Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Thesis on the Greek Article (Link)

This work is by Ronald Dean Peters, who has since published his work. It constitutes some of the most recent work done on the Greek article, although I've read biting criticisms of the book that's based on his thesis.

See https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/15578/1/Peters%20Ronald.pdf

Holy Spirit and Pneuma (Swete on the GNT Usage)

This entry is designed to post the outlines of what Henry Barclay Swete writes (The Holy Spirit in the New Testament) concerning the anarthrous πνεῦμα ἅγιον. You might find his comments worthwhile, although I believe there are some examples that do not bear out his general thesis. His comments can be found on pp. 396-97 of The Holy Spirit.

I will summarize his argument, then provide scriptural references for each claim:

(1) The anarthrous πνεῦμα ἅγιον may be accounted for by the "strong tendency" of NT writers to "drop the article after a preposition." See Matthew 1:18; 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 2:25-26; Ephesians 5:18.

(2) An anarthrous construction may also occur when a writer uses the instrumental dative without a preposition. See Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16, 18. (Wallace, GGBB, 165-166).

(3) Swete believes that when the spirit is described as "a gift or manifestation of the Spirit in its relation to the life of man," the NT employs πνεῦμα ἅγιον. Cf. Acts 2:38. However, compare Acts 10:38.

(4) Ellicott (on Galatians 5:5) wants to treat πνεῦμα ἅγιον as a proper name along the lines of "Lord" and "God." Yet Swete disagrees with this view and examples in Scripture likewise counter Ellicott's suggestion.

I hope this summary is helpful.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

BDF Greek Grammar on The Article and Proper Names

See Section 260 of BDF here: https://nicksdata.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/bdf-a-greek-grammar-of-the-new-testament-and-other-early-christian-literature.pdf



Colossians 2:4, Rabshakeh, and Logic

One thing that strikes me about Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:26-35) is that he uses tactics similar to Job's three comforters (Job 3). He takes veracious statements and draws unwarranted inferences from them. His arguments are, in a word, irrelevant (another logical fallacy). Rabshakeh could have written a textbook on how not to do logic: he was a sophist, pure and simple. Furthermore, like Job's buddies, such "plausible talk" defamed the name of the only true God by misrepresenting Jehovah's purpose for Judah.

I also checked James D.G. Dunn's commentary on Colossians (NIGTC) to see if he could shed any additional light on πιθανολογία (Colossians 2:4). He observes that πιθανολογία and its cognates signify: "the persuasiveness and plausibility particularly of popular speakers" (133). However, Dunn adds that Plato makes a vital distinction between πιθανολογία and ἀπόδειξις, with the latter word being a terminus technicus in rhetoric that denotes: "a compelling conclusion drawn from accepted premises" (ibid). See Theaetetus 162E; Ethica Nicomachea 1.3.4 and Philo's De Cherubim 9.

πιθανολογία, in contrast to ἀπόδειξις ("demonstration") thus comes to mean "plausible discourse" (Rotherham), "specious arguments" (NJB) or "fine-sounding arguments" (NIV).

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Themes in Exodus (Memorial and Feast)

Ex 3:15: "And God saith again unto Moses, 'Thus dost thou say unto the sons of Israel, Jehovah, God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name -- to the age, and this My memorial, to generation -- generation." (YLT)

Ex 12:14: "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast." (ESV)

Ex 32:5: "And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD." (KJV)

Ex 32:5: "And Aaron seeth, and buildeth an altar before it, and Aaron calleth, and saith, 'A festival to Jehovah -- to-morrow;'" (YLT)

See Exodus 10:9; 13:6, 9; 17:14; 23:15-18; 28: 12, 29; 30:16; 34:18, 22, 25; 39:7.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Translating Boule (Acts 2:23; 4:28)

On the subject of how βουλὴ (boule) should be translated in Acts 2:23; 4:28, please keep in mind that I don't believe "plan" is wrong. It's just that translating the Greek in that fashion is not the optimal choice for these passages. LSJ (which I realize is a classical Greek lexicon) offers these definitions for βουλὴ:

"will, determination, esp. of the gods," "counsel, design," "generally, counsel, advice," and "deliberation" or "decree." But it's clear that context must determine which definition fits best. BDAG does not seem to advocate "plan" either although that lexicon demonstrates that "plan" is within the term's lexical range. However, I would submit that the meaning does not fit the verses in Acts.

The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Rogers and Rogers) states that βουλὴ (Acts 2:23) evidently means (has the sense): "purpose, decision, counsel."

The Expositor's Greek Testament:

βουλῇ: Wendt compares the Homeric διὸς δʼ ἐτελείετο βουλή. The phrase βουλή τοῦ θ. is used only by St. Luke; once in his Gospel, Acts 7:30, and three times in Acts 13:36; Acts 20:27 (whilst βουλή is used twice in the Gospel, eight times in the Acts, and only three times elsewhere in the N.T., 1 Corinthians 4:5, Ephesians 1:2, Hebrews 6:17), but cf. Wisdom of Solomon 6:4; Wisdom of Solomon 9:13, and often ἡ βουλή κυρίου in LXX.

We could add Joseph Alexander's commentary on Acts where he writes: "The word translated counsel properly means will, as appears both from etymology and usage" (p. 70). compare Job 38:2; 42:3 Isa 5:19; 9:6; 46:10 (LXX).

Finally, Robertson's Word Pictures on Acts 2:23:

"By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (τηι ωρισμενηι βουληι και προγνωσηι του τεου — tēi hōrismenēi boulēi kai prognōsēi tou theou). Instrumental case. Note both purpose (βουλη — boulē) and foreknowledge (προγνωσις — prognōsis) of God and 'determined' (ωρισμενη — hōrismenē perfect passive participle, state of completion). God had willed the death of Jesus (John 3:16) and the death of Judas (Acts 1:16), but that fact did not absolve Judas from his responsibility and guilt (Luke 22:22). He acted as a free moral agent."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ancient House Ecclesiae and The Present Ecclesia

Written 4/8/2009 and slightly edited 5/24/16.

I'm not faulting the house church model, so much as I'm stating that it appears to have been a temporary necessity in the Christian congregation's history. Daniel Harrington writes: "The house church was a necessary but transitional step in the history of the early church." His comments pertain strictly to the first century. So, in the first century, 40-50 Christians might have gathered in one of the city house churches. But I have also read--in Witherington, I believe--that certain households (like Philemon's) could hold 100 people for Christian worship. So the first-century gatherings might not have been confined to 30, 40 or 50 people. And I would say that socio-economic conditions necessitated the early house churches. I tend to agree with Harrington that the house churches should not be romanticized or necessarily viewed as models for today. Now I am not suggesting that small gatherings should be disbanded, but something had to be done with the book study/Bible study arrangement. Sorry to say that socio-economic factors partly necessitated that the GB adjust one of the meetings. Family Worship is another factor. I would submit that a larger gathering is in keeping with the notion of a universal ecclesia, a notion which we encounter in Ephesians.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thomistic Souls Versus Cartesian Souls

Thomas Aquinas considers the soul to be subsistent, but not in the Cartesian sense. Kevin Corcoran quotes Summa Contra Gentiles II.69 to demonstrate this point: "body and soul are not two actually existing substances; instead, one actually existing substance arises from these two" (See Rethinking Human Nature, 38). So it's the human person (body and soul) that constitutes one thing or two incomplete substances for Aquinas and those who follow in his wake.

Porter, Et Al. on the Greek Article

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Galatians 2:15-16 (EAN MH)

The basic issue in Gal. 2:15-16 is whether ἐὰν μὴ is adversative
('but') or exceptive ('except' or 'but only'). The NWT treats it as
exceptive and, admittedly, I had never stopped to verify this reading
until someone brought up the question. But I am familiar with the
construction ἐὰν μὴ (εἰ + ἄν) in Attic texts and, with those texts in
mind, I have never thought that the NWT handling of this passage was

"We who are Jews by birth, and not sinners from the nations,
recognize that a man is declared righteous, not by works of law,
but only through faith in Jesus Christ. So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be declared righteous by faith in Christ and not by works of law, for no one will be declared righteous by works of law."

However to make sure that my theological presuppositions are not
unduly affecting my reading of this Pauline passage, I checked a few
commentaries on Galatians and here are my findings.

Ernest De Witt Burton (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the
Epistle to the Galatians
, pp. 120-121) writes that ἐὰν μὴ (Gal.
2:16) "is properly exceptive, not adversative." But what part of the text
does the construction except? Burton explains that it might be
the "preceding statement taken as a whole" or "the principal part of
it," but in the final analysis, he opts for ἐὰν μὴ excepting οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος only. He thus understands Paul to mean that we cannot be justified by works of Law at all. In order to make the English translation intelligible though, Burton suggests the reading "but only."

Ben Witherington III (Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St Paul's
Letter to the Galatians
, pp. 178-179) concurs with Burton. He
supplements Burton's observations, however, by noting that even an
adversative construal of the operative phrase would still rightly
yield the translation "but only." Witherington thinks that ἐὰν μὴ
is unequivocally exceptive, and he argues that this treatment
of the construction makes the best sense of the words in the context of Paul's letter. Even if one opts for the adversative sense here, Witherington insists, we should still understand Paul to mean "but only."

He writes:

"It is hardly believable that Paul would have said to the Galatians that 'works of law' plus faith in Christ could justify. Indeed, it is precisely this sort of combination that he is arguing against in the remainder of his letter!" See page 179 of Witherington's commentary.

On the other hand, Frank J. Matera (Sacra Pagina Series) gives an interesting Catholic perspective. He seems to favor the adversative sense and he of course indicates that one can be justified by works of Law accompanied by faith in Christ. However, this reading might conflict with Paul's letter as a whole and it possibly does not do justice to Paul's well established antithesis between works of the Law and faith. So we have options for translating ἐὰν μὴ in Gal. 2:15-16, but it's also instructive how theology informs one's understanding of Greek syntax.

Friday, May 20, 2016

"My Father" (John 5:18)

Regarding Jn. 5:18, Christ was not making himself equal to God by claiming the Divine One as his Father. Contrariwise, the context shows that Jesus' remarks were egregiously misinterpreted by those listening to him. Such confusion often happens in the Fourth Gospel. The Expositor's GT is correct about the reasoning of the Jews in John 5:

"The Jews found in hO PATHR MOU [Jn 5:17] and the implication in KAGW ERGAZOMAI a claim to some peculiar and exclusive (IDION) sonship on the part of Jesus; that He claimed to be Son of God not in the sense in which other men are, but in a sense which involved equality with God" (1:738).

While the Jews were justified inferring that Christ viewed himself as a/the unique Son of God, they were mistaken to assume that he was thereby claiming ontological equality with his Father:

"Since the discourse that follows [John 5:18] denies the 'Jewish' understanding of the equality of the Father and the Son, is the 'Jewish' charge that Jesus had broken the sabbath to be taken seriously? I suggest that in John's view the 'Jews' are wrong both in their understanding of the equality of the Father and the Son and of Jesus as a sabbath breaker."

See Herold Weiss, "The Sabbath in the Fourth Gospel," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 110, No. 2. (Summer, 1991): 311-321.

Compare James F. McGrath, "A Rebellious Son? Hugo Odeberg and the Interpretation of John 5:18," New Testament Studies 44 (1998): 470-473.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Leon Morris and John 6:51ff (Remnants of a Dialogue)

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51 HCSB).

Eucharist-"The name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar in its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of Mass, and in which Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine" (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Leon Morris presents some excellent objections to viewing John 6:51ff as eucharistic. He explains: "The objections already urged [against a eucharistic interpretation] remain. The very strength of the language is against it. The eating and drinking spoken of are the means of bringing eternal life (v. 54), and they are absolutely unqualified. Are we to say that the one thing necessary for life is to receive the sacrament? Again, 'flesh' is not commonly used with reference to the sacrament. In every other New Testament passage referring to 'flesh,' the Scriptures use the word 'body'" (John, 376-377).

Morris thus concludes: "I am not contending that there is no application to the sacrament. But I very strongly doubt whether this is the primary meaning. It seems much better to think of the words as meaning first of all the appropriation of Christ" (Morris, Leon. John [The New ICC], 377).

He continues to point out in footnote 122 (on page 377) that other scholars see the terminology "flesh and blood" as applicable to "the demand for faith in [the enfleshed] Christ" and the words may further apply to his death. A suggestion I would also make is that its quite possible the wilderness motif (found in Exodus) is applicable in John 6:51ff too. A symbolic "feeding" and "drinking" would be quite appropriate in that case. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote: "our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they used to drink from the spiritual rock-mass that followed them, and that rock-mass meant the Christ" (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Cf. John 6:31-34, 41-51.

If you will forgive my saying that does, to me at least, seem a eucharistic formula. So I would suggest that the Greek does indicate that the eucharist is under consideration as is confirmed by the question in verse 52. Jesus answer is that truly his flesh and blood are food and drink, and where else is this association found? Only in the eucharist I would suggest.

I think you're missing a very important point here. Jesus is clearly using metaphorical language here as we see by the words: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world" (John 6:51).

Jesus was not literal bread and he was not going to offer up literal or physical bread as he plainly demonstrated by his utterance in 6:51. Notice too that Jesus uses SARX in this account whereas in Matthew 26:26 and other related discourses, he employs SWMA. Jesus' use of SARX in 6:51 undoubtedly points back to John 1:14 where John tells us the Word became flesh (SARX) and dwelled among us. The evidence for a eucharistic interpretation seems to be lacking.

G. R. B. Murray writes in his "Theology in the Fourth Gospel" concerning John 6:51-58:

"The concept of Jesus as the Bread of Life can be related not alone to Jewish thought but to other cultures of the nearer and remoter East. The most remarkable parallel to John 6, however, is found in an utterance of Rabbi Hillel, son of Gamaliel III . . . He astonished his contemporaries by saying, 'there shall be no Messiah for Israel, for they have already eaten him in the days of Hezekiah' " (See Page 98).

Interestingly, as Murray points out, Jewish translations of the Talmud into English render the language for "have eaten" as "enjoy." So John 6:51-58 must be viewed in the proper context to be rightly understood.

I conclude with an observation from Johannine scholar Gerald Borchert:

"The means to life, accordingly, is not eating and drinking communion elements, but believing is the means of inwardly accepting the suffering death of the Passover Lamb who gave his life for the sin of the world" (Borchert, John 1-11, 272).

For additional information, see http://fosterheologicalreflections.blogspot.com/2015/04/john-656-57-eucharist-and-sons-present.html

What the Son Knows-Final Part of a Dialogue with Barnabas

"and you raise the question, on what is supposedly, the ignorance of Jesus on certain things. Let's first of all understand that Jesus' knowledge was never on a level as our own limited awareness, people seem to just look at what Jesus appears not to know, and ignore what He does know. He knew an individual's undisclosed past (John 1:47; 4:29), and the thoughts of His enemies (Luke 6:8) and friends (Luke 9:47), which is a sole attribute of God (Acts 15:8; 2
Chron. 6:29; 1 Kings 8:38). And Jesus understood the Old Testament Scriptures in an unprecedented manner (Matt 22:29; 26:54-56; Luke 24;27).

The Son of God certainly knew what was in the heart of humans (Jn 2:25). The question is, how did he know it? Was he omniscient? Alternatively, did God's spirit and his pre-existence as the first creature of God allow him to know the interior life of humans? The Scriptures answer that Jesus of Nazareth was anointed with God's spirit and power. Because of this fact, he was able to go through the land of Palestine doing good (Acts 10:38). The prophet Isaiah (11:1-3) foretold that the Messiah would be filled with "a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD [YHWH], and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD [YHWH]" (NAB).

"in fact Jesus even says this about Himself, "no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). From this passage, both the omniscience and
incomprehensibility of Christ are declared by Himself. He who knows the Father is omniscient, and He who is known only by the Father is incomprehensible, we get glimpse of the divine nature only as Jesus will reveal."

Again, I think you're reading far too much into this text, rather than extracting meaning from it, as one should do. If the Son fully knowing the Father and vice versa functions as proof of Christ's "omniscience and incomprehensibility," then what about the latter part of the passage? When Jesus reveals the Father to one of his disciples and the enlightened disciple comes to "fully know" the Father and Son, would you say that he/she then becomes omniscient or incomprehensible? Notice that OUDEIS (in Mt 11:27) is qualified by KAI hWi EAN BOULHTAI hO hUIOS APOKALUYAI.

"christ omniscience is further expressed in the fact that He hears and answers the prayers of His people (John 14:14). This ability to hear and answer the prayers of His disciples is a claim to omniscience. To be able to hear each prayer of His disciples—offered up to him night and day, day in and day out throughout the centuries—keep each request infallibly related to its petitioner, and answer each one in accordance with the divine mind and will, would require Him to be omniscient!"

Jn 14:14 neither teaches that we should pray to Christ nor does it prove that he hears prayers. We are instructed to pray to God the Father through the Son in the spirit. Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified" (Mt 6:9 NWT). He did not encourage or exhort his disciples to offer prayers to him. Asking the Father for something in Jesus' name does not mean that we pray to Christ.

"but why does it show that Jesus didn't know certain things? Why for example, when His friend Lazarus died He knew about it without being told and set off for Bethany, but when He got there He asked where Lazarus had been laid (John 11)? The answer is quite simple. Just as in Genesis 18:20-21 and 22:12 where it is clear that God chooses to know and not know certain things, Jesus chooses not to know certain thing, that is He chooses not to exercising His omniscience. And so if we were to use the same line of reasoning that you employ that deny Jesus' Deity because it appears He has limited knowledge of certain things, then from Genesis 18:20-21 we can assume that Yahveh has limited knowledge and is not omniscient also."

The two situations that you mention are not analogous. In the case of YHWH in the OT, we are told in no uncertain terms that He is "perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:16); no explicit statement of this sort is posited with respect to Christ. Furthermore, if your theory corresponded to reality, then one would expect that if the Father knows the day and hour, then the Son, if he is Almighty God, would also know the day and hour, which only the Father knows (Mt 24:36). To argue that the Son can choose not to know what the Father knows--yet they are supposedly hOMOOUSION--implies
that the Son has a different divine consciousness than the Father does, which implies tritheism rather than trinitarianism.

"my friend it seems that it is your theology that is getting in your way of understanding the scriptures; for only one that has a poor grasp of the idiom of certain phrases would read into the passage of Rev 3:14 that the subject was created."

Evidently, BDAG Greek-English Lexicon also is controlled by the editor's theology and he also must have a poor grasp of the idiom in Rev 3:14 since this magisterial source states that the meaning "first created" for ARXH is "linguistically probable" which was upgraded from the older BAGD, which said this meaning is "linguistically possible."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Another Response to the Son = "Nature of X" Argument


"I gathered my 'data' on the matter from a wide range of sources, over many years, here are a few; New Bible Dictionary (second edition) says, 'Son' is commonly used in Semitic languages to denote membership of a class, as 'son of Israel' for 'Israelite,' 'son of might' for 'valorous.' 'Son of God' in Hebrew means 'God.'"

My Response:

So, are you now saying that one who is called or identified as a "Son of God" is a member of the "class" God?

BDAG states that when hUIOS is followed by the genitive of the thing, it denotes "one who shares in [the thing named] or who is worthy of it [i.e., the thing named in the genitive], or who stands in some other close relation to it, oft[en] made clear by the context; this constr[uction] is prob[ably] a Hebraism in the main . . ." (p. 1025).

One example of this usage provided by BDAG is Lk 16:8: hOI hUIOI TOU AIWNOS TOUTOU. Also, hUIOS POLEWS, both of which refute your [earlier] "possessing the nature of X" suggestion.


"Vine's Expository Dictionary says, 'huios primarily signifies the relation of offspring to parent…It is often used metaphorically of prominent moral characteristics…the word `Son' is used sometimes (a) of relationship, sometimes (b) of the expression of charater [sic]."

My Response:

This source, at least, as you quoted it, does not say that a "son" (hUIOS) in the Hebraic idiom "sons of" (followed by the genitive of the thing) necessarily possesses the nature of the thing named (i.e., of X).


"niv Bible Dictionary, 'Son… Another very common biblical use of this word is in combination with another word to express something about the individual or individuals described…'Son of perdition' is used of Judas.' Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "The word "son" is also used in a figurative sense in the Bible." Many good theological dictionaries and word books will also explain it for you.>>

My Response:

First, I own and have consulted "many good theological dictionaries and word books," Barnabas. Second, what you have cited here does not support your previous assertion about "son" referring to one "possessing the nature of X." Are we to believe that Jesus meant Judas possessed the nature of destruction, after his defection from the Son of God (Jn 17:12). Rather, was not Jesus pointing out that Judas was given to destruction or intimately related to it, as suggested by BDAG and Zerwick?


"Friend, an angel is NEVER defined as "a son of God" like you say (see Hebrews 1:5), they are termed thusly in the plural only. It is interesting that when used with reference to creatures, whether men or angels, the phrase is always in the plural (sons of God), the singular with the definite article is only used of Jesus. To equate the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere would be to deny the plain truth of the Bible."

My Response:

Who is "equating the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere," my friend? I have not seen anyone here doing that. Besides, your argument that the plural usage "sons of God" somehow differs in meaning from the singular "son of God" is just wrong-headed from a logical or lexical semantic standpoint.


jesus is more than one of God's chosen people, more than one of the heavenly messengers, more than one who rules on God's behalf on earth. Even a casual reading of the verses where Jesus is called the Son of God will show the difference in both quality and extent from the other uses in the plural, read them and see. When applied to Jesus it is a title of nature, the plural form is of office.

My Response:

(1) I agree that Jesus is the unique Son of God. No argument there.

(2) It seems that you've now changed the direction of your argument, now wanting to make a distinction between the plural denoting one's "office" and the singular "son" denoting Jesus' "nature," whereas previously you said that the "nature" of the sons mentioned in Eph 2:2 was being delineated. Have you thus adjusted your understanding of the plural "sons of" construction?

(3) Your distinction does not seem to hold water when we actually take the time to look at real examples of the construction "sons of" in the relevant texts or literature. hUIOI most certainly does not refer to an office in Lk 20:36 or in Mt 5:9 or in 2 Thess 2:3.


"in 2 Kings 20:35 [1 Kings 20:35], "a certain man of the sons of the prophet" means that the man is a prophet, as the rest of the verse verifies…everything that makes a prophet a prophet is what this man was."

My Response:

"Actually, according to BDB, the Hebrew word BEN here (used in the plural) refers to one who is a member in a guild or certain order. It does not mean that the man possesses every quality that a prophet has or should have. In fact, the NAB translates this verse, "One of the guild prophets was prompted by the LORD to say to his companion . . ."


"Interestingly, one definition entry in my BDB for ben has "sons (as characterisation, i.e. sons of injustice [for un-righteous men]…"

My Response:

This definition does not help your argument at all, considering how you define the term "nature" in relation to Jesus, the Son of God.


"on Ephesians 2:2, I agree that 'the sons of disobedience' means nothing more than 'disobedience ones' or 'those that are disobedient,' the characteristic of these ones is of a disobedient nature, but you would be stretching the idiom to mean 'disobedient sons,' for the term, as the context shows, is not referring to offspring.>>

My Response:

The terminology "sons" is most certainly being employed metaphorically in Eph 2:2, just as we find in 1 Thess. 5:5 or Lk 16:8. And since we evidently have an instance of the descriptive genitive in Eph 2:2, why can we not render the construction "disobedient sons"? [The Greek word is also hUIOI in Eph. 2:2 which would most naturally be rendered "sons" contra my interlocutor's suggestion. See ASV and Darby's translation.]

My Interlocutor:

"jesus used the term 'Son of man' for Himself to indicated that He was Himself human, lets remember how He carefully guarded His identity that He was the Messiah (Matt 16:20; Luke 4:41), so it would be quite contrary for Him to go about, using the term Son of man in that sense you claim when you say that that was the way Christ 'primarily made use of the title or formula.'"

My Response:

There are places in the Gospels, which if we accept them as historical texts, seem to verify Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" as a way to identify him as the Messiah (Jn 5:26-27). Let us assume that he did not utilize this expression as a title. Does this mean that he was merely indicating that he was human by his use of these words? Not necessarily, since Geza Vermes and E.P. Sanders (among others) have pointed out that Christ could have been availing himself of an Aramaic idiom, "that man," which was really a circumlocution for the first-person singular pronoun, "I." I consider this as a good possibility in light of the findings made by both Vermes and Sanders. But see BDAG under the entry hUIOS.

Addendum: While I no longer think the explanation of Vermes or Sanders is likely, although it's possible, the overall position advanced in this dialogue remains the same.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Campbell, Aspect, and John 17:3

Hebrews 1:4 (ONOMA)

In Heb. 1:4, it's possible that the "name" (ONOMA) refers to the increased privileges of the resurrected and elevated Messiah. Isa. 9:6 prophesied that the Messiah's name would be 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace." Interestingly, the prophet writes that all of these titles or descriptions constitute one name. The "name" mentioned by the writer of Hebrews is pretty much co-extensive with the description listed in Isa. 9:6.

Cf. Rev. 19:11-13.

George Buchanan also writes (in the Anchor Bible commentary on Hebrews) that "since his [Christ's] inheritance was associated with his sonship, which name he inherited, he was evidently made Son, heir, apostle, and high priest (1:2; 3:1; 5:10) all at once" (Buchanan, Hebrews, 9).

Daniel Wallace lists the phrase KREITTWN GENOMENOS TWN AGGELWN as a genitive of comparison and in addition to this construction in the passage, the datival form of hOSOS (hOSWi) indicates that Jesus became better than the angels since he inherited ('to the degree that he inherited') a name superior to their name. See the entry for hOSOS in BAGD 586.

Paul Ellingworth calls attention to the fact that ONOMA is anarthrous here and its reference is vague. He suggests that the name (ONOMA) in this context might be "Son," but he suggests that it might also refer to the exaltation of the "eternal Son" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 106). At any rate, one should not place too much emphasis on the anarthrousness of ONOMA (see BDF 254.2).

For 1:4, the RSV reads: "having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blasphemy in the First Century CE (Darrell Bock)

What exactly constituted blasphemy in the first
century has been a cause of much debate among NT
scholars. One of the most thorough and helpful studies
I've read on this subject is Darrell Bock's Blasphemy
and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge against Jesus in
Mark 14:53-65

Bock reports that one form of blasphemy (according
to m Sanh 6.4; 7.5) was improperly using the divine name (YHWH)
or pronouncing it at all(p. 234). But other acts
constituting blasphemy were acts of idolatry and
wanton disrespect for God and His chosen
representatives. With this historical data in mind,
Bock explains:

"Jesus' blasphemy [in Mk 14:53-65] operated at two
levels. 1) There was a claim to possess comprehensive
authority from the side of God. Though Judaism might
contemplate such a posiiton for a few, the teacher
from Galilee was not among the luminaries for whom
such a role might be considered. As a result, his
remark would have been seen as a self-claim, that was
an affront to God's presence. 2) He also attacked the
leadership, by implicitly claiming to be their future
judge (or by claiming a vindication by him). This
would be seen as a violation of Exod 22:27, where
God's leaders are not to be cursed" (p. 236).

Admittedly, Bock seems to think that the claims of
Christ in the Gospel of Mark differed from other
exalted figures of Judaism since Mark records that the Son
of Man would come "seated at the right hand of power
and coming with the clouds of heaven." Nevertheless, I
believe his discussion illustrates that the charge of
blasphemy was not as narrow as some imply.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Isaiah 53 As a Test Case for Isaiah DSS (Hebrew Steams)

See http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/qumran/isaiah-53-qumran.pdf

Murray J. Harris and Colossians 1:16 (Quote from An "Exegetical Guide" FYI)

This quote falls within the fair use law, and I by no means endorse all of what he writes, but I find the quote informative:

εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι “Things invisible” are now defined in a typical but not exhaustive list (“ everything . . . including . . . , CEV; “invisible orders . . . such as . . . ,” Cassirer) of four classes of supernatural powers or spiritual beings, each class being introduced by the particle εἴτε, used here as a copulative (cf. T 333). By metonymy θρόνοι (“ the enthroned,” BDAG 460c) are probably angelic occupants of heavenly thrones, although Wilson (141) suggests “all the powers of heaven, both good and evil,” while κυριότητες (nom. pl. of κυριότης, -ητος, ἡ, “ruling power/ force, dominion”; cf. BDAG 579b), ἀρχαί (“rulers,” NRSV, HCSB, ESV; Wilson 123), and ἐξουσίαι (“ authorities,” NASB ², HCSB, ESV; Dunn 83) are supernatural potentates who exercise (respectively) “dominion,” “rule,” and “authority” in heavenly realms. Wilson, however, finds a twofold chiastic sequence here so that thrones and dominions belong to the invisible heavenly realm, while rulers and powers belong to the visible earthly realm (140). See further Turner, Words 28–32, 115–16, 348–49, 448–49; For Further Study 27, “Principalities and Powers in Paul (2:10, 15).”

He adds:
Thus “the whole universe” (REB) (τὰ πάντα, a synonym for πᾶσα κτίσις, v. 15 [Barth-Blanke 199]) has an ongoing relationship to Christ. ̓́ Εκτισται is thus a prelude to συνέστηκεν (see comments on v. 17b).

Harris, Murray J. (2010-06-01). Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 1701-1703). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harris, Murray J. (2010-06-01). Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Location 1687). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harris, Murray J. (2010-06-01). Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 1680-1687). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harris, Murray J. (2010-06-01). Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 1676-1680). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Faith and Reason (John Locke)

Both faith and reason are important: they are not per force antithetical, but might be deemed complementary. When faith is combined with reason, one has a faith that is neither blind nor credulous. As John Locke states:

"Whatever God hath revealed is certainly true: no doubt can be made of it. This is the proper object of faith: but whether it be a divine revelation or no, reason must judge; which can never permit the mind to reject a greater evidence to embrace what is less evident, nor allow it to entertain probability in opposition to knowledge and certainty" (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book IV, Chapter XVIII.10).

He also insists: "Nothing that is contrary to, and inconsistent with, the clear and self-evident dictates of reason, has a right to be urged or assented to as a matter of faith" (Ibid.).

My observation on Locke's remarks: I would say that reason and the consistent witness of Scripture must determine whether a given datum constitutes divine revelation. We also need the Christian ecclesia to guide our thinking on divine revelation. However, like Locke, I would maintain that nothing which conflicts with "the clear and self-evident dictates of reason" should be considered or taught as a matter of faith.

Some reply that it's not always easy to determine what counts as a lucid and self-evident teaching that is rational, but the criterion for self-evidence in logic is fairly straightforward. Furthermore, it's not that hard to spot faulty reasoning or invalid and unsound arguments. But what some view as irrational may not be considered irrational by others. Yet logic does provide controls for what does or does not count as rationality. So we do not have to make subjective decisions about what teachings are rational or irrational since objective controls exist.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Isaiah 23 and 24: The Greater Context

Eschatology is the doctrine of the end times or the "last things." Eschatological subjects include the resurrection from the dead, Armageddon, and the milennial reign of Christ. I would not say that there are no strict eschatological prophecies in Isaiah, but I cannot yet think of one undisputed example. Most of the texts found in the prophetic book have at least two possible fulfillments rather than a singular eschatological fulfillment.

As a test case, we might observe that Isaiah 24 seems to be nested within a historical context that discusses Jehovah's adverse judgment upon Israel's enemies. Isa. 23 speaks about God's execution of judgement on Tyre, but evidently Tyre is not the only city that will taste the bitter contents of Jehovah's figurative cup (see Isa. 24:17, 21). Whenever Isa. 24:1 foretells the desolation of the earth or "the land," it apparently has reference to Judah's destruction in view of Isa. 24:2, 23. However, even if Isa. 24 were strictly eschatological in its focus, this would not mean that we should interpret or construe Isa. 34:1-10 in a strict eschatological manner like some want to do.

While the text of Isa. 24:2 does not mention Judah, verse 24:23 does and this passage indicates that God will fulfill His purpose to make Jerusalem the capital city of the world. Isaiah 24 not only uses a word that often means "earth," but it also employs a term that could signify "world" (TBL: 24:4).

[Jean] No, it is possible that it [Isaiah 34] has a temporal fulfillment. There has been no fulfillment of verse 2-4, however. I do not remember any memorable day of Edom's total destruction that upheld the cause of Zion and ended the nation (v. 8 and context).

Thomas Aquinas on Lying (Summa Theologica II-II.110)

Here is a passage from ST (Second part of the second part, question 110):

"As regards the end in view, a lie may be contrary to
charity, through being told with the purpose of
injuring God, and this is always a mortal sin, for it
is opposed to religion; or in order to injure one's
neighbor, in his person, his possessions or his good
name, and this also is a mortal sin, since it is a
mortal sin to injure one's neighbor, and one sins
mortally if one has merely the intention of committing
a mortal sin. But if the end intended be not contrary
to charity, neither will the lie, considered under
this aspect, be a mortal sin, as in the case of a
jocose lie, where some little pleasure is intended, or
in an officious lie, where the good also of one's
neighbor is intended. Accidentally a lie may be
contrary to charity by reason of scandal or any other
injury resulting therefrom: and thus again it will be
a mortal sin, for instance if a man were not deterred
through scandal from lying publicly."

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Proverbs 8:22ff (Midrash): Torah Created First?

The Midrash on Proverbs: Translated from the Hebrew with an Introduction and Annotations by Burton L. Visotzky (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 46, claims that the divine Wisdom mentioned in Proverbs 8:22ff is the Torah which God created before he brought forth anything else:

"R. Nehemiah said: Come and see what a good thing God has created in His world even before He created the universe. What may this be? It is the Torah!."

We also read:

"What [is the scriptural proof for] Torah? The Lord created me at the beginning of his course, As the first of His works of old (Prov 8:22) . . . At first Torah was in heaven, as it is said, I was with Him as a confidant (Prov 8:30). Later on Moses arose and brought it down to earth to give it to humanity, as it is said, Rejoicing in his inhabited world, Finding delight with mankind (Prov 8:31)."

According to this Midrash on Proverbs, the Torah was "created" prior to the cosmos: it was preexistent. Compare Ecclesiasticus 1:1-4.

What Is "Divine Nature"? An Old Post on the Subject

Some prefer to use the nebulous term, "nature" when referring to the demons and their godship or lack thereof. And that is fine, as long as we clarify what we mean by the word--"nature."

While trinitarians often like to make a demarcation between person and nature, John L. McKenzie writes that the apostle John was not aware of any such distinction. Indeed, prior to the fourth century--OUSIA and hUPOSTASIS were employed as synonyms (they semantically overlapped). It was this linguistic phenomenon that caused great confusion in the Christological controversies surrounding Arius. So certain church fathers saw fit to differentiate between OUSIA and hUPOSTASIS, so as not to speak heretically of God. But in the first century world of thought, the distinction between God's nature and person did not exist. McKenzie humorously says that the apostles did not know the word consubstantiality and could not even spell it. To speak of God and His Son in terms of a consubstantial relationship is therefore anachronistic and completely erroneous.

But there are other words that can be used to describe the nature of a thing. Aristotle used MORFH, FUSIS, and OUSIA to delineate the nature of a thing (RES). When constructing his hylomorphic theory of matter and form, Aristotle employed MORFH to describe the form of a RES (e.g., the matter of a table is wood, but its form is tableness). In other words, he utilized MORFH as a synonym for OUSIA. But his use of MORFH differed from the apostle Paul's first-century utilization of the term (where it means the "external shape" of a RES).

The Greek Scriptures express the concept of "nature" by employing FUSIS (instead of MORFH or OUSIA). The "divine nature" is QEIAS FUSEWS in 2 Pet. 1:4. What does Peter mean when he speaks of the "divine nature" that God's anointed would share in upon being resurrected to heaven?

FUSIS comes from FUW (to puff or blow, i.e. to swell up) and refers to growth, having an implied sense of genus or sort, native disposition or constitution (Complete Word Study: New Testament).

Thayer defines FUSIS as "nature," but goes on to point out a number of different usages for the term. They are as follows:

1. The nature of things, the force, laws or order of nature.
2. Birth, physical origin.
3. A mode of feeling and acting which by long nature has become habit.
4. The sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from another (See James 3:7 and 2 Pet. 1:4).

The entry FUSIS in BAGD also demands a careful study, so that one can ascertain what we mean by "nature."

In short, when I speak of the angels being gods by nature, I am using the word "nature" in the sense delineated by (4) in Thayer. Therefore, I am not speaking about the whatness of the angels when I say that they are divine by nature; I am talking about the "sum of innate properties and powers" that make them differ from humans. When describing the nature of beasts, Thayer refers to the "natural strength, ferocity and intractibility" that sets them apart from humans. This is not a delineation of their OUSIA (their whatness), but of their peculiar properties and innate powers that make them stand out from humans.

Addendum: I would now qualify the last statement above, but I'll let the post stand as written.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Son of God = Possessing the Nature of God?

I first encountered this type of theological reasoning when reading the works of Charles Ryrie. It seemed "fishy" to me then and it appears highly suspect now. Can anyone provide solid lexical data that buttresses the claim that the phrase "Son/son of God = possessing the nature of God?

For instance, the Bible calls angels "sons of God," but do they possess the nature of deity, as this nomenclature is defined by Trinitarians?

Secondly, BDB Hebrew-English Lexicon supplies an example where the expression "son of" most certainly does not mean "possessing the nature of X." Take the idiom, "sons of the prophets" (1 Kings 20:35). Are we to assume that it denotes: "possessing the nature of a prophet"? Not according to BDB. Moreover, the phrase "son of a messenger" most clearly does not mean "possessing the nature of a messenger." That is why I am requesting those who take this stand to produce lexical evidence that supports this claim.

Another pertinent example is Ephesians 2:2. The Greek there reads: TOIS hUIOIS THS APEIQEIAS. This linguistic formula or construction does not signify: "possessing the nature of disobedience." It could simply refer to "disobedient [ones]" or "disobedient sons."

"hUIOI THS AP. Hebr. those given to disobedience" (Zerwick's A Grammatical Analysis of the GNT, p. 581).

For more details, see sections 42-44 of Zerwick's Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples.

NET Bible Footnote: "sn Sons of disobedience is a Semitic idiom that means 'people characterized by disobedience.' However, it also contains a subtle allusion to vv. 4-10: Some of those sons of disobedience have become sons of God."

Some argue that the expression "Son of Man" supports the notion that "Son of God" = "possessing the nature of God." Again, it appears that theology and not lexical semantics is controlling this discussion. Why should the title "Son of Man" have to mean "possessing the nature of a man"? As the Complete Word Study: Old Testament points out, the OT nomenclature "son of man" simply denotes "a man" or "an individual." One could also understand the terminology to connote a "mortal being of flesh." But "Son of Man" (in some contexts) also has "Messianic overtones" (Daniel 7:13-14). That is the way in which the Gospels primarily make use of the title or formula. Son of Man identifies Christ as the Messiah without needing to cart in a "possessing the nature of X" theory.

Hippolytus of Rome's "Exegetical Fragments"--Michael the Archangel

Here are some thoughts from Hippolytus of Rome:

"And lo, Michael." Who is Michael but the angel assigned to the people? As (God) says to Moses, "I will not go with you in the way, because the people are stiff-necked; but my angel shall go with you."

And after a little He says to him: "Do you know wherefore I come unto you? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia. But I will show you that which is noted in the Scripture of truth: and there is none that holds with me in these things but Michael your prince, and I left him there. For from the day that you gave your countenance to be afflicted before the Lord your God, your prayer was heard, and I was sent to fight with the prince of Persia: "for a certain counsel was formed not to send the people away: "that therefore your prayer might be speedily granted, I withstood him, and left Michael there."

And who was he that spoke, but the angel who was given to the people, as he says in the law of Moses: "I will not go with you, because the people is stiff-necked; but my angel shall go before along with you? " This (angel) withstood Moses at the inn, when he was bringing the child uncircumcised into Egypt. For it was not allowed Moses, who was the eider (or legate) and mediator of the law, and who proclaimed the covenant of the fathers, to introduce a child uncircumcised, lest he should be deemed a false prophet and deceiver by the people. "And now," says he, "will I show the truth to you." Could the Truth have shown anything else but the truth?

See http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0502.htm

The Possible Meaning of "Torment" in Revelation 11:1-6 & 20:10

There are a number of factors that we must not ignore when treating Rev. 20:10. For one thing, its quite possible that torment in Rev. 20:10 does not mean literal torture (the infliction of physical or mental pain). It could either refer to imprisonment or denote a subjection to punitive measures (Matt. 18:34). It is the figurative imprisonment or testing of the Devil and his cohorts that could occur both day and night. Furthermore, if the beast and the false prophet are not sentient beings per se but representative of symbolic entities, then it makes no sense to speak of their torment anymore than someone might speak about tormenting death and hell in a literal sense (Rev. 20:14-15).

Robert W. Wall points out that Revelation's description of the two witnesses could very well be symbolic of the church's faithful testimony in the face of its enemies (Wall, Revelation, 145ff). The terminology "two witnesses" might be an example of synecdoche; therefore, the imagery could aptly represent the faithful (anointed) conquerors who overcome the wild beast by means of their faith. Notice that the prophets (witnesses) dress in sackcloth, are described as having powers akin to Moses and Elijah, they are killed and their dead bodies remain unburied for three and a half days as those on the earth exult (temporarily) over their unjust death. In view of the overall literary features of Revelation and the context of Rev. 11:10, I suggest that the two witnesses symbolically depict some kind of Christian testimony reminiscent of the ancient Jewish prophets.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Another Interpretation of Aquinas' John 14:28 Explanation

Revelation's Symbols and Eternal Torment

Revelation often uses numerals in a symbolic manner. John mentions four angels holding back the four winds of the earth (Rev. 7:1-4). Is this depiction literal or figurative? Four angels release a calvary from the great river Euphrates and a woman in heaven is seen with a crown of twelve stars on her forehead (Rev. 9:13-19; 12:1ff). Are these references literal? They are apparently symbols in light of Rev. 1:1 and other passages like Rev. 12:1 which explicitly identify some references as signs. Individual persons are employed at times to signify groups of people or inanimate entities in the Bible. For example, it's possible that the woman in 12:1 symbolizes a group of persons and not an individual woman in heaven. We also read about four living creatures and 24 elders (Rev. 4:1-11) in the so-called "throne-room vision."

However, I concede the point that not everything in Revelation is symbolic. What one views as literal or symbolic is often governed by his or her theology although context should also be a strong determining factor. While I may believe that Satan's torment is symbolic, others understand his torment to be literal, but then inconsistently claim that Rev. 20:14-15 and its mention of death and hades being cast into the lake of fire is at least partly--if not completely--symbolic. In the final analysis, I would submit that Scripture as a whole and our understanding of God's nature must also govern our understanding of Revelation.

The Bible indicates that Satan and all those who follow him will be eternally destroyed or annihilated (Matt. 7:13, 14; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 17:8). Furthermore, I wonder how a God of love could torment sentient and rational beings for all eternity (1 John 4:8). Additionally, if we construe a number of the symbols literally in Revelation, then it seems to makes nonsense of the book and possibly makes a liar out of John.

GRB Murray said it best in his commentary on Revelation, when he noted that John writes: "with parables and symbols which point to ideas beyond their verbal expression" (Murray 299). Therefore, we have to be careful when we conclude that God is going to torture people in a literal lake of fire for all eternity. Other verses show that God will bring evildoers to a fitting end by annihilating them forever (Ps. 145:20; Isa. 66:24).