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.

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,


Romans 8:11 and Mortal Bodies (Reply to John)

My remarks below demonstrate why I say Romans 8:10-11 does not teach the future resurrection of the physical body. While I believe certain believers will be raised from the dead with physical bodies, I don't think Jesus was raised with a physical body nor will God's anointed sons and daughters be resurrected with physical bodies.

The text reads in the NASB:

"If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

These apostolic words seem to cap a discussion that is found in Romans 6:2ff in which Paul talks about a figurative death "with reference to sin" (THi hAMARTIA). Since Christians have experienced this death vis-a-vis sin, the apostle reasons that believers should no longer conduct their lives according to the sinful flesh:

"Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it?" (Rom 6:2 NWT)

Paul also writes that God "impaled" (SUNESTAURWQH) the "old man" in order that our "sinful body" (TO SWMA THS hAMARTIAS) might be rendered inoperative (no longer remain captive to sin). See Romans 6:6

Paul then familiarly writes:

"for he who hath died hath been set free from the sin" (YLT). The NWT says "acquitted from sin."

This text obviously refers to the here-and-now from a strict contextual standpoint, although it can evidently apply in a principled way to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.

Those interested in pursuing this topic further may also wish to read Romans 6 & 7 in their entirety. But let me now cut to the chase.

Paul's words at Romans 8:10-11 (NASB) are again as

"If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

Notice that in the cotext of these verses, Paul has been dealing with the ongoing death of the body (Romans 7:24). The SWMA is still sinful, even though Christians have undergone a figurative death with reference to sin and then been raised by
Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7). Therefore Paul writes that the body undergoing death needs to be rescued. God through Christ obviously provides the way out for those who exercise faith in the Son (Romans 7:25). But notice that the apostle proclaims himself a slave to "sin's law" with his flesh (THi SARKI). So we can still legitimately ask how Paul's "mortal [sinful] body" can be quickened in the here-and-now? That is, how can Paul and others avoid living in harmony with the sinful flesh and stop the ongoing death of the body? Paul's answer (in Romans 8:11)is the indwelling spirit of God. Franz J. Leenhardt explicates Romans 8:11 this way:

"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" (The Epistle to the Romans. London: Lutterworth Press, 1961. Page 209-10).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Did Jesus Christ Resurrect Himself? (John 10:17-18)

John 10:17-18 reports Jesus exclaiming:

10:17: Διὰ τοῦτο με ὁ πατὴρ ἀγαπᾷ ὅτι ἐγὼ τίθημι τὴν ψυχήν μου, ἵνα πάλιν λάβω αὐτήν.

10:18: οὐδεὶς ἤρεν αὐτὴν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τίθημι αὐτὴν ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ. ἐξουσίαν ἔχω θεῖναι αὐτήν, καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἔχω πάλιν λαβεῖν αὐτήν· ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔλαβον παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου.

These Johannine verses are often invoked to prove that Jesus resurrected himself from the dead and even James Kleist alludes to this Johannine account in his translation of Ignatius and Clement of Rome's writings. But it seems the Bible clearly shows us that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead through the agency of God's Holy Spirit. In other words,Jesus did not resurrect himself:

"Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Galatians 1:1 NIV)

"He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (1 Pt 1:20-21 NIV).

"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom 8:11 NASB).

A.T. Robertson writes about Jn 10:17: "That I may take it again (hina palin labw authn). Purpose clause with hina and second aorist active subjunctive of lambanw.He looked beyond his death on the Cross to the resurrection. 'The purpose of the Passion was not merely to exhibit his unselfish love; it was in order that He might resume His life, now enriched with quickening power as never before' (Bernard). The Father raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:32). There is spontaneity in the surrender to death and in the taking life back again (Dods)."

Also concerning Jn 10:18, we read: "And I have power to take it again (kai exousian ecw palin labeinauthn). Note second aorist active infinitive in both cases (qeinai from tiqhmi and labein from lambanw),single acts. Recall [John] 2:19 where Jesus said: 'And in three days I will raise it up.' He did not mean that he will raise himself from the dead independently of the Father as the active agent (Romans 8:11). I received from my Father (elabon para tou patros mou). Second aorist active indicative of lambanw. He always follows the Father's command (entolh) in all things (Romans 12:49; Romans 14:31). So now he is doing the Father's will about his death and resurrection" (Robertson's Word Pictures).

J.H. Bernard (International Critical Commentary on John) writes about Jn 10:17-18: "That He [Jesus] had been given this latter EXOUSIA is in accordance with the consistent teaching of the NT writers that it is God the Father who was the Agent of the Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is not represented as raising himself from the dead" (page 2:365).

Mt 16:21 also teaches that the Son of Man would be 'raised up' on the third day. Note Matthew's use of the passive in that verse (KAI THi TRITHi hHMERAi EGERQHNAI). EGERQHNAI is aorist infinitive passive. Mark, however, uses the aorist infinitive active in his account of Peter's rebuke (ANASTHNAI), but this hardly shows that Jesus would raise himself from the dead (Compare Mk 8:31). See C. S. Mann's Anchor Bible Commentary on Mark.

Sincere regards,


Sunday, July 01, 2012

My Edited Review of Rebecca Lyman's Early Christian Traditions

General Overview

Rebecca Lyman's work Early Christian Traditions is volume six in the New Church's Teaching Series. It has been published to inform Anglicans about the origin, history and essence of the Christian religion. While Lyman's work contains few surprises, it is still informative and scholarly. She primarily reviews the historical activities of the first century and medieval Church. Lyman's coverage of how the Trinity doctrine developed also should prove to be useful for students of fourth century Christological disputes. Christology refers to the doctrine of Jesus Christ: it may include not only teachings about him, but also deal with how salvation is brought about through the Lord.

Some of the topics discussed in this book are the social world of the early church, what the expression "imperial Christianity" means and some early depictions of Jesus Christ. Lyman closes out this introductory work on a climactic note, detailing the theology of Bishop Augustine and his famed teaching about the city of God. These contents alone make the book worth purchasing for Church historians. But other details could be added to this review.

Specific Contents

Lyman adroitly employs sociological and historical tools with satisfactory results. Her knowledge and methodology are impressive though I was somewhat disappointed with the writer's seeming inability to "think outside the box" of orthodoxy. For example, we read: "For the most part in this early stage, the word 'God' was usually reserved for the Father as creator. However, in the Gospel of John the language of 'Father' and 'Son' was used to express the unique and eternal intimacy between God and Jesus" (113).

While it is correct to say that the word God in Scripture normally refers to the Father (and this term also has a unique reference to his unparalleled Deity), Lyman apparently is regurgitating well-worn claims when she writes that the expression "Son" (hUIOS) is used in the Gospel of John to express "the unique and eternal intimacy between God and Jesus." In the Hebrew writings, the word "son" (used non-Christologically) is utilized to express an intimacy between God and his spirit sons--without denoting an "eternal" form of closeness (Job 38:4-7). A suggestion that John employs "Son" in the way purported by Lyman does not seem to be justified.

I was also disappointed by Lyman's treatment of the Arian controversy. Contemporary research has revealed that Arianism and "orthodoxy" were not that far apart in terms of how they viewed Christ (Jaroslav Pelikan). The Arians worshiped the Son and regularly prayed or sang hymns to God's Messiah. Arius said that Jesus was "fully God" and "the strong God." The ancient presbyter's study of Christ was primarily driven by his soteriology and ardent desire to understand the biblical witness about the Lord. In my personal estimation, Lyman should have implemented what recent studies have unfolded about Arius. Despite these small quibbles, however, her book is well worth the money. I learned from the study's presentation of familiar events, and felt that Lyman was fairly objective. I give the book a 4 star rating out of 5 stars.