Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Matthew 24:45 (Faithful Slave)--Old Post

I probably wrote this piece over a decade ago. At that time, the Witnesses' understanding of the "faithful and discreet slave" was that the designation applied to the anointed on earth at any given time, beginning with Pentecost 33 CE.


True, Matt. 24:45 does not necessarily teach that the "slave" is more than one person. But since the text is embedded in the Olivet eschatological discourse, and since the "slave" is appointed before the Master leaves and is still present when the Master returns, it is quite likely that the "slave" does consist of more than one person who feeds a household of slaves. Francis Wright Beare writes:

"Slave--the figure reflects the fact of slavery in the ancient world . . . The parable, then, pictures the church as a great household with a staff of slaves, and concerns itself only with the head slave."

Beare continues:

"Since the monarchical episcopate had not yet developed, it cannot be supposed that the parable presupposes that the church is ruled by a single head. If it does, we should have to think of it as applying to Peter, or(conceivably) James, who soon became head of the Jerusalem church. But it is better to see him [the slave] as a figure of every one who is in a position of responsibility in the church" (Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew, page 477).

While I do not think that the "slave" is restricted to those who have responsibility in the "church," I think Beare's comments show that the "slave" could be more than one person.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The "Angel" of Zechariah 1:12

From a conversation dated 1/10/2000:

MY ORIGINAL QUESTION: In Zech. 1:12, 13, God is said to address His angel with "comforting words." The angel shows that he is ignorant of how Yahweh's purposes will work out and he even poses a question to God (Zech. 1:12).

How does this tie in with NT theology? Well, I've often heard some commentators say that the Malak YHWH is the "pre-incarnate" Christ. If this is true, then would not the angel in Zech. 1:12, 13 be the pre-existent Messiah? Would this not also mean that prior to his "self-emptying" the Son of God was not Omniscient? This question has been on my mind for a while. I'm just wondering how those who believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man(VERE DEUS ET VERE HOMO) deal with it.

INTERLOCUTOR RESPONSE: Edgar's question is puzzling because I don't know of any commentator that identifies the ML)K-YHWH in Zech. 1:12 as a theophany.


Here are what some theologians and commentators say about this issue.

In the Word Biblical Commentary, Ralph Smith writes that "the angel of Yahweh [in Zech. 1] is not to be identified as Yahweh in this case" (p. 190). Smith does not say why this is the case and I was not aware that a theopany must occur for the Malak YHWH to be identifed as YHWH, but Smith does believe that because the angel intercedes in Zech. 1: "he may represent a forerunner of Michael, the patron angel of Israel" (p. 190).

Charles Ryrie has this information from his Basic Theology:

"As discussed in chapter 40, the Angel of Yahweh is a Christophany, a preincarnate appearance of Christ. The Angel speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the prerogatives of God" (p. 130).

To support his statements, Ryrie lists Zech. 1:12 and applies it to Christ. To me, Ryrie evidently believes that Zech. 1:12 is a Christophany. Later he writes, "Clearly the Angel of Yahweh is a self-manifestation of Yahweh, for He speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims to exercise the prerogatives of God."

Again he cites Zech. 1:12--but he adds that "He is distinguished from Yahweh
(Gen. 24:7; Zech. 1:12, 13)" because he is the second Person of the Trinity.
So Ryrie observes that the Angel in Zech. 1:12 is a manifestation of the
"pre-incarnate Christ." His words are in harmony with Eric Myers of Duke, who
calls the Malak YHWH in Zechariah, Yahweh's "alter ego" (See the Anchor Bible Commentary on Zech. 1-8).

The Complete Word Study: Old Testament also claims:

"This is the first of Zechariah's night visions (Zech. 1:7-6:8) and is significant because the 'angel of the LORD' (a phrase throughout the Old Testament) is a reference to a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ" (ftn. on Zech. 1:7-17).

Best regards,

With Whom Did Jacob Wrestle?

I had a dialogue with one Catholic gentleman three years ago. He tried to argue that the writer of Genesis did not clarify the identity of Jacob's wrestling partner. Was it God himself or an angel of God? I replied (in part):

It is best not to read biblical texts at face value as they are rendered in English. There are a number of textual and interpretive issues linked with Hosea 12:3-5. However, nothing that you quote contravenes what I've said thus far. The Hebrew word for God can be applied to YHWH or to the messenger (Malak) of YHWH. For instance, Ehud Ben Zvi explains that the construction you quote could mean "a messenger [of God]" strove and was victorious over Jacob. He points out that Hosea's choice of EL in verse 5 could point to "a god/divine being" who is identified as the "messenger of God." If this interpretation holds, then there is no conflict between the prophet speaking about an angel wrestling with Jacob and Jacob reportedly seeing God.

The more I research the account in Genesis 32 anyway, the more it appears that the evidence suggest Jacob did wrestle with a spirit creature (i.e. an angel). See Genesis 32:1-2. Moreover, some commentators argue that Jacob had a vision when he contended with the "man" or angel, similar to the ladder vision that he beheld in a dream earlier.

The Catholic NAB has these footnotes on Genesis 32:

"Some man: a messenger of the Lord in human form, as is clear from Genesis 32:29,-31"

"Israel: the first part of the Hebrew name Yisrael is given a popular explanation in the word sarita, 'you contended'; the second part is the first syllable of elohim, 'divine beings.' The present incident, with a similar allusion to the name Israel, is referred to in Hosea 12:5, where the mysterious wrestler is explicitly called an angel."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review of Antonio Damasio's "Descartes' Error"

What one thinks of Damasio's lovely work, Descartes' Error, will largely depend on how interested one is in matters pertaining to the human brain, consciousness and the self. Additionally, one who does not have much of an appetite for technical language will probably not get very fair in this work. Much of Damasio's study is also hypothetical in nature. Therefore, I would not recommend this work to those who have little or no tolerance for abstracta/theoria. But if you are intensely intrigued by the inner workings of the human brain, this book is for you. Damasio initiates his discussion with a fascinating story about Phineas Gage, a man who had a 3 1/2 foot iron rod pass through his head and lived to tell about it. Damasio moves from Gage to other patients who have experienced damage to their frontal lobes and he reviews the effect it had on their lives.

Damasio argues that reason and emotions are both needed in order for sound judgment (prudence) to obtain. Finally, he challenges Cartesian dualism, which posits the anthropological notion of a RES EXTENSA and RES COGITANS. Damasio winds up contending that the "self" which has received so much theoretical attention throughout human history is probably neural in nature (somehow), unlike Descrates envisioned it. In short, it's possible that there is no human self without a functioning brain in a body; at least, not on this earth. The one drawback that I find with this book is that Damasio does not spend enough time critiquing Cartesian dualism. Nevertheless, the journey that terminates in an analysis of Cartesianism is well worth the ride. Moreover, the author offers an alternative to Descartes' theory that is both compelling and thought-provoking.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Dr. Joe Hellerman Offers Commentary on Philippians 2:6 and MORFH


The phrase ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ presents the first crux in our passage. Μορφή (here dat. sg. fem.) is best trs. “form” (most EVV; BDAG 659c). The NIV’s “in very nature God” (“truly God” [CEV]; “God” [NLT]; “possessed of the very nature of God” [H-M 114]) constitutes an interpretation that is neither well supported by the usage of the term in HGk. nor particularly suitable to the surrounding context. Although the term can be used substantially (Plato Phaed. 103e; Resp. 381c; Aristotle Met. 11.1060b; Phys. 2.1.193b; Plut. Quaest. plat. 1003b; Def. orac. 429a; Philo Spec. 1.327–28), there is no semantic component in μορφή that necessarily involves a corresponding “nature” (NIV) or ontology (pace Fee 204; H-M 114). The great majority of instances where μορφή and its cognates occur in HGk. mean simply “outward appearance” (Dan Fabricatore, Form of God, Form of a Servant: An Examination of the Greek Noun μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7 [University Press of America, 2009]; “form, outward appearance, shape” [BDAG 659c]; that “which may be perceived by the senses” [J. Behm, TDNT 4:745-46]).

Book Review of Kevin Corcoran's "Rethinking Human Nature"

Rethinking Human Nature: A Christian Materialist Alternative to the Human Soul. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group. 160 pages long. All references below will be from Corcoran's study.

Philosophical anthropology is normally framed in terms of dualism and physicalism. Dualism asserts that humans are two things (body and soul) while materialism generally contends that we are one thing (body). Corcoran presents a "Christian materialist" alternative to universally held beliefs about human nature and the soul. He refers to his position as the "constitution view" (CV). Unlike other types of physicalism, CV maintains that the human body is not identical with the human person. Bodies constitute persons like marble or wood respectively function as constituents of tables. Another example that Corcoran gives regarding the CV is dollar bills: paper constitutes dollar bills, but is not absolutely identical with this form of currency.
The word "identical" is used as a technical term in order to reference things being numerically identical with one another (i.e. not replicas). Clark Kent is numerically identical with Superman because they are one and the same object. Other examples include books which are absolutely identical or a car that remains identical (persists as the same object) through time. What allows us to make identity claims of an object (X)? What justifies the belief that a thing (X) sustains its particular identity each year or every second? Corcoran discusses the subject of numerical identity as well as the role that persistence conditions play in the belief that X remains identical within a spatio-temporal context. He points out that the relevant persistence conditions for X depend on exactly what X is. The persistence conditions of a human body are not the same as those for a banana. Just what it means for a human body to persist will help to determine important questions regarding anthropology. Corcoran distinguishes between a) Substance Dualism; b) Compound Dualism or Hylomorphism and c) Emergent Dualism, and he perceives logical deficiencies in each species of dualism. For instance, Descartes' assumption about different kinds of properties not being instantiated in particular objects seems questionable: his arguments may be valid but there could be a question concerning their soundness.

This publication regards Plato and Descartes as Substance Dualists, and Thomas Aquinas as a Compound Dualist: "According to Aquinas' Compound Dualist view, a human soul is a kind of form, and forms are dynamic states" (36). This theoretical approach (hylomorphism or Compound Dualism) insists that soul and body constitute one thing, namely, a person. It thereby seems to generate problematics when trying to account for the post mortem intermediate state in which a soul obtains without a body. On the other hand, William Hasker is an emergent dualist. Emergent Dualism is demarcated from other forms of dualism insofar as it allows for mind to emerge from complex physical systems. Hasker even maintains that it is logically possible for mind to exist apart from its generating physical source (the brain) after the physical death of a biological organism--but Corcoran is critical of Emergent Dualism on two fronts. Firstly, while Hasker posits an intimate or natural connection between body and soul, it appears that he believes mind (soul) is not causally dependent on the body (a physical system) since its continued existence in this life or the next does not require causal dependence on a physical system (43). Secondly, the Emergent Dualism of Hasker apparently splits the human person "into two disparate entities" (ibid). Therefore, while Emergent Dualism may be able to set itself apart from Substance Dualism by appealing to physical systems, it retains problematics seemingly indigenous to Substance Dualism.

Another burning question in discussions of human nature revolves around the definition of "person." Corcoran helpfully outlines the conditions for personhood in multiple ways: a) the capacity for a certain range of intentionality; b) the ability for a first-person perspective; c) persons are essentially constituted by means of bodies; d) persons are inherently relational. The word "intentionality" (used technically here) means that persons can experience (inter alia) belief states: a person has the capability to believe that something is the case or a person can exercise self-referentiality. Furthermore, nothing a priori should keep persons from being defined in fully embodied terms. While persons are not identical with their bodies, as witnessed by the famous Ship of Theseus example, they evidently bear a unique relationship to embodiment.

But while Christian materialism potentially does not have some of the conceptual difficulties associated with dualism, and it may even be possible to render a coherent account of CV, one might ask whether Christian materialism is able to supply the conceptual resources needed to protect the human fetus? In other words, must one accept a dualistic account of humanity to secure the intrinsic rights of human personhood? J.P. Moreland and Scott Rae (85-87) argue that materialism in se cannot produce a suitable ethic for human persons. Instead, they submit that a dualist account of personhood is required to develop a proper moral account vis-à-vis abortion, human cloning, euthanasia and fetal research. Corcoran admits that CV alone cannot provide the metaphysical resources needed to generate moral obligations that adequately protect a human fetus. But he contends that dualism does not have the ability to generate such obligations either. Corcoran argues that one must supplement both dualism and materialism with other metaphysical resources to produce a suitable ethic of life. What is needed? We must posit God’s benevolent intentions toward creation to successfully undergird a metaphysical account of personhood. Without this foundation for an ethical system, Corcoran avers that the necessary metaphysical resources to protect a human fetus will be lacking. Of course, while the Creator’s good intentions can be accepted within a particular context, the philosophical tradition suggests that the Euthyphro Dilemma might be raised by this approach.

Corcoran includes the notion of immanent causal condition (ICC) in this work. This concept is an important consideration since the traditional philosophical intuition pronounces that once a thing (A) experiences an existential gap, A has ceased to be identical with itself. For instance, if a manuscript known as P66 is cast into the fire, but a scribe later produces another manuscript that is phenomenologically indistinguishable from P66, the common intuition is to say that the latter manuscript is a replica. However, ICC potentially accounts for a thing (A) remaining identical although it experiences gaps in existence. ICC suggests that as long as an earlier stage of pre-gap existence is causally relevant to a later stage of post-gap existence, then a thing (A) remains numerically identical. ICC further stipulates that a state (Y) must bring about changes (Z) within an object (A) rather than a numerically distinct object (B) in order for one to speak about ICC occurring within the same object.

The ICC apparatus supposedly functions as the diachronic condition of a thing: it may persist through time as a causally relevant mechanism for the biological organism. This causal condition thereby preserves the identity of A. Corcoran's book is a tightly argued work, it's accessible and he makes distinctions well. There are formally written parts to satisfy professional logicians; his work also meaningfully contributes to discussions on human nature and the study of personhood. I recommend this work for those interested in questions regarding philosophical anthropology and the post mortem condition for humans. But the approach in this work is more philosophical than biblical. While Corcoran concludes this book with scriptural passages, those seeking a biblical explanation for Christian materialism should probably consult other studies.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Psalm 8:5 Commentary by Barnes and Gill

First, from Barnes:

Than the angels - So this is rendered by the Aramaic Paraphrase: by the Septuagint; by the Latin Vulgate; by the Syriac and Arabic; and by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 2:7, who has literally quoted the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses from the Septuagint. The Hebrew, however, is - מאלהים mi'ĕlôhı̂ym - than God. So Gesenius renders it, "Thou hast caused him to want but little of God; that is, thou hast made him but little lower than God." So DeWette, "nur wenig unter Gott." So Tholuck renders it, "nur um wenig unter Gott." This is the more natural construction, and this would convey an idea conformable to the course of thought in the psalm, though it has been usually supposed that the word used here - אלהים 'Elohiym - may be applied to angels, or even men, as in Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9. Gesenius (Thesau. Ling. Heb., p. 95) maintains that the word never has this signification. The authority, however, of the Aramaic, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, would seem sufficient to show that that meaning may be attached to the word here with propriety, and that somehow that idea was naturally suggested in the passage itself. Still, if it were not for these versions, the most natural interpretation would be that which takes the word in its usual sense, as referring to God, and as meaning that, in respect to his dominion over the earth, man had been placed in a condition comparatively but little inferior to God himself; he had made him almost equal to himself.

Gill offers these remarks:

but since the word is rendered "angels" by the Chaldee paraphrase, the Septuagint interpreters, the Jewish commentators, Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, and in the Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and above all by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, it is best to interpret it of them


The NET translates the Hebrew as "heavenly beings" while offering this footnote:

Heb "and you make him lack a little from [the] gods [or "God"]." The Piel form of חָסַר (khasar, "to decrease, to be devoid") is used only here and in Eccl 4:8, where it means "to deprive, to cause to be lacking." The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive either carries on the characteristic nuance of the imperfect in v. 5b or indicates a consequence ("so that you make him…") of the preceding statement (see GKC 328 §111.m). Some prefer to make this an independent clause and translate it as a new sentence, “You made him….” In this case the statement might refer specifically to the creation of the first human couple, Adam and Eve (cf. Gen 1:26-27). The psalmist does appear to allude to Gen 1:26-27, where mankind is created in the image of God and his angelic assembly (note “let us make man in our image” in Gen 1:26). However, the psalmist's statement need not be limited in its focus to that historical event, for all mankind shares the image imparted to the first human couple. Consequently the psalmist can speak in general terms of the exalted nature of mankind. The referent of אֱלֹהִים (’elohim, "God" or "the heavenly beings") is unclear. Some understand this as a reference to God alone, but the allusion to Gen 1:26-27 suggests a broader referent, including God and the other heavenly beings (known in other texts as "angels"). The term אֱלֹהִים is also used in this way in Gen 3:5, where the serpent says to the woman, “you will be like the heavenly beings who know good and evil.” (Note Gen 3:22, where God says, “the man has become like one of us.”) Also אֱלֹהִים may refer to the members of the heavenly assembly in Ps 82:1, 6. The LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the OT) reads “angels” in Ps 8:5 (this is the source of the quotation of Ps 8:5 in Heb 2:7).

Hebrews 1:2 and Semantic Forces or "A Son?"

ἐπ' ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι' οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας· (Hebrews 1:2, WH 1881)

Richard A. Young suggests that the anarthrous construction ἐν υἱῷ in Heb 1:2 focuses on “the nature rather than the personality of the Son.” Young thus concludes: “the character of the Son is contrasted with that of the prophets”(68). He then points to the anarthrous construction in Heb 5:8 as proof of this claim, where we are informed that although the man Jesus Christ was a Son of God, “he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Young again notes that the focus in 5:8 is on “the character of the Son rather than his specific identity” (68).

Daniel Wallace basically echoes the sentiments of Young, averring that “a Son” is probably the most effective way to render Heb 1:2. Yet, in the final analysis, Wallace thinks that there is no satisfactory way to compactly and succinctly communicate the writer’s intent at 1:2; nevertheless, he does submit that the anarthrous construction in this passage “is clearly qualitative" but closer to the indefinite category on the continuum of definite, indefinite and qualitative semantic forces (Wallace, 245). Ultimately, Wallace argues that Heb 1:2 speaks of the Son in a way that greatly sets him apart from both angels and men. Should one read this much into the anarthrous construction at Heb 1:2 or 5:8, however?

As we analyze 1:2, it must be pointed out that the expression about Christ could be definite, indefinite, or qualitative: more than likely, it actually overlaps on the continuum of these three “forces” (definite, indefinite, and qualitative). While the phrase in Heb 5:8 could be either definite, indefinite or qualitative (or overlap between forces), an indefinite sense alone while possible does not seem likely in 1:2. ἐν υἱῷ could well be definite here (as suggested by Charles C. Ryrie); however, in view of the context and the manner in which the author employs the anarthrous construction when delineating the exalted position of the Son throughout the rest of the letter, a qualitative or indefinite reading (or mixture of semantic forces) is the most likely option for Heb 1:2. Although I tend to concur with Wallace and Young in viewing Heb 1:2 and 5:8 as qualitative, it seems that they both read too much into the anarthrous construction at 1:2.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Leonard Hodgson (The Doctrine of the Trinity, page 217) cites the late Professor J.A. Smith who read a paper to the Oxford Philological Society about 76 years ago. In this paper (which unfortunately was not published by the 1940s)--Smith contended that the word LOGOS was never employed by the ancient Greeks to delineate "the active reasoning faculty in man" or "a cognate principle in the universe" (See The Doctrine of the Trinity. New York: Scribner's, 1944).

To the contrary, Smith maintains, TO LOGISTIKON was used to denote the reasoning faculty of humans.

Evidently a number of classical and philological scholars were present at Smith's reading of the paper on the LOGOS. Hodgson says that he felt "they regarded the thesis favorably" (218); therefore, Hodgson considers the question about the semantic domain of the word LOGOS to be an open one.

There is also a helpful book by Joel Wilcox called The Origins of Epistemology in Early Greek Thought: A Study of Psyche and Logos in Heraclitus. I'm also referencing this book because Smith even claimed that Heraclitus did not use LOGOS to describe "a cognate principle in the universe" as is commonly asserted. (one author has said that the LOGOS in Heraclitus refers to "an immutable law of necessity," whereas another avers that the Heraclitean LOGOS is "the omnipotent wisdom that steers all things.")

Concerning Philo's usage, Smith claims that "such men as Philo" employed LOGOS "to translate the Hebrew MEMRAH, and theologians in their ignorance had read back the later meaning, with which they were familiar, into earlier writings where it was out of place" (Hodgson 217).

So Smith would argue that Philo and the ANF (as well as modern theologians) utilized LOGOS in a way not consonant with its intended use in the Greek tradition. He also contends that the Heraclitean fragment TOU LOGOU TOUD' EONTOS AIEI ASUNETOI GINONTAI ANQRWPOI "has nothing to do with the eternity of a supernatural being" (Hodgson 217).

Jesus Entered Within the Curtain--How?

The book of Hebrews makes a contrast between Christian antitypes and "a shadow of heavenly things" that was associated with the Torah (Hebrews 8:1-5). As our High Priest according to the manner of Melchizedek, Jesus (in his role as PRODROMOS) entered within the curtain of the greater Most Holy or SANCTUM SANCTORUM (cf. Leviticus 16:1-2, 12, 15). What, however, is the "curtain" wherein Christ took the value of his precious blood?

According to Hebrews 10:20, the curtain represents Christ's flesh; hence, by dying and being resurrected to spirit life, the Lord Jesus entered the curtain in that he no longer had flesh as a barrier, but now dwelt as an immortal or incorruptible spirit being (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:45). It seems that 10:20 would make a good point to share with those who believe that Christ still has a fleshly body or that he has not entered within the curtain (figuratively speaking).

At any rate, the main point of the text seems clear enough. Jesus entered within (EISERXOMENHN EIS TO ESWTERON) the antitypical Most Holy (Holy of Holies) after he transcended his fleshly state:

"ESWTERON (#2278) within, inside of" (Rogers and Rogers Linguistic and Exegetical Key, page 529). See Acts 16:24.

BDAG Greek-English Lexicon notes: "In TO ESWTERON TOU KATAPETASMATOS, E. funct. as prep. w. gen. (cp. 1 Km 24:4) what is inside (= behind) the curtain, the Holy of Holies Hb 6:19 (Lev 16:2, 12, 15)."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Maimonides' "Take" on Elohim

Although he's writing in the Middle Ages, I've often found that Rabbi Maimonides (Rambam) has many valuable things to say about Hebrew, the Torah and Tanakh:

"Some years ago a learned man asked me a question of great importance; the problem and the solution which we gave in our reply deserve the closest attention. Before, however, entering upon this problem and its solution I must premise that every Hebrew knows that the term Elohim is a homonym, and denotes God, angels, judges, and the rulers of countries, and that Onkelos the proselyte explained it in the true and correct manner by taking Elohim in the sentence, 'and ye shall be like Elohim' (Gen. iii. 5) in the last-mentioned meaning, and rendering the sentence 'and ye shall be like princes.' Having pointed out the homonymity of the term "Elohim" we return to the question under consideration" (Guide for the Perplexed I.2).

Friedländer tr. [1904],

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hawthorne and Philippians 2:6-7

There is an interesting discussion of Philippians 2:6ff in Gerald Hawthorne's commentary on Philippians; he believes that it is erroneous to translate ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων as a concessive participial phrase (Hawthrone, Philippians, 85).

Hawthorne elects to render the phrase causatively: "precisely because he was in the form of God he reckoned equality with God not as a matter of getting but of giving."

Of course this view seems to presuppose that Jesus is ontologically equal to God and that ἁρπαγμὸν refers to an act of giving as opposed to getting (snatching). So while Hawthorne's proposal is innovative, to say the least, I am not convinced for a number of grammatical reasons.

Firstly, construing ὑπάρχων as a concessive participle is more in keeping with the context. If we translate the participial phrase concessively, it illuminates the second part of Phil. 2:6 which reads ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ (Moises Silva, Philippians, 123).

Secondly, within the immediate context of Phil. 2:6a, the humility of Christ is emphasized more if we construe the participial phrase in a concessive manner. As a matter of fact, Richard A Young also interprets this part of the verse concessively:

"Although he existed in the very nature of God" (Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek, 156).

While I agree with Young's rendering of the participial phrase to an extent (since he renders the verse in a concessive manner), I take exception to his translation "the very nature of God" for lexical semantic and theological reasons.

It does not seem that Phil. 2:6 wants to make the claim that Jesus was "equal to God." There is an alternate explanation for the phrase τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. Granted, some exegetes want to interpret the Greek article in τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ anaphorically, thus they would have it (anaphorically) point back to ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων. Yet, grammarian Daniel B. Wallace writes:

"[N. T.] Wright argues that the article is anaphoric, referring back to μορφῇ θεοῦ. As attractive as this view may be theologically, it has a weak basis grammatically. The infinitive is the object and the anarthrous term, ἁρπαγμός, is the complement. The most natural reason for the article with the infinitive is simply to mark it out as the object."


Additionally, P. M. Casey writes:

"On a strict definition of 'incarnation,' Philippians 2:6-11 does not qualify because Jesus was not fully divine, in the view of the original author" (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God [Cambridge, UK and Louisville, KY: James Clarke and Westminster/John Knox, 1991], 112-114).

While the NIV translates Phil. 2:6, "Who being in very nature God," Carolyn Osiek believes that this rendering is not wholly faithful to the Greek text. Contra the NIV, she does not think 2:6 teaches the absolute Deity of Christ (See Osiek 2000:60ff).

Church Father Tatian, Hebrew Elohim and the Greek LOGOS

Peter Craigie contends that the translation "God" for the Hebrew elohim in Psalm 8:4-5 "is almost certainly correct" and he believes that the term probably alludes to the image of deity in humankind (cf. Genesis 1:26-27); however, it is important to note that the LXX, Syriac, MT, Vulgate and the Targumim all indicate that elohim in Psalm 8:4-5 signifies "angels." The pre-Nicenes also prefer the linguistic terminology "angels" over against the rendering "God" for this passage: Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Tatian conceive of the elohim mentioned in the psalm as "angels." Undoubtedly, these writers were influenced by the LXX/OL tradition or had their view informed by the account in Hebrews 2:7.

See Craigie, Psalms 1-50, WBC (Waco: Word, 1983), 108.

Tatian was born in Assyria and eventually became a student of Justin Martyr. The Oratio is his best and most useful work, according to Eusebius. See Oratio ad Graecos and Fragments, trans. Molly Whittaker (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), x.

Tatian converted to the church by perusing the "barbaric writings" (i.e. the Scriptures) of Judaism and Christianity. See Oratio 30; later, he allegedly became an austere heretic, although we cannot definitively substantiate the heretical nature of Tatian's beliefs (Little, Apologists, 179-180). Whittaker thinks that it is hard to determine Tatian's orthodoxy or heretical status on the basis of the Oratio alone (Oratio, xvi).

Tatian, while emphasizing gnosis like his famed heretical counterparts (the Gnostics), still does not speak about intermediary agents (aeons) who are part of some divine pleroma; nor does he juxtapose the Most High (altissimus) with a demiurgical creator-god. See ibid., xvii.

Tatian also received training as a rhetor before he settled in Rome. His concept of the LOGOS is an abstract conception of divine rationality that assumes hypostaticity prior to and for the purpose of creation: the criticisms of Irenaeus and Hippolytus directed toward Tatian may therefore be justified. See Adv. Haer. I, 28 and Philosophumena 8.16.

Nice Study on LXX Vocabulary

Please see



Friday, December 19, 2014

God and the Future (the Grand Cosmic Play Which Allows for Genuine Freedom)

Let us assume that God is the director of a great cosmic drama. As grand director, He chooses to let those starring in the cosmic play, follow the script according to their agent-causal powers. Now the director knows both the AB INITIO of the play and the TERMINUS (Isa 46:10); however, the events that transpire in the middle are not tightly scripted and thus occur spontaneously. But, since He is the director, God can make adjustments here and there during the play in order to ensure that the TERMINUS finishes according to His liking.

Furthermore, being the superb director that He is, God knows that a number of "actors" will adhere closely to the script: He knows the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (1 Sam 16:7). Nevertheless, those who refuse to act in harmony with the script will not thwart God's drama since He remains omnipotent (or almighty), qualitatively infinite and omniscient.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christ as the EIKON of God (Philo)-Part of a Working Paper

In The Son of God, Martin Hengel notes (based on 1 Cor. 8:6) that "the Father is the primal ground and goal of creation, whereas Christ is the mediator" (13).

Next, Hengel discusses the Alexandrian philosopher Philo; according to Philo, the Platonic realm of transcendent Forms (Ideas) is God's 'eldest and firstborn son' and is synonymous with God's LOGOS (divine reason immanent in the cosmos). To Philo, the LOGOS is the "mediator between the eternal Godhead and the created, visible world." At the same time, the Logos is also God's "image" (EIKWN).

Philo is never quite clear about what he perceives the LOGOS to be. In varying delineations, he refers to the LOGOS as the sinless mediator, the spiritual primal man, the spokesman, the archangel, and the second god (deuteros theos). This deuteros theos is neither created nor uncreated, yet Philo does not equate the EIKWN of God with God himself (52). This claim is proved by referencing Somn. I, 157, 228-230.

In this portion of his famous work, Philo calls the EIKWN THEOU, both kurios and archangel. This point is significant because it is here that he distinguishes the LOGOS from the Father who brings forth the LOGOS. The Father is ho theos, but the LOGOS can only be considered theos (without the article). This datum substantiates the point that Philo viewed this agent as mediator of creation and a secondary god, possibly inferior to the Father of Israel (Isa. 64:8).

This philosophical detour alerts us to the fact that EIKWN when used by Philo does not mean that a thing is to be equated fully with its prototype. The sun's reflection in the water is not the same as the actual sun: it does not possess the same nature (essence or quidditas) that the sun does. Similarly, Jesus as the EIKWN of God, does not possess the substance of the Father, but is homoiousios with him. One day anointed Christians will enjoy this same privilege, to a lesser degree of course, when they experience glorified life in the EIKWN of the Son--being made like unto his image and that of his Father's.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dogmata and Early Apostolic Authority (τὰ δόγματα)

A person once sent me a private email in which he questioned the idea of Christian teaching being dictated (governed) by a select group of men in a central location. Part of his argument was based on Acts 16:4 which uses the Greek expression τὰ δόγματα.

My response:

The apostles and older men at Jerusalem constituted an authoritative body of men who governed early believers and made important decisions regarding matters of doctrine, faith and morals. According to Acts 2:42, early Christians (after Pentecost) obeyed apostolic teaching; the preeminence of the apostles is likewise suggested by the vision that John received of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. That account depicts the apostles as foundation stones of the holy city.

In order to make a proper determination about what τὰ δόγματα may denote, we need to have more up to date resources than Strong's Concordance or Thayer's Greek-English lexicon since these publications do not include the contemporary work done after the Greek papyri of Egypt were discovered: knowledge of the Greek language has advanced since the publication of Strong or Thayer.

Granted, the term "dogma" evidently does not have the force of an imperial command in Acts 16:4 as one finds in Luke 2:1. Rather, the more probable meaning in Acts 16:4 is "a formal statement concerning rules or regulations that are to be observed" (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, 254) Compare Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14.

Every Greek text that I own (including UBS4 and NA27) has the reading τὰ δόγματα in the main text. τὰ δόγματα further seems to be attested in the homilies (Acts of the Apostles) of John Chrysostom. [Compare the new NA28 as well.]

I see no good reason to eschew the reading τὰ δόγματα in view of what we find in ancient writers and modern Greek texts. For a useful diachronic approach to the Greek term "dogma", see Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 2:231-232. This source demonstrates that a number of early Christian writers understood "dogma" as a term that could be applied to "the teachings and prescriptions of Jesus." TDNT itself describes the word (within the context of Acts 16:4) as referring to "the resolutions and decrees of the early church in Jerusalem which are to be sent out to the cities of the first missionary journey" (ibid). Even if the word is used to describe philosophical notions or imperial edicts in antiquity, TDNT suggests that "dogma" appears to reference divine law in Acts 16:4.

The apostles and older men mentioned in Acts 15 and 16 were dealing with a certain problem, namely, circumcision and its relation to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). There was no need to impose further burdens at that time on the Gentiles. While some who oppose the structure discussed in Acts want to imply that the apostolic model may be too confining or restrictive, I do not believe that "all powerful" is the right way to view the "Governing Body" that resided in first century Jerusalem--nor is that how I view today's Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The apostles and older men were servants of God who endeavored to provide guidance for the budding first century congregations: they exercised due humility and modesty while relying upon the Most High God, Jehovah. Their official functions in setting forth "dogma" must be viewed in the light of Acts 20:28ff; Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Joseph Kelly--The "True Meaning" of Christmas



Friday, December 12, 2014

Whence the LOGOS of John 1:1-18?

There is substantial evidence that the Apostle John did not borrow pagan ideas to formulate his idea of the LOGOS. Of course, we all know that the term LOGOS has a long history in Greek literature and was used in ancient writings to possibly describe an immutable and necessary rational ordering-principle (Heraclitus) or "the meaningful structure of reality as a whole and of the human mind in particular" (Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, page 12).

Certain scholars have also wondered whether the word LOGOS denotes a primal cognate of the universe in Greek literature, while others point to Philo's LOGOS as somewhat of a locus classicus for John's LOGOS.

Despite the signifier's prolific use in Greek literature, however, it appears that John's
deployment of the term is firmly rooted in ideas from the Tanakh:

"While the term is Greek, the roots of the Johannine meaning seem to be more in Jewish-Hebrew soil" (Gerald Borchert, John 1-11, page 104). Cf. Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22-35.

"This word [LOGOS] was used by many ancient philosophies, but we must not import their meanings into this passage. John gives the LOGOS its own meaning; the standpoint is that of the Old Testament" (AT Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, page 185).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Habakkuk 1:12-You/We Shall Not Die?

הֲלֹ֧וא אַתָּ֣ה מִקֶּ֗דֶם יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהַ֛י קְדֹשִׁ֖י לֹ֣א נָמ֑וּת יְהוָה֙ לְמִשְׁפָּ֣ט שַׂמְתֹּ֔ו וְצ֖וּר לְהֹוכִ֥יחַ
(Habakkuk 1:12, BHS)

ESV: "Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof."

ASV: "Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction."

NET Bible: "LORD, you have been active from ancient times; my sovereign God, you are immortal. LORD, you have made them your instrument of judgment. Protector, you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Justin Martyr and the Septuagint (OG/LXX)

"If therefore, I shall show that this prophecy of Isaiah refers to our Christ, and not to Hezekiah, as you say, shall I not in this matter, too, compel you not to believe your teachers, who venture to assert that the explanation which your seventy elders that were with Ptolemy the king of the Egyptians gave, is untrue in certain respects?" (Dialogue with Trypho LXVIII)

"I [Justin] continued, to contend against you about the reading which you so interpret, saying it is written, 'Till the things laid up for Him come;' though the Seventy have not so explained it, but thus, 'Till He comes for whom this is laid up.' But since what follows indicates that the reference is to Christ (for it is,'and He shall be the expectation of nations'), I do not proceed to have a mere verbal controversy with you, as I have not attempted to establish proof about Christ from the passages of Scripture which are not admitted by you which I quoted from the words of Jeremiah the prophet, and Esdras, and David; but from those which are even now admitted by you, which had your teachers comprehended, be well assured they would have deleted them, as they did those about the death of Isaiah, whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw" (Dial. CXX).

"But in the version of the Seventy it is written, 'Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes,' in order to manifest the disobedience of men,-I mean of Adam and Eve,-and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent,
who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve" (Dial. CXXIV).

Also, in Dial. LXXIII, Justin quotes Ps. 96:10 [95:10 LXX] as it evidently appeared in some copies of the LXX concerning the Lord reigning from a tree (Ειπατε εν τοις εθνεσι, ὁ Κυριος εβασιλευσε απο του ξυλου). He apparently had to get this reading from some version of the LXX although he may be the only Greek writer to quote the psalm in this way (a number of Latin writers cite the psalm as the Martyr does).

Robert Kraft offers these insights:

We have already noted (above, p. 209) that Justin thought Jews had excised the words [apo tou xylou] from Ps.95/96.10. Numerous preserved MSS and versions (especially "western" and south Egyptian) also support this reading, which Justin viewed as Pre-Christian, prophetic and original\31). It is not, however, found in the extant Hebrew text or in the well attested northern Egyptian Greek text. Its origin remains a mystery. If it is a Christian addition, it predates Justin (and probably Barnabas, as well -- see Barn. 8.5) and thus developed in the first century of Christian existence.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Grammatical Antecedents and Acts 14:4

Acts 14:4: ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς πόλεως, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἦσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, οἱ δὲ σὺν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις (NA 28).

Acts 14:4 serves as an example of the Greek pronominal's content being discerned from the literary context of the passage (i.e., from the cotext). In the construction, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἦσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, the plural pronominal οἱ (functioning as an alternative pronoun) does not have an explicit antecedent; however, we discern the identity of those who sided with the Jews (οἱ) and we recognize the "others" who elected to go with the apostles by appealing to the context. See Acts 14:1-2.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Gnosticism in the First Century CE and Beyond

Stanley M. Burgess dates the Gnostic movement from the first century CE and connects it, as did certain pre-Nicenes, with Simon Magus who is mentioned in Acts 8:

"The general label of 'Gnosticism' is used to describe a wide variety of religious systems and ideas that flourished from the first through the third centuries A.D., with some continuing well into the Middle Ages" (The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions, page 35).

Burgess adds that Gnosticism was both syncretistic and contemplative since it simultaneously borrowed concepts from Jewish-Hellenic sources and advocated redemption through GNWSIS QEOU--a type of mystical knowledge that purportedly united the gnostic with the Divine One (i.e., God).

W.H.C. Frend ("The Rise of Christianity") further indicates that LXX Scriptures such as 1 Sam 2:3 evidently influenced the Gnostics to associate salvation with GNWSIS since Jehovah is there called "the God of knowledge." Frend actually places the "Acute Hellenization" of Christianity at 130-135 CE. And the Gnostics may have received additional impetus circa this time by interpreting the words of Isa 53 as prophetic of the deliverer who redeems humankind through GNWSIS. Of course, this type of exegesis probably skewed the original meaning of the passages in both Samuel and Isaiah.

The kind of Gnosticism which obtained in the first century must have been an incipient form at best. In fact, besides possibly manifesting themselves in Corinth and the so-called Johannine Community, there is evidence that Paul waged spiritual warfare against the Gnostics in Col 2:8. They are at least one of the enemies he may have wrestled with spiritually when he penned those famous words about the possible ill effects of worldly philosophy and tradition. At any rate, the Gnostics were anti-worldly, anti-corporeal and quite Platonically-oriented.

H.O.J. Brown's book on heresies also contains some enlightening information that pertains to this mysterious religious movement, whose ideas have been further clarified with the finding of the Nag Hammadi (Egypt) documents in the 1940s.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Professor Albert Pietersma's Website (Septuagint Studies)


Correspondence on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

Here's something off the beaten path, but it's related to some of the discussions in the combox recently.

Dear xxxxx,

You're welcome. I always enjoy interacting with you on theological and philosophical matters of importance. I could quibble with you about how we should view the will, the intellect or Catholicism's potential consistency and uniformity. However, I'll save the dissent which I may express another time. Instead, I briefly wanted to make a comment regarding Godel's incompleteness theorem.

Looking back at Alister McGrath (one of the handouts I mailed to you), he writes that one implication of Godel's theorem is that it demonstrates "the inability of reason to prove its own competency" (Why God Won't Go Away, page 100).

So McGrath (as I understand him) is not saying that "all statements" [mathematical or otherwise] cannot be proven . . ." But what I take him to be arguing is that the incompleteness theorem suggests reason is limited: it cannot make definitive pronouncements respecting its own competency. There are some things we might know are true, but they are not capable of being demonstrated through the use of reason. I believe that Paul Davies is making a similar point about Godel's theorem. See the other pages I sent to you.

I'll be in contact with you at a later time.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Qualitative Nouns and the Greek Article (A. T. Robertson, R. E. Brown and Dana-Mantey)

A. T. Robertson and Dana-Mantey point out that the article in ancient Greek is not simply a haphazard use of speech:

"The vital thing is to see the matter from the Greek point of view and find the reason for the use of the article" (Robertson 756).

"It may be observed that in Homer 'the article marks contrast and not mere definiteness' " (Ibid., 755).

"The articular construction emphasizes identity; the anarthrous construction emphasizes character . . . It is certain that one engaged in exegesis cannot afford to disregard the article. The New Testament justifies the observation of Bultmann that 'the use of the article has everywhere its positive reason' " (D-M 140).

"Surely when Robertson says that QEOS, as to the article, 'is treated like a proper name and may have it or not have it"'(R. 761), he does not mean to intimate that the presence or absence of the article with QEOS has no special significance. We construe him to mean that there is no definite rule governing the use of the article with QEOS,
so that sometimes the writer's viewpoint is difficult to detect, which is entirely true" (D-M 140).

"A qualitative noun is a noun (in Greek always anarthrous) whose function in the sentence is not primarily or solely to designate by assignment to a class but to describe by the attribution of quality, i.e., of the quality or qualities that are the marks of the class designated by the noun. The effect is to ascribe to that which is modified the characteristics or qualities of a class and not merely to ascribe to it membership in that class. It is connotive rather than the denotive sense that emerges. In the sentence 'Frederick is a prince' the word 'prince' is either designative, marking Frederick as a member of a class, a son of a monarch, or qualitative, describing Frederick as the possessor of the superior character presumed to distinguish the son of a king" (Arthur W. Slaten (Qualitative Nouns in the Pauline Epistles and Their Translation in the Revised Version) [Chicago: Chicago UP, 1918], p. 5-7).

"In vs. 1c the Johannine hymn is bordering on the usage of 'God' for the Son, but by omitting the article it avoids any suggestion of personal identification of the Word with the Father. And for Gentile readers the line also avoids any suggestion that the Word was a second God in any Hellenistic sense" (Raymond Brown, Anchor Bible Commentary, Vol. 29, John I-XII, page 24).

"There is a further consideration, however. We have mentioned the suggestion by the Catholic scholar De Ausejo that the Word throughout the Prologue means the Word-become-flesh and that the whole hymn refers to Jesus Christ. If this is so, then perhaps there is justification for seeing in the use of the anarthrous QEOS something more humble than the use of hO QEOS for the Father. It is Jesus Christ who says in John 14:28, 'The Father is greater than I,' and who in [John] 17:3 speaks of the Father as 'the only true God.' The recognition of a humble position for Jesus Christ in relation to the Father is not strange to early Christian hymns, for Philippians 2:6, 7 speaks of Jesus as emptying himself and not clinging to the form of God" (Ibid., 25)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Kung Makes An Observation About Non-Posturing Atheology

"No, it is not of indifference whether we affirm or deny God. The price paid by atheism for its denial is obvious. It is exposed by an ultimate groundlesness, unsupportedness, aimlessness, to the danger of the possible disunion, meaninglessness, worthlessness, hollowness of reality as a whole. When he becomes aware of this, the atheist is exposed also quite personally to the danger of an ultimate abandonment, menace and decay, resulting in doubt, fear, even despair. All of this is true, of course, only if atheism is quite serious and not an intellectual pose, snobbish caprice or thoughtless superficiality" (Hans Kung, Does God Exist?, page 571).

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Divine Repentance?

Regarding Jonah 3, granted, some wish to view the account anthropomorphically (e.g., Calvin); I have reservations about such an approach for the following reasons:

The Hebrew word used to describe God's "change of mind" is NaHaM. Concerning this lingual symbol, G. J. Wenham writes:

"'Regret' or 'repent' may suggest a change of attitude, but when God 'repents,' he starts to act differently. Here [Gen. 6:6] and in 1 Sam 15:11 and Jer 18:10 he regrets some good thing he has done for his people, whereas in Exod 32:12, 14; 2 Sam. 24:16; Amos 7:3, 6 he repents of some evil he is carrying out. That God should change his mind might lead to his being accused of capriciousness, which Scripture firmly denies: 'God is not a son of man that he should repent' (Num 23:19; Cf. 1 Sam 15:29). Such remarks obviously raise various questions for the doctrine of divine sovereignty and its correlate human responsibility, but theological systematization is hardly the concern of the biblical narrators. For them divine repentance is a response to man's changes of heart, whether for better or worse" (Wenham, J. G. Genesis 1-15. Waco, Texas: Word, 1987, 144).

I concur with Wenham that the "biblical narrators" or writers depict God responding to human changes, "for better or worse." That is, when God "changes" in Scripture, He is simply responding to the actions of his creatures. To illustrate, before I began to exercise faith in Christ as Savior and King, I was apparently one of God's enemies (Rom. 5:8ff)--the wrath of God remained upon me (John 3:36). But after taking the necessary steps to become reconciled to God, God's attitude toward me changed from one of wrath to a demeanor filled with love and kindness (Titus 3:3-7).

When God made this change, however, it was not an alteration of His essence: the change was relational and responsive to changes I had previously made. I would even contend that it was an actual rather than just a perceptual change. In sum, I believe that change in God is real. So while Jehovah is immutable as the ever faithful Rock of Deuteronomy 32:4; James 1:17, He is able to change relationally, responsively and possibly with respect to His emotional states. The pre-Nicenes held interesting views of divine emotions that were later superseded by the medievals. Yet the Hebrew prophets speak of God rejoicing or feeling pain of heart.