Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Recommendation: Concerning Religious Epistemology

I heartily recommend the book by James Emery White entitled What Is Truth? (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1994.) By the way, he's not the same J. White, who has launched multiple criticisms against Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Mormons and others.

White's book deals with the religious epistemologies of Cornelius Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, Carl F.H. Henry, Donald Bloesch, and Millard Erickson. I have found the book extremely helpful in matters related to the theory of religious knowledge, and I especially connect with the epistemic system of Carl F.H. Henry as delineated in his magnum opus God, Revelation, and Authority. Concerning the law of non-contradiction, Henry writes: "Without noncontradiction and logical consistency, no knowledge whatever is possible" (Qt. in White 103). He adds: "whatever violates the law of contradiction cannot be considered revelation." But why? Because "the God of biblical revelation is the God of reason, not Ultimate Irrationality; all he does is rational" (103).

So contrary to what some may assert, the law of contradiction (or non-contradiction) is not a man-made law. Neither Zeno nor Parmenides nor Aristotle created this "law." Henry concludes that God Himself is behind the law of contradiction (non-contradiction), and Henry is not alone in this regard.

One twentieth thinker, J. Mortimer Adler, also has written that the law of contradiction is an observation about real life: it is not simply a formal rule of human logic that has no applicability to ontology. Or as Henry puts matters--without the law of noncontradiction and without logical consistency, "no knowledge whatever is possible."

Another observation worth noting is this one: "Christian theology denies that the human mind or human reasoning is a creative source of revelational content; its proper role is not to fashion revelation or truth, but rather to recognize and elucidate it" (Henry qt. in White 95). Cf. Henry's God, Revelation, and Authority 1:41ff.

Compare Romans 12:1.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hina in John 6:29; 17:3

Granting that ἵνα + the subjunctive is appositional in Jn 17:3, I still wonder whether John is providing a definition or description of everlasting life. In Jn 6:29, we read: ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ ἵνα πιστεύητε εἰς ὃν ἀπέστειλεν ἐκεῖνος.

This passage answers the question: "What shall we do, that we may perform the works of God?"

Is Jesus here defining the work of God in the appositional clause? Or is he delineating how one performs the work of God. The appositional clause could either identify (define) or explain the first nominal clause, and it seems to me that Jesus is giving a prescription in the latter part of 6:29, not a description. At least that is a possible reading of 6:29.

GRB Murray writes: "The hearers, as they were Jews, interpret 'the works which God demands' as works of the Law, which God will reward with eternal life. They learn, however, that the 'work' God wants is faith in the one God has sent" (John, 91).

Jn 6:29 seems to have some bearing on our understanding of Jn 17:3--and 6:29 appears to be prescriptive (i.e., it tells us what God expects or wills).

From the Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary:

The meaning is not,—that faith is wrought in us by God, is the work of God; but that the truest way of working the work of God is to believe on Him whom He hath sent.

ἔργον, not ἔργα, because there is but this one, properly speaking, and all the rest are wrapt up in it (see James 1:25).

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Acts 1:6-7, KAIROS and XRONOS (Questions)

Professor John B. Polhill writes that there is "probably no great distinction" between XRONOUS and KAIROUS in Acts 1:6, 7 (John B. Polhill, Acts. Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1992).

On the other hand, "XRONOUS refers to the time that must elapse before the establishment of the Kingdom; KAIROUS to the critical events accompanying its establishment" (F.F. Bruce).

At the present time, my view on the semantics of Acts 1:6, 7 vis-a'-vis KAIROS and XRONOS is a neutral one: Polhill indicates that there might be no semantic distinction between the two Greek terms in 1:6, 7. We can't simply base our conclusions on the particular senses of KAIROS and XRONOS in other Scriptures because those occurrences may fit into another semantic domain or context. Maybe if we apply the text-linguistic principles of considering the text (the linguistic unit), co-text (the words in the sentence or phrase being exegeted and, by extension, any texts that have an influence on the exegesis of the text in question) and the context (social and cultural factors), some light could possibly be shed on this problem.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

John Wycliffe and the First English Bible

The NRSV (The Oxford Edition) states: "Prior to the sixteenth century, translations of the Bible into English were made from the Latin Vulgate instead of from the Hebrew or Greek, and were recorded only in manuscript copies" (P. 400).

It also affirms that "The first English versions of the entire Bible were the two associated with the work of John Wyclif, made by translation from the Latin Vulgate between 1380 and 1397" (NRSV 401).

Look as hard as you may, you will probably not find any earlier non-manuscript English versions in their entirety prior to Wycliffe.

Some versions that antedated his efforts were:

Whitby's version of the Psalms (670 CE)

The Venerable Bede's Gospel of John

King Alfred's renderings of portions of Exodus and the Acts of the Apostles, as well as some of the Psalms (849-901 CE)

Aelfric's translation of the Heptateuch (Genesis through Judges)

None of these versions were translated in their entirety, and you will not find any evidence of a work comparable to Wycliffe's before the Bible that was credited to him was produced:

"With the activities of Wyclif and the Lollards, as his disciples were called, is associated the vernacular English of the Bible that circulated in manuscript as the only translation of the Bible available in the English tongue till the time of Tyndale and Coverdale" (Geddes MacGregor 77).

As FF Bruce points out:

"The first translation of the whole Bible into English is associated with the name of John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384), the most eminent Oxford theologian of his day" (The English Bible, p. 12).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Song of Songs and Rabbi Akiba

From Weston W. Fields:

It is further stated that Rabbi Akiba said: "God forbid!-no man in Israel ever disputed about the Song of Songs (that he should say) that it does not render the hands unclean, for all the ages are not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies."30 This is to some an indication that Rabbi Akiba interpreted the Song allegorically. It is true that it is difficult to understand his hyperbolic language if he did not.

Field's entire article can be found here:

See also

Monday, December 21, 2015


Initial Research on Judges 1:6-7

When Adoni-Bezek ran away, they chased him and captured him. Then they cut off his thumbs and big toes. Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings, with thumbs and big toes cut off, used to lick up food scraps under my table. God has repaid me for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. (Judges 1:6-7 NET Bible)

καὶ εἶπεν Αδωνιβεζεκ ῾Εβδομήκοντα βασιλεῖς τὰ ἄκρα τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν καὶ τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῶν ἀποκεκομμένοι ἦσαν συλλέγοντες τὰ ὑποκάτω τῆς τραπέζης μου· καθὼς οὖν ἐποίησα, οὕτως ἀνταπέδωκέν μοι ὁ θεός. καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ιερουσαλημ, καὶ ἀπέθανεν ἐκεῖ (Judges 1:7 LXX).

So, in this case, it seems that God did approve of the mutilated toes and thumbs. At least Adoni-Bezek didn't get all his fingers and toes severed. More seriously, we see the law of lex talionis in motion here: eye for eye and tooth for tooth. Ellicott's Commentary marshals other verses that make similar proclamations. For example:

And Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. (1 Samuel 15:33 ESV)

Concerning Judges 1:7, Ellicott remarks:

The "seventy" kings may have been the rulers of the towns which Adoni-bezek had taken in extending the territory of Bezek. Josephus says seventy-two kings (Antt. v. 2, § 2), and this common variation is found in some MSS. of the LXX. The Persians treated their Greek captives in this way (Curtius, v. 5,6). Mutilation in the East was so common that it was hardly accounted cruel (Xen. Anab. i. 9-13).

Addendum: While Jehovah God could have decreed Adoni-Bezek's fate, it's also possible that God merely permitted him to undergo this fate.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Paul Johnson's Comments on the Availability of the Bible from 1080 CE Onwards

Catholic historian Paul Johnson relates the following account:

"Access to the Bible, whether in the original or in any other tongue,
had never been an issue in the East. In the West, the clergy had begun
to assert an exclusive interpretive, indeed custodial, right to the
Bible as early as the ninth century; and from about 1080 there had been
frequent instances of the Pope, councils and bishops forbidding not
only vernacular translations but any reading at all, by laymen, of the
Bible taken as a whole. In some ways this was the most scandalous
aspect of the Medieval Latin Church. From the Waldensians onwards,
attempts to scrutinize the Bible became proof presumptive of heresy--a
man or a woman might burn for it alone--and, conversely, the heterodox
were increasingly convinced that the Bible was incompatible with papal
and clerical claims" (A History of Christianity 273).

Erasmus also made the comment that "Nowadays they shout 'heresy!' at
you for almost anything. Anything that does not please them, or that
they do not understand, is heresy. To know Greek is heresy. To
pronounce it correctly is heresy" (276).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Violence in the Old Testament

I had a lot of bright students for fall semester 2015, many of whom posed a number of questions and/or objections to me concerning the "Old Testament" (Hebrew-Aramaic Bible).

Many people decry the "violence" in the Old Testament. They wonder how a holy book for Jews and Christians could sanction such violent acts. Then they go off, purchase tickets and popcorn (along with drinks), and they watch gory films produced by Hollywood iterum et iterum. I thus wonder how bothered moderns truly are.

I'm not trying to make a tu quoque defense for the Bible, since there are ways to explain the wars in the OT. But this question just arose in my mind as I heard numerous criticisms of the OT this semester. Why do so many violent films exist, violent TV shows (etc), if we enlightened moderns are so bothered by violence? Just thinking out loud.

The Law of Contradiction

When teaching logic or other courses that bear on the subject, I've had some of my students express their doubts regarding the law of contradiction (also known as the law of non-contradiction). But it is very difficult to outright deny the truthfulness of the LNC once this law (or principle) is rightly understood. Even opponents of the famed "law" usually have not been able to reject it in toto: they still hold to remnants of it in their formal schemas. Nevertheless, those who normally oppose strict adherence to the LNC think there are exceptions to the law (e.g., the liar's paradox or the famed "cat" of Schrödinger).

My interest in the law has been shaped by my studies on the Trinity doctrine: the Trinity appears to be contradictory. If the word "God" is an identity marker (A = A) and not a predicative signifier that points to a quality, then the Trinity seems to be incoherent and logically impossible. I submit that ELOHIM/QEOS used within a given context of utterance is a marker of identity and that the proposition, "The Father is God," is an identity statement and not a predicative one. Thus, if there is one person to whom the identity marker "God" applies and this word "God" speaks to His identity simpliciter et simpliciter--then there cannot be anyone else called God/god who has all properties in common with this singular person such that we could rightly apply the law of indiscernibility of identicals to this person and say that A = B or that X = Y (known as the law of Leibniz). Simply put, Ps. 90:2 states that from OLAM to OLAM, Jehovah is God and that one God of Israel is identified as Father in the Hebrew Bible. ELOHIM is therefore not something merely predicated of Jehovah the Father: it tells us Who He is. Cf. the Shema in Deut. 6:4, which certain scholars interpret as a monotheistic confession about one divine person.

Eph. 4:4-6 also declares that there is one God and Father, who is over all and through all and in all. If God is an identity statement, and since there is only one God, no other entity or person can be identified as God without contradicting a major supposition of Trinitarianism, namely, the proposition that there is only one true God. But one question about this whole line of reasoning involves the very LNC itself.

From the Western standpoint, I can safely say that Aristotle was not the first person to employ the LNC, since both Zeno and Parmenides utilized the law during the Presocratic era. And even when Aristotle invokes, formulates and amplifies the law, he is simply abstracting from observations of the empirical world. For instance, the Philosopher knew that p and ~p applied to everyday life in a metaphysical sense. Aristotle evidently realized that a woman cannot be both pregnant and not pregnant simultaneously (at the same time and in the same sense); a house cannot be white and non-white simultaneously or in the same sense; no object can be red and green all over simultaneously or in the same sense, and as far as we can tell--no entity is able to subsist in two natures at one time (the stories about minotaurs and centaurs must be false). The LNC also makes me suspect the logical possibility of the Incarnation (Christ existing in two natures simultaneously).

Some Potential Objections to the LNC and My Replies:

"(1) "Transition states: when I leave the room, for an instant I am both in it and not in it."

This example is debatable. If you have left a room, the transition has been completed, so that you're not still in the room; if you're leaving the room, the transition has not been completed but you're still in the room. There is no genuine refutation here, but this objection is playing upon vague predication. Either way, there is no contradiction of the form p and ~p in this case.

"(2) "Some of Zeno's paradoxes: the moving arrow is both where it is, and where it is not."

Read Aristotle for a sound refutation of Zeno's paradoxes. The latter's famed puzzles only work if one accepts the major presupposition of his argument, namely, that space is composed of discrete spatial units. Furthermore, the results of Zeno's reasoning are not that desirable--according to that philosopher, motion is illusory and impossible. Do you agree with Zeno in this regard? At any rate, Aristotle refuted the sophisms of Zeno by clarifying the distinction between possibility and actuality.

"(3) "Borderline cases of vague predicates: an adolescent is both an adult and not an adult."

The term "adolescent" simply denotes an artifical distinction that is contrived by certain societies (not all societies). You cannot legitimately use an arbitrary or constructed distinction to overthrow what seems to be a necessary and immutable truth of the cosmos.

"(4) "Certain quantum mechanical states: a particle may go through two slits simultaneously, even though this is not possible."

The problems that attend QM may be more epistemological than ontological (Mortimer Adler). What is more, QM emphasizes ontological contingency (not ontological necessity): QM may allow for circumstances in which the LNC is circumvented, but using QM for this purpose seems like a stretch to me. As one physicist remarked: "I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics."

"If you think you can talk about quantum theory without feeling dizzy, you haven't understood the first thing about it" (Niels Bohr).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

ERWS and Song of Songs

It's interesting to me that ERWS appears twice (both times in Proverbs), but it's not used in the book that is all about godly and decent love between a man and a woman (i.e., the Song of Solomon). There's probably a reason why the translators chose agape to describe the love mentioned in the Song rather than erws.

See Proverbs 7:18; 30:16; Song of Solomon 8:6.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SWMATIKWS (Colossians 2:9)

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9 NIV)

The expression "bodily form" (σωματικῶς) is interesting. Does it refer to Jesus of Nazareth qua human or is the verse referring to a heavenly spiritual body (not human) that Christ might now possess in the celestial sphere amongst the holy angels and God the Father?

Thayer seems to choose the second option and I'm inclined to agree with him. Even if one does not accept this understanding of the text, however, it is important to point out that Col. 2:9 does not (necessarily) refer to the incarnate "God-man." Of course, I don't believe that God became incarnate at all; nevertheless, I'm not trying to make an issue of the Incarnation here.

David M. Hay explains that σωματικῶς may denote "in reality" and he thinks that this meaning "seems to fit the present context" (Hay, Colossians, p. 89). See Philo, Heres 84.

Hay also writes:

"This is not simply a formula for incarnation since
the present tense of 'dwells' seems to rule out the
idea of limiting this to the time of Jesus' earthly
life" (ibid).

He then suggests that the Incarnation of Messiah might be in view but then Hay sallies forth the meaning "in reality" for σωματικῶς.

See Col. 2:17.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nation Against Nation (Matthew 24:7)

καὶ πολεμήσει ἔθνος πρὸς ἔθνος καὶ πόλις πρὸς πόλιν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἐξέστησεν αὐτοὺς ἐν πάσῃ θλίψει. (2 Chronicles 15:6 LXX)

ἐγερθήσεται γὰρ ἔθνος ἐπὶ ἔθνος καὶ βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν καὶ ἔσονται λιμοὶ καὶ σεισμοὶ κατὰ τόπους (Mt. 24:7)

Not exactly alike, but there are possible resemblances here, it seems.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dialogue on Time and the Present (Edited Discussion)

MY INTERLOCUTOR: "Where my main disagreement lies is with your statement that 'all that really exists or has duration is the present.' For, if only the present exists, then time does not exist. For this is the very definition of atemporality: being without succession in a constant undivided NOW. To be sure, neither the past nor the future have a duration greater than (or less than) zero in the present. But, neither does the present have a duration greater than (or less than zero) in the present. For, however long the duration is of the present, for that same length of time, time stands still. And when time stands still, time does not exist, for no temporal succession
occurs during that 'time'. So, in order for time to exist, the length of the duration of the present cannot be anything other than zero."

EDGAR: One could argue that a tense like "present" implies duration since we could and often do view "the present" as a temporal distinction. The argument set forth above only works if one accepts your definition of "atemporality." As one who believes in an A-series of time, I do not define "atemporality" as "being without succession in a constant undivided now." My view is that the present (i.e., now) necessarily shares in temporality insofar as it involves temporal succession. Richard Gale takes up this subject in a work entitled "Has the Present any Duration?," Noûs, Vol. 5, No. 1. (Feb., 1971): 39-47. He argues that certain problems arise when we talk about "the present" since it is possible to equivocate when employing this language. Gale makes a distinction between the durational present and the punctal present. An example of the former distinction is when we speak of the current year (2008) as the present; conversely, we can refer to the present or "now" in the sense of a particular moment of the current year (i.e., 4:15 on April 4, 2008). Unless we make a clear distinction between which "present" we're talking about, antinomies might result.

INTERLOCUTOR: "If the present is indivisible, how can it have a duration other than zero? For no number other than zero is indivisible."

EDGAR: The present is not necessarily indivisible. Besides, it depends on which "present" you have in mind. But even the present (in terms of this day, April 4) appears to have finite temporal parts or some type of extension. There is an informative article by C. W. K. Mundle "Augustine's Pervasive Error concerning Time," Philosophy, Vol. 41, No. 156. (Apr., 1966): 165-168. Mundle critiques the Augustinian assertion that "No one would deny that the present has no duration" (Confessions 11.28). Using some of his examples, I might ask, if the present has no genuine duration, then how is it possible for me to hear a series of sounds now that I recognize as my favorite song? Or what if I am now having the experience of visually perceiving my 2005 BMW? How can I make sense of this (current) visual perception in terms of a durationless present?

"Thus, I argue that the past, the present, and the future have an atemporal mode of existence in the present. And by an atemporal mode of existence, I mean a non-durational mode of existence. If you reject this concept, then how can it be consistent with your views for you to speak of the past as 'being' potentially infinite, or to say that the past 'is' potentially infinite? Wouldn't consistency require you to say that 'the past was potentially infinite', with the implication being that the past is now no longer potentially infinite?"

Firstly, I do not buy into the notion of tenseless time. Maybe it is not your intent, but it seems that you have verbally abolished tense vis-a-vis time and you're now content to have a tenseless past, present and future "in the present," which still does not make sense to me unless what you're trying to affirm is a B-series of time in A-series language. If I speak of the past as "being" potentially infinite, I do not mean that the past is still in existence. I have made it clear that I affirm the A-series of time which claims that the past is no longer and the future is not yet. When I used the language you allude to above, I did not mean to imply that I believe God's potentially infinite past still exists. I was simply trying to predicate potential infinity of the past: it is only a suggestion that is being made here.

"I am curious as to where John of Damascus speaks of time as having existed in an unmeasurable state prior to the coming into being of the created order. Wouldn't 'unmeasurable' time have to be indivisible, and thus atemporal?"

I came across the references in Stephen T. Davis' Logic and the Nature of God. He culled the remarks of John of Damascus from a book written by Nelson Pike (God and Timelessness), which I have read and subsequently documented the references to John of Damascus for myself. You can find the Damascene's observations on time in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. His words appear on p. 181 of Nelson Pike's work. Keep in mind that Davis and Pike interpret John of Damascus as making the claim that God once existed in unmeasurable time or that unmeasurable time is somehow tied to God's nature.

Friday, December 11, 2015

NET Bible Note on Proverbs 2:22

Heb “the guilty.” The term רְשָׁעִים (rÿsha’im, “the wicked”) is from the root רָשַׁע (rasha’, “to be guilty”) and refers to those who are (1) guilty of sin: moral reprobates or (2) guilty of crime: criminals deserving punishment (BDB 957 s.v. רָשָׁע). This is the person who is probably not a covenant member and manifests that in the way he lives, either by sinning against God or committing criminal acts. The noun sometimes refers to guilty criminals who deserve to die (Num 16:26; 35:31; 2 Sam 4:11). Here they will be “cut off” and “torn away” from the land.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Girdlestone's Comments on RASHA

As these remarks demonstrate, it seems that the moral element should not be removed from the lexicality or semanticity of RASHA.

These are pages 134-135 of Girdlestone. Other sources that make similar claims could be produced.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Psalm 31:17--Sheol

Ps 31:17:

"Let the wicked be disgraced; let them lie silent in
the grave" (NLT).

"Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in
Sheol" (NASB).

The Hebrew term rendered "wicked" is RASHA (רָשָׁע).
The LXX has οἱ ἀσεβεῖς ("the ungodly") for RASHA.
In any event, we know that evil, bad or wicked
people (from God's standpoint) are under consideration
in Ps 31:17.

In view of the foregoing data, my question is this.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that anyone who dies and
finds his/her abiding place in Sheol or Hades
(really not a place, but more of a condition) will one
day be raised from the dead (Rev 20:12-13) by God. But
if, as David indicates, the "wicked" are "brought down
to Hades" when they die, then wouldn't the wicked in
Hades have to be raised from the dead when God
empties Sheol? Compare Rev 6:8.

Someone might point out that Ps 31:17 does not explicitly
say the wicked go to Sheol post mortem, but it only states
that David prayed for God to consign the wicked in Sheol.
Nevertheless, the belief that at least some wicked
ones could be denizens of Sheol appears to be an
ancient belief of Judaism. While it is conceivable
that David prayed for the wicked to be
brought down to Sheol without believing that they would actually rest there,
that possibility seems highly unlikely, in view of
what other texts dealing with Sheol declare.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Impassibility: What Is It?

I've studied the putative divine attribute called "impassibility" (APAQEIA) for a number of years and think it seems safe to claim that the "ancients" generally understood APAQEIA (as applied to God) to mean "not subject to the emotions, changes, conditioning or sufferings common to humanity." In other words, God is the Unconditioned One or actus purus.

Richard A. Creel (Divine Impassibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) rigorously outlines and discusses eight possible senses of the term "impassibility," and it appears from his study that the ancients and a number of modern theologians thought/think divine APAQEIA rules out God having any emotions (i.e., passions) or at least emotions as we know of them. To be fair, Joseph M. Hallman (The Descent of God: Divine Suffering in History and Theology) shows that the ANF and PNF treatment of God's supposed impassiblity is by no means neat or tidy. For instance, some of the ancient Fathers seem to affirm God's impassibility on one hand while qualifying it on the other. As with any theological subject, there are opposing viewpoints.

Jaroslav Pelikan (The Christian Tradition, 1:53)

"Some [ancient] Christian theologians went so far as simply to identify the Christian doctrine of God with the philosophical rejection of anthropomorphism; Arnobius [of Sicca] argued that God (the gods) had to be 'immune to every disturbance and every perturbation,' with no 'agitation of spirit' or wrath. Others did not go to this extreme, but maintained that the philosophical doctrine of impassiblity was not incompatible with the biblical language about the wrath of God; Justin referred to God as impassible, but also spoke 'again and again of God in the most personal language.'"

However, it seems that Justin's thought was inchoate and less than complete.

The Fathers admittedly spoke of God being impassible and simultaneously attributed emotions (in a way) to Him. But as the writings of Tertullian suggest, early church writers tended to reason that God certainly does not experience emotions in a human manner and possibly He does not have emotions on the "meta" level at all.

John Thompson (Modern Trinitarian Perspectives. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Page 55) writes:

"In line, therefore, with most modern theologians [Karl] Barth rejects the idea of APAQEIA, of God as an unmoved, unfeeling being beyond the reach of suffering."

"In most places in his work, Gregory [of Nyssa] tends to use APAQEIA in reference to all feelings and to exalt the Christian attempt to attain it. APAQEIA in its usual meaning is the absence of all the passions [i.e., emotions], and Gregory inherits this usage. At times, however, he does give a positive valuation of some human emotions" (Hallman, op. cit. 89).

And while he is not an "ancient," I believe that Anselm of Canterbury sums up the thought of the ANF and PNF well:

"How, then, art though compassionate and not
compassionate, O Lord, unless because thou art
compassionate in terms of our experience, and not
compassionate in terms of thy being" (Proslogium 8).

Friday, December 04, 2015

2 Kings 4:37 (προσεκύνησεν)

καὶ εἰσῆλθεν ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ ἔλαβεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς καὶ ἐξῆλθεν (2 Kings 4:37, LXX).

Brenton LXX (4 Kings 4:37): "And the woman went in, and fell at his feet, and did obeisance bowing to the ground; and she took her son, and went out."

NETS: "And the woman came in and fell at his feet and did obeisance on the ground, and she took her son and went out."

Thursday, December 03, 2015

F.E. Peters Discusses Philo's Logos Theory

From the pen of F.E. Peters (Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon, page 112):

"Philo knew the distinction between interior and
exterior LOGOS and could apply it in an orthodox Stoic
fashion (De vita Mos. II, 137), and it was perhaps
this distinction, together with the Jewish scriptural
tradition about the 'Word of God' that led to his new
treatment of LOGOS. In the first instance LOGOS is the
Divine Reason that embraces the archetypal complex of
EIDE that will serve as the models of creation (De
opif. 5, 20)."

Later Philo says that the Logos finds expression when God creates the cosmos (see De Fuga 2, 12). But the LOGOS is not a person in Philo, and it is not identical with Almighty God.

Leonard Hodgson on Divine Unity

Hodgson's comments from his The Doctrine of the Trinity:

"The notion that in the Trinity one Person may be the fount or source
of being or Godhead for another lingered on to be a cause of friction
and controversy between the East and the West, and still persists
today. The main thesis of these lectures, I have said, is that
the act of faith required for acceptance of the doctrine
of the Trinity is faith that the Divine unity is a dynamic unity
actively unifying in the one divine life the lives of the three divine
persons. I now wish to add that in this unity there is no
room for any trace of subordinationism, and that the thought of the
Father as the source or fount of God-head is a relic of pre-Christian
theology which has not fully assimilated the Christian revelation"

Monday, November 30, 2015

Justin Martyr and the Equality of Divine Persons

Justin evidently does not acknowledge the ontological equality of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit. To the contrary, he apparently makes a sharp demarcation between the Father and the Son in Dialogus cum Tryphone 127. Fortman adds that Justin: "has no real doctrine of the Trinity, for he says nothing of the relations of the three to one another and to the Godhead" (47). Additionally, he most certainly comes nowhere near affirming the famed VERE DEUS of Chalcedon or homoousion to patri of Nicea.

Finally, in a book edited by Nigel M. de S. Cameron entitled The Power and Weakness of God: Impassibility and Orthodoxy (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1990), Peter R. Forster also informs his readers that "the textbooks are widely misleading" when it comes to explaining the pre-Nicene LOGOS theory since "To take the case of Justin, with but few exceptions (1 Apol 59 (?), 64; 2 Apol 6) he attributes creation entirely to the transcendent 'Father of all'" (page 30). Forster also has other perceptive observations that I encourage you to read for yourself. He demonstrates how Justin is laboring under Middle Platonic and Stoic philosophical conceptions.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

John 20:28 and the Definite Article (C.F.D. Moule)

From page 116 in the 1953 Edition.

Jn 5:18-19 and ἴσος (Edited)

While the word ἴσος at times bears the meaning "similar," it can also mean "equal." In view of classical, NT evidence and lexical evidence from Philo, I find it difficult to believe that ἴσος has the denotation "similar" in John 5:18. Why would the Jews have been so upset, if they only thought that Jesus was making himself similar, but not equal to his Father? Furthermore, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6:

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ.

On the other hand, I find the words of Trinitarian scholar G.R.B. Murray of interest:

"Bultmann, however, went on to point out that the Jews failed to grasp that Jesus is the Revealer; second, they made the mistake of viewing equality with God as independence from God, whereas for Jesus it meant total dependence on God ([Bultmann] 244). In light of these (undoubtedly correct) observations, the expression 'equal to God' is a misleading interpretation of the declaration of Jesus. That Jesus spoke of God as his own Father rightly points to the unique relation to God, and it is the Evangelist's concern to make plain the nature of that relationship. But in vv. 19-30 we see a twofold emphasis that exists in tension: on the one hand there is the acknowledgement by Jesus of the total dependence of the Son on the Father, and on the other a consciousness of the Father's appointment of the Son to perform on his behalf works that God alone has the right and power to execute (vv 19-20, 21, 22, 26-27, 30). It is perhaps not irrelevant to note that the Jews were ready, when they wished, to recognize that in certain conditions men could be spoken of as God. For example they viewed Ps 82:6, 'I said you are gods, sons of the Most High all of you,' as relating to the people of Israel. And they glorified in the fact that in Exod 7:1 God states that he has made Moses as God to Pharaoh, whereas since Pharaoh made himself as God he had to learn that he was nothing (Tanh. B sec. 12 in Str-B 2:462-64). It would seem that in their eyes God could exalt a man to be as God, but whoever MADE HIMSELF as God called down divine retribution on himself. They saw Jesus in the latter category" (John, 75).

While I do not agree with Murray's comments in toto, it seems that the quote provided above does shed light on how monotheism was construed in ancient Judaism. Having said the foregoing, I would still argue that certain Jews thought Jesus was making himself equal to God, but they were mistaken. Making himself equal to the Father (Jehovah) would have constituted blasphemy according to their laws.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dialogue on Mortality (Secunda Secundae Partis)

I'm familiar with Hebrews. It definitely presents the Abrahamic hope, not a new hope:

Heb 11:
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. {provided: or, foreseen}

"For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in besides of a BETTER HOPE did, through which we are drawing near to God" (Heb 7:19).

Notice that the writer of Hebrews hopes for a renewed Earth:

Heb 10:
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, {written: or, enrolled}
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and
to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of
Abel. {covenant:
or, testament}
25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if
they escaped not
who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not
we escape, if we
away from him that speaketh from heaven:
26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath
promised, saying,
once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the
removing of those
things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that
those things which
cannot be shaken may remain. {are shaken: or, may be shaken}
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be
moved, let us have
grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with
reverence and godly
fear: {let.: or, let us hold fast}
29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Could you explain, in a sentence or two, how you extract the idea that the writer of Hebrews looked forward to LIVING on a renewed earth, from the passages you just quoted? Yes he hoped for a new earth. But this fact does not mean that he planned to live on it.

Notice that in Revelation the "heavenly Jerusalem" descends from heaven to earth:

Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a
pillar in the temple
my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write
upon him the name
my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is
new Jerusalem,
cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will
write upon him my new

Revelation 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new
Jerusalem, coming
from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned
for her husband.

More reading into texts, my friend. John says nothing about the New Jerusalem (not heavenly Jerusalem) coming down to earth. Since you have such a literalist hermeneutic, please show me explicitly where John said these exact words. You are again reading your own ideas into Scripture instead of extracting meaning from Holy Writ.

Addendum: I have since written that one might infer that New Jerusalem descends to earth, but Revelation 21:1-2 never makes that exact claim. Even if the city descends to earth as my interlocutor suggested, I believe that the descent would be metaphorical.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Aspect and Aktionsart (John 10:32 and the conative present)

Different grammarians or linguists use the term Aktionsart in bewildering and disparate ways, but older grammars often employ the term Aktionsart as a reference to action delineated by the verbal stem. Porter writes that K. Brugmann (in 1885) was the first writer to employ the German term Aktionsart to describe: "the kind of action indicated objectively by the verb" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the NT, Stanley Porter, 29). So when I talk about "kind of action" in this context, I am referring to action in terms of completed, durative, ingressive or conative (inchoative) activities that are objectively signaled by the respective verb stem (root + affix) or in some other fashion.

For example, K.L. McKay (when discussing the conative and inceptive use of the Greek present "tense") provides an example from Jn 10:32:

DIA POION AUTWN ERGON EME LIQAZETE: "for which of these deeds are you trying to stone me?"

McKay thinks that the present verb LIQAZETE in this passage, "has the effect of so emphasizing the incompleteness of the activity that the most natural English equivalent is try to do" in this case.

So in Jn 10:32 we evidently have an example of the conative present. Certain scholars would argue that the conative "kind of action" is signaled by the verbal stem (Aktionsart). Others would contend that we know LIQAZETE is conative present (imperfective aspect) in view of the features that mark the action of the verb (still referring to Aktionsart).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pistis: What Does It Possibly Mean?

Regarding the Greek πίστις (pistis): the lexical evidence seems to allow for the translation "faith" or "faithfulness." BDAG suggests that πίστις (in Galatians 5:22) refers to faithfulness or fidelity. Timothy George (NAB Commentary on Galatians) also thinks that the word denotes "faithfulness" in Paul's list of the spirit's fruit (compare Romans 3:3).

A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures also favors the understanding "faithfulness."

Vincent's Word Studies:

Faith (πίστις)


Alford GNT: "πίστις, in the widest sense: faith, towards God and man: of love it is said, 1 Corinthians 13:7, πάντα πιστεύει."

NET Bible renders πίστις as "faithfulness," but in a note for Gal 5:22, it adds:

Or "reliability"; see BDAG 818 s.v. πίστις 1.a.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dialogue on Mortality (Prima Secundae Partis)

There is no "replacement" in view. It is not "my immortal soul must put on a different body" but rather "this mortal body, this corruptible must be changed..."

Up to this point, I have said nothing about an "immortal soul" putting on a different body. This is what I mean when I say that you erroneously impute certain views to me and then you shadow-box with strawmen. Where did I ever say that I believe in the doctrine of the immortal soul? My position is that spirit anointed Christians resurrected from the dead will have a "spiritual body." That spiritual body is not synonymous with an immortal soul.

The figure of "eternal in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1-2] refers to origin, not destination. He explains exactly what he means:

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this
tabernacle were
we have a building of God, an house not made with
hands, eternal in the
2 For in this [earthly house] we groan, earnestly
desiring to be
upon with our house which is **from heaven**:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being
burdened: **not
that we would be unclothed**, but clothed upon, **that
mortality might be swallowed up of life**.

Crystal clear. There is no room for the traditional reading.

You quoted four verses but did absolutely nothing to refute what I believe. Of course I would agree that the "building" Paul is talking about comes from God and is not an immortal soul, but you totally overlook the fact that the building remains "eternal in the heavens." You ignore the fact that the apostle indicates at least some Christians will live forever in the heavens for all eternity. Additionally the verse says nothing about a body "descending" from
God. It simply shows that God is the source of the new body.

The phrase "from heaven" indicates that it comes to us. It occurs in the process of resurrection, not in a later ascent, since it is "raised incorruptible."

The phrase 'from heaven' (EX OURANOU) in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 is what I would call an ablative of source. It tells from whence the new "building" comes, not wither it is going. There is no indication that spatial movement is being discussed in this passage. Paul is simply making us aware that the body emanates/derives--not descends--from the Divine One. See 1 Cor 8:5-6 and note how EX is used there:

"Thus, the heavenly dwelling of 2 Cor 5:1, no less than the heavenly commonwealth of Phil 3:19, would be an image for that new age. Not even death, the final proof of mortality, need cause the apostles to shrink back (4:16a), for they, like all believers, know that their true home is in heaven" (V.P. Furnish. II Corinthians; translated with introduction, notes and commentary. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984).

This "true home" is "from heaven" and "swallows up mortality." In referring to a "heavenly body" he refers to the image that we shall bear:

35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up?
and with what
body do
they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not
quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that
body that shall
be, but
bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him,
and to every seed
own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one
kind of flesh of
another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and
another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies
terrestrial: but the
of the celestial is one, and the glory of the
terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory
of the moon, and
another glory of the stars: for one star differeth
from another star in
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It [the
body] is sown in
corruption; it [the body] is raised in incorruption:
43 It [the body] is sown in dishonour; it [the body]
is raised in
glory: it
[the body] is sown in weakness; it [the body] is
raised in power:
44 It [the body] is sown a natural body; it [the
body] is raised a
spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is
a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made
a living soul;
last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but
that which is
natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second
man is the Lord
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are
earthy: and as is the
**heavenly**, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we
shall also **bear
image of the heavenly**.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the
kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit

Bearing the image of the heavenly one, Jesus Christ, does not prove that 'the heavenly body' is simply the body of flesh swallowed up by life. If the body of flesh is sown, then according to Paul, it cannot rise up again as a 'bare grain' (as it was when it was planted). See 1 Cor 15:45. Secondly, if the body of flesh is dissolved or broken down, then it cannot be the building that Paul says Christians will receive from God. Bruce then adds:

"He is there as His people's forerunner, the surety of their admission to the dwelling place of God; He is there, too, as their perpetual high priest, 'after the order of Melchizdek'" (132).

"Perpetually" refers to a continuous, or unbroken preisthood, rather than an annual one. But it is temporary.

The main reason I cited Bruce was to show what he had to say about Jesus being the 'forerunner' (PRODROMOS) for anointed Christians. The context suggests that Jesus served as a forerunner in that he entered the Most Holy in order that others might follow him and appear before the Person of God, in the heavens of his presence. See Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews: with introduction, exposition and notes. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1964.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be a Person? (Preliminary Thoughts)

There is an ontological problem associated with defining what it means to be a "person." Being a human person could mean having the capacity for a specific range of intentional states, and intentionality is here defined as object-directedness or object-aboutness. John Searle distinguishes between three kinds of intentionality: original, derived, and metaphorical aboutness. A thought could be intentional insofar as it is about one's beloved or one's consciousness might be directed toward--or be about--God.

It's also possible that the capacity for self-referentiality adequately defines personhood (i.e., I have the ability to think and reference myself by using a first-person singular pronoun); however, persons are also constituted by relations (according to Kevin Corcoran).

One traditional definition of personhood has also been "individual substance of a rational nature" (Boethius, et al). But it seems that this definition of "person" might not work unless one nuances the definiens. What does it mean to be an individual, to be a substance, and to be or have a rational nature? Is it possible to consider babies as persons based on this classical definition?

Maybe another defining criterion that we could suggest for the word "person" is incommunicability. That is to say, a person is unique or cannot be reproduced without loss of personhood (i.e., cloning). One's own personhood is not something that can be shared or communicated.

Whatever a suitable definition of "human person" turns out to be, it seems that a Christian must view personhood through the lens of Genesis 1:26.

Giles Discusses the Ecclesiastical View of Women As Expressed Historically

There have been many writers in church history, who have published less than commendatory perspectives concerning women. Here are quotes from Kevin Giles' work Trinity and Subordinationism:

"Having become disobedient, she [Eve] was made the cause of death, both to herself and the whole human race" (Irenaeus qt. in Giles 153).

"And do you not know that each of you [women] is Eve? . . . You are the devil's gateway: you are the first deserter of the divine law" (Tertullian).

John Chrysostom claims that women are "captivated by appetite"--as if men aren't!--"weak and fickle" (collectively) and "ruined." See Giles 153-154.

Woman is responsible for the ruin of the whole human race (John Calvin). It is no wonder that woman was "the first deserter of the divine law" since she was outmatched in the wisdom department by man, says Luther (Giles 154). Even Matthew Henry wrote that the devil assaulted the "weaker" person in the Garden of Eden:

"We may suppose her [Eve] inferior to Adam in knowledge, and strength, and presence of mind" (ibid).

"The tradition is uniform. Once more, we have seen that the best of past theologians interpreted the Bible to be teaching that women are more prone than men to sin and error" (ibid).

Martin Luther made extremely offensive comments that I have not posted. You can find the remarks in his collected "Works."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Denizens of Paris and Terror

My condolences go out to the people of Paris. It's hard to see how some can think that the world is constantly improving (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Matthew 5:18 (Ulrich Luz)

Due to limited time, I will not be presenting opposing viewpoints in this post. I will simply give my take on Mt 5:18 and cite one scholar, who seems to put forth a view that's in harmony with the NWT rendering of the Matthean text. There is plenty of material out there on this verse; some agree with the rendering found in the NWT while others do not (cf. Hagner's Word Commentary on Matthew).

Firstly, let us compare how different Bible translations render this passage:

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (NKJV).

"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (NASB).

"For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (RSV).

"for, verily I say to you, till that the heaven and the earth may pass away, one iota or one tittle may not pass away from the law, till that all may come to pass" (YLT).

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (NIV).

"Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place" (Catholic NAB).

"I assure you, heaven and earth may as well cease to be, as that one jot or one tittle of the law should fail of its completion" (Mace NT of 1729).

"Truly I say to you that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one stroke of a letter to pass away from the Law until all things take place" (NWT 2013 Revision).

As you can see, translators often choose to translate the first occurrence of ἕως ἂν in a manner that suggests "heaven and earth" will or might eventually pass away. But the NWT treats the language of Mt 5:18 as an example of hyperbole.

The Greek of Mt 5:18 reads:

ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται.

Ulrich Luz (Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. Translated by Wilhelm C. Linss. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989) reviews the translational possibilities for the Greek of Mt 5:18. He observes that the words ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ can either be a periphrastic way of saying "never" (see Luz, p. 265ff) or it may "limit the validity of the law until the end of the world."

Luz points out that the decision between these two alternatives is "very difficult" since in Mt 24:35, Jesus is reported to have said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Elsewhere, however, we read:

"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped" (Lk 16:17 NRSV).

The Hebrew Scriptures also teach us concerning the Messiah:

"In his days may the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace till the moon is no more" (Ps 72:7 NASB).

Yet we read in Jeremiah 31:35-36 (ASV):

"Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."

The passages in Matthew 24:35; Lk 16:17 and the OT usage of ἕως ἂν in the LXX might have influenced the NWT handling of Mt 5:18--however, going back to Luz' discussion, knowing exactly how to construe the language of Mt 5:18 does seem extremely difficult. As he says:

"Does the evangelist mean that--in contrast to the words of Jesus--the law is to be valid only until the passing of heaven and earth? Matthew then would follow a sparsely documented Jewish idea that the law would be abolished in the future eon" (ibid).

In order to resolve the apparent or imagined difficulties associated with translating and understanding Mt 5:18, Luz goes into a number of text-critical and source issues that I will not concern myself with here. Suffice it to say that he thinks ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ likely means "never." This view is based, in part, on a comparison of both material and linguistic parallels found in the LXX. To find out each example referred to in the commentary, see Luz 265ff.

Linguistic parallels to Mt 5:18 are scanty, but Luz cites two places from the OT: Job 14:12; Ps 72:5, 7, 17. The verse at Job 14:12 is really good. Even if one translated ἕως ἂν there as "until," it could still carry the meaning "never."

You might also want to check out BDAG and Louw-Nida on this point.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Divine Simplicity and God's Emotions

A great number of the early fathers maintained that God
has no emotions whatsoever. Not only the ancients,
but especially medieval theologians reasoned this way.
For instance, Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas
both state that God does not instantiate any emotions.
But even Bishop Augustine of Hippo believed that God
is emotionless--in fact, I believe Jurgen Moltmann
(The Trinity and the Kingdom of God)
writes that only one ancient theologian
believed God is passible. That was Origen.

Augustine of Hippo writes:

"God's repentance is not because of error; his anger
has no ardor of a perturbed mind; his mercy does not
have the compassionate misery suggested by the Latin
term; the jealously of God has no spite of mind. But
the repentance of God refers to things ruled by his
power which change unexpectedly for us; the anger of
God is the punishment of sin; the mercy of God is the
goodness of helping; the jealously of God is
providence, which does not allow those which it has
subdued to love with impunity what it prohibits"
(Contra Advers. Legis et Prophet 1.20.40 quoted in
J. Hallman's Descent of God).

But some Fathers in antiquity think God has emotions
while others insist that He is totally devoid of them.
Yet it is probably more accurate to say that their ideas
subsist in a dialectical tension along a
continuum between impassibility and passibility.
Moreover, we also have to keep in mind the theological
development of certain patristic thinkers. Arnobius of
Sicca certainly thought that God is emotionless and
so did Clement of Alexandria, although there is a
passage in Clement's writings that suggests he may have
thought God can possibly show emotion by means of condescension.

An example of someone believing in divine emotions that are
qualitiative different from ours is Tertullian. He reckons that
God has emotions that befit the divine nature:

"And this, therefore, is to be deemed the likeness of God in man, that the human soul have the same emotions and sensations as God, although they are not of the same kind; differing as they do both in their conditions and their issues according to their nature. Then, again, with respect to the opposite sensations—I mean meekness, patience, mercy, and the very parent of them all, goodness,— why do you form your opinion of the divine displays of these (from the human qualities)? For we indeed do not possess them in perfection, because it is God alone who is perfect. So also in regard to those others—namely, anger and irritation, we are not affected by them in so happy a manner, because God alone is truly happy, by reason of His property of incorruptibility. Angry He will possibly be, but not irritated, nor dangerously tempted; He will be moved, but not subverted. All appliances He must needs use, because of all contingencies; as many sensations as there are causes: anger because of the wicked, and indignation because of the ungrateful, and jealousy because of the proud, and whatsoever else is a hinderance to the evil" (Adversus Marcionem 2.16.6).

Novatian also writes:

"For that God is angry, arises from no vice in Him.
But He is so for our advantage; for He is merciful
even then when He threatens, because by these threats
men are recalled to rectitude. For fear is necessary
for those who want the motive to a virtuous life, that
they who have forsaken reason may at least be moved by
terror. And thus all those, either angers of God or
hatreds, or whatever they are of this kind, being
displayed for our medicine,-as the case teaches,-have
arisen of wisdom, not from vice, nor do they originate
from frailty; wherefore also they cannot avail for the
corruption of God. For the diversity in us of the
materials of which we consist, is accustomed to arouse
the discord of anger which corrupts us; but this,
whether of nature or of defect, cannot subsist in God,
seeing that He is known to be constructed assuredly of
no associations of bodily parts. For He is simple and
without any corporeal commixture, being wholly of that
essence, which, whatever it be,-He alone
knows,-constitutes His being, since He is called
Spirit. And thus those things which in men are faulty
and corrupting, since they arise from the
corruptibility of the body, and matter itself, in God
cannot exert the force of corruptibility, since, as we
have said, they have come, not of vice, but of

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Cursory Thoughts on Divine Temporality

Most orthodox theologians affirm the eternity (i.e., atemporality) of God ex professo. For instance, Paul Helm claims: "it makes no sense to ask how long God has existed, or to divide up his life into periods of time." Helm believes that God is eternal; the adjective "eternal" (in this context) refers to a presumed intrinsic property of the omnipotent Christian God whereby this deity is supposed to be outside of time. He is purportedly a divine being that transcends duration of time and temporal location (tempus).

Additionally, Thomas Aquinas reasons that God's timelessness is a fundamental truth: “From what we have said it is further apparent that God is eternal. Everything that begins to be or ceases to be does so through motion or change. Since, however, we have shown that God is absolutely immutable [i.e., not experiencing motion or change], He is eternal, lacking all beginning or end.” So God’s immutability (unchangeableness) ostensibly entails divine atemporality and the objective absence of de re potentiality in God.

This study will briefly examine two theories of divine atemporality posited by Boethius (ca. 475-526 CE) and Aquinas (1225-1274 CE). Both of the theories have been influential and they continue to mold contemporary discourse pertaining to God and time. After reviewing how Boethius and Aquinas construe the doctrine of absolute divine timelessness, I will talk about the observations of contemporary philosopher, Stephen T. Davis, then offer a provisional answer to the question, is God's putative eternity (atemporality) logically possible? The first issue that merits attention, however, is the relationship between God’s atemporality, divine foreknowledge and our human freedom. The first heading of this study will discuss the problem of free will and divine foreknowledge before undertaking an exploration of the Boethian and Thomistic views of God’s atemporality followed by Davis’ critique, an examination of objections to Davis, then my considered thoughts on the debate.

Friday, November 06, 2015

God and Time (for Sean K.)

Stephen T. Davis writes: "Time, perhaps, is an eternal aspect of God's nature rather than a reality independent of God. But the point is that God, on this view, is a temporal being" (Reason, Logic, and the Nature of God, 23).

Davis also notes that John of Damascus set forth another possibility, namely, that "time has always existed . . . yet is only measurable when things like the sun and moon exist" (Davis 23).

The Bible itself states that God is "from concealed time (OLAM) to concealed time" (Gesenius). Thorleif Boman also notes that OLAM denotes "boundless time."

Moreover, the Complete Word Study: Old Testament avers that OLAM in relation to God does not necessarily mean that God is outside of time:

"Temporal categories are inadequate to describe the nature of God's existence. The Creator has been from "everlasting to everlasting" (Ps 90:2). Even then, it [OLAM] still expresses the idea of a continued, measurable existence, rather than a state of being independent of time considerations" (The Complete Word Study: OT, page 2348).


According to Boethius (in De Consolatio 5), on the metaphysical level, there is no such thing as "divine forevision" or foreknowledge. Boethius writes:

"If you will weigh the foresight with which God discerns all things, you will rightly esteem it to be the knowledge of a never fading instant rather than a foreknowledge of the 'future.' It should therefore rather be called provision than prevision because, placed high above all things, it looks out over all as from the loftiest mountain top."

In other words, while humans may rightly call God's knowledge of that which is future "foreknowledge," in reality, it is not foreknowledge, but intimate awareness of the present insofar as the present is nunc stans.

But why would an orthodox Christian be tempted to make
this move? There are at least two reasons that readily
spring to my mind. First, Boethius believes that if
God actually foresees future events or states, then He
also causes them. Second, Boethius reasons that
"Without doubt . . . all things which God foreknows do
come to pass, but certain of them proceed from free

Boethius argues that something known "cannot be
otherwise than it is known to be," though free acts
viewed IN SE, "do not lose the perfect freedom of
their nature" (See William Hasker's _God, Time, and
Knowledge_, page 7).

Boethius is not alone in this regard since Thomas
Aquinas further writes:

"Hence what is known by us must be necessary even as
it is in itself; for what is future contingent in
itself, cannot be known by us. Whereas what is known
by God must be necessary according to the mode in
which they are subject to the divine knowledge, as
already stated, but not absolutely as considered in
their own causes" (S.T. I. 14. 13, Reply Obj. 3. See
also Hasker, p. 10).

Notice that Thomas too escapes the possible dilemmas
that may arise from positing divine foreknowledge by
appealing to the notion of God's eternal present. But
if God subsists in timeless eternity, above time,
which both Boethius and Aquinas believe, then He
doesn't really see future events or behold future
states before they occur, bnut as they occur.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Tertullian's Angelomorphic Christology (Addressed to a Friend and Brother)

Written and submitted to a public forum on 11/5/2001:

Tertullian's Christology can be confusing at first.
But one thing that helps is to note his distinction
between the eternal Word or Reason of God and the
"created" or "begotten" Son. While Tertullian might
have written that the RATIO DEI or divine SERMO is/was
eternal, he did not say that the Son is/was eternally
generated. Adv Prax 7 makes this point very clear when
it speaks of the complete nativity of the Word. In
other words, the generation of the Son is a temporal
process that occurs prior to and for the purpose of
God's act of creation. By virtue of his begettal AND
the OT 'theophanies' that he performs, the Son
(according to Tertullian) shows himself to be lower
than the angels. But the minoration of the Son is only
for a time. Tertullian employs 1 Cor 15:25ff in Adv
Prax IV to show that the Son will eventually hand over
the MONARXIA TOU QEOU to the Father in order that God
may be all in all. Jurgen Moltmann (The Trinity and
the Kingdom of God
)thus quips that Tertullian teaches
the begotten Son, who is lower than the angels
(Moltmann does not note this point about the angels),
will be subsumed into the One: he will evidently once
again function as the RATIO DEI just as he did before
his complete heavenly nativity. Tertullian's "Trinity"
is therefore much different from later formulations of
the Trinity.

Stump, Kretzmann, Time and God

Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann argue that God's duration is atemporal. Their joint concept of divine "eternal-simultaneity" is based on Boethius' account of divine eternity (understood as timeless duration) and Einsteinian relativity, which contributes to the simultaneity part of their general thesis.

Nonetheless, even some who advocate divine timelessness have found glaring weaknesses in Stump and Kretzmann's argument. The infirmities constituting this idea evidently are so profound that Stump and Kretzmann have even seen fit to revise their understanding of eternal-simultaneity. It seems that in order to have duration, we need time (tempus) or temporal parts. The concept of "atemporal duration" does not seem to be coherent. Paul Fitzgerald deals with this subject matter in "Stump and Kretzmann on Time and Eternity," The Journal of Philosophy, 82.5. (May 1985): 260-269. He contends that it appears difficult to maintain a belief in atemporal duration without simultaneously proposing (finite) temporal parts for this supposed divine property:

"So we can opt for a doctrine of God's eternality as not involving in se any duration or mode of extension at all (the point rather than the line). Or we get E-duration in God, in which case there are subphases at which distinct particulars of the divine life have their locations and E-durations (or could at least, even if in fact the divine duration is absolutely monotone, as would be suggested by the doctrine of divine immutability)."

See p. 264 of the aforementioned article.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

1 John 5:13 (A Few Syntactical Observations)

Text: Ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ. (1 John 5:13)

After using the epistolary aorist (ἔγραψα), John next employs the ἵνα or purpose clause. Therefore, his words might properly read: "I write you these things [in order] that . . ."

Next, we encounter εἰδῆτε. εἰδῆτε is a present subjunctive active form (not an infinitive which = to + the verb). Therefore, this verb should ideally not be rendered "to know," etc. It is more literally, "you might/may know" since it's also second person plural.

Furthermore, the additional utilization of the ὅτι clause and the preposition εἰς emphasize the point that the addresses of the letter "are having" (ἔχετε) eternal life.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dialogue on Mortality and Immortality (Prima Pars)

The apostle Paul suggests that his earthly tent will undergo dissolution and it will then be replaced by a sturdy house, "eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

Nope. His mortal will be swallowed up by life.

You talk about an explicit assertion hermeneutic, when you are in fact reading ideas into the apostle's language. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul does not say that his "mortal body" will be swallowed up by life. To the contrary, he writes that if his mortal body is "torn down," then he and other Christians will receive a "building from God" not made by human hands: a figurative structure that is eternal in the heavens. He says nothing about his mortal "body" being swallowed up by life. His exact words are: "In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down; because we want, not to put it off, but to put on the other, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (2 Cor 5:4).

Notice that he says nothing about his body being swallowed up by life: only what is mortal is "swallowed up" with life. And lest you construe Paul's paradoxical language in 2 Cor. 5:4 as proof that he desired to have his fleshly body clothed in immortality, see Philippians 1:21-26. We could read his words at 2 Cor. 5:1ff this way: "I want my mortal condition to be replaced with an immortal one." The context supports just such a reading.

To substantiate this point, check out what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:8: "But we are of good courage and are well
pleased rather to become absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord."

Here it seems that Paul is referring to being absent from the mortal body (our current body of flesh); however, the apostle likely does not mean that he would be bodiless or incorporeal in toto. See 1 Corinthians 15:42ff. Paul would assume a spiritual body as opposed to a body of flesh (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

1 Cor 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be **raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed**.
53 For **this corruptible** must put on incorruption, and **this mortal** must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory? {grave: or, hell}

Read the passage in context. Notice that Paul says nothing in the verses you cite about bodily alterations. Instead, he writes πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα (1 Cor 15:51). Where is there any mention of a body being changed in this verse? It simply is not there. Moreover, your interpretation of this Pauline unit ignores the entire context of 1 Cor 15:35ff where Paul assuredly makes it plain that "What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies; and as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but a bare grain, it may be, of wheat or any one of the rest; but God gives it a body just as it has pleased him, and to each of the seeds its own body" (1 Cor. 15:35-38).

In other words, the body that is sown is not the identical body that will be raised. One is rooted in the other, but they are different bodies.

If the mortal body is not raised, but dissolved in death and corruption, then the saying does not come to pass, and the Adamic fall is not undone.

What saying does not come to pass? Surely you don't mean "the saying" in 1 Cor. 15:50-55 since the apostle plainly shows that the body that is raised is not the same as the body that was sown. Additionally, 2 Cor. 5:1-2 could not be clearer in what it has to say about the earthly tent being dissolved (καταλυθῇ) to make way for the building from God.

There is no "replacement" in view. It is not "my immortal soul must put on a different body" but rather "this mortal body, this corruptible must be changed..."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stichworten (Haraz)--Rabbinic Interpretation

George Guthrie (The Structure of Hebrews, page 61) discusses the literary device Stichworten (haraz). The device refers to a practice whereby ancient rabbis or Qumran sectaries would "chain" a number of biblical texts together (in particular, from the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings) via multiple quotations from scripture. Guthrie says that Paul does not follow this exact pattern of haraz in Romans and neither does Heb. 1:5-14 although a different approach to Stichworten (haraz) is evidently utilized in both places.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

De Trinitate 1.8.15-16 and 1.11.22 (Augustine on 1 Corinthians 15:28)

Concerning 1 Cor. 15:28, here are some quotes from Augustine's De Trinitate:

but if some affirm even further, that the man Christ
Jesus has already been changed into the substance of
God, at least they cannot deny that the human nature
still remained, when He said before His passion, "For
my Father is greater than I;" whence there is no
question that it was said in this sense, that the
Father is greater than the form of a servant, to whom
in the form of God the Son is equal. Nor let any one,
hearing what the apostle says, "But when He saith all
things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is
excepted which did put all things under Him," think
the words, that He hath put all things under the Son,
to be so understood of the Father, as that He should
not think that the Son Himself put all things under
Himself. For this the apostle plainly declares, when
he says to the Philippians, "For our conversation is
in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour,
the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body,
that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body,
according to the working whereby He is able even to
subdue all things unto Himself." For the working of
the Father and of the Son is indivisible. Otherwise,
neither hath the Father Himself put all things under
Himself, but the Son hath put all things under Him,
who delivers the kingdom to Him, and puts down all
rule and all authority and power. For these words are
spoken of the Son: "When He shall have delivered up,"
says the apostle, "the kingdom to God, even the
Father; when He shall have put down all rule, and all
authority, and all power." For the same that puts
down, also makes subject (De Trinitate 1.8.15).

neither may we think that Christ shall so give up
the kingdom to God, even the Father, as that He shall
take it away from Himself. For some vain talkers have
thought even this. For when it is said, "He shall have
delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father," He
Himself is not excluded; cause He is one God together
with the Father (Ibid. 1.8.16).

Wherefore, having mastered this rule for
interpreting the Scriptures concerning the Son of God,
that we are to distinguish in them what relates to the
form of God, in which He is equal to the Father, and
what to the form of a servant which He took, in which
He is less than the Father; we shall not be disquieted
by apparently contrary and mutually repugnant sayings
of the sacred books. For both the Son and the Holy
Spirit, according to the form of God, are equal to the
Father, because neither of them is a creature, as we
have already shown: but according to the form of a
servant He is less than the Father, because He Himself
has said, "My Father is greater than I;" and He is
less than Himself, because it is said of Him, He
emptied Himself;" and He is less than the Holy Spirit,
because He Himself says, "Whosoever speaketh a word
against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but
whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall
not be forgiven Him (Ibid. 1.11.22).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

1 Corinthians 7:36

Louw-Nida's lexicon has the following for ὑπέρακμος:

"pertaining to being of an age beyond the prime of life (in 1 Cor 7:36 a reference to a woman beyond the normal marriageable age) 'past one's prime, past marriageable age'" (Semantic Domain 67.158).

While Louw-Nida's definition of ὑπέρακμος is quite plausible, it is good to keep in mind that the prefix ὑπέρ possibly refers to "intensity" which means that one could understand Paul's language as a reference to intense sexual desires.

"If someone with strong passions thinks that he is behaving badly towards his fiance'e and that things should take their due course, he should follow his desires. There is no sin in it; they should marry" (1 Cor. 7:36, New Jerusalem Bible).

I also found a substantial and relatively long discussion in Anthony C. Thiselton's commentary on the Greek text of The First Epistle to the Corinthians: he provides both pertinent diachronic and synchronic details concerning ὑπέρακμος. See Thiselton, 593-598.

Finally, Will Deming has produced a very detailed study of 1 Corinthians 7 entitled Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Matthew 16:19 and Greek Aspect

On p. 162 of his exegetical and linguistic Greek grammar, Richard A. Young discusses the future perfect periphrastic (which is constructed with a future form of εἰμί and a perfect passive participle), and how it relates to the exegesis of Matt. 16:19. This Matthean passage reads:

δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. (WH)

One question that arises in connection with this passage might be whether Matthew is saying that Peter is to proclaim what has previously been decreed in heaven or does he decree first, thereby binding "heaven" to his judicial "enactments"? Young points out that if the English future perfect is pressed, then Peter does not "dictate heavenly ordinances."

But Stanley Porter asserts that the perfect formation only conveys the state without telling us about the verbal action's inception or permanence.

On the other hand, Spiros Zodhiates writes that in Matt. 16:18, 19: "The two verbs DEDEMENON (from DEW [1210] ) and LELUMENON (from LUW [3089] ), are both perfect passive participles which should have been translated respectively 'having been bound' and 'having been loosed' already in the heavens." (The Complete Word Study: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishing, 1992.)

NET Bible: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”

Matt. 18:18 and Heb. 2:13 are other examples of this construction. There are certainly some profound biblical and grammatical issues at play here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


One thing that we do know from the historical and
linguistic data--the term "bishop" was not used in the
early Christian community. Yes, EPISKOPOS and
PRESBUTEROS were employed, but these terms did not (at
that time) mean "bishop."

1 Clement is dated circa 96 C.E. So, it does not tell us much about the authority structure of the church discussed in the NT. One thing that we do know from the historical and linguistic data is that "bishop" was not used in the early Christian community. Granted, EPISKOPOS and PRESBUTEROS were employed; but these terms did not, at that time, mean "bishop."

After providing classical, septuagintal and NT
denotations for EPISKOPOS, Ralph Earle observes:

"When we come to Ignatius early in the second century
(about A.D. 115), we find a very different picture.
Now there is one bishop over each local church,
together with several elders and several deacons. The
bishop is supreme in authority . . . Here we see the
beginnings of the episcopal hierarchy that flowered
during the second century. But 'in the beginning it
was not so'" (Word Meanings in the NT, page 389).

"For the distinctive NT use of EPISKOPOS it must be
sufficient to refer to Hort's Christian Ecclesia,
where it is shown that the word is descriptive of
function, not of office, thus Phil 1:1 SUN EPISKOPOIS
KAI DIAKONOIS, 'with them that have oversight, and
them that do service [minister]'" (Moulton-Millgan
Vocabulary of the Greek NT
, page 245).

"The ecclesiastical loanword 'bishop' is too technical
and loaded with late historical baggage for precise
signification of usage of EPISKOPOS and cognates in
our lit., esp. the NT" (BDAG, page 379).

This reference work (BDAG) does nevertheless say that EPISKOPOS
"In the Gr-Rom world" frequently "refers to one who
has a definite function or fixed office of guardianship
and related activity within a group . . ." (ibid).

"The monarchical bishop appears first in Ignatius. It is not certain, however, whether Ignatius describes existing conditions or sets up ideal requirements that do not correspond to reality" (J. Rohde, Exegetical Dictionary of the NT, Vol. 2:36).

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Karl Rahner on the Trinity Qua Relations (Weedhacker)

I've posted this materal before as part of a larger project. This time, I'm just submitting a portion of the larger research project:

From Rahner's frame of reference, to think of the Trinity numerically (one nature, etc.) is ipso facto not to think of God's triunity at all! Rahner further insists that "the three persons are not three distinct things per se but are three distinct things only in and through their relations with each other" (Davis 139). He frequently employs such terms as "relative realities" or "mere and opposed relations" to describe the tres personae of the Godhead, all the while insisting that the Trinity is a "unity of three divine persons" exemplified in "three distinct manners of subsisting" (qt. in Davis 139). The tres personae "are identical to the Godhead but only virtually distinct from each other" (Davis 139). In this regard, Stephen Davis comments:

Rahner calls relations "the most unreal of realities" but insists that they are absolutely real as other determinations. But I do not see how this helps. There is nothing in my experience that helps me understand the concepts Rahner is working with; thus they do not help me understand the doctrine of the Trinity (140).

After this observation, Davis tries to illustrate what he thinks Rahner is attempting to say, but the problems apparently remain. Davis asks us to suppose that there are two persons--call them A and B--who are qualitatively identical (there are no substantial differences between them), but who differ vis-a'-vis their spatial relations (A B). In such a case, we would normally conclude that A and B are qualitatively or substantially identical beings yet numerically distinct non-identical beings. But what if A and B are immaterial beings? They would therefore have no spatial location. How then, would we distinguish A from B? Using Rahner's approach, we might say that A and B are possibly distinguished by their relations to and through each other. What though is their relation to one another? Is it
not one of "non-numerical identity," based on Rahner's thesis? Since
this is the case, Davis concludes that "obviously we cannot use this
relationship to distinguish A and B; it is the very relationship we are
trying to find grounds for" (Davis 140). Davis therefore concludes that
Rahner's attempt to elucidate the mystery of the Trinity fails to
render the doctrine coherent. While Davis feels that it is possible
for a philosopher or theologian to achieve a coherent treatment of the
Trinity, he admits that he presently does not know of any such

Episkopos and Presbuteros

Ralph Earle's discussion of the words EPISKOPOS and PRESBUTEROS is linked to the passage in 1 Timothy 3:1. The operative word there is EPISKOPHS, which is commonly translated "the office of a bishop" or overseer. In 1 Tim. 3:2, Paul employs TON EPISKOPON as he delineates the qualifications of "the overseer" who is appointed to humbly and lovingly shepherd God's congregation.

EPISKOPOS apparently occurs five times in the NT (1 Tim. 3:1, 2; Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:25), and its "basic meaning" is "overseer." Earle states: "The ancient Greeks thought of their gods as EPISKOPOI. This usage is found in Homer's Iliad and many later writings."

BAGD also notes that EPISKOPOS in Pre-Christian usage denoted an overseer. The word is used of a transcendent being in Iliad 22:255; in Aeschylus, Sept. 272; Sophocles, Antigone 1148; Plato, Leg. 4, 717D. BAGD also cites 1 Pet. 2:25 and says the following: "guardian of the souls 1 Pt 2:25. The passages IMg [Ignatius to the Magnesians] 3:1 QEWi TWi PANTWN E.; Cf. 6:1 show the transition to the next mng" (299).

Concerning the word PRESBUTEROI, Earle uses Tit. 1:5-7 to show that an EPISKOPOS and a PRESBUTEROS are the same. True, PRESBUTEROS evidently has a Jewish background--although this point does not mean that the elder arrangement (the "presbytery") was confined to early Jewish congregations: "The name 'elders' emphasizes the fact that the leaders of the church were to be older men, as was the case with the elders of Israel" (Earle 412). It was "older men" whom Paul told Titus to appoint on the isle of Crete, so that they might correct the things that were defective (Tit. 1:5-7).

To prove that the "elders" and the overseers are identical, however, Earle cites Lightfoot--who gives six proofs showing us that PRESBUTEROI and EPISKOPOI are applied to the same referents in the NT. Not only Lightfoot, but Jerome and John Chrysostom can also be invoked to demonstrate the truthfulness of Lightfoot's claims. EPISKOPOS did not originally mean "bishop": it did not denote a hierachy, nor was there simply one ANHR in the early ecclesiae who served as a "bishop." All congregations evidently submitted to the "older men and apostles" in Jerusalem who faithfully communicated apostolic teaching to every congregation in the Mediterranean world (Acts 15:1, 2).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Etymology: An Overview and Caveat

Etymology: An Overview

The term "etymology" may refer to the branch of linguistics that deals with word formations (origins): etymologists customarily trace a signifier's development through time since they primarily want to know the diachronic aspects of a word as opposed to its synchronic facets. However, this project does not mean that etymologists know nothing about synchrony. It's just that etymological studies naturally let diachrony take precedence over synchrony.

Yet linguists generally recognize that language is not static--it changes over time and morphic substances (words) thus acquire new meanings as they come to signify varying concepts or referents. For instance, the English word "salary" derives from the Latin salarium. The Latin term once referred to "money allowed to Roman soldiers for the purchase of salt" (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology). Today, the word signifies a form of pay (a stipend) without denoting what salarium once meant.

We can make the same claim for the Greek word μῦθος. At one time, μῦθος simply denoted a "word," "speech," "tale," or "story" without any necessary connotations of falsehood (cf. Classical Mythology by Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon). In Homer, μῦθος clearly has reference to a truthful account (a trustworthy report) of eagerly anticipated details. By the first century BCE-CE, however, μῦθος starts to be employed pejoratively by both Philo of Alexandria and the Christian-Greek scriptural writers (2 Peter 1:16ff). We also note a semantic shift vis-à-vis other Greek words such as ἁμαρτία and μορφή. Therefore, it should not take us aback if we find that ἁρπαγμός also underwent change per its lexicality.

At this point, I would encourage the reader not to conclude that etymology (the study of primary word forms) is never helpful: such thinking is far from accurate. Besides, understanding how compound signifiers work can be useful when learning Greek vocabulary, and etymology also comes in handy when one is trying to decipher an unfamiliar English word. The person who knows the origins of adjectives like "doxastic," "alethic," "logocentric" and "heliocentric" can easily decode such esoteric speech; this blog post is thus not meant to downgrade all types of etymologizing. But one must use caution when undertaking word studies. Etymology can be a blessing if used aright--it can also be a misleading when employed otherwise.

For instance, D.A. Carson gives some pertinent examples of what he calls "the root fallacy" on pp. 28-33 of his Exegetical Fallacies (Second Edition). Some common instances of the root fallacy are popular explanations that we find for the etymological derivation of the words ἀπόστολος, ὑπηρέτης, ἀγαπάω, and I will add, ἐκκλησία.

One often hears that ἐκκλησία means "called out ones." That is an explanation given based on the word's etymology, but it's not what ἐκκλησία signifies in the Christian-Greek Scriptures (GNT). The word denotes an "assembly" or "congregation." It does not refer to those called out per se, nor does the word signify a building in the GNT. Etymology and/or semantic anachronism can deceive us in this case, if we let diachrony take precedence over synchrony.

The Trinity Is Not a Triplicity (John Burnaby)

Trinitarians normally do not say that the Father, Son, or the Holy Spirit are "parts" of the God since the Almighty is supposed to be non-complex or absolutely simple. Describing the Augustinian conception of the Trinity, John Burnaby writes: "The Trinity is not a 'triplicity,' an organism of parts: the equality of the 'Persons' means that each possesses the whole substance of Godhead" (Burnaby 22).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Porneia (A Brief Diachronic and Synchronic Exercise)

LSJ Greek-English Lexicon provides the definitions "fornication" or "prostitution" for the Greek noun PORNEIA. While I do not take exception to LSJ's treatment of PORNEIA in toto, one problem is the issue of synchronicity over against diachronicity. In other words, we need to focus on how the word(s) in question were used in the first century and honestly examine such usages in the NT and in secular first-century writings to ascertain their possible meanings in a determinate usus loquendi. For instance, Timothy George observes that PORNEIA originally denoted "prostitution" (cf. the terms PORNH and PERNHMI), but by the mid-first century CE, PORNEIA came to mean (potentially and generally) "sexual immorality or irregularity" (George, Galatians, 392). I think that Matt. 5:32 and Jude 7 demonstrate the accuracy of George's construal.

Louw-Nida makes this comment on PORNEIA: "To engage in sexual immorality of any kind, often with the implication of prostitution-'to engage in illicit sex, to commit fornication, sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution" (88.71). Though no examples are given of this usage, L-N also says that PORNEIA may refer to incest in the NT. (Sed vide 1 Cor. 5:1ff.)

While I would not restrict PORNEIA to homosexual activity, it seems that that the term encompasses such activity (based on Jude 7). For ARSENOKOITHS, the new BDAG gives the following information: "a male who engages in sexual activity w. a pers. of his own sex, pederast 1 Cor 6:9." Cf. Soph. Lex.