Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dating 2 Peter

J.N.D. Kelly gives 2 Peter a relatively late date (between 100-110 C.E.). The Anchor Bible Commentary provides this information: "many scholars have assigned Second Peter to a date as late as around A.D. 150. This has been done on insufficient grounds. References to Gnosticism and other movements are not conclusive, as these were already present in the first century . . . The present writer is inclined to date Second Peter about A.D. 90" (Bo Reicke, 144-145).

Norman Hillyer (New International Biblical Commentary) concludes that "2 Peter itself must have been widely accepted as authentic at an early date [in the first century], despite any later uncertainties that crept in" (Hillyer, 12). He puts paid to the notion that Peter copied from Jude. So does Bo Reicke.

I plan to wrote more on this subject.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Grammar in the Petrine Epistles and Revelation (Message to a Friend)

I'd like to recommend A. T. Robertson's big grammar (pp. 125-127) for his helpful discussion of Greek style. For instance, one feature of the Petrine epistles that makes scholars think 1 and 2 Peter have two different authors is the difference in style and vocabulary of the two compositions. Furthermore, Peter's writing is filled with vernacular speech, he can be pleonastic, the Apostle uses "picture-words," (see 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:1ff) technical speech, and may even have included ad sensum constructions or solecisms in his epistles. But the Greek is generally good in terms of its quality.

Although I've modified my view of the Greek found in Revelation, I'm inclined to believe that the jury is still out on this issue. A descriptivist approach to the work tends to read John's Apocalypse in the light of the Saussurean distinction between la langue and la parole. From this vantage-point, John's work is not ungrammatical, but fully in accord with communicative situational principles. Nevertheless, David Aune (in no uncertain terms) argues: "The Greek of Revelation is not only difficult and awkward, but it also contains lexical and syntactical features that no native speaker of Greek would have written" (Revelation, cxcix).

Granted, ancient writers such as Dionysius of Alexandria complained about the solecisms and barbarisms as well as the "inaccurate Greek" in Revelation. And modern scholars attempt to discover the reason for so-called ad sensum constructions by contending, inter alia, that Revelation was originally written in Hebrew/Aramaic or possibly the writer was bilingual and "Semitic interference" thus reared its head in the Apocalypse. Aune's discussion is quite detailed and I recommend that you at least consult pp. cc in his introduction. His comments will help you to see why Revelation is considered "translation Greek" along the lines of the LXX. See also David Aune's bibliography on pages clx-clxii. Another recommended work is S. Thompson's The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bishops in the First Century (Continued)

Hierarchy implies rank. In normal human hierarchies, one person is usually stands a little higher on the ladder than another. However, the first-century Christian Church was not arranged in this way.

Ignatius of Antioch may have proposed a three-point system of ecclesiastical rank, but the Primitive Christians knew of no such arrangement. Concerning EPISKOPOS, J. Rohde contends: "one is not to conclude from the [singular usage in 1 Tim. 3:2] that already a single bishop is assumed as a monarchical leader at the head of the community" (Exegetical Dictionary of the NT, Vol. 2:36).

Rohde reasons that the use of the singular in 1 Tim. 3:2 is generic and the context likely supports his view. He thus concludes:

"The monarchical bishop appears first in Ignatius. It
is not certain, however, whether Ignatius describes
existing conditions or sets up ideal requirements that
do not correspond to reality." (Ibid.)

Again, Christ taught: "The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. You, though, are not to be that way. But let him that is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the one acting as chief as the one ministering" (Lk. 22:25-27).

Based on these dominical utterances from our Lord, I have no problem acknowledging that there are individuals in the
congregation, who take the lead and even govern the Christian ecclesia (Hb. 13:7, 17). But I would no more call these men "leaders" than call myself the "leader" or "chieftain" of my family since my decisions are "binding" (in principle) as head of my family. But the family head is not necessarily the family "leader" (1 Cor. 11:3).

One Catholic commentator believes that the term EKKLHSIA in Mt. 18:17 has reference to the local Christian community (A.T. Robertson explains this passage in a similar fashion). The Catholic scholar writes: "The local congregation is meant, whether in formal assembly for meeting or through its board of elders" (Daniel J Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew [Sacra Pagina Series], Collegeville, The Liturgical Press, 1991, page 269).

Jehovah's Witnesses take Jesus' words seriously and try to imitate what Harrington (S.J.) calls the "Matthean community." He supplements his observation about EKKLHSIA with these words:

"Against this common Near Eastern tendency toward
social hierarchy Matthew forbids the use of titles and
the exercise of highly authoritative roles (23:8-12) .
. . The resistance to hierarchically structured roles
and emphasis on equality is typical of sects in the
first generation. All the members have begun a new
life together and are to participate fully and equally
in the emerging community" (Harrington, op. cit., page

While I do not agree with Harrington's assessment of Matthew's Gospel as a whole, and while I do not accept his historical-critical presuppositions, his exegesis of Mt. 23:8-12 appears to be on target. If rejecting ecclesiastical hierarchy places me in company with the "Matthean community," then so be it!

To clarify the position set forth here, though, I have no problem with elders, ministerial servants (DIAKONOI) or different types of overseers supervising the ecclesia today.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

One Final Thought on the Canon (For Now)

I'm going to post one more quote about the canonicity issue for now, then move on. I acknowledge that there are two sides to the debate, but I think Beckwith's arguments are strong and refute the view that the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals) should be included within the OT canon. Anyway, here's a quote that I believe constitutes fair use from the NIV Study Bible (published by Zondervan). Bibliographical details are below after the quote:
Although the evidence is sparse and open to debate, on balance it seems likely that the canon (i.e., the authoritative list of books) of the OT was closed well before the time of Jesus. While some scholars contend that the library of OT books remained fluid until the latter part of the first century AD, the earliest surviving evidence suggests that the books of the OT, or the Hebrew Bible as it is sometimes called, were viewed as an authoritative collection of writings by about 150 BC at the latest. In the prologue of Ecclesiasticus (in the Apocrypha), a Greek translation of a Hebrew book known as Sirach, the translator, writing about 132 BC, refers to the OT using the following expressions: “the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed them”; “the Law and the Prophets and the other books of our ancestors”; “the Law itself, the Prophecies, and the rest of the books.” This threefold division reflects the later Jewish custom of referring to the Hebrew Bible as the Law, Prophets, and Writings. Unfortunately, no ancient texts survive to explain how the process of canonization happened and what criteria were used to determine which books should be included. The process itself may well have occurred in stages over several centuries, and individual books were probably viewed as special long before the different sections of the canon were finally closed. Although some Christian traditions hold that various other Jewish writings should be viewed as canonical, the earliest evidence, including the authoritative testimony of the NT, suggests that only those books that comprise the Hebrew Bible are divinely inspired. On the inspiration and authority of the NT, see Introduction to the New Testament.

Zondervan (2015-08-25). NIV, Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 1674-1675). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Zondervan (2015-08-25). NIV, Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 1670-1674). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Zondervan (2015-08-25). NIV, Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 1666-1670). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Zondervan (2015-08-25). NIV, Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 1663-1666). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Biblical Canonicity and the Ancient Ecclesia

Here are two quotes that deal with biblical canonicity as it applied to the early Christian congregation:

"While the New Testament writers all used the Septuagint, to a greater or lesser degree, none of them tells us precisely what the limits of its contents were. The 'scriptures' to which they appealed covered substantially the same range as the Hebrew Bible [which did not contain the apocrypha]" (F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, pp. 50ff).

Jerome himself wrote: "Therefore as the church indeed reads Judith, Tobit and the books of Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical books, so let it also read these two volumes [Sirach and Parables] for the edification of the people but not for establishing the authority of ecclesiastical dogma" (Prologue to the books of Wisdom).

One Jewish perspective on the Hebrew canon is given here:

I would still recommend Roger Beckwith's 500-page+ study on this issue.

Friday, March 25, 2016

2 Timothy 3:15 (Commentary Link)

For more on the expression, "holy writings" in Timothy, see

As an example, from Robertson's WPNT:

The sacred writings (ιερα γραμματα — hiera grammata). “Sacred writings” or “Holy Scriptures.” Here alone in N.T., though in Josephus (Proem to Ant. 3; Apion 1, etc.) and in Philo. The adjective ιερος — hieros occurs in 1 Corinthians 9:13 of the temple worship, and γραμμα — gramma in contrast to πνευμα — pneuma in 2 Corinthians 3:6.; Romans 2:29 and in John 5:47 of Moses‘ writings, in Acts 28:21 of an epistle, in Galatians 6:11 of letters (characters). In Ephesus there were Επεσια γραμματα — Ephesia grammata that were βεβηλα — bebēla (Acts 19:19), not ιερα — hiera

However, Vincent's Word Studies has a slightly different take on the verse. He applies the terminology to "the learning acquired from Scripture by the rabbinic methods, according to which the Old Testament books were carefully searched for meanings hidden in each word and letter, and especially for messianic intimations."

Flavius Josephus and the Hebrew Canon


2 Corinthians 5:8 and KAI

Richard Young notes: "the basic syntactic function of KAI is simply to join two coordinate elements together" (187). But KAI can also be used as a simple additive without specifying any particular relationship between two coordinate elements (see Rev. 7:12). After looking at the various uses of KAI in the NT, it seems that the KAI in 2 Cor. 5:8 is best understood as a simple additive that connects two contrasting thoughts without specifying the temporal aspect of either one. 2 Cor. 5:8 is an expressed desire, not a prophecy per se.

One of the best discussions I've run across on the utilization of KAI in the NT is Kermit Titrud's "The function of KAI in the Greek New Testament and an Application to 2 Peter" found in D.A. Black's Linguistics and NT Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis. His paper will expose you to the numerous aspects of the Greek conjunction KAI.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bishops in the First Century? (Francis Beare and H. Meyer)

The office of "bishop" apparently was non-existent in the first century. A number of sources demonstrate this datum to be the case including BDAG, but let us consult other works for now. Francis Beare writes concerning Phil. 1:1:

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

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

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

So while the Primitive Congregation used such men to govern the ecclesia, it does not follow that these "offices" were hierarchically arranged or that these men were "leaders" of the Church.

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

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

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

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

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

"Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ" (NET Bible).

The fact remains that the first century ecclesia had no human leaders: the closest the NT comes to using such language is Hb 13:7, 17. The head (KEFALH) of the congregation--the one who truly made the binding decisions under the guidance of holy spirit--was Christ (Col. 1:18). Those tending the first century ecclesia had to submit to their head and his God and Father (Eph. 1:17). Furthermore, it also seems that they were in subjection to the local congregation (ecclesia) that existed under apostolic governance. The EPISKOPOI and DIAKONOI were "individuals designated for special service within the Church and perhaps subject to the Church" (Gerald Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Series, page 8).

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

To help list-members understand Meyer's comments concerning Phil 1:1, I post the Greek of that passage for you:


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Church Tradition (PARADOSIS) and the Bible Canon

The Greek word usually rendered "tradition" is PARADOSIS (παράδοσις) which is derived from PARADIDOMI ("to surrender, intrust, transmit"). This signifier is employed in Matt. 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:3, 5, 8, 9, 13; 1 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:15, 16; 3:6.

For PARADOSIS, BAGD has "handing down or over." When considering this word in the context of tradition vis-a'-vis Scripture, I think we must avoid projecting later significations of the term back onto the writings of the NT. That is, we should not interpret Paul's use of PARADOSIS through the exegetical template of Trent (a sixteenth-century council of the Church). In 2 Thess. 2:15, Paul writes that Christian tradition requires loyal adherence whether it is oral or written. Thus we can be confident that none of the traditions Paul mentions in his Epistles lack scriptural backing, and moreover, they are not limited to what is spoken (i.e., oral tradition). None of the traditions (PARADOSEIS) Paul speaks about conflict with what we find in Scripture. Conversely, I do not think the same can be said for the present traditions held by the Catholic Church.

Anglican priest Rebecca Lyman writes the following about tradition: "Our English word 'tradition' cames from the Latin verb tradere, which means literally 'to hand on.' When we speak of tradition, we mean those things that are passed along from one generation to another as important and essential to our identity" (Early Christian Traditions, p. 4).

Stone and Duke add that PARADOSIS is both the act of handing on and subsequently that which is handed on or transmitted.

However, continuing, Lyman also notes: "Christians usually distinguish 'scripture' from 'tradition' in order to emphasize the stronger authority we give to the Bible as the word of God. Yet the Bible itself is the selection of writings chosen and revered by the faithful community" (Lyman, p. 4).

Lyman's definition and comments are helpful although I think she errs by saying that the "faithful community" chose which writings were to be revered. God ultimately decides which writings are canonical, not humans. So while Paul may
have written and known about the importance of PARADOSIS, he would have undoubtedly castigated Dom Gregory Dix when he wrote: "eucharistic worship from the outset was based not on scripture at all, but solely on tradition" (Qt. in The Principles of Christian Theology, John Macquarrie, p. 11).

Charles Ryrie more likely states the truth of the matter: "It was not necessary to wait until various councils could examine the [Bible] books to determine if they were acceptable or not. Their canonicity was inherent within them, since they came from God. People and councils only recognized and acknowledged what is true becausde of the intrinsic inspiration of the books as they were written. No Bible book became canonical by action of some church council" (Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 105).

In a notable piece of scholarship, we also read: "the Canon of the New Testament was completed when the last authoritative book was given to any church by the apostles, and that was when John wrote the Apocalypse, about A.D. 98" (Benjamin B. Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, pp. 455-56).

Friday, March 18, 2016

Are the Scriptures "God-breathed"? (NIV)

(Written before the advent of BDAG and slightly edited 3/18/16 and 5/19/17)

The best approach to word studies is the synchronic method; that is, one should consider what terms possibly mean at a certain time--not what they potentially denote through history. Finding the "exact meaning" of a word can be extremely challenging or elusive, but fortunately there are entries in the major NT lexica for terms, including the word θεόπνευστος.

BAGD supplies us an example from Plutarch: THS QEOPNESTOU SOFIHSLOGOS ESTIN ARISTOS. It also recommends the thorough work by B.B. Warfield "Revelation and Inspiration" 27, 229-259. Lastly, BAGD lists 2 Tim. 3:16 and then provides "inspired by God" for θεόπνευστος.

Nevertheless, one caveat needs to be made. Warfield cites the source this way:

In the unique passage, Plutarch, de placit. phil., 5, 2 (Mor. 904, 2): ‘tous oneirous tous theopneustous kat anagken ginesthai’. ‘Tous de phusikous aneidolopoioumenes psuches to sumtheron aute ktl’., it is very probably to be ascribed to the copyist, and stands, as Wyttenbach conjectures, in the place of ‘theopemptous’. Besides this it occurs in Pseudo- Phocylides, v. 121: ‘tes de theopneustou sophies logos estin aristos’— unless the whole line is, with Bernays, to be deleted as disturbing to the sense—as well as in the fifth book of the “Sibyllines,” v. 308: ‘Kume d he mora sun namasi tois theopneustois’, and v. 406, ‘Alla megan genetera theon panton theopneuston En thusiais egerairon kai hagias ekatombas’. The Psuedo-Phocylides was, however, a Hellenist, and the author of the fifth book of the “Sibyllines” was, most probably, an Egyptian Jew living in the time of Hadrian. On Christian ground we find it in II Tim. iii. 16, which is possibly the earliest written employment of it to which we can point.

I need to verify the exact wording myself, but the main point of this missive is what θεόπνευστος possibly denotes. See

Louw-Nida has: "θεόπνευστος, ον: pertaining to a communication which has been inspired by God--inspired by God, divinely inspired" (Semantic Domain 33.261). Ralph Earle writes that the phrase "Given by inspiration" (KJV) is "one word in Greek, QEOPNEUSTOS (only here in NT). It literally means 'God-breathed'--QEOS, 'god,' and PNEW, 'breathe.' That is, God breathed His truth into the hearts and minds of the writers of Scripture. The best translation is 'God-breathed' " (NIV).

Yet Louw-Nida warn us that a dictational view of θεόπνευστος should not be adopted (33.261). So we must acknowledge that God apparently did not dictate his thoughts to men. Furthermore, as we study the Bible, we find that concepts are not limited to words: one should not confuse Wort with Begriff. For example, the book of Hosea hardly uses the word (or related terms) "love." Yet the Divine acts depicted therein give evidence of Jehovah's love even if the prophet does not employ the exact term. Linguistically speaking, one word can be used to express many different concepts (polysemy) and one concept can be expressed by many different words (synonymy or overlapping relations).

Applying this principle to θεόπνευστος, it can be observed that while the word does not mean "infallible and inerrant," we are seemingly justified inferring that when God speaks--He speaks utterances that do not contain error and untruth. If we compare 2 Pet. 1:20, 21 with 2 Tim. 3:16, we may conclude that θεόπνευστος suggests infallibility and inerrancy. As the psalmist writes: "The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings, As silver refined in a smelting furnace of earth, clarified seven times" (Ps. 12:6, 7).


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

KEFALH = "Head"? (Duncan)

BDAG says that KEFALH, when employed metaphorically,
may denote:

(1) A being of high status (Iren. 1, 5, 3; Hippol.
Ref. 7, 23, 3).

(a) "in the case of living beings, to denote superior

BDAG lists 1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23a as examples of what I
have labeled 1a. Cf. Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23b.

Marion Soards (1 Corinthians in the NIBC Series)
discusses the views of commentators such as G. Fee and
N. Watson, who both argue that KEFALH means "source"
in 1 Cor 11:3. But he then adds the following caveat
on page 229 of his commentary:

"Nevertheless, the interpretive debate is not settled.
J. A. Fitzmyer ('Another Look at KEFALH in 1
Corinthians 11:3,' NTS 35 [1989], pp. 503-11) examines
the LXX and Philo alongside Paul to argue 'head' could
be understood as 'authority over' another person; also
J. A. Fitzmyer, 'KEFALH in 1 Corinthians 11:3,' Int
47 (1993), pp. 52-59. In a creative interpretive
1 Cor 11:10 and the Ecclesial Authority Woman,' List
31 [1996], pp. 91-104) argues that the charismatic
gift of prophecy gave the women who were endowed with
this gift an authority over their heads--the
men--because of the Spirit's presence and power at
work in their contributions to the congregation's

D. A. Carson also reports the following in Exegetical
Fallacies (2nd Edition):

"Although some of the New Testament metaphorical uses
of KEFALH . . . could be taken to mean 'source,' all
other factors being equal, in no case is that the
required meaning; and in every instance the notion of
'headship' implying authority fits equally well or
better. The relevant lexica are full of examples, all
culled from the ancient texts, in which KEFALH . . .
connotes 'authority'" (pp. 37-38).

Thomas Aquinas-"Of God and His Creatures" (Chapter XXVII)

Of the Incarnation of the Word According to the Tradition of Holy Scripture

OF all the works of God, the mystery of the Incarnation most transcends reason. Nothing more astonishing could be imagined as done by God than that the true God and Son of God should become true man. To this chief of wonders all other wonders are subordinate. We confess this wonderful Incarnation under the teaching of divine authority, John i, 14: Phil. ii, 6-11. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself also declare it, in that sometimes He says of Himself humble and human things, e.g., The Father is greater than I (John xiv, 28): My soul is sorrowful even unto death (Matt. xxvi, 38): which belonged to Him in the humanity which He had assumed: at other times lofty and divine things, e.g., I and the Father are one (John x, 30): All things that the Father hath are mine (John xvi, 15): which attach to Him in His divine nature. And the actions that are recorded of Him show the same duality of nature. His being stricken with fear, sadness, hunger, death, belongs to His human nature: His healing the sick by His own power, His raising the dead and effectually commanding the elements, His casting out of devils, forgiving of sins, His rising from the dead when He willed, and finally ascending into heaven, show the power of God that was in Him.

See the Bibliographical Information Here:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Micah 5:2: "Ancient Days" and the First Creation of YHWH

At some point in their history, the ancient Jews apparently believed in a created being alongside YHWH, who was subsequently used to bring the sum total of reality ("all things") into existence. This belief is reflected in the rabbinic writings, but it is also latent in the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. Micah 5:2 reads: "out of you [Bethlehem] shall One come forth for Me Who is to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been of old, from ancient days (eternity)" (Amplified Bible).

Now while it is true that the Amplified Bible and other translations render the Hebrew OLAM as "eternity"--the rendition "ancient days" seem to be preferable in this context: "'Origin' (MOSAOT, elsewhere only 2 Kings 10:27 with a quite different meaning!) echoes the verb 'come forth' (YS') and thinks of children originating in the loins of their father (BDB, YS', 1h, p. 423). Bethlehem as the 'parent' of the ruler belongs to a period now viewed as an era behind the current order and so belonging to 'ancient days' " (James Mays. Micah [Old Testament Library], pp. 115-116).

By no means do I necessarily agree with every sentiment expressed by Mays--in a sense, Bethlehem would bring forth the promised Messiah. Nevertheless, his years would stretch back to "ancient days" because he existed in heaven before coming to the earth. This does not imply that the Messiah was not created, however: he issued forth from his Father as the first creation of God and was not eternal in his preexistence (see Rev. 3:14). This point (about OLAM meaning "ancient days") is also forcefully brought out by Joseph Klausner:

"the words, 'from of old, from ancient days' indicate only the antiquity of his origin (since from the time of David to the time of Micah several centuries had passed), but nothing more" (The Messianic Idea in Israel. p. 76).

Probably supplying even more robust evidence for the idea of a created preexistent being with God is Prov. 8:22: "The Lord formed me and brought me [Wisdom] forth at the beginning of His way, before his acts of old" (Amplified Bible).

While admittedly this verse has been hotly debated, it seems most appropriate to translate QANAH as "created" instead of "possessed" as others construe this passage. In poetic contexts, QANAH is understood to mean "create" or "form" (Gen. 14:19-22; Ps. 139:13). Interestingly in Deut. 32:6, the word is parallel to ASAH ("to make") suggesting that it may have the meaning "create." Thus if the preexistent Messiah is under consideration as the figure of Wisdom in Prov. 8:22--then it would seem fitting to view him as being the first creation of Yahweh, then afterwards being used to create all things as the intermediary agent of the Most High God.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Neuroscience and the Soul: Some Reflections

Edward Feser, Stephen Barr, and Jerome M. Adler have tried to formulate theoretical accounts that confute reductive materialism. While I agree with their opposition to materialism or naturalism simpliciter, my disagreement with these thinkers stems from their belief in the rational soul. Objections can be made to hylomorphism (a theory posited by Aristotle and received by the Church in modified form) on the grounds of both reason and Scripture. Let us consider the issue of concept-formation for starters.

I am using "concept" to describe representations that are generated by neural machinery as it interacts with sensory stimuli and decodes information which initially arises from sense experience. Additionally, I deny the existence of objective universals (i.e., supersensible intelligibles) and essential natures as they are usually conceived in Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy; however, I can almost guarantee that the ability to form concepts of concepts (second-order reflection) is not precluded by a Christian materialist account of intellection. Such ideas could merely be reinterpreted especially when the materialistic/physicalistic account is understood in the light of Scripture.

For instance, a Christian physicalist could reflect on what it means for X to be a round square although round squares are logically and factually impossible. We can entertain the term "round square" in the mind via imagination and reason, although it's impossible to produce a mental image of such an object. One could also form the concept of a unicorn purely from sensory experience, reflection, abstraction and mental recombination since we do perceive horses and animals with horns. Or it is possible that the contents of a subject and predicate construction (an abstract structure) might be ontologically posterior to what we encounter through sensory experience (ontic subjects and predicates are sensed each day) and thereby such things could be parasitic and supervene on sensible instances of subjects and predicates witnessed experientially (e.g. houses and white objects).

It must be conceded that our ability to form categorical propositions like "All swans are white" or "No swans are white" is something that only rational creatures can do. But it seems that we don't need souls or intelligible substances to justify this ability. We have been gifted with language, and what makes la langue and la parole possible is the human brain (the neocortex along with Broca's and Wernicke's areas). Furthermore, la langue makes abstract categorization possible. We're able to manipulate symbols (concepts) because we are lingual beings. So concept-formation can be explained without recourse to multiplying entities beyond necessity (Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem).

Monday, March 07, 2016

Brief Note on What It Means for a Being To Be "Maximally Great"

One student of mine recently expressed astonishment that someone besides God cannot have an omniproperty in the strict sense of the word. He was under the impression that a person (S) could have the property of omnipotence (OP), for example, and still not be God. Only a being having every omniproperty would be God (in his estimation).

However, there is more than one reason why his idea of God needs to be adjusted. I mentioned some reasons to him, and they appeared to be sufficient for the time being. But the whole point of the ontological argument for God's existence is supposed to be that only a perfect being is maximally great, and only a perfect being (in the absolute sense of the word) is necessary (exists in all possible worlds), and compossibly instantiates all omniproperties.

Another way of viewing this issue logically is to say that only God could be all-knowing and maximally powerful. How could a creature ever have such properties? Nevertheless, to emphasize this point, instantiating all omniproperties seems to be a logical consequence of having one omniproperty. For a being cannot be omnipotent or omniscient without being maximally excellent, it seems.

Two other ways of handling my student's question is to reference transcendentals like "good" "beauty" and unity; God also has incommunicable properties that only God exemplifies. See

Duns Scotus argues that God's chief attribute is infinity. So he evidently contends that all divine properties are really just an extension of divine infinity.

Pascal, Reason and Religion (Romans 12:1)

"The last function of reason is to recognize that there are an infinity of things which surpass it" (Blaise Pascal).

That being said, it must be pointed out that reason plays a significant role in Christianity. We cannot fully understand God's infinite existence; we don't fully comprehend how God has always been, without beginning (his a se esse). On the other hand, should we hold views that blatantly contradict reason and scripture?

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your intelligent service" (Romans 12:1 DBT).

τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν could be translated "spiritual worship" (ESV), "reasonable service" (KJV, NET) or "logical service" (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Regardless of the translational approach to Romans 12:1, most religions agree that reason has a place in one's belief system. The question is just to what degree we should let reason influence our worship to God. Hence, we see widely divergent approaches in the Western and Eastern churches with the latter favoring a mystical approach over a more rational one.

While we need to exercise due humility before Jehovah (YHWH) and walk modestly in his sight, let us not excuse contradictory thinking or illogical reasoning by seeking refuge in divine mysteries. The Bible speaks of "mysteries" (Revelation 10:7 KJV) in the sense that we cannot know certain things until God reveals them in his proper time. But Jehovah does not contravene reason or disclose himself or his purpose in a confused or incoherent manner. Therefore, while reason will always be surpassed by an "infinity of things," those things which transcend or excel reason must never contravene it (i.e., must never go contrary to reason).

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Response to Robert M. Bowman on Philippians 2:7 (Ongoing Project to Edit)

(1) Assuming a slave's form is a fitting expression of Christ's humility. Nevertheless, a fatal objection to Robert Bowman's view of the participial phrase in Phil. 2:7 is that his explanation makes KENOW refer to an act of addition--not to an act of subtraction. Yet lexical evidence for this use of KENOW is sadly lacking. One may consult BDAG, Louw-Nida, LSJ or Moulton-Milligan's and he or she will likely not find one instance where KENOW describes an act of addition. Neither in Holy Writ nor in extra-biblical literature does one find an instance of this Greek verb employed in the manner that Bowman suggests.

(2) The aorist participle LABWN, if translated woodenly, would be rendered "having taken" or "received" the form of a servant. It would thus have reference to an action that is antecedent to the main verb. But there are also times when the aorist participle has ingressive force.

At one time, I favored the antecedent view for the participle LABWN in Phil. 2:7. After talking with a friend and studying Stanley Porter's Idioms, however, I must concede that LABWN may be referring to consequent action or another possibility is subsequent action. At any rate, it is by no means certain that LABWN is a participle of means. While categorizing Phil. 2:7 as an example of the instrumental participle (i.e., participle of means), Brooks and Winbery admit that LABWN and GENOMENOS "may indicate manner rather than means" (Syntax of NT Greek, 150). To be fair, they also say that there's little difference between a participle of manner and one of means. However, the disparity between the two is significant enough to demonstrate that Bowman may only be appealing to a grammatical principle that suits his theology. For a brief (but lucid) explanation of the difference between means and manner, see Richard A. Young's Intermediate NT Greek, p. 154.

Bowman also writes:

"but there need not be an argument here at all. In Trinitarian theology it is true to say that Christ actively took this action [i.e., the kenosis], and it is also true to say that the Father sent Christ and gave him his human nature (including his body). It is not either/or; it is both/and."

My Response:

Maybe acording to Trinitarian theology, Christ actively "incarnated himself." But my concern is whether the Bible makes this claim. So far, you've offered one controversial text to support your theological view and not much else. And the lexicons I've checked so far all agree that KENOW does not refer to an act of addition. Furthermore, grammarians who are interested in scholarship (rather than propping up Trinitarian notions), also concede that the context of Phil. 2:7 possibly does not really favor LABWN being a participle of means. Construing it thus is only a convenient way to seemingly buttress your view of the Incarnation and God's putative triunity.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Matthew 23:9 and Father

καὶ πατέρα μὴ καλέσητε ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος·

I hate to state the obvious here, but Jesus is not discussing biological fathers: the context is a religious one. Louw and Nida (Lexical Semantics of the Greek NT. Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1992) provide 24 examples of πατὴρ in the GNT and show that one must carefully differentiate between distinct semantic domains of πατὴρ, just as one would carefully parse between unique senses of "earth" in Scripture.

They write:

"In context 5 ('do not call anyone on earth father')
the use of PATHR is quite different from what it is in
previous contexts, since this is certainly not an
injunction against speaking about one's own father nor
is it a taboo about speaking of God as 'Father.' In
Matthew 23:9 the focus is on authority within the
believing community, and so a term appropriate to God
is not to be used in speaking about [human] persons"
(pp. 45-47).

This explanation is obvious in the context of Mt 23:9; nevertheless, some continue to insist that this Matthean verse does not rule out calling religious leaders "father."