Sunday, January 27, 2019

Brief Note on Pronunciation of Scriptural Terms (Somewhat Lighthearted)

"If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!" (William Strunk, Jr.)

Read more at:

Those of us engaged in lots of public reading can sometimes either wonder how a certain biblical term is pronounced or we might insist that our way of saying a word is the only right way. I've also spoke with some friends who insist that words should be pronounced like they're read on the WT publications. But while I'm not denigrating the efforts that Witnesses have made to bring us numerous sources and Bible aids, I would humbly submit that pronunciation dogma is not a good thing.

Sure, we want to pronounce words correctly and to the best of our ability. However, there is usually more than one acceptable way to pronounce biblical terms. This post is meant to be lighthearted but educational. So I will conclude with some examples. How do you say Nisan, Jehoshaphat, Sanhedrin, Logos or Salome?

I've checked all of these words and you might have fun checking on their pronunciation as well.

I say "vahy-tuh-min," but you say "vit-uh-min." 😊

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

John E. Hartley Commentary on Job 38:7

From the New International Commentary on the Old Testament:

In various Near Eastern religions the morning stars were venerated as gods and goddesses. Many of them had an important role in the pantheon, esp. Venus. In this reference they are identifed among the sons of God, or angels, who were created by God for special service. In Gen. 1 the stars were created on the fourth day, but here they existed at the initial stages of creation. This apparent discrepancy indicates that “the morning stars” in this context is primarily a term that forms a synonymous parallelism with “the sons of God,” who, it is assumed, existed prior to the creation of the earth. It is, therefore, used metaphorically to refer to these heavenly creatures independent of the existence of the physical stars.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Romans 13:1-2 and the "Instituted" Authorities

Greek: Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω, οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν. 2 ὥστε ὁ ἀντιτασσόμενος τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγῇ ἀνθέστηκεν, οἱ δὲ ἀνθεστηκότες ἑαυτοῖς κρίμα λήμψονται. (Romans 13:1-2 SBLGNT)

ESV: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."

NWT 2013: "Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities,a for there is no authority except by God;b the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves."

In what sense have the "governing authorities" been instituted or placed in their "relative positions by God"? Does Jehovah directly appoint every king on earth and directly remove every king? See Daniel 2:21.

We know from specific biblical examples that Jehovah has directly placed some rulers in their positions and he has deposed some. However, is Paul saying that's always the case?

One objection I've had to reading the text this way is that it's hard to see how God placed rulers like Nero or the biblical Pharaoh of Egypt in their relative positions. These men were wicked and even persecuted God's people or blasphemed the name of Jehovah. How could he have placed such men in their relative position? Yet God permits wickedness and also uses the wicked to accomplish his purpose.

Ralph Earle adds this observation about Romans 13:1: "Here the primary emphasis is on the authority of governments to rule. It should not be inferred from this passage that all rulers are chosen by God, but rather that all rule is divinely ordained. Goverments are set to enforce law. Since most people will not be ruled by love, they must be ruled by law. That is inevitable in an imperfect world" (Earle 204).

Friday, January 18, 2019

1 Samuel 15:33: What did Samuel Do to Agag?

After King Saul failed to slay the Amalekites, Samuel the prophet expressed Jehovah's displeasure for Saul's actions. Then 1 Samuel 15:33 states:

And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal. (ESV)

Samuel declared:

As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women.

Then he hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal. (HCSB)

However, Samuel said: “Just as your sword has bereaved women of children, so your mother will be most bereaved among women.” With that Samuel hacked Aʹgag to pieces before Jehovah at Gilʹgal. (NWT 2013)

Robert Alter translates part of 1 Samuel 15:33 this way: "And Samuel cut him apart before the LORD at Gilgal." He then offers these remarks:

Samuel cut him apart before the LORD. "There is a long-standing consensus that the unique verb used here means something to this effect. The ghastly idea seems to be a kind of ritual butchering."

See The David Story, page 93.

A. Graeme Auld gives these comments (I and II Samuel: A Commentary, Page 175):

"33a. How precisely Samuel dispatches Agag is unclear: this is the unique instance of šsp (mt) in hb. The traditional 'dismember' presupposes a link with the later biblical šṣp. The gt’s choice of esphaxen may have been influenced by two sibilants followed by p in the unfamiliar Hebrew."

On page 180, Auld writes: "The slaying of Agag has features of both execution and sacrifice. Samuel’s judgment that the punishment will fit the crime suggests criminal process. and yet what happens is not simply 'at Gilgal' but 'before Yahweh' or 'in Yahweh’s presence' (in this respect, his death anticipates the death of seven of Saul's family in 2 Sam 21:9). There are regular elements of due order, or ritual, in judicial executions; but given the opaqueness of the unique verb šsp, it is unwise to say more."

From David Tsumura's 1 Samuel Commentary:

And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces: McCarter thinks that the LXX translation and the fact that it was done “before the Lord” suggest “sacrificial butchering.” He suggests that “cutting” in covenant ceremonies symbolized the punishment of covenant breakers, and therefore the Amalekites at the time of Moses had broken a covenant with Israel.⁹⁷ However, as Hertzberg holds, Samuel's action rather “takes the event from the sphere of sacrifice into that of the ban”; see the punishment of Achan in Joshua 7. Instead of Saul, Samuel completed the performance of the “ban” on the Amalekites, devoting Agag their king to the Lord.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sibylline Oracles 2.95-96 (Wine, Blood, and Things Sacrificed to Idols)

Orac. Sib. 2.95-96: "Do not damage your mind with wine or drink to excess. Do not eat blood. Abstain from what is sacrificed to idols."

One could tentatively date the Sibylline Oracles from circa 150 BCE to circa 180 CE.

Milton Terry translation: "Disable not Thy mind with wine nor drink excessively. Eat not blood, and abstain from things Offered to idols."

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Jean Danielou Explains Tatian's Anthropology

The source used for this entry is Jean Danielou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture: A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicea, Vol. 2. Trans. John Austin Baker. London: Darton, Longman & Todd & Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973.

Tatian (120-173 CE) apparently believes that humans share in "a portion of divinity" (Oratio ad Graecos 7) by virtue of their distinctive creative origins (see Danielou 2:390). God made us free but we do not possess the Good as such: only God is Good in the strictest sense.

This church father argues that two differentiable spirits were present in the first man: the soul and one spirit greater than the soul. Thus, originally, man was partially matter but somewhat transcended matter (Oratio 12). The second spirit (pneuma) is the ruah YHWH of the Hebrew Bible (2:390). It is also the "Pauline concept of the divine life in which men share through Christ" (Ibid.).

Oratio 13 stresses the ostensibly anthropological dualism of Tatian (2:391). The soul is "darkness" and from below; the realm of matter might be metaphysically or inherently evil for Tatian; conversely, spirit is light and from God. Matter and spirit were originally united, but the first man abandoned God by forsaking the divine spirit. Humankind is now confined to the material realm wherein idolatrous acts transpire with alacrity. See Oratio 13.

While Middle Platonism contends that man is a rational being by nature as does Stoicism, Tatian denies this type of philosophical anthropology. He argues that humankind is the image of God by virtue of the fact that man participates in the divine life (2:392). Compare Oratio 20; Phaedrus 7 (246a-250c, Jowett translation) concerning the anthropological loss of "wings." Cf. Danielou 392-93.

For Tatian, Paradise originally belonged to another world (i.e., it was celestial). Tatian's anthropology therefore sounds Gnostic in some respects, but it is probably due to the intellectual climate in which both the Gnostics and Tatian originated. On the other hand, his anthropology seems to be more Platonist in nature than Gnostic. See Danielou 2:393-94. Also consider the Essene notion of two spirits or a similar concept found in the Shepherd of Hermas. Vide Danielou 2:396-97 for a contrast and similarities between Tatian's views and the ancient Gnostics.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Numbers 31:28 and the Soul

"And levy a tribute unto Jehovah of the men of war that went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the oxen, and of the asses, and of the flocks" (Numbers 31:28 ASV)

Septuagint (LXX): καὶ ἀφελεῖτε τέλος κυρίῳ παρὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν πολεμιστῶν τῶν ἐκπεπορευμένων εἰς τὴν παράταξιν μίαν ψυχὴν ἀπὸ πεντακοσίων ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν βοῶν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν προβάτων καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν αἰγῶν

Brenton Translation of the Septuagint: "And ye shall take a tribute for the Lord from the warriors that went out to battle; one soul out of five hundred, from the men, and from the cattle, even from the oxen, and from the sheep, and from the asses; and ye shall take from their half."

Richard Elliot Friedman Translation: "And you shall levy a tax for YHWH from the men of war who went out to the army, one individual out of five hundred, from humans and from cattle and from asses and from sheep."

According to E.W. Bullinger (Appendix 13 of the Companion Bible):

Nephesh is used of the Lower Animals and Man in seven passages, and rendered in three different ways:

1."creature". Genesis 9:15, 16.

2."the life". Leviticus 17:11, 14.

3."soul". Numbers 31:28.

EGF: Compare Proverbs 12:10.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Fifteen Recommended Books From Different Fields

I don't celebrate New Year's Day, but seeing all of these top five/ten lists recently made me want to write my own list of recommended books. So here you go.

1. Furuli, Rolf. The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation: With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Huntington Beach, CA: Elihu Books, 1999.

2. Grant, Robert M. Gods and the One God. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986.

3. Mastronarde, Donald J. Introduction to Attic Greek. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1993.

4. Gieschen, Charles A. Angelomorphic Christology. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2017.

5. Stuckenbruck, Loren T. Angel Veneration and Christology: A Study in Early Judaism and in the Christology of the Apocalypse of John. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2017.

6. Moule, C.F.D. An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953.

7. Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

8. Brooks, James A., and Carlton L. Winbery. Syntax of New Testament Greek. Lanham, MD, 1979.

9. Silva, Moises. Philippians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.

10. Herrick, Paul. Introduction to Logic. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

11. Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: W. W. Norton, 1978.

12. LeDoux, Joseph. Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. New York: Penguin, 2003.

13. Rocca, Gregory P. Speaking the Incomprehensible God: Thomas Aquinas on the Interplay of Positive and Negative Theology. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004.

14. Black, David (editor). Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis. Nashville: Broadman, 1992.

15. Green, Joel B. Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.