Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quote from Miroslav Volf on Divine Gender

"The ontologization of gender would ill serve both the notion of God and the understanding of gender. Nothing in God is specifically feminine; nothing in God is specifically masculine . . ." (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, 171-173).

Different Theories of Mind

1. Materialism (only brain states exist)

2. Functionalism (software/hardware analogy of mind). Hilary Putnam used to be a functionalist.

3. Eliminative Materialism (brain states only with no emotions, beliefs or desires)

4. Biological Naturalism (consciousness arises from neurobiological processes)

5. Absolute Idealism (ideas constitute the fabric of reality)

6. Subjective Idealism (only ideas, minds and not matter--God makes sure that things are perceptible)

7. Occasionalism (God causes our thoughts and bodily motions to coincide: the deity is the only cause of our actions)

8. Substance Dualism (res extensa and res cogitans: Descartes says he is the latter rather than the former)

⃰Substance dualism allows for the possibility of disembodied existence as a thinking thing.

Granted, there seems to be a difference between physical and mental properties (warmth and feelings of warmth).

The mind-body problem thus arises. It revolves around causal interaction (hammer hits thumb, I feel pain or enough beer goes down my throat and I feel euphoric). How can something mental exert causal force on a physical entity or vice versa?

Friday, September 27, 2013


Here are some thoughts on the world's founding.

For KATABOLH, BDAG Greek-English Lexicon has:

(1) "the act of laying someth[ing] down, with implication of providing a base for someth[ing], foundation"


(2) "a [technical term] for the sowing of seed, used of begetting" (page 515).

Therefore, I'd say that KATABOLH potentially means "foundation" or in certain contexts may have that meaning (sense).

David Aune notes that the formula PRO KATABOLHS KOSMOU "uses the act of creation as a protological reference point in a variety of ways" while he also remarks that Barnabas 5:5 quotes Gen 1:26. It's an allusion which has the effect of "connecting the formula [APO KATABOLHS KOSMOU] with the creative events narrated in Gen 1:3-25" (See the Word Bible Commentary series, Vol. 52B:748).

Aune again writes that the formula APO (PRO) KATABOLHS KOSMOU is employed in five ways by NT or Christian writers. He says that Lk 11:50 illustrates how the formula refers to "events occurring since the beginning of history" (Vol. 52B:748).

Hb 4:3, according to Aune, speaks of "the creation of the universe." But I believe this verse is particularly referring to the time period after Adam and Eve's creation. Either way, I do not see how the Witness belief in the world's founding is a stretch.

N.B. Aune obviously does not concur with the Witness interpretation of matters. But even he has to admit that Lk 11:50 speaks of a historical event. However we understand the phrase APO (PRO) KATABOLHS KOSMOU, I think Mounce rightly observes that Rev 13:8; 17:8 do not teach determinism when they employ such language:

"Those that dwell upon the earth stand in awe when they behold the beast. They are those whose names have not been written in the book of life (Cf Ps 69:28; Isa 4:3; Rev 3:5) from the foundation of the world. John is not teaching a form of determinism (according to 3:5 names may be blotted out of the book of life), but emphasizing the great distinction that exists between the followers of the Lamb and those who give allegiance to the beast" (Bill Mounce, Revelation, pages 312-313).

Even Aune finds certain readings of both apocalyptic passages hard to swallow and submits that they have likely undergone redaction, which explains the present negative formulations found in Revelation 13:8; 17:8.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Brief Review of Luke Timothy Johnson's "The Real Jesus"

Luke Timothy Johnson's work The Real Jesus focuses on certain twentieth century attempts to locate Jesus of Nazareth in human history via critical methodologies. While Johnson primarily takes the Jesus Seminar to task for its "ersatz" scholarship, he also refuses to tread lightly on the sophisticated discussions produced by Catholics John Meier and Raymond E. Brown. Overall, Johnson's book is an authentic thought provoking page-turner. His comments on the current state of biblical scholarship in the academy are insightful and revealing. For instance, those who strike out in a quest for the "historical Jesus," who is distinguished from the "Christ of faith" seem to assume that there is a metaphysical dichotomy between objective facts and subjective values. History supposedly fits into the former category: it is putatively value-free and objective. Johnson, however, argues that "History is . . . the product of human intelligence and imagination" (page 81). The upshot of Johnson's analysis is that one can no more find the "real Jesus" by employing the tools of historical criticism than one can discover the "real Socrates" by examining so-called historical accounts of his life. History is not simply the objective recounting of events.

Not only is Johnson apprehensive when it comes to Kantian bifurcations, but he also notes that the Jesus Seminar and other modern scholars who have accepted the basic premises of historical criticism fail to adequately critique the limit and extent of human cognition. They subsequently disregard anything that cannot be grasped by human conceptual tools, things that can be dubbed "intellectual." Johnson warns that this approach is fraught with epistemic perils since the methodology sets aside miracles from the outset. By ruling out miracles ab initio, the means of detecting truth in the Biblical materials is inherently limited and proves to be unfit for hermeneutical tasks.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Meaning of Ephesians 1:4

Ephesians 1:4: "according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love" (YLT)

The Pulpit Commentary states: "The Father chose the heirs of salvation, selected those who were to be quickened from the dead (Ephesians 2:1) and saved, they [sic] chose them in Christ - in connection with his work and office as Mediator, giving them to him to be re-decreed (John 17:11, 12); not after man was created, nor after man had fallen, but 'before the foundation of the world.' We are here face to face with a profound mystery. Before even the world was founded, mankind presented themselves to God as lost; the work of redemption was planned and its details arranged from all eternity. Before such a mystery it becomes us to put the shoes from off our feet, and bow reverently before him whose 'judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out.'"

MY RESPONSE: Nevertheless, I believe that a number of exegetes today explain Eph 1:4 as applicable to a group of people, to wit, 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. But the Supreme One wills that all humans be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). Men and women are therefore not passive objects (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. So He either chooses not to know or knows as indeterminate the decision that men and women will make vis-à-vis His glorious Person and offer of salvation. My understanding of omniscience is consistent with that of Richard Swinburne who thinks of God in these terms:

"A person P is omniscient at a time t if and only if he knows of every true proposition about t or an earlier time that it is true and also he knows of every true proposition about a time later than t, such that what is [sic] reports is physically necessitated by some cause at t or earlier, that it is true" (Swinburne, 1977, 175).


Justin Martyr and Eternal Torments (from Βασίλειος)

Βασίλειος writes:

I think I can offer all the citations. Yet it may be better if Edgar makes a new post for the specific topic.

For Justin: I have read the entire work of Justin and I don't remember anywhere his saying that there would be eternal torments. He speaks of torments after death until the final judgmenet, which is the end of the Millenium, and then utter distruction. In his 1st Apology, he speaks of the immortality of the soul, but he doesn't say that all souls are immortal. The rest of his works shows that only the souls of the faithfull can be considered as immortal because of the kidness of God. The fate of the wicked souls is evident here:

"'But I do not say, indeed, that all souls die; for that were truly a piece of good fortune to the evil. What then? The souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of judgment. Thus some which have appeared worthy of God never die; but others are punished so long as God wills them to exist and to be punished.'
"'Is what you say, then, of a like nature with that which Plato in Timoeus hints about the world, when he says that it is indeed subject to decay, inasmuch as it has been created, but that it will neither be dissolved nor meet with the fate of death on account of the will of God? Does it seem to you the very same can be said of the soul, and generally of all things? For those things which exist after God, or shall at any time exist, these have the nature of decay, and are such as may be blotted out and cease to exist; for God alone is unbegotten and incorruptible, and therefore He is God, but all other things after Him are created and corruptible. For this reason souls both die and are punished […].
"'It makes no matter to me,' said he, 'whether Plato or Pythagoras, or, in short, any other man held such opinions. For the truth is so; and you would perceive it from this. The soul assuredly is or has life. If, then, it is life, it would cause something else, and not itself, to live, even as motion would move something else than itself. Now, that the soul lives, no one would deny. But if it lives, it lives not as being life, but as the partaker of life; but that which partakes of anything, is different from that of which it does partake. Now the soul partakes of life, since God wills it to live. Thus, then, it will not even partake [of life] when God does not will it to live. For to live is not its attribute, as it is God's; but as a man does not live always, and the soul is not for ever conjoined with the body, since, whenever this harmony must be broken up, the soul leaves the body, and the man exists no longer; even so, whenever the soul must cease to exist, the spirit of life is removed from it, and there is no more soul, but it goes back to the place from whence it was taken.'—Dialogue with Trypho, V-VI.

Wherefore God delays causing the confusion and destruction of the whole world, by which the wicked angels and demons and men shall cease to exist, because of the seed of the Christians, who know that they are the cause of preservation in nature. Since, if it were not so, it would not have been possible for you to do these things, and to be impelled by evil spirits; but the fire of judgment would descend and utterly dissolve all things, even as formerly the flood left no one but him only with his family who is by us called Noah, and by you Deucalion, from whom again such vast numbers have sprung, some of them evil and others good. For so we say that there will be the conflagration, but not as the Stoics, according to their doctrine of all things being changed into one another, which seems most degrading.—Apology 2, VII

Friday, September 13, 2013

Admin Matters

I appreciate all who follow this blog. There have been times when I have been ready to quit blogging, but the readers have kept me going. I've been busy lately, so I have not had time to answer many questions. I do plan to address some recent comments that have been posted here, however. I also just ask that comments be made under the appropriate threads. I sometimes flex this rule. But it will be more strictly enforced in the future.

Thanks again!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

H. F. D. Sparks Commenting on The Assumption of Moses

The following quote is taken from the book The Apocryphal Old Testament
Published in print February 1985 | ISBN: 9780198261773

Published online April 2009. This work is made available by Oxford Biblical Studies Online. See

The Assumption of Moses

The Assumption is preserved only in an incomplete Latin version, which has survived as the underwriting on a single quire of a 6th or 7th cent. palimpsest in the Ambrosian library at Milan (Cod. C73 Inf.). This palimpsest contains on other quires the Latin fragments of Jubilees and also fragments of an anonymous heretical commentary on St. Luke. The text was published by Ceriani in 1861 in the first fascicle of his Monumenta Sacra et Profana. Although the first three lines of the Assumption are unfortunately wanting, it seems that the work started at the beginning of the quire. But at the end the text breaks off in mid-sentence, and there are no means of knowing how much has been lost.

The MS itself gives the work no title. The common title, ‘The Assumption of Moses’, was inferred by Ceriani from the fact that Gelasius of Cyzicus, in his Collection of the Acts of the Council of Nicaea, quotes i. 14 and explicitly attributes it to the Assumption, 1 a work independently proved to have been known in the early Church from references in other patristic writers and from the ancient lists of apocryphal books.

Nevertheless, the identification is not certain. The lists mention a ‘Testament’ of Moses as well as an ‘Assumption’; and ‘Testament’ is a description that fits the contents of our fragment very well. Moreover, the lists all place the Testament before the Assumption. A variety of possibilities is therefore opened up. Three of them may be stated: (1) that our fragment is indeed the Assumption, as Ceriani inferred, and that the Testament either has been lost or is Jubilees under another name (this last hypothesis will explain why the fragments of Jubilees were found in such close proximity to our fragment in the same palimpsest); (2) that our fragment is the Testament and not the Assumption, and that Gelasius's ascription of i. 14 to the Assumption is due to confusion on his part between the two (in this case it is the Assumption which has been lost); and (3) that the Testament and the Assumption, originally two distinct works, were at an early date combined and subsequently circulated as the ‘Assumption’, and that it is the opening of this combined work which has been preserved in our fragment (this was Charles's view).

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Psalm 45 and PROSKUNEW (From "Christology and the Trinity"-Volume 1)

In the unparalleled and beautiful Messianic Psalm 45 (44 LXX), the Hebrew lyricist treats his readers to one of the greatest literary and spiritual accomplishments in human history. The psalmist proclaims that his words are heartfelt utterances about a king. His tongue consequently becomes like a writing instrument as he pictorially relates the beauty and glory of the Potentate that God supremely blesses (Ps 45:1, 2) for all eternity. This King is indeed mighty, prosperous and most capable of utterly annihilating his enemies in truth and righteousness as his weapons accurately penetrate the heart of his adversaries with incomprehensible precision (Ps 45:3-5).

As the psalmist continues delineating the royal activities of Yahweh's King, he goes into some detail describing the profuse and aromatic oils that emanate from the King's garments as his queenly consort stands at his right hand, while she too appears arrayed in exquisite and aromatic garments (Ps 45:10). Though this entire psalm is dramatic and quite telling, we must stop now in order to focus on Ps 45:11-12 (44:12, 13 LXX). This verse in the LXX reads: kai proskunesousin autos thugateres Tyrou en dorois to prosopon sou litaneusousin hoi plousioi tou laou.

The Hebrew text indicates that it is the queenly consort herself who should bow down to the King. Originally, the psalm evidently had reference to an anointed Judean king who sat upon the throne of Jehovah (1 Chron 29:23). It is a nuptial ode that scholars have associated with Solomon or with the wedding of Ahab (Buttenwieser 84-85). The psalm most certainly does not apply to a pagan king in its initial fulfillment, however, since it is YHWH who anoints the mighty King (Ps 45:8, 9). Knowing the possible identity of the King in the song's initial application is important, for this insight helps us to understand in what sense either the Maiden of Tyre or the queenly consort of the King is to render proskuneo to him.

While proskuneo in Ps 45:11-12 could certainly mean that the Maiden of Tyre or the queen worships the King, it is more likely the case that the song depicts the queen or the Maiden of Tyre simply bowing down to the King with great deference or respect. This point is especially clear in the LXX where the Maiden of Tyre seeks the King’s favor by means of expensive and very precious gifts (Buttenwieser 86). Thus, the psalmist's use of proskuneo does not seem to denote “worship,” but simply refers to a display of respect for a superior (God's royal Messiah whom He has anointed and blessed). The usage of proskuneo in Ps 45:11-12 appears to reflect that found in Mk 5:6 and other texts that involve Jesus (Jn 9:38). Compare Ralph Earle’s comments concerning Mk 5:6 in his Word Meanings in the New Testament.