Monday, August 31, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (The Referent?)

A reader has asked me to watch a video, then offer some comments on it. My time is tight now. But I did view this video and might have some thoughts prepared by Wednesday. I've heard the argument before that Satan is not the referewnt of 2 Cor 4:4, but it's really God (Jehovah).

Personally, I don't have strong feelings about the issue, but my current position is that Satan is being discussed in this context. Yet I want to weigh and present evidence for what I say. So I post the YT link for now and will let my readers decide if this subject interests them.

Metaphoric Language for the Divine (the Son's Birth and Kingly Rule)

I want to avoid undue speculation here, but it's possible that events which Scripture reports transpiring in the spirit realm are usually metaphorically tinged. I desire to avoid the position, however, that says one can never speak literally about God. Nevertheless, when Jehovah "speaks" to His spirit sons while convening the heavenly council, which is reported in 1 Kings 22:19-23, the description probably should not be taken literally. In other words, God cannot have a voice in the same way that humans have voices since "He" is not human (Num. 23:19), lacks a larynyx (etc.) and there is evidently no way for sound waves to travel in the spirit realm because it is more than likely devoid of matter or atmospheric conditions which makes vocal sounds possible. John Sanders also seems to make an excellent point when he notes:

"When God is said to be a husband, father and friend, these metaphors depend on the reality of God's being a personal agent" (The God Who Risks, page 26).

The point I want to extract from Sander's comment is that when the Bible speaks about God being a husband, father or friend, it is employing metaphorical language. God doesn't literally have a wife and He is not a friend to me in the same way that my human friends are. The same principle applies to my relationship with Jehovah as Father or when it comes to His relationship with Jerusalem above (Gal. 4:26)--his figurative wife.

Having said the foregoing, however, I want to make it clear that I think it is still possible to speak literally (i.e., non-metaphorically) about certain spiritual realities. A medieval thinker named Duns Scotus set forth the possibility that we can speak univocally about God and creatures. The late William Alston did work in our time on this same question.

One example of metaphorical uses in Scripture might be Col. 1:15. PRWTOTOKOS is possibly a metaphor that is not to be construed literally: (1) For according to Scripture, Christ was not really born, but he was created since John calls him, the ARXH THS KTISEWS (Rev. 3:14). The term "born" (and its derivatives or cognates) is used metaphorically in the Hebrew Scriptures to describe the divine act of bringing forth a contingent entity. Ps. 90:2 refers to the "birth" of mountains actually created by God. Isa. 66:7-8 depicts Zion giving birth to sons and a land in one day. But the context shows that God is the one who causes Zion to bring forth sons in a figurative sense. He too produces the land spoken of in this verse in that He is responsible for the repatriation of Judah and causes her to teem. By returning Judah to her homeland, God "creates" a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 65:17ff). However, the prophet also employs birth language to delineate this event.

BDB Hebrew and English Lexicon likewise shows that God figuratively becomes a Father to the Son in that He installs His anointed one upon Zion, His holy mountain (Ps. 2:7). Even in its Messianic sense, the term "Son" in the second psalm only has reference to the king's function; it does not convey the thought of a divine generatio but rather "an investiture with royal dignity." Artur Weiser points out that the OT rejects the notion of God literally procreating a kingly human son (Ps. 89:26). The psalmist, he observes, excludes the view of God physically generating the Israelite king by employing the word "today" and the familiar adoption formula "you are my son" in connection with the generative language of Ps. 2:7. The King consequently becomes God's Son through the process of enthronement. He is thus YHWH's vice-regent and figurative royal offspring; the language in the second psalm turns out to be metaphorical.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hypothetical Syllogism Regarding the Trinity (Falsifiability)

1) If the Trinity doctrine can neither be proved nor disproved, then it is not falsifiable.
2) If the Trinity doctrine is not falsifiable, then it is neither true nor false.
3) Therefore, if the Trinity doctrine can neither be proved nor disproved, then it is neither true nor false.

Proof here refers to rational argumentation (a logical demonstration) as opposed to proving the doctrine from biblical texts or from creation, although reasoning is also used when one attempts to make a case from scripture for one doctrine or another.

Karl Popper is known for advocating falsification when it comes to scientific hypotheses. He evidently thought: "The adherents of a pseudo-science are able to cling to its hypotheses no matter how events turn out, because the hypotheses are not testable." So if the Trinity doctrine is not logically testable or falsifiable, that would seem to make us question its overall truth-value or its claims pertaining to deity.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2 Corinthians 5:19 (V.P. Furnish's Commentary)

I found a valuable discussion of 2 Corinthians 5:19 in V.P. Furnish's Anchor Bible Commentary on 2 Corinthians. The discussion spans about three pages (pp. 317-319), so I will merely sum up some of the main points here.

ὡς ὅτι: The Latin Vulgate gives this phrase a causal sense, treating it like ὅτι. It renders ὡς ὅτι as QUONIAM QUIDEM ("since" or "because").

Others think that ὡς ὅτι (in 2 Cor. 5:19) is epexegetical and that it should be rendered "namely that" or "that is."

Kasemann construes the ὡς in this passage as transitional: he thinks that ὅτι introduces a quotation. Furnish concurs and therefore suggests the translation for ὡς ὅτι: "As it is said."

Concerning θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, Furnish makes the following points:

(1) One may read the verb ἦν independently of the participle ("God was in Christ, reconciling").

(2) The construction in 2 Cor. 5:19 could be periphrastic.

(3) θεὸς could be a predicate nominative rather than the subject of the verb ἦν.

Furnish prefers (2) and translates thus: "God, in Christ, was reconciling."

He sets his rendering off by commas "to make it clear that 'God-in-Christ' is not intended as an incarnational formula here [in 2 Cor. 5:19]. Nor does the phrase in Christ have the full eschatological meaning present in v. 17. Rather, as observed already by Chrysostom (NPNF, 1st Ser. XII:333), it is equivalent to through Christ in v. 18" (Furnish 318).

There is much more, so I encourage you to reference Furnish's treatment of 2 Cor 5:19ff.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Did the Early Scribes Corrupt the NT (Daniel Wallace Video Lecture)




Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Herodotus and the Greek Word γενέσθαι (for Sean)

ἀπικόμην δὲ καὶ ἐς Θάσον, ἐν τῇ εὗρον ἱρὸν Ἡρακλέος ὑπὸ Φοινίκων ἱδρυμένον, οἳ κατ᾽ Εὐρώπης ζήτησιν ἐκπλώσαντες Θάσον ἔκτισαν: καὶ ταῦτα καὶ πέντε γενεῇσι ἀνδρῶν πρότερα ἐστὶ ἢ τὸν Ἀμφιτρύωνος Ἡρακλέα ἐν τῇ Ἑλλάδι γενέσθαι. (The Histories 2.44.4)

Then I went to Thasos, too, where I found a temple of Heracles built by the Phoenicians, who made a settlement there when they voyaged in search of Europe; now they did so as much as five generations before the birth of Heracles the son of Amphitryon in Hellas. (A.D. Godley translation, 1920)

See Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1.21.147.

Picture courtesy of

In the public domain.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Theocentrism in Revelation (Revelation 11:15ff)

"The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!" (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The "He" who will reign forever and ever is God the Father. He is the "Lord God Almighty" mentioned above. Compare Revelation 1:4-8.

"The radical theocentrism of John's revelation is not heard more clearly than here. The antecedent of he will reign for ever and ever is God rather than either Christ or both God and Christ" (Robert W. Wall, Revelation, page 153).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Demas (2 Timothy 4:10)

In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul tells Timothy that Demas forsook him because Demas "loved the present age." Just exactly what this phrase means has been hotly debated. Gordon Fee writes that apostasy is signified by the phrase AGAPHSAS
TON NUN AIWNA (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus [New International Biblical Commentary], Page 299).

Yet Thomas D. Lea avers: "Paul's words [in 2 Tim. 4:10] did not picture him [Demas] as an utter apostate but reflected disappointment at his self-interest" (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus [New American Commentary], Page 252).

My question: does the use of AGAPH here or anything contained in the syntax of this Pauline account suggest that Demas was an apostate? Or could it be that he simply left off sharing in Paul's ministry, which shows something about his spiritual state, but does not mean he became an apostate? Lastly, if Demas was "saved" and did in fact defect from the apostle and (more importantly) the Lord Jesus Christ--it would seem that a genuine Christian can apostatize after experiencing God's unparalleled XARIS.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


1 John 5:21 reads: Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων.

The ancient Christians (first century) diligently endeavored to uphold this basic tenet expressed in the Johannine Epistle and elsewhere in Holy Writ. But one such person who later claimed to be a follower of Christ was Epiphanius of Salamis: he is an illuminating study in early "Christian" attitudes on idolatry and his story can be found among other places in Patrology (Vol. III) by historian Johannes Quasten.

The story of Epiphanius is too lengthy to recount in detail here. Therefore, it would be wise to see Quasten's work as well as the valuable five-volume series written by the late and eminent ecclesiastical historian Jaroslav Pelikan. But I now offer a few details about Epiphanius.

He was a bishop of Constantia (Salamis), who was born circa 315 CE. Epiphanius presided forty years as bishop, during which time he vehemently waged intellectual and doctrinal warfare against Origen of Alexandria and John Chrysostom as well as those who supported Origenist "heretical" notions. Yet Epiphanius seems to be especially known for his iconoclastic stance. So shocking are some of his indictments against idols that a number of scholars have tried to prove that some works containing Epiphanius' name are really forgeries; however, such scholarly claims have been adequately rebuffed and it appears that Epiphanius truly did oppose the use of idols in the church during his fourth-century tenure (until 403 CE when he died).

Today, his views can be found in the Epistles of Epiphanius and in his treatises, and pamphlet against images. Interested ones should also consult his Letter to the Emperor Theodosius I and a work known as The Testament or A Last Will and Testament. His letter to Emperor Theodosius explicitly declares that all images should be removed from churches having them since neither Scripture nor our Lord Jesus Christ ever approved of such veneration. I think you will find his works interesting and enlightening to peruse.

Source Material:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2 Corinthians 5:20 (Question from a Reader)

A blog reader has submitted an interesting query. I pose this issue to the group first before offering some thoughts myself. Thank you, brother, for reading my blog and sending this question:

READER: "Hey there Brother. I am enjoying your blogs here a lot. I am new to this site and am not sure how to contact you through a comment. If you don't mind I would like to ask you a question that has come up in the ministry. To me it really isn't an issue. A tempest in a teacup if you ask me but the question is in reference to 2 Corinthians 5:20. The NWT uses the word Substitute. Apparently this word does not appear in any other translation. I understand it to mean that the role of an ambassador is taking place of the said King or Government.
The person I am in contact with is trying to say that because of this verse we are of the opinion that the faithful and discreet slave are to be looked at as a substitutes for Christ. I have explained that the slave does not replace Christ but represent him. Do you have any thoughts as to why we have the word Substitute in the NWT while no other bible uses the word. Thanks and I certainly understand if you are too busy to answer."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Evidence Vs. Proof in Science

Karl Popper seems to make a distinction between evidence and proof in science. I am also reminded of one professor I had in undergrad studies, who said that no hypothesis can be proved in science: it can only be supported or refuted by evidence.


"Popper's main point is the extremely elementary logical point that if one takes the business of science as deducing observational consequences from statements of laws and theories and initial conditions, no amount of particular positive observational outcomes will ever prove (or verify) the truth of universal hypotheses or laws, for all such attempted inferences commit the well-known fallacy of affirming the consequent. However, even a single negative observational consequence allows us to validly infer that the conjunction of laws and initial conditions from which it is deduced cannot all be true."

Swinburne Omniscience

"A person P is omniscient at a time t if and only if he knows of every true proposition about t or an earlier time that it is true and also he knows of every true proposition about a time later than t, such that what is [sic] reports is physically necessitated by some cause at t or earlier, that it is true. (Swinburne, 1977, 175)"


After reviewing this definition from Swinburne, I believe it only describes part of what divine omniscience might be.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (God the Father or Christ Jesus?)

[Edited for this blog]

Dear blog readers,

Someone asked me off-list about 1 Tim 6:15-16 and I want to share my thoughts on the passage with the entire group and hopefully get some input.

Most commentaries and lexicons that I have consulted say that Paul (or the writer of this epistle) is talking about God (the Father) when he speaks of the blessed and only Potentate (DUNASTHS). But I currently take the position that 1 Tim 6:15-16 is focusing on the resurrected and glorified Christ--the reasons for my conclusions are listed below:

(1) The immediate context deals with Christ. Paul writes about "the fine public declaration" that Christ made "before Pontius Pilate" (1 Tim 6:13 NWT). 1 Tim 6:14 also references the "manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."

(2) Additionally, the title "King of kings and Lord of lords" is applied to Jesus in the NT (Rev 17:14; 19:16). While similar titles are used of YHWH (Jehovah) in the OT/Tanakh, I'm not sure that the exact title, King of kings and Lord of lords is ever applied to the Father (YHWH).

(3) 1 Tim 6:16 is evidently comparing the happy and only Potentate to those who rule as kings and lords. In contrast to these men, Christ is the "one alone having immortality." However, God the Father is not the only immortal being, since Christ assumed immortality when resurrected by God; moreover, those who share in the first resurrection are also granted the gift of immortal life (Rom 6:9; 1 Cor 15:50-54; Heb 7:16).

(4) According to Acts of the Apostles, Christ dwells in "unapproachable light" since his glorification. The apostle Paul beheld the glory of the resurrected Christ and he was blinded by the unique and awesome spectacle (Acts 26:12-13). Jesus assured his apostles that humans would behold him no more, but his disciples would, because he lives and they live through him (Jn 14:19). How appropriate the words of 1 Tim 6:16 describe the exalted Christ.

Conversely, one might apply the language contained in 1 Tim 6:15-16 to God the Father. One could point to Paul's use of DUNASTHS in this text and look at its use elsewhere in Greek literature. A student of the scriptures could also point to Paul's use of MAKARIOS and MONOS as well. But I think the context and Paul's phraseology favors the interpretation advanced here. Yet I am open to other suggestions.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chrysostom on John 1:1c (A Dialogue)

Edgar: Contrary to popular belief, EN ARXH (John 1:1a) does not necessarily mean that the LOGOS is eternal. The complexities of understanding the Greek words in the opening verse of the Johannine Prologue are demonstrated by Origen in his notable Commentary on John. If the apostle John had in mind Genesis 1:1 (LXX) when using this construction, then it is almost certain that John 1:1a is not saying that the LOGOS is eternal or co-eternal with God. Rather, as articulated by Origen and the Shepherd of Hermas, the Word is "the most ancient of all creation" (Contra Celsum 5.37). The Greek there in Contra Celsum is PRESBUTATON PANTWN TWN DHMIOURGHMATWN. See Proverbs 8:22; Revelation 3:14.

Interlocutor Quoting Chrysostom: "for that you may not, when you hear 'In the beginning was the Word,' suppose Him to be Eternal, and yet imagine the life of the Father to differ from His by some interval and longer duration, and so assign a beginning to the Only-Begotten, he adds, 'was in the beginning with God'; so eternally even as the Father Himself, for the Father was never without the Word, but He was always God with God, yet Each in His proper Person.(1)"

MY RESPONSE: Chrysostom (like other Trinitarians) goes beyond Scripture when asserting that God has always been Father and Son. Psalm 90:2 states that YHWH is God (not Father) from eternity to eternity. Tertullian makes a similar point in Adversus Hermogenem 3.4 Waszink Latin text) by arguing that there was a time when God was neither Father nor Judge. And even though Novatian writes that God is always "Father," he feels the need to contend that the Father is "prior" to the Son in some sense or to some degree (De Trinitate 31). It is possible that Novatian has in mind causal or even temporal priority when discussing the relationship between God and his Word:

"He, then, when the Father willed it, proceeded from the Father, and He who was in the Father came forth from the Father; and He who was in the Father because He was of the Father, was subsequently with the Father, because He came forth from the Father, that is to say, that divine substance whose name is the Word, whereby all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. For all things are after Him, because they are by Him. And reasonably, He is before all things, but after the Father, since all things were made by Him, and He proceeded from Him of whose will all things were made" (De Trinitate 21).

Interlocutor Still Quoting Chrysostom: "how then, one says, does John assert, that He was in the world, if He was with God? Because He was both(2) with God and in the world also. For neither Father nor Son are limited in any way. Since, if 'there is no end of His greatness' (Ps. cxlv. 3), and if 'of His wisdom there is no number' (Ps. cxlvii. 5), it is clear that there cannot be any beginning in time(3) to His Essence. Thou hast heard, that 'In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth' (Gen. i. 1); what dost thou understand from this 'beginning'? clearly, that they were created before all visible things. So, respecting the Only-Begotten, when you hear that He was 'in the beginning,' conceive of him as before all intelligible things,(4) and before the ages."

MY RESPONSE: There are two problematic assertions that Chrysostom makes here. The first is that the LOGOS was both in the world and with God at the same time. Athanasius makes a similar argument in his work on the Incarnation. Yet, where does the Bible say that Christ simultaneously was with God and on earth? Where are we even led to believe that Christ was infinite or limitless while he dwelled on earth and in the flesh? Second, the belief that God is timeless has been seriously challenged on biblical and logical grounds. The biblical text certainly does not suggest that God is timeless.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Older Book Review of Daniel Cronn-Mills' Study About Jehovah's Witnesses

I now wish to present my review of Daniel Cronn-Mills' work A Qualitative Analysis of the Jehovah's Witnesses: The Rhetoric, Reality and Religion in the Watchtower Society (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999). This monograph is 198+ pp. including the bibliography and index. The copy that I reviewed cost approximately $109.00 retail. Some outlets, however, sell the book at a lower rate.

In reviewing Cronn-Mills' publication, I will first give an overview of the book, then I will examine the strengths and then deal with what I perceive to be weaknesses of the study.

I. An Overview of A Qualitative Analysis of the Jehovah's Witnesses

A Qualitative Analysis of the Jehovah's Witnesses contains 16 chapters devoted to examining the role that rhetoric supposedly plays in the religious society of Jehovah's Witnesses. By rhetoric, Cronn-Mills has in mind the social construction of reality through communicative or verbal methods that utilize persuasion as a tool. It is Cronn-Mills' contention that Jehovah's Witnesses, being one of the most persecuted groups on earth, respond to religious persecution by constructing a reality characterized by numerous dualities (Satan/God or dark/light or us/them). Furthermore, Witnesses purportedly erect figurative bridges by means of questions that lead "interested ones" from Satan's world to Jehovah's organization. That is, according to Cronn-Mills, Witnesses try appealing to non-Witnesses by portraying themselves as the ones with answers to questions raised by those in "Satan's world."

He avers that three WTBTS books, Questions Young People Ask, Reasoning from the Scriptures, and You Can Live Forever "are replete with questions and answers" (Cronn-Mills, 144) that function as a "gateway" to Jehovah's earthly organization. Cronn-Mills thus contends: "The social reality of Jehovah's Witnesses provides a bright light for those wishing to cross from Satan's world through Witness' World to Jehovah's World" (ibid., 144).

Note the threefold distinction that Cronn-Mills makes regarding the worlds supposedly constructed by Jehovah's Witnesses. We will address this point later in the review. For now, let's discuss the positive aspects of his work.

II. Strengths of A Qualitative Analysis

Cronn-Mills' study is commendable in many respects. He is a fomer Catholic, who no longer seems to have use for organized religion. Furthermore, his interest in Jehovah's Witnesses appears to be primarily scientific; he does not appear to have an axe to grind in this study at all. Cronn-Mills himself writes: "My purpose is to provide a description, analysis, and interpretation of the social construction of reality of Jehovah's Witnesses" (Cronn-Mills, 4).

So he decided to analyze and provide a descriptive social-scientific account of Jehovah's Witnesses because the Witnesses are devoted to preaching about God's Kingdom in a variety of ways. Whether they are going from door to
door, sending letters to those needing scriptural comfort or witnessing to those whom they encounter in medical offices or at the workplace, Jehovah's Witnesses seem determined to reach out to those whom they believe need comfort, solace, and guidance from God's Word in these troubled times.

Yet another reason that Cronn-Mills selected Jehovah's Witnesses for his study, however, is that "Jehovah's Witnesses have been identified by researchers as one of the most persecuted religious groups in history and the most persecuted Christian organization in the twentieth century" (ibid., 6). This persecution, Cronn-Mills theorizes, leads the Witnesses to construct a social reality that is characterized by dualities and manifested by means of discursive practices. The study found in _A Qualitative Analysis_ thereby purports to contribute to the author's understanding of the Witness response to religious persecution.

In order to discern how Witnesses respond to persecution, Cronn-Mills evidently approached the presiding overseer at a local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and asked for his permission to interview certain members of the congregation. The overseer agreed and Cronn-Mills subsequently interviewed 43 Witnesses, finding them to be friendly,
honest and willing to share their beliefs with him (28-32). But the author did not stop at interviewing the Witnesses he later wrote about. In addition to interviewing 43 Witnesses of Jehovah, he also attended the weekly meetings at the local Kingdom Hall and went to the district convention with the Witnesses in his area. Finally, he attended the Memorial of Christ's death. In the end, Cronn-Mills seemed to be impressed at the trust that the Witnesses manifested toward a scholar, who was willing to actively participate in theocratic activities with them over a period of time.

I thus conclude that Cronn-Mill's approach to obtaining information from the Witnesses is a sign of his attempt to approach the subject somewhat objectively and it is a strong point of his book. His ability to delineate, in painstaking detail, the categories he is working with as well as his use of the scientific method is also impressive. Nevertheless, there are some weaknesses in Cronn-Mills' monograph that need to be discussed.

III. Weak Points of A Qualitative Analysis

While there are commendable aspects of A Qualitative Analysis, there are some surprising weaknesses contained in the book as well. While I can overlook Cronn-Mills' imprecise and not wholly accurate explanation of the Witnesses' pneumatology in the following terms, "The Spirit is merely Jehovah's power, force, or energy" (44), I find it much more
difficult to ignore other errors. For instance, he writes that the Witnesses believe that "Lucifer" was created by Jehovah through "Michael" to watch over the Garden of Eden until he began to nurture and eventually acted on a desire to have his own worshipers. Cronn-Mills continues: "So, while Jehovah slept on the seventh day, Lucifer found and capitalized on Adam and Eve's fatal flaw--free will" (44).

I think that most Witnesses of Jehovah reading the aforesaid comments would quickly and immediately discern errors in Cronn-Mills' presentation. There are other slips, but I will resist the urge to nit-pick. Yet, before closing, we must mention the threefold distinction discussed in A Qualitative Analysis that Witnesses putatively advocate or teach. That is, the threefold division of Satan's world, the Witness world, and Jehovah's world (i.e., the new world order). I think that many Witnesses (probably most) would take issue with this portrayal of our beliefs. We do not make a sharp distinction between a so-called "Witness world" and Jehovah's world. Cronn-Mills needs to reanalyze and rework this explanation of Witness belief.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that Cronn-Mills' work is worth reading, if one is interested in rhetorical and social-scientific issues as they appertain to religion. His attempt to be fair is noble--his scientific research is also sound in many respects. But some of the theological details are inadequately explained. Furthermore, there are a number of typos in the book and the writing style employed in the study is at times hard to decipher.

I am not talking about technical language as such but the writer's style of communication. Then again, he may
not be a native English speaker or writer. That would account for some textual idiosyncrasies in A Qualitative Analysis. Finally, the issues of social interactionism and groups constructing their own reality through discursive pratices or rhetoric are questions that could be treated in another essay or monograph. Suffice it to say that Cronn-Mills' "construction of reality" theory needs to be approached with a "hermeneutics of suspicion" by the Christian who endeavors to be faithful to Jehovah, His written Word, and the very reality of God.