Sunday, May 29, 2016

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).


Duncan said...

For col 2:4, what is the contrast of argumentation?

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan, not sure if I fully understand your question, but Col 2:4 does not make an explicit contrast between PIQANOLOGIA and APODEIXIS, since it only mentions the former. However, the Cambridge Bible and Dunn suggests that an implied contrast iis being set up between specious reasoning and apodictic conclusions drawn from compelling premises.

Here's the quote from Cambridge:

enticing words] Almost, “a persuasive style,” as distinguished from the power of solid facts truly presented and received. The pretensions of speculative heresy, always flattering man rather than humbling him, would answer this description exactly.—R.V., persuasiveness of speech.—“The subtlety of human reasonings has always been the stumbling-block of faith” (Quesnel).

Edgar Foster said...

Here's a quick thought from the NET Bible nmotes for Col. 2:4. I'll be away from my computer for a little while today, but will checl the comments later:

7 tn BDAG 812 s.v. πιθανολογία states, “persuasive speech, art of persuasion (so Pla., Theaet. 162e) in an unfavorable sense in its only occurrence in our lit. ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ by specious arguments Col 2:4 (cp. PLips 40 III, 7 διὰ πιθανολογίας).”

8 sn Paul’s point is that even though the arguments seem to make sense (sound reasonable), they are in the end false. Paul is not here arguing against the study of philosophy or serious thinking per se, but is arguing against the uncritical adoption of a philosophy that is at odds with a proper view of Christ and the ethics of the Christian life.

Duncan said...

“I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments that sound reasonable”

ABP uses "mislead you in plausible arguments"

Duncan said...

Colossians emphasizes the centrality and sufficiency of Christ but does not seem to give any contrasting arguments as examples, so I suppose the form of argument is not important just that some of these may seem very convincing.

One modern example comes to mind:-

Edgar Foster said...

Just for fun, and so I could make use of this book, I checked Harris' exegetical work on Colossians. His take on this part of Col. 2:4 follows:

ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ ᾽ Εν is instr.— either “by (means of)/“ by resorting to” (Cassirer), or “with” (= “using”). Πιθανολογία (-ας, ἡ ), from πιθανός (“ persuasive”) and λόγος (“word, argument, speech”), was used in CGk. in a positive sense of (the use of) probable argument rather than conclusive proof (ἀπόδειξις; cf. 1 Cor 2: 4). Here it is used in a pejorative sense and variously rendered “beguiling speech” (RSV), “plausible sophistry” (Weymouth), “arguments that sound reasonable” (NET), “specious arguments” (BDAG 812d; REB, NJB; Barth-Blanke 3 [see 285 there for LXX usage]— taking the noun as a generic sg.) or “persuasiveness of speech” (RV).

Harris, Murray J. Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 2733-2736). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Harris, Murray J. Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 2730-2733). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

JimSpace said...

Thank you for pointing this out! It reminds me of the related Pauline admonition in Ephesians 4:14, which also has an excellent footnote in the NET Bible.

Edgar Foster said...


Appreciate you sharing the note from NET on Eph. 4:14. Good points.

JimSpace said...

Thank you. Lastly, I incorporated the reference to Col. 2:4 to my post here: Comparing Saving Schemes

Edgar Foster said...

Thank you, Jim. I'm adding a link of my own since I had trouble accessing your blog entry:

JimSpace said...