Friday, September 29, 2023

Opinion, Belief, Understanding and Knowledge in Platonic Thought--How Applied to Theology?

Plato makes the following epistemic distinctions in his work, the Republic (509d-510a). These steps go in ascending order: in other words, d) comes before c), etc. I have called these steps--"the epistemic ladder." Others make use of this terminology but sometimes apply it differently at times; see

In any event, here are the four distinctions that Plato makes along with the objects of their episteme:

a) dialectic thought (noesis)-contemplation of the Platonic Forms/Ideas

b) understanding (dianoia)-reflection on or use of mathematics/geometry

c) belief (pistis)-immediately apprehends sensory sensation

d) opinion (eikasia)-rooted in sensory phenomena

How do these distinctions apply to theology? Thomas Aquinas delineates one potential way:

"The truths that we confess concerning God fall under two modes. Some things true of God are beyond all the competence of human reason, as that God is Three and One. Other things there are to which even human reason can attain, as the existence and unity of God, which philosophers have proved to a demonstration under the guidance of the light of natural reason" (Aquinas, SCG 1.3).

To be clear, Aquinas' theology owes more to Aristotle than to Plato, but I'm just showing how the epistemic distinctions of Plato might be applied to theological methods in general. Historically, theologians did make use of Platonic philosophy to shape the contours of their thought: Augustine of Hippo and Justin Martyr are prime examples among the church fathers.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Dative in Colossians 1:16

Greek: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι· τὰ πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·

I think it would be fair to say that ἐν + the dative case here could be rendered "in him." As for the dative case itself, I originally learned that it describes how action affects the indirect object: I equally learned that casus dativus/ἡ δοτικὴ πτῶσις is the "to" or "for" case. But while these observations are technically correct, the matter becomes more complex with Greek prepositions and cases.

For instance, context is a factor that one must consider when translating the dative case. Additionally, one must reflect on the usus loquendi of the particular dative being analyzed. What is its particular usage within a determinate context?

For example, ἐν + dative could be locative (maybe locative of sphere) or it could be instrumental. The Old Vine's Dictionary used to describe constructions like Colossians 1:16 that way. Compare 2 Cor. 5:19.

Nevertheless, I prefer to say that Colossians 1:16 is probably a dative of agent while I acknowledge that it could be understood differently. Cf. also Heb. 1:1-3.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Word of God and the Will of God (A Brief Reflection)

I think it was Bruce Laurin who wrote (or he penned words to this effect): "not everything that happens in the word of God is the will of God." From what I recall, he was talking about the "holy war" that occurs in the Hebrew Bible. Yes, there is war in the Tanakh: people are slaughtered, hacked, and run through. However, I believe that Laurin has a point. For while some of the "violence" in the Hebrew Bible was certainly said to be sanctioned by YHWH (Jehovah), not all of it was. There is also a question about how we should define violence or categorize it. For example, is all violence morally objectionable? Furthermore, what counts as violence?

Another way I want to address the violence in the Hebrew Bible is to distinguish between prescription and description: much of what I find in the Tanakh is a description of how imperfect humans acted as they rebelled against the dictates of God, not a prescription to commit violence. In fact, Psalm 11:5 condemns the person who loves violence and says that YHWH "hates" such an individual. Another consideration is that even when YHWH used Israel or other nations for the cause of war, God set limits, which limits imperfect humans transgressed.

The accounts of holy war are part of the Bible's candor; Scripture may utilize euphemisms at times but it likewise supplies very open accounts that honestly lay bare human iniquity. On the other hand, the justice of God can be severe and Scripture doesn't hide that fact either. See Hebrews 10:26-31.

In the spirit of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, I believe we can learn many lessons from the accounts of war found in the Hebrew Bible.

The McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia contains some interesting remarks under its entry for "war":

It has been questioned whether wars are, under any circumstances, justifiable from Jewish example. While it is certain that the practice of offensive' wars cannot be defended by reference to sacred history, it is equally clear, if wars must be, that they can only be consistent with the light of that dispensation which breathes forgiveness and forbearance on the clear and obvious ground of necessity and self-defense. When the principles of the Bible shall have illuminated the minds of all nations, wars shall cease from the ends of the earth, and all men will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will will universally prevail (Ps 46:9; Ps 76:3; Isa 2:4; Eze 39:9; Lu 2:14).

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Matthew 6:22 and the Simple Eye

Commenting on Matthew 6:22, Blomberg writes:

[Note] 76: “ 'Good' is actually the more specific word , [haplous] implying single-minded devotion and/or generosity."

Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) (p. 135). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the context of Matthew 6:22 also supports this understanding of the text (Mt. 6:24-33).

On the other hand, Zerwick-Grosvenor take haplous in 6:22 to mean "simple, unmixed, clear/clear-sighted" when used of the eye in contrast to an eye that is poneros (possibly unhealthy or not clear-sighted).

From Vincent's Word Studies:

"Single (ἁπλοῦς)

The picture underlying this adjective is that of a piece of cloth or other material, neatly folded once, and without a variety of complicated folds. Hence the idea of simplicity or singleness (compare simplicity from the Latin simplex; semel, once; plicare, to fold). So, in a moral sense, artless, plain, pure. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and indecision condemned in Matthew 6:24."

See BDAG, page 91.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Matthew 6:9 and the Tetragrammaton

Greek: ὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· Ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers: "The words 'Jehovah, hallowed be His name,' were familiar enough to all Israelites, and are found in many of their prayers, but here the position of the petition gives a new meaning to it, and makes it the key to all that follows. Still more striking is the fact, that this supplies a link between the teaching of the first three Gospels and that of the fourth. Thus the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray—thus, in John 12:28, He prayed Himself, 'Father, glorify Thy name.' "

Additionally, here is a footnote from a Journal Article, "The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-7:12)" written by Glen H. Stassen:

"83 Dale C. Allison, Jr., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 172-73, 176-77, 180. Allison demonstrates the connection between Matt 5:1-2 and Moses ascending Sinai in Exod 19 and 20; he also shows that it was understood well before Matthew's time that Moses ascended to heaven to get the commandments. This could be another connection with 'Our Father who art in heaven.' Allison's account does not connect Matt 5:1-2 with 6:9, although in a personal communication, he did connect Matt 6:9 with the Tetragrammaton. For insightful discussion, see also Davies, Setting, 85, 93, 99, 116-18."

On page 305, Stassen writes: " 'Hallowed be thy name' (surely the Tetragrammaton, YHWH) in the first petition of the Lord's prayer is probably also connected with the revelation of YHWH in Exod 19 and 20."

So at least three scholars agree with Jehovah's Witnesses that Matthew 6:9 alludes to the Tetragrammaton. I'm sure that research will uncover more who agree, but it would be nice to find some ancient witnesses who likewise concur. However, one problem is what happened with the divine name during the Second Temple period. 

Two Kinds of Sealing (Ephesians 1:13-14)

I wrote this piece back in 2012 on another forum; edited 9/18/23.

A friend recently asked me about the subject of "sealing" in the Bible. For example,
"in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,-- in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14 ASV).

Notice that the Ephesians "were sealed" (past tense) with the holy spirit. But if they were sealed in the past, then why does the Bible indicate that a future sealing will occur? See Ephesians 4:30; Revelation 7:1-8.

A beloved Christian sister once explained to me that there are two phases of God's sealing. Jehovah seals a Christian when he/she is anointed, but the seal must be kept until death or the system's end (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:1-5; Matthew 24:13; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). When anointed, the seal is written with a pencil (so to speak), but the final sealing is done with a pen that is made of indelible ink. I always liked her explanation. It helped me to see how there could be two phases to the divine sealing carried out by Jehovah. See also Romans 8:23.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Choosing Good Friends (Nehemiah 13:1-5)-Modified Talk

One of the most important decisions we can make is our choice of friends: friendships affect our relationship with Jehovah in a positive or negative way. Therefore, loyalty to Jehovah is paramount even when choosing our associates. 

In Nehemiah's day, High Priest Eliashib faced a challenge that tested his loyalty and it could have resulted in adverse consequences for the nation of Israel, if Nehemiah had not decided to take swift action. Please turn to Nehemiah 13:1-2; it tells us about a restriction that Jehovah placed on Israel. Learning about this law will help us to understand tonight's material in our Treasures talk.

(After reading)

Since the Ammonites and Moabites adamantly opposed Jehovah's people Israel and would not assist the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land, the Mosaic law commanded that no Ammonite or Moabite could enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). What this command likely meant was that no Ammonite or Moabite could ever gain full legal membership to the Israelite nation or have full privileges like natural Israelites did. We learn this point from the example of Ruth and Zelek, one of David's chief warriors. However, despite this prohibition, notice what Eliashib did, according to Nehemiah 13:4-5.

Eliashib permitted Tobiah, an Ammonite, to use the dining hall in Jehovah's temple. Why did Eliashib allow this Ammonite to use part of the temple in defiance of Jehovah's law? 

Tobiah had become a close associate of Eliashib; furthermore, Tobiah and his son Jehohanan married Jewish women and evidently gained the favor of numerous Jews (Neh. 6:17-19). One of Eliashib’s grandsons was married to an intimate associate of Tobiah. (Neh. 13:28) These familial and social bonds may account for why High Priest Eliashib allowed an unbelieving opposer to influence him. However, Nehemiah refused to let this bad associate of Eliashib's infect Jehovah's holy nation. Please read Nehemiah 13:7-9 with me.

Nehemiah threw all of Tobiah’s household furniture out of the storeroom, then he cleansed them. In this way, Nehemiah demonstrated loyalty to Jehovah because he did not allow God's High Priest to associate with a known enemy of Jehovah. What lesson does this account teach us?

How does Jehovah feel if we choose friends who do not love him? The disciple James wrote: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

We do not want to associate with any willful sinners since the Bible cautions us about mixing clean with unclean things (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Moreover, if we're going to be loyal to Jehovah, would this not include avoiding bad association in person and on television or with other forms of entertainment like social media?

Discuss the picture and "ask yourself" question at the end.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Glosses Versus Definitions (Lexicality)

1) The problem of how to render Greek or Hebrew words is an ongoing challenge, but lexicographers normatively differentiate glosses from word definitions. The word "love" for ἔρως is a gloss: not entirely wrong, but admittedly not all that illuminating either. Lexica and monographs suggest "real definitions" for these words. Admittedly, what constitutes a real definition is debatable but one major improvement is when lexica give sentential definitions over terse glosses.

2) Literary context generally is the determinant for what a word denotes. Who is using the word, and under what circumstances? I agree that we have to be careful about Koine or Classical word definitions; however, it is interesting that the Septuagint (LXX) does not use ἔρως in the Song of Songs or in 2 Samuel 13, where a sexual violation occurs because of human lust, passion or ἔρως. I believe the word only appears in the sapiential book, Proverbs, but 2 Samuel uses agape instead.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

George Yule on Hyponymous Relations and How It Applies to Greek (Linguistics)

Back in 2012, I felt the same way about this subject as I do now. My ideas about employing hyponymy and cognitive semantics to advance the study of Greek and Latin are stuck in the inchoate stage partly because I get distracted by other subjects or activities, including work.

Linguistically, hyponymy may refer to a specific kind of relationship obtains between particular signifiers. By "signifier," I mean a word's sound, graphic form or imagistic representation, which is distinguished from its semanticity. George Yule provides a diagram of hyponymous relations in his book The Study of Language (page 119). I will somewhat simplify and rework his diagram below:
Animate entities
animal plant human
| | |
| | |
dog tree man
Hyponymous relations are arranged hierarchically. Interpreted psychologically and pedagogically, this means that Greek would be taught in a way that's easy to retain and apprehend, in a manner that would allow a student to organize data according to conceptual hierarchies. Cognitive semantics is a related concept that I will not discuss now, but the thoughts in this post need to be developed and revised. Hopefully, writing them down and posting my reflections will assist me in that endeavor. I've already edited some things that I wrote back in 2012.

κτίζω Entry in A Greek Lexicon of the Septuagint by J. Lust, Et Al.

See ISBN 3-438-05124-9

A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Revised Edition © 2003 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

κτίζω+ V 6-0-14-10-38=68

Gn 14,19.22; Ex 9,18; Lv 16,16; Dt 4,32

to found, to build (a city) [τι] 1 Ezr 4,53; to found, to establish [τι] Lv 16,16; to make, to create [τι] Gn 14,19; id. [τινα] Dt 4,32; to create sb as [τινά τι] Prv 8,22; to perpetrate [τι] Is 45,7

Cf. BARR 1961, 224; DOGNIEZ 1992 143.324; HARL 1986a, 52.161; WALTERS 1973 220-224. 339;


[The abbreviation "sb" above stands for "somebody."-EF]

Monday, September 11, 2023

1 Peter 5:9 (Parsing and Commentary)

Greek (WH): ᾧ ἀντίστητε στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει, εἰδότες τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων τῇ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὑμῶν ἀδελφότητι ἐπιτελεῖσθαι.

NEB: "Stand up to him, firm in faith, and remember that your brother Christians are going through the same kinds of suffering while they are in the world."

ESV: "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."

ᾧ functions as the dative direct object of ἀντίστητε (Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text, page 169): this verb takes the dative as its object. ἀντίστητε is also aorist active imperative second person plural of ἀνθίστημι. Compare James 4:7.

Paul J. Achtemeier suggests that it's hard to determine whether 
στερεοὶ modifies the subject of the verb (i.e., "resist him, [you who are] firm in the faith") or bears an instrumental sense (i.e., "resist him [by being] firm in the faith"). See 1 Peter in the Hermeneia Series, page 342.

From the EGGNT for 1 Peter: "The dat. τῇ πίστει can be cstr. either as a dat. of respect (Elliott 860; Dubis 169) or a locat. of sphere, with little difference in sense. The clear implication of this statement, as elsewhere in the NT (cf. Eph 6:10-17), is that faith can triumph over evil." See Greg W. Forbes; Robert W. Yarbrough; Andreas J. Kostenberger. 1 Peter (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) (Kindle Locations 5317-5319). B&H Academic. Kindle Edition.

εἰδότες is a perfect active participle nominative plural masculine of 
οἶδα. Dubis argues that the participle here is causal and means "knowing that." See Luke 4:41; 1 Peter 1:18.

τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων-Selwyn thinks this genitival construction coupled with plural neuter words is unusual: he avers that it connotes "the same kinds of sufferings" (The First Epistle of St. Peter, page 238). 

τῇ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ 
ὑμῶν ἀδελφότητι-The book, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek observes: (“ by your brothers in the world”) – This is another example of a “sandwich” construction. The article τῇ is grammatically connected with the noun ἀδελφότητι (“ brothers”). This noun is then further modified by the “stuff” in the middle (ἐν κόσμῳ ὑμῶν) explaining what type of brothers (i.e., the in-the-world-of-you brothers). τῇ ἀδελφότητι could be interpreted as a dative of respect (“ with respect to your brothers” or “in your brothers”), a dative of agent (“ by your brothers”), or a dative of disadvantage (“ on/ against your brothers”).790 Notice that the noun τῇ ἀδελφότητι (“ brothers” or “brotherhood”) is feminine and not masculine, which is common with abstract nouns.

See Köstenberger, Andreas J.; Merkle, Benjamin L; Plummer, Robert L. Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (Kindle Locations 9344-9350). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

ἐπιτελεῖσθαι-Mark Dubis offers these remarks on the morphology of the verb and its relationship to other words in the text (1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text): 

Pres pass inf ἐπιτελέω (indirect discourse after εἰδότες, a verb of perception; see also 2:11 on ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς). Translations such as “undergoing” (NIV, NRSV), “being experienced” (ESV), “going through” (TEV), or “enduring” (NET) fail to communicate the goal-orientation of ἐπιτελέω. This verb indicates that it is the completion of these sufferings that is in view. It is better, then, to understand this verse to affirm that these sufferings are being “accomplished” (see KJV, ASV, NASB) or “brought to completion” by Christians worldwide, which explains the reference in the next verse to suffering “briefly” (ὀλίγον). This verb appears in a final position in the infinitival construction for emphasis (on this word order, see 2:8 on ἀπειθοῦντες).

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Heavens and Earth in Genesis 1:1 Represent What? (Various Commentators)

I'm aware that the bulk of commentators include the spirit realm in the creation mentioned at Genesis 1:1, but the matter is not quite settled in the eyes of OT scholars. Here is a sampling of remarks I found that show the complexity of exegeting the Bible's first verse.

Nincsnevem asked if the angels are not included at Genesis 1:1, then where does the Bible refer to their creation? Well, I believe we're told that the angels were created in the NT (Ephesians 3:14-15; Colossians 1:15-17) and possibly in the OT. However, the first verse of Tanakh doesn't necessarily have to contain that information.

Btw, I will not be interacting much today on the blog but will approve comments. I'm taking a little break.

John Skinner, (Genesis in the ICC Series, page 14): 

"the heavens and the earth. For though that phrase is a Hebrew designation of the universe as a whole, it is only the organised universe, not the chaotic material out of which it was formed, that can naturally be so designated. The appropriate name for chaos is ' the earth' (v.2); the representation being a chaotic earth from which the heavens were afterwards made (6f)."

Skinner limits the scope and reference of Genesis 1:1 to "only the organised universe" but not to the "chaotic stuff from which the universe was putatively formed. However, if he thinks the heavens were made from the earth, how can Skinner think the heavens refers to the spirit realm? That wouldn't make a lot of sense. Seems to me that he's limiting the "heavens and earth" language to the material world. But see Gordan Wenham's commentary for a critique of Skinner.

Ferdinand O. Regalodo ("The Creation Account in Genesis 1," page 120): "The question whether the creation account of Gen 1 is also talking about what is beyond the human world has been adequately answered in this paper. We have seen that when we closely examine Gen 1, especially such words as 'in the beginning' and 'heavens and earth,' contextually and linguistically, we can say that the creation narrative is talking only about our world and is silent about the creation of the entire universe, as we understand the universe today. Moreover, in our study of the Hebraic understanding of the world in the framework of creation, we discover that there is no hint whatsoever that Gen 1 is concerned with the creation of other planets or other worlds."

From Kenneth A. Matthews, the New American Commentary on Genesis 1-11:26, page 136:

Augustine of Hippo (The City of God): "Where Scripture speaks of the world's creation, it is not plainly said whether or when the angels were created; but if mention of them is made, it is implicitly under the name of heaven, when it is said, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, or perhaps rather under the name of light, of which presently. But that they were wholly omitted, I am unable to believe, because it is written that God on the seventh day rested from all His works which He made; and this very book itself begins, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, so that before heaven and earth God seems to have made nothing. Since, therefore, He began with the heavens and the earth — and the earth itself, as Scripture adds, was at first invisible and formless, light not being as yet made, and darkness covering the face of the deep (that is to say, covering an undefined chaos of earth and sea, for where light is not, darkness must needs be) — and then when all things, which are recorded to have been completed in six days, were created and arranged, how should the angels be omitted, as if they were not among the works of God, from which on the seventh day He rested? Yet, though the fact that the angels are the work of God is not omitted here, it is indeed not explicitly mentioned; but elsewhere Holy Scripture asserts it in the clearest manner."