Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dialogues with Michael Coogan (Genesis 1:2)

Michael Coogan (The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures) makes another claim about the opening verses of Genesis, particularly, Genesis 1:2. He maintains that the word usually translated "deep" in that passage does not have the definite article in Hebrew, therefore, it should be rendered without the definite article in English.

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Gen 1:2 NIV).

The Hebrew term that is rendered "the deep" is תְּהוֹם (tehom) which is also translated "the great deep" in Gen 7:11 (KJV), etc. Robert Alter also uses the definite article at Gen 1:2 in his translation: "and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters"

Many other examples could be given where a noun does not have the article in Hebrew or Greek, but it's still definite rather than indefinite or qualitative. A famous example we have from the LXX Greek text is Gen 1:1 which employs the anarthrous noun for "beginning" but should be understood as definite "the beginning."

Dialogues With Michael Coogan (Genesis 1:1)

Scholar Michael Coogan insists that the rendering "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is grammatically incorrect, according to the original Hebrew reading of Genesis 1:1. He makes this claim in his introductory work to the Old Testament. While the respected translator and scholar Robert Alter departs from the traditional reading of Gen 1:1 and prefers to translate 1:1 with "When God began to create heaven and earth"--one thing I've learned about translation is that one must be careful about stating something in absolute terms that can be understood in more than one way.

For instance, notice what the NET Bible states about Genesis 1:1, which explains why many Bibles do stick with the traditional reading of 1:1:

The translation assumes that the form translated “beginning” is in the absolute state rather than the construct (“in the beginning of,” or “when God created”). In other words, the clause in v. 1 is a main clause, v. 2 has three clauses that are descriptive and supply background information, and v. 3 begins the narrative sequence proper. The referent of the word “beginning” has to be defined from the context since there is no beginning or ending with God.


See the NET Bible for a discussion of some issues that affect the translation of Gen 1:1. But my point is that Coogan too strongly maintains that the reading found in KJV and other Bibles is grammatically incorrect based on the original Hebrew when he should have noted that it's a viable option, even if he disagrees with how others have elected to construe the Hebrew text.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

ONOMA in Philippians 2:9-11 (Moulton-Milligan)

Moulton and Milligan express their view of ONOMA (Philippians 2) when writing:

"By a usage similar to that of the Heb. SHEM, ONOMA comes in the NT to denote the character, fame, authority of the person indicated (cf. Phil. 2:9f, Heb 1:4). With this may be compared the use of the word as a title of dignity or rank, as in P Oxy I.58.6 (A.D. 288) where complaint is made of the number of officials who have devised 'offices' for themselves--ONOMATA hEAUTOIS EXEURONTES, and provision is made that, on the appointment of a single trustworthy superintendent, the remaining 'offices' shall cease-14f. TA DE LOIPA ONOMATA PAUSHTAI."

See the entry for ONOMA in M-M.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

2 Peter 2:1--Redemption and the Redemptive Agent

The difference between Acts 20:28 and other passages that speak of Christians being redeemed or purchased seems quite striking. While some scholars may wish to attribute the putative disparity to Luke's individual view of God's salvific activity through Christ, it appears that the GNT as a whole does make a vital distinction between God's divine act of redemption and the redemptive agent, Jesus Christ.

For instance, while Luke employs περιεποιήσατο in Acts 20:28 ( a morphological form that occurs once in the GNT), other verses from the Pauline and Johannine literature use a form of ἀγοράζω:

ἠγοράσθητε γὰρ τιμῆς· δοξάσατε δὴ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν (1 Cor 6:20).

τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων (1 Cor 7:23).

1 Cor 7:22 relates that "anyone in the Lord" is also "a slave of Christ," indicating that the one who purchased or redeemed the Corinthians is Christ. (Notice Paul's discussion regarding πορνεία in 1 Cor 6:19-20 as well.)

2 Pt 2:1 employs τὸν ἀγοράσαντα αὐτοὺς δεσπότην and it could fittingly refer to Christ since Peter writes elsewhere that Christians were "redeemed" (ἐλυτρώθητε) from vain conduct by means of Christ's precious blood (1 Pt 1:18-19). Compare Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14.

Finally, the Lamb bought (ἠγόρασας) persons for God out of every tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9). Maybe Rev 14:3 primarily has Christ's role in mind then, when it reports that the 144,000 have been purchased from the earth:

οἱ ἠγορασμένοι ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς.

I therefore conclude that Christ could well be the δεσπότης spoken of in 2 Pt 2:1 and Jd 4. What is more, Luke may have intended to highlight God's preeminent role in the divine act of salvation. God sent His Son to redeem obedient humankind (Gal 4:4-5); He thus purchased us by using the Lamb to redeem persons of faith (Gal 3:13).