Friday, December 30, 2016

Thanks for Reading & 2017

Hi to everyone reading this blog. I want to express my sincere thanks for the fact that you have taken time from your day to peruse the contents herein. Years ago, when this blog started, I could not have imagined that it would still be going and expanding in readers.

For 2017, I will continue trying to produce content that will constitute worthwhile reading. The primary focus will continue to be theology/religion, but I will sometimes offer remarks on other issues that pertain to the aforesaid fields.

Lastly--my main computer (the desktop) is now down, so I am using tablets, and the dilapidated laptop of my wife. So my activity might be hampered for the next few weeks until I retrieve data from my hard drive and get up and running with a new machine soon.

Best to you all. Of course you know I do not celebrate holidays, but thanks again.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

One Objection to Celebrating Christmas

John 4:24-those worshiping God must worship in spirit and in truth.

Psalm 31:5-"Into Thy hand I commit my spirit, Thou hast redeemed me, Jehovah God of truth" (YLT).

To put it simply, Christmas is based on false premises like Jesus was born on December 25, the three wise men, the star of Bethlehem, elves, Santa, flying reindeer, etc.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Stumbling Blocks" (SKANDALON)

According to BDAG, SKANDALON may denote:

(1) A device for catching someth[ing] alive, trap (Rom
11:9; Ps 68:23; 1 Jn 2:10).

(2) An action or circumstance that leads one to act
contrary to a proper course of action or set of
beliefs, temptation to sin, enticement to apostasy,
false belief, etc. (Mt 16:23; 18:7; Lk 17:1; Rom 14:13;
Rev 2:14).

Mt 16:23 is probably best understood as "you are
tempting me to sin." BDAG also has an interesting note
on Jesus being a stumbling block to those who do not
put faith in him:

"To those who cannot come to a decision to believe on
him, Jesus is a SKANDALON (SKANDALIZW 1b)."

(3) SKANDALON can also refer to "that which causes
offense or revulsion and results in opposition,
disapproval, or hostility, fault, stain, etc" (Mt
13:41; 1 Cor 1:23; Gal 5:11).

Louw and Nida Greek-English Lexicon classifies
SKANDALON as follows:

(1) A trap, probably of the type which has a stick
which when touched by an animal causes the trap to
shut (Rom 11:9).

(2) That which or one who causes someone to sin. There
is also a helpful note in Louw and Nida. They also
observe that SKANDALON used in what I have categorized
as sense (2) here is actually "a figurative extension"
of the meaning "trap" in (1) above.

(3) That which causes offense and thus arouses
opposition (1 Cor 1:23; Gal 5:11).

Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary of the Greek
) has further enlightening data
concerning SKANDALIZW from the Greek papyri. In a
nutshell, Moulton-Milligan evidently favor the meaning "I set a
trap for" rather than "I put a stumbling block in the
way of" for this Biblical word. Yet this same work
indicates that the "underlying thought of enticement
or temptation can hardly be dissociated from the
word." Moulton-Milligan then refers to the Sanskrit
SKAND and the Latin SCANDO, concluding once again that
SKANDALON has reference to a "trap." Personally, with
BDAG, I tend to favor the "stumbling block"
denotation, although as L-N affirm, causing someone
to sin or "trip up" is actually a figurative extension
of the literal trap denotation.

In conclusion, I don't believe that Jesus stumbles
unbelievers in a negative sense. Rather, they stumble
over the figurative stone placed in Zion by refusing
to put faith in him. The good news of God's Kingdom
and the STAUROS of Christ may also cause some offense or rouse
opposition. But this again is not the fault of our
Lord and Savior.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Notes from Corcoran on Identity

Notes Based on Kevin Corcoran's "Constitution View" Chapter (Rethinking Human Nature)

1. Saul Kripke sets forth an argument similar to the one presented in Corcoran's "Constitution View" (CV) chapter: "If X is possibly distinct from Y, then X is necessarily distinct from Y." One could also reason, "Necessarily, if X is possibly distinct from Y, then X and Y are not identical."

Example: "Necessarily, if the body is possibly distinct from the mind, then the body and the mind are not identical."

Example 2: "Necessarily, if brain events are possibly distinct from mental events, then brain events and mental events are not identical."

2. "Identical"-what does it mean for a thing X to be "identical" with a thing Y?

We are talking about objects being numerically identical (e.g., Y is not a replica of X). For instance, one and the same book or car could be quantitatively identical through time. However, what features of the objects themselves allow us to make claims about numerical/quantitative identity? What about the issue of personal identity? What criteria exist to determine whether a person remains the same through time?

3. Regarding the metaphysics of constitution and constitution relations, see pages 66-67.

4. Conditions for human personhood include: a) the capacity for intentionality; b) [capacity for] a first-person perspective; c) being essentially constituted by our bodies.

5. What CV is and is not. See note 6 on page 69.

6. Corcoran seems to argue that my body came into existence before "I" did and it is "conceivable" that my body will continue to exist after I die. Therefore, he apparently reasons, I am not identical with my body.

7. Spatio-temporal continuity and personhood (pp. 70ff). Different objects have their own persistence conditions (PC), but causal considerations are germane in each case. In other words, bananas and persons have different persistence conditions.

My observation: Questions pertaining to identity arise when discussion about the resurrection from the dead ensues. Do we have souls? Are we totally physical beings? These questions impinge upon personal identity.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

G. J. Wenham's Commentary on Genesis 9:13-16 (Word Commentary)

GUNH (Matthew 5:28)

GUNH could simply mean "woman" in Mt. 5:28. I guess my judgment is based, in part, on F. Danker's understanding of the term in the Matthean verse, but it makes sense to me that Jesus could be referring to a married woman in view of the OT decalogue command prohibiting covetousness respecting another man's wife. On the other hand, Job exclaimed that he concluded a covenant with his eyes so that he might not be inappropriately attentive toward a young maiden or virgin (Job 31:1ff). Then again, Jesus' mention of adultery in this verse may point to GUNH signifying "wife" here. The Expositor's Greek Testament suggests that GUNH could refer to a married or unmarried woman in Mt. 5:28, as does M. Zerwick's Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. In any event, if we're going to base our understanding on context in other passages that contain GUNH, could not the same methodology work for 5:28? Compare 1 Tim. 3:11? See also 1 Cor. 5:1.

Expositor's Greek Testament: Matthew 5:28.—ὁ βλέπων: the looker is supposed to be a husband who by his look wrongs his own wife.—γυναῖκα: married or unmarried.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Answering Questions About the Greek "Xristos," and the Genitive Case (Edited for Readability)

Greetings my friend, [Roy]!

My original intuition when reading your email was that the suggestion you mentioned could not be correct in view of how XRISTOS functions in the NT. BDAG confirmed what I already thought, but I'd like to nuance what is found there.

(1) By definition, a verbal adjective is a participle. Hence, suggesting that XRISTOS is a participle in the NT just did not seem right to me. In fact, BDAG points out that while this word was used adjectivally in Gk. tragedy and the LXX (et al.) it is only used as a noun in our literature (i.e., early Christian literature).

(2) BDAG also maintains that XRISTOS (in the NT) is a "personal name ascribed to Jesus, Christ" and was understood thus by certain first-century denizens who were in some way familiar with the figure possibly known to them as XRHSTOS (XRISTOS might have sounded like XRHSTOS to Gentiles). So it's possible that XRISTOS is a personal name.

(3) I would nuance the comments in BDAG by insisting that XRISTOS is actually a quasi-personal name. It functions to delimit referentiality like a personal name does, and perhaps even more forcefully. In the NT, based upon the term's frequency of usage, XRISTOS is almost certainly a title or quasi-personal name for Jesus, God's anointed one. Interestingly, Granville Sharp considered IHSOUS to be a proper name, but thought of XRISTOS as a "noun of personal description, denoting office, rank, title, or the like" (Richard A. Young, 63).

(4) Genitive does not primarily or always mean possession, but I think that the genitive case delimits TWi ONOMATI in Acts 2:38. The genitive is actually the descriptive case. D.A. Black points out that genitives are adjectival per their function; however, these nouns are more emphatic than Greek adjectives. Compare the rendering "sinful body" with "body of sin" (genitive).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Translating Hebrews 8:6

I've always found the NWT rendering of Heb. 8:6 quite
interesting from a theological perspective. It reads (1984):

"But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent public
service, so that he is also the mediator of a
correspondingly better covenant, which has been
legally established [NENOMOQETHTAI] upon better

Under the entry NOMOQETEW, BDAG has: "to enact on the
basis of a legal sanction, ordain, found by law . . .
a covenant which has been (legally) enacted on the
basis of better promises Hb 8:6 . . ."

Here is how some other translations handle NOMOQETEW
in Heb 8:6:

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry,
inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant,
which was established on better promises" (NKJV).

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by
as much as He is also the mediator of a better
covenant, which has been enacted on better promises"

"But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is
as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he
mediates is better, since it is enacted on better
promises" (RSV).

"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry,
by how much also he is the mediator of a better
covenant, which was established upon better promises"

"But now hath he obtained a ministry the more
excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a
better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better
promises" (ASV).

"But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to
theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is
superior to the old one, and it is founded on better
promises" (NIV).

"But now he has got a more excellent ministry, by so
much as he is mediator of a better covenant, which is
established on the footing of better promises"

"as it is, he has been given a ministry as far
superior as is the covenant of which he is the
mediator, which is founded on better promises" (NJB).

"But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry because he
is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant,
which has been legally established on better promises" (NWT 2013).

PASA GRAFH--Possible Meaning in 2 Timothy 3:16 (BAGD and Gordon Fee)

PASA GRAFH in 2 Timothy 3:16 has more than one possible meaning and way to understand the syntax, but A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BAGD), provides this information about GRAFH. The word is used:

"of a little book . . . the individual Scripture passage . . . Scripture as a whole" (166).

Of these possible senses, BAGD list 2 Tim. 3:16 as an example of sense number two. This observation could very well be true and there are numerous examples that can be marshalled to buttress BAGD's conclusion. Despite the potential accuracy of the comments, however, I am inclined to concur with Gordon Fee:

"does PASA GRAFH mean all Scripture (i.e., Scripture as a whole collectively understood) or "every Scripture" (i.e., distributively understood to mean each individual passage). This one is almost impossible to decide on grammatical grounds, and in either case the meaning comes out at the same place" (Fee 281).

Update: The newer BDAG says that GRAFH could be used for "a brief piece of writing, writing," "sacred scripture" which might include individual scriptural passages, "scripture in its entirety" or "Scripture as a whole." See page 206.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Scientific Revolution, Hypotheses, Assumptions and the Case of Fred Hoyle

First principles (archai) characterize modern science and other fields of knowledge. Contemporary scientia forms hypotheses, makes assumptions, then begins to advance from those archai by means of testing and observation. However, it was really the advent of modernity that made science begin to focus more on quantities and measurements instead of syllogisms and philosophical inquiry. For instance, Copernicus worked out his sun-centered universe by deploying math, and it was by utilizing the data of Tycho Brahe that Johannes Kepler worked out his laws of motion, which included the formulation of elliptical orbits. Copernicus and Galileo replaced the geocentric model of the universe with heliocentrism--this feat was accomplished through mathematical precision and empirical observation instead of relying on metaphysics. Newton and Galileo also focused more on a quantitative view of the universe; the former especially saw no need (per se) to create a nexus between physical objects and metaphysical explanations.

As everyone knows, despite its generally dismissive attitude toward philosophical inquiry and religion, modern science has been known to change its paradigms from time to time: examples of paradigm shifts include the wholesale rejection of Aristotle's Physics and Ptolemy's Almagest. In their place came Newton's Principia Mathematica, and later, Einsteinian physics. The emphasis then shifted towards physical laws, mathematical theory, application of theories, and technical instrumentation. Science also works within certain paradigms and feels the need to stay within those given set of parameters. So if one departs from the current paradigm, he/she will be considered eccentric or "unscientific."

Fred Hoyle illustrates how this characterization might work. While Hoyle is a brilliant scientist, there are times when he evidently holds "dissident" views that are not congruent with the professional community of scientists as a whole. Some of Hoyle's famous opinions have been with regard to the Big Bang and his metaphysical views, which he tried to couple with scientific theory ( i.e., mysticism). How have scientists usually responded to Hoyle's efforts?

[To be continued]

Sunday, December 18, 2016

OINOS Anyone? (John 2:6-10)

The observations of Baptist exegete Gerald Borchert on John 2:6-10 are interesting. You can read his comments in the New American Commentary about the Gospel of John. See pp. 156-157, but I now quote him ad verbum:

"Jesus' making wine in this case has caused some readers another
major problem. One of my sons once returned home from a class and
informed me that Jesus made nonalcoholic wine in this story. His
teacher also had informed him that the Greek word for the drink here
meant nonalcoholic grape juice. It serves no purpose for evangelicals
to twist the Greek language for the sake of their ethical opinions
because such an argument cannot be sustained from Greek."

In the footnote to this paragraph, Borchert further writes:

"For the meaning of OINOS see BAGD [now BDAG], 562. Christian styles of morality should not be based on false premises. If one abstains from alcohol, as I do, it should not be based on twisting biblical texts. Other texts (such as Matt 11:18-19; Luke 7:33-34) may come back to haunt a person."

Compare Psalm 104:15 in the LXX.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Alan Padgett Discusses Science & Religion

There are many evidences to support the claim that science has progressively advanced our understanding of the universe, nature or reality. In a work published by Eerdmans (dated 2003), Alan G. Padgett argues that there is no inherent conflict between science and religion, once "science" is properly defined. Padgett contends that science is not a worldview (a Weltanschauung); furthermore, aptly-understood scientia is capable of existing collegially with religion.

Padgett discusses ways in which science may collegially work with religion. He directs our attention to Galileo, portraying him as "a brilliant scientist whose work has influenced human culture and fundamentally shaped our understanding of the world. He made significant advances in many areas of natural science and is justly famous for his work in physics and astronomy" (A. Padgett, Science and the Study of God: A Mutuality Model for Theology and Science, page 5).

Pope Benedict XVI confirmed what Padgett states above. When addressing the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he professed:

"The history of science in the twentieth century is one of undoubted achievement and major advances. Unfortunately, the popular image of twentieth-century science is sometimes characterized otherwise, in two extreme ways. On the one hand, science is posited by some as a panacea, proven by its notable achievements in the last century. Its innumerable advances were in fact so encompassing and so rapid that they seemed to confirm the point of view that science might answer all the questions of man's existence, and even of his highest aspirations. On the other hand, there are those who fear science and who distance themselves from it, because of sobering developments such as the construction and terrifying use of nuclear weapons. Science, of course, is not defined by either of these extremes."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christians, "Flesh" and Blood (Council of Gangra in 343 CE)

"If anyone shall condemn him who eats flesh which is without blood and has not been offered to idols nor strangled, and is faithful and devout, as though the man were without hope of salvation because of his eating, let him be anathema" (Canon II, Council of Gangra in 343 CE).

Quoted in The Evolution of the Late Antique World by Peter Garnsey and Caroline Humfress (page 193).

So even in the 4th century CE, we find members of the church invoking principles based on Acts 15:20, 29; Revelation 2:14-16.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"A Day with the Lord Is Like a Thousand Years . . ." (2 Peter 3:8)

[Written some years ago. Not all details may be applicable now. Edited on 12/11/16]

2 Peter 3:8 reads (in part):


Before I discuss the Witness view of 2 Peter 3:8, I want to point out a number of interesting features associated with this passage.

(1) The hOTI clause evidently signals or introduces an indirect assertion (Cf. John 11:27; Luke 24:21). Peter is contending "that" one day with YHWH (or possibly Jesus) is comparable to a thousand years and a thousand years are comparable to one day.

(2) It is also interesting how Peter begins and ends the indirect discourse in 3:8. He chiastically starts with MIA hHMERA and terminates the clause with hHMERA MIA. The parallelism XILIA ETH (AB) . . . XILIA ETH (AB) also seems to be "nested" by hWS (the two occurrences of hWS serve as "bookends"), though the position of the second hWS is rhetorically "flipped" so that we have, hWS XILIA ETH KAI XILIA ETH hWS, which seems to be an example of antimetabole or literary crisscrossing (My Classics professor used to say that "antimetabole" is "going out the same way that one comes in," rhetorically speaking). The chiasm and rhetorical devices in this verse are fascinating and indicate the writer was somewhat knowledgeable about producing a rhetorical and theological document.

(3) The presence of hWS also shows us that we are dealing with a simile. One thousand years is as a day with God; Peter ostensibly does not mean to assert that a thousand years literally equals a day with God, although I am not denying that this principle has limited applicability in other cases. But in this Scripture, Peter simply appears to be echoing the words of Moses found in Psalm 90:4:

"For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night."

Notice that Psalm 90:4 is an example of simile and it declares that a thousand years is both akin to a day ("yesterday") and "a watch in the night." The writer is clearly not inviting us to make direct comparisons between a divine "day" and the creative "days" of Genesis. Most of us can probably agree up to this point. However, let us now move on to what Jehovah's Witnesses have said about 2 Peter 3:8.

"So what is to man a thousand years or a period of more than 365,000 days is, comparatively speaking, like just one 24-hour day to the eternal God" (Choosing the Best Way to Life, page 174).

"What is such a long time to men is really a short time to God. Hence, he can allow to men a seemingly long period of time in their interest. What is a 'thousand years' to Him, when it is like a mere twenty-four hour day in comparison with his eternity of existence?" (Man's Salvation Out of World Distress At Hand, page 298).

The book Life--How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? does suggest that the creative days in Genesis could have been longer than 24 hours, and it is no secret that past JW publications have said that the "days" in Genesis could have been 7000 years in length. But I do not remember reading that the days were 1000 years each. But even the Life book makes the following statements:

"A thousand years are likened to a day. (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, 10) 'Judgment Day' covers many years . . . It would seem reasonable that the 'days' of Genesis could likewise have embraced long periods of time--millenniums" (page 27).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Thomas Aquinas: Scripture, Philosophy, and Science

In some of his theological writings, Thomas Aquinas taught that philosophy (human reason) and theology (divine revelation) must be compatible. In other words he felt that some concepts (e.g., the existence of God) could be demonstrated through reason, but on the other hand, he believed that the Trinity doctrine or the Incarnation of Christ were mysteries that could only be understood by faith based on divine revelation. Aquinas sought to reconcile and use both reason (philosophical inquiry) and sacra doctrina to undergird the veracity of Scripture. Needless to say, that while some of Aquinas's works were monumental, the Church did not always take such a view. After his death, some teachings that Aquinas had formulated were banned, although the ban was later lifted, and in the 16th century, Thomist thought became the official Church philosophy.

In Aquinas's theology system, Aristotle and the Bible were so completely harmonized that any attack on astronomy or physics not only seemed to reject Aristotelian philosophy, but Biblical revelation as well. This synthesis between philosophy and the Bible had set the stage for a confrontation that would continue until our day. One can't help but wonder how Christendom was benefited by synthesizing Greek thought with "Christianity." It seems that the Bible contains counsel about mixing human philosophies with the teachings of Christ. We are also told about the potentially fatal result of synthesizing human wisdom with Christian doctrine (Col. 2:8 1 Tim. 6:20, 21)

One thinker described as being "too smart to be a philosopher" (i.e., Blaise Pascal) made a distinction between the Abrahamic God and the god of the philosophers. As we trace the history of science and philosophy, we began to get an idea of the breach that developed, and how that science eventually displaced religion for many people; science became the new priesthood in a sense. Next, I want to look further at the progress and limits of science more fully.

Benjamin G. Wold on Kurios in the Light of 4Q416

First Two Pages of His Journal Article: "Reconsidering an Aspect of the Title Kurios in Light of Sapiential Fragment 4Q416 2 iii." In ZNW 95(3/4): 149-160.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Lactantius and the Son/Sons of God "Breathed" Into Existence (Divine Epitome 42)

"In fine, of all the angels, whom the same God formed from his own breath, he alone was admitted into a participation of his supreme power, he alone was called God. For all things were through him, and nothing was without him" (Epitome 42).

Latin: Denique ex omnibus angelis, quos idem Deus de suis spiritibus figurauit, solus in consortium summae potestatis adscitus est, solus Deus nuncupatus. “Omnia” enim “per ipsum et sine ipso nihil.”

Bibliographic Information: L. Caeli Firmiani Lactantius Epitome Divinarum Institutionum. Ed. Eberhard Heck and Antonie Wlosok. Stutgardiae et Lipsiae: Teubner, 1994, Pages 51-52.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Metzger, Longenecker and Acts 15:17-18


Bruce Metzger notes:


Since the quotation from Am 9:12 ends with TAUTA, the concluding words are James's comments. The reading GNWSTA AP’ AIWNOS, however, is so elliptical an expression that copyists made various attempts to recast the phrase, rounding it out as an independent sentence" (Metzger commenting on Acts 15:17-18).

Richard Longenecker comments: "The interpretation of v. 18 is notoriously difficult. Aleph, B, and C, together with the Coptic and Armenian versions, read 'that have been known for ages' (GNWSTA AP’ AIWNOS). . . But A and D, together with Bodmer P74 and the major Latin and Syriac versions, read 'known to the Lord from eternity is his work' (GNWSTON AP’ AIWNOS ESTIN TW KURIOW TO ERGON QUTOU); and E and P, together with the Byzantine text, read 'known from eternity to God are all his works'(GNWSTA AP’ AIWNOS ESTI TW QEW PANTA TA ERGA AUTOU)." See Expositor's Bible Commentary, Acts, page 243.

None of the readings that Longenecker mentions in his work seem to have a direct bearing how one understands the prepositional phrase APO (PRO) KATABOLHS KOSMOU. Therefore, I don't think this verse is an effective prooftext for divine foreordination, since James could simply mean that God enacts things that he knows from antiquity (not from eternity). The NWT renders the difficult Greek in this way:

"says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old" (1984)

The same reading appears in NWT 2013.

KJV reads: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Science and Religion: Continuing the Discussion

After the fall of Rome (476 CE), the writings of Aristotle and many other philosophers were largely lost to the Western world, although Plato's speculative thought progressively made its way into Christian theology. As ecclesiastical history indicates, the illustrious bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) possibly mixed Neoplatonism with biblical teachings to form a synthesis of knowledge that endured until Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE). Aristotelian philosophy then gradually became part of the curriculum in medieval universities: the Philosopher appeared to captivate some medieval denizens perhaps to a greater extent than Scripture. But what resulted from this admixture of Greek philosophy and scriptural tenets?

By the early thirteenth century, Aquinas proceeded to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology. He became known as the Church version of Aristotle. The so-called “Angelic Doctor” believed that by effecting this synthesis, he would provide sacra doctrina with more ammunition for defending the Church. So part of his reason for commingling philosophy and theology was to develop an apologetic bulwark against intellectual opponents of the Church. However, was this synthesis an augmentation of Christianity or did it somehow work against the Christian religion?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Nancey Murphy's View of Science and Religion (Christian Materialism)

"Thus, I maintain that science studies the whole of human life--there is no metaphysically distinct part of us that is immune from scientific investigation. However, science gives us an incomplete account of human life, an account that can only be put into perspective by a religious point of view" (Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, Or Spirited Bodies, page 120).

Hence, Murphy believes that the scientific perspective must be corrected or adjusted by religion. She is a non-reductive physicalist, who is convinced that not only do bottom-up processes account for higher-level conscious states but top-down processes also exert causal force on microbiological processes: "It is not the body qua material object that constitutes our identities, but rather the higher capacities that it enables: consciousness and memory, moral character, interpersonal relations, and, especially, relationship with God" (Bodies and Souls, Or Spirited Bodies, page 132).

Murphy also invokes the study by David Wiggins entitled Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity which helps one to appreciate the importance of "covering concepts" within the context of discussions on numerical identity.

On the other hand, substance dualism begs the question about a "soul" or res cogitans. Neuroscience, modern philosophy of mind, and the Kantian assault on the soul have shown us that we have no need of the immortal soul hypothesis; furthermore, substance dualism (notably exemplified by Descartes) is highly problematic in light of the mind-body problem. Conversely, reductive materialism is possibly not all that satisfying either. That is particularly the case when it comes to the view that one's body is identical with his/her persona.

The one particularly controversial aspect of Murphy's thought is what she writes about non-reductive physicalism or top-down causation. She argues that we need to consider the potential effect that environmental conditions possibly have on lower-level entities; for example, the role that the environment seems to have on the formation of "neural nets" or cell assemblies. One could evidently say that it is not only the random growth of dendrites and synaptic connections that lead to the formation of neural nets, but a "co-presentation of stimuli" to neurons that might also explain these assemblies. What top-down causation further suggests is that self-direction or freedom may result from an initially deterministic system. Another example that Murphy gives is the gradual emergence of self-direction in prokaryotes. Her account of what makes us human ultimately can be articulated in natural terms; however, she does not exclude the work of God or the holy spirit nor does she deny the incarnation or the resurrection of the body.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Apostle Paul: Weighty Letters, but Contemptible Speech?

Ironically, despite the apostle's putative tendency for "contemptible speech," his discourse given in Athens (Acts 17) has been used to illustrate how rhetorical speeches should be given. See Lane Cooper, The Rhetoric of Aristotle (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1932), pages xxvii-xxix and see Cooper's discussion of Pauline enthymemes.

Paul is quite persuasive (though not necessarily oratorical in the strictest sense) and there does not seem to be anything contemptible about his speech at all in Acts 17. Examining 2 Cor. 10:10, we find that even those who opposed Paul in Corinth had to admit that his letters were weighty and forceful (ὅτι Αἱ ἐπιστολαὶ μέν, φησίν, βαρεῖαι καὶ ἰσχυραί) even if his speech was of no account (ὁ λόγος ἐξουθενημένος).

My research discloses it is possible that Paul was not a good looking fellow. His body might have been frail, his nose was possibly unsightly and his voice apparently was not pleasant to hear, some commentators say. Furthermore, according to Paul's own account, he evidently was not a trained rhetor (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:1-5).

His lack of training in rhetoric probably turned the stomachs of certain shallow individuals in Corinth. They were relying on human persuasion and liked to hear flowery speech (i.e., oratory) instead of putting their trust in God's power and listening to divine wisdom (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Therefore, it seems that Paul may have been an adequate speaker, after all, but he possibly was not formally trained in the art of rhetoric, although some historians believe that he did have a background in rhetoric and, from the sound of his letters and speech on Mars Hill, I am inclined to believe that the apostle knew something about rhetoric as well.

Nevertheless, like Augustine and other men who were rhetoricians before they started to profess belief in Christ, Paul may have decided to tone it down (so to speak) in order to avoid drawing attention to himself when he spoke publicly. This idea, I admit, is speculative. Yet I can hardly think of another way to account for Paul's expertise in employing literary or rhetorical devices in his writings: he certainly seems to have known something about rhetoric.

As a closing note, there is an interesting point that I found in James M. Scott's commentary on 2 Corinthians:

"There are striking parallels between this critique of
Paul and the critique of Moses. Moses was chosen and
made sufficient for his ministry in spite of his
'insufficiency,' which Exodus 4:10 links to his speech
defect (cf. S. Hafemann). In the same way, Paul can
assert his sufficiency in spite of his own personal
weakness, which, according to 2 Corinthians 10:10;
11:6, consist in part in his unimpressive speech.
Interestingly enough, Num. Rab. 18:9 attests to Moses'
wisdom and rhetorical ability. Josephus records that
Korah too was a capable speaker and very effective in
addressing a crowd (Ant. 4.14)" (2 Corinthians, pages

Saturday, December 03, 2016


One gentleman, with whom I once discussed the meaning of PAROUSIA, made these remarks:

prior to Darby, the common translation of parousia in the Bibles was coming. After Darby, a few men, here and there, began to translate parousia as presence, among them, Benjamin Wilson in the Emphatic Diaglott or whatever was his translation back in the 1800s. This was still a strongly "minority" translation. However, there were some 2nd Adventists, who, having failed again in predicting the return of Jesus, gravitated to the newer translation of parousia as presence, as in, "invisible presence," so as to explain their latest failed prediction of the return of Jesus in 1874.


BDAG is the new lexicon that was formerly BAGD. Admittedly, BDAG does say that EPIFANEIA is used as a technical term that refers to "a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known." But if you consult entry 1b (or its equivalent in the older BAGD), you will find out that the Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich's Lexicon associates EPIFANEIA vis-à-vis the "manifestation" of Christ with a time of "appearing in judgment." One also finds information about 2 Thess. 2:8 under this lexical entry.

While this same reference work does say that PAROUSIA can denote Christ's Messianic Advent in glory when he comes to judge the world at the end of the age, it also possibly indicates that there is some type of distinction between PAROUSIA and EPIFANEIA as revealed in 2 Thess. 2:8. The EPIFANEIA seems to take place during the PAROUSIA and is actually connected with the divine meting out of judgment; PAROUSIA, however, does not seem confined to this period of divine judgment. It could be an extended period of time in which Christ rewards his servants and prepares for the day of judgment against his enemies (Matthew 24:37-39; Revelation 11:15-19).

The last sentence represents my perspective on the issue.

1 Enoch 14, Ezekiel 1:1-28, and Daniel 7:9-10ff

1 Enoch 14:

13 Violently agitated and trembling, I fell upon my face. In the vision I looked.

14 And behold there was another habitation more spacious than the former, every entrance to which was open before me, erected in the midst of a vibrating flame.

15 So greatly did it excel in all points, in glory, in magnificence, and in magnitude, that it is impossible to describe to you either the splendour or the extent of it.

16 Its floor was on fire; above were lightnings and agitated stars, while its roof exhibited a blazing fire.

17 Attentively I surveyed it, and saw that it contained an exalted throne;

18 The appearance of which was like that of frost; while its circumference resembled the orb of the brilliant sun; and there was the voice of the cherubim.

19 From underneath this mighty throne rivers of flaming fire issued.

20 To look upon it was impossible.

21 One great in glory sat upon it:

22 Whose robe was brighter than the sun, and whiter than snow.

23 No angel was capable of penetrating to view the face of Him, the Glorious and the Effulgent; nor could any mortal behold Him. A fire was flaming around Him.

24 A fire also of great extent continued to rise up before Him; so that not one of those who surrounded Him was capable of approaching Him, among the myriads of myriads (22) who were before Him. To Him holy consultation was needless. Yet did not the sanctified, who were near Him, depart far from Him either by night or by day; nor were they removed from Him. I also was so far advanced, with a veil on my face, and trembling. Then the Lord with his own mouth called me, saying, Approach hither, Enoch, at my holy word.

Revelation 4:1-11 is like Ezekiel 1:1-28 (Davis); 1 Enoch 14 also resembles Ezekiel 1:28 and Dan. 7:9-10.

Source for the comparisons: Christopher A. Davis, Revelation, Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 2000, page 163.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

More About the Condition of the Dead from the Tanakh and NT (A Dialogue)

Something I once wrote to a Catholic gentleman:

How do you know that Jesus was employing "phenomenological language" in Jn 11:11-14? The metaphor of "sleep" for death was a common one that the ancient Greeks also utilized. We even find David using this metaphor in Ps 13:3: "Consider and answer me, O Jehovah my God: Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death" (ASV). Dan 12:2 also enunciates the Hebrew understanding of death that is clearly consonant with Ps 146:3-4. This passage [Dan 12:2] foretells that "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." This passage does not indicate that the writer is speaking phenomenologically.

In the NT, Jesus himself "awakened" Jairus' daughter in the presence of a crowd composed of cynical observers who 'knew she was dead,' though Jesus said she slept. The context of Luke 8:49-56 shows that the girl did not simply "appear" to be sleeping; she was sleeping "the sleep of death." Her spirit had gone out of her [as it were] and she was dead. In other words, she was conscious of nothing at all (Job 3:11-19). But the young girl and Lazarus were also resurrected or brought back to life by the Messiah of God. They did not simply appear to be sleeping in death; they were sleeping the "sleep of death."

"For Sheol cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth" (Isa 38:18).

"O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?" (Ps 88:1-12)

"And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:59 ASV).