Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Authority of Scripture in Antiquity

Justin Martyr tried appealing to Scripture as his utmost authority:

"If I undertook, said I, "to prove this by doctrines and arguments of man, you should not bear with me. But if I frequently quote Scripture passages, and so many of them, referring to this point, and ask you to comprehend them, you are hard-hearted in the recognition of the mind and will of God" (Dialogue with Trypho 68).

The fourth-century apologist Lucius Lactantius expressed matters in the following way:

"Of so much greater antiquity are the prophets found to be than the Greek writers. And I bring forward all these things, that they may perceive their error who endeavour to refute Holy Scripture, as though it were new and recently composed, being ignorant from what fountain the origin of our holy religion flowed. But if any one, having put together arid examined the times, shall duly lay the foundation of learning, and fully ascertain the truth, he will also lay aside his error when he has gained the knowledge of the truth" (The Divine Institutes 4.4.5).

From Clement of Rome:

"Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves
were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them" (1 Clement XLV).

Monday, July 29, 2019

Perfect Passive Participles in Latin

Ancient Latin works sometimes contain perfect passive participles. Such verbal adjectives are employed:

1) Adjectivally (e.g., Laudamus glorificatum Deum)

2) Substantivally (e.g., Scimus adjutos a Petro)

3) As the equivalent of an adverbial clause (e.g., Puer, a diacano monitus, ecclesiam intravit)

All of the examples above come from ecclesiastical Latin.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Lacugna, and the Immanent/Economic Trinity

The common and longstanding distinction between the divine "immanence" and "economy" is thoroughly explained in Catherine Lacugna's God for Us. She explains the etymology and historical usages of both terms in the first portion of her work.

For now, I'll just say that the technical terms which Trinitarian literature often employs to delineate the tripersonal godhead are quoad se and quoad nos. The first Latin expression refers to God as he is immanently or with respect to his divine substance; on the other hand, quoad nos pertains to God in relation to us. That is to say, the divine economy pertains to how God acts historically since, by "orthodox" standards, he is timeless respecting the divine substance ad intra.

Another expression that one comes across in theological literature is Heilsgeschichte, a German term which refers to "salvation history." Salvation history is synonymous with the word "economy." However, one German theologian named Karl Rahner (in)famously contends that the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity and vice versa--this axiom is known as Rahner's rule.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Kallistos Ware and Jesus' Kenosis

"And this self-emptying is a self-fulfillment: kenosis is plerosis. God is never so strong as when he is most weak" (The Orthodox Way, 82).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Gar in Hebrews 3:4-NWT

Greek: πᾶς γὰρ οἶκος κατασκευάζεται ὑπό τινος, ὁ δὲ πάντα κατασκευάσας θεός.

NASB: "For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God."

AMP Bible: "For [of course] every house is built and furnished by someone, but the Builder of all things and the Furnisher [of the entire equipment of all things] is God."

GNT: Every house, of course, is built by someone—and God is the one who has built all things.

NWT 2013: "Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God."

CEV: "Of course, every house is built by someone, and God is really the one who built everything."

CEV handles γὰρ like NWT does, unlike most translations which render γὰρ with "for."

But see Slater's comments for γὰρ ὦν here:


J.D. Denniston's study on Greek particles is a must-read for the subject of γὰρ.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ambrosiaster Remarks About 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (in Latin)

ipse enim Christus dominus voluntate patris quasi primus angelus {dei} cum exercitu caelesti, sicut continetur in Apocalypsi Iohannis apostoli, descendet de caelo ad gerendum bellum nomine dei contra Antichristum. quo extincto iussu eius resurgent mortui. hoc est ergo in tuba dei descendere, nomine dei bellum gerere. est enim, ut ipse dixit ad Hiesum filium Nave, dux et princeps exercitus domini, propter quod archangelus dicitur.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Aune and Soards Explain 1 Corinthians 12:10

Commenting on 1 Cor. 12:10, David Aune writes:

"The term 'spirits' in the phrase might more appropriately be understood as 'prophetic utterances' or 'revelations of the Spirit,' on analogy with the use of the term 'spirit' (pneuma) in 2 Thess 2:2, 1 John 4:1; and particularly 1 Cor 14:12" (Prophecy in Early Christianity, page 220).

This understanding is actually an example of Greek semantics 101, but NWT critics somehow neglect to learn this datum. But let us continue.

Regarding 1 Cor. 12:10, Marion Soards informs us that this verse "has generated considerable discussion among interpreters" (1 Corinthians, page 260). He cites the view of Gordon Fee, who thinks that pneuma in 1 Cor. 12:10 refers to a Christian "making inspired assessments of inspired utterances." Soards concludes that Fee's suggestion is "exegetically grounded and judicious" (260). The view of both men coincides with the one propounded by NWT vis-à-vis 1 Cor. 12:10 and 1 Jn. 4:1. [Fee also seems to think that PNEUMA refers to 'false teaching' in 1 Tim. 4:1 and when "misleading spirits" are mentioned in that Pauline passage.]

Monday, July 15, 2019

STEP Bible Textual Notes for Revelation 20:5

Revelation of John 20:5

οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔζησαν ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη.] (Byz) (ς) WH

omit] ‭א 2030 2053 2062 2377 al syrph Victorinus-Pettau Beatus

οἱ] A 1611 itgig WH NR CEI Riv TILC NM

καὶ οἱ] 046 051 1006 1841 1854 2050 (2329) Byz itar vgmss syrh copbo

οἱ δὲ] pc ς ND Dio Nv

νεκρῶν] A Byz ς WH

ἀνθρώπων] pc

ἔζησαν ἄχρι] A Byz WH

ἀνέζησαν ἄχρι] pc

ἀνέζησαν ἕως] pc ς


Sunday, July 14, 2019

1 Timothy 5:22-23--Laying on of Hands and Wine

1 Timothy 5:22 (ESV): "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure."

The laying on of hands usually refers to the act of appointing persons to an office (like the office of presbyter). Scholars call 1 and 2 Timothy, the Pastoral Letters for a reason. Furthermore, commentaries usually point out that 1 Tim. 5:23 was echoed in other writings of the Greco-Roman world--it was apparently a common maxim for the time.

REV Commentary: "The laying on of hands describes the implementing of a leadership position in the Church; this verse falls in the context of eldership and moral requirements for leaders (see commentary on 1 Tim 5:24)."

REV Commentary for 1 Tim. 5:23: "Timothy had apparently tried to set a good example to the Ephesians by not drinking wine at all, in spite of the ill effects it had on him. Paul corrects him, and tells him to go back to drinking some wine. This should be a good lesson for leaders. It often happens that leaders want so badly for their congregation to live righteous lives that they abstain from things that never needed to be abstained from in the first place, but so many people were being abusive that the leader thought abstinence was the best course. While there are situations in which that is the case, it is usually better to teach people to obey God, which includes moderation in most things, and allow them to be responsible before the Lord for their own lives. It is often better to set the example that moderation is both godly and possible than to simply abstain."

Saturday, July 13, 2019

1 John 2:2-3 and αὐτός

Greek: καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν.

ESV Translation: "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments."

NET Bible: "Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments."

NET Note:
tn Grk “know him.” (1) Many take the third person pronoun αὐτον (auton) to refer to Jesus Christ, since he is mentioned in 2:1 and the pronoun αὐτός (autos) at the beginning of 2:2 clearly refers to him. But (2) it is more likely that God is the referent here, since (a) the assurance the author is discussing here is assurance that one has come to know God (all the claims of the opponents in 1:5-2:11 concern knowing and having fellowship with the God who is light); (b) when Jesus Christ is explicitly mentioned as an example to follow in 1 John 2:6, the pronoun ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) is used to distinguish this from previous references with αὐτός; (c) the καί (kai) which begins 2:3 is parallel to the καί which begins 1:5, suggesting that the author is now returning to the discussion of God who is light, a theme introduced in 1:5. The author will now discuss how a Christian may have assurance that he or she has come to know the God who is light.

I previously argued that αὐτός refers to Jesus Christ in 1 John 2:2-3. More specifically, αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ appear in 2:3. So what do other scholars write about the referent of the pronoun for 1 John 2:3?

Robertson's Word Pictures: Know we that we know him (γινοσκομεν οτι εγνωκαμεν αυτον — ginoskomen hoti egnōkamen auton). “Know we that we have come to know and still know him,” εγνωκαμεν — egnōkamen the perfect active indicative of γινωσκω — ginōskō The Gnostics boasted of their superior knowledge of Christ, and John here challenges their boast by an appeal to experimental knowledge of Christ which is shown by keeping his (αυτου — autou Christ‘s) commandments, thoroughly Johannine phrase (12 times in the Gospel, 6 in this Epistle, 6 in the Apocalypse).

Colin G. Kruse Pillar (NT Commentary):
The second question that needs to be answered is, To whom does the author refer when he speaks about knowing ‘him’? Is he referring to God the Father, or to Jesus Christ, his Son? To answer this question we need to look to the wider context. In 1:5–7 the author makes analogous statements. He writes: ‘God is light. . . . If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not put the truth into practice. But if we walk in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.’ The author’s main concern here is with bogus claims to have fellowship with God. Jesus Christ, the Son, is introduced in a secondary way, as the one whose blood cleanses the sins of those who walk in the light as God is in the light. If we allow this pattern to guide us in the interpretation of 2:3, we will understand ‘him’ in this verse to denote God the Father. Such an approach is supported by the fact that later in this same chapter the author deals with the false claims of those who say they know God while holding inadequate opinions about his Son (cf., e.g., 2:22–23).
The third question to be answered is, What does the author mean by ‘his commands’? He uses the word ‘command’ (entolē) 14 times in 1 John. Sometimes it is found in singular form, other times in plural form. When he uses the singular form, it always refers explicitly to Christ’s command that his followers should love one another (2:7 [3x], 8; 3:23 [2x]; 4:21). The plural form occurs where there is no explicit reference to Jesus’ command (2:3, 4; 3:22, 24; 5:2, 3 [2x]), though in all but two of these references the context indicates clearly that Jesus’ love command is in mind. The exceptions are 2:3, 4, where the evidence that people know God is that they keep his commandments and walk as Jesus walked. At first sight this could be taken to refer to God’s law, especially the Ten Commandments, which Jesus observed during his incarnate life.42 But there is no hint elsewhere in the letter that the author is concerned about obedience to the Mosaic law.
And in 3:21–23 he speaks about God answering believers’ prayers because they obey his commands, and then continues: ‘and this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he has commanded us’ (3:23). God’s commands are that we believe in Christ and do what he commands, and this letter highlights Jesus’ command to love one another. It may be best, therefore, to interpret the reference to ‘his commands’ in this verse in that light also.
The thrust of 2:3, therefore, is that it is those who, like the readers, believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and obey his command to love one another who truly know God. The secessionists who claim to know God but do not keep his command by implication do not know God.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

ICC New Testament Commentary Regarding John 14:28

ὅτι ὁ πατὴρ μείζων μού ἐστιν. To this sentence theologians devoted close attention in the fourth century, but it would be out of place in a commentary on the Fourth Gospel to review the Arian controversy. It suffices to note that the filial relationship, upon which so much stress is laid in Jn., implies of itself that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. There is no question here of theological subtleties about what a later age called the “subordination” of the Son, or of any distinction between His οὐσία and that of the Father. But, for Jn., the Father sent the Son (see on 3:17), and gave Him all things (see on 3:35). Cf. Mark 13:32, Php 2:6, 1 Corinthians 15:27, for other phrases which suggest that ὁ πατὴρ μείζων μού ἐστιν is a necessary condition of the Incarnation. It is the same Person that says “I and my Father are one thing” (10:30), who speaks of Himself as “a man who hath told you the truth which I have heard from God” (8:40).1 See on 5:18, 32.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Table of Jehovah: A Brief Look at 1 Corinthians 10:21

1 Corinthians 10:21 (RNWT): "You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of 'the table of Jehovah' and the table of demons."

Strictly speaking, what is "the cup of Jehovah?" What is the table of Jehovah?

When considering the context of 10:21, it becomes immediately obvious that Paul specifically is focusing on the Lord's evening meal (Lord's supper). He is encouraging the 1st century Corinthians not to partake of the bread and wine at the Lord's evening meal while in an unclean state: don't partake of bread and wine while living immorally or worshiping idols. Idolatry seems to be the main idea behind "the table of demons." An anointed Christian cannot partake from both tables.

See 1 Cor. 10:16-21.

From Robertson's Word Pictures: Ye cannot (ου δυναστε — ou dunasthe). Morally impossible to drink the Lord‘s cup and the cup of demons, to partake of the Lord‘s table and the table of demons.

Of the table of the Lord (τραπεζης Κυριου — trapezēs Kuriou). No articles, but definite idea. Τραπεζα — Trapeza is from τετρα — tetra (four) and πεζα — peza (a foot), four-footed. Here table means, as often, what is on the table. See Luke 22:30 where Jesus says “at my table” (επι της τραπεζης μου — epi tēs trapezēs mou), referring to the spiritual feast hereafter. Here the reference is plainly to the Lord‘s Supper (Κυριακον δειπνον — Kuriakon deipnon 1 Corinthians 11:20). See allusions in O.T. to use of the table in heathen idol feasts (Isaiah 65:11; Jeremiah 7:18; Ezekiel 16:18.; Ezekiel 23:41). The altar of burnt-offering is called the table of the Lord in Malachi 1:7 (Vincent).

Vincent's Word Studies:

The cup of devils

Representing the heathen feast. The special reference may be either to the drinking-cup, or to that used for pouring libations.

The Lord's table

Representing the Lord's Supper. See 1 Corinthians 11:20sqq. The Greeks and Romans, on extraordinary occasions, placed images of the gods reclining on couches, with tables and food beside them, as if really partakers of the things offered in sacrifice. Diodorus, describing the temple of Bel at Babylon, mentions a large table of beaten gold, forty feet by fifteen, standing before the colossal statues of three deities. Upon it were two drinking-cups. See, also, the story of “Bel and the Dragon,” vv. 10-15. The sacredness of the table in heathen worship is apparent from the manner in which it is combined with the altar in solemn formulae; as ara et mensa. Allusions to the table or to food and drink-offerings in honor of heathen deities occur in the Old Testament: Isaiah 65:11; Jeremiah 7:18; Ezekiel 16:18, Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 23:41. In Malachi 1:7, the altar of burnt-offering is called “the table of the Lord.”

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Ephesians 6:10-17 and The Divine Panoply (Adaptation of a Talk)

All of Jehovah's people are engaged in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:11-12). How can we win the fight against Satan and his demons? It is only by wearing the complete suit of armor from God.

Read Ephesians 6:11-13

We're locked in a struggle with "wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places." The apostle Paul describes our fight as one that involves hand-to-hand combat. Our fight is also spiritual rather than literal, but our enemies are no less real and deadly.

Young Christians have a difficult time in this battle because they seem vulnerable or may lack experience. However, the only way that any of us can win the struggle is by putting on the complete suit of armor from God (the divine panoply).

Part of this armor is mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-15 (Read)

Some essential components of our spiritual armor are truth, righteousness, and the good news of peace.

The truths we learn from God’s Word are compared to a belt that protects us from false teachings; God's righteous standards are like a breastplate that guards our figurative hearts (Proverbs 4:23). Moreover, as we acquire a clear understanding of the truths in God’s Word, we're able to defend those truths when we encounter opposers.​ Finally, preaching the good news of peace safeguards our feet as we courageously witness to others like Jesus and the apostles did.

Ephesians 6:16-17 discusses two other parts of our spiritual armor (Read)

What are the wicked one's burning arrows? They could include lies told by Satan that are meant to discourage us or make us slow down in our ministry: Satan tries to make Jehovah's people feel worthless. However, our faith can be like a protective shield if we do personal Bible study, prepare for the meetings, and heartily participate in them. Jehovah will then become real to us, not merely an abstract force.

In addition to the shield of faith, we need hope, our figurative helmet of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Hope keeps us focused on God’s promises and helps us see problems in the right perspective. But if we want our “helmet” to be effective, we must wear it on our head, not carry it in our hands.

Our final part of spiritual armor is the sword of God's spirit. Our ultimate goal is to become skilled at using God's word: some Christians have developed a list of verses to remember and share with others. Familiarity with the Bible helps us become adept at using it to defend truth and expose false teachings.

Can you identify each part of the armor from God?

Meditation question: Is my suit of armor complete?

Friday, July 05, 2019

1 John 2:28-29 (Who Is the Intended Referent?)

One of my interlocutors says:

Dear Edgar,

I have always felt comfortable taking both 1 John 2:28 and 2:29 of Christ. The work of the Father and the Son are a unity (2:22-24); so there is no difficulty for me in moving to the Father in 3:1.

I replied:

"1 John 2:25b-The antecedent of AUTOS is TWi PATRI (Note that this antecedent is the closest of two possible antecedents. The Father clearly seems to be in view also in light of Tit. 1:2; 1 John 1:1-3; 2:1; 5:11-12, 20).

2:27-AUTOU refers to the Father."

Addendum: 1 John 2:28-AUTWi in 2:28 is not so clear: John appears to be switching referents here, and S.M. Baugh implies that AUTOS in this passage applies to the Son. A confusing aspect of this passage is that up to this point, John's discourse revolves around the Father. But his use of the Greek term PAROUSIA seems to indicate Christ Jesus is under discussion.

1 John 2:29-This passage is equally ambiguous, but seems to reference God the Father (EX AUTOU GEGENNHTAI).

Smalley writes:
We conclude that while the context and theology of v 29 suggest strongly that the subject of the first part of the sentence is Jesus, and that God is in mind throughout the second half, there is perhaps a measure of deliberate ambivalence in both instances. The Johannine emphasis on the completeness of God’s self-disclosure in Jesus (cf. John 1:18) means that the writer of 1 John could describe both the Son and the Father not only as “righteous,” but also as the author of regeneration (cf. Westcott, 83).

Smalley, Dr. Stephen S. 1, 2, and 3 John, Volume 51: Revised (Word Biblical Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4818-4821). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Smalley and D.E. Hiebert both cite Westcott as one scholar, who thinks the pronouns of vv. 28-29 refer to Christ. However, Hiebert observes:

This identification is less certain if verse 29 is accepted as beginning a new division. An obvious difficulty with this identification is that the New Testament nowhere explicitly speaks of believers as "born of Christ." In this letter they are referred to as "born of God" (3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4), and in John 3:8 as "born of the Spirit," but nowhere as "born of Christ." In 1 John 3:1-2 believers are expressly called "children of God." Bultmann suggested that there is a sudden change in the meaning of the pronoun in this verse, from Jesus to God.3 Marshall holds that the statement "He is righteous" refers to Christ but that the words "born of Him" refer to God the Father. "It was probably so self-evident to him and his readers that spiritual birth was from the Father that he was not conscious of gliding from one antecedent for autou? [check] (Christ, 2:28-29a) to another (God, 2:29b)."4 But such a shift of meaning in the pronominal designation within one sentence is not obvious. More probable is the view that both pronouns refer to God the Father. But this uncertainty as to the intended identity of his pronouns is characteristic of John. As Westcott remarks, "The true solution of the difficulty seems to be that when St John thinks of God in relation to men he never thinks of Him apart from Christ (comp. c. v. 20). And again he never thinks of Christ in His human nature without adding the thought of His divine nature."5

Trinitarians must always try to connect the Father and Son in some type of metaphysical unity. I disagree with Westcott's overall approach to the issue, but John's first epistle does contain many tricky pronominal references.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Did Jude Quote from Enoch Or from Other Non-Canonical Works?

Some of the books I've checked seem to argue that Jude possibly quotes from/alludes to 1 Enoch and The Assumption of Moses (verse 9) in his letter.

The work An Introduction to the New Testament by D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo points out that Jude "refers" to these non-canonical works. But Carson and Moo propose that Jude does not view either book as Scripture, although vs. 14 says Enoch "prophesied" about the Lord's coming. They believe: "Jude's reference to these texts implies nothing about his view of the books in which they are found" (694). Even if Jude reckons that some of the information in either Enoch or the Assumption is true, that does not mean he considers everything in either work to be true. He may be just using a familiar source (695).

In De Principiis III.2.1, Origen of Alexandria writes:

"We have now to notice, agreeably to the statements of Scripture, how the opposing powers, or the devil himself, contends with the human race, inciting and instigating men to sin. And in the first place, in the book of Genesis, the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Ascension of Moses (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression."

Origen believes that Jude invoked The Ascension of Moses/Assumption of Moses when he mentioned the Devil having a dispute with Michael over the body of Moses. He may be correct or incorrect, but in either case, Jude's potential use of any non-canonical works should not make us doubt the book's inspired status. As as F.F. Bruce notes about Paul's use of Aratus in Acts 17, the apostle's intent differs greatly from the pantheistic sentiments of Aratus. The employment of an uninspired source does not indicate approval of the source's entire contents.

Galatians 5:19-21 (Zerwick-Grosvenor Notes)

Greek: φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, 20 εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, 21 φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. (SBLGNT)

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Brief Note About the Difference Between Word and Concept

Another example of the difference between word and concept (Wort und Begriff) is "friend" as used in the Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures. Only Abraham is called Jehovah's "friend" (lover), but other men and women clearly had a friendship with God (including Job), even if the Bible never utilizes the designation "friend" for them. See 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23.

Of course, the Bible speaks of Jehovah loving Solomon and other humans in a broad sense (2 Samuel 12:24; Nehemiah 13:26), but just one person is identified as God's friend.