Monday, October 31, 2016

Revelation 12:1-The Woman

I want to outline a few points about Rev. 12:1 and possibly open the way for discussion. I am immediately aware of at least four contemporary interpretations for this text. (Actually, I know of more than four, but I personally do not take certain proposals seriously.) Before I list the interpretive suggestions for 12:1, however, I would like to set out the verse for everyone's benefit:

"A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (NRSV).

The NRSV renders the Greek SHMEION MEGA as "A great portent." The NWT Rbi translates this construction, "a great sign," implying that the GUNH beheld by John in vision is a symbolic or figurative woman--not a literal one. In view of Rev. 1:1, and taking into consideration how SHMEION is used throughout Revelation (compare Rev. 12:3), I take the GUNH in 12:1 to be figurative. I.e., she is not a matter-of-fact woman, but rather points to a supersensible reality adequately depicted by a celestial woman. (Note John's use of feminine imagery in Rev. 17, 18 & 21-22.) But just who is this heavenly woman? Whom does she represent?

Here are four views that try to answer these questions:

(1) Some commentators have suggested that the woman in Rev. 12:1 is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible even claims that the author of Revelation, when he wrote 12:1, was potentially "thinking also of Mary, the new Eve, the daughter of Zion, who gave birth to the Messiah" (Ftn. on Rev. 12:1). However, Robert W. Wall (with good reason, I think) points out: "Most would contend that this woman refers to a community rather than to an individual person such as Mary" (Wall, Revelation, page 159). This view seems preferable to the Marian interpretation in view of what the Apocalypse has to say about this supernal woman.

(2) The Woman represents the EKKLHSIA QEOU ZWNTOS. That is, she pictures the Church of the living God. One problematic aspect for this approach, however, is how the "male child" (Rev. 12:5) should be understood. How does the EKKLHSIA QEOU ZWNTOS give birth to a "male child"? While scholars have proposed answers to this query, insoluble problems may remain. Therefore, while the communal model is to be preferred, the present author does not believe that the woman is representative of the Church. In fact, the apostle seems to clearly distinguish the Church from the woman later in the same chapter (Rev. 12:17).

(3) The woman depicts the persecuted people of God. Again, while I think the communal model has merit, this particular interpretation does not adequately make sense of the context, to wit, the fact that Rev. 12:17 discusses the persecuted "seed" of God and the woman. The latter gives birth to the godly "seed."

(4) Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the woman is a symbol of Jerusalem above (Gal 4:26). According to the Witnesses, Jerusalem above is the figurative "wife" of God. No, God does not have a literal helpmate who complements Him. YHWH is not like Zeus: He does not literally have relations with alluring women (heavenly or otherwise) and impregnate them by means of carnal procreation. To the contrary, God has a symbolic wife, say the Witnesses. In short, this "wife" of God is His heavenly organization of loyal and holy angels. The "male child" is thus said to represent the Kingdom of God that the woman brings forth. The woman gave birth to this Kingdom, which includes the persecuted seed mentioned in Rev. 12:17, in our century (according to the Witnesses). I would like to build on these thoughts in a separate post. Suffice it to say that I prefer view (4).

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mark Taylor's Comments Pertaining to 1 Corinthians 10:25 (omne quod in macello venit manducate nihil interrogantes propter conscientiam)

AKAQARSIA (Galatians 5:19)

BDAG lists two senses for ἀκαθαρσία]:

(1) Lit., any substance that is filthy or dirty,

For the nuance, "impurity," cp. Num. 19:13 with Mt.

(2) Fig., a state of moral corruption, immorality,
vileness, esp. of sexual sins. See Rom. 1:24; 2 Cor.
12:21; Col. 3:5; Eph. 4:19; 5:3.

Moulton-Milligan (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament)
also has an interesting citation from POxy VIII.
1128.25 (A.D. 173):


M-M also supplies this information:

"In a literal sense the noun [ἀκαθαρσία] occurs in a
formula used in agreements for renting houses, which
the tenant undertakes to leave in good condition"
(page 16)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Joseph as "the Son of God" (Part of an Old Dialogue)

Joseph (in Joseph and Aseneth) is called hO hUIOS
TOU QEOU (6.2). God also refers to the King of Israel as "my
Son" in the OT (Ps. 2:1-12). Yet I will agree that Jesus is
uniquely God's Son (John 1:18; 3:16). Nevertheless, you have not
presented any lexical evidence to support the
assertion that the noun phrase "son of God" takes on
the meaning "possessing the nature of" or "possesses
every objective property of" God when the term is
applied to Christ.

Addendum: Adam is also identified as the son of God in Luke 3:38; Compare Job 1, 2 & 38 where angels are identified as "sons of the true God" or sons of God.

Friday, October 28, 2016

ASELGEIA (Galatians 5:19)

Louw-Nida Greek and English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains defines ἀσέλγεια (in the NT) this way:

"behavior completely lacking in moral restraint, usually with the implication of sexual licentiousness - 'licentious behavior, extreme immorality.'"

L-N then lists 2 Cor. 12:21 and offers these comments:

"In some languages the equivalent of 'licentious behavior' would be 'to live like a dog' or 'to act like a goat' or 'to be a rooster,' in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior" (Semantic Domain 88.272).

One who practices ἀσέλγεια is reckless in his/her conduct. Such an individual evidently has little regard for what God or men think (Eph. 4:19).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 9 (The Sabbath and the Church)

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death— whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master— how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, having come, raised them from the dead.

Ει ουν οι εν παλαιοις πραγμασιν αναστραφεντες εις καινοτητα ελπιδος ηλθον, μηκετι σαββατιζοντες αλλα κατα κυριακην ζωντες, εν η και η ζωη ημων ανετειλεν δι αυτου και του θανατου αυτου, {ον} τινες αρνουνται, δι ου μυστηριου ελαβομεν το πιστευειν, και δια τουτο υπομενομεν, ινα ευρεθωμεν μαθηται Ιησου Χριστου του μονου διδασκαλου ημων· πως ημεις δυνησομεθα ζησαι χωρις αυτου, ου και οι προφηται μαθηται οντες τω πνευματι ως διδασκαλον αυτον προσεδοκων; και δια τουτο, ον δικαιως ανεμενον, παρων εγειρεν αυτους εκ νεκρων.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Revelation 17:11 (Post That May Need Revising)

The text reads in part: ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν. We have an occurrence of ἐκ + the genitive in this construction, which can mean "out of" or "forth from." Mounce also gives the senses: "of, out of; from, away from . . . " See

While some commentators construe the genitival construction here as a partitive/wholative or genitive of the whole--it seems reasonable to view ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστιν as a genitive/ablative of source. As Solomon [Landers] pointed out, other translations besides the NWT think the genitive in Rev 17:11 is a genitive of source and I agree. That is all that needs to be said at this point. The NWT is not biased in its rendering of Rev 17:11.

Henry Alford writes (Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary ): "He is ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά,—not, 'one of the seven,' but, the successor and result of the seven, following and springing out of them."

Barnes' Notes on the Bible: "and with the strictest propriety it could be said that it was 'of the seven,' as having sprung out of the seven, and as perpetuating the sway of this mighty domination."

Peter Flint Interview Regarding the DSS

From time to time, we discuss the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) on this blog. It is my belief that the scrolls provide evidence that Scripture is reliable. An interview with Peter Flint adds more credence to this view. For the record, I don't necessarily endorse Flint's worldview or everything he says on the link I'm providing, but I think you'll notice that Flint considers the DSS to be support for the Bible's reliability. See

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Material and Spiritual Worlds of Jehovah's Creation: Mental States and Brain States (Dualism and Christian Physicalism)

I don't accept substance dualism or any belief/philosophy that indicates we have immaterial (nonmaterial) souls. One problem I have with appealing to the spirit world in order to buttress dualism in the human sphere is that we don't know how things operate in the spirit (non-material) realm; nor do we know how the spirit realm interacts with the physical world. So how can we try to support dualism by appealing to Jehovah interacting with our world or Jesus becoming a man, then becoming non-material again, if we don't know how any of these events happened (i.e., the exact mechanisms/processes that brought these effects about)? Worded another way, I attempt to explain obscure things by using more transparent and certain data; however, I'm not denying that Jehovah or the angels can interact with the physical realm. Some divine effects produced in our world are likely brought about directly (through remote causes) whereas others are produced indirectly (by secondary/proximate causes). Yet we don't understand how Jehovah directly interacts with physical things; we don't comprehend how Jesus became a man or how he became spirit again. That is to say, we don't fully understand the exact causal mechanisms/processes, which made these effects possible.

For the sake of argumentation, I concede that dualism is possible (logically or metaphysically), and that minds could possibly be immaterial. What I don't concede is the logical entailment: "If a non-material world exists (p), then an entirely physical world or human sphere cannot/does not exist (q)." Adding "possibly" to q (the consequent) doesn't seem to help much either. It's not clear how one statement logically entails the other. Additionally, as I maintain above, trying to explain material phenomena by evoking spiritual phenomena is highly problematic. It's like explaining temporal causation by means of atemporal causation, something we do not understand. Lastly, I think the term "dualism" needs to be clarified, although this concern is tangential.

Scientific work is just beginning (in earnest) on these kinds of problems. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has written books that attempt to integrate free will and a physicalist account of the self. He and Hanna Damasio (along with many others) have extensively studied the case of Phineas Gage, and given an account of what it potentially tells us about mentality. See Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio. I also have a book that I've begun reading entitled The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity: Our Predictive Brain written by Joaquin M. Fuster (Cambridge Press). Joel B. Green has published works that partly address these issues as well. Admittedly though, much work needs to be done in this area. I would not agree that it's impossible in principle to explain memory (for instance) or pain in (Christian) physicalist terms, since pain can be explained by the overabundance of uric acid or the wearing away of cartilage (etc). Long-term memory can be accounted for by invoking the hippocampus or the fight/flight response can be explained by the amygdala. Physicalists have worked on qualia too, with no definitive result. Identifying qualia within a materialistic framework is still a lively and open question in the philosophy of mind. Almost every writer I've read accepts the existence of qualia, but there's no unanimous consent respecting how we experience "raw feels" or subjective sensations. Does dualism fully address this question? Not to my knowledge.

Yes, I agree that an explanation needs to account for how something works. That's one problem I have with dualism though. One first has got to substantiate the actual existence of the mental in the human realm before he/she proceeds to explain the mental. All I've seen demonstrated by any anthropological dualist is the logical possibility that we are two things: no one has ever conclusively proved that we have souls/spirits/non-material minds. Nor has the mind-body problem been solved by dualistic anthropology. As a matter of fact, it was a dualist who raised the difficulty of the mind and body problem (Descartes). We're still vigorously discussing this issue in the philosophy of mind and in neuroscientific circles. May I also demur a little and say that many physicalists take great pains to rationally justify their ideas and findings. I don't know if it's fair to say that Damasio, Joseph Ledoux, Francis Crick or Llinas have simply assumed that it's possible for neural processes to generate abstraction. The last author (Llinas) has written an entire work on the subject, and he's been interviewed and done extensive work on PBS here in the States. I can assure you that he's not merely assuming physicalism can possibly explain mind. We already know that there are neuronal correlates which can be mapped onto mental phenomena (e.g., depression and serotonin deficiency). It's just a question of proving that the correlation between the neuronal activity and the mental phenomena demonstrates causation, which is difficult to accomplish by using a posteriori means.

Both approaches have explanatory gaps. Dualism has not resolved the problem of free will or the mind-body problem. As I've sometimes pointed out to my classes: The mind-body problem is one that entails causal interaction (hammer hits thumb, I feel pain or beer goes down throat and I feel euphoric). How can something mental exert causal force on something that is physical? Granted, dualism allows for interaction between the mental and the physical, a dualist might appeal to the spiritual realm to support the idea that we're composed of two substances. Nevertheless, dualism still doesn't tell me how a physical event (hammer hits thumb) causes a mental event (I feel pain): the explanatory gap apparently remains. Or how is it possible for a non-material entity like the soul/spirit to move a 200 lb. object like a human being from point A to point B. I don't know of any dualist books/writers that offer satisfying or conclusive resolutions to these questions.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Colossians 2:14 (A Few Quick Thoughts)

Greek: ἐξαλείψας τὸ καθ' ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν, καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ· (WH)

A number of scholars associate this verse with the condemnation that emanated from the Mosaic Law. This post is meant to be brief, by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, but I think there's good reason to understand Col. 2:14 in this way.

1) Compare Eph. 2:15: "when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace" (NET)

2) NET note for Col. 2:14: tn On the translation of χειρόγραφον (ceirografon), see BDAG 1083 s.v. which refers to it as “a certificate of indebtedness.”

3) Lot of information here:

I don't necessarily endorse all written at


See Col. 2:20ff.

5) BDAG lists 3 Macc 1:3; Philo, Gig. 52; Leg. All. 1.54; 55 and Josephus C. Ap. 1.42 as instances of the Greek DOGMA being used to reference the Mosaic Law. See BDAG, page 254.

For more information about dogma, see

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Luke 10:6-"Friend of Peace"

I think it is interesting how different translations choose to render HUIOS EIRHNHS in Lk 10:6. Maybe there is not much doctrinal significance here, but I notice the following ways this passage is rendered:

"friend of peace" (NWT 1984)

"a friend of peace" (NWT 2013)

"a son of peace" (ASV)

"a son of peace" (Darby)

"a son of shalom" (HNV)

"a peaceful person" (ISV)

"the son of peace" (Rotherham)

"a lover of peace" (Weymouth)

"the son of peace" (YLT)

"enfant de paix" (FreLSG)

"a peace-loving person" (NET Bible)

Note from NET Bible: tn Grk “a son of peace,” a Hebrew idiom for a person of a certain class or kind, as specified by the following genitive construction (in this case, “of peace”). Such constructions are discussed further in L&N 9.4. Here the expression refers to someone who responds positively to the disciples’ message, like “wisdom’s child” in Luke 7:30.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Greek for Everyone" (Book Review)

I am reviewing the work Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application by A. Chadwick Thornhill (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016), 252 pp+. Dr. Thornhill is currently the chair of theological studies and assistant professor of apologetics and biblical studies at Liberty University School of Divinity. The parenthetical numbers below will constitute specific references to page numbers in his book.

Chapter 1 discusses overall language learning, and particularly what's involved in acquiring knowledge of ancient Koine Greek. Chapter 2 reviews the big picture of language. What does it take to do effective interpretation of biblical passages? Is "knowing Greek" enough? Maybe one needs to know the "big picture" first. Thornhill defines the "big picture of language" as "words do not have meaning" (11). For instance, the denotation of "cat" or "bank" is established by context. A cat could be a "four-legged feline" or just "a cool guy." The surrounding words, syntax, and literary setting of a term like "cat" will help to ascertain just what the term means. In a word, we need a context or usus loquendi to fill out the big picture of language.

Chapter 3 teaches new Greek students about phrases, clauses, and conjunctions. Thornhill defines the following terms: sentence, subject, predicate, preposition, and phrase. His explanation for prepositional phrases and their objects is brief, but helpful. The account in Greek that Thornhill summons forth to illustrate how prepositions function in Koine Greek is Romans 8:1, 2. To elucidate participial phrases (phrases that contain verbal adjectives), he employs Matthew 8:1 and John 4:10. Finally, to help readers understand infinitive phrases (phrases that contain verbal nouns), we find examples taken from Matthew 5:17 and Philippians 1:21. This chapter includes an enlightening distinction that's made between coordinating conjunctions (paratactic) and subordinating conjunctions (hypotactic).

Learning an ancient language normally takes resources in order to master one's study of the language. Chapter 4 of Greek for Everyone provides some tools that might be helpful, even though not all Greek teachers will agree with some of the recommendations outlined in the chapter. Thornhill appears to have no problem with students employing interlinears: he suggests a number of electronic resources to access free interlinears. John 1:1 is wielded in this case, to illustrate how an interlinear might look. Strong's Concordance numbers are even displayed and said to be "useful" (31). However, Greek purists will undoubtedly demur or look askance at this suggestion. His recommendation for lexicons will probably fare much better. I agree that serious students ought to buy BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature) and Louw-Nida (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains). Furthermore, a new Cambridge Greek-English Lexicon will be published in 2017/2018. Nonetheless, lexicons just like other resources must be utilized judiciously.

Other things that one needs to know about Greek are noun cases. Chapter 6 introduces the nominative, accusative, and vocative cases. John 1:1c again finds its way into the discussion, and from the notable text, we learn that the passage has a Greek conjunction, a noun without an article (i.e., a noun used anarthrously and predicatively), a third-person singular stative verb, and a noun coupled with the article, which means that the nominative construction identifies the verb's subject (46).

Greek also has genitive and dative noun cases. Chapter 7 outlines different types of genitives: many examples are supplied to assist the nascent Greek student. What is the difference between subjective genitives and objective genitives? What is a dative of association or a dative of cause? This chapter offers clarifications on this subject, and Thornhill gives a healthy warning about understanding datives and other Greek cases.

There are more chapters that deal with Greek syntax. Chapter 8 covers Greek articles, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions whereas Chapter 9 switches to (Independent) Indicative-Mood Verbs. Conversely, Chapter 9 reviews (Independent) Imperative-Mood Verbs; speakers employ imperatives to relay commands that could be general or emphasize "some aspect of duration" (87). The chapter, like some of the others, is fairly short by design.

Next comes (Dependent) Subjunctive-Mood Verbs (Chapter 11), (Dependent) Greek Infinitives in Chapter 12, and (Dependent) Greek Participles in Chapter 13. The last-mentioned chapter builds on earlier material regarding participles. Now the student learns about present participles, aorist participles, perfect participles, adjectival participle functions, adverbial participle functions, and verbal participle functions. See Acts 5:41; Ephesians 1:20; 1 Peter 2:18. This summary might sound overwhelming at first, but Greek for Everyone has a way of making complex subjects fairly understandable.

Since I've previously studied many books on Greek morphology and syntax, the part of the book that appealed to me was Chapters 14-18. On these pages, Thornhill returns to the "big picture," discloses how students might compare English translations, explains how to bridge contexts, and how to undertake word studies in a responsible manner. The final chapter attempts to synthesize all of the material presented hitherto. The book also contains appendices, notes, a glossary, and indices.

Greek for Everyone is simply written, accessible, and abstains from being too wordy. Additionally, the author does not fear treading new paths as he endeavors to help students and teachers of Koine Greek.

Baker Books provided my complimentary edition of Greek for Everyone, and they sent the book without expecting me to give a positive review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Brief Remarks About "The Layperson's Introduction to the Old Testament" (Robert B. Laurin)

I once taught an Old Testament course for Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) along with a separate New Testament class. For the OT course, our department used The Layperson's Introduction to the Old Testament by Robert B. Laurin (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1991 [1970]). The decision to change books was eventually made by the powers that be and CVCC religion instructors now employ a work by Jerry Sumney that covers both the Old and New Testament in one volume (The Bible). However, I can't help but recall those fun days when we taught Old Testament classes with Laurin's book.

Most of my students hated The Layperson's Introduction, and it wasn't exactly my favorite book either. Like all writings, Laurin's intro has its own agenda, and he makes numerous comments that stirred avid discussion in my classes. I guess his agenda just did not comport with most of those taking my Old Testament class, but the chief reason that administrators and other instructors wanted a change from Laurin is because the work became outdated. The author died in 1977. So the date of publication for my copy is 1991 whereas Sumney's introduction to the Bible is 2014.

I inwardly and publicly wrestled with Laurin's publication when teaching Old Testament. For instance, his discussion regarding Ecclesiastes is filled with holes, in my opinion. He claims that the author of Ecclesiastes wants his readers to "Forget God and trust in the moment; that is all that is real and dependable" (page 101). How he gets that impression from the Congregator (Qoheleth) is beyond me. Moreover, Laurin asserts that the Congregator assumes, "unlike the rest of the Old Testament (except for Proverbs 30:1-4), that God is unknowable and unrelated to humanity. There is no communication from the divine (3:11)." See page 101.

So Ecclesiastes 3:11 is supposed to buttress the idea that God doesn't communicate with humankind? Read the text for yourself, research its contents, and then see if you get that idea from the verse.

The other incredible part of Laurin's commentary on Ecclesiastes is when he claims that Qoheleth is an agnostic philosopher. After all, the writer is not denying God's existence, "but only denying that God's ways and purposes can be determined by humans" (101). To label the writer of Ecclesiastes as "agnostic" because he refuses to believe that puny mortals can shape or determine God's purposes simply befuddles the mind. I would also encourage those inclined to agree with Laurin to consult Eccl 12:13.

While I have major issues with many aspects of Laurin's book, I did enjoy his treatment of Hebrew poetry on pages 80-83. All things considered, I'm thankful for the cessation of an era at CVCC.

Isaiah 66:19 (Javan and Tubal)

Isa 66:19 (NWT 1984) reads:

"And I will set among them a sign, and I will send some of those who
are escaped to the nations, [to] Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, those drawing
the bow, Tubal and Javan, the faraway islands, who have not heard a
report about me or seen my glory; and they will for certain tell about
my glory among the nations."

"I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who escape to the nations—to Tarʹshish, Pul, and Lud, those who draw the bow, to Tuʹbal and Jaʹvan, and to the faraway islands—who have not heard a report about me or seen my glory; and they will proclaim my glory among the nations" (2013 Revision).

There are a number of important points contained in this verse. But one thing that has long struck me when reading this verse is what "Javan" means.

John D.W. Watts (Isaiah 34-66 Word Biblical Commentary, page 365) says
that Javan is in Greece. Insight on the Scriptures (Vol 1:1257) which
is published by the WTBTS also has an informative entry on Javan,
noting that Javan is identified as the progenitor of the ancient
Ionians, which some have called "the parent tribe of the Greeks." The
poet Homer uses Iaones and applies it to the early Greeks while the
name Jawanu begins to appear in Assyrian inscriptions around the 8th
century B.C.E.

The Insight book also points out that, in time, the name Ionia was narrowly applied to Attica, to the western coast of Asia Minor, and the adjacent isles belonging to the Aegean Sea. Similar phraseology (as found in Isa 66:19) also can be discovered in Joel 3:4-6, Zech 9:13, and Ezek 27:13. Please consult the Insight book for further discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Christian Physicalism (A Defense)

I wouldn't say that physicalism fails to explain consciousness; it is just not clear how physicality brings about consciousness. A posteriori methods only supply probable conclusions, and the scientific method is a relatively slow process. There are many false ideas that science has demolished over time; even those concepts that people once thought could not be viewed any other way. Think of how much we've learned in the last two hundred years regarding gravity, subatomic particles, light, energy, thermodynamics, neuroscience, depression, mood disorders, and pain management. So I believe it's a little hasty to think dualism already has won the day. Additionally, just reading the literature on mind reveals that dualism has not fully explained consciousness either. Dualism only gives possible explanations for how mind-body interaction might work or it supplies potential explanations for what brings about conscious states? I don't know of any study that has shut the book (so to speak) on these questions.

My understanding about C-fibers is that they only partly tell us how pain works: much more is involved in pain sensations than C-fiber stimulation and the transmission of pain. For example, joint pain (gout or osteoarthritis) seems to be clearly brought about by physical factors--this kind of pain can be explained by strictly physical factors (inflammation of joints, depletion of cartilage and lubricating fluid in the joints or a buildup of uric acid, as the case may be). When someone asserts that mentality translates physical inputs into pain, he/she is making an assumption that the mental is somehow qualitatively different from the physical. However, that is yet to be proved.

1) I respectfully disagree that Jehovah's existence rules out a world of matter (a purely sensible world) that he could have produced to stand over against the spiritual realm. It's possible to have a world like ours completely governed by the laws of physics, then have another realm that differs qualitatively from the material sphere. I reiterate that the type of physicalism I'm talking about is restricted to the material universe and the human sphere. My version of physicalism also does not rule out divine or angelic activity.

2) Free will remains a mystery for dualists and physicalists alike. Dualists usually appeal to some immaterial faculty to explain free will (a soul or immaterial spirit), but the immaterial faculty proposed by dualists raises new questions along with how this faculty is supposed to interact with the physical world that includes brains and bodies. We also know that genetics, environment, brain chemistry and wiring, upbringing and other factors shape and condition our decision-making abilities. But dualists assert that free will emanating from a non-physical "thing" (res) is supposed to override all of these factors and act outside of the universe's causal continuum. How exactly does it all work? Furthermore, an immaterial faculty does not guarantee that we'll have free will since the spirit/soul itself could also be fully determined by God or some other agent.

3) Supervenience or some kind of physical theory is the most likely explanation for "mental" phenomena. Think about it. We have reduced water to H2o, heat has been reduced to "energy in transit from a high temperature object to a lower temperature object," and sound is "a mechanical wave that results from the back and forth vibration of the particles of the medium through which the sound wave is moving." If supervenience possibly occurs with all of these examples, then why does it not occur with consciousness? It's also possible to explain instincts, emotions, feelings, memory, and thinking in terms of brain activity. The one nagging problem (chiefly) is subjectivity. Maybe our nervous system and somatic input to the brain explains why we can reference things in first-person ways: reductionism or Christian physicalism cannot be ruled out yet.

4) Finally, physicists have not yet developed a grand unified theory or theory of everything that unites the quantum world with the macrocosm. Does that mean we will never understand how the subatomic world interacts with the cosmos writ large? Does dualism explain how it all works? Those still appear to be hasty conclusions for me.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Sabbath and Torah (Law) Were Only Given to Israel

One thing we need to keep in mind is that the Decalogue is an example of communal rule, even though people are wont to universalize these commands. In other parts of the Torah, we also see how Jehovah particularly gave the divine commands to Israel only. I will illustrate the communal nature of the Decalogue by using the Sabbath law:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exod 20:8-11).

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. ‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. ‘So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed" (Exod 31:12-17 NASB).

'Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. ‘You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day (Deut 5:12-15 NASB).

Declaring His words to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He hath not done so to any nation, As to judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye Jah! (Ps 147:19-20 YLT)

Compare Exod 16.

Intelligibility and the Trinity Doctrine

It seems that the Trinity doctrine cannot be formulated or stated adequately with fully intelligible sentences.

William Hasker maintains that an intelligible statement "must be expressible in grammatically well-formed sentences" and it "should not be contradictory or otherwise logically impossible" (God, Time, and Knowledge, p. 146-147). He also observes that an intelligible proposition is an assertion that can be rationally accounted for, by means of inferential or non-trivial relations of ideas.

The Trinity doctrine does not appear to be "intelligible," when judged by Hasker's definition. Admittedly, he claims that "intelligibility" is person-relative (not the same for everybody). While I agree with Hasker to an extent, since what some people think is intelligible might not be readily understood by others, the idea of person-relative intelligibility is questionable on another front. After all, most everybody can agree that some utterances simply are not intelligible, no matter what anyone thinks. For instance, that a2 + b2 = f2. Additionally, are there not some utterances that might be intelligible in se even though most of us fail to make sense of them?

In Logic and the Nature of God, a Trinitarian logician named Stephen T. Davis who believes that the Trinity is orthodox still voices these concerns:

"So I am not saying that the mystery of 'three in one' cannot in principle be explained or rationalized or is such that for any phi, the Trinity is not phi. Perhaps even some future theologian will be able to produce conceptual categories adequate to explain it. All I claim is that it is mysterious to us now" (p. 142).

Davis suggests that the Trinity might not be opaque to humans forever. One day, he insists, we could understand the doctrine fully, as God now completely understands us. But at present, Davis asserts, there are evidently no satisfactory conceptual categories that facilitate how to articulate the Trinity doctrine intelligibly; therefore, it seems that the doctrine might not be intelligible now. Most importantly, the Bible is completely silent respecting God's so-called triune being. It presents a contrary view throughout its many inspired pages.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"A Discourse Analysis of Colossians 2:16-3:17" (Article Link)

Decalogue as Embodiment of Torah (Mark Rooker)

The Ten Commandments have been viewed within Judaism as the essence of the Torah. Many have noted that all 613 laws of the Torah correspond to the 613 letters of the Ten Commandments in Exod 20, hence the Decalogue appears to represent the embodiment of all laws and statutes of the Pentateuch. Since the first century BC, the Ten Commandments have been regarded as a summary of biblical law or as headings for all its categories.

Rooker, Mark. The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 327-330). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rooker, Mark. The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 326-327). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Maimonides and Torah

He is certainly not the last word, but Maimonides is still authoritative. See

The mitzvot given to Moses at Mount Sinai were all given together with their explanations,4 as implied by [Exodus 24:12]: "And I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the mitzvah."

"The Torah" refers to the Written Law; "the mitzvah," to its explanation. [God] commanded us to fulfill "the Torah" according to [the instructions of] "the mitzvah."5 "The mitzvah" is called the Oral Law.

כל המצות שניתנו לו למשה בסיני בפירושן ניתנו. שנאמר ואתנה לך את לוחות האבן והתורה והמצוה. תורה זו תורה שבכתב. והמצוה זו פירושה. וצונו לעשות התורה על פי המצוה. ומצוה זו היא הנקראת תורה שבעל פה.

Moses, our teacher, personally transcribed the entire Torah before he died. He gave a Torah scroll to each tribe and placed another scroll in the ark as a testimonial, as [Deuteronomy 31:26] states: "Take this Torah scroll and place it [beside the ark…] and it will be there as a testimonial."

כל התורה כתבה משה רבינו קודם שימות בכתב ידו. ונתן ספר לכל שבט ושבט וספר אחד נתנהו בארון לעד. שנאמר לקוח את ספר התורה הזה ושמתם אותו וגו'.

"The mitzvah" - i.e., the explanation of the Torah - he did not transcribe.6 Instead, he commanded it [verbally] to the elders, to Joshua, and to the totality of Israel,7 as [Deuteronomy 13:1] states: "Be careful to observe everything that I prescribe to you." For this reason, it is called the Oral Law.

והמצוה שהיא פירוש התורה לא כתבה אלא צוה בה לזקנים וליהושע ולשאר כל ישראל. שנאמר את כל הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם אותו תשמרו לעשות וגו'. ומפני זה נקראת תורה שבעל פה.

Even though the Oral Law was not transcribed, Moses, our teacher, taught it in its entirety in his court to the seventy elders. Elazar, Pinchas, and Joshua received the tradition from Moses.

Scriptures About the Love of Money or Greed

1 Timothy 3:3; 6:9-10; Lk. 16:14; 2 Tim. 3:2; Eccl. 5:1ff; Eccl. 7:12; Prov. 30:6-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Mt. 6:33-34; Luke 12:15.

Persistence Conditions (Corcoran)

Many things persist, and that includes human memory. But in order to understand persistence conditions, we should make a conceptual distinction between personal and impersonal identity. The persistence conditions for something impersonal (X) are different for something/someone personal (call the personal entity, S).

Kevin Corcoran illustrates persistence conditions for X by using the example of a banana. X, in this case, may be green at one time, yellow at another, and brown or black at yet another. However, X is still the same banana or the same X in each case. What permits me to make such an assertion?

Rene Descartes gives an example of wax in his work Meditations. Even if we melt the wax (X), something remains that lets us know it's the same parcel of matter, even if melted wax does not have the same properties as non-melted wax. What are the persistence conditions for bananas and for wax?

However we answer that question, Corcoran reasons that persistence conditions for persons (S) apparently exist too. Some suggestions for what makes a person (S) the same at T1, T2 . . . Tn are the soul theory, memory theory, the body theory, and the illusion theory. All of these discussions are framed within the context of Leibniz's absolute identity theory. There is no unanimous answer on the persistence conditions for X or S.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Matthew 6:9b-c (Betz and the Divine Name)

Matt. 6:9b-c reads:


I am primarily interested in how one might undeerstand the sentiments of 6:9c. What is meant when someone petitions God the Father to sanctify His name? H.D. Betz suggests that the request could either mean (1) That God is the implied subject who is being asked to sanctify His name (the Jewish idea of passivum divinum) or (2) Human worshipers are the subject (the worshipers of Jehovah God are asking Him to ensure that we humans sanctify His name).

Someone once associated John 12:28 with Matt. 6:9, which appears to show that God is the implied subject in Matt. 6:9c. This example also illustrates that certain exegetical problems aren't solvable by grammar alone. Betz is inclined to say that there is no easy answer to this question, and that the passage may be a case of deliberate ambiguity: "Which of these possibilities is the right one and whether we must make a choice of one over the other is difficult to say . . . Since prayer language tends to be general, one need not decide on only one of the possibilities of interpretation. Probably all shades of meaning are intended, or at least suggested" (Betz 389-390).

In the end, however, Betz admits that God must ultimately be the subject of
the Pater Noster prayer since Jesus follows the first petition with a second
concerning the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, the OT background of this verse strongly indicates that God is the subject who will sanctify, magnify, and make holy His peerless name (Ezek. 38:23).

In Ezek. 20:9, 41 we read: "But I acted for the sake of my name, that it
should not be profaned in the sight of the nations . . . I will manifest my
holiness among you in the sight of the nations."

These OT verses coupled with John 12:28 and the context of Matt. 6:9 point
to God as the One who will hallow His name.

See Betz, Hans D. The Sermon on the Mount (Hermeneia Series). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1995.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TELOS (Possible Meanings)

TELOS can have different senses, depending on context. Here's some material I once worked up, but have not confirmed its veracity since. However, I think what I'm posting is accurate:

For TELOS (i.e., end), see the following uses:

1 Cor. 1:8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the
day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and
they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the
ages have come.

1 Cor. 15:24 then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to
the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority
and power.

2 Cor. 1:13 For we write nothing else to you than what you read and
understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;

2 Cor. 3:13 and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his
face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of
what was fading away.

2 Cor. 11:15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also
disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be
according to their deeds.

Concerning Eph. 2:14-15:

The International Critical Commentary on Ephesians and Colossians (T.K. Abbott) has this to say:

"The Mosaic law as such, not merely certain aspects of
it, has come to an end in Christ. He is the 'end of
the law,' Rom 10:4. Faith having come, we are no
longer hUPO PAIDAGWGON" (page 64).

He adds:

"NOMOS here is not to be limited to the ceremonial
law; there is nothing in the connexion to show such a
limitation, which on the contrary, would make the
statement very weak . . . The moral law retains its
obligation, not, however, because the Jewish law is
only partially annulled, but because its obligation
was independent of the law and universal (Rom 2:14)"

Christ could be "goal" (TELOS) of the Law, though I have always construed TELOS here [Rom. 10:4) to mean "termination" or "cessation." BDAG lists Rom 10:4 under this sense, but reports that TELOS in 10:4 could possibly mean "goal." I favor "cessation" in view of the immediate context and the discourse features of Romans. For instance, Rom 10:5-6 states that the man who "has done the righteousness of the Law will live by it." Paul then makes a contrast in 10:6 when he employs the adversative particle DE ("but"). He then goes on to juxtapose righteousness emanating from the Law with righteousness emanating from faith. He concludes: "For with the heart one exercises faith for
righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation."

Additionally, he writes in Rom 8:7, "The minding of the flesh means enmity
with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can
it be." Cf. Rom 7:1-11.

The Epistle to Diognetus 3.4-5

I was once privileged to hear a colleague of mine, who
used to be at Edinburgh University, read a paper on
the pre-Nicene and post-Nicene view of sacrifices
offered to God in the OT. This historian pointed out
that the early church fathers generally tried to
justify the "slaying" of animals for the purpose of
immolation by arguing that God never really wanted
Israelite sacrifices to begin with but was merely
"accommodating" Himself to humanity to teach us that
what He really wanted was the sacrifice of His own
Son. In fact, some fathers seem to have concluded that
Israel was acting out of ignorance when they offered
up sheep, goats and bulls. Their worship, in other
words, was characterized by a certain primitiveness
that did not necessarily please God.

Whether one agrees with the fathers at this point or
not, I find it interesting what The Epistle of
Diognetus has to say about Jewish sacrifices mentioned
in the OT. I'd like to get some feedback on The
Epistle to Diognetus 3.4-5 which reads thus:

"For He that made heaven and earth, and all that is
therein, and gives to us all the things of which we
stand in need, certainly requires none of those things
which He Himself bestows on such as think of
furnishing them to Him. But those who imagine that, by
means of blood, and the smoke of sacrifices and
burnt-offerings, they offer sacrifices [acceptable] to
Him, and that by such honours they show Him
respect,-these, by supposing that they can give
anything to Him who stands in need of nothing, appear
to me in no respect to differ from those who
studiously confer the same honour on things destitute
of sense, and which therefore are unable to enjoy such

I've discovered that part of the text here is
doubtful. But most textual critics evidently do prefer the reading

Monday, October 10, 2016

William Ross and Doxa


Translating and Understanding MAKROQUMIA

The Greek substantive MAKROQUMIA (μακροθυμία) is commonly rendered "patience," whereas the NWT once used the wording "long-suffering."

LSJ (my copy) has this to say about the verb MAKROQUMEW, "to be long-suffering, patient; MAKROQUMEIN EIS TINA to be forebearing or long-suffering towards one."

So MAKROQUMIA can be rendered "long-suffering" or "patience."

BDAG reports that MAKROQUMIA may refer to a "state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome" or a "state of being able to bear up under provocation," whether the referents are human or transcedent beings.

Moulton-Milligan provides a helpful example from the Greek papyri (The Apocalypse of Baruch or POxy III.403), which is worded as follows:


Translation: "for assuredly in its season the wrath will be awakened against thee which now is restrained by long-suffering as it were by a rein."

One point that I want to extract from referencing the pertinent lexica is that we should avoid confusing long-suffering with the type of patience that may be shown when one has a broken leg, for instance, or with occasions when we may have spent 30 minutes or more waiting for a city bus.

MAKROQUMIA is not only characterized by the willingness to wait upon a trial to pass nor does it simply mean that one endures ill-treatment from a superior (e.g., a boss) without publically blowing one's stack or even inwardly remains calm and tranquil because he/she is afraid of being fired for opening his/her mouth.

Authentic long-suffering is demonstrated when it resides within our power to rectify a situation, but we remain patient anyway. The supreme exemplar of this quality is God Almighty, who manifests patience or long-suffering towards those who sin against Him willfully and frequently (Romans 2:4-5). Now God could immediately rectify a situation where one of His creatures chose to disobey Him, if He so desired. However, Jehovah patiently restrains Himself in the hope for a positive outcome, namely, METANOIA.

Jehovah does not show longness of spirit because circumstances are not within His control as with a late city bus. No, God lovingly and willingly manifests MAKROQUMIA and helps His worshipers to develop this quality by means of the holy spirit. How difficult it is for some of us to cultivate patience, however. The ancient VIR ARDENS from North Africa
(Tertullian) also lamented his seeming inability to show patience, especially in his polemic treatises like Adversus Praxean. On the other hand, a perfect man named Jesus did show patience, even after he was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God. Paul thanked both God and Christ for their sublime MAKROQUMIA (See 1 Tim 1:16); Christians today can also be grateful for the MAKROQUMIA and XARIS manifested through our Lord Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-14).

Saturday, October 08, 2016

LALEI (Hebrews 11:4)

λαλεῖ in Heb. 11:4 is a present indicative active 3rd singular verb form. But are we to assume that Abel still literally spoke in the first century CE because the writer of Hebrews uses the present form in that verse? Of course, those who believe in some type of intermediate state will possibly contend that Abel yet speaks in that way. However, one could understand 11:4 to mean that Abel speaks through his faithful example in association with the sacrifices that he presented to YHWH long ago:

"And by it, he being dead, yet speaketh; good men die, and some of them die a violent death, as did Abel, yet he speaks in the Scriptures, which have a voice in them, (Luke 16:29) or by his blood, which calls for vengeance; or rather by, or because of his faith, though he is dead, 'he is yet spoken of', as the word may be rendered" (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible).

On the other hand, Henry Alford insists that Abel speaks by means of his shed blood (Hebrews 12:24; Compare Gen. 4:10). Just because Hebrews employs present verb forms does not have to mean that the writer is referring to those contemporaneous with him.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Peter Pett and Matthew 10:28

There's an enlightening note in Peter Pett's Biblical commentary, and it's found at Mt 10:28. I'm not going to quote the entire note, but here is what he concludes from his excursus. I will post the link below in order that readers may see all that Pett writes:

Some have pointed to Revelation 14:9-11 to support their position [regarding eternal punishment]. But that in fact supports Isaiah 66:24 as indicating that it is the means of punishment that are eternal. It is the smoke of their torment that arises for ever and ever, a reminder of the trial by torture that they have faced. ‘And they have no rest day or night’ (or more strictly ‘they are unceasing ones day and night’) is a translation that assumes what it wants to prove. Exactly the same Greek words are used in Revelation 4:8 where they cannot possibly indicate anything but continuing joy. So the real point is the comparison between the two. Both those who worship God and those who worship the Wild Beast do so continually. But clearly the worship of the Wild Beast ceases after the events in Revelation 19:20-21.

This all suggests that we must be very careful before we claim that Scripture teaches eternal conscious punishment. While the fate of the unrighteous is clearly intended to be seen as horrific, it is nowhere spelled out that it is a matter of eternal consciousness. Many would feel that ‘destruction’ must be given its obvious meaning as in the end resulting in the removal from God's fullness, when God will be all in all, of all that offends. Perhaps we should consider that the wisest course is to teach what the Scriptures positively say and leave such matters to Him.

(Of course those who believe in an ‘eternal soul’ that even God cannot destroy will already have made up their minds. They are bound by their doctrine (which is nowhere taught in Scripture). But such a concept may seem blasphemous to many. Can there really be anything that God cannot destroy? If it were so then it would seem (and I say it reverently) that God has then surely ceased to be God).

End of note.