Friday, June 30, 2023

1 Peter 5:2 (Textual Issues)

NWT 1984: "Shepherd the flock of God in YOUR care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly;"

NWT 2013: Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; not for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly;

I cannot say what motivated the 1984 NWT rendering of 1 Peter 5:2, and I'm not criticizing it, but it likely was how the WH text understood the verse. When we examine this passage in different texts and translations, it comes out to be a manuscript/textual issue that probably arose for theological reasons long ago although later textual critics might have excluded the reading (variant) based on other factors. For instance, see the NET Bible for details about the textual questions surrounding the verse. However, I don't think this is about a revision of the WH text, but the main issue is whether ἐπισκοποῦντες (a Greek participle) belongs in the text or not.

This present participle continued to appear in other Greek texts after WH published their work, so it wasn't a matter of this problem only coming to light later. Yet textual critics wondered whether this participle truly belonged in the text. Westcott and Hort obviously excluded it, but the 1894 Scrivener NT includes the participle.
WH Text: ποιμανατε το εν υμιν ποιμνιον του θεου μη αναγκαστως αλλα εκουσιως μηδε αισχροκερδως αλλα προθυμως

SBLGNT: ποιμάνατε τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ποίμνιον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐπισκοποῦντες μὴ ἀναγκαστῶς ἀλλὰ ἑκουσίως κατὰ θεόν, μηδὲ αἰσχροκερδῶς ἀλλὰ προθύμως,

ΠΕΤΡΟΥ Α΄ 5:2 ἐπισκοποῦντες Treg NIV RP] – WH
ΠΕΤΡΟΥ Α΄ 5:2 κατὰ θεόν Treg NIV] – WH RP

The Tyndale House GNT includes the participle, but has a note detailing the manuscripts that either have or omit the reading.

NA28: ποιμάνατε τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ποίμνιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπισκοποῦντες μὴ ἀναγκαστῶς ἀλλ’ ἑκουσίως κατὰ θεόν, μηδὲ αἰσχροκερδῶς ἀλλὰ προθύμως,

I'm going to include what Bruce Metzger states in his textual commentary about 1 Peter 5:2:

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part VIII

Chapter 10 of Exegetical Gems is titled Colwell's Canon: it concentrates on 1 Timothy 6:10 rather than John 1:1. 1 Timothy 6:10 famously warns (WH): ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστὶν ἡ φιλαργυρία, ἧς τινὲς ὀρεγόμενοι ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως καὶ ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν ὀδύναις πολλαῖς.

Questions to think about for this verse: should one translate the Greek "a root of all evil" or "the root of all evil"? Additionally, is money a/the root of "all kinds of evil" or "of all evil"? Merkle answers these questions in the process of explaining Colwell's Canon.

In words similar to Merkle's, Richard A. Young offers this account of Colwell's Canon (Intermediate NT Greek, page 65):

"Although there are exceptions, the Colwell rule does seem to be correct for the majority of cases. Colwell (1933:13) states, 'A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb.' For example, a definite predicate nominative with the article follows the linking verb in John 8:12 EGW EIMI TO FWS TOU KOSMOU, whereas the same predicate nominative without the article precedes the verb in John 9:5 FWS EIMI TOU KOSMOU."
Merkle uses the same scriptures as Young does, but he explains that context can help us determine whether anarthrous predicate nominatives are definite or not: he then quickly returns to 1 Timothy 6:10. 

It is complex to determine whether 1 Timothy 6:10 should be translated "a root" (indefinite) or "the root" (definite).
ἡ φιλαργυρία is the subject nominative while ῥίζα is the anarthrous predicate nominative: ῥίζα is anarthrous because it is preverbal but that does not mean it's necessarily definite. Translations go both ways here. Regarding the compound word φιλαργυρία in the LXX, see 4 Maccabees 1:26:

κατὰ μὲν τὴν ψυχὴν ἀλαζονεία, καὶ φιλαργυρία καὶ φιλοδοξία καὶ φιλονικία, ἀπιστία καὶ βασκανία

So, how should one render the Greek of 1 Timothy 6:10?

ESV: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

NET has "the root of all evils." However, it appears doubtful that money is the total source of all evil. 

Besides theological concerns, Merkle asks the reader to take the literary context into account and to recall Colwell's Canon. For instance, Timothy is being warned that he has opponents in the congregation who already have been deceived by money (1 Timothy 6:3-5). But there is another consideration: Paul apparently is quoting a proverb which expresses a general truth. If he is relaying a proverb in 1 Timothy 6:10, this would give support to the definite rendering, "the root."

Linda Belleville (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary) provides these insights: “Root” comes first in Greek for emphasis. It denotes the origin or source of evil deeds. The Greek emphasizes “each and every kind of” evil. “Evil” has an article, thereby making the abstract noun concrete. It is “evil acts” or “wrong choices,” rather than evil as an idea or force that is in view. The love of money is, lit., “the love of silver.” Next to gold, silver was the most highly valued metal in the ancient world.

Merkle reckons that the definite rendering should prevail for all of the aforesaid reasons. He concludes the chapter by quoting Philip H. Towner for evidentiary support.

I will end with a quote from Daniel B. Wallace (GGBB, page 260, ftn. 18): "This is not to say that his [Colwell's] rule is invalid. Rather, it is to say that its validity is for textual criticism rather than for grammar. Textual criticism was Colwell's real love anyway (he is frequently regarded as the father of modern American NT textual criticism). The rule's validity for textual criticism is as follows: If it is obvious that a pre-verbal PN is definite, the MSS that lack the article are more likely to support the original reading. The issue of meaning is not in view; rather, the presence or absence of the article is."

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Neither Dualism Nor Hard Determinism

I would label my worldview as "Christian materialism/physicalism." That may not be saying much since so-called Christian materialists can be found in various groups and churches/religions. What I mean by Christian materialism (aka physicalism) is that I believe Jehovah God exists and he is the only true God/Most High over all the earth, I affirm the existence of angels/spirit beings created by God (Hebrews 1:7, 14), but I reject the existence of an immaterial soul that is truly distinct from the physical body (Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4). The human soul is the person and it's composed of the human body and our life force. However, these beliefs are informed by Judeo-Christianity or the Bible (both Tanakh and the NT). One upshot of this worldview is that I reject dualism and hard determinism. To word matters simply, hard determinism rules out what I would consider a meaningful type of free will or free choice. 

Based on my worldview, I reject the following argument:
Either dualism (p) or hard determinism (q) is true; hard determinism is false, therefore, dualism is true.
But I do not accept the conclusion that results from denying p either, that is, I do not believe that hard determinism is true. My position is that humans are one thing, physical, yet we also have a meaningful type of free will/free choice (Joshua 24:15). I humbly submit this position and do not mean to take a dogmatic stance merely based on opinion.

Just to clarify, dualism comes in many forms, but here's a basic definition given by SEP: "In the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical – or mind and body or mind and brain – are, in some sense, radically different kinds of things."

Determinism means that the past and the laws of nature fix the future. That is putatively why we can expect the sun to rise each day, to have seasons, weather patterns and trust in gravity. 

Oxford Languages' Definition for Determinism: "the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions."

We must concede that there are various species of determinism which run along a continuum from hard to soft determinism. Moreover, there is biological, theological, causal, and logical determinism among others, but strict determinism rules out free will altogether. Some argue that genes determine our behavior whereas others emphasize cultural influence as a behavioral determinant while John Calvin believed that God determines all things. Compare Proverbs 16:33.  

There are variant degrees of determinism and ways of understanding just how the future is fixed. For instance, is the future fixed by means of one's environment, genetics or past actions, and what exact role do the laws of nature have in fixing the future? Contrariwise, I accept that the future is open in some sense of the word and I affirm that humans have freedom in a meaningful way although saying we have "libertarian freedom" might be going too far. It all depends on what someone means by libertarian freedom. Reading the Bible, it seems to affirm human free will, but simultaneously indicates that Jehovah has the power to direct hearts (Proverbs 21:1). I'm not trying to pave new ground here, just trying to illustrate how one can reject dualism (humans have an immaterial soul and a material body) while still gainsaying hard determinism. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

"Sword" in the Book of Revelation

All of these references are taken from the SBLGNT:

Revelation 1:16: καὶ ἔχων ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ ἀστέρας ἑπτά, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ῥομφαία δίστομος ὀξεῖα ἐκπορευομένη, καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος φαίνει ἐν τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ.

Revelation 2:12: Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Περγάμῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὴν ῥομφαίαν τὴν δίστομον τὴν ὀξεῖαν·

Revelation 2:16: μετανόησον οὖν· εἰ δὲ μή, ἔρχομαί σοι ταχύ, καὶ πολεμήσω μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ῥομφαίᾳ τοῦ στόματός μου.

Revelation 6:4: καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἄλλος ἵππος πυρρός, καὶ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἐδόθη αὐτῷ λαβεῖν τὴν εἰρήνην ἐκ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἵνα ἀλλήλους σφάξουσιν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ μάχαιρα μεγάλη.

Revelation 6:8: καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἵππος χλωρός, καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ ὄνομα αὐτῷ ὁ Θάνατος, καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἠκολούθει μετ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τὸ τέταρτον τῆς γῆς, ἀποκτεῖναι ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ἐν λιμῷ καὶ ἐν θανάτῳ καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων τῆς γῆς.

Revelation 13:10: εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει· εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι. ὧδέ ἐστιν ἡ ὑπομονὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις τῶν ἁγίων.

Revelation 13:14: καὶ πλανᾷ τοὺς κατοικοῦντας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς διὰ τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ποιῆσαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θηρίου, λέγων τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ποιῆσαι εἰκόνα τῷ θηρίῳ, ὃς ἔχει τὴν πληγὴν τῆς μαχαίρης καὶ ἔζησεν.

Revelation 19:15: καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ἐκπορεύεται ῥομφαία ὀξεῖα, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῇ πατάξῃ τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ αὐτὸς ποιμανεῖ αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ· καὶ αὐτὸς πατεῖ τὴν ληνὸν τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ παντοκράτορος.

Revelation 19:21: καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπεκτάνθησαν ἐν τῇ ῥομφαίᾳ τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἵππου τῇ ἐξελθούσῃ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, καὶ πάντα τὰ ὄρνεα ἐχορτάσθησαν ἐκ τῶν σαρκῶν αὐτῶν.

Stephen Smalley (The Revelation to John, page 494): 

First, the Warrior-Messiah is said to ‘strike down the nations’ with a sharp sword projecting from his mouth. The ‘sharp sword’ (ῥομφαία ὀξεῖα, hromphaia oxeia) is a symbol for Christ’s powerful word of judgement (cf. Prigent 546). For this metaphor, variously expressed in relation to the judgemental activity of the exalted Jesus, see also Rev. 1.16; 2.12, 16; 19.21. The ‘sword of the Lord’ is regularly mentioned in the Old Testament (Deut. 32.41; 1 Chron. 21.12; Ps. 17.13; Jer. 47.6; Ezek. 30.24; Zech. 13.7; et al.); and this expression is used at times as a symbol of eschatological judgement (Isa. 27.1; 66.16; Jer. 9.16; Ezek. 29.8–9; et al.; cf. 1QM 12.11–12; 4QpIsaa frags. 8–10 [col. 3] 22–24). But the exact image of a sword of judgement coming from the mouth of the Messiah occurs nowhere in the literature of Judaism; and this suggests that the idea originated with John himself (but see Heb. 4.12). It may well have been inspired by combining the messianic use of Isa. 11.4 (‘he shall strike the earth with the rod [lxx “word”] of his mouth’) with an allusion to the servant song of Isa. 49 (verse 2, ‘he made my mouth like a sharp sword’); so that Rev. 19.15 not only reaffirms the Isaianic prophecy but also identifies Jesus as the ‘servant Israel’ (Luke 2.32; Acts 26.23). Cf. Aune 1060–61; Beale 961.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part VII

For this part of the book discussion, I'll just mention chapter 8 of Exegetical Gems in passing, which deals with the Greek article (see 1 Timothy 3:2). Chapter 9 is about the Granville Sharp rule and that's what will be the focus of this entry.

What is the Granville Sharp rule, and why is it so important? The Granville Sharp rule is important because it impinges on whether Jesus is fully God or not: Merkle thinks Jesus Christ is fully God and he believes the NT contains passages that clearly affirm Christ's deity. One such passage is Titus 2:13; the Granville Sharp rule is connected with this verse as we'll see below. But does the Titus passage transparently demonstrate that the rule is true? To Merkle's credit, he calls the Sharp rule a "pattern," which I've hardly seen writers do.

On pp. 62-64 of his linguistic and exegetical grammar, Richard A. Young likewise has a useful discussion of the Granville Sharp rule. Concerning his much discussed rule/pattern, Sharp stated:

"When the copulative KAI connects two nouns of the same case, if the article hO, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle."

Of course there are possible exceptions to this rule such as plural elements, impersonal nouns and proper names. See Merkle, page 40.

According to the criterion set out, Hebrews 3:1 is an instance of Sharp's rule, but John 7:45 and 1 John 2:22 are not. What about Titus 2:13? The Greek text reads (SBLGNT): προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Merkle surveys three views of Titus 2:13, then he opts for the third view based on eight reasons. The chapter concludes with a quote from Daniel Wallace and Bill Mounce, who both affirm that Titus 2:13 teaches Jesus Christ is fully divine. However, this verse is highly contentious: even some Trinitarians have argued that Titus 2:13 is not an explicit affirmation of Christ's deity.

I'll just briefly state the reasons why Merkle prefers to construe the genitival Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in apposition to τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν, which he calls "the traditional view" (41).

1) The antecedent of a noun in an appositional construction generally directly precedes it.

2) ἐπιφάνειαν in Paul always refers to Jesus' first or second coming, but is never used of God.

3) Paul never calls Jesus "the glory" but does refer to him as Savior elsewhere.

4) Paul links Jesus to the concept "Savior" in Titus 2:14.

5) In view of the ancient Jewish-Hellenistic context, it's natural to link God and Savior together, not separate them.

6) The adjective "great" is better applied to Christ since it's never used of God the Father in the NT.

7) "It is not unprecedented to refer to Jesus as God" (page 42). See 2 Peter 1:1, another so-called GS rule passage.

8) Most grammarians, commentators, and English Bible versions construe Titus 2:13 this way.

For other perspectives, see


Friday, June 23, 2023

Select Bibliography for 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 (Will Be Updated Accordingly)

James Ware. "Paul's Understanding of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:36–54." Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 133, No. 4 (Winter 2014), pp. 809-835.

Jeffrey R. Asher. Polarity and Change in I Corinthians 15: A Study of Metaphysics, Rhetoric, and Resurrection. HUT 42; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 2000.

B. Schmisek. (2015). "The 'Spiritual Body' as Oxymoron in 1 Corinthians 15:44." Biblical Theology Bulletin, 45(4), 230–238.

Anthony C. Thiselton. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Koshi Usami. " 'How Are the Dead Raised?' (1 Corinthians 15:35-58)." Biblica 57 (1976): 468-493.

Albert V. Garcilazo. The Corinthian Dissenters and the Stoics. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part VI

Chapter 7 of Exegetical Gems deals with the accusative case, and the scripture on which Merkle focuses is Romans 10:9. Why are there such diverse translations of this verse? We find "Jesus is Lord," "Jesus as Lord" and "the Lord Jesus." Before addressing why the diverse renderings exist, the chapter explains how the accusative case functions in Greek. For instance, Dana-Mantey supply a few ways that accusatives work, and they end with noting that the accusative case frequently answers the question, "how far"?

Wallace observes that the accusative "limits as to quantity" and "is concerned about the extent and the scope of the verb’s action" (Quoted in Merkle, page 30). Some functions of the accusative case are signaling the direct object, double accusative, apposition, measure, manner, respect, and subject of the infinitive. Merkle explains that there are two kinds of double accusative constructions--(1) a personal and impersonal object, see 1 Corinthians 3:2; (2) object and complement. See 1 Timothy 2:6.

Chapter 7 of Exegetical Gems then returns to Romans 10:9 (Nestle 1904): ὅτι ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃς ἐν τῷ στόματί σου Κύριον Ἰησοῦν, καὶ πιστεύσῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς αὐτὸν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν, σωθήσῃ·

How should Κύριον Ἰησοῦν be rendered here? The text is an example of the double accusative being used in an object-complement construction where Ἰησοῦν is the object and Κύριον is the complement (page 31). Merkle reasons that if one were to expect "the Lord Jesus," there should be a definite article before Κύριον, but that is not what we find in Romans 10:9.

He concludes that "Jesus is Lord" is preferable to "Jesus as Lord" since "the object-complement construction is semantically equivalent to the subject-predicate nominative construction" (Wallace quoted in Merkle, page 31). Compare 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11.

It's interesting that NWT 2013 opts for "Jesus is Lord."

Monday, June 19, 2023

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part V

Chapter 6 in Merkle's Exegetical Gems covers the dative case. As should be discerned by now, Merkle likes to open chapters with a scriptural verse that's accompanied by questions. For the dative case chapter, his chosen verse is Ephesians 5:18:

καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι

Question: According to the last part of Ephesians 5:18, πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι, is the holy spirit (Holy Spirit) the content of what Christians should be filled with, "or is the Spirit the means by which Christians are filled?" (page 25).

Before addressing this issue, the chapter reviews how the dative case works. It delimits verbal action by clarifying which person is involved, it makes salient the place where an action happens, the dative points to the means by which an action is done, and it has numerous functions: the datival construction may be the indirect object, there is the so-called dativus commodi and incommodi, the dative of reference/respect, possession, sphere/place, time, means, manner, agency, association, apposition, and direct object.

But what about Ephesians 5:18? Is the dative emphasizing content or means?

Merkle presents both sides of the issue, but he ultimately thinks this verse instantiates the dative of means. I have blogged about this subject and being filled with spirit here:

The chapter in Exegetical Gems concludes by insisting that Christians are urged to be filled by the spirit (Spirit), and Merkle reckons that the content of such filling is the fullness of the Triune God (page 28). I obviously cannot accept his conclusion, but here's the way I concluded my blog entry for Ephesians 5:18:
As with many other matters, these exegetical issues cannot be settled in a blog post, but there is good reason to answer the question in the title of the post, negatively. While I don't believe that Ephesians 5:18 depicts the Spirit/spirit as the agent doing the filling, it does appear that the agent could be either Christ or his Father, Jehovah based on the texts above. In either case, the ultimate credit for sending the spirit or giving holy spirit to the people of God goes to Jesus' Father (Acts 2:32-33). He does not give the holy spirit sparingly.
Another possibility for Ephesians 5:18 is that it might be a dative of sphere (i.e., "be filled in the spirit"). 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part IV

The last post discussed chapter 3 and only touched on chapter 4 about the vocative case in Merkle's Exegetical Gems. I will review chapter 5 now which is about the genitive case.

It is good to remember that it's not always possible to be dogmatic about genitival constructions: Greek will offer grammatical possibilities many times rather than absolute certainties. Merkle gives one example with 1 Timothy 3:6 (WH): μὴ νεόφυτον, ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου.

How shall we understand the genitival construction εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου? Merkle poses a query to make the student of Greek think: is it "the condemnation that the devil gives" or "the condemnation that the devil receives"? Before answering this query, Merkle reviews uses of the genitive case.

The genitive case is a delimiter and translators often render genitives with "of" (e.g., "the birth of Jesus Christ") but not always. These constructions also contain head nouns along with the genitive term, and the genitive term normally follows the head noun (the qualified or delimited nominal) although writers sometimes reverse this taxis in order to supply emphasis or contrast terms (page 22).

Functions of the genitive case include: possession, relationship, attribution, source, content or material, partitive (also called the wholative genitive), subjective, objective, time, separation, comparison, apposition and direct object. Moreover, a genitive can be subjective or objective when the head noun is verbal. Merkle gives the familiar example in this case, to illustrate the difference between a subjective and objective genitive; he uses the "love of God" which could be either subjective or objective depending on the context. Compare Revelation 1:1.

Chapter 5 then returns to the opening example, namely, 1 Timothy 3:7. Is it talking about "the condemnation that the devil gives" (subjective) or "the condemnation that the devil receives" (objective)? Some commentators maintain the genitive here is subjective and that is a possible reading while others favor the objective reading. Merkle gives reasons for why someone might favor one side or another, then he concludes the chapter without revealing where he stands. I will conclude by quoting scholars that analyze this issue.

Thomas Lea and Hayne Griffin, Jr. (1, 2 Timothy, Titus. New American Commentary Series):
The reference to falling “under the same judgment as the devil” is literally translated from the Greek as “the judgment of the devil.” That literal phrase is capable of two different interpretations. It can refer either to the judgment the devil receives or the judgment the devil causes.61 The translation of the NIV suggests that the former interpretation is preferable. The translation of the NEB (“a judgment contrived by the devil”) reflects the latter interpretations. Fee follows the former interpretation, suggesting that the judgment is that given to the devil by Christ's death and resurrection (cf. Rev 12:7-17; 20:7-10). However, Kelly points out that this interpretation does not prepare us for the devil's role in setting a trap in v. 7. In that verse Paul described Satan as setting a trap for the unwary overseer. It seems best to take the references in both v. 6 and v. 7 as condemnations or spiritual traps Satan causes.62 Proud people will become blind to Satan's working and will fall into defeat, trouble, and ruin (cf. 1 Tim 6:9, where Paul described the progression of falling, entanglement, and drowning). This is a condemnation Satan can inflict on spiritually insensitive leaders. Although Peter's denial of Christ was not due to pride, it displayed an arrogance and conceit that came from blindness to Satan's working (Matt 26:30-35).

Friday, June 16, 2023

Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part III

Chapters 3 and 4 of Merkle's Exegetical Gems deal with the nominative and vocative cases.

Merkle introduces the chapter about the nominative case by telling a story concerning one of his students whose mother-in-law is a Witnesses of Jehovah. The student apparently posed a question to Merkle as to whether John 1:1 in the NWT is a valid handling of the underlying Greek--the NWT reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Contrast this rendering with the KJV: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Seasoned students of Greek know that the nominative case has multiple functions: a word in the nominative can be the subject of a finite verb; there is the predicate nominative, the appositional nominative, the nominative absolute, and the nominative used for a vocative. When it comes to predicate nominatives such as we find in John 1:1, both the subject term and the predicate nominative occur in the nominative case and these constructions have either a stated or implied equative verb (page 11).

Predicate nominative constructions supply further data about the grammatical subject, but how does one distinguish the subject term from the predicate? Merkle explains how one might go about distinguishing these uses of the nominative case and he returns to John 1:1 in order to report how he answered the student.

The Greek text for John 1:1 states (Byzantine): Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

The articular subject of the sentence is ὁ λόγος while the predicate nominative is θεὸς, an anarthrous noun. Despite being anarthrous, Merkle maintains that it should not be rendered "a god" since this verse supposedly "refers to the full deity of Jesus as God," the one whom Trinitarianism understands to be the "Second Person" of the triune Godhead (page 12).

Merkle provides seven reasons why John 1:1 does not mean Jesus is "a god." Many of the reasons will sound familiar: John was a monotheist, so he could not have considered the Logos to be a god since the apostle believed in solely one God; John evidently alludes to the Genesis account where Almighty God creates the heavens and the earth. Therefore, Jesus qua the Logos must also be the Creator since John is effecting a parallelism between his Gospel and Genesis 1.

The book appeals to "Colwell's Canon" and Daniel Wallace's grammar, both of which purportedly account for the anarthrous noun without sacrificing Christ's "full deity." Wallace asserts that the type of predicate nominative that appears in John 1:1c is "rarely indefinite." He famously reckons that the noun is qualitative. See Merkle, page 12.

Finally, Merkle mentions places in the NWT where anarthrous uses of θεὸς appear, yet they are translated "God" rather than "a god." See John 1:6; 1:12-13; 1:18. He concludes the chapter by another reference to John 20:28, Daniel Wallace, and the Nicene Creed. However, despite the seemingly plausible case made for translating John 1:1c with "God," the fact remains that "a god" is not an impossible rendering and there are reasons besides theological ones why the NWT treats θεὸς differently elsewhere. Moreover, there are good grammatical reasons why NWT says the Word was "a god."

M.J. Harris writes that "a god" at John 1:1c is grammatically admissible but theologically inadmissible. I feel that some of this resistance comes from a failure to understand what Witnesses mean by "a god" but another reason for not accepting "a god" is adherence to the Trinity doctrine. NWT is not wrong; "a god" is a possible translation even if most don't like it. On the other hand, construing 
θεὸς as a qualitative noun is suspect at best.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Job 1:5,11--A Euphemism?

NLT: "But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!"

The Hebrew word 
barak appears here (בָרַךְ), a term that normally means "to bless" (Genesis 2:3; 12:3). 

BDB entry for barak: "
bless, with the antithetical meaning curse (Thes) from the greeting in departing, saying adieu to, taking leave of; but rather a blessing overdone and so really a curse as in vulgar English as well as in the Shemitic cognates: 1 Kings 21:10,13Job 1:5,11Job 2:5,9Psalm 10:3."

John Gray (The Book of Job, page 121): 
"MT uberaku (lit. ‘and blessed’), a regular euphemism of the orthodox scribes, to whom ‘curse God’ was intolerable."

Commenting on Job 1:5, John E. Hartley offers this perspective (The Book of Job, page 65): 

"The word translated 'curse,' barak (also in 2:5,9), which usually means 'bless,' is used euphemistically. Many consider it a scribal change for an original qillelu (which Targ. reads here), but there is no reason why this euphemistic style may not have been original."

Commenting on Job 1:5, Robert Alden writes (Job, NAC):  “ 'Curse' is the translation of the common brk that ordinarily means 'bless.' The context makes clear that brk is intended here as a euphemism. Such a diametrically opposite meaning occurs again at 1:11; 2:5,9."

In a footnote, Alden adds:  "Used in this polar sense brk occurs also in 1 Kgs 21:10,13; Ps 10:3. E. Tov (Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992], 272) explains that it could be either a scribal change or a euphemism used by the original author."

Compare Douglas Mangum. "Euphemism in Biblical Hebrew and the Euphemistic ‘bless’ in the Septuagint of Job." 
  • October 2020. 
  • HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies 76(4).


    Another source that explains these Job verses in terms of a potential euphemism or scribal substitution is Robert Alter's The Hebrew Bible.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2023

    Benjamin Merkle's "Exegetical Gems" (A Discussion)-Part II

    Chapter 2 in Exegetical Gems is about textual criticism or the science of trying to establish "which textual variant is most likely the original reading" (page 6). Merkle uses Romans 5:1 as a test case for textual criticism: some Greek texts have ἔχωμεν but a number of other texts contain the variant ἔχομεν. The first form is subjunctive whereas the latter form is indicative. Which reading is preferable? How should the issue be sorted out? 

    Merkle reports that we have approximately 6,000 Greek MSS at our disposal today that range from 125 CE to the sixteenth century (page 6). In order to know the most likely reading of the original MSS, one must look at both the external and internal evidence. The external evidence includes factors like a manuscript's age (usually older texts are thought to be less prone to errors), the number of MSS that contain a certain reading (i.e., variant), and the number of MS families that attest to a variant (e.g., the Byzantine or Alexandrian family of MSS). 

    On the other hand, internal evidence refers to a writer's style and theology. For instance, is the writing contained in the MS reflective of Paul or Peter's style of writing? Whose theology does it seem to reflect? Another factor is which reading/variant best accounts for how the other variants arose. There is a notable debate about how one should read John 1:18: is "only-begotten God/god" the original reading or "only-begotten Son"? Which reading best explains how the other arose?

    Two other forms of internal evidence are what textual critics refer to as the lectio difficilior (the more difficult reading) and the lectio brevior (the shorter reading). Textual critics normally think it is unlikely that a scribe changed a reading from an easier to harder lectio or from a longer to a shorter lectio; therefore, the harder and shorter readings usually are thought to be the original lectiones. How do these factors apply to Romans 5:1?

    Greek Text (NA28): Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

    The operative variant in this case is ἔχωμεν, which WH prefers and this is what Stanley Porter likes as well, so why do textual critics and NA28 opt for ἔχομεν? The external evidence favors ἔχωμεν since the earliest and some excellent MSS contain the reading and so do various textual families; nevertheless, the indicative seems less probable from the standpoint of internal evidence. While the (hortatory) subjunctive form of the verb is difficult, most consider it too difficult to be genuine. Moreover, the context of Romans 5:1 and Pauline theology may favor the indicative form of the verb.

    Regardless of whether a textual critic or Bible translator chooses the subjunctive or indicative form, Merkle insists that the difference is slight, and I think the important lesson here is what difference it can make to know Greek and reflect on issues like which reading is more original or more likely to be original. So I will close with the opinion of one famous commentator.

    Joseph Fitzmyer (Anchor Bible Commentary on Romans, page 395):