Thursday, November 29, 2018

Elaine Pagels and Contemporary Gnostic Studies

One problem with Elaine Pagels is her controlling ideology that's superimposed on the Gnostic Gospels (i.e., feminism); in my estimation, there is a great chasm between the so-called "orthodox views" in antiquity and Gnosticism. While scholarship's picture of the Gnostics has become clearer since the 1940s, some general features of the philosophy/religion seem apparent. The Gnostics denigrated flesh/matter and elevated spirit: some Gnostics were also libertines, but others tended to be ascetics. Read Irenaeus of Lyons, Hippolytus of Rome, and Ignatius of Antioch to see the big difference between "orthodox" thinking and Gnosticism although we have to allow room for ideology or propaganda in the pre-Nicenes. Something else to consider is that Gnostics would not have accepted/did not accept John 1:14--the Word became flesh. Some writers also assert that 1 Timothy and 1 John were early jousts against Gnostic/proto-Gnostic thinking.

Another objectionable aspect to Gnosticism was the belief in aeons paired in masculine-feminine deities (so-called syzygies). That the world of matter is evil by virtue of being material is an affront to both Judaism and Christianity. From my studies of the Hermetic literature, I do not think it was even prominent in the first century CE. Hans Dieter Betz calls attention to the fact that the date for Poimandres is "still open to discussion" (Antike und Christentum, 206). So we must be careful with lingual comparisons unless we carefully examine the original texts themselves.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Revelation 21:23 and Divine Glory (Robert H. Mounce)

Mounce writes:

The heavenly city has no need of sun or moon to shine because it is illuminated by the glory of God. Isaiah had pictured the glorious restoration of Jerusalem in much the same terms (Isa 60:19–20). John is not supplying his readers with information about future astrological changes but setting forth by means of accepted apocalyptic imagery the splendor that will radiate from the presence of God and the Lamb. In his Gospel John used language in much the same way. He called Jesus the “true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9) and the “light of the world” (John 8:12; cf. 3:19; 12:35). The metaphor is not uncommon in apocalyptic language (2 Esdr 7:39–42). The nations are said to walk by the light of God’s glory, and the kings of the earth bring their splendor into the city. Isaiah 60 serves as a model. The glory of the Lord is seen upon Jerusalem, and nations and kings are attracted to its brightness (Isa 60:1–3). The wealth of the nations comes back to Zion as her sons and daughters return from afar (Isa 60:4–5; also vv. 6, 9, 11, 13, 17).

Source: Mounce, Robert H. 1998. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Basic Logic for Theology

It's commonly agreed that we can't have theologic without logic itself. Theology usually is defined as "the doctrine of God" (something to that effect) or more colloquially as "talking about God" whereas "logic" is "the science/study of correct thinking." Logic studies correct ways of thinking, that is, correct inferences. What do we mean by correct inferences? Here are some examples:

1. Modus Ponens

A) If P, then Q
B) P
C) Therefore, Q

2. Modus Tollens

A) If P, then Q
B) Not Q
C) Therefore, Not P

3) Conjunction

A) P
B) Q
C) Therefore, P and Q

4) Hypothetical Syllogism

A) If P, then Q
B) If Q, then R
C) Therefore, If P, then R

5) Disjunctive Syllogism

A) Either P or Q
B) Not P
C) Therefore, Q

Acts 2:21--Proof of Jesus' Deity?

Many Trinitarians attempt to argue that Acts 2:21 is proof of Christ's deity. However, the context (Acts 2:22ff) suggests otherwise--nevertheless, what exactly are Trinitarian scholars saying about Acts 2:21?

Greek: καὶ ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἐὰν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα Κυρίου σωθήσεται. (Acts 2:21)

LXX (Joel 2:32): καὶ ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται ὅτι ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σιων καὶ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ ἔσται ἀνασῳζόμενος καθότι εἶπεν κύριος καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενοι οὓς κύριος προσκέκληται

ESV: And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Darrell L. Bock:
The reference to the Lord (κύριος, kyrios) needs careful attention. In Joel this means calling out to Yahweh (יְהוָה), Israel’s God, for salvation. At a literary level, nothing in Peter’s speech up to this point would have anyone think otherwise about the meaning of this reference, because verse 20 speaks of the day of the Lord, which would be the day of God’s judgment. But one of the functions of the entire speech is to show that Jesus is Lord, a key title also applied to Yahweh. Peter will give Jesus a place alongside Yahweh as carrying out the plan and will make clear that the name one is to call on belongs to Jesus (Acts 2:38; 4:10–12).

Bock insists that Peter would have applied Joel 2:32 to the resurrected Christ in this way, although he would likely not have spoken the divine name--YHWH. So Bock thinks Peter's quotation of Joel is geared to demonstrate that Christ is LORD (YHWH). See Bock, Acts, Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2007 [2012].

Craig Keener (Acts--An Exegetical Commentary):
The expression “call on the Lord’s name” was familiar in Jewish texts, where it concerned especially praying to him,[642] as in the later Targum on this verse (Tg. Joel 3:5), or praise (Jdt 16:1). Luke’s term for “call upon” (ἐίικαλέω) could also apply to a formal appeal to Caesar (as in Acts 25:11–12, 21; 26:32; 28:19), but it is the Lord who could grant true deliverance. Peter’s sermon expounds at length on this final line from Joel, arguing that the Lord’s name on which his hearers must call in this salvific era is Jesus (2:21, 34, 38).[643] Thus Peter concludes by exhorting them to call on the Lord’s name by baptism in Jesus’s name (2:38).[644] After this Peter com- pletes his Joel quotation, picking up later in Joel’s sentence after the point where he broke off to begin expounding the last line he had quoted (2:39; see also comment there).[645] Cultic invocation of Jesus’s name appears elsewhere in Acts (22:16) and early Christianity (e.g., Rom 10:9, 13; cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 12:3; Phil 2:11); in this context, Jesus’s name is necessary for salvation (Acts 4:12), and in the immediate context, he is “Lord” (2:36).[646]

Peter Pett's Commentary:
To ‘call on the name of the Lord’ was to approach God in worship and to seek His mercy. Compare Genesis 4:26; Genesis 12:8; 2 Samuel 22:4; Psalms 55:16; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 105:1; Psalms 116:13; Psalms 116:17; Psalms 145:18). But here was probably the added idea that it was Jesus Who was the Lord Who had to be called on.

The Expositor's GT:
But just as in Romans 10:12 this same prophecy of Joel is beyond all doubt referred by St. Paul to the Lord Jesus, so here the whole drift of St. Peter’s speech, that the same Jesus who was crucified was made both Lord and Christ, points to the same conclusion, Acts 2:36. In Joel κύριος is undoubtedly used of the Lord Jehovah, and the word is here transferred to Christ. In its bearing on our Lord’s Divinity this fact is of primary importance, for it is not merely that the early Christians addressed their Ascended Lord so many times by the same name which is used of Jehovah in the LXX—although it is certainly remarkable that in 1 Thess. the name is applied to Christ more than twenty times—but that they did not hesitate to refer to Him the attributes and the prophecies which the great prophets of the Jewish nation had associated with the name of Jehovah, Zahn, Skizzen aus dem Leben der alten Kirche, pp. 8, 10, 16 (1894), and for the force of the expression, ἐπικ. τὸ ὄνομα, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, see Harnack, History of Dogma, i., p. 29, E.T.— ὃς ἂν ἐποκ., “whosoever”: it would seem that in St. Peter’s address the expression does not extend beyond the chosen people . . .

[Conzelmann; Haenchen]

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Jehovah Sets Precedents? An Idea in Germ Form

A dear friend I knew some years ago, now deceased, used to tell me that she felt Jehovah sets precedents (always?) before he acts. I don't remember reading about this concept in WT literature, but it may be there. And frankly, I don't find the idea objectionable and it even seems scriptural. But I need to do more research, find the scriptural basis for believing that Jehovah sets precedents although the organization has written that Jehovah will set a precedent for all time to come, when he destroys Satan, his demons, and other rebels after the test mentioned in Revelation 20:7-10. Maybe Jehovah also set a precedent when he gave his Son to eradicate sin and death. See also Jude 1-7.

Edward P. Arbez and John P. Weisengoff: Notes on Genesis 1:1-2 (Screenshots)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Is It Possible That the Third Heaven Is Identical with Paradise in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4?

We find recurrent antecedents in Jewish writings that indicate paradise and the third heaven might be identical. See Andrew Lincoln, Paradise, page 6.

Compare Apocalypse of Moses 37.5; Life of Adam and Eve 25.3.

2 Baruch 51:11: For there shall be spread before them the extents of Paradise, and there shall be shown to them the beauty of the majesty of the living creatures which are beneath the throne and all the armies of the angels who are now held fast by my word, lest they should appear, and are held fast by a command, that they may stand in their places till their advent comes.

Comments from the International Critical Commentary on 2 Corinthians:

εἰς τὸν παράδεισον. See on Luke 23:43 and Sewte on Revelation 2:7, the only other passages in N.T. in which παράδεισος occurs; also Hastings, DB. ii. pp. 668 f., DCG. ii. p. 318; Salmond, Christ. Doct. of Immortality, pp. 346 f. The word tells us little about the nature of the unseen world. In the O.T. it is used either of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9, Genesis 2:2:10, Genesis 2:15, etc.) or of a park or pleasure-ground (Song of Solomon 4:13; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Joel 2:3; etc.); but it represents three or four different Hebrew words. We must leave open the question as to whether St Paul regards paradise and the third heaven as identical, or as quite different, or as one containing the other, for there is no clue to the answer. See Int. Journal of Apocrypha, July 1914, pp. 74 f.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Robert Thomas' Exegetical Treatment of Revelation 4:11

The combination ēsan kai ektisthēsan has occasioned various explanations. One takes the former verb to express the existence of creation in the will of God before its actual existence and the latter verb to refer to the actual creation (Swete; Charles). In other words, ēsan looks back to the eternal past and ektisthēsan pictures the genesis of nature (Swete). This view furnishes a possible explanation of the imperfect tense of ēsan, but it introduces into the context a completely foreign element, the thought of the potential existence of cre- ation (Beckwith). The imperfect tense could just as well view the state of creation immediately after the initial creative act. Another approach to this combination of verbs has been to understand the second as explanatory of the first.¹⁰⁷ Existence, first thought of as an accomplished fact, is made more specific by the latter verb (Beckwith). This proposal is modeled after the creation account in Genesis where the general description of man's creation in Genesis 1 is followed by a more detailed account in Genesis 2 (Charles; Beckwith; Ladd). The debilitating deficiency of this view is the difference between the two verbs. They convey two significantly distinct thoughts, and construing the latter as elaboration of the former is impossible. A third explanation for the two-verb combination is the figure of hysteron proteron, because of the non-chronological arrangement of the two: certainly the τίσις (ktisis, “creation”) must exist before one can say ēsan. The latter verb is proposed to be the act of creation, and the former one the process of creation (Moffatt). Though hysteron proteron is a common literary device of this author (cf. Rev. 3:9, 17) (Beckwith), it is unnecessary to resort to it because of the reverse chronological sequence of the two verbs. The writer may be thinking logically rather than chronologically. The simplest and most satisfactory explanation is that the two verbs speak of the simple fact of the creation's existence (ēsan) and then of the fact of the beginning of its existence (ektisthēsan) (Alford; Ladd). All created things (ta panta) existed in contrast to their prior nonexistence, and God gave them that existence by a specific act of His own power.

Thomas quotes Henry Alford. Here's what he writes about Revelation 4:11:

The elders, though themselves belonging to creation, in this ascription of praise look on creation from without, and that thanksgiving, which creation renders for its being, becomes in their view a tribute to Him who called them into being, and thus a testimony to His creative power. And thus the reason follows): because Thou didst create all things (τὰ πάντα, “this universal whole,” the universe), and on account of Thy will (i. e. because Thou didst will it: “propter voluntatem tuam,” as Vulg.: not durch Deinen Willen, as Luther, which represents διὰ with a gen. “For thy pleasure,” of the E. V., introduces an element entirely strange to the context, and however true in fact, most inappropriate here, where the ὅτι renders a reason for the ἀξιότης of ἡ δόξα, ἡ τιμή, and ἡ δύναμις) they were (ἦσαν, not = ἐγενήθησαν, came into being, as De W., al.: for this it cannot signify: nor again, though thus the requirement of ἦσαν would be satisfied, as Lyra, “in dispositione tua ab æterno, antequam crearentur:” nor, as Grot., “erant jam homines quia tu volueras, et conditi sunt, id est, iterum conditi, per Christum:” nor again as Bengel, “all things were, from the creation down to the time of this ascription of praise and henceforward.” The best explanation is that of Düsterd., they existed, as in contrast to their previous non-existence: whereby not their coming into being, but the simple fact of their being, is asserted.

The remarkable reading οὐκ ἦσαν is worth notice: “by reason of Thy will they were not, and were created:” i. e. “they were created out of nothing.” But besides the preponderance of authority the other way, there is the double chance, that οὐκ may have arisen from the preceding ου, and that it may have been an escape from the difficulty of ἦσαν) and were created (they both had their being,— ἦσαν; and received it from Thee by a definite act of Thine,— ἐκτίσθησαν).


Henry Alford, "Commentary on Revelation 4:4." Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1992.

________________. Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Scholarly Suggestions Pertaining to Revelation 4:11

Greek (NA28): ἄξιος εἶ, ὁ κύριος καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν, λαβεῖν τὴν δόξαν καὶ τὴν τιμὴν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν, ὅτι σὺ ἔκτισας τὰ πάντα καὶ διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου ἦσαν καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν.

Grant Osborne (Baker Exegetical Commentary):
Many have noted the strange order in the two final verbs; one would expect them to be reversed, with the act of creation preceding the existence of creation. Some (R. Charles, Swete, Mounce) interpret ἦσαν as teaching the preexistence of creation in the mind of God, the potential of existence before it was created. This is ingenious but unnecessary. It is far simpler to note the ABA pattern and see ἐκτίσθησαν (ektisthēsan, were created) as restating the “created all things” of the first element. We do not have chronology here but rather a logical order (so Ladd 1972:78; Thomas 1992:368). God is creator and sustainer of the whole of creation. As Beale (1999:335) says, the purpose “is to emphasize preservation because the pastoral intention throughout the book is to encourage God's people to recognize that everything that happens to them throughout history is part of God’s creation purposes.”

R. Dean Davis, "The Heavenly Court Scene of Revelation 4-5,"(pages 229-230): Several scholars have made reference to a problem in the words of praise of the second hymn: "for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created" (4:11). They believe these words suggest that all things existed before they were created. Some manuscripts try to solve the problem by substituting εἰσίν ("are") for ἦσαν ("were") or placing οὐκ ("not") before ἦσαν ("were"). The real solution, however, appears to be one of the following: (1) Hebrew parallelism is present here; (2 ) the καί ("and") is epexegetical; or (3) the two clauses are a hysteron proteron in which there is Inversion of the logical sequence. Beckwith has demonstrated that this inversion is a common feature of Revelation.


Davis, R. Dean, "The Heavenly Court Scene of Revelation 4-5" (1986). Dissertations. Paper 31.

Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Talk Regarding the Pattern That Jesus Left for Us (John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21)

A good instructor knows that students learn best from patterns or examples: instructors may provide examples regarding how to solve math problems, then the students are asked to try solving the problems by following the teacher's example. Similarly, our Leader and Teacher Jesus Christ left a pattern for his disciples to follow (1 Peter 2:21). But how in particular did he leave this pattern for us?

Notice the lesson that he stated in John 13:5: the most frequently used footwear in ancient Israel was the sandal. Since sandals were just made of straps attached to one's soles and ankles, this meant that a traveler's feet would usually get dusty or dirty with ease as he walked in the ancient eastern world. Because sandals usually got so dirty, and rather quickly at that, it was common for a guest to take them off when entering a home. A host might then wash the feet of his guest or have someone else to perform the task. Hence, the Bible famously mentions this practice at a number of places (Genesis 18:4, 5; 24:32; 1 Samuel 25:41).

Why did Jesus wash the feet of his followers? Why would a Master wash the feet of his disciples? It was an object lesson that illustrated humility. Reading John 13 bears out this point.

(Read John 13:12-14)

By saying, "you also should wash the feet of one another," Jesus stressed the obligation that his followers have to deal humbly with one another. The Greek verb translated "should" at times refers to a financial debt, but in John 13:14, Jesus stresses the moral debt that his disciples owe each other; it is a debt to exercise humility and modesty in the service of our God (Micah 6:8).

Yet the verse that pinpoints how Jesus left a pattern for his disciples to follow is John 13:15: "For I set the pattern for you, that just as I did to you, you should also do"

What a powerful lesson in humility shown by Jesus as he washed his disciples' feet. His example demonstrates the importance of not striving to earn positions, prestige or futile honor. Instead, Christians serve each other just like Jesus ministered to his followers (Matthew 20:28). He set the pattern: his followers then imitate what the Instructor does. Jesus' actions likewise remind Christians to perform the humblest services for one another.

Yet how can disciples of Christ apply the principles that he taught regarding humility?

The Apostle Peter taught that humility is key to being an approved worshiper of Jehovah. See 1 Peter 5:1-7, where the inspired writer urges ancient Christians to be humble in imitation of Christ.