Monday, June 29, 2015

God, Time and Stephen T. Davis

Stephen T. Davis argues that God is temporal: "Time, perhaps, is an eternal aspect of God's nature rather than a reality independent of God" (Logic and the Nature of God, 23). He reasons that "time was not created" since it possibly exists in a manner analogous to numbers.

Nicholas Wolterstorff ("God Is Everlasting") also contends that God is temporal. He nevertheless apparently suspends judgment about whether God has always been "in time." But at the conclusion of his paper, Wolterstorff provides this summary:

This conclusion from our discussion turns out to be wholly in accord with that to be found in Oscar Cullmann's Christ and Time. From his study of the biblical words for time Cullmann concluded that, in the biblical picture, God's "eternity" is not qualitatively different from our temporality.

There are a number of technicalities that one could get into while discussing God and time. One might consider what others have said about the A-theory of time (tensed) versus the B-theory of time (tenseless) or one could possibly make
distinctions like "metaphysical time" versus space-time. But regardless of how we choose to understand divine temporality, it seems that we do not have to reject Einstein's view of time to believe that God is temporal (Ps 90:2). A theist like me would say that space-time was created, but the time wherein God has sempiternally existed need not have been made. We need to distinguish (I would humbly submit) between uncreated and created time.

Is metaphysical time (time simpliciter) merely a symbol or an abstraction of the mind? While it's clearly possible to articulate space-time in such terms, we must consider the noion that time seems to be objectively affected by gravity, suggesting that it's not just a mental abstraction. For a scientific treatment of the issue, I recommend
Paul Davies' God and the New Physics; in particular, see pp. 119-134.

Relativity theory has been empirically verified in many respects. There is no need, however, to reason that Einstein's theory of time discounts the existence of metaphysical time, since his theory only accounts for material phenomena that constitute the immense and awe-inspiring cosmos.

As a closing note, it is interesting that Einstein was greatly influenced by Kantian epistemology, but the "non-scientific" intuitions which Einstein derived from the Kant's theory of knowledge actually have proved to be capable of empirical verification.

On the other hand, I would agree with those who insist that God does not dwell within the space-time continuum. However, Jehovah may subsist in absolute metaphysical time as posited by William Lane Craig. Admittedly, the Biblical evidence for God's temporality or atemporality is meager. nevertheless, Witnesses believe (based on Ps 90:2) that God is from time indefinite to time indefinite (OLAM ADH OLAM).

Alan Padgett develops this point quite well in a recent book on God and temporality while Craig further contends that if the A-theory of time is correct, then God must be temporal. Finally, Nelson Pike (in his classic God and Timelessness) provides scholarly evidence and rigorous argumentation that points to the following possible conclusion: God "exists in the 'age of ages', He exists prior to and through measurable times" (186). But see Stephen T. Davis' Logic and the Nature of God (9-24).

William Lane Craig's work on God and time is also instructive. Here is one of his books about the subject:

λαλέω (LALEW)-A Few Remarks on Speaking

I remember seeing the verb form EIPON come up every now and again while studying Homer. The work "Homeric Vocabularies" (compiled by William B. Owen and Edgar J. Goodspeed) provides the gloss: "spoke, said" for EIPON. BDAG (as usual) also has a helpful entry for LALEW:

"In older Gk. usu[ally] of informal communication ranging from engagement in small talk to chattering and babbling, hence opp. of LEGW; in later Gk the trend, expressed esp. in the pseudepigr. and our lit., is toward equation with LEGW and broadening of earlier usage" (582).

From a historical or diachronic point of view, LALEW appears in the writings of Sophocles. In Jn 12:49, it could mean to speak or express oneself (an act), though it might refer to the content of speaking. See BDAG 583.

Moulton-Milligan also contains these comments based on the ancient papyri:

"The above exx. all bear out the usual distinction that, while LEGW calls attention to the substance of what is said, the onomatopoetic LALEW points rather to the outward utterance . . . With LALEW, 'I make known by speaking' with the further idea of EXTOLLING, as in Mt 26:13 al., cf. the inscr. with reference to a mother and brother-hWN KAI hH SWFROSUNH KATA TON KOSMON LELALHTAI (Archiv v. p. 169, No. 24:8). M Gr LALW (-EW), 'speak.'"

Sunday, June 28, 2015

KOSMOS in Classical and NT Literature (Brief Remarks)

From some material that I'm now editing:

The Greek word cosmos is often rendered "world" but that English translation results in a degree of ambiguity. What do we mean by the "world"? Is the world a section of humanity, the entire human race, the framework in which humans move and breathe? Or is there another possible referent for this expression? Cosmos may also denote the universe—the entirety of all there is. Both Pythagoras and Heraclitus use the signifier to convey this idea. In the present context, when talking about cosmological dualism, the Greek term refers to the universe. The expression "world" is not an invalid handling of cosmos, but it does produce a rather fuzzy representation of the expression. In any event, cosmological dualism is the philosophical view that asserts the world (universe) is fundamentally two things. It claims that there are two absolute metaphysical principles representative of this particular species of dualism.

See H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, ninth edition with revised supplement (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 985.

See Acts 17:24ff.

Compare this link:

The discussion starts on p. 282.

John 5:19-Does It Teach the Impeccability of Christ?

There are some, who think Jn 5:19 proves that Jesus (God Incarnate, they say) was impeccable (not able to sin). Robert M. Bowman asserts that we should understand 5:19 to say, "I would never act independenty of my Father." Or it appears to be teaching that the Lord would never sin against his Father and that he could not sin.

Jn 5:19 is a response to two accusations: (1) Jesus broke the Sabbath; (2) the Son was calling God his Father, seemingly making himself equal to God. In reply, the Lord does not say that "he would never act independently of the Father." Rather, he utters the words, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν ἂν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα· ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ὁμοίως ποιεῖ.

Paul N. Anderson (The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, 3, 267) observes that Jesus is asserting that he "can do nothing on his own authority" and is "totally dependent" on his Father. For Anderson, Jn 5:19 is a Johannine "subordinationist" passage. In other words, Christ is evidently stating that he does not have the ability (οὐ δύναται) or authority to act on his own initiative. He is not suggesting that he would never act on his own. Such an interpretation of 5:19 is much too strong and it misrepresents the pragmatic meaning of Jesus' words. Moreover, when the Lord insists that he does what he beholds the Father doing, the relative pronoun ἃ ("whatsoever") is delimited by the context. In particular, the things Jesus' Father does in this case regard sustaining the creation. Jn 5:17 supports this point by showing that God's ability to split seas or know all things is not the issue. Jn 5:19 is not claiming that Christ does exactly what the Father does in all respects. Robertson also offers this comment:

"Can do nothing by himself (οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν). True in a sense of every man, but in a much deeper sense of Christ because of the intimate relation between him and the Father. See this same point in Joh_5:30; Joh_7:28; Joh_8:28; Joh_14:10. Jesus had already made it in Joh_5:17. Now he repeats and defends it" (Word Pictures).

If the utterance is true (in a sense) of all humans, then how could the text prove that Jesus Christ was impeccable? The quote above certainly indicates that Robertson does not think Christ's declaration means that he could not sin, even if the famed grammarian believed in Christ's impeccability.

In conclusion, I agree with Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology 2:457) who argued that the temptations of Christ were not genuine and were ineffectual, if he was impeccable (incapable of sinning). I also believe that a free moral agent always maintains the ability to perform A or to refrain from performing A. Christ was a free moral agent: he could choose to act independently of the Father, if he had so desired. However, he would then have been powerless, and incapable of healing anyone or doing any good portentous works (Acts 2:22 NWT):

Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν

Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume 3) on the Greek Word "PRO"

I'm particularly thinking about our conversation on John 17:5.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Morphe in the Christian-Greek Scriptures (NT): Synchronism and Diachronism

I pull this quote from Christology and the Trinity to make a point about what words can mean synchonically versus what their meaning potential is diachronically.

To discern how Paul uses morphe, please note the words of Moises Silva below:

If we stress the classical usage of this term [morphe], the technical sense of Aristotelian philosophy suggests itself: morphe, although not equivalent to ousia ("being, essence"), speaks of essential or characteristic attributes and thus is to be distinguished from schema (the changeable, external fashion). In a valuable essay on morphe and schema, [Lightfoot] argued along these lines and remarked that even in popular usage these respective meanings could be ascertained. The many references where morphe is used of physical appearance . . . make it difficult to maintain Lightfoot's precise distinction, though there is an important element of truth in his treatment. (Silva 113-114)

Upon closer examination, it becomes manifestly obvious that Phil 2:6-7 (by its use of morphe) does not unequivocally establish the essential deity of Christ. The employment of morphe in Philippians does not necessarily substantiate the teaching that Christ is God incarnate. To derive this conclusion from Phil 2:6 demonstrates a mistaken over-reliance on a single Greek term. Moises Silva offers further valuable comments along these lines as follows: "[Lightfoot's] claim that morphe (opposite schema) refers to unchangeable essence can be sustained by some references, but too many passages speak against it" (122). To verify this contention, Silva quotes Plato (Republic 380d) who inquires about God's ability to alter His "shape" (to autou eidos eis pollas morphas). The New Testament professor subsequently references Xenophon, Philo, Lucian and the fourth century writer, Libanius, who wrote: ouch ho tois theos tes morphen eoichos (123). All of these classical references indicate that morphe [in Phil 2:6] refers to an entity's outward appearance (not to a thing's intrinsic essence).

At this juncture, we must inform our readers that all of the foregoing information does not mean Silva denounces Trinitarianism; he surely does not concede that Phil 2:6 is dissonant with Trinitarian claims. His comments do help us to see, however, that one cannot base his or her belief in Christ's Deity on the mere occurrence of morphe vis-à-vis the preexistent Christ.

Friday, June 26, 2015

John 17:5 and EINAI

There is a YT channel known as TheTrinityDelusion. The owner had made a video on John 17:5:

I believe that he errs by not being aware of how the Greek infinitive EINAI is sometimes used idiomatically or in certain settings. The rendering "was" is perfectly fine for John 17:5; more specifically, as A.T. Robertson writes, we should understand the passage to be saying: "'before the world was' (pro tou ton kosmon einai), 'before the being as to the world' (cf. verse John 24)."

I'm also including a link to Lesley Brown's article on EINAI in Greek philosophy.


See also

Thursday, June 25, 2015

QANAH (Proverbs 8:22) and BARA

Admittedly, the exact sense of QANAH in Prov. 8:22 is highly contested. But there appear to be good reasons for understanding the Hebrew word as "created" in this verse:

"Some scholars question whether the first verb mentioned in v. 22a (QANAH) means anything more than 'to acquire, possess,' but the evidence from Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Hebrew is clear that 'to create' is one of its meanings. In Ugaritic, the fivefold repeated epithet of Asherah, QNYT 'LM, can only mean 'creator of the gods.' In Phoenician, 'L QN 'RS (KAI 26.iii.18) can only mean 'El, creator of the earth.' A similar epithet appears in Gen 14:19, 22, where El Elyon is called 'creator of heaven and earth.' In Deut 32:6 QANAH is parallel to 'to make' and 'to establish.' Thus, the Hebrew verb QANAH, in addition to the meaning 'to acquire, possess,' can also mean 'to create'" (Richard J. Clifford, Proverbs: A Commentary, p. 96).

On the other hand, BARA does not necessarily convey a sense of creating something EX NIHILO. A brief search in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament confirms this point. See TDOT 2:242-249.

TDOT notes that the LXX translates BARA by KTIZEIN ("to create") 17 times and POIEIN ("to make") 15 times. Other Greek terms that are used to render BARA are ARXEIN ("to begin"), GENNAN ("to beget"), KATADEIKNUNAI ("to show clearly, make known, establish"), DEIKNUEIN ("to show"), GINESQAI ("to become") and KATASKEUAZEIN ("to build, create"). But KTIZEIN is evidently not used in the LXX book of Genesis, though "the Hexaplaric translations choose KTIZEIN as a technical term" (2:246).

At any rate, BARA is certainly employed in Gen. 1:27 to describe a divine creation that is not produced EX NIHILO. Ps. 104:30 also does not allude to CREATIO EX NIHILO when it speaks of God creating animals through His emanative spirit of holiness. See also 1 QH 1:7; 1 QH 4:38; 1 QS 3:17-18. These Qumranic texts use BARA in a way that does not imply divine creation from nothing (EX NIHILO).

Additionally, Clifford (whom we quoted earlier) adds:

"In Biblical Hebrew, QANAH had two distinct senses--'to possess (by far the most common meaning) and 'to create, beget'" (Clifford, 96). Clifford himself seems to prefer the latter sense for QANAH in Prov 8:22 (94-96). But see the commentary on Proverbs by Michael V. Fox.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Numbers 12:8 and Exodus 33:11

I want to expand on this subject later, but now just want to point out that the expressions "face to face" and "mouth to mouth" (how Jehovah spoke to Moses) may or may not mean the same thing. Jewish exegetes/rabbis have gone both ways on this subject, and there seems to be no conclusive way that we might decide which view is correct. However, I notice that the Hebrew term for "face" is emphaszed in Exod 33:2, 19-20 and may signify the whole person or his presence in that account. The shewbread was also known as the "bread of presence" or bread of faces (Lev 24). Paul later speaks of seeing things "face to face" in 1 Cor 13:12 in contrast to how Christians behold things in the here and now.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Marshall and the Comma Johanneum

I. Howard Marshall writes that the Johannine Comma "appears in no reputable modern version of the Bible as the actual text; most editions adopt the same practice as in the NIV of relegating the extra words to a footnote, while some (such as the RSV and NEB) totally ignore them" (Marshall, The Epistles of John, 236).

Marshall continues: "The words in fact occur in none of the Greek manuscripts of 1 John, except for a few late and worthless ones, and are not quoted by any early church writers, not even by those who would have joyfully seized upon this clear biblical testimony to the Trinity in their attacks on heretics: they probably owe their origin to some scribe who wrote them in the margin of his copy of 1 John: later they were erroneously regarded as part of the text. Beyond any shadow of a doubt the wording of the NIV text represents what John actually wrote. We must, therefore, confine our attention to the three witnesses of whom John did write, the Spirit, the water, and the blood" (Ibid).

Lastly, Marshall writes in ftn. 19 (Ibid):

"None of the ancient versions of the New Testament contains the words, except the Latin versions."

True, Marshall does say that the three neuter nouns in 1 John 5:8 that are introduced by a clause expressed in the masculine plural is "striking." He consequently attempts to explain their presence not by saying that the Comma has been wrongfully taken out of the Bible, but Marshall insists that John regards the Spirit as personal, and this leads to his subsequent personification of the Spirit. However, Daniel B. Wallace disagrees with Marshall here and points out in essence that personification may be employed by the writer without necessarily personalizing the Spirit (Wallace, GGBB, 332).

οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες (1 John 5:7 Tischendorf 8th Edition)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Ignatius of Antioch Dialogue

Bob wrote on [Ephesians] 3:3: Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the mind of the Father IHSOU CRISTOU TO ADIAKRITON HMEN ZHN TOU PATROS H GUWMH WS

In this passage Ignatius simply calls Jesus, the mind of God. If meant in the absolute sense, then Jesus is God in the unqualified sense. If Ignatius is being figurative, then Jesus would not be God in that sense. It seems rather hard to maintain that Ignatius was speaking figuratively because the text contains very few, if any, diagnostic indicators of symbolism or any other contextual clues to substantiate this notion.

Edgar: I think your transliteration should be GNWMH and not GUWMH. I am not being pedantic or mean but me thinks it is important that we understand Ignatius is comparing Jesus to the divine "will" of God and not to God's mind. GNWMH is at times used in Greek literature as a substitute for QELHMA. See Plutarch De def. orac. and Schoedel (page 50). Schoedel thus translates the passage: "Indeed Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the Father's purpose; as also the bishops appointed in every quarter, are in the purpose of Jesus Christ" (Schoedel 48).

Schoedel also points out, though he is a Trinitarian, it seems: "The theological implications of Christ as the 'purpose' of the Father are thus probably minimal" (50).

Bob: [Ephesians] 7:2-There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passable and then impassable, Jesus Christ our Lord EIS IATROS ESTIN SARKIKOS KAI PNEUMATIKOS GENNHTOS KAI AGENNHTOS EN ANQRWPW QEOS EN QANATW ZON ALHQINH KAI EK MARIAS KAI EK QEOU PRWTON PAQHTOS KAI TOTE APAQHS IHSOUS XRISTOS hO KURIOS HMEN.

This passage is very interesting because of its structure. It speaks of Jesus as one physician of two natures, that of flesh and of spirit. It then goes on to develop each nature. Of the flesh it diagrams Jesus as begotten, man, mortality, of Mary, first one who could suffer, Christ. Of the spirit it diagrams Jesus as unbegotten, God, true life, of God, now unable to suffer, Lord.

Edgar: Schoedel writes that the distinctions made by Ignatius above cannot apply to the "internal relations of the Godhead" but it only applies to the incarnate Christ. However, I am puzzled over how one can apply Ignatius' words to the immanent Trinity or the economic Trinity. Subsequent believers [at Nicaea] declared that the Son is begotten, not created and that the Father is unbegotten. But how does one consider Christ "unbegotten" in relation to the cosmos (humanity) that he came to save? It is no wonder that Bart Ehrman writes in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture that theologians would later find Ignatius' formulation in Eph 7:2 "vague." It does not seem to assist the Trinitarian case at all. It therefore has no theological force.

Interestingly Cyril C. Richardson plainly writes that Christ is called hO QEOS by Ignatius and he further points out that the bishop "does not explain, he only asserts that Christ is God" (Ignatius of Antioch, page 45). But Richardson goes beyond the surface structure or prima facie meaning of Ignatius' terminology and explores "what type of picture Ignatius has in mind when he employs the signifier QEOS. His conclusion?

"Unlike Theophilus of Antioch, he has nothing to say about God as creator; His eternity and invisibility are mentioned only in Pol. 3.2, and He is never predicated with immortality, the chief attribute of the heathen 'Gods.' For Ignatius QEOS means essentially a superhuman, moral being" (45).

He adds: "There is never a hint in his writing that Christ was in any way absorbed in God or confused with Him. He always stands in a place secondary and inferior to him" (44).

Consult The Christianity of Ignatius of Antioch. New York: AMS Press, 1967.

I also recommend Brown, Milton P. The Authentic Writings of Ignatius: A Study of Linguistic Criteria. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1963 for a solid analysis of the textual issues appertaining to the Ignatian epistles and a look at how he uses QEOS.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Revelation 11:10 (βασανίζω)

BDAG says under the entry for βασανίζω: "of prophetic testimony as source of annoyance Rv 11:10.--9:5; 14:10; 20:10; GPt; Hv 3, 7, 6; s 6, 4, 1f; 4; 6, 5, 3f; 6" (Page 168).

Furthermore, the context of Rev. 11:10 shows that the two prophets use their powers to kill and devour their enemies. How could such powerful feats literally torment those who dwell on the earth? The testimony of the two witnesses vexes those who dwell upon the earth (Cf. C.H. Giblin, "Revelation 11:1-13: Its Form, Function and Contextual Integration," NTS 30 (1984): 433-59.)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Free Will and Foreknowledge (A Draft)

I'm thinking out loud here. So none of what I write below should be viewed as definitive or conclusive.

Let S = a rational or moral subject (a doer)
Let T = a given time
Let A = an action performed by S

Assume that "acting freely" is being used in a libertarian sense where S has the power to perform A or has the power to refrain from performing A.

William Lane Craig criticizes those who believe that God's prior knowledge of what S will freely do at T2 implies fatalism. He thinks that whoever infers fatalism from God's foreknowledge of what S will do at T2 has committed the so-called "modal fallacy." But I believe that my argument is rather in the form of a reductio ad absurdum:

1) It is impossible for God to hold a false belief (divine omniscience).
2) God knows at T1 that S will freely do A at T2.
3) So S will freely do A at T2.
4) But if S is able to act freely, then S can do A or refrain from doing A at T2.
5) If S refrains from doing A at T2, then God's belief at T1 will be falsified.
6) Either it's possible for God to hold a false belief at T1 or it's possible for S to do or refrain from doing A at T2.
7) God cannot hold a false belief at T1.
8) Therefore, it's not possible for S to refrain from doing A at T2.

Or maybe what I want to argue is:

1) Either it's possible for God to hold a false belief at T1 or it's possible that S can either do A or refrain from doing A at T2.

2) It's not possible for God to hold a false belief at T1.

2) God believes at T1 that S will do A at T2.

3) Therefore, it's not possible that S can either do A or refrain from doing A at T2.

Conclusion: If God believes at T1 that S will do A at T2, then S cannot do otherwise than A at T2.

The Potential Meaning of John 1:14 (SARX)

I believe in soteriological redemption through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ; John 3:16 is near and dear to my heart. Yet the idea that John 1:14 teaches that Christ assumed "human nature" is evidently an abstraction taken from the Gospel account. Maybe the abstraction is correct as Wallace argues in GGBB, but the Greek of 1:14 could easily mean "The Word became a human" rather than "The Word assumed human nature." (See BDAG under the entry for "SARX.") In other words, it's possible to understand SARX in a count noun sense at 1:14 as opposed to interpreting the signifier with a mass noun sense.

Ignatian Theology (Parts of a Dialogue)

I've tried to include the portions of the dialogue that directly bear on interpretations of Ignatius. Slight edits have been made for ease of reading, but the edited discussion is substantially identical to the original.

I've also named my interlocutor "Bob" to protect his identity. It now begins:

Bob on Magnesians 6.1: So clearly, the full meaning here is that Jesus was with the father before time even existed. To be above time, and to in fact create time is to not be bound by it. To not be bound by time and to be before the beginning is to, by definition, be God! The reason, there simply is no definition to how long (in time) Jesus existed with the Father before time even existed. It undefined [SIC].

Edgar: Ignatius' view may be that the one who became Jesus was with God before time began, however, this fact (if it is one) in no way implies that he imputes Godhood (in its fullness) to the Messiah. One thing you are overlooking is that Ignatius evidently thinks there is a divine hierarchy that is (imperfectly) reflected in the ecclesia of God on earth. His overall argument seems to be that monotheism implies that there should be a monepiscopacy (one bishop) in the church. That is no doubt why he urges his readers to submit to the bishop as if submitting to God:

"I exhort you to strive to do all things in harmony with God: the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who before time began was with the Father . . ." (Magnesians 6:1-2).

He is promoting the notion of a divine hierarchy. While I do not think this particular concept is biblical, we know that one can believe Christ is a divine being hierarchically lower than the Father per his distinct grade of being without believing that he is fully/truly God (VERE DEUS). This idea is contained in the writings of Origen, Tertullian, and Justin. And it also appears to be a part of Ignatian thinking as well.

Bob on Magnesians 8:2:
there is one God who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word hOTI EIS QEOS ESTIN hO FANERWSAS hEAUTON DIA IHSOU CRISTOU TOU UIOU AUTOU hOS ESTIN AUTOU LOGOS

Once again Ignatius returns to the theme of the ONE TRUE GOD became evidential reality through the agency of Jesus. The
case becomes more and more overwhelming that Ignatius believed Jesus to be God in the unqualified sense more and more.

Edgar: I think you need to read this text more carefully. The "one God" who manifested Himself through the Son, according to Ignatius, is the Father. I thus do not think this passage serves as an effective prooftext for you. Please note:

"There is one God, who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ, His Son--who, being His Word, came forth out of the silence into the world and won the full approval of him whose Ambassador he was' (Magnesians 8).

Notice how the context of Magnesians 8 militates against your interpretation of this text.

Bob: 13:1 by faith and by love, in the Son and Father and in the Spirit PISTEI KAI AGAPH EN UIW KAI PATRI KAI EN PNEMATI

This passage may not be proof beyond reasonable doubt that Ignatius believed in the Trinity but it sure is a great piece of circumstantial evidence when one considers the balance of what he wrote about Jesus being God in the unqualified sense. Also, and interestingly all of Ignatius' writings are Jesus-centric.

Edgar: I am glad you recognize that just mentioning the "three" together does not mean one is affirming the Trinity. Furthermore, as I have tried to make clear in this series of posts, context is everything: each Ignatian passage must be read in context.

Bob: for the record, the name Jesus occurs 129 times in the writings of Ignatius and the Father only occurs 46 times. Additionall the tri-naming of the Son, Father, and Spirit it is the Son who's name appears first in precedence, may possibly indicting importance or relevance to the writer.

Edgar: I appreciate your submission, Bob, because it seems that you worked hard on it and you actually forced me to go back and read Ignatius again. But I think you need to be aware that the line of argumentation employed in the paragraph above is not probative in force. For instance, discourse analysts remind us that texts must be weighed, not simply counted. Sometimes folks are inclined to believe that just because a certain linguistic phenomenon [or word] occurs with relative frequency, the said phenomenon carries some kind of authoritative weight vis-a-vis the interpretation of the text. But discourse analysis has shown us that such is not the case: a text--in this case, terms--must be weighed and not counted (only).

Secondly, textual criticism teaches us the same lesson. Just because a number of manuscripts have a particular reading does not mean that the most common lectio is the preferred reading. I am sure that you have observed this principle at work when studying Scripture.

Lastly, using the Son's name so many times in no way suggests that Ignatius thinks the Son is preeminent in relation to the Father. For he consistently shows that the Son is not superior [or equal] to the Father:

"Likewise, let all respect the deacons as representing Jesus Christ, the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as God's high council and as the Apostolic college. Apart from these, no church deserves the name" (Trallians 3).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Problem of Universals, Christian Physicalism and Modern Neuroscience

I teach about and like to study medieval writers. One perennial debate during the Middle Ages was the "problem of universals."

Now I'm not convinced that universals in the Platonic or Aristotelian sense exist (i.e., rednesss itself, circularity, squareness or beauty as such), but let's assume that we can talk meaningfully about universals, whether they're Platonic, Aristotelian, Ockhamist or Abelardian. We might develop a scenario like the following based on modern psychology:

A) Distal stimulus: a diamond
B) Proximal stimulus: the information from the sensory object (e.g., a diamond) that reaches our sensory receptors
C) Neural networks: the brain is able to form varying representations of the distal stimulus
D) These representations constitute what philosophers have called "universals."

See Rod Plotnik's Introduction to Psychology.

In truth, there is no one answer to this question from a neuroscientific perspective but there are theories which try to explain perception and concept-formation (abstraction). Joseph LeDoux has written an interesting work on this subject entitled The Synaptic Self. I am most convinced by his neuroscientific account and Antonio Damasio's explanation of the embodied self.

Of course, one cannot be dogmatic about such matters, but my ultimate goal is to understand what the self is. How does science correlate to what we learn from Scripture? There appears to be evidence that we do not have souls, but are souls (Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45). While no neuroscientific theory has definitively explained the self, I also don't see a need to invoke the soul concept as an explanation for perception or abstraction.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How γίνομαι Is Used By Scriptural Writers

Here are some examples of γίνομαι (the aorist middle form ἐγένετο is employed in John 1:14) and brief comments about how it is utilized in each cited verse:

Matt. 4:3-used by Satan who asks Jesus to make some stones become loaves of bread: καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ πειράζων εἶπεν αὐτῷ Εἰ Υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ Θεοῦ, εἰπὲ ἵνα οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι ἄρτοι γένωνται.

John 1:3-The Apostle writes that all things (πάντα) came into being through the LOGOS (δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο).

John 1:12-Humans who exercise faith in Jesus and receive him are given the authority "to become" (γενέσθαι) God's children (τέκνα Θεοῦ ).

John 1:14-The LOGOS became flesh: Καὶ ὁ Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ Πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

Heb. 11:3-τοὺς αἰῶνας came to be out of things that do not appear: Πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι Θεοῦ, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι.

Cf. Matt. 5:45 and countless other examples.

Image from BDAG.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Anaphora and Holy Scripture

The SIL Glossary of Linguistic Terms defines anaphora this way:

"Anaphora is coreference of one expression with its antecedent. The antecedent provides the information necessary for the expression's interpretation. This is often understood as an expression 'referring' back to the antecedent."

The American Heritage Dictionary points out that the term "anaphora" can also refer to "The deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs; for example, 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills' (Winston S. Churchill)."

Knowing about anaphora is important since Bible writers such as Paul evidently make use of this literary device (rhetorical trope) when penning their inspired letters to primitive congregations that obtained under the suzerainty of Roman rule.

The longest example of anaphora in Scripture is found at Heb. 11. There, the writer of Hebrews continually uses Πίστει to delinate the many acts of faith performed by those who lived prior to the Messiah's first-century manifestation.

Paul further utilizes anaphora in 1 Cor. 13:7; Phil. 4:8. His employment of ὅσα in the latter passage is skilled and makes the text easy to remember: his style is apparently deliberate and observably efficacious. Rhetoric, as can be seen
from Paul's writings, is not always something that should be placed in a pejorative light.

Concerning ὅσα, Meyer's NT Commentary states: "nothing being excepted, expressed asyndetically six times with the emphasis of an earnest ἐπιμονή. Comp. Php 2:1, Php 3:2; Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 341 [E. T. 398]."

Monday, June 08, 2015

Brief Notes on the Rescensions of Ignatius' Epistles

Schoedel and Lightfoot appear to speak favorably regarding the middle recension of the Ignatian epistles but the long and short recensions continue to spark controversy. For a helpful discussion of all three recensions, see W. Schoedel's Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

The Syriac version of the Ignatian Epistles is also known as the short recension and it is "nothing more than an abridgement" of the epistles to Polycarp, the Ephesians and the letter to the Romans which includes a paragraph from Trallians. See Schoedel 3, and consult ftn. 15 on the same page for more details. See

The Berlin papyrus for these works is dated 5th century and it contains Smyrneans 3.3-12.1.

It is also known as cod. 10581 or P. See

F.C. Conybeare on 1 John 5:7 (Johannine Comma)-Quoted Material

In the First Epistle of John, Chap. V., vs. 7, most but not all Copies of the Latin Bible, called the Vulgate, read as follows:---

"For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three
are one. And there are three that bear witness on
earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood: and
these three are one."

In the first printed edition of the New Testament,
called the Complutensian, prepared at Alcala in Spain
in 1514 by Cardinal Francis Ximenes, the words here
italicised were included, having been translated from
the Latin text into Greek; for the Greek MSS used did
not contain them. They are only found in two Greek
MSS., one of the fifteenth the other of the sixteenth
century. About 400 other Greek Codices from the fourth
century down to the fourteenth ignore them. All MSS of
the Old Latin Version anterior to Jerome lack them,
and in the oldest Copies even of Jerome's recension of
the Latin text, called the Vulgate, they are
conspicuously absent. The first Church writer to cite
the verse in such a text was Priscillian, a Spaniard,
who was also the first heretic to be burned alive by
the Church in the year 385. After him Vigilius, Bishop
of Thapsa, cites it about 484. It is probable that the
later Latin fathers mistook what was only a comment of
Cyprian Bishop of Carthage (died 258) for a citation
of the text. In any case, it filtered from them into
the Vulgate text, [1] from which, as we have seen, it
was translated into Greek and inserted in two or three
very late manuscripts.

Erasmus's first edition of the Greek Testament, in
1516, omitted the verse, as also did the second; but
in 1522 he issued a third edition containing it.
Robert Stephens also inserted it in his edition of
1546, which formed the basis of all subsequent
editions of the Greek Testament until recently, and is
known as the Received Text, or Textus Receptus.


See Conybeare's History of NT Criticism, pages 91-98.

BDAG on TA PANTA = "All Things" (Absolute and Relative Sense)

[Taken from my personal archives]

For PANTA, BAGD gives information for an absolute sense of the word (Rom. 9:5; Eph. 1:22a; Rev. 21:5), but the Scriptures also show that PANTA (like TA PANTA, see BAGD 633) can be utilized in a relative sense as well. The context and the overall teaching of the holy writings can help us to determine when PANTA (TA PANTA) is used in an absolute or relative sense. Obviously, when Rom. 9:5 exclaims that God rules "all things," we can pretty much conclude that nothing is excluded from His suzerainty (an absolute sense). Other uses of PANTA (TA PANTA) do not seem to fit into this mold, however. Cf. 1 Cor. 3:21; 15:22, 27; Eph. 4:4-6; Phil. 3:8. This is what can properly be termed, the relative sense of PANTA. In other words, "all things" do not encompass "everything" in toto/ex toto.

Now what about John 1:3? Is it possible that contra BAGD, PANTA is used in a relative sense here? Well if ARXH (John 1:1-2) is being employed in the sense of "the beginning of God's creative work overall (spirit and material world)," as it evidently is used in Prov. 8:22--then PANTA could very well appear in a relative sense at 1:3. TDNT also allows this understanding. There, Delling writes that Rev. 3:14 may denote that Jesus Christ is the 'principle and source of creation.' But TDNT goes on to say:

"Otherwise the usage reflects rabbinic usage and the Messiah is before the world, yet himself created" (TDNT 1:484, ftn. 34).

Origen also understood PANTA in John 1:3 to have a limited sense: he felt that nothing was strictly uncreated except the Father:

All, then, who have part in Him who is, and the saints have part in Him, may properly be called Beings; but those who have given up their part in the Being, by depriving themselves of Being, have become Not-beings. But we said when entering on this discussion, that Not-being and Nothing are synonymous, and hence those who are not beings are Nothing, and all evil is nothing, since it is Not-being, and thus since they are called Not-being came into existence without the Logos, not being numbered among the all things which were made through Him. Thus we have shown, so far as our powers admit, what are the "all things" which were made through the Logos, and what came into existence without Him, since at no time is it Being, and it is, therefore, called "Nothing."

(From Commentary on John 2.7)

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Asyndeton in 1 Cor 13:7

Originally dated Nov 7, 2003 (slightly edited on 6/7/15)

πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει (1 Corinthians 13:7, Tischendorf 8th).

Notice that there are no conjunctions in the passage above--this literary device is called asyndeton. The Greek word ἀσύνδετον can mean "not bound together." The Latin historian Tacitus employs asyndeton (zero conjunctions)) in order to move a story along quickly or aid a reader's memory. As David A. Black likewise points out, a noted example of this rhetorical device reportedly comes from Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, vici ("I came, I saw, I conquered").

Paul also uses asyndeton in Romans 1:29-32, but I find 1 Corinthians 13:7 especially easy to remember because of the stylistic device used there. For more info on asyndeton and its opposing device, polysyndeton, see D.A. Black's Linguistics for Students of NT Greek, p. 134.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Hell (Gehenna), Death, the Soul and Matthew 10:28

"Apply whatever torture devices you have to my body; you can't reach my will, no matter how much you wish (4 Maccabees 10:4).

The Oxford RSV notes that 4 Macc 10:4 does not occur in certain MSS: it goes on to say that this passage may be an interpolation. Furthermore, the passage may not have been written until sometime after Jesus' death (ca. 63 BCE-120 CE). Thus it may truly have no bearing on how we should understand Mt 10:28.

As for eternal torments: Neither Matthew nor Luke indicate that eternal suffering is being discussed by Jesus since Matthew writes that the soul can be "destroyed" by God "in Gehenna," while Luke notes that Jehovah "after he has killed," has the power to throw into Gehenna (Lk 12:4-5).

Furthermore, TDNT IX:646 observes:

"In Mt 10:28, however, the reference to God's power to destroy the YUXH and SWMA in Hades [Gehenna] is opposed to the idea of the immortality of the soul. VII, 1058, 15. For it is again apparent that man can be thought of only as a whole, both YUXH and SWMA. This view of man comes up against the undeniable fact that men are killed, e.g., in the persecution of the community. As Mk 8:35ff . . . already maintains, however, the YUXH, i.e., the true life of man as it is lived before God and in fellowship with God, is not affected by this. Only the SWMA (-----> VII, 1058, 15ff.)"

In harmony with other OT usages, Mt 10:28 could be using YUXH in the sense of life.

Additionally, John L. McKenzie (SJ) has some interesting observations regarding YUXH and Gehenna. He writes:

"Gehenna is also mentioned frequently in the rabbinical literature where it also appears as a pit of fire, a place of punishment for the wicked. In rabbinical literature, however, the eternal fire is not surely eternal punishment. The rabbis at times see the possibility of annihilation of the wicked or even of their release after a period of punishment" (McKenzie 300).

For a text that I think has a bearing on Mt 10:28 and the use of Gehenna there, see Isa 66:24.

McKenzie also adds:

"It [Gehenna] is a place where the wicked are destroyed body and soul, which perhaps echoes the idea of annihilation (Mt 10:28)."

He also contends that the "apocalyptic imagery" contained in certain NT passages should be taken for what it is, to wit, "imagery." The pictorial nature of "torments" should not be construed as "strictly literal theological affirmation" (300).

Gehenna is evidently neither a literal geographical place (in eschatological texts) nor an eternal locus of torture: Jesus seems to use the term in a figurative way. Gehenna appears to be representative of everlasting oblivion. NT Wright's advice is sagacious in this matter:

"It should of course be noted again that 'Gehenna' is the name of the smouldering rubbish-heap outside the south-west corner of Jerusalem . . . The extent to which it is used in the gospels metaphorically for an entirely
non-physical place of torment, and the extent to which, in its metaphorical use, it retains the sense of a physical conflagration such as might accompany the destruction of Jerusalem by enemy forces, ought not to be decided in advance of a full study of Jesus' meaning" (Jesus and the Victory of God, page 454-455).

Friday, June 05, 2015

Genesis 3:22 (Jeff Benner)

Duncan writes:

"Benner's note on 3:22:-

The Hebrew phrase וּנֶמִׁמַדַחאְַּכ can be translated as 'like one of us' (referring to the Elohiym, a plural word) or 'like one of him' (referring to the serpent). Compare with the words of the serpent in verse 5."

REPLY from EDGAR: Since this information does not immediately deal with aposiopesis, I started a new thread. My questions would be

1) What is the grammatical basis for rendering 3:22 with "like one of him"?

2) Why would the knowledge of good and evil be attributed to the serpent?

Gen 3:5 attributes this special knowledge to God.

Elohim could refer to the one God although it has the plural suffix.

John 7:8

ὑμεῖς ἀνάβητε εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν· ἐγὼ οὔπω ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην, ὅτι ὁ ἐμὸς καιρὸς οὔπω πεπλήρωται (John 7:8 WH).

The reading οὔπω in Jn 7:8 "was introduced at an early date (it is attested by P66, 75) in order to alleviate the inconsistency between ver. 8 and ver. 10" (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary).

However, Ernst Haenchen (in his commentary on John) seems to think that οὔπω is original (See Haenchen, John 2:7).

He reasons: "If Jesus does not know when his time is fulfilled and the Father calls him to Jerusalem (to die?) then logically he cannot say 'not,' but must say, as in v 6, 'not yet.' "

Even if οὐκ ("not") is less than original, and we cannot be positively sure at this time which reading is correct, John's use of οὐκ still does not mean that Jesus lied. A.T. Robertson points out that Jesus "did not change his plans . . . He simply refused to fall in with his brothers' sneering proposal for a grand Messianic procession with the
caravan on the way to the feast" (Word Pictures in the NT).

"the more definite--and more difficult--reading, 'I am not going,' is undoubtedly the correct one. Jesus is represented as clearly refusing his brothers' proposal. He will not go to this festival at their request or initiative but only as his Father directs" (J.R. Michaels, John, 127).

"He refuses in the plainest terms to comply with human--and unbelieving--advice, acting with complete freedom and independence with regard to men, but in complete obedience to his Father" (Barrett, John, 313).

"That Jesus eventually goes to the festival EN KRUPTWi is to be interepreted strictly in relation to [John 7:4]: he journeys quietly to Jerusalem, without making any ostentatious entry into the city or drawing attention to himself on arrival at the festival" (Murray, John , 107).

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Aposiopesis as a Rhetorical Device (David A. Black)

Romans 2:17-21 and 5:12 appear to be examples of aposiopesis (ἀποσιώπησις). David A. Black explains that this particular rhetorical device "is a deliberate failure to end a sentence under the influence of a strong emotion like anger or fear, as in 'If you do this, I'll . . .' Aposiopesis is seen in Luke 19:42" (Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, page 134).

Another well-known (possible) example of aposiopesis that comes to mind straightaway is Gen 3:22.

See the very informative page here:

Monday, June 01, 2015

John 1:1-2 and Deixis

Written 2/4/2000:

By deixis, I mean what George Yule calls " 'pointing' via language" (Yule, George. _The Study of Language_. New York: Cambridge, 1996. P. 130).

As this publication points out, there are a number of deictic expressions (person deixis, place deixis, and time deixis). Demonstratives basically serve a deictic purpose in that--as my classics advisor likes to say--they are "finger pointers" ("this" and "that"). Sometimes the demonstrative pronoun can be used to emphasize what has already been said. This is called "the deictic reference." On p. 596 (hOUTOS 1.b), BAGD says that hOUTOS may have reference "to [something] that has immediately preceded" with the implied idea--"this one." The examples given there are Lk 1:32; John 1:2; 6:71; 2 Tim. 3:6, 8; Jd 7.

"Nothing new is added in this verse [Jn 1:2], but two points are repeated from v. 1 and thereby given emphasis" (Morris, Leon. _John_ [New International Commentary] p. 78).