Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seeing God "Face to Face" and Biblical Metaphors

It is hard to deny the overt metaphorical cast of Scripture: ignoring metaphorical tropes leads to textual misunderstandings. Besides apprehending biblical tropes, however, one also needs to be attentive to the idioms found in Scripture. Idiom in this context means that the whole of an utterance is greater than its individual parts.

For example, the words "face to face" (Numbers 12:8) hardly denote that Moses saw God in a sensuous manner. Maimonides and others think the verse refers to an intellectual encounter with God. I would also suggest that we're dealing with possible metaphor when encountering the face to face language and it is certainly idiomatic. But the Bible becomes clearer if we go with the flow of metaphors by coming to understand the conceptual structures contained therein.

There are some who claim that the Israelites saw God with their physical eyes (sensuously) as reported in Exodus 24:9-11. Others assert that Moses not only conversed with God face to face, but he supposedly beheld God too. However, what Numbers 12:8 really states is that YHWH spoke to Moses like one person speaks to another (= "face to face" or mouth to mouth). The language is idiomatic and probably figurative.

Thomas Aquinas writes concerning this account:

"As Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 27), it is stated in Exodus that 'the Lord spoke to Moses face to face'; and shortly afterwards we read, 'Show me Thy glory. Therefore He perceived what he saw and he desired what he saw not.' Hence he did not see the very Essence of God; and consequently he was not taught by Him immediately. Accordingly when Scripture states that 'He spoke to him face to face,' this is to be understood as expressing the opinion of the people, who thought that Moses was speaking with God mouth to mouth, when God spoke and appeared to him, by means of a subordinate creature, i.e. an angel and a cloud. Again we may say that this vision 'face to face' means some kind of sublime and familiar contemplation, inferior to the vision of the Divine Essence" (ST I-II. Quest. 98. Art. 3, Reply to Obj. 2).

Maimonides makes this profession about the face to face idiom: "All this refers to intellectual apprehension and in no way to the eye's seeing" (Guide of the Perplexed 1.4).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Herman Bavinck Discusses How the Triune God Is Progressively Revealed to Humankind

"The Trinity in the revelation of God points back to the Trinity in His existence.

This revelation did not happen in a single moment. It was not presented and perfected in a single point of time. Rather, this revelation has a long history, spread out over the centuries. It began at the creation, continued after the fall in the promises and deeds of grace which accrued to Israel, and reached its apex in the person and work of Christ, in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and the establishment of the church. It maintains itself now throughout the centuries, and over against all opposition, in the ineradicable witness of Scripture and in the rock-firm confession of the church. Because the revelation has had this long history, there is progress and development also in the confession of God's triune existence. God undergoes no change, remaining always the same. But in the progress of revelation, He makes Himself always clearer and more glorious to people and to angels. As His revelation continues, our knowledge grows."


Spiritual Death Understood as Metaphor

The language employed at Ephesians 2:1,
5 and elsewhere appears to be metaphorical and what
determines the metaphoricity of a particular term,
phrase or sentence is complex. A metaphor may be
judged as such based on semantic or pragmatic factors
(two distinct linguistic features). The figure of
spiritual death is a common one in Scripture and
classical literature. Both TDNT and BDAG have
informative entries on the significance of the Greek
word NEKROS and its meaning in the text under
consideration. For instance, BDAG associates the
term (on one hand) with moral or spiritual
deficiency that renders one (in effect) dead. See Lk
15:24, 32; Rev 3:1. However, another use of this
metaphor may be more related to spiritual obtuseness.
Cf. Mt 8:22; Lk 9:60. TDNT likewise contains references to
the Fathers. See TDNT 4:892-894.

I guess my point is that the signification of
"spiritual death" could reside in the particular Greek
term if a linguistic community had decided that NEKROS
would have the lexical value "spiritual death" in a
given context, C. That is what I mean by semantics.
Conversely, an individual speaker might intend to
communicate the notion "spiritual death" when uttering the adjective NEKROS, etc. That would be a pragmatic usage which
could be understood by appealing to the context of
utterance. Either way, it does not seem that the
meaning for spiritual death is strictly tied to verbal tense;
nor is the metaphor necessarily restricted to meaning "as good as dead because of being in line for destruction," although I
think that is a possible way one might read the text.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Philippians 4:6-7 Discussion and Notes

μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε, ἀλλ’ ἐν παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τὰ αἰτήματα ὑμῶν γνωριζέσθω πρὸς τὸν θεόν. καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν φρουρήσει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν καὶ τὰ νοήματα ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (NA28)

The verse begins with a strong contrast: about nothing worry, but in everything by prayer and supplication . . .

Meyer identifies μηδὲν as the accusatival object of μεριμνᾶτε and it seems evident that Paul emphatically prefixes μηδὲν, thus drawing attention to "nothing." ἐν παντὶ is also meant to be a contrast with the opening words (Meyer). Furthermore, maybe we should understand ἐν παντὶ to signify "in every case or affair" (Meyer). ESV also renders ἐν παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ "in everything by prayer," NET has "in every situation, through prayer" and HCSB renders the words, "in everything, through prayer . . ."

With the phrase, ἐν παντὶ, παντὶ is a substantival adjective and the prepositional object of ἐν.


Should we make a sharp distinction between τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει?

According to John Eadie:

The form which the presentation of such requests was to assume was τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει—“by prayer and supplication.” The datives express the manner or means, for the one involves the other, by which the action enjoined in γνωριζέσθω was to be performed. Bernhardy, p. 100. The two nouns are not synonymous, and mean something more than Storr's sociis precibus. See under Ephesians 6:18 for the peculiar distinction. The repetition of the article gives each of the nouns a special independence. Winer, § 19, 5, (a). By the use of the first noun they are bidden tell their wants to God in religious feeling and form; and by the second they are counselled to make them known in earnest and direct petition, in every case as the circumstances might require.

Along with supplications (earnest beseeching), add μετὰ εὐχαριστίας.

Gerald F. Hawthorne construes τὰ αἰτήματα ὑμῶν γνωριζέσθω πρὸς τὸν θεόν to signify that prayer is a uniquely intimate way of approaching God: "Let God know what is troubling you" (Word Commentary on Philippians, page 183. Volume 43, 1983 edition).

From the Expositor's Greek Testament:

αἴτημα is found three times in N.T. It emphasises the object asked for (see an important discussion by Ezra Abbot in N. Amer. Review, 1872, p. 171 ff.). “Prayer is a wish referred to God, and the possibility of such reference, save in matters of mere indifference, is the test of the purity of the wish” (Green, Two Sermons, p. 44).—πρὸς τ. Θεόν. “In the presence of God.” A delicate and suggestive way of hinting that God’s presence is always there, that it is the atmosphere surrounding them. Anxious foreboding is out of place in a Father’s presence. Requests are always in place with Him. With this phrase Cf. Romans 16:26.

καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ: The ICC Commentary says καὶ here is "consecutive." Hence, translate "and so."

There is scholarly debate concerning the nature of divine peace. Is it internal or external? Furthermore, Paul probably has the Hebrew shalom in mind when he uses the noun phrase ἡ εἰρήνη. τοῦ θεοῦ is possibly a subjective genitive.

ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν (vs. 7)

Eadie offers this explanation: "The participle here [ἡ ὑπερέχουσα] governs the accusative, and not, as is common with verbs of its class, the genitive, Kühner, § 539; or Jelf, § 504, Obser. 2."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gerhard von Rad and Genesis 1:2

Genesis 1:2 (NASB): "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters."

The Hebrew term that is rendered "the deep" is תְּהוֹם (tehom), which is also translated "the great deep" in Gen. 7:11 (KJV) since it's coupled with the adjective רָב. Theologians/Bible scholars often interpret Gen 1:1-2 as a polemical answer to the Babylonian myth of Tiamat and Marduk. Gerhard von Rad apparently buys into this idea too. However, the Babylonian narrative is set within a polytheistic context unlike Genesis. But even more devastating to the Tiamat theory is the linguistic evidence against it.

For instance, scholar Victor Hamilton interacts with the claims regarding tehom and Tiamat, and I believe he shows it's uncertain that these words are cognate. In fact, there are reasons to believe otherwise. From what I've read, Mitchell Dahood (a late and esteemed philologist) seriously questioned the supposed linguistic connection between tehom and Tiamat.

For Dahood's exact quote, see

It is page 96, footnote 34. Dahood spoke of the "unsustainable connection" between these words. So the objections I've found to associating tehom with Tiamat seem devastating.

Dahood writes that the linguistic correspondence between tehom and thm (Ugaritic) is "much more likely" than a connection between tehom/Tiamat. Yet the Akkadian term related to tehom is also evidently cognate. According to biblehub, there are 36 occurrences of tehom in the Hebrew Bible, I think.

For now, I reject the Tiamat connection (linguistic association) with tehom; there is too much evidence against it. The myth that Tiamat is cognate with tehom began spreading after Hermann Gunkel (a German OT scholar) began to perpetuate the idea. Linguistically, it is nigh impossible to prove: weigh the evidence and arguments carefully, then you decide.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gerhard von Rad and Genesis 1:1

As a side note, von Rad's first name is the German equivalent (version) of my middle name (my nomen). I go by Edgar in professional circles, but old friends, my family, and my wife call me "Gerard."

On page 46 of his Genesis commentary, von Rad concedes that Gen. 1:1 could be understood--from a grammatico-syntactic perspective--as an introductory clause to 1:2 or 1:3. However, he insists that 1:1 must be understood as an independent sentence from a theological perspective. So it ought to be rendered: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Hence, we learn God freely and in accord with his omnipotent volition determined that the cosmos would have "a beginning of its subsequent existence" (46).

Additionally, von Rad contends that bara signifies "the divine creative activity," which has no analogy in creation (47). He believes the word is intentionally used to denote creatio ex nihilo or divine effortlessness--creation without the use of any preexistent material unlike Plato's Demiurge in his famous work, Timaeus. That deity creates sensible objects by means of recalcitrant matter, but YHWH creates ex nihilo. There is apparently no creative struggle delineated in the opening verses of Genesis. Yet does von Rad go too far when claiming that bara unequivocally denotes creatio ex nihilo? Maybe he does in the light of 2 Maccabees 7:28 and Heb. 11:3. On the other hand, he is likely correct that bara rules out the divine employment of already existent material.

Kenneth A. Matthews provides a more nuanced view in his New American Commentary on Genesis. See pages 136-142.

Collection of Scriptures That Discuss Seeing God "Face to Face"

Genesis 32:30-Jacob wrestles with an angel, who is also identified as Elohim by the prophet Hosea (12:3).

Exodus 33:19, 20-Moses is told that no one can see the face of YHWH (Jehovah) and live.

Numbers 12:8-"Mouth unto mouth I speak with him, and by an appearance, and not in riddles; and the form of Jehovah he beholdeth attentively; and wherefore have ye not been afraid to speak against My servant -- against Moses?'" (YLT)

"With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (ESV)

NIV says, "With him I speak face to face . . ."

Deuteronomy 5:4-"Jehovah spake with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire" (ASV)

Deuteronomy 34:10-"And there hath not arisen a prophet any more in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah hath known face unto face" (YLT)

1 Corinthians 13:12-"For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known" (NET).

Compare 3 John 14.

See 2 Cor. 3:18. Also with 2 Cor. 4:6, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (ESV) is manifested ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ.

Revelation 22:3-4-"And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads" (NET Bible).

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The "Sea" in Revelation

The Greek noun phrase ἡ θάλασσα can be rendered "the sea." Commentator J. Ramsey Michaels (going from memory here) reports that John uses "sea" language some 26 times with varying nuances. The first occurrence is apparently Revelation 4:6:

καὶ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου ὡς θάλασσα ὑαλίνη ὁμοία κρυστάλλῳ· καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου τέσσερα ζῷα γέμοντα ὀφθαλμῶν ἔμπροσθεν καὶ ὄπισθεν. (Nestle 1904)

Here, John perceives what appears to be a glass sea likened to crystal. It is clear that sea does not refer to the wicked sea of humankind in this context; that particular understanding of the word "sea" in Rev. 4:6 leads to interpretational absurdities. Granted, there are a number of scholars who desire to construe the "sea" (even in the throne-vision scene) in harmony with combat motifs. Christopher A. Davis believes that the "sea" of Rev. 4:6 tries to oppose God, but he exercises sovereignty over this figurative body of water. Yet I am more convinced that Revelation uses temple imagery in 4:6. See Buchanan, George Wesley. The Book of Revelation: Its Introduction and Prophecy. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2005, Page 155. Compare Revelation 15:2.

Another set of verses indicating that the "sea" does not always depict evil, wicked humanity or forces opposed to God is Revelation 10:2-8.

Revelation 10:2: καὶ ἔχων ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ βιβλαρίδιον ἠνεῳγμένον. καὶ ἔθηκεν τὸν πόδα αὐτοῦ τὸν δεξιὸν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, τὸν δὲ εὐώνυμον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς,

A strong angel places his right and left feet upon sea and earth respectively. What does the sea represent in this context? Anthony Charles Garland believes that the sea and land together depict the entire globe, not necessarily alienated humanity. See

Revelation 10:5 refers back to the angel, who stood astride sea and land: Καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος, ὃν εἶδον ἑστῶτα ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ἦρεν τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ τὴν δεξιὰν εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν

In a similar vein, the resurrected Christ proclaimed that all authority had been given him in heaven and on earth. Matthew Poole understands the angel in Rev. 10:2ff to be Christ.

The Pulpit Commentary offers these remarks on Rev. 10:2:

And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth. Thus it is indicated that the revelation which is to follow affects the whole world, and is not partial in its operation, as were the judgments set forth under the earlier trumpets. Wordsworth (following Hengstenberg) sees in the earth an emblem of worldly power, and in the sea a symbol of the agitation and turbulence of nations.

While the sea, understood as turbulent or wicked humankind cannot be ruled out, I don't believe Hengstenberg's is the most probable explanation.

From The Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable:

The angel stood astride the earth and the sea symbolizing his authority over the whole world ( Revelation 10:5; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 7:2; cf. Exodus 20:4; Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 11:24; Psalm 68:22; Psalm 69:34). The implication is that his message involves the whole world. Other less likely views, I think, are that his stance symbolizes the universality of the message, [Note: Morris, p137.] or that he was defying the sea"s instability. [Note: Swete, p127.]

13:1-2 discusses a great sea beast that arises from the "sea" having seven heads and ten horns. The sea (ἡ θάλασσα) undoubtedly represents that mass of humanity alienated from God--the mass that stands in opposition to him (i.e., the turbulent wicked). See Isa. 57:20-21.

The beast in John's vision has features resembling a leopard, bear, and lion. We find similarities in Daniel 7:3-8 where four beasts arise from the "sea," each one being divergent from the other: the prophet saw one beast comparable to a lion with the wings of an eagle. That same beast stood up like a human and was given the heart of a human. Another beast reminded Daniel of a bear while yet another beast was akin to a leopard with four wings. Finally, the fourth beast of Daniel's vision was "terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong" (ESV). The dragon likely gave power and authority to these beasts too.


Revelation 20:13 speaks of death, Hades, and the sea giving up the dead in them. What is the "sea" in 20:13? Does it refer to the natural sea (a literal body of water) or is the sea symbolic in this case? In view of how sea is used elsewhere by John, I cannot help but wonder if the "sea" of 20:13 is identical with the sea of Revelation 21:1. Understanding "sea" to mean the same thing in both cases would help us to make sense of the expression at 21:1, "and the sea was no more."

I think the Revelation Climax book does not explain the sea of Revelation 20:13 to be identical with the "sea" in 21:1. Hence, I reserve judgment until such a change is made.

The Insight book (1:1015-16) gives this explanation:

The sea (which at times serves as a watery grave for some) is mentioned in addition to Hades (the common earthen grave), for the purpose of stressing the inclusiveness of all such dead ones when Revelation 20:13, 14 says that the sea, death, and Hades are to give up or be emptied of the dead in them. Thereafter, death and Hades (but not the sea) are cast into “the lake of fire,” “the second death.” They thereby figuratively ‘die out’ of existence, and this signifies the end of Hades (Sheol), the common grave of mankind, as well as of death inherited through Adam.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Monarchia: The Etymology and Signification of a Term

I believe one reason why it is difficult to ascertain the etymology of μοναρχία stems from trying to understand this concept in 2-3 languages (Greek, Latin, and English) and we also have to contend with the dual meaning of ἀρχὴ.

Lewis-Short Latin Dictionary defines monarchia as "I.absolute rule, monarchy (post-class. for unius dominatio, imperium singulare, regnum, regalis potestas), Capitol. Max. and Balb. 14; Tert. adv. Prax. 14; Lact. 1, 5, 23."

The Latin form is equivalent to the Greek μοναρχία. Furthermore, we know that the Greek word has the same basic definition according to LSJ Greek-English Lexicon: monarchy or government by one ruler. The word can also reference the "supreme command" of a military official.

It appears that some fathers in the early church began using μοναρχία in the sense that Jurgen Moltmann discusses: the word came to mean divine unity. It referenced God as the supreme origin and principle of ta panta.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting and World Peace

Another shooting occurred in America: the worst mass shooting in US history. I am saddened to see another senseless act of violence, and my heart goes out to the families, who lost loved ones. Conditions will likely continue to worsen until Jehovah's Day of Vengeance (Isa. 34:8). For now, Jesus' followers have an obligation to empathize with those who mourn and cry as we proclaim better news to honest hearts (Isa. 61:1-2).

Sunday, October 01, 2017

KTISIS in Mark 16:15 (C.S. Mann)

I understand that Mark 16:15 probably does not belong in the GNT, but we can still learn something from the Greek in that verse. Interested parties are encouraged to consult C.S. Mann, Mark (Anchor Bible Commentary). New York:
Doubleday, 1986. See pp. 672-75.

Mann translates Mk 16:15:

"And he said to them, 'Go into the whole world; make the Proclamation to the whole creation.'"

But what does Mann mean by "creation" in this passage?

On page 675, he provides this data:

"We have translated KTISIS as creation, which is the proper sense in 10:6 and 13:19, but it probably is here better understood as 'humanity' (cf. Col 1:23)."

It is my contention that Col. 1:23 could be understood in the same way: as a reference to humanity or to the human sphere.