Monday, July 31, 2017

Omnipresence (What Its Advocates Say)

Hello Philip,

I could produce more quotes, but let's start with these two sources for now. The first author is semi-longish, which is one reason I decided to limit the quotations.

From Louis Berkhof:

The infinity of God may also be viewed with reference to space, and is then called His immensity. It may be defined as that perfection of the Divine Being by which He transcends all spatial limitations, and yet is present in every point of space with His whole Being. It has a negative and a positive side, denying all limitations of space to the Divine Being, and asserting that God is above space and fills every part of it with His whole Being. The last words are added, in order to ward off the idea that God is diffused through space, so that one part of His Being is present in one place, and another part in some other place. We distinguish three modes of presence in space. Bodies are in space circumscriptively, because they are bounded by it; finite spirits are in space definitively, since they are not everywhere, but only in a certain definite place; and in distinction from both of these God is in space repletively, because He fills all space. He is not absent from any part of it, nor more present in one part than in another.

In a certain sense the terms “immensity” and “omnipresence,” as applied to God, denote the same thing, and can therefore be regarded as synonymous. Yet there is a point of difference that should be carefully noted. “Immensity” points to the fact that God transcends all space and is not subject to its limitations, while “omnipresence” denotes that He nevertheless fills every part of space with His entire Being. The former emphasizes the transcendence, and the latter, the immanence of God. God is immanent in all His creatures, in His entire creation, but is in no way bounded by it. In connection with God’s relation to the world we must avoid, on the one hand, the error of Pantheism, so characteristic of a great deal of present day thinking, with its denial of the transcendence of God and its assumption that the Being of God is really the substance of all things; and, on the other hand, the Deistic conception that God is indeed present in creation per potentiam (with His power), but not per essentiam et naturam (with His very Being and nature), and acts upon the world from a distance. Though God is distinct from the world and may not be identified with it, He is yet present in every part of His creation, not only per potentiam, but also per essentiam. This does not mean, however, that He is equally present and present in the same sense in all His creatures. The nature of His indwelling is in harmony with that of His creatures. He does not dwell on earth as He does in heaven, in animals as He does in man, in the inorganic as He does in the organic creation, in the wicked as He does in the pious, nor in the Church as He does in Christ. There is an endless variety in the manner in which He is immanent in His creatures, and in the measure in which they reveal God to those who have eyes to see. The omnipresence of God is clearly revealed in Scripture. Heaven and earth cannot contain Him, I Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:48,49; and at the same time He fills both and is a God at hand, Ps. 139:7-10; Jer. 23:23,24; Acts 17:27,28.


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

Neither the noun "omnipresence" nor adjective "omnipresent" occurs in Scripture, but the idea that God is everywhere present is throughout presupposed and sometimes explicitly formulated. God's omnipresence is closely related to His omnipotence and omniscience:

that He is everywhere enables Him to act everywhere and to know all things, and, conversely, through omnipotent action and omniscient knowledge He has access to all places and all secrets (compare Psalms 139). Thus conceived, the attribute is but the correlate of the monotheistic conception of God as the Infinite Creator, Preserver and Governor of the universe, immanent in His works as well as transcendent above them.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Sons of God" in the Old Testament (Quotes from BDB and Gesenius)

Brown-Driver and Briggs:
בְּנֵי האלהים applied to supernatural beings Genesis 6:2,4; Job 1:6; Job 2:1; בְּנֵי אלהים Job 38:7; בְּנֵי אֵלִים Psalm 29:1 (on which compare Che's note) Psalm 89:7

Also From Gesenius:

Friday, July 28, 2017


Some "oldtimers" like me in all likelihood remember articles that we used to have in the Watchtower about the distinction between gnosis and epignosis. I recall one illustration that concerned having basic knowledge of a watch--like most of us do--versus having the ability to disassemble a watch, then put it back together.The latter type of knowledge, the article stressed, is what the Bible means by epignosis. Here are additional sources that explore this distinction:

"The Meaning of Epignosis." See

"Epignosis - 5x in the Septuagint - 1Ki 7:2; Pr 2:5; Hos 4:1, Hos 4:6; Hos 6:6" (Preceptaustin)

Kenneth Wuest: "Knowledge or epignosis is full, perfect, precise knowledge as opposed to gnósis, imperfect, partial knowledge."

Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament:

Of ἐπίγνωσις, as compared with γνῶσις, it will be sufficient to say that ἐπί must be regarded as intensive, giving to the compound word a greater strength than the simple possessed; thus ἐπιποθέω (2 Cor. 5:2), ἐπιμελέομαι: and, by the same rule, if γνῶσις is ‘cognitio,’ ‘kenntniss,’ ἐπίγνωσις is ‘major exactiorque cognitio’ (Grotius), ‘erkenntniss,’ a deeper and more intimate knowledge and acquaintance. This we take to be its meaning, and not ‘recognition,’ in the Platonic sense of reminiscence, as distinguished from cognition, if we might use that word; which Jerome (on Ephes. 4:13), with some moderns, has affirmed. St. Paul, it will be remembered, exchanges the γινώσκω, which expresses his present and fragmentary knowledge, for ἐπ ιγνώσομαι, when he would express his future intuitive and perfect knowledge (1 Cor 13:12). It is difficult to see how this should have been preserved in the English Version; our Translators have made no attempt to preserve it; Bengel does so by aid of ‘nosco’ and ‘pernoscam,’ and Culverwell (Spiritual Optics, p. 180) has the following note: ‘Ἐπίγνωσις and γνῶσις differ. Ἐπίγνωσις is ἡ μετὰ τὴν πρώτην γνῶσιν τοῦ πράγματος παντελὴς κατὰ δύναμιν κατανόησις. It is bringing me better acquainted with a thing I knew before; a more exact viewing of an object that I saw before afar off. That little portion of knowledge which we had here shall be much improved, our eye shall be raised to see the same things more strongly and clearly.’ All the uses of ἐπίγνωσις which St. Paul makes, justify and bear out this distinction (Rom. 1:28; 3:20; 10:2; Ephes. 4:13; Phil. 1:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; cf. Heb. 10:26); this same intensive use of ἐπίγνωσις is borne out by other similar passages in the N. T. (2 Pet. 1:2, 8; 2:20) and in the Septuagint (Prov. 2:5; Hos. 4:1; 6:6); and is recognized by the Greek Fathers; thus Chrysostom on Col. 1:9: ἔγνωτε, ἀλλά δεῖ τι καὶ ἐπιγνῶναι. On the whole subject of this § see Lightfoot on Col. 1:9.

1 Cor. 13:12 is certainly a verse to ponder.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

KANWN and Disputed Bible Books

To my knowledge, disputes about genuine Bible books began to occur in the second century: the first-century assembly evidently did not have these dissensions. Nor did the Primitive EKKLHSIA need a "list" (KANWN) of authoritative works: such a move was necessitated by the Christian APOSTASIA foretold in Acts 20:28-31 (see Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 250ff; C.C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, 105-107). It is anachronistic to use the term KANWN in the sense of a "list" to describe first-century Christian Scripture. The term "canon" as a list qua list of divine Christian books possibly was not employed that way until 367 CE by Athanasius--prior to that time, a KANWN was simply a rule or measuring standard, not a list per se. The word's denotations progressively unfolded. So one problem stems from the fact that some Bible readers attempt to superimpose a fourth-century usage on a first-century anthologia. But that is synchronically unsound and highly problematic.

See for a discussion of the relevant issues surrounding the term "canon."

What books constituted Scripture for the first-century EKKLHSIA? Were the so-called Deuterocanonicals part of the inspired texts?

It is a little misleading to assert that the Deuterocanonicals belonged to the early Septuagint Version. The evidence for this claim is scant: "While the New Testament writers all used the Septuagint, to a greater or lesser degree, none of them tells us precisely what the limits of its contents were. The 'scriptures' to which they appealed covered substantially the same range as the Hebrew Bible [which did not contain the apocrypha]" (F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, pp. 50ff).


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quotes from Genesis Rabba--Part 4 (Sexism/Misogyny?)

Donald Bloesch (Is the Bible Sexist?, pages 94-95) thinks that "later Judaism" manifested an increasingly coarse attitude toward women as indicated by daily prayers like "I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast not created me a woman." However, this disposition apparently was not limited to ancient Jews since Augustine of Hippo seemed to believe that man, not woman, is the image and glory of God. Ambrosiaster likewise considers women inferior to men and even Thomas Aquinas evidently thinks that women are (in one sense) defective males in whom reason evidently does not predominate.

Here is one passage from Genesis Rabba that possibly supports Bloesch's claim:

Woman was not formed from Adam's head, so that she might not be haughty; nor from his eye, so that she might not be too eager to look at everything; nor from his ear, so that she might not hear too keenly and be an eavesdropper; nor from his mouth, so that she might not be a chatterer; nor from his heart, lest she should become jealous; nor yet not from his hand, so that she might not be afflicted with kleptomania; nor from his foot, lest she should have a tendency to run about. She was made from Adam's rib, a hidden, modest part of his body, so that she too might be modest, not fond of show, but rather of seclusion. But woman baffles God's design and purpose. She is haughty and walks with outstretched neck (Isa. 3. 16), and wanton eyes (Isa. 3. 6). She is given to eavesdropping (Gen. 18. 10). She chatters slander (Numb. 12. 11), and is of a jealous disposition (Gen. 30- 1), She is afflicted with kleptomania (Gen. 31. 19), and is fond of running about (Gen. 34. 1). In addition to these vices women are gluttonous (Gen. 3. 6), lazy (Gen. 18. 6) and bad tempered (Gen. 16. 5).--Gen. Rabba 18.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4--ἁρπαγέντα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ

Greek Text from NA28 (2 Corinthians 12:1-4):

1 Καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, οὐ συμφέρον μέν, ἐλεύσομαι δὲ εἰς ὀπτασίας καὶ ἀποκαλύψεις κυρίου.
2 οἶδα ἄνθρωπον ἐν Χριστῷ πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων, εἴτε ἐν σώματι οὐκ οἶδα, εἴτε ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος οὐκ οἶδα, ὁ θεὸς οἶδεν, ἁρπαγέντα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ.
3 καὶ οἶδα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνθρωπον, εἴτε ἐν σώματι εἴτε χωρὶς τοῦ σώματος οὐκ οἶδα, ὁ θεὸς οἶδεν,
4 ὅτι ἡρπάγη εἰς τὸν παράδεισον καὶ ἤκουσεν ἄρρητα ῥήματα ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι.

One question I am starting to research again is whether we should read ἁρπαγέντα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ and ἡρπάγη εἰς τὸν παράδεισον as parallel expressions, which would suggest that the "third heaven" and "paradise" are to be closely identified.

Third heaven and paradise appear to be used as parallel terms to me, but I could be wrong. However, it's good to research how the "third heaven" was understood in ancient times. Furthermore, Jehovah's Witnesses understand "paradise" as a reference to heaven in Revelation 2:7. While I accept that explanation, there are questions I have about the potential connection between 2 Cor. 12:4 and Rev. 2:7. The other instance of "paradise" is Lk. 23:43.

Yet if Paul is saying that he was caught away to the third heaven and paradise, but these places are not the same, then possibly we have two separate ascents (in a visionary sense) mentioned in the account. While that is not impossible, I just wonder if it can't be read as one event (i.e., he was caught away to the third heaven, which is also known as paradise).

I've been told that the question is almost impossible to answer with any certainty.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Use of Jehovah" (JBL Article By Francis B. Denio)


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Who Was Erastus? (Romans 16:23)

In view of 2 Tim. 4:20, it is quite likely that Erastus was a Christian. Although Rom. 16:23 does not provide detailed information about Erastus, in context, it seems that Paul includes him as a member of the early congregation. However, the foregoing being said, we must not overlook what the Greek text and history possibly tells us about this man.

Erastus was possibly the city-treasurer in Rome; the words used to describe this man are ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως. There is a world of difference between being a treasurer and being a soldier, which is how some want to characterize Erastus. While the distinctions JUS AD BELLUM and JUS IN BELLO became popular with Augustine of Hippo and his formulation of just war theory, we have evidence that the early Christians had no such philosophy--they applied the words of Isa. 2:2-4 to themselves and put down their weapons of war.

For what its worth, William Mounce does quote an inscription in his commentary indicating that Erastus could have been an aedile. But could is the operative word in this case, for we are not sure if the inscription cited is talking about the same individual.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Wisdom of Solomon 1:14--God "Created" Ta Panta?

ἔκτισεν γὰρ εἰς τὸ εἶναι τὰ πάντα καὶ σωτήριοι αἱ γενέσεις τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐταῖς φάρμακον ὀλέθρου οὔτε ᾅδου βασίλειον ἐπὶ γῆς (Wisdom of Solomon 1:14)

"For he created all things, that they might have their being: and the generations of the world were healthful; and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor the kingdom of death upon the earth:" (Brenton LXX)

"For he created all things that they might exist" (NETS)

"creavit enim ut essent omnia et sanabiles nationes orbis terrarum et non est in illis medicamentum exterminii nec inferorum regnum in terra"" (Vulgate)

Wisdom of Solomon was probably written by 200 BCE.

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 and applies the verse to Christ.

"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, divine persons who are distinguished from one another "by an incommunicable quality" (Giles, 53) which he identifies as "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. These incommunicable properties only belong to divine personae.

Subsistence in Calvin's theology assuredly 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." In any event, Kevin Giles believes Calvin 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 philosopher-theologian, who
effected an influential Trinitarian synthesis by combining thoughts from Scripture with ancient Greek thought. Hence, 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. 204-205.

"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 theology--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. He 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 for the Quinque Viae

Philosophers of religion traditionally frame arguments for the existence of God 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 robust 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 (the most perfect being). Whether readers believe he was successful in this endeavor, the point is that Anselm's 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) could be defined as the method of 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 particular lecture will provide a basic introduction to those five ways for an undergraduate audience: there is more complicated language that could be used, but my audience must be considered.

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 (nota quoad nos). To illustrate, the Pythagorean theorem is analytic (true by definition), but does that mean its analyticity is known by everyone? That is likely 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 an unmarried man, 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. So 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" or "Theological Summation." 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 along with 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 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 wet by means of water as an agent of change. But how do these examples apply to demonstrating God's existence?

1a) 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 ceteris paribus. 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. [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?

5) Finally, the fifth way of proving God's existence is also known as the teleological argument--Aquinas reasons from the governance of all things to a first cause. According to Aristotelian philosophy, our world is teleological, which means that things have ends, purposes or final causes (teloi). It might be easy to understand how humans purpose and will things. We plan trips, decide to attend college or not and some people decide to serve God, even foregoing "normal" activities for the creator's sake. Let us suppose that humans do have teloi. Nevertheless, what about inanimate objects (things that do not possess reason, intellect or will). Is it possible for trees to have teloi? What about human artifacts that we make?

a) It is within the framework of a teleological world replete with final causes that Aquinas formulates the fifth way. He reasons that unintelligent objects (things) cannot form their own purposes. Foe example, an arrow does not have the resources to formulate its own teloi. No arrow can decide or intend to hit the bull's eye: an archer must aim the arrow, then shoot to hit the target. How does this illustration pertain to the cosmos?

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, (James 4:5 NA28)

Starting with the conjunction ἢ, this difficult verse speaks about ἡ γραφὴ, evidently referring to a particular scripture or part of the holy writings. While scholars customarily apply ἡ γραφὴ to a scriptural passage rather than Scripture as a whole, 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