Thursday, June 20, 2013

Donald Mastronarde on Greek Grammatical Gender

Greek Gender and Some Johannine/Pauline Verses

Richard A. Young (Intermediate New Testament Greek, page 76) reveals that the antecedent of the masculine pronoun hOS in 1 Tim 3:16 is the neuter noun MUSTHRION. He suggests that the shift in gender signals a reference to someone personal, namely, Christ.

Also, in John 16:14, the apostle uses a masculine pronoun (EKEINOS) when referring to a neuter antecedent (PNEUMA). An interlocutor once disagreed with me on this point by arguing that EKEINOS actually should be construed with PARAKLHTOS in 16:7:

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."

My interlocutor provided the translation. My response was:

You may be right about John 16:14. Since John employed EKEINOS (the "far away demonstrative"), the antecedent of EKEINOS may well be PARAKLHTOS in John 16:7. What you say may also be true of John 14:26, where EKEINOS could point back to PARAKLHTOS. However, EKEINOS could just as easily refer to PNEUMA in both passages as Young points out in his grammar (page 78). Its really hard to tell.

Interestingly, Daniel B. Wallace disagrees with Young and thus sides with you on this issue. Personally, I think either construal of EKEINOS does not prove the masculinity of the Holy Spirit. Wallace points out that not only is PNEUMA appositional to PARAKLHTOS, but the relative pronoun that follows PNEUMA is also neuter; on the other hand, he rightly concludes that such a construction does not prove the personality of the Holy Spirit. But you too present a strong line of reasoning.

Also note the pronoun-antecedent usage in Rom. 2:14; 1 Cor. 6:9-11.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Evidence That BASILEUS Refers to Males Only

In a book edited by John Haldon (A Social History of Byzantium), Liz James writes about the activities of Eirene, an eighth-century empress of Byzantium:

"Wallace-Hadrill saw queens as honorary men because of their links to power, authority, prestige, and honor. In response, Stafford argued that queens did not become men because the title 'king' was reserved for men alone. To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that the title 'king' could be separated from the person of the king and thus filled by either sex. Thus the public body of the ruling queen was not a king's body but a queen's, gendered feminine not masculine. The case of Eirene supports this view. The only evidence for Eirene using the male title BASILEUS is limited to her signature as 'emperor of the Romans' on a couple of legal documents and the use of BASILEUS on one gold coin from Sicily. If Eirene needed to construct herself as a man, as a BASILEUS,then one might expect this title to feature on all of her official documentation, on all coins and seals. Instead, she used the feminine form, BASILISSA, which was also the title which Byzantine historians of her reign use for her."

The Sicilian coins are not easy to read because the lettering is obscured.

See p. 45-46 of the this book.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Old Interpreter's Bible on 1 Corinthians 7:25 and Parthenoi

Some years ago, I copied numerous pages for general study and when I did graduate work. I'll probably never work my way through everything I copied, but there is something from the old Interpreter's Bible I'd like to share. Taken from the commentary on Corinthians, we read:

"The Greek word (παρθένοι), translated unmarried (RSV), is literally virgins (KJV); but it is clear from what follows that the apostle has in mind the unmarried men as well as the maidens (Rev. 14:4). It may be that these are people who have taken a vow of celibacy" (Interpreter's Bible, page 84).

Now there's a lot in this brief quote that we can analyze. The Interpreter's Bible claims that the Apostle Paul is referring to both women and men in 1 Cor 7:25. Yet not all concur with this sentiment:

"Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you" (1 Cor 7:25 NLT).

"Concerning unmarried women I have no command to give you from the Lord; but I offer you my opinion, which is that of a man who, through the Lord's mercy, is deserving of your confidence" (Weymouth).

But the NET Bible renders this passage: "With regard to the question about people who have never married, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one shown mercy by the Lord to be trustworthy."

The note for 1 Cor 7:25 (NET) explains:

Grk "virgins." There are three main views as to which group of people is referred to by the word παρθένος (parqenos) here, and the stance taken here directly impacts one's understanding of vv. 36-38. (1) The term could refer to virgin women who were not married. The central issue would then be whether or not their fathers should give them in marriage to eligible men. (This is the view which has been widely held throughout the history of the Church.) (2) A minority understand the term to refer to men and women who are married but who have chosen to live together without sexual relations. This position might have been possible in the Corinthian church, but there is no solid evidence to support it. (3) The view adopted by many modern commentators (see, e.g., Fee, Conzelmann, Barrett) is that the term refers to young, engaged women who were under the influence of various groups within the Corinthian church not to go through with their marriages. The central issue would then be whether the young men and women should continue with their plans and finalize their marriages. For further discussion, see G. D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT), 325-28.

The NET Bible therefore probably does not mean to include men and women "in the mix" (so to speak) when it chooses the rendering "people who have never been married" but primarily has women in mind. However, you have likely noted that the Interpreter's Bible includes Revelation 14:4 to apparently show that men are perhaps called virgins in that apocalyptic book. That's another testimony to how we should understand John's words in the Bible's final work.

In his NIV commentary on Revelation, Craig Keener writes that although male virgin language is rare, we do find this use in 1 Cor 7:25 and possibly in Revelation 14:4. Even though we may have a surface use of masculinity in 14:4, that does not mean all members of the 144,000 are males in the prophecy's fulfillment. But describing these Christians as male harmonizes with John's earlier vision in the same book:

καὶ ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν τῶν ἐσφραγισμένων, ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες, ἐσφραγισμένοι ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ (Revelation 7:4 WH).

How are the 144,000 delineated in 7:4? As the "sons of Israel" (υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ). This wording along with the whole tribes scenario leads me to believe that "virgins" in 14:4 should be understood as having a masculine sense.

Jeremiah 31:32 and Metaphors

"not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day of my taking them by the hand, to lead them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah" (Jeremiah 31:32 Darby Bible Translation).

Notice that Jehovah said he was a "husband" (masculine) to their "fathers" according to this translation. Now we've already talked about that expression "fathers" on this blog previously, but what about the term "husband" when it is applied to Jehovah? Should we take this expression literally or is it metaphorical?

God was the husband of a holy nation. Nations aren't people, but they're constituted of people. God was a figurative spouse to Israel as Christ is a symbolic husband to the Christian ecclesia. I would (and have) argued that the term Shepherd (as applied to God) is also metaphorical. The 3/15, 2004 WT reasons thus:

"The Law covenant later made with the Israelites showed that in a covenant relationship, Jehovah can be thought of as a husband and the other party as a wife. (Jeremiah 31:32)"

Compare Isaiah 54:4-6.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Official Statement on NAOS

I usually don't provide many quotes from the Watchtower publications because of respecting their wishes about publication copyright. I like to apply the rule of fair use for Witness and non-Witness publications. So I will only submit one paragraph from the Revelation Climax book:

The 24 elders and the anointed group of 144,000 are described as being "round about the throne" of Jehovah and "upon the [heavenly] Mount Zion." (Revelation 4:4; 14:1) The great crowd is not a priestly class and does not attain to that exalted position. True, it is later described at Revelation 7:15 as serving God "in his temple." But this temple does not refer to the inner sanctuary, the Most Holy. Rather, it is the earthly courtyard of God's spiritual temple. The Greek word na·os′, here translated "temple," often conveys the broad sense of the entire edifice erected for Jehovah's worship. Today, this is a spiritual structure that embraces both heaven and earth.—Compare Matthew 26:61; 27:5, 39, 40; Mark 15:29, 30; John 2:19-21, New World Translation Reference Bible, footnote.

See page 124, paragraph 14.

One thing I appreciate about the Revelation book quote is that it says NAOS "often" (not always) denotes the entire temple building rather than the Holy of Holies alone. The quote seems in harmony with LSJ and other NT lexica.

Grammatical Gender, Christ and 1 Corinthians 1:24

αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν (1 Corinthians 1:24 WH Greek Text)

I've been trying to make the point that there's a difference between ontological/sociological gender and grammatical gender. The verse above is a good example of how grammatical gender works. Notice that δύναμιν and σοφίαν are both accusative feminine although they refer to Χριστὸν which is accusative masculine: he is the power and wisdom of God. So I again emphasize that we cannot read ontological inferences into accidents that belong to human language. By "accidents" I mean the contingent features of our abstract sign systems (i.e. languages).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Should We "Christianize" Idols?

A Catholic gentleman once told me that the Apostle Paul "baptized" or "christianized" pagan idols for the Gospel's sake. He asked me if I would condemn St. Paul for his actions.


As regards your observation above, I have real problems with it. But then--you're not surprised by that, are you?

Scripturally I have problems with your construal of Acts 17 because of what 1 Cor. 10:14 says: "Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry." No, we are not to "Christianize" idols and baptize them (as you suggest). Stating this point even more forcefully is 1 Thess. 1:9: "you turned to God from [your] idols to slave for a living and true God."

The believers in first century Thessalonica did not baptize their idols or "Christianize" them. They abhorred, shunned, rejected, and turned away from them! Their example is totally at odds with your interpretation of Paul's action in Athens (cf. 1 John 5:21).

Commenting on Rev. 9:20, David Aune writes that "Antagonism to idolatry is also expressed in the NT (1 Cor. 14:15), and critiques of idolatry (often borrowing from Hellenistic Jewish apologetic) are also found among the early Christian apologists (Tatian Oratio 4.2; Theophilus Ad Autolycum 1.9-10; 2.2). Celsus charged that Christians cannot bear to see temples, altars, and images" (Origen Contra Cels. 7.62).

"When a Christian passes through temples, he will spit down upon the smoking altars and blow them out. As to rooting out the strange gods in every way, it has been commanded, 'you shall utterly destroy all places where the pagans sacrifice to their gods. You shall overturn their pillars and dash them to pieces. You shall cut down down their groves. You shall burn their graven images. You shall destroy their names'" (Tertullian, On Idolatry II; Scorpiace 2).

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Henry P. Smith Offers Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:13 (ELOHIM)

It has been suggested that since the Hebrew word ELOHIM which appears in 1 Samuel 28:13 is plural, its proper referent in the text is spirits, not Samuel. This view is not impossible from an exegetical standpoint since the semantic range of ELOHIM certainly allows for this interpretation. However, I read ELOHIM in 1 Sam 28:13 as an intensive plural. That is, it appears to be talking about "a god" or "a divine being" instead of "gods" (i.e. spirits).

Commentators obviously give differing viewpoints on the construction but I found Henry Preserved Smith's take to be of interest (The International Critical Commentary on The Books of Samuel).

Smith argues that the "plural participle [in 1 Sam 28:13] would seem to indicate more than one ghostly figure. But only one is described in what follows, and we must suppose the agreement grammatical instead of logical. Similar instances of ELOHIM with a plural adjective are found Jos. 24:19 (E) Dt. 5:23 1 S[amuel]17:26, 36, etc" (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Samuel. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969, page 241).

I tend to agree that the context indicates that only one spirit or "god" appeared. ELOHIM, as in the other places Smith cites, seems to appear with a plural verb in 1 Sam 28:13 for grammatical (i.e., agreement) and not logical reasons.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Family Matters by Trevor J. Burke

I used Trevor Burke's book "Family Matters" when I was studying for the Ph.D. He analyzes the metaphorical devices used in 1 Thessalonians, particularly, the brother and sister language employed by Paul. I want to post some information from Burke's study. Time and circumstances will determine the extent of these blog entries.