Sunday, July 19, 2015

William Lane Craig on the Logical Basis of Morality

William Lane Craig maintains: "God's moral nature is the paradigm of goodness; what is good or bad is determined by conformity or lack thereof to His nature." Just as a live orchestra is the determinant of what constitutes "high fidelity," so God (his moral nature) is the standard for what constitutes good or bad. And since the divine one instantiates his nature by means of his divine commands, Craig reasons: "Things are right or wrong insofar as they are commanded or forbidden by God."


On the other hand, Craig believes that there can be valid reasons for divine commands. They aren't simply given willy-nilly or arbitrarily.

Owen Thomas' Explanation of the Trinity Doctrine

Professor Owen Thomas endeavors to articulate what the Trinity is and is not:

The result of the analysis of the biblical testimony in the light of the tradition of the church is that the distinctions Father, Son and Spirit do not refer to persons in the modern sense [i.e., as separate centers of consciousness] or parts of God; each refers to the whole of the Godhead. They do not refer to aspects, qualities, or attributes of God, because all of these apply equally to each of the "persons." They do not refer to functions or types of activity of God, because each of the "persons" is involved in each activity of God. They are not simply ways in which God is revealed or ways in which we experience God but rather essential or immanent distinctions in the godhead. The names Father, Son and Holy Spirit refer to modes of being of God, distinctions in the way in which God is God, distinctions in the form, pattern, order, or structure of all of God's activities.

Quote taken from Thomas' work Introduction to Theology. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1994. Page 71.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Using Greek-English Lexicons: Caveat Lector

Written 4/23/2004 & edited 7/17/2015:

S. M. Baugh ("A First John Reader") recommends that one consult BAGD (now BDAG) when he/she undertakes a study of a particular Greek word: "This should be your first stop--and for most words, your last stop--for every Greek word study"
(page 128).

Those of us who own BDAG no doubt (HAUD DUBIE) concur with Baugh. For most Greek words, BDAG *is* the last stop, but neither Baugh nor EGF recommends the uncritical employment of BDAG. Baugh has his own criticisms of the BDAG lexicon, but I'm sure he would admit that these quibbles in no way diminish its value.

One problem that Baugh had with BAGD when he wrote his book was that it contained "glosses" rather than "word meanings." That is, the older lexicon formerly known as BAGD would give readers/students the rough approximate meaning of a word in English rather than saying what the word meant in ancient Greek. But the new BDAG is miles ahead of the older lexicon in this respect. For instance, BDAG has the following for the entry APODEIXIS:

"a pointing away to [something] for the purpose of demonstration, proof."

Anna Wierzbicka has argued that words are better defined sententially as opposed to being defined by one word "glosses." That is why the new BDAG is a vast improvement over Strong's and the old BAGD.

Another important point to keep in mind is that context often helps us determine how a term is being used by a writer or speaker. Words have semantic domains or semantic fields. The referent and context of a term surely determine how a writer is using it. BDAG is also helpful here.

Lastly, I would issue a warning concerning J.H. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon. Thayer's work was produced before lexicographers began to utilize the ancient Greek papyri in word studies. Now that the papyrological evidence has been examined, assessed and published, the fruits of this research now appear in works like BDAG. You can also consult the text "Vocabulary of the Greek Testament" by J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan. But I think this work is also in the process of being updated or has been superseded by now.

For more information about BDAG, please see

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Purgatory and Maccabees (Update of Earlier Material)

Regarding 2 Macc 12:44-45, the surrounding verses make it clear that a resurrection from the dead is in mind here. This passage from Maccabees is not dealing with purgatory:

"For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who FALL ASLEEP in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Macc 12:44-45 RSV).

The Catholic NAB, in the footnote to 2 Macc 12:42-46, says:

"This is the earliest statement of the doctrine that prayers (v 42) and sacrifices (v 43) for the dead are beneficial. The statement is made here, however, only for the purpose of proving that Judas believed in the resurrection of the just (2 Mc 7, 9, 14, 23, 36). That is, he believed that expiation could be made for certain sins of otherwise good men--soldiers who had given their lives for God's cause. Thus, they could share in the resurrection. His belief was similar to, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory."

Concerning 1 Cor 3:15, the New Jerusalem Bible notes:

"Purgatory is not directly envisaged here, but this text is one of those on the basis of which the Church has made this doctrine explicit."

"While interpreters (particularly Roman Catholics) of another era attempted occasionally to relate these verses to purgatory, almost no scholar working today would make that connection, regardless of confessional persuasion or background" (Marion Soards, 1 Corinthians, p. 78).

The picture is from

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cows, Perceptions, and Conceptions

One interlocutor writes about non-human animals:

"[they] recognize and remember certain objects, shapes, predators, etc., and know how to respond. But none of this requires or involves the apprehension of common natures of things, which would require a categorial jump from sensed particulars to general ideas that involve no residue of sensible matter, as do images generated by the memory and imagination in the brain."


It's difficult for us to say what animals experience when they assimilate sensory impressions. Nonetheless, the human apprehension and neural representation of sensate elements is not exactly analogous to the process whereby animals sense things and remember them. The human brain is capable of representing images in a way that differs markedly from cats or dogs. What makes our representations so different? We form concepts by means of natural languages and information derived from distal and proximal stimuli. Furthermore, while I believe that we form concepts by means of sensory experience in the way I've outlined, I don't necessarily buy into the "common natures" assumption. Concept-formation can be explained without appealing to non-physical factors like Platonic/Aristotelian Forms or immaterial souls.

But I am not arguing that perceptions are conceptions. What I am suggesting is that conceptions are possible representations of percepts by dint of natural language and neural networks in the human brain. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (based on the work of Eleanor Rosch) have argued that we categorize things (e.g., birds, chairs, tables, and teapots) according to fuzzy prototypical characteristics (cf. Metaphors We Live By). However, the prototypes by means of which we classify various objects emanate from somatic experiences. For example, although I had never seen a Highland Cow until the year 2002, I knew that it was a cow upon first sight. Yet the Highland Cow was unlike any cow I had ever seen before. Lakoff and Johnson might say that I was able to associate the Scottish cow with my prototype of such animals based on past somatic experiences. Yet my concept of cowness is nothing more than the result of what I've perceived with my sense organs (inter alia) and how my brain represents the usual properties of cows which it derives from distal and proximal stimuli.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Scientia and Scripture (Stream-of-consciousness Mentation)

Our "paltry knowledge" of sensibles is all that we have in terms of natural scientia. It is somewhat difficult to go beyond our phenomenal experience and know whether light is anything other than waves or particles. God might be light in a manner that transcends our ability to grasp, but we have no way of knowing whether he is transcendently light or not apart from revelation. We certainly cannot apprehend this datum from experience of what Kant calls "phenomena." What I do know is that ancient Greek writers employed the morpheme FWS (in similar contexts) as a Figuren der semantischen Deviation for the divine sphere. Isis is said to be FWS PASI BROTOISI and the very being of Isis is spoken of as FWS KAI ZWH (See BDAG). Compare John 1:3ff.

In the NT, Jesus also calls his followers the light of the world (Mt 5:14-16). Additionally, the context of 1 John 1:5 indicates that John is not talking about some transcendent light (analogous to light in the material cosmos) that is waveless or particleless: he is referring to truth, moral rectitude and goodness. Platonic thinking won't work here. There quite probably are not any Platonic Forms or Ideas that exceed our sensible experience such that masculinity or femininity subsist as objects of consciousness or divine properties in some celestial sphere that's characterized by noetic qualitativeness.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Limited Blog Activity for a Short While

Dear blog readers,

due to schedule changes and some recent events, my participation on this blog will be limited for a few weeks. We also have a convention soon--I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for checking out this blog.

All the best,


Monday, July 06, 2015

Revelation 1:1 and the Genitive Case

Commentators have normally observed that Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Revelation 1:1) could be a subjective genitive ("from Christ") or an objective genitive ("about Christ"). Wallace believes the construction could be either an objective genitive or a plenary genitive (both subjective and objective at the same time); A.T. Robertson also seems to favor the objective genitive for this construction. But David Aune suggests that Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is a subjective genitive since the next clause in the text is: ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ Θεός. As indicated by Aune's comment, the scripture's context must ultimately decide what type of genitive we have in Rev. 1:1.

Another factor that might have a bearing on this issue is that John refers to Jesus Christ with the datival form αὐτῷ in Rev. 1:1b. Aune thus reasons that there are a number of instances in Revelation where the indirect object is the subject of the verb in the following clause (Rev. 2:21) although he cautions us that these instances are all subordinate clauses.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Translating Matthew 10:6, 28, 39; 16:25-26 ("Lost"?)-Addressing Bowman Again

Robert M. Bowman has questioned the NWT handling of Mt 10:28 for the way it renders ἀπολέσαι ("to destroy") in that verse. His exact words are:

Louw-Nida agrees that there are "contexts in which YUXH refers to existence beyond death" (26.4), though in such contexts "it may be referring figuratively to the person" (citing Acts 2:27 as an example). Their identification of APOLLUMI THN YUXHN as an idiom meaning "to experience the loss of life, to die" (23.114) does not prejudge the question of what happens at death. (It does, though, support my claim that APOLLUMI in this context means something more like "cause to be lost" than something like "render nonexistent.")

πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ (Mt 10:6 WH).

"Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (NET Bible).

The translation "lost" works in Mt 10:6 since the context and other parts of the NT indicate that Jesus' disciples are hunting for those who are spiritually "lost" rather than spiritually "destroyed." Yet the gathering of sheep is not under consideration in 10:28: the verse specifically mentions Gehenna along with the destruction of soul and body. Furthermore, Luke uses τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι and ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν in the parallel account thereby indicating that the "loss" of body and soul is not the issue (Luke 12:5); the writer is concerned with divine "killing" and the possible annihilation of unfaithful ones. Being thrown into Gehenna figuratively depicts this everlasting destruction of body and soul, and not simply the death of the former or the latter.

In Mt 10:39 and 16:25-26, the rendering "lost" is appropriate in view of the contrasts set up by Matthew between "find" and "lose" or "win" and "lose." Mt 10:28 does not have this type of chiastic contrast.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Origin of Proto-Semitic Language

I'm way out of my element here, and I'm not going to offer many comments. Duncan sent along these links:,+Horus,+mighty+king,+Bull,+conqueror+of+bulls.&source=bl&ots=QVX-y5xvW4&sig=pK-D_W63QJeYYGL4KZ-RUMaWbEU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=l5SVVZPVOMOX7QbgiLKgAg&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Homage%20to%20thee%2C%20Horus%2C%20mighty%20king%2C%20Bull%2C%20conqueror%20of%20bulls.&f=false

Then he said: "Bearing in mind that protosemitic is seen as originating amongst workers in Egypt."

Good question. Just what is Proto-Semitic language, and if it existed, then who originated it? I believe that we must use Budge with extreme caution. It's the work found in these links.

See also:

Matthew 28:19-20-Following the Logic of these Verses

1) Jesus commanded his eleven disciples to go forth, and teach people (make disciples).
2) Teaching others includes providing instruction about all Jesus' teachings.
3) So the eleven disciples were to teach others how to make disciples, since the disciple-making work constitutes an important part of Jesus' teachings.
4) Therefore, all of Jesus' disciples (by imitating the original eleven to whom this commission was given) have the obligation to make disiples.

I still need to hammer out the details, but I just wanted the progression of this argument to make sense to me.