Sunday, December 31, 2017

Seasoning Speech with Salt (Colossians 4:6)

From Ralph Earle's Word Meanings in the New Testament:

"In the Greek comic writers the verb ARTUW, 'season,' referred to the seasoning with the salt of wit. But too often this degenerated into off-color jokes. Paul says that the Christian's speech should be 'with grace' or 'gracious'" (p. 362).

"Let your conversation be always gracious, and never insipid; study how best to talk with each person you meet" (Col. 4:6 NEB).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Origen of Alexandria and hUPODEESTEROS (Contra Celsum 8.15)

The best place to check for a synchronic definition of
this term is Lampe's patristic Greek lexicon. For now,
I offer diachronic information from
Liddell-Scott-Jones. This lexicon points out that
hUPODEESTEROS (ὑποδεέστερος) is the comparative form
of hUPODEHS (ὑποδεής). The adnominal hUPODEHS itself can
mean "somewhat deficient, inferior" and may be used
of persons with the sense "lower in degree" or "younger."
Based on the context in which Origen is contrasting
the Father's might with the Son's lesser might or greatness,
it seems that the meaning "inferior" or lower in degree is
preferable to the denotation "younger."

Under the entry hUPODEHS, BDAG also notes that the
Greek morpheme can denote "pertaining to being in a
lower position, inferior." It references Diognetus 10.5
regarding "those who are inferior" (hOI
hUPODEESTEROI). The word also pertains "to being
responsive to authority, subservient." Used
substantively, hUPODEHS potentially means "someone's
subordination" (TO hUPODEES TINOS). See 1 Clement

In Origen, however, I don't believe that the
Alexandrian is simply arguing the Son is positionally
lower in relation to his Father. The context itself
suggests another understanding of hUPODEESTEROS.
Henri Crouzel (Origen: The Life and Thought of
the First Great Theologian
, page 203) argues that
Origen believes the Father is greater than the Son and
Holy Spirit vis-a-vis DOXA and not DUNAMIS. But
Origen's focus in Contra Celsum 8.15 is different. He
seems to be concerned with the power or might of the
Father over against the relative inferiority of the Son.

Matthew 17:9: Were the Apostles Hallucinating?

BDAG reports that hORAMA is used for "extraordinary
visions," regardless of whether the person having
visions is awake or asleep. Moreover, this source
notes that hORAMA is to be contrasted with FANTASMA
since the former refers to that which is actually seen
in contrast to a figment of one's imagination (the
sense possibly conveyed by the latter Greek term).

So, I am not saying that Peter, James and John were
hallucinating in Matthew 17:1-9. No, the vision or
mental picture they were given was divinely provided and real: they
actually saw Moses and Elijah on the holy mount,
although this does not mean the two ancient prophets
were literally present with them in loco.

hORAMA is employed in Acts 7:31 to describe the burning
bush that Moses beheld. In Acts 10:17, 19, we are told
that the unclean things Peter beheld were part of TO
hORAMA which he was given. See also Acts 11:5; 16:9.
Lastly, despite what BDAG observes about the
distinction between FANTASMA and hORAMA, I find Acts
12:9 of interest:


Nevertheless, it is not my contention that what Peter,
James and John witnessed was an illusion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book Review of "The Christian Tradition" by Jaroslav Pelikan: Volume I

The late Jaroslav Pelikan demonstrates why he is the master ecclesiastical historian of our era in his five-volume series The Christian Tradition. While Adolf Harnack made tremendous strides respecting Dogmengeschichte, there is no history of early church doctrine more readable and scholarly than Pelikan's work. Jean Danielou's series is excellent, but still not on par with The Christian Tradition by Pelikan.

In volume 1, we are treated to a non-linear discussion of doctrinal history from 100-600 CE. Pelikan touches on the notions of impassibility (apatheia), predestination, Christology, the Trinity and much more. He carefully defines key nomenclature in this treatise and he packs the book with marginal notes for ease of reference. In the final analysis, Pelikan teaches us what the church supposedly has universally professed, taught and believed; moreover, he tries to be fair in his analyses while simultaneously offering some trenchant criticisms in volume 1.

My favorite portion of this work is the discussion regarding Christology and the Trinity doctrine. In chapter four, which reviews the Arian Controversy, Pelikan argues that the Arians and "orthodox" pro-Nicenes had more in common than previously had been supposed. He reviews the factors that precipitated the famed controversy and supplies references demonstrating the common elements that obtained between Arius and those who robustly opposed him.

Pelikan is never deterred from his primary goal of elucidating doctrinal history; nor does he allow political or social developments to distract him from this goal. Hence, if you enjoy reading about Dogmengeschichte, buy this work. You will have a chance to learn from the master historian: I own all five volumes and find them to be indispensable for serious historical research that involves the church.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Apologia Pro Studio Linguarum Scripturarum

What's written below is an edited version of a post I once submitted to another electronic forum.

I want to defend the aims of this electronic forum in a few short paragraphs.

First, let me say that I think this forum has
continually grown and progressed. When GT was a babe,
it walked, thought and conducted itself as a little
Greek "babe." Now that it has matured (we hope!), this
forum is determined to put away the traits of a babe
and manifest the characteristics of a grown person,
figuratively speaking (1 Cor. 13:11-13).

It is true that we have concentrated on the word
(lingual sign or signifier) to the (near) exclusion of
upper-levels of discourse in the past. However, my
goal, as a progressing Greek student, has been to
slowly but gradually move from the word-level to
sentence and paragraph-level analysis of Greek
structures and probe their theological implications. I
believe that we have made such progress here and
continue to do so. Furthermore, participants in this
forum also examine the culture and context of biblical
texts and do not seem to be guilty of what Jacques
Derrida might call "logocentrism." That is, we focus
not only on the word (logos) but we also give due
attention to sentences, paragraphs, and cultural
contexts of first-century denizens. One must also
consider the theological context of the Bible
as well. Nevertheless I primarily speak for myself and
for those who have manifested such tendencies as they
participate in this electronic conference: not all
members may agree with my sentiments.

Luther adamantly and boldly proclaims: "Languages are
the sheath which hides the Sword of the Spirit . . .
so although the faith of the gospel may be proclaimed
by a preacher without the knowledge of the languages,
the preaching will be feeble and ineffective."

On the other hand, "where the [biblical] languages are
studied, the proclamation will be fresh and powerful,
the Scriptures will be searched, and a faith will be
constantly rediscovered through ever new words and

Luther declares that the original languages of the
Bible in effect conceal "the Sword of the Spirit."
Consequently, a man may preach without knowing Greek
or Hebrew-Aramaic but his message will not have the
dynamic force of a messenger who knows biblical
languages. To be sure, I believe that Luther is
generalizing here and speaking from his own
experience. But there is a certain measure of truth, I
believe, in what he is saying.

While a knowledge of Greek (whether much or little)
can be abused, I would much rather possess it than be
without it. Those who do not study the languages of
Scripture at all are helplessly beholden to clergymen,
exegetes, expositors, translators and commentators.
How can they really adjudicate the grammatical claims or
the truth claims of scholars who have
devoted themselves to the study of Scripture and
biblical languages on the academic level? How would
they know the range of possible meanings for ARXH in
Rev. 3:14? How could they possibly determine what type
of instrument on which Jesus might have died in 33 CE? Was
it a cross or an upright pole? A study of Biblical
languages will probably shed light on this question.

Luther claims that where the biblical languages are
studied, the Gospel message will be fresh and
puissant. Christians will be motivated to search
the Bible and their faith will be fortified or
strengthened so as to accomplish God's Will in word
and deed. Luther is partly right but he is obviously
being somewhat idealistic here. Let it be known that I
nonetheless share his enthusiasm for the study of
Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek and Latin!

To conclude, while I think that Christians are not
obligated to study
will be greatly benefited by doing so. In short, we
are not wasting our time on GT. Studying biblical
Greek or Hebrew can enhance one's ministry and love
for God and Christ. It can also assist each one of us
to present a fine defense for the Christian faith when
we are asked to give a reason for the godly conviction
within our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15). But I realize that not
everyone will or has the circumstances to study biblical languages.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Brief Thoughts About Foreordination and Divine Morality

It seems that a loving God would not foreordain sacrifices to a false god (Jer. 7:31; 32:35). He would not foreordain all of the moral and natural evil that has plagued humans since the Edenic Fall (1 Jn. 4:8). Jesus reminded us that a loving sinful father would not give his children a stone or snake if they asked for bread and fish (Mt 7:7-11). Are advocates of divine pancausality telling us that God gives His children stones and serpents when they ask for bread?

I find it interesting that Jehovah God, who supposedly predestined the Edomites to show hostility to the Israelites and even foreordained that the Babylonians would slay Israelite babies and pregnant women, turned around and utterly wiped the Edomites out of existence (Read the entire book of Obadiah). Joel 3:1-3 also illustrates how God views those who mistreat young children. I find it hard to believe that the same God foreordains the sexual violation and murder of three-year-old children.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dative of Direct Object

Once written to an interlocutor:

On further research and reflection, I remember that there is what
grammarians call the dative of direct object that applies to certain
nouns. Still, I am not aware of an accusative of indirect object. But
there may be one! :-)

David A. Black discusses the dative of direct object on page 53 of
his It's Still Greek to Me. Two examples that Black cites are Mk 1:27
and Rom 7:25 (DOULEUW NOMWi QEOU).

Wallace has a section on the dative of direct object in GGBB, pp. 171-

Richard Young shows which verbs take the dative case, although Wallace
suggests that we consult BDAG for a more accurate treatment of this
subject. At any rate, the verbs that take dative direct objects are
as follows, according to Young:

Verbs of worship
Verbs of service
Verbs of thanksgiving
Verbs of obedience and disobedience
Verbs of belief and unbelief
Verbs of rebuking
Verbs of helping
Verbs of pleasing
Verbs of following or meeting

More light on the subject, I think.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Genesis 22:12--Did God Come to Know Something?

The dominant view in academic scholarship (from a theological/religious view) is that God cannot come to know something because God is omniscient. Open theism challenges the traditional account and Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God exercises selective foreknowledge, that is to say, Jehovah chooses not to know some things. One verse that is invoked to support this belief is Genesis 22:12.

Here are some thoughts on the passage given from an open perspective:

"It might be suggested, I suppose, that God really did know, but that it was
necessary, for reasons unknown, for God to put the matter this way. But,
aside from this being a strained reading, with no justification in the text
itself, one then buys an absolute form of omniscience at the price of placing
the integrity and coherence of all God's words in jeopardy: does God really
mean what is said or not?" (Terence Fretheim, The Suffering of God, page 47).

"The flow of the narrative accomplishes something in the awareness of God. He
did not know. Now he knows" (Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, page 187).

"If one presupposes that God already 'knew' the results of the test
beforehand, then the text is at least worded poorly and at most simply false"
(John Sanders, The God Who Risks, page 71).

The writer of Gen. 22:12 evidently reports that God learned something new about Abraham. That is apparently how one should read the text.

However, one can read an attempted rebuttal of open theism in What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge, written by Millard J. Erickson.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ephesians 7:2 (Ignatius of Antioch)

"There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible—even Jesus Christ our Lord." (εἷς ἰατρός ἐστιν, σαρκικὸς καὶ πνευματικός, γεννητὸς καὶ ἀγέννητος, ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ θεός, ἐν θανάτῳ ζωὴ ἀληθινή, καὶ ἐκ Μαρίας καὶ ἐκ θεοῦ, πρῶτον παθητὸς καὶ τότε ἀπαθής, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν)

I would actually maintain that this text is at cross-purposes with the Nicene Creed, which speaks of the Son being "begotten, not created." Lightfoot translates: "There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true Life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord."

However, see

Yet Ignatius writes that Christ was unbegotten or not generated per his divine ousia. I believe Trinitarians have serious theological problems if they side with Ignatius here. It is hard to see how the bishop avoids ditheism in this passage. For if the Son, as God qua God, is unbegotten--then he only became God's Son by virtue of his earthly birth through the virgin Mary. Furthermore, there cannot be any authentically opposed subsistent relations in the Trinitarian Godhead, if the Son is ingenerate as the Father is ingenerate. Most importantly, however, the Bible indicates that the Son was brought forth (begotten or created) prior to the inception of the material universe. When describing the preexistent Son, Scripture employs terms that suggest begettal (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15).

Source for the first translation. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does Having a Physical Body Place Limitations on Christ?

It's been a long time since I read some of the early fathers regarding this question, but I'm inclined to think some post-Nicenes might argue that Christ qua his humanity has limitations, but not qua his divinity. Indeed, it's hard to see how Trinitarians avoid the implication that the risen Lord, if he still has a body, must also have limitations associated with that body.

1. All human bodies have limitations.
2. Jesus has a human body.
3. Therefore, Jesus' body has limitations.

If Jesus Christ possesses a human body, then he has limitations by virtue of his corporeality just as I have limitations by virtue of mine. For instance, I can only inhabit one region of space-time moment by moment, not more than one region.

Now someone might insist that Christ has a glorified material body which is suitable for the heavenly sphere. This glorified body likewise is supposed to be free of the limitations that those of us with mundane (non-glorified) bodies now experience. However, granting that assumption/belief, it's still hard to understand how a human body becomes divested of all limitations since body by its very nature (analytically) implies limitation because a body by definition is what occupies space-time. Hence, why would a glorified body be immune to this general feature of all human/animal bodies?

I have not even dealt with the question of how the Incarnation assumes many things without proving them. Nor have I broached the question of how we know that the body Christ allegedly now has is the same body he sacrificed for our sins. Those questions will be saved for another day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Brian Shanley Discusses Angelic Being and Activity

Brian J. Shanley maintains that while angels qua spirits don't move from place to place, because of their immateriality or incorporeality: "there is some mutability in their being." Thomas Aquinas apparently discusses the nature of angels in Questions 52-53 and 58-59 (inter alia) of the Summa Theologiae. The upshot of Shanley's remarks is "natural angelic activity is measured by time because there is a succession of before and after. So angels occupy a midpoint between temporal before and after and eternal tota simul. Angelic being is altogether at once and measured by the aevum, while angelic natural activity (with the exception of self-knowledge) is measured by time" (The Treatise on the Divine Nature: Summa Theologiae 1a.1-13, page 283).

Brian Shanley is President of Providence College.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

John 13:34--hINA + the Subjunctive

John 13:34 contains the Greek conjunction ἵνα + a verb in the subjunctive mood (ἀγαπᾶτε).

This construction evidently means that a particular result is being expressed by the ἵνα clause or ἵνα + subjunctive. It is conveying an idea regarding the new commandment's content (see Rogers and Rogers Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek NT, page 216).

For the use of ἵνα as a result conjunction, see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 677. Compare John 9:2.

Think of the ἵνα + subjunctive clause as being translated "with the result that . . ."

NET Bible Footnote: tn The ἵνα (hina) clause gives the content of the commandment. This is indicated by a dash in the translation.

"I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another" (John 13:34 Revised NWT).

"I give you a new commandment, that you are to love each other: that as I loved you, you too are to love each other" (Byington).

Some understand the construction to be a purpose clause instead of communicating the result. From Vincent's Word Studies
That (ἵνα)

With its usual telic force; indicating the scope and not merely the form or nature of the commandment.

See also

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Is the Trinity Doctrine Scriptural? See B.B. Warfield's Answer (Quote and Link)

From Warfield:

The term “Trinity” is not a Biblical term, and we are not using Biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence. A doctrine so defined can be spoken of as a Biblical doctrine only on the principle that the sense of Scripture is Scripture. And the definition of a Biblical doctrine in such un-Biblical language can be justified only on the principle that it is better to preserve the truth of Scripture than the words of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be Scriptural, but only comes into clearer view. Or, to speak without figure, the doctrine of the Trinity is given to us in Scripture, not in formulated definition, but in fragmentary allusions; when we assemble the disjecta membra into their organic unity, we are not passing from Scripture, but entering more thoroughly into the meaning of Scripture. We may state the doctrine in technical terms, supplied by philosophical reflection; but the doctrine stated is a genuinely Scriptural doctrine.


How Should Luke 3:38 Be Translated?

I once had someone criticize the way NWT translates Luke 3:38. Here was my reply to him:

Our English translations, with good reason, translate
Luke's TOU ADAM TOU QEOU (3:38) as "[son] of God"
(NWT). That Luke does not employ hUIOS here is not
relevant or germane at all. One can communicate
concepts without using specific terms such as "Son" or
"daughter." TOU QEOU in this context clearly means
"Son of God." The burden of proof is on the one who
denies this clear, manifest fact. As the NET Bible

"The reference to the son of God here [in Lk 3:38] is
not to a divine being, but to one directly formed by
the hand of God. He is made in God’s image, so this
phrase could be read as appositional ('Adam, that is,
the son of God'). See Acts 17:28-29."

NET renders the verse in question, "the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God."

Addendum: John Trapp offers this explanation--

Ver. 38. Which was the Son of God] Not by generation, but creation. Therefore the Syriac translator hath it Demen Elaha, A Deo, of God, not Bar Elaha, the Son of God.

Also from Joseph Benson's Commentary:

Luke 3:38. Adam, which was the son of God — Adam, being descended from no human parents, but formed by the power of a divine creating hand, might with peculiar propriety be called the son of God, having, in his original state, received immediately from God, whatever the sons of Adam receive from their parents, sin and misery excepted.

Joel 2:31 and The Moon Will Be Turned Into Blood

Joel 2:31 reads: "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes" (NASB).

I see nothing in the Hebrew which would suggest another radically different translation like introducing "as" into the verse. Moreover, the LXX also reads:


Peter invokes Joel 2:31 in his discourse on Pentecost (see Acts 2:20). He also quotes the verse to the effect that the moon will be turned into blood. However, John seemingly alludes to Joel 2:31 in Revelation 6:12, yet he employs hWS ("as") rather than saying that the moon will become blood or turn into blood. Is he interpreting Joel 2:31 (under inspiration) or is there some other explanation for his use of hWS?

NET Bible: tn Grk “like blood,” understanding αἷμα (aima) as a blood-red color rather than actual blood (L&N 8.64).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

God Creating Ex Nihilo (Creel and Ryrie)

From Richard Creel's book about divine impassibility:

"God does create ex nihilo in the sense that what he creates he does not create from antecedent individuals or matter" (page 72).

On the same page, Creel insists all that creation requires is an act of divine volition. Jehovah is unlike Plato's Demiurge (see Timaeus) that brings the cosmos into being by impressing form on recalcitrant matter.

In Basic Theology, Charles C. Ryrie supplements Creel's account by pointing out that God creates ex nihilo by dint of his "omnipotent resources." That is all God needs to create the universe--his almighty power and only his almightiness.


Ledoux and Animal Consciousness

Joseph LeDoux offers this account of animal consciousness: "Other animals may be consciously aware, in some sense, of events going on in their world. They may have domain-specific consciousness, or in the case of nonhuman primates, domain-independent nonverbal consciousness, but lacking language and its cognitive manifestations, they are unlikely to be able to represent complex, abstract concepts (like 'me' or 'mine' or 'ours'), to relate external events to these abstractions, and to use these representations to guide decision-making and control behavior" (Synaptic Self, 197).

So Ledoux possibly recognizes the existence of "complex, abstract concepts" and the symbolic manipulation of such abstractions, but he associates them with the human capacity for language which is viewed as a natural (biological) phenomenon rooted in the human brain and its neural activities. In other words, we are equipped with a huge neocortex that makes us lingually capacious: that's why humans can think abstractly. To quote the late Sir Francis Crick: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons."

While I don't agree with LeDoux calling us "animals," I like other aspects of his "synaptic self" approach.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Parcels of Matter Forming Concepts

It is a challenge to reconcile Thomas Aquinas' approach to "nothing exists in the mind before it exists in the senses" and the physicalist account of concept-formation. Sadly, neuroscience has not yet developed a robust account of how we form concepts: Joseph Ledoux (The Emotional Brain) has a great picture whereby he shows how sensory stimuli become "conscious content." Alas! He describes the whole process as a "black box" that involves stimuli being processed and stored along with more processing and storage before stimuli become the contents of consciousness.

The complex feature about this whole process is that memory has a role in sensible phenomena becoming conscious contents. For instance, I've seen many apples in my relatively brief lifespan. So when I perceive my 1000th apple, things are not so simple as the apple/stimulus being converted into information, which eventually becomes a representational concept (on the physicalist explanation of things) or sensible matter (according to the Thomist account). Yet my brain does not engage in this process every time that I perceive an apple. Are we not thankful for the hippocampal region, the amygdala, synapses, and other parts of our neurobiology?

See also by Owen Flanagan.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Craig Evans on Luke 17:21 and ENTOS

The inexpensive set of commentaries from the series New International Biblical Commentary (NIBC) has a volume about Luke's Gospel wherein Craig A. Evans remarks concerning Luke 17:21:

"The phrase translated 'within you' should probably be translated 'among you,' for the kingdom is not within people in some sort of mystical or spiritual sense (as Marshall [p. 655] supposes), but it is among people in the sense of Jesus' presence (so Fitzmyer, p. 1161; Tiede, p. 300)."

Friday, December 01, 2017

Avoiding Extreme Doubt in a Scientific World

Nancey Murphy explains why Aristotelian hylomorphism successfully accounts for the perception of sensory objects, but it has more difficulty justifying perceptual errors (e.g., bent oar blades and hallucinations). On the other hand, the usual critique of atomism and nominalism is that both theories appear to imply skepticism about the world external to the mind. Rene Descartes' internalist epistemology has faced the same challenge.

While work on sensory perception is ongoing, some neuroscientists have tried to harmonize the representational view of concepts with a less skeptical view of the cosmos. One possible approach to perception is by trying to understand neural representation potentially emanating from sensory experience as a proximately identical map of the world. A second approach might entail admitting that our concepts are fuzzy, inexact "hedges" of reality. Prototype theory advocated by Eleanor Rosch seems to favor this approach.

These questions intersect with theology insofar as they impinge on theistic belief. Descartes was likely aware that his internalist philosophy entailed or implied skepticism about the external world. However, he appealed to the existence of God in order to undermine the notion that we're living a perpetual delusion of the senses.