Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dating John's Gospel and the Ancient Witnesses

The Gospel of John probably was not completed until the late 1st century. So how early would one expect quotes from the book to appear? If Ignatius of Antioch references John, that would be quite early (ca. 110 CE); Irenaeus of Lyons probably uses John's Gospel and he wrote around 180 CE. What we also have to consider is that it's not enough for a Gospel to exist, but it also had to be considered authoritative by the early church and apostolically rooted. So if early fathers already impute that kind of weight to the Fourth Gospel, then it should speak volumes, not to mention Origen's thorough discussion of the Johannine Prologue and later, Augustine of Hippo and John Chrysostom's discussions. And let's not forget that the 2nd-century Muratorian Canon likewise recognizes John's Gospel?

From what we know of the Gospels, the Prologue could not have been written that late. One other thing: the pre-Nicenes wrote for a reason. So not all of them needed to quote the Johannine Prologue in order to accomplish their purpose for writing.

Stanley Porter, after a rigorous analysis of the papyrological evidence, offers the following proposal:

If the timeline I have just articulated is correct, and if a reasonable time for transmission of a document was thirty years (this seems to be a rule of thumb used by a number of scholars),⁸⁰ then it is worth reconsidering the date of composition for John's Gospel. I cannot go into detail here, but the sequence would fit both ends of the trajectory noted above. Beginning with the latest date, if P.Rylands Greek 457 was copied around 120, then a reasonable date of the composition of John’s Gospel would be around 90. So far, this conclusion matches the standard and usual dates for the composition of the two documents, as indicated above. If P.Rylands Greek 457 was copied around 100, however, then the date of composition of John's Gospel might have been as early as 70. This scenario also would fit within the parameters of some of the suggested dates for John's Gospel mentioned above. If we were to be highly speculative and posit a date for copying of P.Rylands Greek 457 that was earlier than 100, then that would quite possibly, even if not necessarily, push the date of composition of John's Gospel even earlier, possibly even earlier than the fall of Jerusalem. Even though the usual arguments for such an early date are not convincing, as noted above, an argument from the surrounding manuscript data may just make such a hypothesis at least worth considering and not dismissing too easily. I will note that there is no early papyrological or transmissional evidence that stands in the way of an early dating. In fact, the timeline above might well encourage such a recalculation.

See Porter, John, His Gospel, and Jesus: In Pursuit of the Johannine Voice

Monday, October 29, 2018

Is Matter Eternal Like Jehovah

Almost everyone knows Einstein's equaation E = mc^2--(kinetic) energy equals (relativistic) mass times the speed of light squared. Dynamic energy seems to be a property of Jehovah, but we should not conflate Einstein's famous equation with God's dynamic energy that transcends and is prior to the material universe (Isaiah 40:25-26). Universe normally means all that exists. See

"The universe is the whole of space and all the stars, planets, and other forms of matter and energy in it" (Collins English Dictionary).

However, does that include the Creator of the universe? What about the angels? For now, I am restricting my use of the term "universe" to all material/physical entities--what empirical science is capable of investigating. As far as we know, based on empirical science, matter is a dynamic configuration of energy. Yet relativity theory does not address what energy might imply in the case of God. Again, by universe, I am talking about the material world. Regardless of what we 21st century denizens might think, I see no reason to believe that Moses, Isaiah or Jeremiah denied the inception of the material or the spiritual universe, in the sense that matter and angels were created.

Revelation 4:11 seems to clearly acclaim God as the creator of all things, and heavenly creatures recognize God's sovereignty based on that truth. To also clarify why I'm invoking Revelation 4:11, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God is the Creator of the material universe and we profess that the act of creating all things establishes the ground for Jehovah's divine sovereignty. So my point is that if we throw out Jehovah being the Creator of the universe, what then obligates us to render him all glory, honor and power as the 24 elders exclaim? His status as Sovereign hinges on his role as Creator.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Contrast Between Glory and Shame in Corinthians

I have recently begun to wonder why Paul was inspired to emphasize a glory/shame or power/weakness dichotomy in his letters to the Corinthians. The examples are numerous:

"And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another." (1 Corinthians 15:40 NET)

"It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Corinthians 15:43 NET)

"But if the ministry that produced death - carved in letters on stone tablets - came with glory, so that the Israelites could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face (a glory which was made ineffective)" (2 Corinthians 3:7 NET)

"through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true" (2 Corinthians 6:8 NET)

Also see 2 Cor. 3:18; 12:9, 10; 13:4.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer: (1 Corinthians, Anchor Bible Commentary

It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in splendor. Whereas the earthly human body is subject to atimia, “dishonor,” the second quality of the risen body is doxa, “splendor, glory, radiance.” See Note on 2:7. The human body, thus sown, “has lost all rights of citizenship (atimia), and, excepting decent burial, all rights of humanity” (Robertson-Plummer, 1 Cor, 372). Recall how Paul contrasts “decay” (phthora) with “splendor, glory” (doxa) in Rom 8:21, a slightly different consideration. Cf. also Rom 9:21; Phil 3:21. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. Whereas the earthly human body is powerless, subject to frailty and weakness (astheneia), the third quality of the risen body is dynamis, “power.” It thus shares in the power given by the Creator. The same contrast is found in 2 Cor 12:9; 13:4.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"I Set A Pattern" (John 13:14-15 and 1 Peter 2:21)

"For I set the pattern for you, that just as I did to you, you should also do." (John 13:15 NWT 2013)

"In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving a model for you to follow his steps closely." (1 Peter 2:21 NWT 2013)

The language at John 13:15 caught my attention this week for our Bible reading, and it made me recall 1 Peter 2:21, which the NWT references in the footnote. John 13:15 and 1 Peter 2:21 seem to convey similar ideas although two different Greek words are used by each writer. Moreover, the contexts admittedly are different, one from the other.

John uses ὑπόδειγμα whereas Peter employs ὑπογραμμὸν (the accusative singular form of ὑπογραμμός).

ESV renders 1 Peter 2:21, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."

However, John 13:15 reads: "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."

However, what are the differences between these two Greek words?

ὑπόδειγμα could be rendered by the English words, "example, model" or pattern (C. Bennema); the term possibly refers to an exemplar--that is, something or someone to be emulated. Notice how Hebrews 8:5 utilizes ὑπόδειγμα. So maybe we should think of ὑπόδειγμα as an example to be imitated or followed.



New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:

ὑπογραμμός (hypogrammos), outline, copy, example (G5681).

CL & OT This word is late. Philo uses it in the sense of outline. Its most common use is for the faint outlines of letters that pupils traced over while learning to write, then also of the sets of letters written at the top of a page to be copied repeatedly by the learner on the rest of the page.

NT hypogrammos is applied metaphorically in 1 Pet. 2:21 to the example left by Christ for his disciples to follow, esp. in his patient endurance of undeserved suffering.

John 13:15 emphasizes the pattern that Christ set in being humble or lowly of mind; 1 Peter 2:21 stresses how that Christ is our Exemplar in the matter of suffering.

Friday, October 12, 2018

"A feast of wines . . . of fat things full of marrow" (Isaiah 25:6)

Isaiah 25:6--"And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined" (ASV).

1) "And in this mountain"--likely a reference to Mount Zion. The prophecy likely finds its eschatological fulfillment with respect to figurative Zion (Revelation 14:1-3).

2) "a feast of fat things" for all the peoples. John N. Oswalt explains:

"a feast of fatness. To a people who did not have to worry about cholesterol, the fat portions of the meat were the best (Ps. 36:9 [Eng. 8]; 63:6 [Eng. 5]). Thus it is not surprising that these were the portions of the sacrifices reserved for God (Lev. 3:3; 4:8, 9). But here God is giving the rich food to his people, as the host (Ps. 24:6).²⁸ This is always the principle of sacrifice. God asks that we give to him in order that he may give to us. (Cf. the thank offering and the feasting associated with it, Lev. 7:11–18)."

See Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39.

3) "a feast of wine on the lees . . . of wines on the lees well refined"

Oswalt offers these remarks:

"a feast of lees refers to wine which has been allowed to strengthen by leaving the dregs in the wine after the fermentation process. The wine, strained before drinking, was clear and strong, i.e., good wine. šemārîm, 'lees,' was probably used here also because of its assonance with šemānîm, 'fatness.'"

LXX: καὶ ποιήσει κύριος σαβαωθ πᾶσι τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τοῦτο πίονται εὐφροσύνην πίονται οἶνον χρίσονται μύρον

Brenton: "And the Lord of hosts shall make [a feast] for all the nations: on this mount they shall drink gladness, they shall drink wine:"

Wildberger has a long note on some textual issues and the literary form of Isaiah 25:6-8. See Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 13-27, Trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), pages 523-531.

To summarize Wildberger's comments, he views Isaiah 25:6-8 as a coronation meal in which YHWH is host and offerer of divine grace. It is significant that Jehovah is called YHWH of hosts: the expression is used only two places in Isaiah 24-27. The prophet likewise distinguishes this meal by saying it is for the peoples, that is, the nations (non-Israelites). So God is extending his graciousness to all peoples.

Wildberger claims that Zion is "the focal point of Yahweh's rule, just as it is clear that the מלכות ׳הוה (kingdom of Yahweh) is not a transcendent type of rule."

He possibly means that the kingdom of YHWH is not heavenly, but he explicitly states that the "people of God" are not necessarily barred from this feast, by whom he probably means Israel. Although, see 1 Peter 2:9-10.

The commentator, Wildberger, concludes this section of his commentary about Isaiah 25:6-8 by contending:

"When סמנים (rich foods) is used (this plural form occurs only here), one ought not think it refers to meat, but rather to foods that have been prepared using a lot of oil. For an extraordinary festival, one also needs to have
an excellent wine, in this case one that has been prepared carefully, with special effort to strain it meticulously so as to make it clear, without sediment. What is described is the opposite of what was presumably the popular notion
in Israel, that Yahweh would prepare for the peoples a drinking feast at which he would 'make them drunk, until they become merry and then sleep a perpetual sleep and never wake' (Jer. 51:39; cf. Jer. 25:15ff. and Ps. 75:9)."

He also encourages readers to view this ancient text through Israelites eyes of antiquity.

Alec Motyer makes an interesting observation as well:

"The rich food and finest of wines contrast with the bread and water of 21:14. Aged wine can mean the sediment that forms in the process of fermentation (Zeph. 1:12), but here it means the wine itself, purified and matured by being allowed to stand. Finest of wines is (lit.) ‘lees thoroughly filtered’; best of meats (lit.) ‘rich food, filled with marrow’, a picture of nourishment."

See Genesis 4:4; Exodus 29:2; 7, 21, 23, 40; Nehemiah 8:10; Isaiah 28:1, 4.

Keil-Delitzsch prove to be worth consulting here. At least part of what they write appears to be on the mark:

Shemârim mezukkâkim are wines which have been left to stand upon their lees after the first fermentation is over, which have thus thoroughly fermented, and have been kept a long time (from shâmar, to keep, spec. to allow to ferment), and which are then filtered before drinking (Gr. οἶνος σακκίας, i.e., διΰλισμένος or διηθικὸς, from διηθεῖν, percolare), hence wine both strong and clear. Memuchâyı̄m might mean emedullatae ("with the marrow taken out;" compare, perhaps, Proverbs 31:3), but this could only apply to the bones, not to the fat meat itself; the meaning is therefore "mixed with marrow," made marrowy, medullosae. The thing symbolized in this way is the full enjoyment of blessedness in the perfected kingdom of God.

Monday, October 08, 2018

King Solomon's Hecatombs in 1 Kings 8:63ff

Jehovah cares for animals; of that fact, I have no doubt (Proverbs 12:10). On the other hand, what about the thousands upon thousands of animals sacrificed by the nation of Israel and the animals killed during the flood? Did not King Solomon offer up 100,000 animals (around that number) at one time to Jehovah?

"And Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he offered unto Jehovah, two and twenty thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of Jehovah" (1 Kings 8:63 ASV).

Compare verse 64.

Joseph Benson: "1 Kings 8:63. And Solomon offered — By the hands of the priests, two and twenty thousand oxen, &c. — Not all in one day, but in seven, or, it may be, in the fourteen days mentioned 1 Kings 8:65. So the king and all Israel dedicated the house of the Lord — Began to set it apart for the work and services of God by these sacrifices and holy exercises."

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: "fellowship offerings to the Lord: twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. The parameters of the fellowship offering are not clear, but the amount of meat generated could certainly have fed a large percentage of the people gathered for the temple dedication ceremony. Sacrifices numbering thousands of animals were not uncommon in the temple and palace dedications of Egyptian pharaohs and Assyrian monarchs."

Yet are we to conclude it's wrong for us to eat meat for survival? Furthermore, if Paul insists that "all things" have been sanctified by God--give thanksgiving and eat (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Two caveats:

1) I am not passing judgment on God and claiming that those animals never should have been sacrificed. Jehovah, in his infinite wisdom, saw good reason to accept sacrifice for sins, praise, and thanksgiving. See also Genesis 4:4-5; Hebrews 9:22; 10:1-4.

2) I'm not suggesting that veganism/vegetarianism is wrong; brothers and sisters are free to eat meat and they're free to abstain from eating meat. I respect either decision. More importantly, so does Jehovah.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Scholarship on Deuteronomy 12:16ff--"Only, the blood . . . "

Deuteronomy 12:16 (YLT): "'Only, the blood ye do not eat -- on the earth thou dost pour it as water;'"

Peter C. Craigie: "In this new situation, it would be quite legitimate to slaughter and to eat meat freely;¹³ the slaughtering and eating would take place in any settlement, and it would not be necessary to be ritually clean to participate. Likewise, meat could be eaten in such circumstances as would not be permissible for sacrifices (the meat of the gazelle or hart). The only limitation on this general eating of meat was that the blood was not to be eaten, but to be poured out. Thus, although the eating described here is totally secular (i.e., in no way associated with a sacrificial meal or offering), nevertheless the blood was to be poured ritually upon the ground. The blood was treated with respect, regardless of whether the slaughter was carried out in a secular or ritual setting, because the blood symbolized life, that which God imparted to all living creatures. The freedom of eating meat, however, did not extend to those products and foodstuffs which were set aside specifically for God (v. 17); they could be eaten legitimately only in God's sanctuary (v. 19), as had already been stressed earlier in the chapter (vv. 6,11)."

Deuteronomy 12:19 (ASV): "Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest in thy land."

Compare Deut. 12:12.

Meredith G. Kline: Besides bringing the Israelite tribes into contact with heathen shrines, the inheriting of Canaan would locate the tribal homes at considerable distances from Israel’s own central sanctuary (v. 21). If the stipulations of Deut 12:4-14 were to be carried out in that new situation, a distinction had to be made between the slaughtering and eating of animals suitable for a sacrificial feast and those suitable for an ordinary meal; and permission must be granted for the decentralization of the latter. This new provision constituted a modification of the requirements of Lev 17:1 ff., which governed the Israelites’ consumption of flesh while they were a compact camp about the Tabernacle in the wilderness. 15 b. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the hart (RSV; cf. v. 22). Participation in the family feast was not dependent on ceremonial condition (cf. Lev 7:19 ff.), and the kind of meat permissible included that which was proper for sacrifice as well as meat like game (cf. Deut 14:5), which was not sacrificially acceptable. Attached to this permission were certain restrictions. One is the familiar prohibition of blood – ye shall not eat the blood (vv. 16,23 ff.; cf. Lev 17:10 ff.; Gen 9:4). Pouring the blood upon the ground would be a safeguard against pouring it as a sacrifice on some nearby, illegally remaining Canaanite altar.


Saturday, October 06, 2018

E.C. Wickham and Hebrews 1:8

E. C. Wickham evidently concurs with B. F. Westcott’s assessment of Hebrews 1:8. He argues that the nominative of address (vocative) is not the most appropriate construal of the Greek text for two primary reasons: (1) It is not likely that a “human prince” would be called Elohim or theos by the OT writer of Psalm 45; (2) "O God" (the vocative) would serve as the climax in Heb. 1:8. But Wickham appears to think that the noun theos here does not function climatically. He reasons that we should translate Heb. 1:8, "God is thy throne" or "thy throne is (i.e., represents) God." See Wickham, The Epistle to the Hebrews with Introduction and Notes (London: Methuen, 1910), page 8.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Comments Regarding the Use of Wine in 1 Timothy (Paul M. Zehr)

All of the quotes below are taken from 1-2 Timothy and Titus by Paul M. Zehr. The bibliographical details appear below.

"Not a drunkard (1 Tim 3:3) refers to one of the vices common in antiquity. The overseer need not abstain from wine (5:23). But like the deacon (3:8), the overseer must control his appetite so that drunkenness does not overtake him (Titus 1:7; cf. Eph 5:18)."

(Page 80)

"The list of desired qualities begins with the qualifier serious. Similar to the overseer who is above reproach (v. 2), deacons need inward character, a dignified and serious manner of life that outwardly engenders respect from others. This virtue is followed by three prohibitions. First, not double-tongued means deacons must not be duplicitous. They are not double talkers who say one thing while thinking another or who say one thing to one person and something different to the next (Kelly:81). As go-between persons in the Christian community, deacons dare not yield to the vice of duplicity, which destroys the trust people give them to carry out their service. Second, not indulging in much wine speaks against the excessive use of wine, which leads to drunkenness and disqualifies one from this work. Paul applies this prohibition to other church leaders as well, such as bishops and women deacons.

(Page 82)

"One way the unhealthy teachers have expressed themselves is through abstinence and ascetic teachings (4:3-4). Timothy may have abstained from wine and followed the abstinence teaching of the teachers by drinking only water, which in his case created health problems, perhaps because it was impure. So Paul instructs him not only to keep himself pure and free of sin, but also to take care of his physical health by taking a little wine. Stomach problems were common in the ancient world, and Greco-Roman doctors prescribed a little wine. The Talmud indicates that Jewish elders also believed that wine was the primary medicine (Collins:149). For health reasons, Timothy is to avoid the ascetic practice and the Nazirite rejection of wine (Num 6:1-4), which Paul apparently considers unhealthy teaching."

(Page 118)

See also page 221 for Zehr's commentary pertaining to 2 Timothy 4:6. Compare Numbers 15:5, 7, 10.

Pastors are not to be ascetics (1 Tim 4:3-7), but are to discipline themselves in godliness more than athletes discipline themselves, since godliness holds promise both in this life and the life to come (4:7-8). Pastors are to be the Lord’s servants as they maintain Christlike attitudes during difficult times (2 Tim 2:22-24). They test their ministry in the presence of the living God and the living Christ. By faithfully preaching and teaching the Scriptures through sound doctrine, pastors help the congregation discern within their culture what to choose and what to reject. They reject the ascetic practices of the surrounding culture (1 Tim 4:1-6) but borrow from the athletic ideal (4:7-10). They borrow from the medical use of wine (5:23), but reject drunkenness (1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7). They borrow from the household practices of caring and sharing (1 Tim 5:8), adjust slavery practice with the Christian gospel and the mission of the church (6:1-2), and reject the view that one can use religion
to gain money (6:5, 9-10). Instead, they are to be content with what they have (6:6-7) and not be lovers of money (1 Tim 3:3, 8; 6:9; Titus 1:7)

(Page 362)

Work Cited: Zehr, Paul M. 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010.