Saturday, May 30, 2015

God's Finger Is Not Identical with God Simpliciter

"And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18 KJV).

Finger of God = God's spirit

An illustration might help us to understand what is being communicated here. A person can lose a finger, ear or toe without losing his/her identity, right? A body member is not to be equated with the whole person. Body parts are what could be called "accidents" (per accidens) or properties that we could do without while still maintaining our respective identities.

Now I'm not arguing that Jehovah God could ever lose one of his body members (he doesn't have any body "parts" to begin with), but we should make a distinction between a person's finger and the person him/herself. After all, the body of Christ (the ecclesia) is composed of many members (Rom 12:1-5); yet even if one of those members came down with (spiritual) gangrene and had to be lopped off, Christ's metaphorical body would continue to subsist because it is not absolutely identical with its respective parts (i.e., the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). The individual members just seem to constitute the whole body or provide some type of grounding for its existence.

Similarly, it's possible to distinguish between God's finger and his self. Why should we call the "finger of God," God tout court?

Hebrews 2:17: κατὰ + πάντα

ὅθεν ὤφειλεν κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, ἵνα ἐλεήμων γένηται καὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεὺς τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ (Heb 2:17 WH)

It's possible by just considering the morphology alone that πάντα above is the accusative masc sing form of πᾶς or it could be the nominative, vocative or accusative neuter pl form, if we just think about morphology apart from context. But it is clearly acc neut pl in Heb 2:17. Furthermore, κατὰ + πάντα no doubt functions adverbially here. Note, for instance, how the writer of Hebrews employs κατὰ + πάντα in Heb 4:15.

πᾶς is simply the lexical form of πάντα and it also functions vocatively in some contexts/uses (masc sing) although not in 2:17.

I will appeal to Zerwick's Grammatical Analysis for the verb ὤφειλεν and the construction κατὰ πάντα:

"ὤφειλεν he had to, impf ὀφείλω owe; w. inf. ought. κατὰ πάντα in all respects, in everything."

As we learn from what is written above, Christ became like his brothers/sisters in all respects since τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς is pl dative and ὤφειλεν means "he was owing" or "he had to" or "it behooved him" (KJV). Moreover, ὁμοιωθῆναι (aorist infinitive passive) should be construed with τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς. Compare Acts 14:11.

Zerwick has the following:

"ἐπιλαμβάνομαι τίνος take [something] upon oneself (mid.), take on, as in Eng. [with] connotation of responsibility for" (p. 658).

Here is also the most pertinent part of what BDAG has to say about ἐπιλαμβάνομαι, but I encourage our blog readers (if it is possible) to read the complete entry for this verb:

"be concerned with/about. The context of ἀγγέλων, σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ Heb 2:16 suggests the rendering take an interest in, prob. in the sense *help* (schol. on Aeschyl., Pers. 742 [but s. KDolfe, ZNW 84 '93, on the textual problem]; Sir 4:11)."

ἐπιλαμβάνομαι can mean, "to make the motion of grasping or taking hold of [something], take hold of, grasp, catch," but that is not necessarily its sense in Heb 2:16. It is imperative to understand how an author employs a word in a determinate context since linguistic symbols usually have numerous potential meanings. Usus loquendi (usage in context) thus plays a formative linguistic role.

So κατὰ + πάντα is functioning adverbially in Heb 2:17, "in all respects" or "in every respect." Additionally, it seems that Jesus was fully human (like his brothers/sisters) and not fully God (also like his adelphoi).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Colossians 1:15 and Partitive Genitives (Edited)

Partitive and wholative are terms applied to certain genitival constructions, but they refer to the same linguistic phenomenon. Grammarians taxonomize such data in order to systematize and clarify it.

While genitival phrases like πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως might be considered partitive by some, indicating that the head noun lingually signifies part of a greater whole, other grammarians opt to use the descriptive label "wholative" for such phrases since πάσης κτίσεως does not refer to a portion of anything but it is the head noun of the construction that denotes a part of X in Colossians 1:15 and where one finds similar grammatical constructs. It thus seems more appropriate to label the genitive in 1:15 (if one construes the syntax in this manner) as a wholative instead of a partitive genitive (or genitive of the whole).

Emphasizing the notion of the whole rather than the part for this kind of genitive is not completely novel since William Gardner Hale and Carl Darling Buck (A Latin Grammar) write:

"The name Partitive Genitive, which is often used, is convenient because of its shortness. But the student should remember that what is expressed by the Genitive word itself is the WHOLE, not the part" (page 183).

Buck and Hale therefore prefer to call this structure Genitive of the Whole or Wholative. Wallace shows that the partitive genitive "is a phenomenological use of the genitive that requires the head noun to have a lexical nuance indicating PORTION" (GGBB, 84, emphasis in original). He points out that some have proferred the nomenclature "wholative genitive" for these grammatical constructs in Greek or they have been called genitive of the divided whole, terminology which Wallace himself does not seem to prefer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Son of God's Holiness: Derived or Intrinsic?

It seems that the holiness which belonged to Jesus Christ was not self-caused or intrinsic. Jehovah (the Father) evidently imparted holiness to Jesus, since the Son of God himself said:

"say ye of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:36, KJV)

J.H. Thayer points out:

"So Christ is said by undergoing death to consecrate himself to God, whose will he in that way fulfills, John 17:19; God is said ἁγιάσαι Christ, i. e. to have selected him for his service (cf. ἀφορίζειν, Galatians 1:15) by having committed to him the office of Messiah, John 10:36, cf. Jeremiah 1:5; Sirach 36:12 (ἐξ αὐτῶν ἡγίασε, καί πρός αὐτόν ἤγγισεν, of his selection of men for the priesthood); Sirach 45:4 Sirach 49:7" (no. 37).

"God consecrates his own, incl. Christ J 10:36" (BAGD 8).

Jehovah also prepared a body for Christ (Hebrews 10:5ff), so based on Jn 10:36 and Hebrews, we might submit that the holiness of Christ was derivative, issuing forth from God in two primary ways:

1) He was set apart for God's service and 2) he was pure or sinless by virtue of his unique birth or the body which God prepared for him. I would also say that Jesus had to rely on his Father in order to be obedient under temptation (Hebrews 5:7-8). John recorded these utterances:

"And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I always do the things that are pleasing to him" (John 8:29).

"The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing" (John 5:19). Christ became and remained holy through the eternal spirit which emanates from Jehovah.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

B. F. Westcott on John 14:28


The discussion of 14:28 starts on page 191.

Colossians 1:15, 18 (EK)

ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (Colossians 1:15 W-H)

καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος, τῆς ἐκκλησίας· ὅς ἐστιν ἡ ἀρχή, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων (Colossians 1:18 W-H)

Some want to make much of the fact that the Greek preposition ἐκ appears in 1:18, but not in 1:15.

ἐκ in 1:18 could be used in the passage to emphasize Jesus' resurrection from the dead, as one friend of mine has suggested; but there is another explanation that may also account for ἐκ without resorting to a Trinitarian alternative.

Petr Pokorny (Colossians. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991. Page 84) writes in ftn. 153 concerning 1:18:

"MSS P46, Aleph (first hand), and others omit ἐκ = from. The sentence reads the same way in Rev 1:5. The meaning is not altered thereby."

Revelation 1:5 has ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν. It evidently means the same thing that Colossians' πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν does, as the MSS evidence indicates. It just seems that ἐκ is normally used when the resurrection of Jesus Christ is under consideration. See John 21:14; Rom 4:24; 6:4; 10:7; Col 2:12; Gal 1:1; 1 Pet 1:3, 21.

Meyer's NT Commentary: "comp. Revelation 1:5, where the partitive genitive τῶν νεκρ. (not ἐκ. τ. ν.) yields a form of conceiving the matter not materially different."

The Holy Angels of a Holy God (1 Timothy 5:21, Etc)

God's loyal angels are called "holy" and "elect."

"the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38; cf. Rev. 14:10-12).

"I charge thee in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels" (1 Tim. 5:21).

[both quotes are taken from the ASV]

Concerning 1 Tim. 5:21, Gordon Fee observes:

"The inclusion of the elect angels is unusual and serves to intensify the solemnity of the charge. Elect may either refer to the angels as the chosen ministers of God who carry out his will (Bernard) or serve as a contrast to the fallen angels (Kelly), probably the latter, given the context of judgment" (Fee, Gordon. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. P. 131).

When Jesus speaks of τῶν ἀγγέλων τῶν ἁγίων in Mark 8:38, he evidently means that the angels are "holy, set apart, sanctified, and consecrated" to God (Spiros Zodhiates). While we want to avoid what James Barr called "illegitimate totality transfer," I think that the aforementioned definitions for ἅγιος overlap with one another. The adnominal ἅγιος points to the faithfulness and sinlessness and consecrated status of God's loyal angels--their purity and sacredness in the sight of YHWH. This holiness is derived, however, and not self-caused like the holiness of God.

In the Similitudes, we also read:

"But you, having been strengthened by the holy Angel,and having obtained from Him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from Him?" (Sim. 5.4.2)

The ancient patristic writings thus refer to the angels as "holy."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Trinitarians and Acts 1:6-7 (A Dialogue)

The name of my interlocutor has been changed to keep him anonymous.

Malcolm: Jesus in Acts 1 does not say that he is nescient but rather that it is not for the disciples to know.

Edgar: Strictly speaking, you may be correct. Christ may not say that he does not know the times and seasons, but that the Father has simply placed them in His own jurisdiction. Certainly, however, based on the context and wording of Acts 1:6-7, it could be argued that Christ was admitting ignorance [nescience] concerning God's times and seasons, especially since he did profess nescience with respect to the day and the hour mentioned in Mt 24:36.

Looking at some of the early Fathers, I find their interpretation of Acts 1:7 informative:

"Also in the Acts of the Apostles: 'No one can know the times or the seasons which the Father has placed in His own power'" (Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle XII-Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews).

"It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord, coming to the lost sheep, and making recapitulation of so comprehensive a dispensation, and seeking after His own handiwork, should save that very man who had been created after His image and likeness, that is, Adam, filling up the times of His condemnation, which had been incurred through disobedience,-[times] 'which the Father had placed in His own power.' [This was necessary] too, inasmuch as the whole economy of salvation regarding man came to pass according to the good pleasure of the Father, in order that God might not be conquered, nor His wisdom lessened, [in the estimation of His creatures]" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.23.1)

Malcolm: The Father gives the Son a revelation for the Church. This fact need not imply that the content was previously unknown to the Son, only that it's outline was determined by the Father. If the president of a company gave a report to the vice-president to distribute to the employees, this fact would not necessarily imply that the vice-president was previously unaware of the contents of the report. Every fact in the report could have been common knowledge to the two company heads, but the president determined the outline that the facts shared by these company heads should take as those facts went to the employees.

Edgar: This illustration simply does not work. Furthermore, it is at odds with 1 Cor 2:11. If I disclose or reveal P to B, then I more than likely knew P before B did or else it was not a "revelation." For instance, if I tell my wife that I'm going for a walk in the park today, that is information she did not know prior to my disclosing it to her. or what about this example? If I tell a waiter to inform the chef that I don't want onions in my dinner salad, I am disclosing something about myself to B that I want conveyed to C. Surely, the waiter did not know my culinary preferences until I disclosed them to him. I would contend that something similar has to occur when two company heads convey important information to employees, or one executive discloses something to another executive. At some point in time, one head knew something that the other head did not know or else we could not describe one head "revealing" something to another.

Malcolm: I don't know how things at such a detailed level work in the Trinity. It seems here that the issue could be one of authority rather than knowledge. The Son submits Himself to the Father.

Edgar: If the Son submits himself to the Father, then he evidently has his own consciousness, mind and will. But if he has his own consciousness and will, then there are at least two "I thinks" in the Trinity. If the holy spirit is also an "I think" then we have tritheism or a Mt. Olympus scenario. I refer you to a quote by Trinitarian scholar Gerald O'Collins from an earlier post, which I don't believed you ever addressed:

"The philosophical input from Descartes, Kant, and John Locke (1632-1704) led to the emergence of a (but not THE) typically modern notion of person as the subject of self-awareness and freedom--in brief, person as a conscious and autonomous self ('I think and am free, therefore I am a person'). This notion, when applied to the doctrine of the Trinity, readily produces what looks suspiciously like tritheism: three autonomous subjects living and working together in a quasi-social unity" (The Tripersonal God, pp. 155-156).

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Role of KAI (Young and Titrud)

Richard Young teaches us that "the basic syntactic function of καὶ is simply to join two coordinate elements together" (187). But καὶ can also be used as a simple additive without specifying any particular relationship between two coordinate elements (see Rev. 7:12). After examining the various uses of καὶ in the Greek Scriptures (NT), it seems that the καὶ in 2 Cor. 5:8 is best understood as a simple additive that connects two contrasting thoughts without specifying the temporal aspect of either event: 2 Cor. 5:8 is an expressed desire as opposed to being a divinely inspired prophecy.

One of the best discussions I've run across on the utilization of καὶ in the NT is Kermit Titrud's "The function of KAI in the Greek New Testament and an Application to 2 Peter" found in D.A. Black's _Linguistics and NT Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis_. This article will expose you to the numerous aspects of the Greek conjunction KAI. can also be used as a simple additive without specifying any particular relationship between two coordinate elements (see Rev. 7:12). After looking at the various uses of καὶ in the Greek Scriptures (NT), it seems that the καὶ in 2 Cor. 5:8 is best understood as a simple additive that connects two contrasting thoughts without specifying the temporal aspect of either event. 2 Cor. 5:8 is an expressed desire as opposed to being a prophecy.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Updated Information on 1 John 3:9--Practice Sin?

Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται (1 John 3:9-NA28).

"Everyone who has been born from God does not practice sin, for His seed remains in such one, and he cannot practice sin, for he has been born from God" (NWT-2013 Rev).

"Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God's seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God" (NET Bible).

Here is part of the note for 1 John 3:9 in the NET:

"The problem of the present tense of ποιεῖ (poiei) here is exactly that of the present tense of ἁμαρτάνει (Jamartanei) in 3:6. Here in 3:9 the distinction is sharply drawn between 'the one who practices sin' in 3:8, who is of the devil, and 'the one who is fathered by God' in 3:9, who 'does not practice sin.' See S. Kubo ('I John 3:9: Absolute or Habitual?' AUSS 7 [1969]: 47-56) for a fuller discussion of the author’s argument as based on a sharp antithesis between the recipients (true Christians) and the opponents (heretics)."


Moises Silva denies that 3:9 denotes habitual sin by virtue of the present "tense" itself, but Ralph Earle emphatically asserts that John intentionally employed the present tense in 3:9 to discourage the "practice" of sin. But note Richard Young and Stanley Porter's thoughts on the matter.

Young classifies 1 John 3:9 as an "iterative present" (108). He goes on to write that "the customary or habitual sense" may offer a solution to the exegetical problem in 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9."

Note two opposing views, however:

"Smalley (1984:158-65, 172) avoids the iterative idea by suggesting that the passages refer to the potential state of sinlessness. Turner (1965:151) goes beyond the idea of habitual acts of sin and says it refers to the condition (or state) of being a sinner." Young believes that this position confuses the imperfective and stative aspects (cf. Fanning 1990:212-217), and I would concur. There is also an informative discussion in S.M. Baugh's 1 John Reader which provides good evidence for reading 3:9 as an example of practice (ongoing action).

Baugh pens these observations: "In my opinion, the fact that John chose to use the present infinitive ἁμαρτάνειν rather than the aorist ἁμαρτάνειν, shows that he was thinking about 'sinning' in v. 9 as a characteristic action. Hence, John does not teach 'perfectionism'--that Christians can experience sinlessness in this life. Rather, when he says οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν he teaches that the genuine Christian cannot be characterized by a life of unrepentant sin" (pp. 50-51).

Baugh believes that three factors buttress this interpretation of 3:9:

(1) The immediate context.

(2) The lexical significance of ἁμαρτάνειν .

(3) The influence of δύναμαι upon the tense form of its complementary

Furthermore, Baugh thinks that since the infinitive form of ἁμαρτάνω does not appear elsewhere in the NT, John must have used the infinitive in 1 John 3:9 to signal an ongoing activity rather than a state. He concludes: "the phrase οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν in 1 John 3:9 expresses the fact that the Christian is prevented by the new birth and the abiding presence of God from falling into persistent sin" (52).

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Tertullian Explains Genesis 1:1 and the Latin term "Principium" (Adv. Hermogenem XIX)

But I shall appeal to the original document of Moses, by help of which they on the other side vainly endeavour to prop up their conjectures, with the view, of course, of appearing to have the support of that authority which is indispensable in such an inquiry. They have found their opportunity, as is usual with heretics, in wresting the plain meaning of certain words. For instance the very beginning, when God made the heaven and the earth, they will construe as if it meant something substantial and embodied, to be regarded as Matter. We, however, insist on the proper signification of every word, and say that principium means beginning—being a term which is suitable to represent things which begin to exist. For nothing which has come into being is without a beginning, nor can this its commencement be at any other moment than when it begins to have existence. Thus principium or beginning, is simply a term of inception, not the name of a substance. Now, inasmuch as the heaven and the earth are the principal works of God, and since, by His making them first, He constituted them in a special manner the beginning of His creation, before all things else, with good reason does the Scripture preface (its record of creation) with the words, "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth;" just as it would have said, "At last God made the heaven and the earth," if God had created these after all the rest. Now, if the beginning is a substance, the end must also be material. No doubt, a substantial thing may be the beginning of some other thing which may be formed out of it; thus the clay is the beginning of the vessel, and the seed is the beginning of the plant. But when we employ the word beginning in this sense of origin, and not in that of order, we do not omit to mention also the name of that particular thing which we regard as the origin of the other. On the other hand, if we were to make such a statement as this, for example, "In the beginning the potter made a basin or a water-jug," the word beginning will not here indicate a material substance (for I have not mentioned the clay, which is the beginning in this sense, but only the order of the work, meaning that the potter made the basin and the jug first, before anything else— intending afterwards to make the rest. It is, then, to the order of the works that the word beginning has reference, not to the origin of their substances. I might also explain this word beginning in another way, which would not, however, be inapposite. The Greek term for beginning, which is ἀρχή, admits the sense not only of priority of order, but of power as well; whence princes and magistrates are called ἀρχοντες . Therefore in this sense too, beginning may be taken for princely authority and power. It was, indeed, in His transcendent authority and power, that God made the heaven and the earth.