Thursday, August 31, 2023

C.K. Barrett on John 14:28 (Christology)

It is well known that some fourth-century members of the Church applied John 14:28 to the preexistent Son of God: B.F. Westcott painstakingly supplies details respecting the verse's history of interpretation. However, as one traces Dogmengeschichte from Athanasius of Alexandria onwards, one finds that the post-Nicenes eventually applied John 14:28 to the enfleshed Son since talk of the preexistent Son's inferiority or lesser dignity made them uncomfortable. As Maurice Wiles relates, texts such as John 14:28 are applied to the Son qua the incarnate one and not to the second Person of the Trinity properly speaking. Below are some notes from my thesis on Tertullian. At the time I wrote them, I had not actually incorporated the notes into the final chapter of my M.Th. thesis; this material is taken from C.K. Barrett's Essays on John, page 27.

While some church fathers prefer to interpret John 14:28 as a reference to the human nature of Christ, Barrett contends that this understanding is neither the earliest interpretation nor the predominant one of the time. Yet both the Tome of Leo (Ad Flavianum, Epistola 4) and Augustine’s Tractate on John 78.2 apply John 14:28 to the human ousia of Christ. On the other hand, most pre-Nicene writers think that Jesus' words are to be explained "independently of the circumstances of the incarnation." Barrett lists Tertullian's Adversus Praxean 9 as one example of this understanding (i.e., the text is applied to the preexistent Son of God). Another is Adversus Praxean 14, and in Adversus Praxean 22, Tertullian also refers John 10:30 to the heavenly Logos (Barrett, 27).

Finally, Origen thinks John 14:28 teaches that the Father is greater than the Son according to "their proper being and intrinsic relationship" (28).

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Will This Exact Body Be Raised From Death?

The majority of NT commentators/scholars I've consulted think that our current physical bodies--these exact identical bodies or their form (morphe/forma)--will be glorified one day if we've taken the requisite steps to "get right with God," (become Christian believers or something to that effect) but I've never seen a satisfactory explanation for how that's going to happen when we know that our current bodies decompose postmortem.

Peter van Inwagen sets forth one potential way to get around the decomposition problem, especially if one is a materialist. He offers this observation in the "Possibility of Resurrection":

"Perhaps at the moment of each man’s death, God removes his corpse and replaces it with a simulacrum which is what is burned or rots. Or perhaps God is not quite so wholesale as this: perhaps He removes for 'safekeeping' only the 'core person'--the brain and central nervous system--or even some special part of it. These are details."

Philosophers customarily have panned this suggestion, but there have been vigorous defenses of van Inwagen's simulacrum concept despite its apparent implausibility (by his own admission). See

On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas believes that resurrection of the dead is the uniting of our bodies with our putative souls. But how does God unite a body that's undergone decomposition with a soul that allegedly survives the death of the body? It seems like Aquinas imputes some type of miraculous work to God in this respect, and he reckons that all of our corporeal members will be restored in the resurrection even if they are not used by the resurrected "blessed ones." It appears that the resurrected body will even contain blood and normal organs, but that raises further questions.

N.T. Wright posits a transphysical body in the case of Jesus and I suppose for resurrected followers of Christ too. He contends:

The resurrection, as the eschatological event, has split into two (first Jesus, then, at his return, all his people—the further subdivision of the latter moment by Revelation 20 does not affect the present point).70 (2) The nature of the future resurrection body is further clarified: it will be incapable of dying or decaying, thus requiring a transformation not only for those already dead but for those still alive. This new mode of embodiment is hard to describe, but we can at least propose a label for it. The word ‘transphysical’ seems not to exist, surprisingly enough (one might have thought some enterprising ontologist would have employed it long since), and I proffer it for inclusion between transphosphorylation and transpicuous in the Oxford English Dictionary.71 The ‘trans’ is intended as a shortening of ‘transformed’. ‘Transphysical’ is not meant to describe in detail what sort of a body it was that the early Christians supposed Jesus already had, and believed that they themselves would eventually have. Nor indeed does it claim to explain how such a thing can come to be. It merely, but I hope usefully, puts a label on the demonstrable fact that the early Christians envisaged a body which was still robustly physical but also significantly different from the present one.

Wright, N. T. Resurrection Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God (pp. 477-478). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Whether it's the suggestion offered by van Inwagen, Aquinas or Wright, I personally take them all with a heaping grain of salt (cum grano salis). It is still not clear to me how personal identity can be preserved by either of the aforementioned accounts.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Shem, Onoma, and God's "Name," YHWH/Jehovah

Nincsnevem: First of all, God's "name" is not a personal name in the sense of human names (Karl, Jennifer, etc.). In Hebrew, the concept of "name" (shem) referred not only to addressing or labeling (as in Exodus 3:16) but also replaced the abstract concept of the person, which did not exist in Hebrew. Therefore, Jews still refer to God as ha-Shem, "The Name", or "He."

EF: It's clear that Jews consider/have considered YHWH as a nomen proprium. I notice the qualification you make above because I guess you know that YHWH is a proper name (nomen proprium) as multiple sources acknowledge. Rabbi Maimonides used such language to describe the Tetragrammaton and even Aquinas spoke in similar terms.


But you claim that shem/onoma replaced the abstract concept of person which did not exist in Hebrew. While I acknowledge that shem/onoma could be employed as you posit, I still spot fallacies and inaccuracies in your claim. First, as James Barr noted in his famed study of biblical semantics, one cannot infer that just because ancient Hebrew did not have a word for "person" that it had no abstract concept of person; to reason that way would be to confuse Wort with Begriffe. Second, the Jews did have a way of indicating persons by using adam or ishah. Third, there are places in the Hebrew Bible where to understand "name" as person does not seem tenable: see Exodus 23:20-21; Isaiah 42:8; Psalm 83:18; Jeremiah 23:27. Lastly, the Tetragrammaton appears in the Hebrew Bible almost 7,000 times, and we're to believe that God just wanted us to know his person without knowing his nomen proprium? In other words, according to you, what's important is the person behind the name and not the name per se. The facts of the Tanakh belie the claim that God's "name" (proper name) should take an utter backseat to the concept of person. On the other hand, God's name encompasses his person and one scholar said that the divine name and person are so closely linked that they're virtually indistinguishable. Maybe "virtually" but neither in toto nor ex toto.

Try as you may to subsume "name" almost completely under the rubric of "person," you can't legitimately do it, in the case of the peerless and inestimable YHWH.

Maimonides writes:
 "Observe how clearly the author states that all these appellatives employed as names of God came into existence after the Creation. This is true; for they all refer to actions manifested in the Universe. If, however, you consider His essence as separate and as abstracted from all actions, you will not describe it by an appellative, but by a proper noun, which exclusively indicates that essence. Every other name of God is a derivative, only the Tetragrammaton is a real nomen proprium, and must not be considered from any other point of view."

For more on Aquinas and the name of God, see also

Friday, August 25, 2023

Brief Bibliography for Works Dealing with Biblical Inspiration

Abraham, William J. The Divine Inspiration of Holy Scripture. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Achtemeier, Paul J. Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2010.

Berkouwer, G. C. and Jack Rogers. Holy Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1975.

Bloesch, Donald G. Holy Scripture : Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Carson, D. A. 2016. The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Feinberg, John S. 2018. Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Hanson, R.P.C. The Inspiration of Holy Scripture. Columbia University Press, 1961.

House, Wayne. "Biblical Inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16," Bibliotheca Sacra 137: 545 (1980): 54-61.

O'Collins, Gerald. Inspiration: Towards a Christian Interpretation of Biblical Inspiration. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

William, Lee. 1857. The Inspiration of Holy Scripture : Its Nature and Proof ; Eight Discourses Preached Before the University of Dublin. 2nd ed. London & Dublin: Rivington ; McGlashan & Gill.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Reply to Nincsnevem Concerning the Holy Spirit and Tetragrammaton in the GNT

For some reason, the combox didn't like this response:

Dear Nincsnevem,

You said: "I think I am responding to your suggestion on the merits, however, I do not consider it irrelevant to MENTION that your denomination does indeed rely on medieval Jewish sources in connection with the alleged Tetragrammaton in the NT. By the way, what do you think proves that the autographs of NT books contained the Tetragrammaton or some form of it instead of the Kyrios?"

EF: You work with the assumption that every JW thinks in lockstep or that we're robots. It's insulting to me and I would feel the same way if someone suggested that all Catholics are mindless automata. I stand by my earlier statement that OT/NT lexical and exegetical scholarship is done with the operating assumption that synchrony takes precedence over diachrony. My focus in graduate school was theology and religious studies (church history) and I've tried to read more widely than my specialty since then. In so many words, I'm stating that there is a difference between a person's professional and private life. Be that as it may, I feel no obligation to prove that YHWH appeared in the NT MSS. I think it's a reasonable assumption and it mystifies me why NT writers would not have used it even when quoting OT texts that included the name. But if one follows the methodology of current NT studies, can one really prove that YHWH was in the NT? On the other hand, some scholars have suggested that it might have been. But whether it was or not, I do not accept that Jesus is Almighty God.

EF: "You confuse the purpose of this blog's existence with the reason for the NWT existing and being in its current form."

Nincsnevem: "This wording is telling anyway. I assumed that you are open to discussing your own solutions to the NWT on your blog, given that it is the official translation of your denomination."

EF: I don't mind discussing the NWT and how it's been translated, but normally when I talk to someone, I reply to what they say/write; not what they did not write. I can't assume that just because someone is Catholic, they'll believe Acts 5:3-4 calls the holy spirit, "God." E.g., Karl Rahner. It's the same thing with Jehovah's Witnesses. We want to submit to those taking the lead among us but we also have minds.

Nincsnevem: "Of course, the Jews do not accept the Holy Spirit as a person and God, since they consider plurality within God to be 'Shituf', but at the same time the rabbinical understanding of the Holy Spirit has a certain degree of personification. Nevertheless, this is less relevant from the point of view of our present discussion, after all, according to the mainstream Christian interpretation, the Trinity of God (and thus also the personhood of the Holy Spirit) was not revealed in the Old Testament, at best somewhat foreshadowed. At the same time, even in the OT, the Spirit is distinguished from the strength/power/force of God (koach, chayil), see Micah 3:8, Zechariah 4:6."

EF: Yep, I know the Bible distinguishes between God's spirit and his power. For some thoughts on Zechariah 4:6, please see

I distinguish between the power and spirit of God here too:

Carol and Eric Meyers note the use of hendiadys in Zechariah 4:6 like George Klein does: they point out that hayil "often means army or military force" (page 244). So the prophetic utterance strongly decries the use of human force or ingenuity; total dependence must be on the spirit of Jehovah: "God's 'spirit' is his involvement in and control over human events" (Meyers, ibid.).

Nincsnevem: "For now, let's stick with what term you think the NT should use for the Holy Spirit in order for it to be a person. Since there is no abstract expression for this in the NT, it is not stated that either the Father or the Son should be a person. Perhaps the expression 'onoma' (= "name") is closest to the concept of person, which is used in the NT in a similar sense as the OT often uses nephesh."

EF: You're asking me to comment on a hypothetical, which I'm not wont to do, but I suggested theos earlier. Besides that word, other factors could be used to determine personhood like the activities or characteristics of X. I just think it's clear that the use of onoma alone does not prove the spirit is a person even if I concede that onoma at times stands for the person.

Nincsnevem: "Thus before the modern era, there have been no Christian movement at all that would have denied that the Holy Spirit was a person, there is no trace of this in church history. Groups with Unitarian theology such as Polish Socinians, the 18th-19th Century Unitarian Church, and Christadelphians conceive of the Holy Spirit not as a person but an aspect of God's power."

See the first paragraph at

I'm gonna bid you goodnight, sir.

Polysemy, Homonymy, Synchronism and Theos

It's no secret that theos ("God" or "god") meant different things to various folks in the ancient Greco-Roman world. This principle seems true for the ancient signification of terms in general, but polysemy (i.e., the fact that words have diverse and sundry meanings) and homonymy (which applies to examples like "bank" and "bank") are common features for most words. However, neither the former nor the latter (homonymy) threaten the synchronic approach to language. For instance, the English word "God/god" doesn't bear the same denotation for all English speakers either, yet I don't see how the polysemous nature of "God/god" prevents us from learning what the word now means some two-thousand years later (i.e., what its synchronic denotation currently is). After all, analyzing logos synchronically teaches us that the word had at least ten established senses by or after the Hellenistic era: synchronism and polysemy/homonymy can work hand in hand.

Linguists also differentiate sense from reference (Sinn und Bedeutung). There's a difference between what theos means/meant and what the word references in varying contexts. Philo of Alexandria uses the word theos to reference parents, but the word doesn't mean "parent." The Hebrew term Elohim likely refers to judges and angel at times, but it doesn't mean "judge/judges or angels."

Furthermore, I would respectfully submit that morphe ("form") is not that straightforward if you examine the word diachronically and synchronically. Aristotle equates morphe with ousia; Paul the Apostle apparently does not in Philippians 2:6-7. In Homer, the word can reference someone's beauty, but I don't find that use for morphe in the GNT. Hence, one needs to keep in mind the essential distinction between diachrony and synchrony while recognizing the distinction between polysemy and homonymy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Genesis 2:7--Does Nephesh/Nepes Mean "the man's soul came alive"?

Almost a decade ago, I was told that Genesis 2:7 should probably be understood to mean "the man's soul came alive."

(CSB): Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

However, translating the verse as "[Adam's] soul came alive" does not seem to be a viable option since nephesh (nepes) is modified by an adjective in Genesis 2:7 and hā·’ā·ḏām is the grammatical subject. G.J. Wenham writes:

"As a result of divine inbreathing, man became a 'living creature' . . . The adjective ['living'] is significant in the phrase: implicitly this 'living creature' is being contrasted with a dead one, e.g., Num 5:2; 6:6, 11. Given the other uses of the phrase L'NEPHESH CHAYAH in Gen 1, 2, 9, it seems unlikely that 2:7, 'man became a living creature,' means any more than the TEV rendering 'and the man began to live.' By blowing on the inanimate earth, God made man come alive" (Wenham, Genesis 1-15,
pp. 60-61).

Nephesh hardly seems to mean "life" in Genesis 2:7; the meaning is possible, but not likely. Note how "living creatures" (i.e., souls) are described in Gen. 1:20-24; 2:19. Nephesh is used similarly in Gen. 2:7. Notice how the same word is used in the following texts:

"And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul [nephesh] shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant" (Gen 17:14 AV)

"The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself" (Proverbs 11:25)

"[As] cold waters to a thirsty soul, so [is] good news from a far country" (Prov. 25:25)

"Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty" (NLT)

Friday, August 11, 2023

Who Performed the Action? Jehovah or the Angel/Angels?

1. Giving of the Mosaic Law-Compare Exodus 20:1-26; Deuteronomy 5:1-27 with Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19. See Hebrews 2:1-3.

2. Meting out of the ten plagues-Exodus 12:12-13; Numbers 33:3-4. Compare Psalm 78:49; Hebrews 11:28.

3. Judgment in the Wilderness-Numbers 14:28-30; Joshua 5:6; 1 Corinthians 10:5, 10; Jude 5.

4. Destroying people in Jerusalem after the census was taken-2 Samuel 24:14-17; 1 Chronicles 21:13-17.

5. Did Jacob wrestle with God, a man or with an angel?-Genesis 32:1, 22-20; Hosea 12:3-5. Compare Judges 6:21-24.

6. Who brought Israel up from Egypt and gave the law covenant?-Judges 2:1-4; Isaiah 63:8-9, 14.

See also Genesis 48:15-16.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Ezra’s Conduct Brought Honor to Jehovah (Modified Talk)

As our heavenly parent, Jehovah is worthy of all due honor. Just as we honor our earthly parents, so we should accord Jehovah the honor that he deserves. This is why from time to time, it is good to ask ourselves whether our conduct honors Jehovah.

Ezra 7:6 calls Ezra, "a copyist who was well-versed in the Law of Moses." He was skilled in his assignment and took it seriously: the biblical accounts about Ezra teach us that he loved God's word. Please notice what Ezra 7:10 states.

Note the three reasons why Ezra prepared his heart: in order to study, to make personal application, and to teach Jehovah's law. 

How can we imitate his example? It is important not only to read the Bible, but we need to study God's Word, and think deeply about what we read. That includes meditating on the application of Bible principles. This is one way that our conduct can honor Jehovah.

However, recall that the third reason Ezra prepared his heart was so he could teach others about God. Ezra 7:25 bring out a similar point.

(After reading)

Ezra was a wise man because he listened to Jehovah's law and had God's holy spirit. 
The Persian world-ruler recognized godly wisdom in Ezra and commissioned him with broad civil powers within the juridical domain of Judah. (Ezra 7:12-26) Ezra was thus equipped with authority from Jehovah and the Persian king, and this enabled him to teach others. 

Hence, another way that we can honor Jehovah like Ezra did, is by teaching others, whether in the field ministry or by communicating divine wisdom in the congregation. We can only accomplish this task through Jehovah's powerful spirit.

Yet, out of all the qualities that we might possess, there is one quality that we must have in order for Jehovah to use us fully. Turn with me to Ezra 8:21-23 and notice how he set an example for those who want to honor Jehovah.

Read Ezra 8:21-23.

Ezra humbled himself before Jehovah. The Insight book states: "One who humbles himself before God can expect to have God’s guidance."

Think about the heavy responsibility that Ezra had: he led numerous Israelites back from Babylon while they carried gold and silver to rebuild the temple. Although they needed protection for this journey, Ezra did not want to ask the king of Persia for a military escort because it would have shown reliance on military might instead of Jehovah. So Ezra proclaimed a fast instead to make the Israelites humble themselves before Jehovah. As a result of their humble reliance on God, they completed the hazardous trip from Babylon to Jerusalem successfully, all to the honor of Jehovah.

[Discuss picture of brother being commended by his employer]

Closing question: 
Ask Yourself: ‘Do unbelievers respect me for my godly conduct?’

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

N.T. Wright, the Rich Man (Dives), and Lazarus--A Parable

In a section discussing the significance and denotation of repentance (metanoia) in the Gospel accounts and ancient Jewish literature, N.T. Wright notes that the account found in Luke 16:19-31, "Is not, as often supposed, a description of the afterlife, warning people to be sure of their ultimate destination."

Wright goes on to show why the account of Lazarus and the rich man must be a parable. Richard Bauckham agrees, writing that the story "has only the status of parable" and it draws attention "away from the apocalyptic revelation of the afterlife back to the inexcusable injustice of the coexistence of rich and poor." For the sake of fairness, Wright cites those who take issue with Bauckham's perspective.

While I think the illustration's stark symbols are polyvalent, I believe that both Wright and Bauckham are spot on when they argue that Luke is not describing the afterlife or a fiery hell filled with torments for wicked persons. That is not his/Jesus' focal point in the telling of this parable.

See N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, pages 255-256.


Alternate Image of Fitzmyer's Remarks On Romans 9:5 (Testing)


Monday, August 07, 2023

Settings for Commenting Are Back to Normal

Commenting is now back to normal, but I want to give a reminder that comments should focus on the OP's subject matter. Those comments that hijack or do not respect the focus of the OP will not be approved.

Thank you,

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Understanding the GNT Use of Pas Qua Substantive

I favor a two-pronged semantic approach to understanding how GNT writers use "all" (πᾶς) substantivally. What I say below applies to other ways of determining the semanticity of words:

(1) Examine the cotext of particular texts or verses. By "cotext," I mean the literary context or surrounding words, verses, paragraphs, chapters (etc.) found in a scriptural work.

(2) Perform exegesis by undertaking an intertextual approach. That is, compare other texts written by the author/authors to ascertain how he/they employs a particular word in certain literary contexts. Then move from that author such as Paul or Peter to other relevant writers by extending your study to the LXX, papyri and writers like Josephus or Philo as well as the church fathers. The intertestamental literature can also yield helpful insights on a Greek word that occurs in the GNT.

For more on reading the Bible in this fashion, see Ernst's R. Wendland's essay in D.A. Black's (editor) Linguistics and NT Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992. Pages 101-143).

Joseph A. Fitzmyer's Analysis of Romans 9:5 (Anchor Bible Commentary)