Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Recent Bookshelf Picture (Selected Works)

I like to post bookshelf pictures from time to time.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Is the "Third Way" of Aquinas' Argument for the Existence of God Fallacious?

Thomas Aquinas sets forth five proofs for the existence of God in the Summa Theologiae (see Prima Pars, Quaestio II, Articulus III, Responsio):

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
Some critics of the argument charge Aquinas with committing the "quantifier shift fallacy." For more information regarding this fallacy, see https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100357607

However, Edward Feser has defended the third way from the quantifier shift fallacy, and so have others as you'll see below:



(The link above insists that Thomas Aquinas' third way does not commit the quantifier fallacy)


(This page likewise argues that the third way is logically valid)

While I support the conclusion of the third way, and I think the argument is forceful, it might need tweaking as Robert E. Maydole does in his article, "Aquinas' Third Way Modalized," wherein he applies modal logic to the third way. See https://philpapers.org/rec/MAYATW

Thursday, August 25, 2022

To Which Spirit Does the Holy Spirit Bear Witness? (Romans 8:16)

Romans 8:16 (NA28): αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν ὅτι ἐσμὲν τέκνα θεοῦ.

To which spirit (τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν) does the holy spirit bear witness, whether it bears witness with or to the human spirit?

One problem is what we mean by "spirit." The term is nebulous or ambiguous in both English and biblical languages. What does the word "spirit" lexically mean in the expressions "spirit of God" or "spirit of YHWH"?

Spirit can refer to one's life force (Psalm 146:3-4); one's dominant mental attitude (Genesis 26:35) or to the basic constitution of a being (Psalm 104:4). In English, many people converse about the psychological, moral, aesthetic or spiritual "self" and equate it with the human "spirit." Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux believes that the "self"  is neural/synaptic and that it is only through the neural self that our other "selves" are realized.

Other writers associate the "self" with one's identity as a person. I too could agree that the "self" is what/who we are (i.e., it's not a part of us), but the word "spirit" needs to be nuanced before any real progress can be made in understanding how God's spirit bears witness with/to the human spirit.

In the sentence, "My spirit is soaring today," one could be referring to his/her dominant mental disposition or someone could mean that one's whole being (i.e., what you are as a person) is euphoric. Alternatively, when we read that God's spirit empowered the ancient Israelite Judges or caused one hundred and twenty persons to speak in tongues, I don't believe the Bible writers are utilizing "spirit" as the term is commonly understood today. Forget the whole Trinity debate, in what sense does God's spirit bear witness with/to the human spirit? What is the human spirit that has this experience? I submit that the spirit Paul was talking about is one's dominant mental attitude: it's similar to talking about a humble spirit or a haughty spirit. God's spirit reorients the thinking of his spiritual children, giving them a new birth to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3-4). As Paul states, if we have suffered with Christ, we shall be glorified with him as heirs of God, but joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Divine Impassibility

 Something I wrote as an undergrad:

Rely On Jehovah To Be Your Helper (Modified Talk)

In physics, the word "constant" has a technical meaning: it refers to any number or physical quantity that is invariant and universal. For example, the speed of light in a vacuum is supposed to be invariable or unchanging; regardless of the situation, light apparently travels at roughly 300,000 km/sec.

Just like the universe has numerous constants, we can trust that there's one constant when it comes to facing trials. Jehovah promises that he will always be our helper if we rely on him (Hebrews 13:5-6). We'll now discuss three reasons we have for believing that Jehovah is our unfailing helper.

1. Jehovah hears our cries for help (2 Samuel 22:7)

Jehovah dwelled
figuratively and representatively at the tabernacle/temple in Jerusalem above the Ark of the Covenant (Numbers 7:89). That is one reason why David said Jehovah heard him "from his temple." Think of how often Jehovah heard David's cries for help, and he even heard Jonah as he cried from the belly of a fish (Jonah 2:2). One lesson is that Jehovah will hear our cries for help if we place our full trust in him; he hears our cries for help from the antitypical Most Holy, which is heaven itself.

2. Read 2 Samuel 22:14-18. Jehovah is stronger than any enemies we might have. Again, if we think back to David's experiences, his enemies included Absalom, Goliath,
Ahithophel and Saul, but Jehovah proved to be stronger than them all. No matter what enemies we face today, we can trust that Jehovah is much stronger than anyone or anything we might face.

3. Jehovah loyally acts in our behalf-Jehovah is not passive but active when it comes to loyalty: he always acts in loyalty toward his loyal ones. Second, the word loyalty assures us that Jehovah will never leave or forsake us: he will be the one constant we can trust as we endure trials. Whether we're facing economic challenges, health difficulties or frontal persecution, Jehovah will remain our invariable constant.

As we've learned before, Jehovah often doesn't remove trials but he gives us the strength to cope with them by means of his Word, holy spirit, and our Christian brotherhood. Psalm 55:22-"Never will he allow the righteous one to fall."

May we fully rely on Jehovah as your helper: our God will never let us down.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Hebrews 4:16: Morphology, Discourse, and Syntax

Hebrews 4:16 (WH): προσερχώμεθα οὖν μετὰ παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος, ἵνα λάβωμεν ἔλεος καὶ χάριν εὕρωμεν εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν.

οὖν-conjunctive particle; here implies causal sequence. David L. Mathewson remarks on the "cluster of subjunctives" in this verse (Voice and Mood); he calls οὖν in this case, a "high-level marker" that occurs with hortatory subjunctives and other supporting material to produce "a discourse peak within Hebrews."

προσερχώμεθα (present middle subjunctive 1st person plural of προσέρχομαι)-B.F. Westcott (Hebrews, 108) relates that this verb appears for the first time in Hebrews here: it occurs seven times in the letter. See 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22. For LXX uses, see Leviticus 21:17, 21; 22:3, which deal with the priestly approach to God (cf. Ezekiel 44:16). Compare 1 Timothy 6:3; Hebrews 6:19. The writer of Hebrews always employs προσέρχομαι to describe worshipers approaching God, whether in ancient Israel or in the Christian congregation (Ellingworth, Hebrews, 269), and it is only the letter to the Hebrews that utilizes
προσέρχομαι to delineate the cultus. Translate "approach, draw near." Yet the approach referenced in Hebrews 4:16 is not to the antitypical most holy in the heavens (literally), but it means to come before God here on earth in prayer or worship.

μετὰ παρρησίας-a preposition + the genitive case: the noun is genitive singular feminine of παρρησία (boldness, freedom of speech, frankness, directness, confidence). See Acts 2:29; 4:29, 31; 28:31; Hebrews 3:6; 10:19-22; 10:35; 1 John 3:21; 4:17; 5:14. R.T. France provides another gloss: "lack of inhibition." See Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (eds.). The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος-"to the throne of undeserved kindness (unmerited favor or grace)." τῆς χάριτος might be a "Genitive of characteristic quality" (Charles J. Vaughn, The Epistle to the Hebrews, page 88). Philip Church (Hebrews and the Temple, 378ff) has a rich discussion of these words and other components of Hebrews 4:16. He articulates that the throne is likely God's throne with Jesus seated at his right hand. This expression is apparently not found in ancient Judaism even though writers speak of two thrones for God, "one of judgment and one of mercy." See also David Allen, Hebrews (New American Commentary).

Paul Ellingworth (The Epistle to the Hebrews) likewise insists that the throne of grace is God's based on Hebrews 8:1: it is not Christ's throne despite the words of Hebrews 1:8; only indirectly does this throne allude to the mercy seat of Jerusalem's ancient temple (contra earlier interpreters).

ἵνα λάβωμεν ἔλεος καὶ χάριν εὕρωμεν-Compare Isaiah 16:5; Hosea 6:6 in the LXX. Ellingworth points to the chiasmus here, a construction that indicates
λάβωμεν is semantically similar to εὕρωμεν and ἔλεος to χάριν (Hebrews, 270). Moreover, the neuter ἔλεος is connected with χάρις in Wisdom 3:9; 4:15; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4.

εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν-The accusative singular feminine of
εὔκαιρος appears here: the only other NT occurrence is Mark 6:21. Bill Mounce provides the definitions, "timely, opportune, seasonable, convenient" for this Greek adjective; βοήθειαν is accusative singular feminine of βοήθεια. Louw-Nida supply the definitions, "help" and "support." The preposition εἰς "often indicates purpose, or even result" (Dana M. Harris) and the object of the preposition is βοήθειαν: this object is modified by εὔκαιρον.

Sources for Further Reading:

Church, Philip. Hebrews and the Temple:
Attitudes to the Temple in Second Temple Judaism and in Hebrews. (Supplements to Novum Testamentum 171). Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2017.

Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

Harris, Dana M. Hebrews. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2019.

Vaughn, Charles J. The Epistle to the Hebrews. London: Macmillan, 1890.

Westcott, B.F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. The Greek Text with Notes and Essays. Second Edition. London; New York: Macmillan and Co., 1892.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Reading Bible Verses from a Non-Trinitarian Perspective

In the past, I've attempted to read Bible verses from a Trinitarian perspective, just to see if it seemed convincing to me when reading the Bible that way. I also tried to understand how Trinitarians think when reading Scripture. But here lately, I wonder what it would be like for a Trinitarian to read the Bible from a non-Trinitarian perspective. For example, Hebrews 9:14 (NET):

"how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God."

Surely the word "God" in this verse, especially the first occurrence, does not refer to the triune God, does it? After all, Christ evidently offered himself through the holy spirit to God. Did he offer himself to himself? Surely not. Nor did he offer himself to the holy spirit, it seems.

What about 2 Corinthians 5:21?

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (NASB 1995).

To whom does the pronoun "He" refer in this passage? Looking at the context in vss. 20-21, the referent again is God. But who is the God being discussed in this account? It's the one who sent Christ and made him to be sin (i.e., a sin offering) for Christians. Did Christ send himself to be a sin offering for us?

Now lest someone try to prove that Christ is God because 2 Corinthians 5:19 when translated says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," he or she needs to look deeper into the Greek of the verse.

While Constantine R. Campbell speaks about the clear Trinitarian inference within 2 Corinthians 5:19, he still regards the preposition en (most likely) as periphrastic being that it likely occurs within the context of a verbal periphrasis. I utterly disagree with Campbell about the "clear Trinitarian inference," but think he's correct regarding God working "in" Christ, instrumentally.  Garland writes:

This phrase can be construed so that it emphasizes the incarnation: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (KJV, REB). But Paul's theological agenda here does not center on affirming the incarnation. The same may be said of translating the phrase as a predicate nominative: “It was God who in Christ was reconciling the world to himself.” The option chosen by the NIV to render the phrase as an imperfect periphrastic is the most likely: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. The “in Christ” has an instrumental force— through Christ.
Garland, David. 2 Corinthians: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary Book 29) (Kindle Locations 5565-5569). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Finally, I would recommend that Trinitarians read 1 Peter 1:20-21 and meditate deeply on these verses. The Bible writer clearly is not using "God" there for Christ or the triune Godhead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Luke 2:49-50 and Jesus' Recollection of His Preexistence

From a scriptural perspective, I would submit that it is hard to substantiate how much Jesus knew about his preexistence, especially before he was baptized and anointed with holy spirit. And I would concede that one could account for Jesus' language recorded by Luke in other ways than by appealing to his preexistence. However, his statement in Luke 2:49-50 appears unusual within this context: Jesus' words indicate that he feels a certain sense of vocation. Moreover, his parents not only expressed shock over his words--they genuinely did not comprehend his locution (καὶ αὐτοὶ οὐ συνῆκαν τὸ ῥῆμα ὃ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς). While I acknowledge that other factors might explain the response of Mary and Joseph, it seems likely to me from a scriptural perspective that Jesus remembered something about his preexistence before Jehovah God anointed him with holy spirit and power (Acts 10:38). I would humbly posit that it appears untenable to imagine Jesus' forgetting everything about his preexistence when he became human. If he did not recall anything whatsoever about his previous existence, then I wonder how Jesus of Nazareth could have been the same person as the heavenly Logos of God. I. Howard Marshall has much to say about the account in Luke 2:49-50ff. You can find his comments here: http://books.google.com/books?id=rKqiibViFowC&pg=PA126&dq=gospel+of+luke+2:49&sig=ACfU3U1jVCJd5f-kPpR1p1IWgdHpZftSGQ#PPA129,M1

One thing that bears quoting from Marshall's commentary are these words: "They are perplexed at the revelation of what divine Sonship implies, and for the moment they cannot take it in. There is a secret regarding Jesus' relation to the Father which not even they can fully understand (Lagrange, 97)."

Albert Barnes makes a similar observation concerning Luke 2:49: "Some think that this should be translated 'in my Father's house' — that is, in the temple. Jesus reminded them [his parents] here that he came down from heaven; that he had a higher Father than an earthly parent; and that, even in early life, it was proper that he should be engaged in the work for which he came. He did not enter, indeed, upon his public work for eighteen years after this; yet still the work of God was his work, and always, even in childhood, it was proper for him to be engaged in the great business for which he came down from heaven."

See his comments regarding Luke 2:50.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

"Another God in the Gospel of John? A Linguistic Analysis of John 1:1 and 1:18" (Alexander Smarius)


This article is open access. Thanks to the friends, who tipped me to this article.

Friday, August 12, 2022

David Aune on ἠγορασμένοι (Revelation 14:3)

The substantival ptcp. οἱ ἠγορασμένοι (masc. nom. pl. pf. pass.), “those who have been redeemed,” is a solecism because it is a masc. nom. pl. in apposition to αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες, “the 144,000,” a fem. nom. pl. The same solecism occurs in 7: 4, χιλιᾶδες ἐσφραγισμένοι. οἱ ἠγορασμένοι emphasizes the resulting state of the subjects rather than the action that produced the condition (Fanning, Verbal Aspect, 160).

Aune, Dr. David. Revelation 6-16, Volume 52B (Word Biblical Commentary) (p. 903). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

Diminutive Forms in Greek

Latin and Greek both have diminutive terms that one can usually identify by the inflectional endings of the words. Hence, we know that κυναρίοις is diminutive because if we consult a Greek-English lexicon, it tells us that the lexical form of the word is κυνάριον: the ending suggests that the word is a diminutive form. And, in fact, lexica tell us that κυνάριον comes from κύων, which means "dog." So you can normally identify diminutives by the endings.

On the other hand, I don't think that ὀλιγοπιστίαν is diminutive; rather, the "little" part comes from the prefix ὀλιγό that's added to the word for faith. One word that people love to use now is oligarch/oligarchy, etc. Ergo, we can see that the ending does not make
ὀλιγοπιστίαν diminutive but a prefix has been added to indicate smallness.

For other uses of the diminutive, see John 13:33; 1 John 2:1.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Reasons Why the Good News of God's Kingdom Can Be Preached With Confidence

1) Jesus stated that he would send the holy spirit (a gift that his Father promised) after he ascended to heaven (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:5-8). Once the spirit was poured out on Christ's first-century disciples, it empowered them to be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. That same spirit of holiness gives us the boldness to preach today (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

2) By means of the holy spirit, Jehovah God gives us the necessary strength to fulfill our assignment as ministers (Zechariah 4:6). 2 Corinthians 4:7 speaks of the "power beyond what is normal" and the apostle Paul wrote that when he was weak, then he was powerful (2 Corinthians 12:10). He could be powerful although weak due to the working of God's holy spirit in him through Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9).

3) The Bible indicates that heavenly angels share in directing the preaching work (Revelation 14:6-7). They are powerful spirit creatures, going forth to accomplish God's bidding (Psalm 103:20-21), and these angels are captivated by the accomplishment of Jehovah's eternal purpose: into such things, they desire to peer (1 Peter 1:10-12).

4) Christ Jesus directs the preaching work. The Risen Lord proclaimed in Matthew 28:18 that he was given all authority in heaven and on earth. Given all authority by whom? Why, by his Father. Then at Matthew 28:19-20, he commanded his disciples in this way:

SBL: πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.

The Greek word οὖν sometimes implies causal sequence; it is a conjunctive particle.

See https://www.wordsense.eu/%CE%BF%E1%BD%96%CE%BD/

Why does Jesus say,
πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε? It is because Jehovah gave Jesus universal authority and made him head of the Christian congregation (Ephesians 5:23-24). He is leader, Savior, and Lord of the Christian body/ecclesia. Knowing that Jesus has all authority and power in heaven and earth should give us confidence to undertake our preaching and teaching commission, but this confidence is not rooted in self--it is rooted in Jehovah God and the Son of his love (Colossians 1:13).

For more concerning the grammar of Matthew 28:19, see https://danielbwallace.com/tag/matthew-2819-20/

Saturday, August 06, 2022

What Is Matter? (Some Whittled Thoughts)

Discerning the nature of matter is complicated. This blog entry is not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive, but it's just my way of sparking thought and sharing the wonders of creation with others.

What is matter? The question might appear to be silly, otiose, and even jocose. However, serious thinkers have posited numerous and sundry theories for matter, and here are some of the main candidates:

1) Extension-Rene Descartes notably defined matter as res extensa (an extended thing). He thought that the defining property of matter is extension, but Descartes insisted that matter is not a thinking thing and it's lifeless: one source reports that he believed matter to be inert and "merely mechanical." The chief point here is that matter is extended in space: it's long, wide, and high and inanimate. Descartes' theory is labeled "mechanical" because of the role that he assigned to divisible particles and their "
precisely defined laws of motion and rules of impact." https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/matter-theories

also Marilyn McCord Adams, Housing the Powers: Medieval Debates about Dependence on God, page 84.

2) Could matter be the principle of individuation? Aristotle contends that matter and form are two metaphysical principles that inform all material objects, thereby making such objects, hylomorphic (hylemorphic) compounds. For example, a tree is constituted of matter which allows the tree to be individuated from another tree (i.e., they are different parcels of matter), but the tree likewise has form that is treeness in this case. Form (morphe) unites one tree with other trees that have the same form but different material. Think about how we distinguish one oak tree from another or a pine tree from a weeping willow, yet we recognize that they're both trees. Nevertheless, it's important to know that Aristotle thinks matter and form coexist within material objects unlike Plato, who seems to argue that form and matter exist in different worlds: the intelligible realm versus the sensible realm. Hylomorphism wielded great influence prior to the sixteenth century, and it has enjoyed a resurgence in contemporary metaphysics.

3) A common idea about matter is that it takes up space, is observable, and it's comprised of quarks, leptons, atoms, and molecules. Matter appears in different states such as liquid, solid, and gas (e.g., water), and these states can be broken down into subgroups. Additionally, thanks to Sir Isaac Newton, it is thought that all matter has the basic property of inertia and "gravitational mass" such that physical objects work to attract one another (e.g., the sun and earth). And due to the work of Albert Einstein, we can now say that mass and energy are convertible: gravity is also a result of warped spacetime.  However, quantum mechanics has further complicated our view of matter.

For the ancient atomistic view of matter, see https://fosterheologicalreflections.blogspot.com/2022/05/ad-infinitum-et-ultra-all-about.html

You can find a general article about matter here: https://www.britannica.com/science/matter

Notice the definition of matter given on this page: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4020-4110-5_8

Compare https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/matter-theories

File:Electron Interaction with Matter.svg

For the image, see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electron_Interaction_with_Matter.svg

Monday, August 01, 2022

Words of the Month (August 2022)

My words for this month are Hebrew and English.

1. Midrash (
מִדְרָשׁ)-this Hebrew term occurs twice in the Tanakh, within the same book (2 Chronicles 13:22; 24:27). Its senses include exposition, exegesis, interpretation, and explanation: the ancient Jewish rabbis developed a form of literature known as the midrashim. In Judaism, the word can denote, "any of the rabbinical commentaries and explanatory notes on the Scriptures, written between the beginning of the Exile and c. a. d. 1200."

See https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/midrash

2. Syntagmatic-When structuralism deals with language, it proposes that language is a system wherein words internally relate to one another. According to this school of thought, words may be either paradigmatic or syntagmatic. The latter type of relation could be illustrated with the use of quart or pint and a liquid like milk or beer: "quart" and "pint" are the syntagma and "beer" is the word to which they bear a relation. Other examples are "Son/son" used in relation to God or "kingdom."

American Heritage Dictionary, Fifth Edition: [syntagmatic]
adjective Of or relating to the relationship between linguistic units in a construction or sequence, as between the (n) and adjacent sounds in not, ant, and ton. The identity of a linguistic unit within a language is described by a combination of its syntagmatic and its paradigmatic relations.

Dictionary.com: adjective Linguistics.
pertaining to a relationship among linguistic elements that occur sequentially in the chain of speech or writing, as the relationship between the sun and is shining or the and sun in the sentence The sun is shining.

See also Anthony C. Thiselton, Hermeneutics: An Introduction.