Friday, September 30, 2022

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

John Philoponus Against Proclus (Lecture Notes)-In Process

The Alexandrian philosopher and theologian John Philoponus (ca. 490-570 CE) constructs a number of arguments against the Neoplatonist theory of Proclus (died ca. 485 CE), a theory which posits that the world is eternal. Conversely, Philoponus contends that the cosmos is neither a deity nor is it eternal (Against Proclus 315.5): later, he gives reasons why he thinks this view is correct. For starters, Philoponus writes:

"That it can be demonstrated from premises with which [our opponents] themselves have provided us that it is impossible for the cosmos to be a god. Including [a demonstration] that a thing which changes in its parts is not unchanging12 [as a whole]."

The brackets and the endnote originally appear in the translation I used.

Besides rejecting Proclus' idea that the universe is divine, Philoponus repudiates the Platonic notion of recalcitrant matter, which Plato insists a demiurge wielded to fashion the material world. This divine craftsman purportedly used absolute and essential Forms to make physical things (315.25). The Platonic Forms are supposed to be Ideals/Ideas; they could be viewed as "concepts," archetypes or essences of the material objects we experience all around us: later thinkers will introduce the distinction, concrete and abstract, to make sense of the Platonic Forms or similar phenomena. But contra Proclus, Philoponus maintains that things come into existence ek m
ē ontо̄n (316.20):

"That even if it be conceded to be true that enmattered forms either exist or do not exist without generation or perishing, this is itself proof that the cosmos, if it has come to be, has come to be out of things without [prior] existence (ek mē ontо̄n)21 and not out of existing things. And that matter, if it has come to be, must also have come to be out of things without [prior] existence; and therefore the [combination] of the two [must have] as well. And so it may be inferred from this that everything that comes to be comes to be out of absolute non-being."

In addition to refuting the eternal world thesis, he condemns the eugenic program seemingly advocated by Plato in the Republic (page 18): see the fifth book of Respublica.

More condemnation of some content from book five of the Republic follows. See Philoponus, Pages 21-22.

Philoponus criticizes the "subtle lotteries" of Plato, but then returns to making a case for why the cosmos is not a god (pages 23, 27-28). One reason is because the world undergoes spatiotemporal change, a quality which a deity is not supposed to have.

See pages 29-30.

Source Used: 
Michael Share (Translator). Philoponus: Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World 9-11. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Solomonic Pillars (Modified Talk)

Pillars play an important role in the Bible (Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 3:12; 10:1). Literal pillars give support to buildings, so they must be sturdy and firm. Undoubtedly two of the most famous pillars are the ones made under the supervision of King Solomon. Read 1 Kings 7:15-16.

The two pillars that stood at the entrance of Solomon's temple, on the porch, were colossal and made of copper. They were 26 feet (8 meters) tall and topped with capitals some 7.3 feet (2.2 meters) high. The 12/1/2013 Watchtower reports that the pillars were hollow, with three-inch thick (7.5 centimeters) walls, and they were 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) in diameter. (1 Kings 7:15, 16; 2 Chronicles 4:17). We can only imagine how much copper the workmen used to construct these pillars.

The pillars were not just made to prop up a building, but they also gave spiritual support to Jehovah's temple. We learn their names and a little about their significance in 1 Kings 7:21 (Read)

The pillars for the porch of the temple were set up in this way: Solomon named the right-hand pillar Jachin and named the left-hand pillar Boaz. Jachin means "May he [Jehovah] firmly establish"; Boaz means "In strength." The significance of the names is that Jehovah would firmly establish Solomon's temple as long as the Israelites relied on him. These pillars would serve as reminders of Jehovah's abiding loyalty and faithfulness to Israel.

We probably overcame many obstacles to become Witnesses of Jehovah, but we must continue relying on him to "stand firm in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13). It's often been said that the race for eternal life is not a sprint, but a marathon. It takes endurance and trust in Jehovah to finish the race.

Question: "How am I demonstrating my reliance on Jehovah?"

Friday, September 23, 2022

Eastern and Western Conceptions of the Trinity: Relative Identity and Triunity

The western church affirms that each person of the Trinity is God; the West also professes that the Father is not the Son or that the Son is not the person of the Holy Spirit. Neither person of the Trinity is hypostatically identical with the other. Moreover, western theologians generally contend that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are identical in terms of what they are whereas the tres personae are distinguished in terms of who they are. That is, their identity is thought to be substantial (metaphysical) but not hypostatical.

Yet how do these concepts overcome the problem that seems to be raised by Leibniz' Law, namely, if an entity/object X has all properties in common with an entity/object Y, then X and Y are absolutely identical? This is one formulation of Leibniz' Law, but one western answer to this apparent difficulty is relative identity wherein the Father and Son are said to be the same F (the same God) without being the same G (the same person) just like Peter and John are both human without being the same persons. But two replies to this approach might be to question relative identity and to scrutinize divine simplicity, which has been invoked to show why God differs from Peter and John.

Finally, I might say that Lewis Ayres (in his work Nicaea and its Legacy) has argued that the so-called distinction between eastern and western Trinitarianism is greatly exaggerated. Ayres presents a more nuanced account of Augustine's Trinitarianism on pp. 364-383 of his study.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Hebrews 3:4 and κατασκευάσας (Setting and Grammar)

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

Contextual Setting: Why were these words written to the Hebrews? This portion of the letter is making an argument, but quite frankly, Luke T. Johnson relates that the details of the case which the writer is making "become murky" because of how
the writer metaphorically employs οἶκος. In one sense,
οἶκος here refers to the "people of Israel" (Johnson, Hebrews, 108) but in another sense the word references a literal house as it does in 3:4. But what is the point of the whole line of argument? Johnson writes:

"Hebrews seems to want to affirm two things simultaneously. First, God is the source of all things, so all honor ultimately goes to God; nothing that is not God is anything more than creature. Second, the Son—as we have learned—is not simply another creature 'faithful to the one who made him' (3:2), but is also as Son a participant in the creation of all things ('through whom he created the universe,' 1:2). The impossibility of stating these apparently contradictory propositions in any coherent fashion accounts, I think, for the confused sequence of statements in this section. But the confusion also points to Hebrews’ distinctive understanding of Jesus, which brings together both the 'highest' and the 'lowest' of Christologies, with equal emphasis. As Son of God, Jesus is 'over all the house' as its maker. But as Son, Jesus is also a human being 'faithful to the one who made him.' "

My purpose in writing this entry is not to make a case against the Trinity or Johnson's claim of "high Christology" in Hebrews. I think his remarks are riddled with an admixture of truth and error: he is right about some of the argument contained in Hebrews 3:1-6, but wrong about the status of Jesus Christ presented in the letter to the Hebrews. However, I think it's correct to say that Hebrews 3:4 wants to elevate God (Jehovah) as the source of all things and he does create or make things through the Son; however, the Son is God's creative agent, not the Creator. I believe George W. Buchanan's observations concerning Hebrews 3:4ff are insightful:

"In his efforts to exalt the Son, the author of Hebrews selected Moses and the angels, all of whom had been highly exalted in Samaritan and Jewish circles, and argued that they were inferior in comparison with Jesus" (Buchanan, Hebrews, 59).

On the other hand, Buchanan recognizes that the Son of God has legal authority given to him by the Father, but Christ in not on par with his Father. (See Buchanan, Hebrews, 3-9.) Despite the apparent opacity of Hebrews 3:1-6, Ken Schenck does maintain that the exhortation of Hebrews 3:7-4:13 is a "logical conclusion," given what precedes it. See Schenck, Cosmology and Eschatology, 33. He explains the "rhyme and reason" of Hebrews 3:4ff this way:

"Hebrews argues for the superiority of Christ to Moses in two ways. First, 3:3 uses the analogy of the superiority of a house builder to a house, with Christ as the builder and Moses as the house. Hebrews 3:5 then shifts the metaphor slightly: Moses is a servant in a house where Christ is the son. Hebrews 3:4 subordinates both of these individuals to God as the one who builds everything and who is ultimately the house owner (3:6). Hebrews thus places both Christ and Moses in the same story of salvation, but with Christ as the superior. The logical conclusion the author wished the audience to draw from this superiority is that to reject Christ or the Christian Jewish hope (3:6) would be to reject God’s workings in the same way the wilderness generation did. Indeed, Hebrews insists on more than mere assent to such beliefs. It admonishes the audience to hold fast in ‘boldness’ and ‘boasting’ about this hope (3:6)."

Regardless of the way that one understands Hebrews 3:4 and its literary context, I submit that it's important to read the verse without stripping it from the original context. I will now turn toward the verse's grammar.

πᾶς γὰρ οἶκος-The conjunction (γὰρ) grammatically subordinates Hebrews 3:4 to 3:3 and thus provides semantic clarity (David Allen, Hebrews). Allen maintains that 3:4 is not parenthetical but rather transitional since the Greek καί joins 3:4 to 3:5; see also the μέν...δέ construction in 3:5-6.

Paul Ellingworth agrees that the verse is not grammatically parenthetical, but he reasons that it naturally follows Hebrews 3:3b in terms of how the argument is developed. See Ellingworth, Hebrews, 204-205.

κατασκευάζεται ὑπό τινος-Daniel B. Wallace says that the verb here is a gnomic present that makes a proverbial action salient (523-524), that is, the writer of Hebrews represents the action as being timelessly true. The use of the preposition is apparently causal: it occurs with the genitival indefinite pronoun, τινος, so he construction suggests agency (Dana Harris, Hebrews).

ὁ δὲ πάντα κατασκευάσας θεός- this portion of the verse begins logically with the adversative conjunction, δὲ ("but" or "however") that makes a contrast with what precedes (so Allen). The articular aorist participle could be rendered "the one who built" (Allen/Bill Mounce) or "the builder," (NET) which translates the participle substantivally. The NIV takes "God" as the subject whereas others treat θεός as the predicate, a position which David Allen criticizes. On the other hand, Ellingworth submits that the descriptor, ὁ κατασκευάσας (viewed substantivally), strictly/absolutely applies to God but only relatively to Christ (pace Harris). Harris, relying on Wallace, maintains that ὁ κατασκευάσας is the subject in this predicate nominative construction, and the equative verb (i.e., "is") should be mentally supplied.

κατασκευάζω in Hebrews 3:4:

"to bring a structure into being, build, construct, erect, create (Phylarchus [III b.c.]: 81 Fgm. 29 Jac. ναούς; Plut., Mor. 189c, Num. 10, 9 οἶκος; Herodian 5, 6, 6; 9; SIG 495, 141 and 145; 1100, 21; 1229, 4; PAmh 64, 2 βαλανεῖον; POxy 892, 8; Philo, Rer. Div. Her. 112 σκηνήν; Jos., Bell. 6, 191, Vi. 65 οἶκος) κιβωτόν construct an ark (κ. is a favorite word for construction of ships: Diod S 1, 92, 2; 11, 62, 2; Palaeph. 29, 4; 31, 9; 1 Macc 15:3) Hb 11:7. Pass. 1 Pt 3:20. οἶκον Hb 3:3f. Of God (Is 40:28; 45:7; ApcEsdr 5:19 p. 30, 19 Tdf. [πάντα διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον]; Philo, Aet. M. 39; 41; Aristob. in Eus., PE 13, 12, 9 [s. beg. of this entry]; Ath., R. 13 p. 63, 21 ζῶον) ὁ πάντα κατασκευάσας the builder of all things Hb 3:4b (cp. Epict. 1, 6, 7). Pf. pass. ptc. as subst. τὸ κατεσκευασμένον what is produced
supplied Dg 2:2."

Friday, September 16, 2022

Esau and Jacob: the Flesh and the Spirit

One major difference between the twins Esau and Jacob is that Jacob was a spiritual man, a person with faith in Jehovah, while Esau lacked appreciation for spiritual things and even despised them (Hebrews 11:21; 12:16). This is why Esau sold his precious birthright as firstborn for a mere bowl of stew: he did not appreciate the great spiritual blessing that stood before him. Hence, Jehovah loved Jacob but hated Esau (Malachi 1:1-4).

Therefore, when Isaac got ready to bless Esau, but he was out hunting game, Rebekah devised a plan to help Jacob obtain his rightful blessing from Isaac. According to Genesis 27:6-10, Rebekah first had Jacob to go and get “two of the best young goats” in order that she might prepare a tasty meal for Isaac. 

After eating this meal, which he would think came from Esau, Isaac would bless Jacob instead. However, in order to fool Isaac, Jacob also had to make himself appear to be hairy Esau. What was the outcome of this ruse?

Isaac prayed that Jehovah would bless Jacob, and God bless him by pouring out blessings on the Israelites. Israel eventually came into a land flowing with milk and honey and Jehovah faithfully kept the promises that he gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because they were all men of godly devotion and faith.

Isaac uttered other blessings for Jacob in Genesis 27:29. So Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites, became much stronger than Esau’s progeny, the Edomites. Genesis 25:23 foretold that the older twin would serve the younger one. These words were also fulfilled when Edom was surpassed in power and blessings by Israel. Read 2 Samuel 8:14.

Because the Edomites cursed (called down evil on) the Israelites and hated them, they were destroyed as a nation: Jehovah wiped Edom out of existence because they did not bless Jacob’s descendants. See Ezekiel 25:12-14.

For the record, Jacob did not cheat Esau out of his inheritance; he obtained the rightful blessing that was legally his. He had faith and appreciated sacred things.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Very Clean and Sturdy Kingdom Interlinear (Greek-English) For Sale

 Please see

Philippians 4:11-12--What Does It Mean to Be Self-Sufficient? (Vincent and Hellerman)

Greek (SBLGNT): οὐχ ὅτι καθ’ ὑστέρησιν λέγω, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔμαθον ἐν οἷς εἰμι αὐτάρκης εἶναι· οἶδα καὶ ταπεινοῦσθαι, οἶδα καὶ περισσεύειν· ἐν παντὶ καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν μεμύημαι, καὶ χορτάζεσθαι καὶ πεινᾶν, καὶ περισσεύειν καὶ ὑστερεῖσθαι·

Many works have dealt with these verses, but in this entry, I will confine myself to a couple of observations on the text. My focus is the Greek,
εἰμι αὐτάρκης εἶναι. To see the complete remarks by these authors, please consult their respective works.

Marvin R. Vincent (Philippians and Philemon):

ατάρκης: ‘self-sufficing.’ Only here in N.T.; LXX Sir. 40:18; ατάρκεια, 2 Co 9:8; 1 Ti 6:6. Ατάρκεια is an inward self-sufficing, as opposed to the lack or the desire of outward things. Comp. Plat. Tim. 33 D, γήσατο γρ ατὸ ὁ ξυνθες αταρκες ν μεινον σεσθαι μλλον προσδες λλων: “For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything.” It was a favorite Stoic word. See on πολιτεύεσθε, 1:27. It expressed the doctrine of that sect that man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his own will, to resist the force of circumstances. Comp. Seneca, De Vita Beata, 6, addressed to Gallio: “Beatus est praesentibus, qualiacunque sunt, contentus.” A list of interesting paralls. in Wetst. Paul is not self-sufficient in the Stoic sense, but through the power of a new self—the power of Christ in him. (Comp. 2 Co 3:5.)

Joseph H. Hellerman (Philippians):

Commentators differ over whether Paul has Stoicism directly in view. By Paul’s time the technical meaning of ατρκης, “self-sufficient,” had given way to a general, nonphilosophical sense, “content” (G. Kittel, TDNT 1.466–67; Fee 431–32; O’Brien 521; Reumann 653; Silva 204). Paul uses the cognate ατάρκεια elsewhere twice in this nontechnical sense (2 Cor 9:8; 1 Tim 6:6). The appearance of the hapax ατρκης here, however, in a context full of Stoic overtones, suggests a philosophical background (MM 93c; H-M 264; Hansen 311; “it is difficult to imagine the Philippians not having recognized it as such” [Fee 432]).

Paul’s α
τάρκεια, however, is ultimately not a “self-sufficiency” at all. No Stoic would have added πντα σχω ν τῷ ἐνδυναμοντμε (v. 13). Nor would a Stoic philosopher have engaged in Paul’s outburst of joy in v. 10 (for the Stoic “emotional detachment is essential” [Hansen 310]; χρην is “unStoic” [Fee 428 n. 20; Reumann 701], as is λπην πλπην [2:27]; cf. Wright 433–34, on Paul’s different perspective on suffering). The contrast articulated by G. Findlay more than a century ago deserves citation: “The self-sufficiency of the Christian is relative: an independence of the world through dependence upon God. The Stoic self-sufficiency pretends to be absolute. One is the contentment of faith, the other of pride. Cato (a Roman Stoic) and Paul both stand erect and fearless before a persecuting world: one with a look of rigid, defiant scorn, the other with a face now lighted up with unutterable joy in God” (G. Findlay, Christian Doctrine [London: Charles Kelly, 1894], 31).

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Jehovah's Foreknowledge and Our Trials (A Modified Talk)

Jehovah possesses flawless knowledge of the past, present, and future (Job 37:16); he is able to foreknow whatever he chooses to foreknow. In view of his perfect knowledge, wisdom, power and love, we might ask whether Jehovah assesses trials in advance by determining what we can bear, then choosing which particular trials we will face, especially since Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NWT):

"No temptation has come upon you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out so that you may be able to endure it."

1 Corinthians 10:13 states that Jehovah will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear; does this mean God uses his foreknowledge to guarantee that we only experience certain trials?

The Bible suggests four primary reasons why God does not assess what trials we endure in advance:

1. Jehovah has given us the capacity for free will. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Jehovah commanded the Israelites to choose life that they might continue to live. Joshua likewise called upon ancient Israel to choose whom they would serve, whether Jehovah or the false gods of their ancestors. Were Jehovah to choose which trials would come upon us, would he not, in effect, be diminishing the gift of free will?

2. No human is exempt from time and "unexpected events" (Eccl 9:11). As Jesus illustrated in Luke 13:1-5 with the fallen Tower of Siloam and the 18 people who died as a result, tragic events sometimes occur because a person is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus insisted that the tragedy at Siloam said nothing about the spiritual standing of the people killed there. Is it not unreasonable to think that God would determine in advance who lives and who dies as a result of random events? For example, some car crashes are fatal but others are not. Why should God spare some of his servants from dying in car crashes, but not others? After all, car crashes are random events.

3. All of us are personally involved in the issue of integrity to God. Satan claims that we will not remain loyal to Jehovah in the face of trials. He made this claim in the days of Job (Job 1:9-11) and in Revelation 12:10, Satan is identified as the "accuser of our brothers, "who accuses them day and night before our God." If Jehovah prevented us from facing certain trials because he deemed them to be more than we could bear, would that not add weight to Satan’s charge that we serve God out of self-interest? Why did Jehovah not spare Job certain trials, if this is true?

4. Jehovah does not have to foreknow everything that happens to us. The Bible indicates that God exercises his foreknowledge selectively (Genesis 18:20, 21). After Abraham tried to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to Jehovah, he was told by God: “for now I do know that you are God-fearing because you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”

After that peerless example of faith, Jehovah now knew Abraham feared him. This account implies that Jehovah selectively exercises his foreknowledge. He thus balances his power of foreknowledge with his respect for our free will. Is that not what we would expect from the God who values our freedom and who always exercises his attributes in perfect balance?

However, if Jehovah does not predetermine the trials we'll face, how should we understand Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear?

As the WT points out, "Paul here describes what Jehovah does, not before, but during trials." Psalm 55:22 assures us that if we throw our burden upon Jehovah, he will sustain us--never will he allow the righteous to suffer an unrecoverable [spiritual] fall. Two truths that may provide some comfort are any tribulation we face is common to human experience (1 Cor. 10:13). Any tests we face are capable of being endured by humans: no temptation concocted by Satan the Devil requires superhuman strength to resist. While 1 Cor. 10:6-11 reports that some ancient Israelites succumbed to temptation in the wilderness, many did not.

Secondly, recall the faithfulness of God (1 Cor. 10:13). We know that it is impossible for God to lie. As Joshua exclaimed, "that not one word out of all the good promises that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed."

So while Jehovah does not use his selective foreknowledge to assess in advance what kind of trials we can bear, he will uphold his loyal servants by making endurance of trials possible. He gives such power through his word, organization, the angels and the holy spirit.   

Monday, September 05, 2022

Matthew 28:19-20 (Stanley Porter-"Linguistic Analysis")

For Further details, see Stanley Porter, Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015).

A number of NT scholars doubt the authenticity of Matthew 28:19-20. For instance, some writers categorize the Great Commission as an appearance story that the early Christians made up; they conflate the account with similar narratives and fail to recognize the uniqueness and canonical status of Matthew's concluding words.

Others hurriedly just quote the passage, then move on without exegeting the text; still others deal with elements of Matthew 28 but fail to explain the account in terms of its larger grammatical structure. On the other hand, Stanley Porter feels that Matthew 28:19-20 has something important to teach Christians, especially once readers understand its grammar and place within a larger context.

While Porter doesn't seem to be impressed with many of the commentaries produced about the Gospel of Matthew, he finds three works to be worth commending: D.A. Carson's commentary, R.T. France's work which supplies a thorough account of Matthew 28:19-20, and Grant Osborne's commentary, a book described as being useful and proceeding in traditional verse-by verse format.

Despite commending these works, Porter still finds unwelcome tendencies in them such as the tendency to focus on word-level or phrase-level analyses to the neglect of clauses/clause complexes. Hence, Porter offers a linguistically-informed reading that employs resources from he subsequently analyzes Matthew 28:19-20a in terms of the structure, Adjunct–Predicator–Complement–Adjunct–Adjunct.

The book explains each of these technical terms and Porter makes three areas of syntax his focus: "
the semantics of finite and nonfinite forms of verbs, the temporal relations of participles to finite verbs that can be indicated through syntactical ordering, and the nontemporal relations that can be indicated at the clause level or above, in part through syntactical ordering."

Porter offers a number of critical remarks when analyzing the lexical-grammatical aspects of this Matthean verse, particularly when he discusses Daniel Wallace's treatment of "the Great Commission." He aims criticisms specifically at how translators customarily have rendered Matthew 28:19-20 with the exception of Robert Gundry's version:
“Going, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.”

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Words of the Month (September 2022)

1. One of our words for September is the Greek καρπός ("fruit, crop, harvest"). The NT employs this noun both literally and figuratively: one of the most notable figurative examples is Galatians 5:22-23. But see also Ephesians 5:9; Hebrews 13:15; James 3:17-18. For places where the rendering "harvest" is preferred, see James 5:7, 18.

2. Paradigmatic (English)-"Paradigmatic refers to the relationship between a set of linguistic items that form mutually exclusive choices."


Some examples for paradigmatic relationships might be raw/cooked, sacred/profane, spirit/flesh, hot/cold.