Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Will, Predestination and Necessity

God foresees that certain events will happen or Jehovah knows that He will bring about certain occurrences in history. He therefore announces these events in His Word, the Bible, thereby binding Himself to the fulfillment of these prophesied events (Isa 55:10-11). If God has foreseen the future acts of volitional agents, then they may necessarily happen, but these acts take place within the parameters of creaturely freedom. We cannot righly infer that God necessarily causes that which He foresees. God does not cause the rebels mentioned in Rev 20:8 to rebel--yet they will exercise their free volition and rebel against God according to the prophecy.

Boethius provides a way out of this apparent dilemma by employing Aristotle's distinction between simple and conditional (hypothetical) necessity. De Consolatione Philosophiae (Book V) uses the example: "Necessarily, all men are mortal." This proposition is an example of simple necessity. This kind of necessity issues from a thing ut natura. But knowing that if S is walking, then it is necessary that S is walking, is an example of hypothetical necessity. We could also say: "If Socrates is sitting, then it is necessary that he is sitting." But it would not be correct to infer from this proposition: "Necessarily, Socrates is sitting." See Aristotle, Physics 2.9.

Applying this example to Cyrus, we can say that there is a difference between the proposition: "It is necessary that Cyrus the Great will overthrow Babylon" and "If Cyrus overthrows Babylon, then he will necessarily overthrow Babylon."

Boethius writes: "Without doubt, then, all things which God foreknows do come to pass, but certain of them proceed from free will."

I obviously disagree with Boethius in a number of ways, but the Aristotelian distinction between simple and hypothetical necessity might be helpful for understanding how events necessarily happen without implying fatalism.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hebrews 2:14 (A Dialogue)

Under the entry for KATARGEW, BDAG has "to cause [something] to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside . . . TON TO KRATOS EXONTA TOU QANATOU destroy the one who has power over death Heb. 2:14" (page 525). This understanding of KATARGEW is consonant with Paul's words in Rom. 16:10 as well (note his use of SUNTRIYEI there and the part that Christians will play in the said "crushing" of the Devil).

[Jean] Why do you not mention the first meaning listed in BAGD for KATARGEW: "make ineffective, powerless, idle"? The fact that KATARGEW can mean "abolish" does not necessarily mean that Heb 2:14 automatically implies the destruction of the devil, although it may. According to LSJ the verb KATARGEW means "leave unemployed or idle." Other glosses includes: 1) make useless, cumber (the ground), 2) cause to be idle, hinder. LSJ also mentions as a second large category of meaning the idea to "make of no effect."

I did not mention the first definition because you had already alluded to it in your comments earlier. Secondly, BDAG lists Heb. 2:14 under the second definition (not the first one). While the significance attached to KATARGEW by BDAG is surely not definitive just because the lexicon construes KATARGEW in this manner, I think that BDAG's comments on KATARGEW in Heb. 2:14 certainly deserve consideration because we must not only ask what a word means: we must ask what a certain signifier denotes in a particular context. Based on other Scriptures that talk about the Devil, I believe that it makes more sense to group KATARGEW under the second definition found in BDAG (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20).

LSJ is fine and its unequalled in the information that it provides. But we must keep in mind the priority that synchronic definitions have over diachronic ones. BDAG lists a number of Bible passages where KATARGEW seems to denote destruction or annihilation. This defintion seem apropos vis-a'-vis Heb. 2:14.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Another Discussion on the Lake of Fire/Second Death

Lastly, the language dealing with "torment" evidently does not refer to literal pain or torture. The term is commonly utilized in a figurative manner throughout the book of Revelation (Rev. 11:10).

I do not know why you conclude that the torment in Rev 11:10 cannot refer to literal pain or torture. I admit that much of the affliction will evidently be on the spiritual level. But the two witnesses have power to send fire from their mouths (perhaps the idea is "power to send fire at their command") and consume their enemies. Their enemies will be killed in this way (Rev 11:5). They also have power to shut up heaven so that there is no rain upon the earth during the days of their prophecy, those days lasting three-and-a-half years. They have further authority to turn the water into blood. Additionally, they can smite the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish (11:6). So the conclusion that the "torment" in Rev 11:10 is merely figurative seems quite likely to be incorrect.

I base part of this understanding on what the new BDAG says under the entry for BASANIZW: "of prophetic testimony as source of annoyance Rv 11:10.--9:5; 14:10; 20:10; GPt; Hv 3, 7, 6; s 6, 4, 1f; 4; 6, 5, 3f; 6" (Page 168). Furthermore, the context of Rev. 11:10 shows that the two prophets use their powers to kill and devour their enemies. How could such powerful feats literally torment all those who dwell upon the earth? It is more likely that the testimony of the witnesses serves as an annoyance [figuratively] for those who live upon the earth (Cf. C.H. Giblin, "Revelation 11:1-13: Its Form, Function and Contextual Integration." NTS 30 (1984) 433-59.)

What is interesting to me about the Rev 14:9-11 passage is that the text mentions the absence of rest after speaking of the smoke of their torment going up:

Rev. 14:11 and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

The text implies that the smoke of their torment goes up forever because they have no rest from their suffering day or night.

Well, the verse says that the smoke of their torment ascends forever. It does not say that the "smoke" results from their toil and suffering. And what is more, the pain inflicted on those worshiping the beast could be symbolic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Who Is the Ruler of the World? (Johannine Texts)

"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world (νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) be cast out" (John 12:31)

"Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh (ἔρχεται γὰρ ὁ τοῦ κόσμου ἄρχων), and hath nothing in me"(John 14:31).

"Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (ὅτι ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται)." (John 16:11).

All biblical quotes from the KJV.

Do these texts have any bearing on our understanding of 2 Corinthians 4:4?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another Catholic Reference That Seems to Argue John 14:28 Applies to the Human Nature of Christ (David)

Hi David, again I'm not saying that your understanding of Aquinas is not viable, but Levering seems to understand Aquinas' position on John 14:28 like I do. But he may qualify these statements elsewhere.

See pages 42 and 269.

All the best,


"God of This Age" (Link to a Dissertation)

We've discussed 2 Corinthians 4:4 in the past and the different ways that scholars understand the passage, so I thought some blog readers might appreciate this link for a dissertation that analyzes 2 Cor. 4:4 and related verses. My suggesting this link in no way implies that I am advoccating the contents or overall thesis of the author's work. I am providing this link for informational purposes only. I'll let you all decide if you'd like to check out the author's work. Please see

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Irreprehensible Popes or Bishops? (1 Timothy 3:1-2)

MY INTERLOCUTOR: A brief response, Edgar, As you probably already know, a pope is appointed for life. His office is not terminated by reprehensible conduct, although he obviously should be exemplifying a life of virtue and holiness. Consider King David, for example. He was guilty of gross sins (adultery with Bathsheba and plotting the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite), but nowhere does the OT tell us that King David had to abdicate his throne. Was his conduct reprehensible? Certainly! Did that fact invalidate his authority as king? No.


Let's keep our eye on the ball here. Kings in the OT did not--in the strictest sense--prefigure older men and shepherds in the NT. True there may be lessons that we can learn from David in connection with congregational shepherding, but can we really contend that his life actually serves as a [strict] pattern for Christian shepherds?

It is true that David was not removed as king when he committed adultery (and had a woman's innocent husband killed!). King Mannasseh also committed unthinkable atrocities, but was in time restored to his kingship (he was removed for a time). Does this mean that if a pope or shepherd is guilty of murder or adultery, he should not be removed from his office? Even if we use your line of reasoning, the least we could say is that a pope should be removed temporarily (in the way that Manasseh was removed for a time).

Moreover, Paul did not say that a "bishop" (EPISKOPOS) could be irreprehensible if he wanted to be. 1 Tim. 3:1 says: DEI OUN TON EPISKOPON ANEPILHMPTON EINAI. In other words--it is a binding obligation placed on all shepherds: they must be irreprehensible (cf. 1 Tim. 3:7). If such shepherds do not remain blameless, they are not fit to serve God's congregation.

Are we to believe that popes are held (by God) to a lesser standard than other shepherds are? According to 1 Cor. 5:9-13, those who unrepentantly practice sin should be excommunicated from God's congregation. Do these word not apply to the "Supreme Pontiff"? Surely you would admit that there have been some reprehensible popes down through the centuries. And yet these men were allowed to remain in office because they were popes? I simply do not get it. How can popes be held to a lower standard than other members of their flock?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Origen of Alexandria's Thoughts on Colossians 1:15 (FYI)

From his Commentary on John (Book I):

19. (4) "In addition to these meanings there is that in which we speak of an arche, according to form; thus if the first-born of every creature (Colossians 1:15) is the image of the invisible God, then the Father is his arche. In the same way Christ is the arche of those who are made according to the image of God. For if men are according to the image, but the image according to the Father; in the first case the Father is the arche of Christ, and in the other Christ is the arche of men, and men are made, not according to that of which he is the image, but according to the image. With this example our passage will agree: 'In the arche was the Word.'"

22. "Not even as the Word is He the arche, for the Word was in the arche. And so one might venture to say that wisdom is anterior to all the thoughts that are expressed in the titles of the first-born of every creature. Now God is altogether one and simple; but our Saviour, for many reasons, since God (Romans 3:25) set Him forth a propitiation and a first fruits of the whole creation, is made many things, or perhaps all these things; the whole creation, so far as capable of redemption, stands in need of Him."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ta Panta-What It Denotes at Times

τὰ πάντα ("all things") does not signify or denote "the universe as a whole" everytime it appears, but some contexts suggest this meaning is communicated by this expression at times. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:28:

ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

There's also Romans 11:36: ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ δι' αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα· αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν.

Compare 1 Corinthians 8:6.

Hebrews 1:2 does not employ ta panta, but rather, pantwn.

See Hebrews 11:3 to shed light on 1:2.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Origen's Understanding of Psalm 45:6-7 (Contra Celsum 1.56)

But attend carefully to what follows, where He is called God: "For
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is
the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated
iniquity: therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil
of gladness above Thy fellows." And observe that the prophet, speaking
familiarly to God, whose "throne is for ever and ever," and "a sceptre
of righteousness the sceptre of His kingdom," says that this God has
been anointed by a God who was His God, and anointed, because more
than His fellows He had loved righteousness and hated iniquity. And I
remember that I pressed the Jew, who was deemed a learned man, very
hard with this passage; and he, being perplexed about it, gave such an
answer as was in keeping with his Judaistic views, saying that the
words, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of
righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom," are spoken of the God of
all things; and these, "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated
iniquity, therefore Thy God hath anointed Thee," etc., refer to the
Messiah (Contra Celsum 1.56).

Πρόσχες δ' ἐπιμελῶς τοῖς ἑξῆς, ἔνθα θεὸς εἴρηται· «Ὁ θρόνος σου», γάρ φησιν, «ὁ θεός, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου. Ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν· διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέ σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου.» Καὶ κατανόει ὅτι θεῷ ὁμιλῶν ὁ προφήτης, οὗ «ὁ θρόνος» ἐστὶν «εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος», καὶ «ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας» αὐτοῦ, τοῦτον τὸν θεόν φησι κεχρῖσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, ὃς ἦν αὐτοῦ θεός· κεχρῖσθαι δέ, ἐπεὶ «παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους» αὐτοῦ οὗτος ἠγάπησε «δικαιοσύνην» καὶ ἐμίσησεν «ἀνομίαν». Καὶ μέμνημαί γε πάνυ θλίψας τὸν Ἰουδαῖον νομιζόμενον σοφὸν ἐκ τῆς λέξεως ταύτης· ὃς πρὸς αὐτὴν ἀπορῶν εἰπεῖν τὰ τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ἰουδαϊσμῷ ἀκόλουθα, εἶπε πρὸς μὲν τὸν τῶν ὅλων θεὸν εἰρῆσθαι τὸ «Ὁ θρόνος σου, ὁ θεός, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου», πρὸς δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν τὸ «Ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν· διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέ σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου» καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς.]


Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Supreme Being Argument from Descartes (A Reconstruction of Meditation 1, 3)

As far as I can tell, Rene Descartes makes this kind of argument in Mediation 1 of his work Meditations on First Philosophy.

1. A supremely good being does not create humans such that they are continually deceived.

2. God is a/the supremely good being.

3. God did not create humans such that they (we) are continually deceived.

4. It is possible that God would not allow humans to be deceived even occasionally. (premise)

5. However, humans are occasionally deceived. (negation of 4)

6. So either it is possible that God allows us to be deceived even occasionally or it is possible that God does not exist. (disjunctive syllogism of 4, 5)

7. Assume God does not exist (by denial of the second disjunct in 6, which is done for the sake of argument)

8. However, if God does not exist, then chance, fate, or some long causal chain of events account for my existence.

9. But these causes are clearly less perfect than God.

10. It is more likely that we are deceived if some imperfect cause accounts for our existence than if God explains our existence.

11. Therefore, it is possible that God exists and that he allows us to be deceived even occasionally.

One can then reason that if God's existence is possible, then it's actual. Descartes also makes the point that our chances of being continually deceived are greatly lessened by the existence of God, who is supremely good and perfect.

The Lake of Fire Understood as the Second Death (A Dialogue)-Part 1

In fact, the lake of fire is said to represent the second death (indicating that the lake of fire is symbolic).

I do not know if your conclusion can be safely drawn. Scripture says about the lake of fire: "this is the second death, the lake of fire." The text does not say that the lake of fire is symbolic, though that may be the case. Nor does it say that it merely represents the second death. It says that the lake of fire is the second death. This may mean that the lake of fire as an experience is the second death. To be in the lake of fire is to experience the second death.

Admittedly, the actual wording of verses like Rev. 21:8 is as follows: hO ESTIN hO QANATOS hO DEUTEROS (Cf. Rev. 20:14b). But ESTIN can carry the meaning "represents" or "signifies" as it does elsewhere in Scripture (Matt. 13:38). In fact, the very first passage found in Revelation indicates that the book is filled with symbolisms. As John reports: KAI ESHMANEN APOSTEILAS DIA TOU AGGELOU AUTOU TWi DOULWi AUTOU IWANNHi.

The verb SHMAINEIN can mean "to indicate clearly" (Louw-Nida) or more likely in this context, it conveys the thought, 'to communicate a message that is enigmatic in nature and difficult to interpret' (Aune, Revelation, Volume 52A:15). So ESTIN in Rev. 21:8 could mean "represents." Therefore, based on Rev. 1:1, the lake of fire may very well be symbolic. In view of other Scriptures concerning the eschaton, it would be fitting if the lake of fire served as a symbol of everlasting annihilation (2 Thess. 1:9).

[Edgar Continued]
Furthermore, death and hell are cast into the lake of fire along with Satan and the wild beast and the false prophet (Rev. 20:13-15). Do you think that death and hell and Satan and the wild beast and the false prophet will literally be tormented day and night for all eternity in the lake of fire?

When Scripture says that death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire, the meaning is difficult to grasp. It seems to be saying that there will be no more death and hades, since their conditions will be supplanted by the lake of fire. Yes, I think that Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and those who are thrown into the lake of fire will be tormented day and night for all eternity.

I think you rightly admit that abstractions like death and places such as hades cannot be tormented or experience the second death in a literal way. Why, then, do you think that Satan or the beast (evidently a symbolic creature) or the "false prophet" (another symbolic entity) will undergo literal toments in an everlasting fire? Heb. 2:14, 15 indicates that the Devil will be annihilated or brought to nothing? How do you understand or interpret 2:14, 15?

Followup on Aquinas, the Trinity, and Divine Personhood

This entry is mainly addressed to David Waltz. Thanks for your interaction on this issue, David.

1) After reviewing a number of things written by Aquinas, wherein he explains in what sense the Father is greater than the Son, I have concluded that it's possible to interpret the taciturn Doctor in different ways. I understand Aquinas' application of John 14:28 to the human nature of Christ; others believe he applies the verse to both the divine and human nature of Christ, whereas yet others understand Aquinas to be saying that John 14:28 might apply to both natures.

In any event, another statement from Aquinas is found in Contra Errores Graecorum, Part One, Chapter II.:

But when Basil asserts that the Spirit is second from the Son in dignity, he appears more seriously mistaken, because he seems to posit degrees of dignity in the Trinity, whereas all three persons are equal in dignity. This statement, however, can be explained as referring, not to natural, but to personal dignity in God, just as we say that “a person is a hypostasis in virtue of a distinct property entailing dignity.” Footnote Hilary adopts this manner of speaking when he says Footnote that the Father is greater than the Son by reason of authority of origin. But by reason of oneness in substance the Son is not thereby less than the Father.


I would also suggest my own revised M.Th. thesis (my book about Tertullian), which contains a discussion of the pre-Nicenes and John 14:28.

2) Aquinas analyzes "person" language as well as cause and effect statements about God. See Part One, Chapter I of Contra Errores.

3) For Aquinas' definition of person, please see

The Catholic Encyclopedia contains a utile article on divine personhood too. That article can be found online for the older version of the encyclopedia.

For another discussion on the western view of divine personhood, see

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Trinititarian Perspective on John 14:28 (Thomas Manton)

Though God be Christ’s Father, as second Person, yet they are all equal in power, dignity, and glory; 41but as Mediator, God is his Father in another respect. So it is said, John xiv. 28, ‘My Father is greater than I’—not as God, for so he was equal; ‘He thought it no robbery to be equal with God:’ Phil. ii. 6. But ‘greater than I;’ that is, consider him as man and mediator, in the state of his humiliation; for it is notable to consider upon what occasion Christ speaks these words: ‘If ye love me ye would rejoice because I said I go unto the Father; for my Father is greater than I;’ that is, You admire me and prize my company exceedingly, because you see the power which I put forth in the miracles which I do; ye would rejoice if you understood it aright; he is infinitely more glorious than I appear in this state of abasement and humiliation. Thus, with respect to Christ, God, the first Person, may be called the Father.

See for the context of this quote.

For some historical background on Manton, see

Monday, April 11, 2016

Aquinas and the Soul (Summa Theologiae I.75.2-4)

In the Summa Theologiae or Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas outlines distinct senses for the noun phrase "subsistent thing" (i.e., this particular thing). I guess that ST I.75.2, Reply to Obj. 1 touches on the question I used to have when reading Aquinas. He there maintains that "this particular thing" can be understood in two senses: a) "for anything subsistent" and b)"for that which subsists, and is complete in a specific nature." The soul (according to Aquinas) is "this particular thing" in the first sense, but evidently not in the second. So he does not conceive of the soul as subsisting in a Cartesian manner. Descartes memorably refers to himself as a "thinking thing" (res cogitans) yet it doesn't seem that Aquinas would identify the person with the soul like the French Catholic Descartes does.

Kevin Corcoran parses the topic in Rethinking Human Nature: "Here is one way to mark the difference between Aquinas and Descartes. In both views, there are two 'things.' In Descartes' view, the two things are complete substances (soul and body). In Aquinas' view, there are two incomplete substances (soul and matter) that jointly compose a complete substance (a human being)." See Corcoran, page 38.

This observation is based on ST I.75.4: "Not every particular substance is a hypostasis or a person, but that which has the complete nature of its species. Hence a hand, or a foot, is not called a hypostasis, or a person; nor, likewise, is the soul alone so called, since it is a part of the human species."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Question of the Day for Trinitarians

My question of the day for Trinitarians:

Some Trinitarians believe that God the Son voluntarily submitted himself to God the Father when he became incarnate or when he assumed humanity, even though he was divine.

But my question stems from the fact that the triune deity is supposed to be three persons, but only one God. Trinitarians usually say that "person" (persona in Latin) does not mean "individual center of consciousness" when applied to God. In other words, God (the triune deity) is only analogously a person, but not univocally a person. God is not a person like we are persons, they say.

However, if it's true that neither person of the Trinity is a distinct or individual center of consciousness, then how was it possible for the Son to "volunteer" to become subordinate to the Father, and assume humanity into his divinity? Would it not take consciousness for person 2 to submit to person 1? How could the Son submit to the Father if he's not a distinct mind from his Father?

Wallace, Sharp's Rule, and Jude 4 (Some Quotes)


Begin Quotes:

Sharp invoked dubious textual variants in four of the eight texts to support his rule (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1; Jude 4).151 As well, in 1 Tim 5:21 and 2 Tim 4:1, if the almost certainly authentic reading of τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ (for τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ) is accepted, then the text can also be dispensed with, for “Christ Jesus” is surely a proper name, and thus does not fall within the limitations of Sharp’s rule. Further, two other passages seem to involve proper names. Second Thessalonians 1:12 does not have merely “Lord” in the equation, but “Lord Jesus Christ.” Only by detaching κυρίου from ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ152 could one apply Sharp’s rule to this construction.153 Ephesians 5:5 has the name “Christ” in the equation, though one would be hard-pressed to view this as less than a proper name in the epistles.154

This leaves two passages, Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1, which have escaped the difficulties of textual uncertainty155 and the charge of disqualification via proper names.156 If indeed these texts contain explicit statements of Christ’s deity, it is not without significance that they occur in epistles which are among the later books of the NT. Before we can explore more fully these texts, it is necessary to expand our horizons on the legitimacy of Sharp’s principle. That is to say, two other factors directly related to these passages should be addressed.157

Also from footnote 151 of Wallace's article:

In Jude 4 the variant θεός is found in P, Ψ, and the majority text; it is absent from ∏72, ∏78, א, A, B, C, 0251, 33, 81, 1739, al. (Without this v.l., the text still fits Sharp’s canon [τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστόν], though lacking an explicit identification of Christ with God.)

John 1:1ff (A Work in Progress)

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1)

So many writers have commented on the Johannine Prologue that it seems like there's nothing new to say about it. I'll mainly be exploring syntax, grammar, and reviewing what others have written about this famed part of the Fourth Gospel. I will also be progressively working on this document and adding to this entry periodically.

The first part of the verse Ἐν ἀρχῇ (the Greek preposition + the dative form) is usually understood to be definite ("in the beginning") and scholars argue that the words allude to Genesis 1:1. One of the most recent articles on the subject is by Jan Van der Watt and Chrys Caragounis. See

These authors focus on why one could possibly claim that the anarthrous phrase Ἐν ἀρχῇ is definite rather than indefinite. Why not "in a beginning"?

In order to answer this question, Van der Watt and Caragounis first review what other scholars have written concerning the rationale for treating the anarthous construction in John 1:1a as definite. They quote Greek grammars and scholarly writings that give various reasons for deciding that the verse should be understood as "in the beginning." Some argue that the construction contains a monadic noun, whereas others argue that the phrase is anarthrous because of the preposition which it contains. However, after reviewing even more explanations, both authors of the journal article find their predecessors' reasons for choosing "the beginning" to be somewhat wanting. See Van der Watt and Caragounis, pages 95-97.

Caragounis and Van der Watt think "in a beginning" is nonsense. Furthermore, they argue that Ἐν ἀρχῇ can mean the same thing with or without the article, and they contend that Demotic Neohellenic allows for the construction to be definite (99-100).

Andreas Kostenberger considers intertexual factors when explaining 1:1a. He believes that John is repeating Genesis 1:1--a text that seems to speak of the absolute beginning. He reasons that the Fourth Gospel's opening words forge "a canonical link between the first words of the OT Scriptures and the present Gospel" (John, page 25). He cites four Johannine scholars, besides himself, who all favor viewing "beginning" at 1:1a as a time before the divine creation of heaven and earth (Ibid.). Possibly, John might also have meant by using Ἐν ἀρχῇ, "at the root of the universe," another meaning suggested by Morris. See Kostenberger, ibid.

Henry Alford takes this perspective on 1:1a: "ἐν ἀρχῇ = πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι, ch. 17:5. The expression is indefinite, and must be interpreted relatively to the matter spoken of. Thus in Acts 11:15, it is ‘the beginning of the Gospel:’ and by the same principle of interpretation, here it is the beginning of all things, on account of the πάντα διʼ αὐτ. ἐγ. ver. 3." See

The verb ἦν (imperfect active indicative 3rd person singular) appears three times in 1:1, but each occurrence signifies something different:

"Was [ἦν]: this verb is used three times with different meanings in this verse: existence, relationship, and predication" (Ftn. NABRE John 1:1).

So John apparently meant that the Word (ὁ λόγος) existed "in the beginning" (Ἐν ἀρχῇ) although this part of the verse raises numerous questions.

Some years ago, a person with whom I was conversing tried to argue that ἀρχῇ in John 1:1a is timeless and dimensionless because the word is anarthrous there. But what grammatical evidence do we have that ἀρχῇ, when employed anarthrously within a context like this one, has a special or unique lexical import? I don't know how you feel about the issue of Johannine authorship, but I personally believe that the apostle John wrote both the Gospels and the three Epistles. If this is so, the opening verses of the first Epistle shed illumination on the Prologue of Jn 1.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1).

Ὃ ἦν ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν, περὶ τοῦ Λόγου τῆς ζωῆς (1 John 1:1).

Please notice that ἀρχῆς in the first Epistle is also anarthrous. Yet there is no indication that the writer is employing ἀρχῆς in a timeless--from a human viewpoint--sense. He goes to great lengths to locate the ἀρχῆς within history (within time). "From the beginning," the disciples "heard" "saw" "looked upon" and "handled" τοῦ Λόγου τῆς ζωῆς. There is no indication of a dimensionless ἀρχή in the Johannine Epistle. This seems significant in view of the fact that ἀρχή here [Jn 1:1a] is also anarthrous. Of course, my argument relies heavily on a literary nexus between the Johannine Gospel and Epistles, but even if different writers composed these Scriptural works, 1 John 1:1 still serves as an example of an anarthrous ἀρχή that is manifestly historical.

The same can also be said for John 1:1:

"ARXH, HS, ARXOMAI: a point in time at the beginning of a duration--'beginning, to begin.' ARXH: EN ARXHi HN hO LOGOS 'in the beginning was the Word' or 'before the world was created, the Word (already) existed' or 'at a time in the past when there was nothing . . .' Jn 1:1" (Louw-Nida 67.65).

Friday, April 08, 2016

Jude 4: τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν

In Jude 4, we read that Jesus Christ (I am aware of variant readings and interpretations) is "our only Owner and Lord" (τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ).

If Jesus is the only referent discussed in this passage, then Jude's use of "only" may prima facie be slightly problematic since (as subordinationists generally understand the matter) Jesus is not the "only" Lord (strictly speaking) for Christians.

Assuming a subordinationist understanding of matters, I would like to ask whether the word "only" excludes others from serving as lords for Christian followers of Jesus. In other words, does μόνον have to mean that there is no other Lord for the Christian congregation but Jesus Christ? The question is understandable in light of what Revelation 15:4 says about God:

τίς οὐ μὴ φοβηθῇ, κύριε, καὶ δοξάσει τὸ ὄνομά σου, ὅτι μόνος ὅσιος

Yet we also read that an "overseer" (τὸν ἐπίσκοπον) must be ὅσιον (Tit 1:8). Furthermore, Christians are exhorted to lift up "holy hands" (ὁσίους χεῖρας) in prayer to God (1 Ti 2:8).

So the doxological exclamation μόνος ὅσιος (in Rev 15:4) does not mean that others cannot be ὅσιος or live ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ (Luke 1:75). In fact, we are called to be holy as God is holy.

For the record, one dictionary defines the English word "only" in this way (obviously depending on the context):

"unquestionably the best--PEERLESS; alone in its class
or kind: SOLE "

So is Christ the only Lord for Christians? Not according to Psalm 110:1-2 and Acts 2:36. The latter verse teaches that God the Father made Christ the Lord of Christians, but the Father is the ultimate Lord (LORD) of all. The KJV renders the Hebrew letters YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) as LORD in Psalm 110:1 and throughout the Hebrew Bible.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Catholic View of the Soul

The online Catholic Encyclopedia makes this point regarding the soul:

"the rational soul, which is one with the sensitive and vegetative principle, is the form of the body. This was defined as of faith by the Council of Vienne of 1311; the soul is a substance, but an incomplete substance, i.e. it has a natural aptitude and exigency for existence in the body, in conjunction with which it makes up the substantial unity of human nature."

I emphasize that the Church believes the soul is a substance, but not a complete one, which is contrary to the Cartesian conception of the soul. Rene Descartes (although he was a devout Catholic) posited that the soul is a complete but dependent substance: it is a res cogitans which is nonextended spatially and able to survive the body's death in virtue of its latent immortality.

However, the language of "form" used above emanates from Aristotelian philosophy--specifically, the ancient Philosopher's thinking on metaphysics.

Monday, April 04, 2016

One Suggestion for the Magnificat (Luke 1:46): Biblical Poetry

The "Magnificat" is evidently styled along the lines of 1 Samuel (chapter 2), which contains the prayer of Hannah. So it is no surprise that it would be linked with LXX-style poetry. Craig A. Evans observes in one commentary:

"The Magnificat reads more like a warrior's song of
victory than that of a young maiden praising God for
the gift of a child. Accordingly, it has been
suggested that underlying the Magnificat is an early
Christian hymn praising God for vindicating Jesus
through his resurrection. This is possible, but again
it is quite speculative, for there is no mention of
Jesus or the resurrection. More probably the
Magnificat represents an early Christian hymn, thought
to derive from Mary, that has been enriched by
components reflecting Israel's psalms of military
celebration. Consider the following scriptural

My soul glorifies [or magnifies] the Lord: 1 Sam. 2:1;
Ps. 69:30; 34:3; 35:9; Sir 43:31" (Luke, p. 29)."

Reflecting on the Greek notion of "poet-craft," R.G. Collingwood explains ποιητική τέχνη in this way:

"The poet is a kind of skilled producer; he produces
for consumers; and the effect of his skill is to bring
about in them certain states of mind, which are
conceived in advance as desirable states" (The
Principles of Art
, p. 18).

While not everything that Collingwood says is applicable to biblical poetry, one can't help but notice the powerful effect that scriptural poetry has on its readers.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Persons and Points (Trinity Doctrine): A Thought Experiment

Imagine a straight line with three points (A, B, and C) plotted on it. Let A = the Father, B = the Son, and C = the Holy Spirit. In that case, we would have three points (with zero-dimension) that are distinct and collinear, but each point would still have something in common with the other; namely, they are all points (they all exemplify pointness) on a straight line, yet each point is distinct from the other. Would it be possible to illustrate the Trinity doctrine by using this geometrical example?

I've never seen anyone use geometrical points to illustrate the Trinity, but maybe someone who lives somewhere has done it. Thanks to Euclid and his successors. I'm just toying with possible arguments that Trinitarians might use.

After completing this post, I did find (via Google):

(A very complex article)

Friday, April 01, 2016

Jerome's Prologue to the Book of Daniel (A Quote)

Concerning which subject, leaving the judgment to the decision of the reader, I warn him Daniel is not to be found in the Prophets among the Hebrews, but among those which they titled the Hagiographa. Since indeed all of Scripture is divided by them into three parts, into the Law, into the Prophets, (and) into the Hagiographa, that is, into five and eight and eleven books, which is not (necessary) to explain at this time. And to those things of this prophet, or rather against this book, which Porphyry accused, the witnesses are Methodius, Eusebius, (and) Apollinaris, who, responding to his madness with many thousands of verses, I do not know whether they are satisfying to the interested reader. For which reason I entreat you, O Paula and Eustochium, pour out prayers for me to the Lord, so that as long as I am in this little body, I might write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, (and) worthy to posterity. I am indeed not greatly moved by the judgments of the present, which on either side are in error either by love or by hate.

You can find the complete Prologue here: