Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Hebrew Conception of Wisdom

One of the most illuminating entries I've read from Insight on the Scriptures is the entry for "wisdom." I like how it makes a distinction between wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. The Bible also discusses various kinds of wisdom like practical wisdom versus the wisdom to discern personalities, as opposed to the wisdom that it takes to construct a building. Of course, the most important type of wisdom is godly wisdom or the wisdom from above (James 3:13-18). Compare the discussion in Proverbs 2:1-6. In fact, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes both deal profusely with wisdom, and even Job has nuggets in this regard.

I've often been told that wisdom is the intelligent application of knowledge; understanding is the ability to see the big picture, to discern how variant parts relate to the greater whole. While I don't like to generalize respecting a whole group of people, the Bible gives a picture of the Hebrews that suggests they were more concerned with practical wisdom rather than theoretical wisdom like the Greeks. But ancient Jews did form rabbinic schools, which opened the way for serious debate about the meaning of Bible verses and their application. Hence, the Mishnah, Midrashim, and Talmud arose. Furthermore, Judaism developed influential philosophical streams of thought in the middle ages. For example, Maimonides produced a Guide for the Perplexed as he sought to defend Judaism biblically and rationally: Baruch Spinoza would later add to that tradition.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Genesis 4:7 (John Calvin)

While reading Genesis 4:7 recently, I began thinking about Jehovah asking Cain whether he would get the "mastery" over sin or not. This verse implies humans are capable of subduing wrong desires (sinful inclinations) with Jehovah's help, but that idea would seem to conflict with the ideas of John Calvin, Martin Luther and many others, who seem to believe we cannot master sin, but any such act is all God with none of our efforts. But somebody correct me if you think I'm misreading Calvin or Luther. In any event, note what Calvin writes about Genesis 4:7:

And unto thee shall be his desire. Nearly all commentators refer this to sin, and think that, by this admonition, those depraved hosts are restrained which solicit and impel the mind of man. Therefore, according to their view, the meaning will be of this kind, If sin rises against thee to subdue thee, why dost thou indulge it, and not rather labor to restrain and control it? For it is thy part to subdue and bring into obedience those affections in thy flesh which thou perceivest to be opposed to the will of God, and rebellious against him.' But I suppose that Moses means something entirely different. I omit to notice that to the Hebrew word for sin is affixed the mark of the feminine gender, but that here two masculine relative pronouns are used. Certainly Moses does not treat particularly of the sin itself which was committed, but of the guilt which is contracted from it, and of the consequent condemnation. How, then, do these words suit, Unto thee shall be his desire?' [240] There will, however be no need for long refutation when I shall produce the genuine meaning of the expression. It rather seems to be a reproof, by which God charges the impious man with ingratitude, because he held in contempt the honor of primogeniture. The greater are the divine benefits with which any one of us is adorned, the more does he betray his impiety unless he endeavors earnestly to serve the Author of grace to whom he is under obligation. When Abel was regarded as his brother's inferior, he was, nevertheless, a diligent worshipper of God. But the firstborn worshipped God negligently and perfunctorily, though he had, by the Divine kindness, arrived at so high a dignity; and, therefore, God enlarges upon his sin, because he had not at least imitated his brother, whom he ought to have surpassed as far in piety as he did in the degree of honor. Moreover, this form of speech is common among the Hebrews, that the desire of the inferior should be towards him to whose will he is subject; thus Moses speaks of the woman, (Genesis 3:16,) that her desire should be to her husband. They, however, childishly trifle, who distort this passage to prove the freedom of the will; for if we grant that Cain was admonished of his duty in order that he might apply himself to the subjugation of sin, yet no inherent power of man is to be hence inferred; because it is certain that only by the grace of the Holy Spirit can the affections of the flesh be so mortified that they shall not prevail. Nor, truly, must we conclude, that as often as God commands anything we shall have strength to perform it, but rather we must hold fast the saying of Augustine, Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.'

The NET Bible has four notes dealing with Gen. 4:7, I will post notes 3) and 4) here:

tn The Hebrew term translated “crouching” (רֹבֵץ, rovets) is an active participle. Sin is portrayed with animal imagery here as a beast crouching and ready to pounce (a figure of speech known as zoomorphism). An Akkadian cognate refers to a type of demon; in this case perhaps one could translate, “Sin is the demon at the door” (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 29, 32-33).

tn Heb “and toward you [is] its desire, but you must rule over it.” As in Gen 3:16, the Hebrew noun “desire” refers to an urge to control or dominate. Here the desire is that which sin has for Cain, a desire to control for the sake of evil, but Cain must have mastery over it. The imperfect is understood as having an obligatory sense. Another option is to understand it as expressing potential (“you can have [or “are capable of having”] mastery over it.”). It will be a struggle, but sin can be defeated by righteousness. In addition to this connection to Gen 3, other linguistic and thematic links between chaps. 3 and 4 are discussed by A. J. Hauser, “Linguistic and Thematic Links Between Genesis 4:1-6 and Genesis 2–3,” JETS 23 (1980): 297-306.

Friday, September 25, 2020

God and Time Books (Suggested Readings)

 1. Helm, Paul.  Eternal God: God Without Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

2. Craig, William Lane. Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001.

3. DeWeese, Garrett J. God and the Nature of Time. Hampshire UK: Ashgate, 2004.

4. Hasker, William. God, Time, and Knowledge. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989.

5. Padgett, Alan G. God, Eternity and the Nature of Time. London: Macmillan. (Reprint, Wipf and Stock, 1992 [2000]).

6. Pike, Nelson. God and Timelessness. New York: Schocken Books, 1970.

7. Swinburne, Richard. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

8. Wierenga, Edward R. The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989.

9. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. (1975). “God Everlasting,” in God and the Good: Essays in Honor of Henry Stob, ed. Clifton Orlebeke and Lewis Smedes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Reprinted in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, ed. Steven M. Cahn and David Shatz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 77-89.

10. Craig, William L.  Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.

11. Deng, Natalja. God and Time. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Stump, Eleonore and Norman Kretzmann. (1981). “Eternity,” Journal of Philosophy 78: 429-458. Reprinted in The Concept of God, edited by Thomas V. Morris. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987: 219-252.

13. Stump, Eleonore. "The Openness of God: Eternity and Free Will" in Mirosław Szatkowski (ed.), Ontology of Theistic Beliefs. De Gruyter. pp. 137-154 (2018).

14. Mullins, R.T. The End of the Timeless God. Oxford Studies in Analytic Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

I appreciate the suggestion for Mullins. I'm familiar with his work and have read him, but that book totally slipped my mind.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Do Not Follow the Crowd (Modified Talk)

Swimming upstream poses more challenges than drifting downstream; the same principle applies to following the current of this world. Some challenges that we have in our time include the news media, the Internet, social media, worldly fads, and social unrest. Yet Jehovah's counsel is that we should not follow after the crowd for evil ends. How can we apply this direction?

Jehovah warned ancient Israelite judges and witnesses not to be swayed in legal cases by the crowd: they had to avoid giving false testimony or rendering perverted judgments. However, this counsel applies to other areas of life including one's choice of entertainment and clothing.

If we turn to Exodus 23:1, we learn one principle that can be applied in daily life.

Modern technology now makes it possible to email and text friends or family. It may be exciting to use this technology or to be the first to learn something new through instant messaging. However, before we share breaking news, what precautions should we take?

Before hitting the send button, we might ask: ‘Am I certain that the information I am about to spread is true? Do I really have all the facts?’ If we are not careful, we could unwittingly circulate false information among our brotherhood. So if we have any doubts about the breaking news we're about to share, it's best to hit the delete key rather than the send button.

A second way that we can avoid following after the crowd is found in Exodus 23:2.

Moses' brother Aaron was a righteous and well-intentioned man, but yet there were times when he failed to do Jehovah's will. What caused Aaron to deflect from Jehovah? He seems to have let the pressure of the circumstances or the influence of others sway him from a course of righteousness. Aaron did not apply Exodus 23:2 when he let others influence him to do wrong. However, Aaron's overall course of life was pleasing to Jehovah. His life shows the importance of not following the crowd for evil purposes.

A third way to avoid following the crowd is mentioned in Exodus 23:3.

Jehovah is impartial, and he expects his people to render judgment impartially. While it can be tempting for a judge to let bribes, influence or gifts affect his judgment, Israelite judges were supposed to judge righteously and impartially. The ancient judges were not to render verdicts in favor of the rich merely because they were rich, nor to judge the poor based on their finances.​ So how can we apply these principles today?

Discuss picture and questions.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Spelling of "Cherubim" (Cherubs) in Greek (Hebrews 9:5)

Nestle 1904 GNT: Χερουβεὶν



Bill Mounce:
"also spelled Χερουβειν and Χερουβιμ, indecl. cherub, a two-winged figure over the ark of the covenant, Heb. 9:5*"

Whatever spelling we prefer, the noun's morphology in Heb. 9:5 is nominative plural neuter.

Compare Exodus 25:18-19; 2 Chronicles 3:11-14.

Friday, September 18, 2020

"glorious cherubs" (Hebrews 9:5)

Greek: ὑπεράνω δὲ αὐτῆς Χερουβεὶν δόξης κατασκιάζοντα τὸ ἱλαστήριον· περὶ ὧν οὐκ ἔστιν νῦν λέγειν κατὰ μέρος.

NWT 2013:
"and above it were the glorious cherubs overshadowing the propitiatory cover. But now is not the time to speak of these things in detail."

NET Bible:
"And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail."

This image is the textual commentary of Zerwick-Grosvenor for Hebrews 9.

Zerwick-Grosvenor understand δόξης as a reference to the divine glory manifested "in the cloud" above the Ark of the Covenant. Compare Hebrews 1:3. Maybe translate as "cherubs of glory."

renders "
cherubim of glory"

Gareth Cockerill (Hebrews Commentary in the NICNT Series, page 508 of the electronic version):
"The Cherubim were two figures made of gold whose wings overshadowed the 'Place of Atonement' or 'Mercy Seat' covering the Ark (Exod 25:10–22; 37:1–9). They were Cherubim of 'Glory' because it was between them that the 'Glory' of the divine presence dwelt among God’s people (cf. Exod 25:22).³⁴ This was the earthly 'throne' of God (1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; Pss 80:2; 99:1). It was the place where the high priest came annually on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle sacrificial blood before the 'Mercy Seat' in atonement for sin (Lev 16:1–19)."

Footnote 34: "Thus 'Cherubim of Glory' does not mean 'glorious Cherubim' but the 'Cherubim' between whom the 'Glory' of God dwelt. See Koester 396, REB. So also Kistemaker, 240; Westcott, 249."

I also found an Exodus commentary online by George Bush (not the former US President!), and he points to the cherubs overshadowing the propitiatory cover , which also interested me: the cherubs on the Ark assumed a position of submissive worship before YHWH and they figuratively protected the propitiatory cover (mercy seat or place of atonement) with their overarching wings.

However, Bush makes an additional point:

I do not accept Bush's remarks uncritically; he makes some good observations about the overshadowing and the "cherubs of glory." His remarks about God's Son need to be qualified, but I think it's likely that the "glory" mentioned in Hebrews 9:5 just might be the divine glory that was manifested above the Ark (Leviticus 16:1-2; Numbers 7:89; Psalm 80:1).

John Chrysostom:
"What is 'the Cherubim of glory'? He either means 'the glorious,' or those which are under God."

Henry Alford:
"The δόξα is the Shechinah, or bright cloud of glory, in which Jehovah appeared between the cherubic forms, and to which, as attendants, and watchers, and upholders, they belonged. The want of the art. before δόξης is no argument for the other view, as δόξα is often used thus anarthrous for the Shechinah: cf. Exodus 40:28 (34), κ. ἐκάλυψεν ἡ νεφέλη τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου, κ. δόξης κυρίου ἐπλήσθη ἡ σκηνή: 1Kings 4:22: Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18 al. On the Cherubim, see further Winer, Realw. sub voce) overshadowing (casting shadow down upon, causing to be κατάσκιον: see reff. Exod. χερουβίν here, as usually, is neuter: cf. Genesis 3:24: Exodus 25:18 al.: sometimes the LXX have used it masc.: e. g. Exodus 25:20; Exodus 28:23 al. There seems to be a reason for the variation: the neut. being employed when they are spoken of merely as figures, the masc. when as agents."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Concept of God by Ronald Nash

If anybody wants a great deal on the book, The Concept of God, by Ronald Nash, please send a message through this blog today. The book is in acceptable condition. I will sell it cheap, but just request that the buyer pay for shipping through PayPal and you must have a domestic address.

Update: The Nash book will be donated to a local library. Thanks for reading this blog.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Genesis 34:1--How Often Did Dinah Visit the Daughters of the Land?

I've often heard it said that Dinah routinely (often) went to visit the Canaanite women of the land, according to the Hebrew of Genesis 34:1. My approach through the years has been to accept this statement without really finding out why the claim is made. It's probably correct, but I just want to know why.

The Hebrew verb translated "went out/went to see" in Gen. 34:1 is grammatically, qal imperfect third-person feminine singular plus waw consecutive.

Nahum M. Sarna (Genesis, JPS Commentary): "The text casts a critical eye upon Dinah’s unconventional behavior through use of the verbal stem y-t$-’, 'to go out.' Like its Akkadian and Aramaic equivalents, the verb can connote coquettish or promiscuous conduct.3"

The expression, "the daughters of the land" also conveys pejorative undertones (Sarna).

Daniel Green makes some interesting points in his article,
"The Rape Of Dinah In Genesis 34: An Exegetical, Theological, And Pastoral Consideration Of Sexual Abuse And Its Effect On The People Of God." He observes:

The narrative begins with Dinah, Jacob’s daughter by Leah, going out to be among the daughters of Canaan. The implication of  ותצא is debated. It may be that she went out among the Canaanites regularly as the preterite form can be given a characteristic (perfect) nuance. The word לִר ֹות can refer to “looking at with interest” and “gazing at so as to become acquainted.” 4 Although it was not unusual for young women of this period to be unsecluded (Gen 24:13-21, 29:6, 11-12),5 to go out alone among the Shechemites was a different case. It was not normal for girls of marriageable age to go out to an alien city unguarded.6 Not only is Dinah’s action personally careless, but the fronting of the verb suggests broader danger to Israel as a whole—forbidden intimacy with Canaanites. Waltke calls Dinah’s action “improper and imprudent.”7 It probably goes too far to call her action promiscuous. To draw a parallel with Leah’s going out in 30:16 misses the mark. Leah was a married woman who desired her husband. The verb itself should not be interpreted negatively, per se. Restraint should be shown at this point. Dinah may have been lacking judgment, even foolish, but there is a big difference between imprudence and immorality.Parry correctly notes that the heavy blame in the passage is directed against others.9 Readers may call Dinah foolish, perhaps, but not promiscuous.

Journal of Ministry and Theology 16.2 (Fall 2012), Page 65.

The following image comes from Robert Alter's Genesis commentary on 34:1: