Saturday, February 27, 2016

Language, Concepts, and Neurons (Llinas)

Rodolfo R. Llinas (author of I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self) claims that language simpliciter, but particularly human language, "arose as an extension of premotor conditions, namely, those of the increasing complexities of intentionality as abstract thinking grew richer" (242). Llinas defines intentionality as "the premotor detail of the desired result of movement through which a particular emotional state is expressed: the choice of what to do before the doing of it" (228). Notice that intentionality, as opposed to being primarily mentalistic is associated with "a motor representation of what is happening inside our heads" (ibid).

Intentionality expressed in premotor activity adumbrates motor patterns (according to Llinas). He insists that language arose because premotor activity increasingly grew more complex while abstract cerebration became richer. Llinas thus provides the following account to explain the origins of abstract thinking: "Abstraction, or the collection of neural processes that generate abstraction, is a fundamental principle of nervous system function." In other words, abstraction is a natural feature of biological organisms that are equipped with neural machinery and nervous systems like we possess.

However we explain abstract thought, I believe it can be accounted for naturalistically. I have read most of Jerome M. Adler's book on the subject--as a colleague suggested I do--but it seems that anytime we're talking about linguistic phenomena, we're dealing with things that possibly yield to naturalistic explanations ex toto.

On the other hand, by "naturalistic explanations," I do not mean to exclude God (Jehovah). It just appears that a soul is unnecesary to explain speech and conceptual thought.

Judges 19:18

Since this issue has been raised in another thread on this blog.

From Keil-Delitzsch:

Behold, there came an old man from the field, who was of the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt as a stranger in Gibeah, the inhabitants of which were Benjaminites (as is observed here, as a preliminary introduction to the account which follows). When he saw the traveller in the market-place of the town, he asked him whither he was going and whence he came; and when he had heard the particulars concerning his descent and his journey, he received him into his house. וֶאֶת־בֵּית י הֹלֵךְ אֲנִי (Jdg_19:18), “and I walk at the house of Jehovah, and no one receives me into his house” (Seb. Schm., etc.); not “I am going to the house of Jehovah” (Ros., Berth., etc.), for אֵת הָלַךְ does not signify to go to a place, for which the simple accusative is used either with or without ה local. It either means “to go through a place” (Deu_1:19, etc.), or “to go with a person,” or, when applied to things, “to go about with anything” (see Job_31:5, and Ges. Thes. p. 378). Moreover, in this instance the Levite was not going to the house of Jehovah (i.e., the tabernacle), but, as he expressly told the old man, from Bethlehem to the outermost sides of the mountains of Ephraim. The words in question explain the reason why he was staying in the market-place. Because he served at the house of Jehovah, no one in Gibeah would receive him into his house,

(Note: As Seb. Schmidt correctly observes, “the argument is taken from the indignity shown him: the Lord thinks me worthy to minister to Him, as a Levite, in His house, and there is not one of the people of the Lord who thinks me worthy to receive his hospitality.”)

although, as he adds in Jdg_19:19, he had everything with him that was requisite for his wants. “We have both straw and fodder for our asses, and bread and wine for me and thy maid, and for the young man with thy servants. No want of anything at all,” so as to cause him to be burdensome to his host. By the words “thy maid” and “thy servants” he means himself and his concubine, describing himself and his wife, according to the obsequious style of the East in olden times, as servants of the man from whom he was expecting a welcome.

From Cambridge Bible:

18. the farther side] See on Jdg 19:1.

the house of the Lord] The marg. is to be preferred; the last letter of bêthî = my house was taken as the initial of the divine name Yahweh. A converse mistake occurs in Jeremiah 6:11, where fury of Yahweh has become my fury in the LXX. There is nothing in the context to suggest that the Levite was going to Shiloh.

Footnote from NET Bible for Judges 19:18:

43 tn Heb “I went to Bethlehem in Judah, but [to] the house of the LORD I am going.” The Hebrew text has “house of the LORD,” which might refer to the shrine at Shiloh. The LXX reads “to my house.”

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kinkade on Michael the Archangel

His entire discussion is worth reading, but here's a snippet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Antisemitism and the Gospel of John

A number of scholarly works have concluded that the
Gospel of John is woefully anti-Semitic because it
appears to employ the term "Jews" pejoratively with
frequency and also portrays a supposed conflict
between Jesus and the Jews of his time. While time
will not permit us to fully probe all of the pertinent
issues concerning this topic, I would like to use some
texts from John 4-5 as case samples to argue that the
Fourth Gospel is not an anti-Semitic work.

To the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, Jesus

"Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship,
for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and
now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the
Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh
such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that
worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth"
(John 4:22-24 21st Century KJV).

Notice that Jesus shows a spiritual solidarity with
his fellow first-century Jewish brothers and sisters (Gal. 4:4-5)
since he insists, "we know what we worship."
However, Jesus does not merely affirm a spiritual kinship with
his contemporary "brothers" (Ps 133:1-3) but he also
makes a statement that appears to lack any element of
anti-Semitism. He declares that "salvation is
of the Jews." How could such a proposition be
construed as anti-Semitic?

Some readers of John's Gospel may, however, point to
the conflict recorded in chapter 5:15-18:

"The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus
who had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews
persecute Jesus and sought to slay Him, because He had
done these things on the Sabbath day. But Jesus
answered them, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I
work.' Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him,
because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said
also that God was His Father, making Himself equal
with God."

When reading pasages of this nature, one must note
that certain Jews are being discussed. Such texts do
not serve as blanket judgments against all first-century Jews.
The Gospel of John makes this point quite clear. For instance,
Jesus treats "the Jews who believed him" (Jn 8:31-32)
much differently from those who try to kill him. The
important point to keep in mind is that we have a
religious agon depicted in John's Gospel, not a racial
or ethnic one. Jesus' disagreements with certain Jews
should not be wrongly interpreted through the lens of
modern-day prejudices. Peter Ensor, in fact, may be
right when he suggests that the "Jews" whom Jesus addresses
in Jn. 5:15-18 are possibly contemporary religious
leaders--if he is right, then Jesus clearly is not
denigrating all Jews.

See Jesus and His Works: Johannine Sayings in
Historical Perspective
. Wissenschaftliche
Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Reihe 2; 85.
Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1996.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Augustine of Hippo on Creation and Time (Confessions 11.12.14)

Behold, I answer to him who asks, "What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?" I answer not, as a certain person is reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the question), "He was preparing hell," says he, "for those who pry into mysteries." It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh—these things I answer not. For more willingly would I have answered, "I know not what I know not," than that I should make him a laughing-stock who asks deep things, and gain praise as one who answers false things. But I say that Thou, our God, art the Creator of every creature; and if by the term "heaven and earth" every creature is understood, I boldly say, "That before God made heaven and earth, He made not anything. For if He did, what did He make unless the creature?" And would that I knew whatever I desire to know to my advantage, as I know that no creature was made before any creature was made.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Zerwick and John 17:3

Zerwick-Grosvenor (A Grammatical Analysis of the GNT, page 336) understands hINA + subjunctive (John 17:3) to be/function as an epexegetical infinitive that explains hAUTH (the demonstrative), which = "namely (that)."

Cf. sec. 410 of Zerwick's Biblical Greek.

I understand Zerwick-Grosvenor to be saying that we possibly do not have periphrasis for the (non-epexegetical) infinitive at 17:3; however, while Rogers and Rogers understand this verse to be epexegetical like Zerwick-Grosvenor, they seem to allow for the possibility that it could be periphrastic for an infinitive that is not explanatory.

As I read Zerwick and Grosvenor further, I guess we could have hINA + the subjunctive mood as periphrasis for the infinitive, but that only seems to tell the reader how the demonstrative is to be understood. I don't see how the epexegetical use of hINA explains anything but how we might construe the demonstrative hAUTH.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Question Regarding John 17:3 (NWT)

Text: αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. (NA28)

γινώσκωσιν is Present Subjunctive Active 3rd person plural. KJV renders the verb (with ἵνα and σὲ) as "that they might know thee . . . "

The word "they" comes from the fact that the verb is third-person plural, whereas "might know" is because the verb is subjunctive. However, the 1984 NWT translated this construction, "their taking in knowledge of you" and 2013 has "their coming to know you . . . "

I sometimes wonder why the NWT does not explicitly render the subjunctive like KJV, Byington (I think) and others. On the other hand, some just translate "that they know you" without making the mood explicit (see Mounce and NET Bible).

I've also had the question about why we translate a third-person plural verb with a possessive pronoun "their" instead of employing "they." But I could be missing something linguistically or syntactically with the construction.

NRSV Preface on the Tetragrammaton and Use of "Jehovah"

I've noticed that there was once a time when translators, theologians, and preachers freely used the name "Jehovah." John Calvin, John Gill, and Charles H. Spurgeon along with many others all liberally employed the divine name. However, in the twentieth century, a movement began to cease writing or pronouncing "Jehovah." One instance is the NRSV Preface (by Bruce Metzger):

Careful readers will notice that here and there in the Old Testament the word Lord (or in certain cases God) is printed in capital letters. This represents the traditional manner in English versions of rendering the Divine Name, the "Tetragrammaton" (see the notes on Exodus 3.14, 15), following the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators and the long established practice in the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures in the synagogue. While it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced "Yahweh," this pronunciation was not indicated when the Masoretes added vowel sounds to the consonantal Hebrew text. To the four consonants YHWH of the Name, which had come to be regarded as too sacred to be pronounced, they attached vowel signs indicating that in its place should be read the Hebrew word Adonai meaning "Lord" (or Elohim meaning "God"). Ancient Greek translators employed the word Kyrios ("Lord") for the Name. The Vulgate likewise used the Latin word Dominus ("Lord"). The form "Jehovah" is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. Although the American Standard Version (1901) had used "Jehovah" to render the Tetragrammaton (the sound of Y being represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin), for two reasons the Committees that produced the RSV and the NRSV returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version. (1) The word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew. (2) The use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom the true God had to be distinguished, began to be discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.

We may not know the actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, but there must be some way to honor/glorify YHWH--the One who proclaims that he is YHWH, that is His name (Isaiah 42:8). How does omitting the name from our translations uplift and honr the Most High over all the earth?

William Loader and 1 John 5:20

"The Greek of [1 Jn] 5:20 has only the true (one) and
reads literally: we know that the Son of God has come
and has given us understanding 'so that we know the
true (one) and we are in the true (one),' in his Son
Jesus Christ. 'This (one) is the true God and eternal
life.' It is clear from this that 'the true (one)' is
God throughout. Christ is his Son. In the
final sentence this (one) most naturally refers still
to God, not to Christ, as some have suggested. It is
not unknown for Christ to be given God's name (Phil
2:9-11) or even to be called 'God' (Heb. 1:8-9; John
1:1), but that would run contrary to the theme here,
which is contrasting true and false understandings of
God for which Christ's revelation is the criterion"
(The Johannine Epistles. London: Epworth Press, 1992.
Page 79).

While I disagree with Loader's take on Jn. 1:1 and Heb. 1:8-9, what he writes about 1 Jn. 5:20 seems to represent the context faithfully and it dovetails with what others such as M. J. Harris., M. Zewick and J. Moulton have pointed out about this particular Christologically-significant Johannine passage.

Friday, February 12, 2016

John of Damascus and the Boundaries of Scripture (For Informational Purposes)

"But neither do we know, nor can we tell, what the
essence of God is, or how it is in all, or how the
Only-begotten Son and God, having emptied Himself,
became Man of virgin blood, made by another law
contrary to nature, or how He walked with dry feet
upon the waters. It is not within our capacity,
therefore, to say anything about God or even to think
of Him, beyond the things which have been divinely
revealed to us, whether by word or by manifestation,
by the divine oracles at once of the Old Testament and
of the New" (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dialogue On Sheol, the Soul and Politics (Originally An Email Message)

I have made a few corrections for ease of reading, but the message is fundamentally the same as it was sent to my colleague:

1) Jehovah's Witnesses view Sheol in the light of Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, passages which speak of the dead knowing nothing and which portray Sheol as a locus of non-activity. Similar verses are found in Psalms and Job. I'm sure you're also familiar with the Jewish metaphor "sleep" for death. This imagery for death suggests that no activity occurs in Sheol. As for the account where prayers for the dead supposedly transpire (in Maccabees), it has been interpreted various ways. But the bottom line is that one does not necessarily have to construe the account as an instance of prayers for the dead. See the NAB footnotes on 2 Macc 12.

2) How do we know that physical organs are only capable of apprehending particulars? What incontrovertible proof do we have that intellects (of the Thomistic caliber) even obtain? I admit that an intellect qua a power of the soul is logically possible. However, I am not convinced that such a faculty is factually possible. So I guess my first line of attack would be to question the existence of the intellect, in the relevant sense we're discussing. Secondly, I would argue that what has been called "intellect" is really nothing more than a higher-order process of the brain: intellection is a biological phenomenon. The brain consequently makes it possible for us to have the facility for grasping what appear to be universals.

3) I have never participated in the election process because of my religious beliefs. We Witnesses think this world is beyond reform; it's incorrigible or irreformable. That which is crooked cannot be made straight (said Qoheleth). Therefore, politicians are inherently limited when it comes to positive reforms. No wonder Jesus fled when people tried to make him a king (John 6:15). He solemnly proclaimed that his kingdom was not of this world. These Johannine accounts regarding Jesus deeply influence my political stand. But from a pragmatic standpoint, it's difficult for me to vote Republican or Democrat since I disagree with a number of things each party advocates. Whether it's abortion, same-sex marriage or cutting social programs that help the poor--there are significant points of disagreement between me and Obama/Romney.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Ephesians 5:12 (Grammatical Breakdown and Comments)

Ephesians 5:12:

τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπ' αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν·

1)From the NET Bible: "tn The participle τὰ . . . γινόμενα (ta . . . ginomena) usually refers to 'things happening' or 'things which are,' but with the following genitive phrase ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν (Jup’ autwn), which indicates agency, the idea seems to be 'things being done.' This passive construction was translated as an active one to simplify the English style."

2) From Robertson's Word Pictures: "In secret (kruphēi). Old adverb, only here in N.T. Sin loves the dark.

Even to speak of (kai legein). And yet one must sometimes speak out, turn on the light, even if to do so is disgraceful (aischron, like 1 Co 11:6)."

3) κρυφῇ-"adv. in secret" (Grosvenor-Zerwick).

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Parousia of Christ and His "Epiphany"

BDAG reveals that ἐπιφάνεια is used as a technical term for "a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known." But if you consult entry 1b (or its equivalent in the older BAGD), you will find out that Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich associates ἐπιφάνεια vis-à-vis the "manifestation" of Christ with a time of 'appearing in judgment.' You also discover the statement about 2 Thessalonians 2:8 under this lexical entry.

While this same reference work does state that παρουσία may denote Christ's Messianic Advent in glory when he comes to judge the world at the end of the age, it also indicates that there is some type of distinction between παρουσία and ἐπιφάνεια as revealed in 2 Thess. 2:8.

The ἐπιφάνεια seems to take place amid the παρουσία and it is actually connected with the divine meting out of judgment--παρουσία, however, does not seem confined to the judgment executed by Christ. It is an extended period of time in which Christ rewards his servants, but wages righteous warfare against his enemies.