Thursday, July 20, 2017

Danielou and Tertullian's Christology

Jean Danielou tellingly writes these words about Tertullian's doctrine of God and Christ:

"The Son and the Spirit are distinguished, therefore, from the Father in that they have their own subsistent being, which is not, however, based on their eternal specific individuality, but rather on their function in relation to God's creation. Tertullian does not manage to get beyond the combination of a modalism with regard to the distinctness of the individual persons and a subordinationism with regard to their existential plurality" (Danielou, The Origins of Latin Christianity, 364).

Tertullian's Understanding of Psalm 8:5

Tertullian's understanding of Psalm 8:5 is "lower than the angels"--he views the psalm as a reference to spirit creatures.

"Modicum quid citra angelos" (Adv Prax 9)

"propter hoc minoratus a patre modicum citra angelos"" (Adv Prax 16.11)

"minoravit filium modico citra angelos" (Adv Prax 23.19)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Part 3 of Genesis Rabba Comments

"When the Jews returned from Babylon, their wives had become brown, and almost black, during the years of captivity, and a large number of men divorced their wives. The divorced women probably married black men, which would, to some extent, account for the existence of black Jews."--Gen. Rabba 18.

[One finds all kinds of stories in midrashic homilies, many of which are quite incredible. More importantly, I was taken aback by the "racist" content of this work. EGF]

"If a man has entertained you only with lentils, do you entertain him with flesh. If one shows you small favours, bestow on him great ones when an opportunity occurs."--Gen. Rabba 38.

"There is not an evil which fails to bring benefit to some one."--Gen. Rabba A

[Based on Scripture, I believe that God is able to bring good from evil, and he often does. Does that mean all evil acts somehow confer benefit to someone? EGF]

"The pure of heart are God's friends."--Gen. Rabba 41.

[Reminds me of Ps. 73:1; Matthew 5:8. EGF]

John Calvin--An Advocate of Eternal Subordination for the Opera Trinitatis Ad Intra?

Did John Calvin believe that the Son and the Holy Spirit are eternally subordinate to the Father per their "divine" roles or functions in the Godhead?

Calvin evidently thinks of the three persons (tres personae) as three subsistences, persons who are distinguished from one another "by an incommunicable quality" (ibid, 53) which is ostensibly "subsistence." An incommunicable quality is an attribute that cannot be transferred or passed on to someone/something else. E.g., parents communicate certain traits to their offspring; unfortunately, some diseases are communicable too. However, Calvin reckons that each divine person within the triune Godhead possesses some quality that cannot be communicated by the bearer of said property.

Subsistence in Calvin's theology possibly does not mean "essence" (essentia). He asserts that there is a "characteristic mark" that sets the LOGOS apart from God [the Father] so that the Word can "be" God and simultaneously "be with God" (Jn 1:1b-c). That defining "characteristic mark," Calvin argues, is not the Son's essence but his subsistence.

It is unfortunate that Calvin does not appear to explain, at least in a thorough or analytic sense, what he means by "subsistence." At any rate, Kevin Giles believes he does not imply that the Son or the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father qua being or qua function. Giles then provides various lines of evidence for this claim on page 54 of The Trinity and Subordinationism. One such line of evidence is that Calvin reasons that both prayers and worship should be directed not only "through" the Son but "to the Son." Admittedly, Calvin does accept an "order" (taxis) in the Trinity insofar as he believes that the Deus Trinitas is structured and functions in an orderly manner. However, Calvin does not think of the Trinity in hierarchical terms and rejects any talk of one person being before or after the other person "within the Godhead" (ibid, 55). Maybe he accepts logical priority, but eschews temporality priority.

At any rate, Calvin's non-subordinationist stance appears to be demonstrated when we note his exegetical comments regarding Jn 14:28 and 1 Cor 11:3. For Calvin, 14:28 is contrasting Christ's earthly state with his "present state" and "his heavenly glory to which he was shortly to be received" (Giles, 56). Furthermore, 1 Cor 11:3 (says Calvin) appertains to Christ in the flesh since "apart from that, being of one essence with the Father, he is equal with him" (ibid). Calvin's exegesis of 1 Cor 15:24ff is also worth reading.

In short, Calvin possibly applies Paul's words in 1 Cor 15:24ff to the soteriological-mediatorial office of Christ. If this conclusion is accurate, then Calvin does not apply the Pauline account to what he would identify as Christ's eternally timeless divinity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thomas Aquinas on Demonstrating the Trinity Is A Genuine Object of Faith

As many of you may know, Thomas Aquinas ("the Angelic
Doctor") was a devout Medieval theologian, who
effected an influential Trinitarian synthesis
by combining thoughts from Scripture with ancient Greek thought.
What Thomas has to say about the demonstrability of the
Trinity doctrine is noteworthy. The following quotes can be found in
Edmund J. Fortman's The Triune God: A Historical
Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity
. See pp.

"that God is triune is uniquely an object of belief,
and one cannot prove it in any demonstrative way. Some
reasons can be advanced but they are not
necessitating, and they have probability only for the
believer" (In Boeth de Trin 1.4).

"we can only know what belongs to the unity of the
essence, but not what belongs to the distinction of
the persons" (Summa Theologiae 1a.32.1).

Thomas contends that the Trinity is not irrational, but
transrational: it is a divine mystery that surpasses
all human understanding.

The Doctor has subsequently been criticized for making an
unnecessary distinction between God de Uno
and God de Trino. Observe how Thomas professes that
while the one essence of Deity can be known by means of natural reason, the personal distinctions of the Godhead cannot be known via ratio.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Athanasius, the Quicunque Vult, and Kevin Giles

Some people are convinced that Athanasius of Alexandria wrote the Athanasian Creed (the Quicunque Vult). There's just one problem with this conviction: Athanasius' dates are ca. 296-373 CE. So he did not live in the fifth century CE when the Quicunque Vult was possibly written. But there are other reasons to reject Athanasian authorship of the famed creed.

Edmund Fortman (The Triune God) writes these words pertaining to the Quicunque Vult:

"Its author, date, and source of origin are still matters of controversy. From the 7th century on it was generally ascribed to Athanasius, but in the 17th century it was realized that it was later than Athanasius and of Latin origin" (page 159).

"Many decades later [than Origen] the great Athanasius (c. 293-373) rose to a position of leadership in Alexandria" (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, page 22).

"The creed [Quicunque Vult] was certainly not composed by its namesake, the famed Athanasius of Alexandria (293[?]-373), but by a later hand (or, hands)--the date of which, as mentioned in the text, has been variously assigned to anywhere from the fifth to the eighth centuries" (Matthew Alfs, Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 3).

For further information concerning Athanasius' dates and activities, see Richard Rubenstein's When Jesus Became God and W.H.C. Frend's The Rise of Christianity.

J.N.D. Kelly composed a major work dealing with the Quicunque Vult. See

Additionally, Kevin Giles maintains that the Quicunque Vult was probably composed in southern France circa 500 CE as a touchstone of orthodoxy. Despite the fact that the symbol (i.e., creed) was not composed by its namesake, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans have traditionally viewed the document as doctrinally binding or normative for faith. Essentially, Giles explains, this is because the famed symbol is evidently rooted in Augustinian and Athanasian thought--it is thought to be the continuation of a venerable ecclesiastical tradition that stretches back to the ancient and formative Christian church.

According to Giles, the Quicunque Vult excludes all forms of subordination(ism) within the Godhead and he quotes Leonard Hodgson and J.N.D. Kelly to buttress this statement. Giles avers that the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are distinct insofar as they bear "differing relations" to one another because of their "differing origins," namely, innascibility, filiation and spiration (eternal procession). Nevertheless, he asserts that the "differing origins" do not provide the basis for positing dependent eternal functions "within the Godhead."

In view of the language contained in the Quicunque Vult, Giles concludes that the Son is only subordinate to the Father vis-a-vis his humanity; the Son is not subordinate to the Father per his eternal role, function or essence. Giles therefore sternly emphasizes that the Athanasian Creed "condemns" the theological position of those who espouse and advocate eternal subordination(ism) within the triune Godhead. Giles pretty much views subordinationist positions as heretical. And that is an understatement!

See Giles, The Trinity and Subordinationism, page 50ff.

Quotes from Genesis Rabba-Part 2

Man should look upon the birth of a daughter as a blessing from the Lord.--Gen. Rabba 26.

For seven days the Lord mourned (or deplored) the necessity of destroying His creatures by the deluge.--Gen. Rabba 27.

God will wipe away tears from off all faces (Isa. 25. 8). This means from the faces of non-Jews as well as Jews.--Gen. Rabba 26.

The sexes of both man and the lower animals were meant to be separated in the ark during the deluge. This is clear from the way in which they entered the ark: first Noah and his three sons went in, and then their wives separately (Gen. 7. 7). But when they came out of the ark after the flood, God commanded Noah, 'Go out of the ark, thou and thy wife, thy sons and their wives' (Gen. 8. 16), thus putting the sexes together again. Ham among the human beings, and the dog among the lower animals, disregarded this injunction and did not separate from the opposite sex in the ark. The dog received a certain punishment, and Ham became a black man; just as when a man has the audacity to coin the king's currency in the king's own palace his face is blackened as a punishment and his issue is declared counterfeit --Gen. Rabba 37-

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Continuation of "Gold": The Biblical Usage

Isaiah 40:19 (LXX): μὴ εἰκόνα ἐποίησεν τέκτων ἢ χρυσοχόος χωνεύσας χρυσίον περιεχρύσωσεν αὐτόν ὁμοίωμα κατεσκεύασεν αὐτόν

Brenton Translation: "Has not the artificer made an image, or the goldsmith having melted gold, gilt it over, and made it a similitude?"

Knox Translation: "Hath the workman cast a graven statue? or hath the goldsmith formed it with gold, or the silversmith with plates of silver?"

Isaiah Scroll: "The idol?-a craftsman made the image, and a smith with gold and hammered it out and cast silver chains" (Flint and Ulrich)

Revelation 4:4: καὶ κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου θρόνοι εἴκοσι τέσσαρες, καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θρόνους εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους καθημένους περιβεβλημένους ἱματίοις λευκοῖς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτῶν στεφάνους χρυσοῦς.

Robertson's WP: Crowns of gold (stepanou crusou). Accusative case again like presbuterou after eidon (Ephesians 4:1), not idou. In Ephesians 19:14 ecwn (having) is added. John uses diadhma (diadem) for the kingly crown in Ephesians 12:3 ; Ephesians 13:1 ; Ephesians 19:12 , but it is not certain that the old distinction between diadem as the kingly crown and stepano as the victor's wreath is always observed in late Greek.

Revelation 17:4: καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἦν περιβεβλημένη πορφυροῦν καὶ κόκκινον, καὶ κεχρυσωμένη χρυσίῳ καὶ λίθῳ τιμίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις, ἔχουσα ποτήριον χρυσοῦν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτῆς γέμον βδελυγμάτων καὶ τὰ ἀκάθαρτα τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς,

Barnes Notes on the Bible: "And decked with gold - After the manner of an harlot, with rich jewelry."

JFB: "decked—literally, 'gilded.'"

Expositor's GT provides this reference: "The harlot in Test. Jud. 13:5 was also decked ἐν χρυσίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις and poured out wine for her victims."

G.K. Beale argues that the similarities emphasized in Revelation between Babylon the Great and the High Priest of ancient Israel are not coincidental: the language of Revelation perfectly mirrors Pentateuchal language while preserving a contrast between the figurative harlot and Jehovah's sacerdotal representative. See Beale, The Book of Revelation, 886.

John Lange: "And gilded with gold and precious stone and pearls.—'The κεχρυσωμένη is zeugmatical' (Düsterdieck). Both precious stones and pearls, however, must have been set in gold."

Henry Alford agrees that κεχρυσωμένη is "zeugmatically carried on" (see his GNT)

NET Bible footnote: "tn Grk 'gilded with gold' (an instance of semantic reinforcement, see L&N 49.29."

For 49.29, Louw-Nida have "χρυσόω be adorned with gold."

LSJ: "χρυσόω to make golden, gild, Luc.:—Pass. to be gilded, Hdt., Ar."

Compare Exodus 25:3-7; 28:5-9, 36; Jeremiah 51:7; Ezekiel 16:13; 28:13; Habakkuk 2:16; Revelation 21:11.

Short Note Regarding Proverbs 8:22-23

The LXX has κύριος ἔκτισέν με (Prov. 8:22) and the Aramaic Targum reads: "God created me at the beginning of his creation, before his works from the beginning." See The Targums of Job, Proverbs, Qohelet (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991).

Concerning Prov. 8:23, NSK (NACAK) at times denotes: "to be poured out" (hophal stem): that is possibly the sense it bears at 8:23 although the verb probably means "to set, install" within the context under discussion. The construction is also morphologically passive.

Additionally, ROSH (MRA$) certainly does not signify "head" in 8:23. It almost surely denotes "beginning." The LXX reads: πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐθεμελίωσέν με ἐν ἀρχῇ. For purposes of comparison, see Exod 12:2; Deut 32:42; Judges 7:19; Ps 119:160; Eccl 3:11; Isa 40:21; Lam 2:19; Ezek 40:1.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tertullian on the Subject of Eternal Res Et Personae

Concerning Tertullian's fuller statement of God's
existence prior to the generation of His Son, A. Harnack
perspicuously notes that although the ratio et sermo dei
existed within God since "he thought and spoke
inwardly," God the Father was still "the only person"
subsisting prior to the temporal generation of the Son
(Harnack, History of Dogma, 2:259). Edmund Fortman
also concludes that the preeminent Son of God: "was generated, not from
eternity but before and for creation, and then became
a second person." Antecedent to his generation,
however, the Logos was not "clearly and fully
personalized" (Fortman 111). It therefore seems
erroneous to think that the Son was eternally a res et
internal beside God. Tertullian makes this
point clearer in Adv Prax 5.

The Carthaginian believes that God the Father was not completely
alone before He created the world since he had his own
ratio within him (Adv Prax 5). Tertullian's main point,
however, appears to be that just as a man reasons
within himself and discourses inwardly, thus making
himself an object of contemplation, so God (from all
eternity past) discoursed and reasoned internally.
Such inward and rational discourse was apropos for The
Most High God (Summus Deus): "For God is rational, and
reason is primarily in him, and thus from him are all
things: and that Reason is his consciousness"
(rationalis enim deus, et ratio in ipso prius, et ita
ab ipso omnia
: quae ratio sensus ipsius est). Yet the
reason (ratio) dwelling internally beside God the Father ante creation was not an eternal res et persona as Tertullian goes on to demonstrate.

De Trinitate 5.8.9 (by Augustine of Hippo)--Trinitas and Metaphora

But position, and condition, and places, and times, are not said to be in God properly, but metaphorically and through similitudes. For He is both said to dwell between the cherubims, which is spoken in respect to position; and to be covered with the deep as with a garment, which is said in respect to condition; and Your years shall have no end, which is said in respect of time; and, If I ascend up into heaven, You are there, which is said in respect to place. And as respects action (or making), perhaps it may be said most truly of God alone, for God alone makes and Himself is not made. Nor is He liable to passions as far as belongs to that substance whereby He is God. So the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent: For of Him are all things, and through Him are all things, and in Him are all things; to whom be glory. Whatever, therefore, is spoken of God in respect to Himself, is both spoken singly of each person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular. For inasmuch as to God it is not one thing to be, and another thing to be great, but to Him it is the same thing to be, as it is to be great; therefore, as we do not say three essences, so we do not say three greatnesses, but one essence and one greatness. I say essence, which in Greek is called οὐσία, and which we call more usually substance.

Source: Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Friday, July 14, 2017

Does God Have All Omni-properties? (Short Thought)

Theists often tick off certain properties that purportedly identify God as the maximal being or greatest possible being, etc. As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I have been taught that God is omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (all-knowing), infinite (though we have to carefully define that term), and he is all-wise and is love (1 John 4:8).

Other properties could be added to the list, but it is common to say that God has all omni-properties and that such properties are compossible, which means that said properties jointly exist. Moreover, if God has one omni-property, then God has all. Otherwise, God (Jehovah) would not be God--the maximal being, who possesses all great-making or deific properties.

While most of the omni-properties don't seem problematic from a Witnesses standpoint, I always have to remember that we do not believe omnipresence is a divine property. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah God resides in one location (as it were)--namely, heaven itself (1 Kings 8:27, 30, 32, 36, 43, 45, 49). By "heaven," I am referring to a realm that apparently transcends the physical spacetime universe: Paul spoke of the third heaven in 2 Cor. 12:2. Although he dwells in heaven along with spirit creatures known as angels, his power and spirit are manifested everywhere.

So is God omnipresent? Does he have all omni-properties? So far, it seems that omnipresence is a divine property, yet God is still God.

Some Quotes from Genesis Rabba (בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה)

"God designed man for work--work for his own sustenance; he who does not work shall not eat."--Gen. Rabba 14.

[Reminds me of Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10-12 and many other verses. EGF]

"Sleepiness and laziness in a man are the beginning of his misfortune."--Gen. Rabba 17.

[Compare Prov. 24:30-34. EGF]

"Woman attains discretion at an earlier age than man."--Gen. Rabba 18.

For more information about Genesis Rabba, see


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

All That Glitters (Followup Reflections About the Biblical Use of "Gold")

Thanks to Duncan, I have been spending time reading about the biblical use of terms for gold, etc. Here are just a few thoughts concerning the subject.

Exodus 25:11 (LXX): καὶ καταχρυσώσεις αὐτὴν χρυσίῳ καθαρῷ ἔξωθεν καὶ ἔσωθεν χρυσώσεις αὐτήν καὶ ποιήσεις αὐτῇ κυμάτια στρεπτὰ χρυσᾶ κύκλῳ

Exodus 25:13 (LXX): ποιήσεις δὲ ἀναφορεῖς ξύλα ἄσηπτα καὶ καταχρυσώσεις αὐτὰ χρυσίῳ

Brenton Translation: "And thou shalt make staves [of] incorruptible wood, and shalt gild them with gold."

Knox Translation: "Then make poles of acacia wood, gilded over"

For occurrences of καταχρυσώσεις in the LXX, see

1 Kings 6:20 (LXX): εἴκοσι πήχεις μῆκος καὶ εἴκοσι πήχεις πλάτος καὶ εἴκοσι πήχεις τὸ ὕψος αὐτοῦ καὶ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν χρυσίῳ συγκεκλεισμένῳ καὶ ἐποίησεν θυσιαστήριον

Brenton Translation: "The length [was] twenty cubits, and the breadth [was] twenty cubits, and the height of it was twenty cubits. And he covered it with perfect gold, and he made an altar in front of the oracle, and covered it with gold."

Knox Translation: "twenty cubits in length, width, and height, and covered with plates of pure gold; plated, too, was the cedar altar."

Jonah 2:5 (LXX/OG): περιεχύθη ὕδωρ μοι ἕως ψυχῆς ἄβυσσος ἐκύκλωσέν με ἐσχάτη ἔδυ ἡ κεφαλή μου εἰς σχισμὰς ὀρέων

Hebrews 9:4: χρυσοῦν ἔχουσα θυμιατήριον καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης περικεκαλυμμένην πάντοθεν χρυσίῳ, ἐν ᾗ στάμνος χρυσῆ ἔχουσα τὸ μάννα καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος Ἀαρὼν ἡ βλαστήσασα καὶ αἱ πλάκες τῆς διαθήκης,

Henry Alford's comments on Heb. 9:4ff are protracted. See his GNT for the entire remarks made concerning this verse. I am posting a select aspect taken from his observations:

and the ark of the covenant (see Exodus 25:10 ff; Exodus 37:1 ff.: called by this name, אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית, Joshua 3:6 and passim) covered round on all sides ( ἔσωθεν καὶ ἔξωθεν, Exodus 25:11) with gold ( χρυσίῳ, not χρυσῷ, perhaps for a portion of gold, or perhaps, as Delitzsch, for wrought gold. See Palm and Rost’s Lex. But all distinction between the words seems to have been lost before Hellenistio Greek arose, and the tendency of all later forms of speech is to adopt diminutives where the elder forms used the primitives. The ark, a chest, was of shittim (acacia) wood, overlaid with plates of fine gold, Exod. l. c. The ark of the covenant was in the Holy of holies in the Mosaic tabernacle, and in the temple of Solomon, 1 Kings 8:4; 1 Kings 8:6. In the sack by the Chaldeans, it disappeared. See a legend respecting its fate in 2 Maccabees 2:1-8, where curiously enough τὴν σκηνὴν καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν καὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τοῦ θυμιάματος are classed together. The second temple did not contain it, but it was represented by a stone basement three fingers high, called אֶבֶן שְׁתִיָה, “the stone of foundation” (Delitzsch: see Gesen. Thesaurus, under שָׁתָה, iii.). So in the Mischna, “Ex quo abducta est arca, lapis ibi erat a diebus priorum prophetarum, et lapis fundationis fuit vocatus; altus e terra tribus digitis, et super ipsum thuribulum collocabat.” So Jos. B. J. v. 5. 5, of the sanctuary, in his time, τὸ δ ʼ ἐνδοτάτω μέρος εἴκοσι μὲν ἦν πηχῶν· διεέργετο δὲ ὁμοίως καταπετάσματι πρὸς τὸ ἔξωθεν. ἔκειτο δὲ οὐδὲν ὅλως ἐν αὐτῷ, ἄβατον δὲ κ. ἄχραντον κ. ἀθέατον ἦν πᾶσιν, ἁγίου δὲ ἅγιον ἐκαλεῖτο), in which (was) a golden pot (Exodus 16:32-34. The word ‘golden,’ λάβε στάμνον χρυσοῦν ἕνα, is added by the LXX: so also Philo de Congr. Quær. Erud. Gr. 18, vol. i. p. 533, ἐν στάμνῳ χρυσῷ: the Heb. has merely “a pot,” as E. V.) containing the manna (viz. an omer, each man’s daily share, laid up for a memorial, cf. Exodus 16:32 with Exodus 16:16. That this pot was to be placed in the ark, is not said there, but it was gathered probably from the words “before the Lord.” In 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10, it is stated that there was nothing in the ark in Solomon’s temple, except the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb. But this, as Delitzsch observes, will not prove any thing against the pot of manna and the rod having once been there; nay rather, from the express declaration that there was then nothing but the tables of stone, it would seem that formerly there had been other things there.

To be continued . . .

Sunday, July 09, 2017

John 3:13: Start of Some General Observations

I have been researching John 3:13, but do not have time/energy to write up an official position entry right now. So I want to begin by just posting what certain scholars have written concerning 3:13. At some point, I would like to offer critical remarks of my own--my only concern with these posts is to establish whether the reading, "which is in heaven" belongs in scripture or not:

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:

Which is in heaven.—These words are omitted in some MSS., including the Sinaitic and the Vatican. The judgment of most modern editors (not including Westcott and Hort) retains them. It is an instance where it is hard to account for the insertion by a copyist, but where the omission is not unlikely, owing to their seeming difficulty. And yet the difficulty is one which vanishes before the true idea of heaven. If heaven is thought of as a place infinitely distant beyond clouds and sky, or as a time in the far future when this world’s life shall end, then it is indeed hard to understand what is here meant by “the Son of Man which is in heaven;” and a copyist may well have found in omission the easiest solution of the difficulty. But if heaven is something wholly different from this coldness of distance in space or time; if it is a state, a life, in which we are, which is in us—now in part, hereafter in its fulness—then may we understand and with glad hearts hold to the vital truth that the Son of Man, who came down from heaven, was ever in heaven; and that every son of man who is born of water and of the Spirit is “made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor (in the present, κληρονόμος) of the kingdom of heaven.”

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

which is in heaven] These words are omitted in the best MSS. If they are retained, the meaning is ‘Whose proper home is heaven.’ Or the Greek participle may be the imperfect tense (comp. John 6:62, John 9:25, John 17:5), which was in heaven before the Incarnation. It is doubtful whether in this verse we have any direct allusion to the Ascension, though this is sometimes assumed.

NET Bible Footnote:

tc Most witnesses, including a few important ones (A[*] Θ Ψ 050 Ë1,13 Ï latt syc,p,h), have at the end of this verse “the one who is in heaven” (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, Jo wn en tw ouranw). A few others have variations on this phrase, such as “who was in heaven” (e syc), or “the one who is from heaven” (0141 pc sys). The witnesses normally considered the best, along with several others, lack the phrase in its entirety (Ì66,75 א B L T Ws 083 086 33 1241 pc co). On the one hand, if the reading ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is authentic it may suggest that while Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus he spoke of himself as in heaven even while he was on earth. If that is the case, one could see why variations from this hard saying arose: “who was in heaven,” “the one who is from heaven,” and omission of the clause. At the same time, such a saying could be interpreted (though with difficulty) as part of the narrator’s comments rather than Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, alleviating the problem. And if v. 13 was viewed in early times as the evangelist’s statement, “the one who is in heaven” could have crept into the text through a marginal note. Other internal evidence suggests that this saying may be authentic. The adjectival participle, ὁ ὤν, is used in the Fourth Gospel more than any other NT book (though the Apocalypse comes in a close second), and frequently with reference to Jesus (1:18; 6:46; 8:47). It may be looking back to the LXX of Exod 3:14 (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). Especially since this exact construction is not necessary to communicate the location of the Son of Man, its presence in many witnesses here may suggest authenticity. Further, John uses the singular of οὐρανός (ourano", “heaven”) in all 18 instances of the word in this Gospel, and all but twice with the article (only 1:32 and 6:58 are anarthrous, and even in the latter there is significant testimony to the article). At the same time, the witnesses that lack this clause are very weighty and must not be discounted. Generally speaking, if other factors are equal, the reading of such mss should be preferred. And internally, it could be argued that ὁ ὤν is the most concise way to speak of the Son of Man in heaven at that time (without the participle the point would be more ambiguous). Further, the articular singular οὐρανός is already used twice in this verse, thus sufficiently prompting scribes to add the same in the longer reading. This combination of factors suggests that ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is not a genuine Johannism. Further intrinsic evidence against the longer reading relates to the evangelist’s purposes: If he intended v. 13 to be his own comments rather than Jesus’ statement, his switch back to Jesus’ words in v. 14 (for the lifting up of the Son of Man is still seen as in the future) seems inexplicable. The reading “who is in heaven” thus seems to be too hard. All things considered, as intriguing as the longer reading is, it seems almost surely to have been a marginal gloss added inadvertently to the text in the process of transmission. For an argument in favor of the longer reading, see David Alan Black, “The Text of John 3:13,” GTJ 6 (1985): 49-66.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament:

Which is in heaven (ο ων εν τωι ουρανωι — ho ōn en tōi ouranōi). This phrase is added by some manuscripts, not by Aleph B L W 33, and, if genuine, would merely emphasize the timeless existence of God‘s Son who is in heaven even while on earth. Probably a gloss. But “the Son of man” is genuine. He is the one who has come down out of heaven.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible:

‘Who is in Heaven’. This is omitted in many manuscripts, and although it is fairly strongly evidenced the weight of evidence must be seen as against it (p66, Aleph, B, L, W omit it. A Theta f1 f13 include it). However, the idea behind it, that Jesus has access to Heaven’s secrets is unquestionable (Matthew 11:25-27).


καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

John Calvin--His Commentary on John 1:1b

I wonder what induced the Latins to render ὁ λόγος by Verbum, (the Word;) for that would rather have been the translation of τὸ ῥη̑μα. But granting that they had some plausible reason, still it cannot be denied that Sermo (the Speech) would have been far more appropriate. Hence it is evident, what barbarous tyranny was exercised by the theologians of the Sorbonne, who teased and stormed at Erasmus in such a manner, because he had changed a single word for the better.

And the Speech was with God. We have already said that the Son of God is thus placed above the world and above all the creatures, and is declared to have existed before all ages. But at the same time this mode of expression attributes to him a distinct personality from the Father; for it would have been absurd in the Evangelist to say that the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God. This passage serves, therefore, to refute the error of Sabellius; for it shows that the Son is distinct from the Father. I have already remarked that we ought to be sober in thinking, and modest in speaking, about such high mysteries. And yet the ancient writers of the Church were excusable, when, finding that they could not in any other way maintain sound and pure doctrine in opposition to the perplexed and ambiguous phraseology of the heretics, they were compelled to invent some words, which after all had no other meaning than what is taught in the Scriptures. They said that there are three Hypostases, or Subsistences, or Persons, in the one and simple essence of God. The word; ὑπόστασις (Hypostasis) occurs in this sense in Hebrews 1:3, to which corresponds the Latin word Substaatia, (substance) as it is employed by Hilary. The Persons (τὰ πρόσωπα) were called by them distinct properties in God, which present themselves to the view of our minds; as Gregory Nazianzen says, “I cannot think of the One (God) without having the Three (Persons) shining around me.


Friday, July 07, 2017

Arnobius of Sicca (Adversus nationes 2.15.3)

Arnobius composes these words about the soul. They "have one origin, we therefore think exactly alike; we do not differ in manners, we do not differ in beliefs; we all know God (Deum); and there are not as many opinions as there are men in the world, nor are these divided in infinite variety."

Aduersus nationes 2.15.1: Quare nihil est quod nos fallat, nihil quod nobis polliceatur spes cassas, id quod a nouis quibusdam dicitur uiris et inmoderata sui opinione sublates, animas immortales esse, domino rerum ac principi gradu proximas dignitatis, genitore illo ac patre prolatas, diuinas sapientes doctas necque ulla corporis attrectatione continguas (Reifferscheid, CSEL 4:59-60). See Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 200; M.L. Colish, Stoic Tradition, 2:37. Both sources explain the distinctive teachings of the "upstarts" mentioned in Adversus nationes 2.

Sources: Arnobius of Sicca, Arnobii Adversvs nationes libri VII, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, volume 4, ed. August Reifferscheid (Vindobonae: apvd C. Geroldi filivm, 1875).

Marcia L. Colish, The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. 2 volumes. Leiden: Brill, 1985.

Kristin De Troyer on "The Names of God, Their Pronunciation . . ." (Link Enclosed)

Found this article to be interesting--might also appeal to blog readers.

Best regards,


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Hebrew Word "Dabar/Davar" and Benner

My comments address

None of what I am about to "speak" is meant in a spirit of bitterness or animosity. Nor am I simply being nitpicky, since I well know my imperfections, and constantly try to make the necessary adjustments. Just ask my wife.

The referenced link partly focuses on davar, which Jeff Benner defines as "speak." But one needs to distinguish between the verb form versus the noun, davar. To simplify, Gesenius primarily defines the noun as "a thing" or "a word." The dictionary gives more senses for the term, which the reader may consult in Gesenius.

On a related note, Benner contends that midvar/midbar ("wilderness") communicated order to the so-called Hebrew mind. That is supposedly why Bible writers used midvar. Quite frankly, this concept seems to be a contemporary imposition on the ancient Hebrew text.

TDOT claims that the word origins for midbar are less than clear, but a nexus with davar "is highly unlikely," so it is recommended that midbar possibly has some relation to dober or rbd. See

Some link midbar with good pasturage (1 Sam 17:28). After discussing midbar having associations with "grazing land," TDOT adds: "This aspect of midbar carries positive connotations. Pastoral romanticism and love (Cant. 3:6; 8:5) blossom in these remote pastoral settings (Jer. 9:1 [2]; Ps. 55:8 [7])."

There are also places at which Benner wants to translate davar as "order." Depending on the context, I would agree that "order" might be an appropriate rendering at times. However, what about using "order" at Numbers 1:1?

"And Jehovah spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying," (ASV)

What about Genesis 8:15 or 17:3? I don't believe "order" works in these verses or in Lev. 24:2. However, there are passages where the rendering could work.

It appears that Benner reads a little too much into the expression, "ten commandments." I can accept "ten orders": that is fine. But his further commentary goes well beyond lexical observations, and it is instructive how the Jewish tradition understood the Hebrew expression.

LXX translates Deut. 4:13 with τὰ δέκα ῥήματα ("the ten words/things")--hence, the Decalogue in English. The Targum of Jonathan Deuteronomy speaks of "Ten Words which He wrote upon sapphire tablets." Compare Exod 20:1; 34:28.

Lastly, I might also correct "speach" on his website to speech.

Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Question 2)

Draft Version in Progress

Lecture Notes

Arguments for the existence of God customarily are framed in a priori or a posteriori ways. Theoreticians base a priori arguments on concepts, general principles, and rigorous analysis of terms. All such contemplative activity involves the use of one's mental processes. Anselm of Canterbury famously began with the concept of a perfect being, then reasoned from that concept to the actual existence of God. Whether readers believe he was successful in this endeavor, the point is that his approach exemplifies what it means for an argument to be framed by using a priori concepts.

On the other hand, some thinkers choose a posteriori argumentation to demonstrate God's existence. A posteriori (a Latin expression like a priori is) could be defined as starting from sensory experience, that is, appealing to features of the cosmos or reasoning from effects to their ultimate cause. The notable five ways argument of Thomas Aquinas exemplifies a posteriori reasoning. This study will provide a basic introduction to those five ways: I wrote these lecture notes for an undergraduate audience.

Aquinas contends that the existence of God is self-evident. However, it is possible to understand something being self-evident in two ways: a thing may be self-evident in itself (per se nota) or self-evident for us (). To illustrate, the Pythagorean theorem is analytic (true by definition), but does that mean its analyticity is known by everyone? Most would probably say that is not the case. So it is possible for a term to be self-evident in itself, known per se nota, without the term being self-evident to us. Aquinas reasons that God's existence is comparable to the Pythagorean theorem or statements of logic. As another example, students often think the statement, "All bachelors are unmarried men" is possibly false--not true by definition. But once we define "bachelor" as unmarried men, then it only follows logically or analytically that the statement is self-evidently true in se, even if it is not self-evident for us. Aquinas proposes that God's existence is analogous to these examples. Since God's existence is not self-evident to all, it seems that the preferred approach to proving there is a God involves a posteriori reasoning. Hence, the five ways of Aquinas.

The magnum opus of Aquinas is the Summa Theologiae (also known as the Summa Theologica). I will use ST to abbreviate the work: it can be translated "Summation of Theology." One distinctive feature of ST is the famed scholastic method--a method that entails setting forth questions, anticipating objections, posing counterpoints to the objections, quoting philosophical and ecclesiastical authorities and Scripture, then giving a response before addressing each anticipated objection. Aquinas follows the method for 613 questions, which apparently are meant to resemble the supposed 613 mandata of Jewish Law.

Having discussed basic features of ST, I will now discuss the five ways argument, an argument that is cosmological rather than ontological.

1) Aquinas' first way is the argument from motion (motus), something that we all experience. One can define motion in this context as "any change whatsoever" or "a reduction of potentiality to actuality" (using Aristotelian categories). The basic point is that everything in the natural world is moved by something else other than itself: no potentiality becomes actuality without an agent of change. For example, Aquinas reasons, a log is potentially hot, but in order for the potentially hot log to become actually hot, an agent of change that is actually hot must reduce the potentially hot log to being actually hot: in other words, fire is actually hot. Therefore, fire is able to make what is potentially hot, actually hot. The same principle would apply to a potentially wet towel. It could only become actually hot by water as an agent of change. But how do these examples apply to demonstrating God's existence?

a) Invoking the categories of motion (change), potentiality and actuality, Aquinas reckons that all motion in the world needs an explanation. My foot presses the gas pedal, which revs the engine, which moves the car. But what makes my foot move? And what causes the agent of change that moves my foot, and so on? Now either one accepts an infinite regress of movers or the reasonable conclusion is that God is the first unmoved mover. One thing that makes the argument probative is that if there is no first mover, then there is no intermediate mover. However, since there are intermediate movers, then a first mover must exist. Quote scholar. Kenny and inertia objection.

2) The second of the five ways is the argument from efficient causes. At this point, Aquinas again shows his conceptual dependence in large part on Aristotle. The Philosopher discusses four types of causes in his works Physics and Metaphysics. These four are the material, efficient, formal, and final causes. By efficient cause (causa efficiens), Aristotle means that cause which brings something into being or sets a thing/event into motion. To use one of Aristotle's examples, a father efficiently causes his child to exist. We would now say that parents jointly constitute efficient causes, ceteris paribus. The important consideration for Aquinas in this case is that X cannot be an efficient cause of itself: i.e., a child cannot be his/her own efficient cause.

b) Imagine someone playing billiards. Neural activity causes the player's arm to move; the player's arm causes the stick to move; the stick efficiently causes the ball to move; the ball travels to the side pocket (an effect produced by the first efficient cause). I am simplifying all of the events that occur with this seeming rudimentary occurrence, but the point is that in the case of playing billiards, we have a first cause (plausibly), then intermediary causes, and there's a final effect. Now Aquinas reasons that either we posit an infinite regress of efficient causes or we reason that God is the first efficient cause. Which option should we take?

c) Aquinas contends that if there is no first efficient cause, then no intermediary or ultimate causes exist, nor any ultimate effects:

Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false.

So positing God as the first efficient cause seems better than positing an infinite regress of efficient causes. If there is no first efficient cause (e.g., if neural activity never causes my arm to move), then no other causes are able to exist (e.g., no eight ball in the corner pocket). The acceptance of a first efficient cause by Aquinas sets him apart from Aristotle, who only views God as a final cause (telos).

3)The third way is tougher to understand than the first two. It "is taken from possibility and necessity." Two basic types of existence are possible being and necessary being:

It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings (Matthew Davidson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

In place of "contingent," we can use "possible," but the point remains. Certain beings (entities) possibly exist or they are possible objects, whereas other beings are necessary, which means "could not have failed to exist."

a) Aquinas reckons that it is impossible that all entities only exist in a possible sense, otherwise, at one time nothing existed and nothing would now exist if all entities were possible, but not necessary. How does Aquinas reach this wide ranging conclusion?

b) One assumption is that a possible (i.e., contingent) entity at one time did not exist. For example, my existence is contingent or possible: I exist, but might not have existed, if circumstances had differed. My future existence is also contingent,that is, not necessary since it may terminate at any time. Another aspect to my possible existence is that there was a time when I did not exist. However, what is true in my case seems true of other beings like me whether they are trees, dogs, cats, bears or other humans.

c) If possible entities once did not exist, whence their course of life? How was their possible existence actualized? For a possible being only comes into existence in virtue of an actual being--an entity that already has being. Hence, there must be a necessary being whose existence is not simply possible, but actual.

d) Appealing to the infinite regress idea again, one can reason that either an infinite regress of necessary beings exist "whose necessity has a cause" (Aquinas). Alternatively, one could reason that there must be an entity such that the entity is necessary per se (through itself), and such an entity's reason for existence is not ab alio (from/by another). This per se necessary existent is known as God.

For a detailed formalization of the third way and other ways, see

A formal version of the third way might look this way:

1. There must be a necessary being, God, which can’t not exist and which keeps everything else in existence.
2. If something is contingent, then it can fail to exist, and there must be a time at which it doesn’t exist.
3. If everything were contingent, then there must have been a time at which nothing existed.
4. Everything has to be caused to exist by something existing before it.
5. If there was a time at which nothing existed, then nothing would be in existence now.
6. Things are in existence now.
7. It must not be the case that everything is contingent.


The last link posted above evidently accuses Aquinas of what logicians call "the quantifier shift fallacy." To avoid such problems, Robert Maydole suggested that the third way of the cosmological argument be modalized (i.e., frame the argument using modal logic).

4) The fourth way is the argument "from the gradation to be found in things." Aquinas insists that entities are more or less good, true or noble. Objects are hot, hotter and hottest. In order for the concepts ""more and less" to be intelligible, there must be an entity, which constitutes a maximum for other entities, so that gradations and comparisons between entities make sense. In other words, speaking of one fever as hotter than another fever only is intelligible if we have some maximum standard for hot objects. The same principle applies to entities that are more or less good, true or noble. Beauty might also constitute another example that illustrates the fourth way. We often make judgments that one painting is less/more beautiful than another painting. What allows us to make these kinds of aesthetic judgments? Could there be an overarching type of beauty that functions as a maximum whereby all objects can be judged against it?

Source of Picture: Wikipedia Commons

Monday, July 03, 2017

Michael V. Fox on Proverbs 26:23

Fox translates Proverbs 26:23: "Adulterated silver glazed on earthenware: smooth lips and an evil heart."

NWT 2013: "Like a silver glazing over a piece of earthenware Are affectionate words from an evil heart."

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Do Ut Des and Christian Teaching

We had a lesson today that emphasized volunteering in Jehovah's service. As we studied the WT lesson, these words came to mind--words addressed to the Messianic King: "Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of your military force" (Psalm 110:3-NWT 2013). What is the day of his military force? In what sense do his people offer themselves willingly? Moreover, we learned that Jesus taught the importance of giving without expecting repayment from humans (Luke 14:13-14). This lead me to think about the Roman concept: "Do ut des."

The expression can be translated: "I give in order that you may give." The Latin turn of phrase is properly applied to Roman religion, which was divided into public and private piety (pietas). Public or state religion usually was conducted as a business transaction between God (gods) and the individual worshiper. This form of pietas advances human self-interest: it evidently promotes a quid pro quo mindset.

In contrast, Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 10.6-7) argues that some acts are ends-in-themselves (teloi). That is, we participate in some actions without entertaining any hope of reciprocation—we give without expectation of receiving. Turning back to Scripture, one finds that the Pater Noster teaches followers of Christ about the preeminence of serving God as an end-in-itself (Matthew 6:9-13). The hallowing of God's name and His kingdom transcends human needs like daily bread or the forgiveness of sins although these concerns are important too. The humbling of self while honoring God and serving others are important lessons we learn from the Pater Noster. Biblical religion appears to eschew the familiar early attitude--"Do ut Des." See Jesus' famed Sermon on the Mount.

See Merold Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

James 4:5 Remarks

ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει Πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν

Starting with a conjunction, this difficult verse speaks about ἡ γραφὴ, evidently referring to a particular scripture--part of the holy writings. While scholars customarily apply ἡ γραφὴ to a scriptural passage, no one seems certain which text James is referencing; nevertheless, sacred writing is evidently the focus of his language. See John 7:38.

Another question is how the spirit, which has taken up residence in Christians, yearns with envy. Or is God the one who envies ("jealously desires") the divine spirit that he has made to dwell in us?

"Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, 'He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?'" (ESV)

Coffman's Commentary contains an interesting note about James 4:5-6:

Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?

It is the conviction here that spirit should be read Spirit, since the only spirit ever made to dwell in Christian hearts is the Holy Spirit.

This is a disputed text, of course, with almost as many renditions of it as there are translators and commentators, the first sentence usually being presented as a formula for introducing a Scriptural quotation. We agree with Lenski who said, "We are not convinced that the question is a formula of quotation; if it were, we should certainly expect the addition of saying that."[14] The proof that this does not introduce a quotation from the Bible is that no quotation is given, a problem which has perplexed the commentators extensively. Rather than being troubled by the presentation of different views on it, we shall be content with giving what would appear to be the best rendition of it, as follows:

Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks falsely? Does the Spirit that dwells in us strongly incline to envy?[15]

This rendition, which actually is not out of harmony with our text above, also fits in beautifully with James 4:6, given by the same translation thus:

Indeed, it bestows superior favor; therefore, it is said, "God sets himself in opposition to the haughty, but gives favor to the lowly.

Note 15 in Coffman for James 4:5ff supplies this additional data:

Emphatic Diaglott (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society), p. 769.

That is the translation he quotes above. See

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Numbers 12:8 (LXX)

Interesting that the LXX renders "the form/similitude" of the Hebrew text--referring to YHWH (Jehovah)with τὴν δόξαν κυρίου . . . (Numbers 12:8)

Moses beheld the "form" or "glory" (LXX) of Jehovah. Compare Ezek. 43:2. However, in Ezekiel, we have כָּבוֹד: while Numbers has תְּמוּנָה.

See Ps. 17:15.

It has been suggested that LXX translators sometimes use morphe and doxa interchangeably. Cf. Job 4:16.

Hanna K. Tervanotko explains that the Septuagint "makes the text easier to understand." She thinks the MT is somewhat vague or unclear as to what Moses witnessed, but the LXX suggests he beheld God's glory. What consequences follow from the LXX rendering? Tervanotko reckons that the Greek version makes it evident Moses "did not see God directly."

See Tervanotko, Denying Her Voice: The Figure of Miriam in Ancient Jewish Literature, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016, page 203.

Compare what this article notes regarding doxa in the LXX and NT:

Rashi's commentary:

and He beholds the image of the Lord: This refers to a vision of the “back,” as it says,“and you will see My back” (Exod. 33:23). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13]

ותמנת ה' יביט: זה מראה אחורים, כענין שנאמר (שמות לג, כג) וראית את אחורי:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review of The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity: Our Predictive Brain (By Professor Joaquín M. Fuster)

Jaoquín M. Fuster, The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity: Our Predictive Brain, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

I guess that "exciting" is a relative term since one person's excitement does not constitute another person's ecstasy. If you're interested in neuroscience or the issues of freedom, language, and creativity--this book might be for you. The esteemed Professor Joaquin M. Fuster produces a book that is not written for beginners. Its strength is not accessibility, but the book contains innovative thoughts about the brain and how it relates to our freedom to choose without any prior/antecedent causes.

Fuster does not try to defend a "radical" type of free will. Rather, he apparently wants to contend that our ability to choose between two possibilities (call them A and not A), stems from the nervous system; particularly, from the cerebral cortex. He provides other qualifications on the kind of freedom he has in mind, but Fuster's account differs from other books I've read that allow the hypothetical Laplacean Intelligence to hinder them.

This book appeals to evolutionary developments and organic environments to support the idea that humans can decide between genuine alternatives. Fuster believes that evolution has brought something new into existence by making choice possible. He reasons that one integral factor in our ability to exercise freedom is language. Of course, it's important to understand what Fuster means by language and the relationship that he posits between language and our "predictive brains." This study has given us a lot to consider: it is the product of 50 years spent researching our awe-inspiring brain; one bit of data I am still pondering is how 99 percent of all actions are performed unconsciously. Is it true? And how does that idea affect human freedom?

See for a sample.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

John H.P. Reumann's Commentary on Philippians 2:6

Hurtado, Philo and Morphe Qeou (Form of God)

Larry Hurtado has suggested that a particular occurrence of μορφή in Philo might comprise "certain virtues, a way of being, not simply outward/visual appearance." The passage he discusses is Embassy to Gaius (110-114). He then tries to ascertain whether there is a possible link (conceptually or linguistically) between Philo's text and Philippians 2:6.

I find the question interesting because of the work I've done on Phil. 2:6ff. Granted, the Philippians text is vexed with exegetical issues and one has to concede that μορφή could denote "status" rather than "external appearance" in Philippians, one has to ask whether the Philo text has any bearing on what Paul wrote. Secondly, how should Philo be interpreted?

One translation of Philo reads: "What connexion or resemblance was there between him [Gaius] and Apollo, when he never paid any attention to any ties of kindred or friendship? Let him cease, then, this pretended Apollo, from imitating that real healer of mankind, for the form of God is not a thing which is capable of being imitated by an inferior one, as good money is imitated by bad."

Hurtado also quotes Embassy 114: "Have we not, then, learned from all these instances, that Gaius ought not to be likened to any god, and not even to any demi-god, inasmuch as he has neither the same nature, nor the same essence, nor even the same wishes and intentions as any one of them"

From these passages, Hurtado extracts the idea that Philo has moral/ethical attributes connected with a deity in mind. But does he?

The late Dr. Rodney Decker writes:

Lightfoot is a classic example of those who base the meaning of μορφή on Greek philosophy. He explains that it refers to "the specific character" (129); that "μορφή must apply to the attributes of the Godhead" (132). "In Gk philosophical literature, μορφή acquires a fixed and central place in the thought of Aristotle. For him the term becomes equal to a thing's essence (οὐσία) or nature (φύσις).”1

However, Decker provides ample reasons to reject this understanding of μορφή in Philippians 2:6. We also learn that Hurtado's suggestion isn't new at all. Lightfoot thoroughly plumbed Philo, Aristotle, and other writers to examine the potential denotation of μορφή. His view of the word fell along similar lines as Hurtado's. Yet Lightfoot was almost surely mistaken as I have pointed out in the first volume of Christology and the Trinity and so has Moisés Silva, in his Philippians commentary.

For Decker's analysis, see

Concerning "the specific character" understanding of μορφή, Lightfoot himself maintains that the ancient Neoplatonists and Philo both knew and utilized the word in this manner. See Lightfoot's analysis at

Nonetheless, I emphasize that Paul likely did not use μορφή this way.

Hurtado's discussion is here:

About the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Link Enclosed)


The page explains why Brill published this helpful resource for Greek students. Sorry, but I still eagerly await the Cambridge Greek lexicon, although Brill is good too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Proverbs 8:22-QANAH Possibly Means "Created"

I think that most, if not all, commentators are aware
of the Hebrew word that appears in Prov. 8:22. When they talk about
QANAH (QNH) being used, they are evidently referring
to the lexical form and not to what strictly appears
in Proverbs. Let us consider what Whybray's commentary

"Created me (QANANI): the meaning of this word has
been disputed since very early times. LXX, Targ.,
Pesh. have 'created'; Vulg. 'possessed'. The verb
QANAH, which occurs frequently, together with its
cognates, in the Old Testament, almost always means
'acquire' or, more specifically, 'purchase' (and so
also 'possess'). In Proverbs, apart from this verse,
it occurs thirteen times" (Proverbs, 129).

Whybray then discusses the semantic range of
QANAH. He subsequently concludes:

"The meaning of QANANI here remains uncertain. Of the
three possibilities, 'begot, procreated' has less
evidence to support it than the other two. 'Acquired,
possessed' is perhaps more likely than 'created' in
view of the overwhelming number of passages in which
this verb has this meaning. But scholars who argue
that QANAH in the sense of 'acquired' must imply that
Wisdom is here seen as having pre-existed before
Yahweh acquired her (Vawter, 1980, pp. 205-16; de
Boer, 1961) are reading too much into the text. This
conclusion, however, is subject to the interpretation
of 8:22-31 as a whole" (Proverbs, 130).

C.H. Toy (ICC on Proverbs), who
definitely knows how the text reads (as shown on page
181 of his work) observes:

"The rendering formed (=created) is supported by the
parallel expressions in v. 23, 24, 25 (made or
ordained and brought into being); the translation
possessed (RV.) is possible, but does not accord with
the context, in which the point is the time of
Wisdom's creation" (Toy, 173).

Admittedly, the exact sense of QANAH in Prov. 8:22 is
highly contested, but there appear to be good reasons
for understanding QANAH as "created" in this verse:

"Some scholars question whether the first verb
mentioned in v. 22a (QANAH) means anything more than
'to acquire, possess,' but the evidence from Ugaritic,
Phoenician, and Hebrew is clear that 'to create' is
one of its meanings. In Ugaritic, the fivefold
repeated epithet of Asherah, QNYT 'LM, can only mean
'creator of the gods.' In Phoenician, 'L QN 'RS (KAI
26.iii.18) can only mean 'El, creator of the earth.' A
similar epithet appears in Gen 14:19, 22, where El
Elyon is called 'creator of heaven and earth.' In Deut
32:6 QANAH is parallel to 'to make' and 'to
establish.' Thus, the Hebrew verb QANAH, in addition
to the meaning 'to acquire, possess,' can also mean
'to create'" (Richard J. Clifford,Proverbs: A Commentary, p. 96).

Additionally, Clifford offers this explanation:

"In Biblical Hebrew, QANAH had two distinct
senses--'to possess (by far the most common meaning)
and 'to create, beget'" (Clifford, 96). Clifford
himself seems to prefer the latter sense for QANAH in
Prov. 8:22. See Clifford, 94-96.

Finally, this observation comes from Michael Fox:

"The word's [QANAH] lexical meaning, the semantic content it brings to context, is 'acquire,' no more than that. But one way something can be acquired is by creation. English 'acquire' implies that the object was already in existence, but this is not the case with QANAH. To avoid misunderstanding, the better translation in context is 'created.'

While both 'created' and acquired' are legitimate contextual translations of this verb, 'possessed' (Vul, KJV) is not. Though this mutes the theologically difficult implication that prior to creation God did not have wisdom, it does not really fit the context. The verbs in vv 22-25 relating to Wisdom's genesis describe a one-time action, whereas possession is continuous. Subsequent possession may be assumed, though prior possession is indeed excluded. God acquired/created wisdom as the first of his deeds. Wisdom was 'born' (vv 24, 25) at that time. She did not exist from eternity. Wisdom is therefore an accidental attribute of godhead, not an essential or inherent one" (Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 1-9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible. New York and London: Doubleday, page 279).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Online Article Pertaining to the Book of Isaiah

I am enjoying an article by J. Blake Couey found here:

While I don't endorse every comment made in this article, the following remarks are worth posting in light of past discussions we've had about Isaiah's place in the canon:

The final stages of the formation of Isaiah, including the appearance of something like its present form, occurred sometime between the 5th and 3rd centuries bce. More precise dates remain contested, owing to the paucity of both specific historical references in the later chapters of the book and external historical sources from this period. The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa)—a complete copy of the book whose content is very similar to manuscripts from nearly a millennium later—dates to the late 2nd century bce; near the beginning of the same century, the author of the biblical book of Sirach knew a form of Isaiah that included both chapters 36–39 and 40–55 (Sir. 48:23–24). Additional editorial work may have continued until the turn of the Common Era, as suggested by differences among copies of Isaiah from Qumran, the early Greek translation of Isaiah in the Septuagint, and later Hebrew manuscripts.9 At the same time, Qumran marks the point at which interpretation of Isaiah began to appear in separate commentaries on the text, instead of additions to the book itself.10 Although it would be historically anachronistic to speak of a biblical canon at this point, this development suggests that Isaiah was viewed as possessing some degree of religious authority.

An Addendum to The Revelation 5:10 Post

The more I think about Bowman's objection regarding NWT treatment of epi for Rev. 5:10, the less sense his objection makes. Nouns are classically defined as parts of speech that name persons, places or things. So we're to believe that epi (in some cases) can be rendered/understood as "over" when it comes to persons (Revelation 17:18) or things (Acts 8:27), but it cannot be so understood when referring to places? Who made this rule and which grammar states it?

Another question for Dr. Bowman would be, is Egypt a place-noun? If he concedes that the noun does name a place, I would draw Bowman's attention to Genesis 41:41:

εἶπεν δὲ Φαραω τῷ Ιωσηφ ἰδοὺ καθίστημί σε σήμερον ἐπὶ πάσης γῆς Αἰγύπτου

Examples have already been provided to show that epi ths ghs also can be rendered "over the earth."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Revelation 5:10: Answering Dr. Robert Bowman

I and other Witnesses have written material addressing the NWT rendering of Revelation 5:10, "over the earth" as opposed to "on the earth." Yet Robert Bowman evidently continues to insist that "over the earth" is an unjustified and potentially agenda-driven translation. He maintains that NWT "has almost no scholarly support" and "is certainly wrong." While admitting that epi can mean "over" at times (Rev 9:11; 11:6), he still asserts that epi never denotes "over" when used in conjunction with a "place-noun" like earth. See Rev 5:3, 13. What should we make of Bowman's claims?

My assessment is that Bowman is "certainly wrong" about the NWT handling of Rev 5:10.

JFB Commentary:
Kelly translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Jud 9:8; Mt 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Re 3:10. "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [Bengel].

Bengel's Gnomon: ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) Ἐπὶ here denotes locality, as ch. Revelation 3:10 and everywhere: or rather power, as ch. Revelation 2:26; as it is said, βασιλεύει ἐπὶ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, Matthew 2:22. And thus the Septuagint, Jdg 9:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Kings 8:20; 2 Kings 11:3. I should not therefore venture to assert, from this phrase, that these remain on the earth, though they rule over the earth. The elders were meek (comp. Matthew 5:5): but the flock of the meek independently is much larger.

Brenton translates 2 Kings 11:3: "And he remained with her hid in the house of the Lord six years: and Athaliah{gr.Gotholia} reigned over the land."

"Gotholia was reigning over the land" (NETS).

On page 166 of his Revelation commentary, Grant R. Osborne explains that epi for authority or rule ("over") is "common"--then he cites Rev 5:10 as an example and Rev 17:18. However, to be fair, see the remarks that he later makes on 5:10. The point nonetheless stands that "over" is far from being wrong. Furthermore, there is adequate scholarly support for the NWT rendering.

See also

Cf. the discussion on epi in BDAG.

If one consults the major lexica and grammars on this issue, he/she will likely find that Bowman's place-noun rule dissipates under the heat of evidence.

The Case for Revelation Being Written Under Domitian's Reign

Jonathan Knight (Revelation, Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1999) concludes that the book of
Revelation was written "in the last decade of the
first century CE at some point before the murder of
Domitian in 96 CE" (page 19). He makes this conclusion
for reasons that are listed below:

(1) Papias of Hierapolis (ca. 70-163 CE) knew the Apocalypse and he
lived during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE). The
evidence from Papias places the book's date in the first century CE.

(2) Justin Martyr (150 CE) and Irenaeus (ca. 185) both
were familiar with the Apocalypse of John (Die
Offenbarung des Johannes
). Thus the book was already
being used by Christians prior to that time.

(3) Irenaeus writes that the book of Revelation was
produced near the end of Domitian's reign (around 96

(4) Eusebius of Caesarea observes that John was sent to Patmos by
Domitian (Hist. Eccl. 3.18.1).

In addition to Knight's proposal for the date of
Revelation, G.K. Beale (Revelation, Cambridge:
Paternoster Press, 1999) also thinks that Revelation
was written around 96 CE. He makes this proposal:

"Therefore, a date during the time of Nero is possible
for Revelation, but the later setting under Domitian
is more probable in the light of the evidence in the
book for an expected escalation of emperor worship in
the near future and especially the widespread,
programmatic legal persecution portrayed as imminent
or already occurring in Revelation 13, though the
letters reveal only spasmodic persecution" (page 9).

All in all, while there may be some debate about
when Revelation was written, I think a good case can
be made for the 96 CE date.

Genesis 3:24-A Comparison of Texts

Targum Onkelos Genesis 1-6: And He drove out the man, and before the garden of Eden he caused to dwell the kerubaya, and the sharp sword which revolved to keep the way of the Tree of Life.


Latin Vulgate: eiecitque Adam et conlocavit ante paradisum voluptatis cherubin et flammeum gladium atque versatilem ad custodiendam viam ligni vitae.

Septuagint: καὶ ἐξέβαλεν τὸν Αδαμ καὶ κατῴκισεν αὐτὸν ἀπέναντι τοῦ παραδείσου τῆς τρυφῆς καὶ ἔταξεν τὰ χερουβιμ καὶ τὴν φλογίνην ῥομφαίαν τὴν στρεφομένην φυλάσσειν τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς

Brenton Septuagint Translation: And he cast out Adam and caused him to dwell over against the garden of Delight, and stationed the cherubs and the fiery sword that turns about to keep the way of the tree of life.

Targum of Jonathan Gen 1-6: And the Lord God removed him from the garden of Eden; and he went and dwelt on Mount Moriah, to cultivate the ground from which he had been created. And He drave out the man from thence where He had made to dwell the glory of His Shekina at the first between the two Kerubaia.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

John 17:3-Ginoskw as Coming to Know?

Melito of Sardis: Modalism and the Passover Homily

It has been a few years since I perused the writings
of Melito in any detail. However, it appears safe to assert
that he was a modalist, who thought Jesus possibly
exhausted the reality of God the Father, Son and
the holy spirit.

Jaroslav Pelikan (The Christian Tradition, volume I)
alludes to the words of Tertullian, who argued that
certain believers in or around his time "protect[ed]
the 'monarchy' of the Godhead by stressing the
identity of the Son with the Father without specifying
the distinction between them with equal precision"

Melito of Sardis was one such Monarchian, according to
Pelikan. He applied Psalm 96:10 to Jesus through
a so-called "christian midrash," whereby one
interprets the words "The Lord reigns from the tree"
as a polemic against Jews who opposed the glorious
Lord, Jesus Christ.

I notice that the Ecole Initiative states:

"The Peri Pascha addressed Marcionite teaching, even
if by extreme rhetoric. Jesus was not just prefigured
in the Hebrew scriptures, he was in the Hebrew
scriptures, suffering with the prophets, David, Moses,
Joseph, et al (415-504). Melito's graphic descriptions
of Jesus's death would be in direct opposition to the
docetic denial of Jesus' material body. Moreover,
Melito's modalism allowed him to affirm that God was
in all of these events and that he even suffered as
the person of Jesus. Marcionites must have found this
link to the Hebrew scriptures coarse and distasteful."

John 13:3-Why Is It Translated with "God" Despite Being Anarthrous?

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος. (John 1:1)

We have a preverbal anarthrous predicate nominative in John 1:1c along with the expression πρὸς τὸν Θεόν in 1:1b: the Word is with the God. However, there is a different construction in John 13:3. There, we find ἀπὸ + the genitive noun Θεοῦ, which suggests definiteness despite being anarthrous. It is not uncommon to find definite anarthrous nouns that are made such by virtue of prepositions.

In the latter part of John 13:3, we encounter τὸν θεὸν (signifying definiteness) describing the one earlier referenced by the anarthrous Θεοῦ. So how we render a scriptural passage involves more than whether the article is omitted: other syntactical and contextual factors must also be considered, but NWT critics generally overlook these factors.

Acts 20:33-No Coveting

ἀργυρίου ἢ χρυσίου ἢ ἱματισμοῦ οὐδενὸς ἐπεθύμησα· (Acts 20:33 WH)

You will notice that all nouns in this verse occur in the genitive case, and so does the adjective οὐδενὸς. As for the verb, it comes at the end: ἐπεθύμησα. James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek, 20) explain that the construction is the genitive of root idea, wherein the verbs take genitive nouns as their objects.

A question that also preoccupies my mind is why Paul spoke this way. What scriptural antecedents influenced his view of covetousness? Obvious candidates are Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21: both verses contain the tenth commandment of the Mosaic Decalogue.

οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν (Exodus 20:17 LXX)

οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν (Deuteronomy 5:21 LXX)

Moreover, the teachings of Jesus (an observant Jew) supplied Paul with the needed impetus to avoid coveting anyone's silver, gold or garb (Luke 12:15). In the Sermon on the Mount and when telling the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus emphasized the vital necessity of eschewing covetousness (Matthew 6:24-34; Luke 16:14).

Many verses could be summoned to demonstrate Jehovah's view of covetousness, but one scriptural passage that also catches my eye is Exodus 3:22: αἰτήσει γυνὴ παρὰ γείτονος καὶ συσκήνου αὐτῆς σκεύη ἀργυρᾶ καὶ χρυσᾶ καὶ ἱματισμόν καὶ ἐπιθήσετε ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς θυγατέρας ὑμῶν καὶ σκυλεύσετε τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους (LXX)

Again, we see the mention of silver, gold, and garb. While it may be too much to ask whether Paul had this verse in mind as he uttered the words of Acts 20:33, it is not a stretch to assert that he was familiar with Exodus 3:22. Compare Exodus 12:35.

Lastly, Achan's confession likely is a candidate for Paul's dogged refusal to covet anyone's material possessions: εἶδον ἐν τῇ προνομῇ ψιλὴν ποικίλην καλὴν καὶ διακόσια δίδραχμα ἀργυρίου καὶ γλῶσσαν μίαν χρυσῆν πεντήκοντα διδράχμων καὶ ἐνθυμηθεὶς αὐτῶν ἔλαβον καὶ ἰδοὺ αὐτὰ ἐγκέκρυπται ἐν τῇ γῇ ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ μου καὶ τὸ ἀργύριον κέκρυπται ὑποκάτω αὐτῶν (Joshua 7:21 LXX)

Compare 2 Kings 7:8.

Genesis 24:53 (LXX): καὶ ἐξενέγκας ὁ παῖς σκεύη ἀργυρᾶ καὶ χρυσᾶ καὶ ἱματισμὸν ἔδωκεν Ρεβεκκα καὶ δῶρα ἔδωκεν τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτῆς καὶ τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς

Friday, June 16, 2017

Did Enoch See Death?

As you well know, there are some commentators, who reckon that Enoch was transferred from earth to heaven without seeing death. The new BDAG Lexicon and Louw-Nida both put forth this understanding of Heb. 11:5. William Lane (Word Biblical Commentary) also writes that Enoch did not experience death since he equates the articular infinitival clause TOU MH IDEIN QANATON with the expression in Heb. 2:9, namely, the idiom "taste death." Lane also quotes 1 Clement 9:3: "Let us take Enoch, who having been found righteous in obedience was translated, and death did not happen to him." Cf. Lane, Hebrews, 336-337.

Against this interpretation, however, seems to be John 3:13 and Heb. 6:19-20.

John 3:13 assures us that no man (prior to Christ) ascended to heaven except the Son of Man, who descended from heaven. Heb. 6:19-20 indicates that Christ prepared the way for others to enter the heavens by means of his death and subsequent resurrection. The phrase in Heb. 11:5, while seemingly problematic, may simply be informing us that God made sure Enoch died peacefully without being aware of the pangs of death.

It appears that Enoch did not see death in that God cut his life short and may have placed Enoch in a trance when his life was cut short. Therefore, his death could be identified as a transference.

Gen. 5:24 uses an expression that is commonly implemented as a poetic euphemism for death ("And he was not"); furthermore, the Targum Onkelos says that God caused Enoch to die. The Jewish traditions surrounding
Enoch's death, therefore, makes me wonder whether the Greek METAQESIS was ever used euphemistically.

Compare Genesis Rabba 25.1.

Rashi adds:

And Enoch walked: He was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed [the wording] in [the account of] his demise and wrote, “and he was no longer” in the world to complete his years. — [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

ויתהלך חנוך: צדיק היה וקל בדעתו לשוב להרשיע, לפיכך מיהר הקב"ה וסילקו והמיתו קודם זמנו [וזהו ששינה הכתוב במיתתו לכתוב ואיננו בעולם למלאות שנותיו:

for God had taken him: Before his time, like (Ezek. 24:16):“behold I am taking from you the desire of your eyes.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

כי לקח אותו: לפני זמנו] כמו (יחזקאל כד טז) הנני לוקח ממך את מחמד עיניך

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Issues Related to Colossians 2:16-17

Col. 2:16-17 was written to the "holy ones" in Colossae, so yes, it strictly applies to the anointed but also is incumbent on all followers of Christ. Whether 2:16-17 is referring to written laws or spoken ones, the principle is the same: Christians are not under Jewish dietary laws and they should not let others judge them adversely because they refrain from such laws. The referent for τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων is not clear. Does it refer to Greek, Phrygian, or Jewish traditions? We don't know for sure, but the point from 2:16-17 still holds in my estimation. The law was a shadow, but Christ is the reality/substance: divine edicts concerning food, drink, Sabbath, and new moon all issued from the written law.

Again, I don't see how the translation/interpretation of τῶν ἀγγέλων changes any implications for our understanding of 2:16-18. Even "messengers" could be used to describe spirit beings rather than human prophets (Ps. 103:20; 2 Pet. 2:11). We must also think about the context in which 2:18 was written and what necessitated its composition. In other words, what is the Sitz-im-Leben for the verse?

2:16 is fairly specific when it maintains what Christians should reject. The dietary laws of Lev. 11 seem to be encompassed along with Jewish festivals like new moon and the Sabbath. Historically, keeping the Sabbath has been an identifying marker for reverent Jews (Exodus 31:14-17). Furthermore, according to the Tanakh, Sabbath was only given to Israel--not to Gentiles.

I also keep asking myself, why observe dietary laws for devotional reasons if Christ died for my sins and I'm now justified by exercising faith in his shed blood? What religious purpose would keeping dietary laws serve?

From Coffman's Commentary on Col. 2:16:

All of these refer to Jewish observances; as Macknight said, "Some of these were enjoined in the Law, and others by private authority." Of particular importance is the appearance of the sabbath commandment in this list. "Although the article the is not in the Greek, it clarifies the meaning; Paul was resisting the Judaizers who insisted on legalistic sabbath observance." As F. F. Bruce expressed it, "It is as plain as may well be that Paul is warning his readers against those who were trying to impose the observance of the Jewish sabbath upon them." The sabbath observance is here placed upon the same footing as the other things abolished, and "Thus Paul commits himself to the principle that a Christian is not to be censured for its non-observance."


Euphemisms in the Bible and 2 Samuel 12:14 (Links)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Philology" by James Turner (Initial Comments)

James Turner has written a work that's informative, dense, comprehensive and sometimes pleasurable. It is Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014). A friend gifted me a copy: I will ever be indebted to him. Turner's book not only illuminates the work of philology and how the humanities developed, but it also contains material that should interest students of the Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Bible.

What is philology? How should the term be defined? One philologist told me (quoting another source) that philology is the art of reading slowly. Turner says philology covers three distinct modes of research: 1) textual philology; 2) theories of the origin and nature of language; 3) comparative language studies and how they developed including their respective language families. Examples include classical and biblical studies, studies of Sanskrit literature, and etymological or dialectal analyses. By means of such investigations, Proto-Indo-European was discovered.

Turner emphasizes that philology is inherently historical and comparative: all philological approaches use historical methods and they compare texts in the light of other texts and contexts. So, for instance, philologists examine Greek literature through the prism of Sanskrit texts or other Indo-European languages. They believe that Greek texts can only be understood or illuminated by this kind of historical and comparative approach. A.T. Robertson insists: "there is no doubt about DIA being kin to DUO, DIS. (cf. Sanskrit DVIS, Greek DIS, b = v or U); German ZWEI; English two (fem. and neut.), twain (masc.), twi-ce, twi-light, be-tween, two-fold, etc." See A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, page 580. Similarly, for Hebrew-Aramaic, a number of Semitic languages are consulted in order to shed light on biblical texts. All such work is part of the philological task.

Since reading Turner's research, I have started wondering exactly what philology is. While the word itself (according to its components) means "love of words" or "love of learning," the term has come to signify something deeper. There is no one universal definition of philology, but a consensus seems to have developed that the object of knowledge in philological studies is language/languages--"the branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages" (Oxford dictionaries). Apparently, North Americans understand the task of philology to be the study of literary or classical texts while using the aforementioned historical or comparative methods. I notice that one can still earn a Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard.

In the coming months, I want to discuss specific contents from Turner's study. For now, I will just say one thing that caught my attention while reading this book was the preoccupation with textual criticism that philologists have. In other words, they want to establish the original reading of a text. Furthermore, something distinguishes philologists from linguists. Exactly what are the criteria that make one a linguist rather than a philologist?


Lucian of Antioch and Arianism (Duchesne)

"Lucian of Antioch was a really learned man; his work on the text of the Old Testament, which he corrected from the original Hebrew, soon became famous; he was a Hebrew scholar, and his version was adopted by the greater number of churches of Syria and Asia Minor. He occupied himself also with the New Testament.

His exegesis differed widely from Origen's. In Antioch, allegorical interpretation was not in fashion; the text was by way of being interpreted literally. The theological trend of this school is shown by the well-established fact that Lucian was the originator of the doctrine, which soon became so famous as Arianism. Around him were grouped, even as early as this time we now speak of, the future leaders of this heresy, amongst others Arius himself, Eusebius, the future Bishop of Nicomedia, Maris, and Theognis. It was, they found, necessary to abandon the theories of Paul, and to admit the personal pre-existence of Christ, in other words the Incarnation of the Word. But they granted as little as possible. The Word, according to the new doctrine, was a celestial being, anterior to all visible and invisible creatures; He had indeed created them. But He had not existed from all eternity; He was created by the Father, as an instrument for the subsequent creation. Before that He did not exist. He was called out of nothing."-Louis Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church: From its Foundation to the End of the Fifth Century (Volume I)p. 362.

A blog reader, friend, and brother contributed this material. My thanks to him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Quick Note on F.F. Bruce and 1st Century CE Corinth

I am trying to finish New Testament History by F.F. Bruce. On pp. 314-315, Bruce reviews the history of Corinth, then he mentions that after the city was restored, it became economically prosperous once again, but also started practicing immorality as evidenced by the temple of Aphrodite. The temple sanctioned a Hellenized version of "the Syrian cult of Astarte." However, while immorality existed in 1st century Corinth (compare 1 Cor. 7:1-5), Bruce remarks that a synagogue also was there--a place that contrasted sharply with Aphrodite's temple.

Eikon in Colossians 1:15 (Christ)

The Image of God: Christ in Colossians 1:15

ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως

What does the clause ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου mean (Colossians 1:15)? When the Apostle Paul speaks of Christ as the "image of the invisible God," what does he have in mind? Is the clause proof for the full deity of Jesus Christ? Admittedly, exegetes part ways in their understanding of εἰκὼν and its semantic relationship to the Son of God. Some commentators see in this Greek word, unequivocal proof that God's Son is ontologically equal to his Father. For example, Ralph Earle insists that εἰκὼν means a "likeness"--it is not, however, an accidental similarity (per accidens), but a derived similitude that apparently occurs by means of divine generation. Earle also quotes Thayer's Lexicon which avers that Christ is the εἰκὼν of the invisible God: "on account of his divine nature and absolute moral excellence" (Earle 349). Biblically, this word is likewise implemented to describe the Roman emperor's image on a silver coin, and the relation of humanity to God (Matthew 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:7ff). Nevertheless, numerous scholars continue to view εἰκὼν as a delineation of Christ's pantocratic nature, thereby making the Son of God ontologically equal to his Father. By ontological equality, they mean that the Son of God is equal to his Father with respect to being or ontos, but the Son is not hypostatically identical to his Father.

B. P. Lightfoot writes that εἰκὼν involves two prominent notions: (a) it connotes an archetype of some copy; (b) the word implies the divine epiphaneia of the incarnate or preincarnate Son (Earle 349). Charles J. Ellicott buttresses Lightfoot's comments by adding: "Christian antiquity has ever regarded the expression 'image of God' as denoting the eternal Son's perfect equality with the Father in respect of His substance, nature, and eternity" (ibid.) The view of Trinitarians accordingly can be summed up in the following words: "Thus EIKWN does not imply a weakening or a feeble copy of something. It implies the illumination of its inner core and essence" (Kleinknecht qtd. in Earle 349). Trinitarian scholars generally believe the word εἰκὼν provides evidence that Christ is one in nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit: this Greek word allegedly strengthens the doctrine that God's Son is homoousios to patri although Lightfoot acknowledges that εἰκὼν in and of itself "does not necessarily imply perfect representation" (145).

How should we view the arguments made by Earle, Ellicott, and Lightfoot (et al.)? Is Christ equal to Almighty God or not? Is Colossians 1:15 strong proof of his divinity? Upon closer examination of εἰκὼν, we must question the confidence with which Trinitarians speak vis-a'-vis the language "image of the invisible God" when it's applied to the preeminent Son of Jehovah. After reviewing the lexical evidence for εἰκὼν, it can be said that there seems to be no adequate proof for this frequently asserted claim. If we examine the word in se, it is difficult to ascertain a meaning that definitively substantiates Trinitarianism simpliciter. According to BAGD [now BDAG], εἰκὼν primarily denotes "image, likeness" (222); humanity (andros) is said to be the εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 11:7). Paul also (in eschatological terms) contends that Christians will one day bear φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου (1 Corinthians 15:49). When citing this passage from Corinthians, BAGD/BDAG states that "the image corresponds with the original" (222). However, although being used to denote "image" or "likeness," εἰκὼν also carries the sense of "form, appearance."

Hierocles reports that Pythagoras--in the estimation of his disciples--had Θείαν εἰκόνα (the appearance of a God). Romans 1:23 likewise wields εἰκὼν in a similar manner despite referencing other things. In Romans 8:29, Paul tells the holy ones of Rome that God purposes to shape them in the εἰκὼν of His beloved Son: συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. But not only are Christians to enjoy heavenly existence in the Son's likeness, anointed Christians correspondingly are being progressively changed into the εἰκὼν of the Father (2 Corinthians 3:18).

At the culmination of this age, these followers of Christ will see God and be made like unto Him (1 John 3:1-2). This crowning moment signals that the "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) will be appropriated by spirit-begotten children of God in order that men and women might become like the Father (Clement of Alexandria). With these uses of εἰκὼν in mind, it is difficult to see how the term when applied to Jesus Christ, can denote that the Son of God is homoousios to patri. Yet there is one more area that needs to be investigated.

Philo of Alexandria is known for using "image" in his writings. Martin Hengel discusses this philosopher in the book, The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion. According to Philo, the Platonic realm of transcendent Forms (Ideas) is God's "eldest and firstborn son." That realm is synonymous with the divine Logos (God's reason that exists immanently within the cosmos). For Philo, the Logos is the "mediator between the eternal Godhead and the created, visible world." At the same time, the Logos is also "God's image" (εἰκὼν): Philo is never quite clear about what he perceives the Logos to be. In varying delineations, he calls the εἰκὼν of God, the sinless mediator, the spiritual primal man, the spokesman, the archangel, and the second god (deuteros theos). This deuteros theos is neither created nor uncreated--yet Philo does not necessarily equate the εἰκὼν of God with God (52). This claim is substantiated by referencing Somn. I, 157, 228-230.

In this portion of his famous work, the Alexandrian refers to the εἰκὼν of God as both kurios and archangel. This point is significant because it is here that he distinguishes the Logos from the Father who brings forth the Logos. The Father is ho theos, but the εἰκὼν can only be considered theos (without the article). This indicates that Philo viewed the Logos as mediator of creation and a secondary god, inferior to the Father of Israel (Isaiah 64:8). This philosophical detour alerts us to the fact that εἰκὼν when used by Philo may not mean that Logos qua εἰκὼν is to be equated fully with its prototype. The sun's reflection in the water is not the same as the actual sun: it does not possess the same nature that the sun does, being only a reflection of the thing itself. Similarly, Jesus as the εἰκὼν of God, does not possess the substance of the Father, but is homoiousios with him. One day anointed Christians will enjoy this same privilege, to a lesser degree of course, when they experience life in the εἰκὼν of the Son--being made like unto his image and that of his Father's (Revelation 22:1-5).