" simply how we understand the incident?"

I replied:

I have given thoughtful consideration to your question and it is another good one. While I don't want this conversation to stray too far into Hebrew (Scripture) theology, I think we need to address this vital issue.

Initially, I wonder if "chance" is our perception or if its an objective reality. In Eccl. 9:11, Qoheleth writes: "time and chance happeneth to them all" (ASV). This passage indicates that at least some events in our lives happen by "chance." This view also seems to be corroborated by the Scripture in Luke that was referenced heretofore (Luke 10:31). That verse says in part: KATA SUGKURIAN DE hIEREUS TIS KATABAINEN EN THi hODWi. Again, "by chance," the priest happened to be traveling along the road. There is no indication within this pericope that God foreordained the priest's actions. In fact, I actually wonder what purpose would be served by God foreknowing or foreordaining everything. For example, let's say that one day I was driving down the road imbibing a fifth of liquor (MH GENOITO!) and I lost control of my vehicle which led to me hitting a bridge.

Did God foreordain my actions? Were my actions seen long before there was ever a human race? What would have happened if I had not been drinking and driving? Would I have been involved in this horrible accident? Maybe, but it would not have been as a result of driving while intoxicated. In this case, I would put the blame on my present actions. I believe that God would choose not to know whether I would do such a foolhardy thing. At least, that's the way I see it. :-)

Conversely, as I read the OT and NT, I find that chance is possibly modified by God's intervention. A case example is Ruth 2:4: "And she went, and came and gleaned in the fields after the reapers: and her hap was to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz" (ASV).

The writer of this particular OT account states that Ruth happened to "light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz." We are thus informed that Ruth coincidentally (fortuitously) began working in the field of Boaz. But the rest of the narrative assures us that God's ENERGEIA is at work in the life of Ruth. Now it is quite possible that God could have used Ruth if she would have lit upon another field belonging to someone else. The fact is, however, that she landed on Boaz's plot of land. Was this mere chance? Was it pure coincidence that Ruth began to work for Boaz? Personally, I think not. At the same time, I don't believe that God foreordained this event before there was ever a Ruth or a Boaz. Similarly, I find it quite implausible that God foreordains every event that happens throughout the KOSMOS. But I am not saying that the account is wrong when it attributes Ruth's fate to chance. My point is that God is also at work in Ruth's life (compare Ecclesiastes 9:1).

Regarding your question about Jonah 3. True, some wish to view the account anthropomorphically. I have reservations about such an approach for the following reasons. The Hebrew word used to describe God's "change of mind" is NaHaM. Concerning this lingual symbol, J.G. Wenham writes:

'"Regret" or "repent" may suggest a change of attitude, but when God "repents," he starts to act differently. Here [Gen. 6:6] and in 1 Sam. 15:11 and Jer. 18:10 he regrets some good thing he has done for his people, whereas in Exod. 32:12, 14; 2 Sam. 24:16; Amos 7:3, 6 he repents of some evil he is carrying out. That God should change his mind might lead to his being accused of capriciousness, which Scripture firmly denies: "God is not a son of man that he should repent" (Num 23:19; Cf. 1 Sam. 15:29). Such remarks obviously raise various questions for the doctrine of divine sovereignty and its correlate human responsibility, but theological systematization is hardly the concern of the biblical narrators. For them divine repentance is a response to man's changes of heart, whether for better or worse" (Wenham, JG. _Genesis_ Waco, Texas: Word, 1987. P. 144).

I concur with Wenham when he writes that God responds to the changes of men, "for better or worse." That is, when God changes, He is simply responding to the actions of his creatures. To illustrate, before I began to exercise faith in Christ as Savior and King, I was one of God's enemies (Rom. 5:8ff); the wrath of God remained upon me (John 3:36). After taking the necessary steps to become reconciled to God, God's attitude toward me changed from one of wrath to one of love and kindness. When God made this change, however, it was not a change of essence: it was a relational change. I would contend that it was an actual, not just a perceptual change. In sum, I think that chance is real, and change in God is real (as explained above)--"accidents" (i.e. things not foreordained) do happen. At the same time, it is important to remember that everything is in the hand of God (Eccl. 9:1ff). Nothing can happen without His permission.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Greek of Galatians 4:10

See the remarks made in Vincent's Word Studies and Robertson's Word Pictures at

Compare how the NWT reads.



More on God and TEMPUS (God in Time)

Here is a dialogue that I once had on greektheology (my old yahoogroup). I will distinguish between my dialogue partner's remarks and mine.

[Dialogue partner]
Part of the problem with you, Blackman and others in this discussion is you have
a priori decided what "timeless/eternal" means without regard for the actual biblical revelation. This forces you to multiply a few entities yourself as you
seek to explain away the several Scriptures that clearly teach teach that God is in fact infinite with regard to space and time.

Maybe I missed the data that you presented to back your arguments, but it certainly doesn't seem that the writers of Scripture presuppose or acknowledge God's timelessness. The term "infinity" (as far as I can tell) is not used in Scripture. What it means when applied to God is still a question of dispute among theologians. So, how can we dogmatically contend that God is timeless or that His infinity somehow obviates His being temporal?

In an essay entitled "God is Everlasting," Nicholas
Wolterstorff writes:

"God is spoken of as calling Abraham to leave Chaldea and later instructing Moses to return to Egypt. So does not the event of God's instructing Moses succeed that of God's calling Abraham? And does not this sort of succession constitute a change on God's time-strand--not a change in his 'essence,' but nonetheless a change on his time-strand."

Wolterstorff concludes:

"Though God is within time, yet he is the Lord of time. The whole array of contingent temporal events is within his power. He is Lord of what occurs. And that,
along with the specific pattern of what he does, grounds all authentically biblical worship of, and obedience to, God."

I might also add that William Lane Craig makes an important distinction between metaphysical time and Einsteinian space-time, between infinite space/time
and finite space-time. Based on these conceptual distinctions, it is possible that God has always subsisted in infinite space/time without being constrained or confined by or to (finite) space-time. The only real reason that I can see for rejecting Craig's distinction is an insalubrious attachment to the, for all intents and purposes, now defunct positivistic worldview of yore.

[Debate partner]
However, I would like you to address the question: in what sense can God foreknow and elect his people from before the foundation of the world, and yet still seek them? You will go one of two directions in your response (though it is possible you could a go a third, unexpected [by me] direction): either you will in someway so define foreknowledge and predestination/election to fit your concept of God as finite, or you will find someway to make the "seek" fit with those concepts.

(1) I think that most exegetes today explain Eph 1:4 as a reference to a group of people, that is, the elect, and not to individuals composing that group. In other words, God knows that some will accept His offer of salvation and others will reject it. However, God wills that all men be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). Men and women are therefore not passive objects or pawns in the divine work of salvation. We are free to choose God or spurn Him (Heb 3:12-14). Ergo, God, since He evidently knows all that it is possible to know, is aware that
there is an indeterminately numbered group of persons who will respond to His free unmerited gift. Nevertheless, He either chooses not to know or knows as indeterminate the decision that men and women will
make vis-a-vis His glorious person.

(2) How do you think the writer of Hebrews is employing the expression APO KATABOLHS KOSMOU in Heb 4:3?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Translating OLAM in NWT: God and TEMPUS

As you are well aware, the NWT translates OLAM in Psalm 90:2 and elsewhere as "time indefinite" and I think this is enlightening since the etymology for the Hebrew term suggests that the writer is possibly referring to "hidden time." It seems to me that Psalm 90:2 is not just enunciating God's "eternal" past but also the fact that God's existence is endless or boundless. That is, I take the writer of Psalm 90:2 to be saying that God has always existed in time and always will exist in time: God has no temporal beginning nor will he have a temporal end.

I concede that the attempt to plumb God's eternal psyche is probably futile. Of course, Trinitarians will say that God was never alone in the first place, although Tertullian does venture a theological opinion regarding God's solitary existence and what God was possibly doing before he generated his own Word, thereby making that impersonal Word the Son of God. Tertullian's account can be found in Adversus Praxean 5-7; it is undoubtedly based partly on Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8:22ff. His suggestion is that God conducted discourse within himself when alone much like a man or woman thinks or deliberates when by him/herself.

The mode in which God knew prior to creation or knows now is a tough question. But I'll just say that I'm very much opposed to the absolute divine timeless idea when it comes to Jehovah since a number of unseemly implications flow therefrom. If God is timeless, God does not--probably cannot--change ontologically or cognitively. Furthermore, if God is timeless, he does not have genuine emotional states. Additionally, if God is atemporal, then Jehovah knows all things as present: all events whether past, present or future to us are all present to him. I have fleshed out these implications at other times.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Richard Swinburne on Deriving Doctrine from Scripture

Greetings to all,

I once came across something in Richard Swinburne's Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy that might interest my blog readers.

The Oxford University professor writes:

"There are scriptural passages which taken with their
normal meanings imply doctrines contrary to later
orthodoxy: for example Christ's statement in St John's
Gospel (14:28) that 'the Father is greater than I.'
There are other scriptural passages which are
ambiguous, but which perhaps more naturally seem to
imply doctrines contrary to later orthodoxy, for
instance the reference to Christ in the Epistle to the
Colossians (1:15) as 'the first born of all creation.'
What rather has happened is that one party in the
Church proposed, and eventually a Church proclaimed as
official doctrine, one interpretation which they claim
is the most plausible interpretation of the Message of
Scripture and Church tradition as a whole. This forces
them to claim that certain past ways of worship were
misleading, and certain statements of past theologians
false, and that certain passages of Scripture have to
be interpreted with other than their normal meanings
(i.e. their meanings if taken in isolation)."

See page 138 of Revelation. This quote is taken from the Clarendon Press, 1992 edition.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Old Interpreter's Bible Explanation of 1 Corinthians 2:10

An often used text to support the Trinity doctrine is 1 Corinthians 2:10ff. This blog entry seeks to address some of the arguments that revolve around that passage.

The Holy Spirit In The NT

by Edgar Foster

Concerning 1 Cor. 2:10ff, we read:

"Paul turns next to the place of the Spirit in imparting this true wisdom. He does not say that the Spirit teaches all things; but that he searches everything or investigates. The only other place where Paul uses the word is in Rom. 8:27, where he speaks of the searching of the hearts of men by God. That activity is an aspect of the omnipresence of the Spirit. Yet we must not make the mistake of confusing Paul's idea of the Spirit, the supernatural gift to believers, and to them only, with the Stoic idea of a reality permeating the entire natural universe. Paul uses the word PNEUMA in a wise variety of ways. sometimes it seems more like an impersonal power. Here it is the self-consciousness of God, by analogy to the human PNEUMA, which is man's self-consciousness. The passage suggests the possibility of a psychological interpretation of the Trinity, paving the way for Augustine's approach. In these verses the word PNEUMA is used in more than the usual variety of ways. Paul speaks of the spirit of man, the spirit of the world (KOSMOS, not AIWN) and the Spirit of God. The English texts attempt to make the distinction clear by the use of capitals for the last. But since the Greek has no such indication, we cannot be sure when Paul means the divine Spirit and when he means simply this faculty in human nature. He nevertheless makes a tremendous claim in this passage. In the bestowal of the Spirit men have received nothing less than God's self- consciousness. Therefore they are able to understand his secret wisdom"
(Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 10, pp. 39-40, Emphases Mine).


1 Cor. 2:10ff was one of Rudolph Bultmann's favorite passages, and it is also one of mine. In 1 Cor. 2:10, Paul makes it very plain that God--that is, the Father--teaches Christians (cf. John 6:45). The Father does not teach us, however, apart from His holy spirit: "It was to us that God made known his secret." How? "By means of his spirit" (TEV).

Continually throughout the book of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul identifies God as the Father (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 11:3; 15:24-28). To Paul and the entire Primitive church, there was one God (the Father). This deity conveys His divine secret to those who worship God in spirit and truth. The holy spirit is the omnipotent God's vehicle for teaching. God's dynamic invisible force acting powerfully upon Christians discloses the will of God in a lucid manner. The Father lovingly reveals Himself and discloses information about His Son and eternal purposes through the power of the spirit. 1 Cor. 2:10 suggests that the spirit is not a person, but a force or potentially consciousness.

The Greek word translated "searches" (TEV) is EREUNAO. This word, according to J.H. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon means "[to] search, examine into." In Rom. 8:27 we read: "And He Who searches [EREUNAO] the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints" (Amplified Bible. Words in brackets found in the original Amplified Bible).

In Rom. 8:26, 27, the Father is said to be the one who searches and hears the figurative pleas of the holy spirit. God searches the human heart, as the spirit examines the "depths of God's purposes." While the Interpreter's Bible may choose to view 1 Cor. 2:10ff as a precursor to Augustine's psychological Trinity, I personally see no such import within this Pauline account.

Dates for Some of Tertullian's Works (According to FL Cross)

From F. L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers (London: Penguin, 1993), 141-142.

1. Adversus Marcionem (circa 208-211 CE)

2. Adversus Hermogenem (circa 200 CE)

3. De Carne Christi (210-213 CE)

4. De Carnis Resurrectione (210-212 CE)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Does the Hebrew Word "Azazel" Mean?


Clicking on the title will also take you to the relevant Google Books page.



Monday, March 12, 2012

PROS in John 1:1b and Divine Personhood

Knowing that PROS implies "being with" or "toward" or even in proximate communion with someone else, certain theologians have tried to explain Jn 1:1b-c by resorting to a priori categories of person and substance. However, John McKenzie has pointed out that John did not differentiate between the divine substance and divine Persons who are identical with the divine substance. John simply used QEOS to describe the Being he identified as the only true God (John 17:3). This Being is distinct from the man who was called Jesus Christ on earth, and He is also set apart from the LOGOS who was with the only true God before the world was (John 17:5).

The problem that has not been satisfactorily addressed by Trinitarian theology accordingly involves in what sense the Son and Spirit are Persons. To be sure, theologians have endeavored to cut the Gordian knot of this troublesome antinomy. Nevertheless, not one thinker has satisfactorily explained how Persons who are not Persons in the Cartesian sense (COGITO ERGO SUM) can subsist with (PROS) one another
and enjoy meaningful communion or love one another.

G. R. B. Murray says that PROS TON QEON (Jn 1:1b) means: "in the presence of God" or "in the fellowship of God." He probably is suggesting that God the Son communed with God the Father. B.M Newman and E.A. Nida reject the "in the presence of God" understanding for this construction and opt for the notion of "a kind of interactive reciprocality between the Word and God."

None of these explanations make sense to me within the context of a non-social Trinity doctrine. Of course, if one posits a social Trinity, then tritheism must be avoided or the idea that there are three "I thinks" within God. Trinitarians, please don't multiply antinomies beyond necessity. With apologies to Ockham!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another Response to Philippians 2:6-7 Questions

Some years ago, this question came my way:

The second question is in reference to Philippians 2:6-8. You seem to follow the standard approach of the kenosis happening in eternity past or at least at the time of Jesus' birth. Is there anything in the text itself which requires the emptying of Jesus to be then? There is only one time specific reference in the whole passage, as I see it, and that is the reference to Jesus' death. Is it not possible for the emptying to have taken place in the Garden of Gethsemane or even on the cross (stake)?

My response:

I personally think that it is possible Paul could have been referring to the Christ Event [Jesus becoming human] or to the death of Jesus when he spoke of the Messiah emptying himself. But I do not find that interpretation [i.e. the death of Jesus representing his emptying] as compelling for the following reasons.

(1) Phil. 2:5-11 seems to be modeled after Isa. 52-53, where we read about the preexistent Messiah (the Suffering Servant of YHWH) who humbles himself and is subsequently exalted. See L. Gregory Bloomquist's excellent and detailed treatment of Phil. 2:5-11 in The Function of Suffering in Philippians (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), pp. 160-168.

(2) EN MORFH QEOU appears to be a dative of indirect object that describes "an exalted heavenly figure very close to God," but not one who possesses absolute divinity (Osiek, Carolyn. Philippians, Philemon. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000). See page 60. Furthermore, "This interpretation is enhanced by the rest of verse 6: he did not consider it a hARPAGMOS, something to be seized or exploited, to be ISA QEWi, equal or of equal status to God" (Osiek 60). The semantic value of MORFH in relation to QEOU may also strengthen the connection with preexistence. [That is, the term probably means "external appearance" or "shape." I.e., the Son appears to reflect the divine glory in his preexistence.]

(3) EN MORFH DOULOU seems to be contrasted with EN MORFH DOULOU. EN MORFH DOULOU appears to juxtapose Christ's earthly mode of being with his heavenly heavenly manner of existence.

(4) Phil 2:5-11 also appears to bear some resemblance
to Col 1:15-16 and Heb 1 & 2 as well as Jn 1:1-18,
which also speak to Christ's pre-existence and his
katabasis as well as his subsequent anabasis.
Moreover, the katabasis/anabasis themes in Second
Temple Judaism normally involve a heavenly figure
becoming human (e.g., the Son of Man).

But, I will concede that the text could be read in the
way that you suggest. I just do not think that is a
likely reading when one considers all of the relevant
exegetical factors, however.

Best regards,

Friday, March 09, 2012

More on hARPAGMOS (Philippians 2:6-7)

The following is taken from my book Christology and the Trinity:

To attribute a passive sense to harpagmos appears to be unwarranted. Exploring this issue further before coming to any definite conclusions, however, we will note the exegesis of Moises Silva:

The ambiguous phrase in v. 6, [ouch harpagmon hegesato], has created a literature far more extensive than it probably deserves. In particular, one is impressed by the futility of trying to reach a decision regarding Jesus' preexistence and deity on the basis of whether harpagmon has an active meaning or a passive meaning . . . if one opts for the passive idea, is the nuance positive ("windfall, advantage") or negative ("booty, prize")? Further, if it carries a negative nuance, we must decide whether it speaks of a thing already possessed, which one is tempted to hold on to . . . or a thing not possessed, which one may be tempted to snatch. (Silva 117)

In the end, Silva concludes that a sense of retaining may be the most likely meaning of harpagmos in Philippians 2:6ff. But he is forced to admit that such a conclusion is uncertain and not central to the "hymn" of Philippians 2:6-11 (117). Furthermore, he adds that the few instances of harpagmos outside of Christian literature are all active and not passive (as is the case with harpagma). Consulting Abbott-Smith also reveals that "there is certainly a presumption in favour of the active meaning here" since the apostle does not use the LXX form harpagma. Paul thus speaks of an act of seizing: not a thing seized or a prize (A-S 60).

Though being a firm advocate of Trinitarianism, Greek Professor Daniel B. Wallace also openly admits that while it may be theologically "attractive" to construe harpagmos as having a passive sense (in Phil. 2:6), "it is not satisfactory" (Wallace 634). Wallace convincingly demonstrates that we must interpret the verse in the light of the phrase heauton ekenosen. He concludes that the only translation harmonious with Philippians 2:7 is "a thing to be grasped" (an active meaning for harpagmos). We can thus see that an objective look at the usage of harpagmos in the NT leads one to conclude that harpagmos in Phil 2:6 evidently carries the active meaning of snatching (i.e., a usurpation). This apostolic passage therefore appears to be affirming the fact that Jesus did not aspire to equality with God. To the contrary, completely antithetical to the first Adam, the one who existed en morphe theou contentedly subjected himself to his Father in heaven: "What Christ emptied himself of was his right to be served, his privileged position as the Son of God, and his visible glory [morphe] by taking the form of a slave" (Wannamaker 188).