Thursday, February 26, 2015

Progressive Illumination

According to John 2:22, Jesus' disciples only comprehended the saying in Jn 2:19 when (ὅτε) Jesus was raised from the dead--then they "called to mind" (ἐμνήσθησαν) the statement he made concerning his body.

Another interesting passage is John 12:16: "These things his disciples took no note of at first, but when Jesus became glorified, then(τότε) they called to mind (ἐμνήσθησαν) that these things were written respecting him and that they did these things to him."

Or what about Acts 11:15-16, where Peter himself testifies that it was only when the holy spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household that Peter "called to mind the saying of the Lord" (ἐμνήσθην δὲ τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ κυρίου) about Christians being baptized with spirit and water.

All such verses indicate that early Christians, including those who were circumcised Jews, progressively were guided into all the way of truth (John 16:12-13).

Michael Coogan's Remarks on the Divine Name (from His Introduction to the Old Testament)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2 Samuel 13:15 (LXX/OG)-Use of Agapao

καὶ ἐμίσησεν αὐτὴν Αμνων μῖσος μέγα σφόδρα, ὅτι μέγα τὸ μῖσος, ὃ ἐμίσησεν αὐτήν, ὑπὲρ τὴν ἀγάπην, ἣν ἠγάπησεν αὐτήν. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ Αμνων ᾿Ανάστηθι καὶ πορεύου (2 Samuel 13:15, LXX).

"Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her, for the last wickedness was greater than the first: and Amnon said to her, Rise, and be gone" (Brenton).

Interesting uses of ἀγάπην and ἠγάπησεν.

D. A. Carson makes this observation: "even in the Septuagint it is far from clear that the αγα­-πάω word-group always refers to the 'higher' or more noble or less emotional forms of love. For example 2 Samuel 13 says that Amnon incestuously raped his half-sister Tamar: he 'loved' her — a vicious act, transparently sexual, emotional, and violent — and both αγαπάω and φιλέω are used."

See "God Is Love," BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 156 (April-June 1999): 131-2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Luck--Not!

The word "luck" can be defined many different ways. Some definitions are "the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities," "good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance" or "a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person" (dictionary.com)

I often hear people wish one another "good luck" or someone might say, "If it wasn't for back luck, I'd have none at all."

While scripture does teach that "time and chance" befalleth all (Ecclesiastes 9:11), the idea that we're subject to the forces of luck (destiny/fortune) is not scriptural. It also seems that positing luck as a causal factor of the universe clashes with the scientific account of causes and their effects. In simple terms, it's hard for me to understand how stepping on a crack has anything to do with my mom's back, or how encountering a black cat or breaking a mirror affects one's fate. Luck seems to be the kind of thing that dreams are made of.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bishops and Overseers (More Dialogue)

The office of "bishop" was non-existent in the first century: number of sources demonstrate this fact. There were EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI, but no "bishops" in the technical sense of the word. Francis Beare writes concerning Phil 1:1:

"The two words translated bishops and deacons have been much debated. In the second century they became specialized in ecclesiastical usage; the bishop as the head of the local Christian community, the deacons as his assistants in whatever duties he might assign them."

Beare then adds: "Negatively, it may be said that the use of the plurals [in Phil 1:1] rules out any possibility that the Philippian church is governed by a monarchical bishop."

After citing Polycarp and other sources, Beare concludes: "This passing reference [to EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI in Phil 1:1] does not provide us with any crumb of information about the status or function of EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI at Philippi; and we are not entitled to read into them in this context the significance which belongs to them in later Catholic usage" (Francis Beare, Epistle to the Philippians, 1959, pp 49-50).

So while the Primitive Congregation used EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI, it does not follow that these "offices" were hierarchically arranged or that these men were leaders of the Church. The EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI were "individuals designated for special service within the Church and perhaps subject to the Church" (Gerald Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Series, page 8).

Heinrich Meyer also reasons: "We may add that placing of the officials after the church generally, which is not logically requisite, and the mere subjoining of them by SUN, are characteristic of the relation between the two [the overseers, assistants and the flock], which had not yet undergone hierarchical dislocation" (Meyer, Philippians and
Colossians, page 14).

Jesus Christ issued this command: "Neither be called 'leaders,' [KAQHGHTAI] for your Leader [KAQHGHTHS] is one, the Christ [hO XRISTOS]" (Mt 23:10 NWT).

Admittedly, the term translated "Leader" can evidently mean either "leader, master, guide, teacher or professor." Certain scholars favor the sense "teachers" in this passage, but I think that "leader" is just as likely in view of Mt 23:6-8.

The Geneva Bible of 1599 has: "Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, [even] Christ."

"Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master,[even] the Christ" (ASV).

"nor may ye be called directors, for one is your director -- the Christ" (YLT).

One could argue that Jesus is saying that his followers should not be called "leaders" or "teachers" (i.e., they should not be given these titles). But I think such an argument, if valid, simply makes the important point.

Ellicott's Commentary: "Neither be ye called masters.—The word is not the same as in Matthew 23:8, and signifies 'guide,' or 'leader;' the 'director' of conscience rather than the teacher. (Comp. Romans 2:19.)"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Greek Word APOFEUGW and 2 Peter 1:4

I'm undertaking a word study on APOFEUGW in 2 Peter 1:4. Here is part of what I've written so far:

Louw-Nida Greek and English Lexicon (21.14) states that APOFEUGW can mean-"to become safe from danger by avoiding or escaping" and "to escape, to avoid."

L-N points out that it's hard to adjudicate how EXFEUGW and APOFEUGW differ from FEUGW or from one another. It may be the case that EXFEUGW/APOFEUGW are "somewhat more emphatic than FEUGW" (21.14).

The same reference work notes that in the case of these related terms, "there is no special indication of movement, but simply the fact of not having to experience some particular difficulty or danger" (ibid). See Mt 23:33; Lk 21:36; Rom 2:3; Heb 11:34.

but here's what LSJ says about APOFEUGW:

APOPHEUGW/O: "flee from, escape . . . rarely c. gen. [2 Peter 1:4 example]" (p. 226) and "c. inf., avoid, LEGEIN Phlp. in Ph. 617.14: abs. get safe away, escape" and "go free" (used of manumitted slaves). Also utilized as a "law-term" in Hdt. 6.82, Pl. Lg. 94.6d and "abs. get clear off, be acquitted opp. hALISKOMAI, Hdt. 2.174." Also employed with reference to a woman giving birth to a child.

From Vincent's Word Studies:

"Having escaped (ἀποφυγόντες)

Only in this epistle. To escape by flight."

Robertson also tells us that this form of the verb (ἀποφυγόντες) in 2 Peter 1:4 is a second aorist active participle.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Trinitarian Equality and John 5:17-18

From December 23, 2003:

While the word ἴσος can mean "similar" it can also have the denotation "equal." Why would the first-century Jews have been so upset, if they only thought Jesus was making himself like or similar, but not equal to his Father? Furthermore,
remember what Paul wrote in Phil. 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, page 75).

While I do not agree with Murray's comments in toto, I think the last few sentences of the quote provided above shed light on monotheism in ancient Judaism. Having said the foregoing, I would argue that certain Jews thought Jesus was making himself equal to God (not merely similar), but they were mistaken.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Johannine Themes (A Short Reflection)

Caution is essential when we're trying to determine the theme of a particular book of scripture. For instance, as we read John's Gospel, it's easy to see themes that deal with the glory which the Father has given to the Son (John 1:14) as well as the theme of divine agency (John 1:1-3). Furthermore, it appears that John clearly presents the two motifs of KATABASIS and ANABASIS that are intimately connected with the event mentioned in 1:14. And think of how the Apostle concludes chapter 20 of his Gospel: "But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have belief by means of his name" (v. 31). So, I'm kind of reluctant to concur with Bultmann when he evidently states that the Incarnation represents the focus of John's Gospel.

See http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-John-Commentary-Johannine-Monograph/dp/1625649037/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424206802&sr=1-1&keywords=bultmann+johannine

Discourse Analysis and the Meaning of Biblical Texts

Discourse analysts contend that grasping the macrostructure of a text is key for determining textual understanding. We must not only look at individual lexemes, morphemes or examine basic syntax. Discourse, paragraphs, sentences, constituent structures, and context serve as the sine qua non for examining textual communication.

When I talk about the context of a passage, I am not simply referring to the (immediate) literary context of a passage; to really ascertain the meaning of a text, it seems that one must consider the religious, political, and social context of a particular discourse.

A work that nicely sums up the aforesaid issues, and helps one to move from intermediate to advanced biblical Greek is "Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach to Learning Intermediate and Advanced Greek" by George H. Guthrie and J. Scott Duvall (Zondervan).

This work explains how to diagram Greek sentences: it also contains a number of texts that allow students of NT Greek to work on parsing and discourse analysis as students personally advance in their Greek studies.

Please see https://books.google.com/books?id=TdkJlOqiEnIC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=Biblical+Greek+Exegesis:+A+Graded+Approach+to+Learning+Intermediate+and+Advanced+Greek&source=bl&ots=TYVzWcWQV7&sig=e7hUuQPFAHgrmlNP5mjXAyDmiiE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=o6njVJ68OYLCsATwtYLgAg&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=Biblical%20Greek%20Exegesis%3A%20A%20Graded%20Approach%20to%20Learning%20Intermediate%20and%20Advanced%20Greek&f=false

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Small But Important Change in NWT 2013 (Revelation 19:17-18)

Greek: Καὶ εἶδον ἕνα ἄγγελον ἑστῶτα ἐν τῷ ἡλίῳ, καὶ ἔκραξεν ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγων πᾶσι τοῖς ὀρνέοις τοῖς πετομένοις ἐν μεσουρανήματι Δεῦτε συνάχθητε εἰς τὸ δεῖπνον τὸ μέγα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα φάγητε σάρκας βασιλέων καὶ σάρκας χιλιάρχων καὶ σάρκας ἰσχυρῶν καὶ σάρκας ἵππων καὶ τῶν καθημένων ἐπ' αὐτούς, καὶ σάρκας πάντων ἐλευθέρων τε καὶ δούλων καὶ μικρῶν καὶ μεγάλων (Rev 19:17-18, WH).

NWT (1984): I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: "Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that YOU may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men and the fleshy parts of horses and of those seated upon them, and the fleshy parts of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great."

NWT (2013 Rev): I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: "Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of military commanders and the flesh of strong men and the flesh of horses and of those seated on them, and the flesh of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great."

It's a good change to render 19:18 with "flesh" instead of "fleshy parts."

Dialogue on the Resurrection

[Interlocutor]
And here we have it: the problem. Did you really just argue that the JW teaching is not a re-creation because of a metaphor? It counts as a resurrection and not a re-creation because, metaphorically and not literally, S1 still lives? With all due respect, you've got to be kidding.

[Edgar Response]
Let's not misrepresent my argument. I am not contending that a resurrection as opposed to a re-creation takes place BECAUSE S1 still lives metaphorically. Rather, my position is that S1 is resurrected BECAUSE S1 is truly dead (not conscious or existent) and is raised from that condition by God through Jesus Christ and the holy spirit.

[Edgar Previously]
If I type a document, save it to my C drive, then transfer it to a floppy disk, delete the original file, then insert the floppy in another computer and retrieve the document on the floppy disk-- how can anyone legitimately claim that I'm "re-creating" the original document?

[Interlocutor]
Well, the same way that the Magna Charta that is in the US Archives is a copy (a re-creation) of the original. The same way that, if I try to sell you the Declaration of Independence, I'm committing a fraud -- what I have is a copy. The same way that the absolute best copy of Goya's Saturn is worth a couple grand and the original is priceless.

[Edgar Response]
The word "copy" is ambiguous. It can refer to something (X) that is exactly like another distinct thing or the word may have reference to something (X) that has been made to resemble something else. I have deliberately refrained from using the word "copy" when illustrating the possible relationship between a deceased person and the same person existing after God resurrects him or her. Keep in mind that the computer disk example is just that: one should not take the illustration literally. All examples have their own limitations.

But let us assume (as I am suggesting) that the resurrection could be analogous to opening a file that derives from an original document which initially existed on the C-drive. I still don't see how that [necessarily] constitutes "re-creating" the file. It is unnecessary to recreate something that never ceased to exist in the first place. However, please do not infer that I am trying to say S1 never stops existing (although in a metaphorical sense, that point is true) post mortem. The original point of my example was to illustrate how something that exists, dies and comes back to life can still be considered numerically identical through the whole process. In the case of the file example, the file exists, is transferred to a disk, and then deleted but continues to exist on the disk. You can clearly see that I am not positing a strict analogy between the file example and a person who dies, but is later raised from the dead.

[Edgar Previously]
Similarly, I don't see why my view regarding the dead being brought back to life can't be termed "resurrection."

[Interlocutor]
There are two main reasons. First, the JW perspective eliminates the uniqueness of the individual. In exactly the same way we can print out an unlimited number of the saved documents, and each one we will claim is THE document, under the JW thinking there is no "thingness" to any of us. There are only (potentially many) examples of that thing. This is generally and for good reason considered to be a pretty big drawback to the JW position.

[Edgar Response]
As I've said earlier, my example involving the computer file should not be misconstrued. It was intended to show how numerical identity can be preserved although an object might be deleted but continue to exist in another form. I believe that it misrepresents the Witness position to claim that Witnesses say there are "potentially many" examples of a particular thing, in this case. Furthermore, I don't know how you can make that claim about my belief when I've made it clear that I believe the self is neural and coupled with the body proper. If S1 is a neural self that is metaphysically distinct from S2 (another neural self), S3, S4 . . . , then there cannot be many instantiations of S1. Only S1 experiences particular synaptic connections, brain states and sensory experiences peculiar to S1. S1 also has a particular genetic code, [fingerprints], and set of unique memories. The atomic structure of S1 also belongs to S1 and only to S1. Therefore, one and only one S1 can exist.

[Interlocutor]
Second, and related, the JW position that there is a complete break at death -- as you said, there is a literal and total break -- makes it tough to see how continuity is maintained (continuity being generally considered a really important element of the whole resurrection vs. re-creation question). Cartesian dualists, whatever else their problems might be, don't have this problem.

[Edgar Response]
Continuity is preserved (on the Witness account) because while people die (completely and totally), there is a sense in which human persons continue living. They live unto God [i.e., in his memory].

Some Thoughts from the Late "Bar Enosh" on Exodus 3:14

I've pasted together some thoughts from Brother "Bar Enosh." This material was all gathered and posted by the late brother on another forum:

There is no connection with Exodus 3:14 [and John 8:58], because the Hebrew does not say "I Am." It says *ehyeh* which means "I Will Be/Become." As William Propp says in the Anchor Bible's commentary on Exodus 3:14 (1999), "The imperfect of *hyy* [*ehyeh*] always refers to the future. If one could say 'I am that I am' in Hebrew at all, it would probably be through some such barbarous circumlocution as *anoki hu asher anoki hu*'." (page 204)

The ancient translators Theodotion and Aquila had no problem expressing *ehyeh asher ehyeh* as ESOMAI hOS ESOMAI. There is little reason to believe that God is speaking "absolutely" here, rather than enigmatically, both revealing and concealing. In the context of Exodus 1-3, "I will be who/what I will be" is particularly relevant.

Finally, my dear brother "Bar Enosh" wrote:

Because of the situation with Hebrew verbs, or rather our present
understanding of them (or lack thereof), there are times when context
provides key to meaning. What is the context of Exodus 3, if not
what God is going to do in the future for His nation?

I notice that even most translations that, for whatever reason, want
to render EHYEH as "I Am" in Exodus 3:14 translate that same word
as "I will be" just 2 verses prior (3:12)! Why the inconsistency?
If it is "I will be" in Exodus 3:12, it makes sense for it to be "I
Will Be" in verse 14, I would think.

And in fact, that is how many independent, Jewish and other
translations render EHYEH ASHER EHYEH, including the translations in
several commentaries (i.e., _The Anchor Bible: Exodus 1-18_ by
William H.C. Propp: "Then Deity said to Moses, 'I will be who I will
be.' And he said, 'Thus you will say to Israel's Sons: "I-will-be
has sent me to you."'")

"I Am" does not faithfully represent the LXX, the first translation
of Exodus 3:14 into another language. Even though the verse has EGW
EIMI ("I am"), that is not the conclusion of the verse, which
continues, hO WN, "the Being/Self-Existant One." Later translators
in the LXX tradition (e.g., Theodotion) recognized that this
understanding of the LXX translators was not the most faithful
rendition of the Hebrew, and rendered Exodus 3:14 as ESOMAI hOS
ESOMAI, corresponding to "I will be Who I will be."

People will understand or appreciate the context of Exodus 3
differently and thus render Exodus 3:14 differently. But I think it
to be safe ground to interpret the context as relating to God's
future acts involving Moses and Israel.

Monday, February 09, 2015

God, Time, and Divine Immutability (Duncan)

The Old Testament appears to depict God as a dynamic being within time:

"The everlasting (or at best relatively timeless) nature of God's eternity has been clearly implied in Ps. 90:2,Isa. 40:28, 41:4; 43:10, and 44:6; while Isa. 48:3 allows any view. Eccl. 3:11, too, will not support an absolute timelessness. Thus Schmidt's thesis that the OT supports a Boethian understanding of non-durational timeless eternity cannot be maintained. We can conclude with the vast majority of scholars that Yahweh is understood by OT writers to be everlasting, or at best 'timeless' in a relative sense" (A. Padgett, God, Eternity, and the Nature of Time, page 29).

Like Stephen T. Davis, Padgett also concludes that Boethius' theory of divine timelessness in The Consolation of Philosophy 5 does not seem to be in accord with the Old Testament account of a God who is depicted in temporal language. Moreover, William Hasker considers the scriptural accounts that Davis references. While he concludes that it is intelligible to speak of a timeless God acting in history, he nonetheless concedes that there is a problem envisioning an atemporal God bringing about distinct events that take place "at different points in time." For example, Hasker wonders how it is metaphysically possible for God to split the Red Sea (by an eternal act of will) and (by an eternal act of will) to ordain that the wheels of the Egyptian chariots loosen? Additionally, Hasker believes that God's responsiveness concerning prayer is also a potential difficulty for the timeless view of divinity: "For in responding to another it is of the essence that one first acts, then waits for the other to react, then acts responsively, and so on. There seems to be no way this sequence could be collapsed, as it were, into a single timeless moment."

If one construes the scriptural language of prayer literally, it is potentially difficult to reconcile God's atemporality with the deity of Scripture who hears and answers prayers (Psalm 65:2). So the biblical accounts that depict God responding to the prayers of His creatures appear to undermine the notion of divine atemporality--even the advocates of divine atemporality have admitted that reconciling prayer with divine timelessness is not an easy task. Maybe the solution is to understand the response language of Scripture in anthropomorphic terms. On the other hand, it is possible that the God of Scripture is sempiternal (God has neither beginning nor end, but still exists temporally).

From a consideration of the biblical and logical evidence, I submit that God is not a timeless being existing in an eternal now. Of course, if God is sempiternal, it is fitting to ask how he keeps from being conditioned by the accidents of time. Terence Fretheim has written that the God of the Old Testament is temporal, but he is not touched by the vicissitudes of time. It could also be posited that God is not adversely conditioned by his temporality: Jehovah does not age or grow decrepit with the passage of time. Nor does the divine essence undergo change (James 1:17). If God is a temporal being, there could be a sense in which He changes but still remains God.

John Sanders posits relational changes in God: he suggests that God willingly chooses to enter into an ever-changing relationship with rational creatures. The biblical scholar James Barr has been critical of theories that assert God is temporal based on lexical studies of olam or aiwn. But one might legitimately wonder what significance the Bible has if one cannot infer, deduce or learn about theo-ontological concepts pertaining to God's nature from the very book that declares Him to be either atemporal or sempiternal.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

More on God, Time, and Psalm 90 (A Response to One Brother)

Dated 7/31/2009:

As you are well aware, the NWT translates OLAM in Psalm 90:2 and elsewhere as "time indefinite" and I think this is enlightening since the etymology for the Hebrew term suggests that the Psalmist is possibly referring to "hidden time, long" (Gesenius). It seems to me that Psalm 90:2 is not just enunciating God's "eternal" past but also the fact that God's existence is endless or boundless. That is, I take the Psalmist to be saying that God has always existed (in time) and always will exist (in time): God has no beginning nor will he have an end.

I concede that the attempt to plumb (explore fully) God's eternal/everlasting psyche is probably futile. Of course, Trinitarians will say that God was never alone in the first place, although Tertullian does venture a theological opinion regarding God's solitary existence and what God was possibly doing before he generated his own Word, thereby making that impersonal Word the Son of God (a personal entity). Tertullian's account can be found in Adversus Praxean 5-7; it is undoubtedly based partly on Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8:22ff. His suggestion is that God conducted discourse within himself when alone much like a man or woman thinks or deliberates when by him/herself.

The mode in which God knew prior to creation or knows now is a tough question. But I'll just say that I'm very much opposed to the absolute divine timeless idea when it comes to Jehovah since a number of implications flow therefrom. If God is timeless, God does not, nor can God change ontologically or cognitively. Furthermore, if God is timeless, he does not have genuine emotional states. Additionally, if God is timeless, then God knows all things as present: all events whether past, present or future to us are all present to him. I can flesh out these implications at another time.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Slavery in the First Century CE

In the deceptively simple-looking publication Exploring the NT World, Albert A. Bell, Jr. provides a useful discussion of slavery in the first century world (pp. 192-194). Bell supplies a number of primary sources to uphold his contentions, and what he concludes is that while first-century Christians did not push for an abolition of slavery, they did "call for an enlightened attitude toward slaves as fellow human beings" (Bell 194). Cf. Gal. 3:28.

Richard R. Melick, Jr. also has some perceptive observations in his commentary on Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. (See pp. 316-320, 341-345 of his work.) Melick lists a number of good reasons why Paul did not protest slavery (railing against slavery could have made matters extremely difficult for those who were slaves!), while also showing that Paul "taught equality" and paved the way for first-century Roman society to make changes in its own thinking regarding slavery. In Colossians, Paul showed that those who were "masters" in a fleshly sense also had the Master over them (Col. 4:1).

Here is a more detailed passage from Melick's commentary on this issue:

"Slaves were, generally speaking, victims of war. The slavery was political and economic, not racial. Similarly, virtually every class of person lived with the realization that war could cause them to lose everything and be sold into slavery. Those who revolted, seeking to use power to gain freedom, found themselves in a worse position than before. It simply would not do for Paul to advocate slaves walking away from their masters. That would endanger many innocent lives and frustrate the spread of the gospel" (Melick 316).

Additionally, we read:

"Treating others the way they wanted to be treated [a message preached by both Jesus and Paul] would mean the release of slaves. As discussed earlier, however, the Roman Empire was not ready for that message, and to preach that kind of rebellion in those circumstances would have hindered the message of the gospel. The deeper matters of fair dealing had to come from the heart anyway, and Paul spoke directly to that end" (Ibid., 320).

Even if Paul or Peter had issued pronouncements against slavery, these locutions would have carried no weight with the Roman world, and later slave-owners would have found yet other reasons to perpetuate the institution of slavery and cruelly treat their human property. The fact of the matter is that neither the OT nor the NT encourages those who own slaves to treat them inhumanely (vide Exodus 21:20; 21:26). Even if God permitted slavery, he never urged masters to beat or mistreat their slaves: never would God have exhorted one man to hurl racial epithets at another man. Teachings against racism and nationalism are perspicuously contained in the early Christian documents.

The Apostle Peter said that God is not partial, and Paul reminded the Romans that people of the nations can worship Jehovah too(Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 3:29; 1 Cor. 7:39; Tit.3:3). Furthermore, if one reads the entire account of Philemon, it quickly becomes evident that ancient Christians did not favor the enslavement of fellow humans(Philemon 13-16).


Exploring The NT World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. The New American Commentary. Nashville,
TN: Broadman, 1991.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Christian Priesthood

Written on another forum and updated after further input:

1) 1 Peter 2:5 suggests an ongoing progression that started in the first century and evidently continues in the here and now (21st century): καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας. . . (NA28)

2) Exodus 19:4-6 seems to communicate the idea that Israel had the opportunity to become a nation of kings-priests, if they proved obedient to the Torah. The production of a royal priesthood would take place by means of their adherence to Jehovah's law (mediated through Moses), it appears. But the law (Torah) would lead them to Christ in harmony with Galatians 3:24ff.

3) In the case of fleshly Israel, I see the kingly and priestly offices as likely compossibles if they proved obedient; at the very least, some natural Israelites would have been perpetual kings in the nation and others would have constituted age-abiding priests. Compare Isaiah 49:6-7; 61:6; 66:21-22. But all hinged on their acceptance of God's Son.

4) It's quite likely that Peter is alluding to Exodus 19:6 along with other passages in 1 Peter 2:9-10--maybe the apostle has Luke 22:28-30 in mind also. But the words of Psalm 110:1-4 seem primarily applicable to the Messiah; he then arranges for his anointed followers to be joint-heirs with him into perpetuity.

Of course, I hope it's understood that this is how I perceive things now. I'm willing to be corrected.