Monday, November 27, 2017

Soteriology in the Letter of James

(1) James no doubt has eternal or eschatological
salvation in mind when he uses σῶσαι in 2:14. Note
how this disciple of Christ refers to salvation
elsewhere in his letter:

"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of
naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted
word, which is able to save [σῶσαι] your souls" (James
1:21 KJV).

"There is one lawgiver, who is able to save [σῶσαι]
and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?"
(James 4:12 KJV).

"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner
from the error of his way shall save [σώσει] a soul
from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James
5:20 KJV).

(2) In 2:14, James is not contending that faith is
unable to save humans. To the contrary, he is arguing
that a certain type of faith (ἡ πίστις), viz., faith
divorced from godly works, cannot save the man or
woman professing to have such "faith."

(3) James does not teach that Christians are still
subject to the Law of Moses. In context, he is making
the point that those who were under the Law could
easily become offenders against the entire Law, if
they transgressed in one point. James shows in
2:12 that Christians are not subject to the ancient
Law of Moses, but are going to be judged "by the law
of a free people" (NWT). He probably appeals to
the Law, however, because those reading or hearing the
epistle read were familiar with Jewish precepts and
statutes. Furthermore, James wanted his audience to know that
there is judgment under "the law of a free people."
Yet "Mercy exults triumphantly over judgement."

Sunday, November 26, 2017


"ADIAKRITOS, ON: pertaining to not being prejudiced -
'impartial, free from prejudice.' hH DE ANWQEN SOFIA
'but the wisdom from above is first of all pure . . .
free from prejudice and hypocrisy' Jas 3:17"
(Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon 88.242).

"ANUPOKRITOS . . . pert. to being without pretense,
genuine, sincere, lit. 'without play-acting' AGAPH
(ApcSed 1:4) Ro 12:9; 2 Cor 6:6. FILADELFIA 1 Pt 1:22
PISTIS 1 Ti 1:5; 2 Ti 1:5, SOFIA Js 3:17. DELG s.v.
KRINW. M-M. TW. Spicq" (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, page 91).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Did Any Human Enter Heaven Prior to Jesus

Reading Hebrews makes me seriously doubt that any
human ascended to heaven before the Risen Christ did.
When writing to first-century Christians living in
Jerusalem and Judea, the author of Hebrews speaks of
"the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:18). This hope is
apparently the hope of eternal, immortal, and
incorruptible life that anointed Christians will enjoy
in the heavens of God's presence for all eternity (2
Cor. 1:21-22; 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

This hope (says the author) serves as "an anchor for
the soul, both sure and firm" since it has entered
within the curtain where a PRODROMOS has advanced in
behalf of his people, whence he serves as "a high
priest according to the manner of Melchizedek" (Heb.

The literary context of Heb. 6:19-20 shows that the
writer is contrasting the tabernacle in the wilderness
with God's "true tent" (THS SKHNHS THS ALHQINHS)
constructed by Godself, not humans (Heb. 8:1-2). The true
tent is evidently God's antitypical tabernacle that
contains, among other things, a greater Most Holy,
which is heaven itself (Heb. 9:24). Jesus entered into
this holy place to appear before the Person of God for
us. (The "us" in Heb. 9:24 refers to anointed
Christians, although others likewise benefit from the
high-priestly services of Jesus Christ.) He passed
beyond the curtain (his flesh) by virtue of being raised a
life-giving spirit and subsequently ascending to his
Father, the One who is greater than the Son (Jn. 14:28;
Heb. 4:14; 10:19-20).

As forerunner, Jesus was not simply the first human to
ascend into the heavens of the heavens: he opened the
way for others to see God and be like Him (1 Jn.
3:1-3). Heb. 6:19-20 therefore appears to serve as one
text that indicates humans did not ascend to the
heavens of God's presence prior to Christ's death.

Furthermore, Heb. 9:8 relates: "Thus the holy
spirit makes it plain that the way into the
[antitypical] holy place [i.e., heaven] had not yet
been made manifest while the first tent was standing."

The way into the antitypical Most Holy (sanctum sanctorum)
was not made manifest until Christ became
flesh, suffered, died, was resurrected and
subsequently passed through the heavens.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Michael Coogan's View of Yahweh's (Jehovah's) Tent

Coogan (134) believes ancient Israelites thought that YHWH lived in a tent (tabernacle or sanctuary) even in heaven--this idea supposedly is presumed in the Tanakh:

"That Yahweh's heavenly home was a tent is therefore presumed and is consistent with the relationship of Yahweh to the Canaanite high god El (see pages 88-90), who lived in a tent; the same word for 'dwelling' is used for the heavenly homes of the gods in Ugaritic, which are also called tents. At the same time, P appropriately incorporates a tent-shrine into its description of the fully developed worship of Yahweh that began at Sinai, during the journey from Egypt to Canaan: a movable shrine for a people on the move."

See Exodus 29:42-43; Numbers 7:89.

Granted, Ps. 15:1 rhetorically queries, "Jehovah, who doth sojourn in Thy tent? Who doth dwell in Thy holy hill?" (YLT)

But should this language be taken literally or pressed too far such that God is portrayed as matter-of-factly dwelling in a heavenly shrine with finite boundaries? Or does Coogan mean that we should imagine a heavenly dwelling that does not have earthly limitations?

In either case, I believe what we have in the dwelling texts is metaphorical speech, for the most part. There was a sense in which YHWH dwelled in the tabernacle and later, the temple. But I don't think one can infer that Jehovah lives in a heavenly sanctuary (literally) based on the biblical data. TDNT, volume VII argues that most (if not all) references about God's heavenly dwelling/skhnh are figurative or poetic.

Source: Coogan, Michael David. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Revisiting Genesis 1:2 with a Touch of Von Rad, Et Al.

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ (LC)

"The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (ESV).

"And the Spirit of God" could be rendered "the spirit of God" or "a divine wind."

Von Rad believes ruach elohim here is best rendered "storm of God," with the construction being understood as a reference to a "terrible storm" (i.e., to be construed as a superlative).

In terms of translational possibilities, Kenneth A. Matthews says that ruach elohim could mean "the wind of God" in Gen. 1:2 although he is doubtful of this understanding.

NRSV: "the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters."

Footnote from NRSV: "Or while the spirit of God or while a mighty wind"

Rotherham's Emphasized Bible states: "but, the Spirit of God, was brooding on the face of the waters"

Byington's Bible in Living English: "the earth was a blank chaos, and there was darkness over the surface of the deep; and God's Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters."

Rashi: "and the spirit of God was hovering: The Throne of Glory was suspended in the air and hovered over the face of the water with the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He and with His word, like a dove, which hovers over the nest, acoveter in Old French, to cover, hover over."

Targum of Jonathan: "And the earth was vacancy and desolation, solitary of the sons of men, and void of every animal; and darkness was upon the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of mercies from before the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters."


Catholic NABRE: "and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters"

Part of the Ftn for 1:2 in the NABRE: "A mighty wind: literally, 'spirit or breath [ruah] of God'; cf. Gn 8:1."

Compare Gen. 3:8; Ps. 104:30; Acts 2:1-4; Heb. 1:7; Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5; John 3:8.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Revelation 21:16-17 and Ezekiel's Prophecy

"The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal" (Revelation 21:16, ESV).

καὶ ἡ πόλις τετράγωνος κεῖται, καὶ τὸ μῆκος αὐτῆς ὅσον τὸ πλάτος. καὶ ἐμέτρησεν τὴν πόλιν τῷ καλάμῳ ἐπὶ σταδίων δώδεκα χιλιάδων· τὸ μῆκος καὶ τὸ πλάτος καὶ τὸ ὕψος αὐτῆς ἴσα ἐστίν (WH 1881).

καὶ ἐμέτρησεν τὸ τεῖχος αὐτῆς ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τεσσάρων πηχῶν, μέτρον ἀνθρώπου, ὅ ἐστιν ἀγγέλου (Revelation 21:17, WH 1881).

"He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement" (ESV).

Comparison Verses:

"He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common" (Ezekiel 42:20, ESV)

"and these shall be its measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500, the east side 4,500, and the west side 4,500" (Ezekiel 48:16, ESV).

"And the city shall have open land: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250, on the east 250, and on the west 250" (Ezekiel 48:17, ESV)

1 Kings 6:20

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How Are Questions Signaled by Greek Writers?

Queries in Greek are indicated by the occurrence of
interrogative pronouns and adverbs. Aristotle's τί ἐστιν
("What is it?") is a famous metaphysical
question. One can also ask τίς ἐστιν ("Who is it?) in
Greek as well (1 John 2:22). Other interrogatives are ποῖος ("What
sort?"), πόσος ("How much?"), ποῦ ("Where?") and πόθεν
("From where?"). There are more interrogatives, but I
think you get the idea.

For other NT examples, see Mt 6:31; Lk 3:10. However, it is
important to keep in mind that not all interrogative
sentences contain interrogative pronouns or adverbs
like τί, τίς or ποῦ (compare Jn 19:15). A book that
might help in this area is Brooks and Winbery's
Syntax of NT Greek. See pp. 115, 119, 125ff, 158ff.

"When no other indicator is present, whether the
sentence is a question or not must be determined by
the context" (Brooks and Winbery, p. 158).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

God's Name Within the Context of Exodus 3:14 (Comments by George Caird)

"Of all these many excursions into etymology by far the most
important is the derivation of the divine name YHWH from the
verb 'to be'; 'I AM; that is who I am. Tell them that I AM has sent
you to them' (Exod. 3:14). It is possible that the original narrator
meant the verbs to be taken as futures, and that 'I will be as I
will be' was a promise of the presence of God as and when he chose
to be present; for the same verb occurs two verses earlier in the
form 'I will be with you'. This line of thought leads us directly to
the child whose name is Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), to the application of
that name to Jesus (Matt 1:23), and to the promise with which
Matthew's Gospel ends, 'I am with you always, to the end of time'
(28:20). But that is not the way in which the translators of the
Septuagint understood the revelation of the divine name. They
translated it by hO WN, 'he who exists', and so made it possible for
later writers, beginning with the author of the Wisdom of Solomon
(13:1), to make a synthesis between the theology of the Old
Testament and the philosophy of the Greeks" (George Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, pp. 45-46).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Some Thoughts on the Holy Spirit

Systematic theology may generally teach the Trinity doctrine, but does that mean the holy spirit (Holy Spirit) is called God in Scripture?

Edmund Fortman:

"The spirit of Yahweh was often described in personal
terms. The spirit was grieved, guided men, instructed
them, caused them to rest (Ps 143:10; Neh 9:20; Is
63:10, 14). But it seems quite clear that the Jews
never regarded the spirit as a person; nor is there
any solid evidence that any Old Testament writer held
this view. A few scholars today maintain, however,
that even though the spirit is usually presented as an
impersonal divine force, there is an underlying
assumption that the spirit was a conscious agent,
which 'provided a climate in which plurality with the
Godhead was conceivable'" (The Triune God, p. 6).

Acts 5:3-4 is not exactly what I would call an
"explicit" identification of the holy Spirit with God.
Granted, Peter does seemingly parallel the holy spirit
and God in these passages. But, again, we must read
texts in their historical context to avoid
skewing their semantic or pragmatic sense. John B.
Polhill, as he is wont to do, provides a nice

"Ultimately, he [Ananias] had lied to God. Not that he
had not betrayed the community. Not that he had not
lied to the Spirit. Rather, to betray the community is
to lie to the Spirit that fills the community, and to
falsify the Spirit of God is an affront to God
himself" (Acts, p. 158).

Notice that Polhill does not say the holy spirit is
being called "God" in Acts 5:3-4.

David Hill adds:

"We may have here [in Acts 5] an illustration of
Luke's understanding of the 'sin against the Spirit'
(Luke 12:10) as speech or action against the
constitutive factor of the Church's life" (Greek Words
and Hebrew Meanings
, p. 258).

Recall that Matthew also calls the spirit, God's
finger. This too would clearly explain why the spirit of
God is so closely identified with God in Acts 5:3-4,
although it is not called QEOS in this account. Karl
Rahner states:

"QEOS [in the NT] is still never used of the Spirit"
(Theological Investigations, 1:138, 143).

Trinitarian scholar Thomas F. Torrance
supplies this account of the Trinity:

"This does not imply that the New Testament presents
us with explicit teaching about the Holy Trinity, far
less with a ready-made formal doctrine of the Trinity,
but rather that it exhibits a coherent witness to
God's trinitarian self-revelation imprinted upon its
theological content in an implicit conceptual form
evident in a whole complex of implicit references and
indications in the gospels and epistles" (Christian
, p. 49).

John 20:28 In Brief

While talking with a Trinitarian this morning, who raised John 20:28 for the nth time as proof of Christ's deity, I thought of a disjunctive syllogism just for fun.

1) Either John 20:28 is a nominative for a vocative or it is a nominative of exclamation.
2) John 20:28 is not a nominative for a vocative.
3) Therefore, John 20:28 is a nominative of exclamation.

The argument is formally valid since disjunctive syllogisms assume the form: either p or q; not p or not q (deny one of the disjuncts); therefore, p or q (affirm one of the disjuncts).

Now the Trinitarian view is not disproved so easily, but I know more than one Witness who has vigrously argued that 20:28 is not a nominative for a vocative. The reasons have been discussed ad nauseam et ad infinitum, but maybe we need to discuss the reasons again.

God, Negative Emotions Or the Lack Thereof (Divine impassibility)

(1) According to Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon by F.E. Peters, the abstract nominal APAQEIA when used by ancient Greek philosophers usually means "unaffected, without pathe." This same source (under the entry PAQOS) also points out that PAQOS "is beclouded by a multiplicity of connotations." The term possibly denotes: event, suffering, emotion, experience, or attribute. While context must function as a determinative factor in this matter, I believe that the ancient church Fathers often used PAQOS or equivalent terms to reference emotions simpliciter. I do not think they were simply claiming that God does not have emotions in a negative manner or that He does not exemplify merely so-called negative emotions.

Augustine of Hippo and Gregory of Nyssa as well as Clement of Alexandria indicate that (metaphysically speaking) God does possess or have emotions at all. But it is the medievals such as Thomas Aquinas and Anselm of Canterbury who formulate this teaching in the strongest possible terms . In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas is quite emphatic in saying that God has no emotions whatsoever from a metaphysical standpoint. For, says Thomas, if God is immutable and simple, then there can be no movement in God. He is strictly and solely impassible. Furthermore, if God is simple, then He does not have attributes but is His attributes or objective properties. Thomas thus reasons that a simple (uncompounded) or immutable deity cannot have emotions.

(2) Is it important to ascertain whether God has emotions or not? I think so. For one reason, the Bible often speaks of God as a being who has emotions. How are we to understand these passages? As metaphors, analogies or can we interpret or understand some of them as univocal utterances, so that there is a one-to-one correspondence (qualitatively speaking) between our AGAPH and God's AGAPH, even if there is a difference with respect to the degree of love that God has or is. Additionally, is it not much easier to draw close to a God who has emotions over against developing a relationship with a God who does not? See James 4:8. Finally, only a God with authentic emotions can suffer. I submit that a suffering deity is the only type of God that can help us to make sense of all the cosmic suffering and evil that has and now obtains.

(3) If God transcends emotion, then I don't understand how He can still have negative emotions. He may have something better, but that "something better" would certainly not be what we call "passion" or emotion.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

2 Peter 2:4--Tartarus

2 Peter 2:4 (WH): εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σειροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους

I believe that we have to be careful about inferring that the Bible writers directly took language or concepts from non-Jewish literature. For example, does ταρταρόω in 2 Pet 2:4 derive from a non-Jewish source? Should we immediately draw parallel lines between Greek mythology and 2 Peter? That would be a fundamental mistake in my opinion. For example, would it be correct to infer that πλήρωμα in Col 1:19 was directly borrowed from the Gnostics? That would be highly unlikely. I reckon that a similar case could be made for 2 Pet 2:4. Petrine scholars have noted that Tartarus language occurs in Jewish literature (1 Enoch and other works of the Second Temple period): so it's possible that 2 Peter uses language well understood by Jews and Greeks in the 1st century CE. See

Compare the remarks of Richard Bauckham here:

Even if 2 Peter 2:4 uses the verb ταρταρώσας, in no way does the usage imply that all the mythic associations of Tartarus should be read into the passage. Tartarus apparently occurs in the LXX too.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

James 3:17: "Reasonableness"

"EPIEIKHS: the word is meant as a contrast to unfair, unreasonable argument, cf. Pss. of Sol. 5:14.-EUPEIQHS: this word, again, implies a contrast to the unbending attitude of self-centered controversialists; it does not occur elsewhere in the N.T" (The Expositor's Greek Testament, 4:456).

"EU-PEIQHS obedient, here [in Js 3:17] obedient to reason, reasonable" (A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, M. Zerwick, page 698).

"In total contrast to the demonic 'wisdom' is the wisdom that comes from heaven . . . considerate [EPIEIKHS] (Phil. 4:5; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 3:2), which points to a noncombative spirit; and submissive [EUPEIQHS], which indicates a tractable or teachable spirit, a person who will gladly be corrected or learn a new truth" (Peter H. Davids, James [New International Biblical Commentary], page 90).