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.