Sunday, September 25, 2016

What We Miss By Missing Metaphors (Brief Note Concerning Hyperliterality)

I once studied the Bible with a man, who was quite intelligent, but he would read the Bible hyperliterally. Admittedly, one can read Scripture hypermetaphorically too, but reading and understanding everything scriptural at face value (and hyperliterally) also has its pitfalls. To illustrate:

Gen. 1:3-God speaks light into existence.

Gen. 3:8-"And they hear the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze of the day" (YLT)

"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (ERV)

Deut. 23:14-"for Jehovah thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy, that he may not see an unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (ASV).

Should these verses be understood literally (even hyperliterally) or be construed metaphorically? Did God just speak light into existence? Did Jehovah or his voice walk about in Eden? Did Jehovah circumambulate in the Israelite camp, and need to avoid human excrement, if Israel did not obey Deut. 23:13?

All of these verses make more sense, it appears, when they're read as metaphors or understood to be figures of speech.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I think the words βασιλείαν ἀσάλευτον παραλαμβάνοντες ἔχωμεν are rightly translated "receiving an unshakeable kingdom" or "we are to receive [are receiving] an unshakeable kingdom."

(1) I take the participle παραλαμβάνοντες as a participle of grounds, because of Διὸ in Heb. 12:28, which can be rendered: "therefore," "seeing that" or "since." One could of course translate παραλαμβάνοντες as "receiving." But such a rendition is by no means necessary. In fact, Wallace encourages the Greek student "to translate the force of the participle with more than an -ing gloss." So either "receiving" or "to receive" is acceptable from a grammatical perspective.

(2) As far as the time frame delineated by the participle, it must be remembered that we should probably recall aspect morphology here. I.e., the writer's use of the present active participle is his way of subjectively focusing on the action delineated in the account.

William L. Lane, in his Word commentary on Hebrews, writes: "The participle 'we are receiving,' does not express possession . . . but acceptance of a gift or office that is being bestowed" (Lane 47b:484). Lane adds: "The present tense of the participle emphasizes that Christians are now only in the process of receiving this gift and that this process will continue into the future" (Lane 47b:484).

(3) Some have pointed to the eschatological character of Heb. 12:28ff, a point that we must also bear in mind.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Divine "Sealing" and "In Christ" Language

The Johannine "in me" formula is pretty much
synonymous with Paul's concept of a Christian disciple
being "in Christ." In his high-priestly prayer, Jesus
beseeched his Father in this way (according to the

"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those
also who believe in Me through their word; that they
may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I
in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world
may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have
given Me I have given to them, that they may be one,
just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they
may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know
that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have
loved Me" (Jn 17:20-23).

The language above reminds us of the EN verses that we
find in the Johannine epistles (1 Jn 3:5-6, 23; 4:4).
And we must not forget how Jesus expresses himself at
Jn 6:56, a very controversial passage. At any rate, I
see no need to radically differentiate these passages
from those that we find in Paul (see the BDAG entry for EN).
Jesus' statements about being "in" him were proleptic.
That is, they would come to fruition after his death and resurrection.
Jn 15:6 would primarily apply to Christ's disciples
subsequent to the death and Ascension of the Son.

While being "in Christ" chiefly entails
being sealed by God's spirit--a point I don't think John would have
denied--the Scriptures do not teach that the sealing is
necessarily permanent. To the contrary, the sealing mentioned in
the NT is called an ARRABWN, a down payment or earnest
money (Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-22; 5:1-5). A Christian must not
only be sealed initially; he or she must preserve the
divine seal until the day of redemption from the
sinful and fallen body (Rev 7:1-8).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Iridescence in Ezekiel" (Link for Journal Article)


Article deals with rainbow imagery in Ezekiel.

Review of "Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day" (Woodbridge and James III)

The book's full title is Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context (Hardcover) by John D. Woodbridge, and Frank A. James III. Published by Zondervan, 2013.

My specialty in church history is the ancient and medieval period. This book covers the 14th-21st centuries, so it allows me to fill in the gaps concerning other periods. It's a somewhat advanced account of numerous events that occurred in the middle ages, the Renaissance period and during modernity. Some of the highlights include a section on the Great Schism, chapters on the Protestant Reformation, information about seventeenth-century Christianity, historical periods that challenged the church, and chapters explaining how the Enlightenment period affected professed followers of Christ.

This work contains a general bibliography, a general index, maps, charts, pictures and helpful chapter summaries. One additional feature of this book is its propensity to supply plenty of historical context for each narrative it relates. How did Deism affect the church? What about the Scientific Revolution? This study answers such questions since it discusses Sir Isaac Newton, the French Philosophes along with Copernicus and Johannes Kepler. I've found this book to be a good pedagogical resource. It's a keeper in my opinion.

Christopher Seitz on the Tetragrammaton

Taken from the book edited by Alvin F. Kimel, Jr. entitled This Is My
Name Forever: The Trinity & Gender Language for God
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), page 26:

"The notion that God has a proper name and can be differentiated from
other deities with proper names is absolutely clear in the Old
Testament. Other gods (ELOHIM) lay claims on humanity, but Israel is
to have no god (ELOHIM) before or beside YHWH (Ex 20:3). Moreover, the character of the name is itself a matter of reverence, since the name really coheres with the God it names (20:7). One cannot therefore malign the name or substitute for the name another name, and somehow leave untouched the deity with whom the name is attached . . . Not taking the name of YHWH in vain implies, at a minimum, understanding
that YHWH is not an 'accident' [non-essential property] detachable
from a deeper 'substance,' that is, 'God himself.'"

Contrast the early church fathers, who believed God the Father does not have a proper name or does not need to be distinguished from other entities since he is sui generis.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Ancient Church and War (Patristic Quotes)

It is interesting how the early church writers understood Matthew 26:52:

"But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a
believer may turn himself unto military service, and
whether the military may be admitted unto the faith,
even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to
whom there is no necessity for taking part in
sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no
agreement between the divine and the human sacrament,
the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil,
the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul
cannot be due to two masters-God and Caesar. And yet
Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John
(Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of
Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if
it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will
a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in
peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away?
For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had
received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise,
a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in
disarming Peter, unbed every soldier. No dress is
lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action"
(Tertullian, De Idolatria XIX).

Justin Martyr writes:

"And when the Spirit of prophecy speaks as predicting
things that are to come to pass, He speaks in this
way: 'For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the
word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge
among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and
their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift
up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
any more.' And that it did so come to pass, we can
convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into
the world, men, twelve in number, and these
illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the
power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that
they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of
God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do
not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies,
but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our
examiners, willingly die confessing Christ" (1
Apologia XXXIX).

"For we do not train our women like Amazons to
manliness in war; since we wish the men even to be
peaceable. I hear that the Sarmatian women practise
war no less than the men; and the women of the Sacae
besides, who shoot backwards, feigning flight as well
as the men" (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata IV.VIII).

"If an applicant or believer seeks to become a
soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God"
(Apostolic Tradition 16).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

1 Corinthians 8:10 and Temples of Idols

I once heard a talk in which the speaker
brought out a point that was new for me.
He read 1 Cor. 8:10 ("For if anyone should see
you, the one having knowledge, reclining at a meal in an idol temple,
will not the conscience of that one who is weak be built up to the
point of eating foods offered to idols.")

The speaker pointed out that this verse is quite difficult to
understand. Are we to assume that first-century Christians reclined
in idol temples, as they cleaned their dishes of meat sacrificed to

The speaker explained the text somewhat in the way that Marion Soards
does in the New International Biblical Commentary. Hope you enjoy
this point:

"The verse creates complications for interpretation, because Paul
specifically mentions the possible presence of believers in the
temple of pagan deities. Whether Paul is discussing a possibility, a
probability, or a reality is impossible to determine; he may be
overstating the case to make his point with indisputable
clarity . . . Whatever kind of meat and wherever someone may eat it,
Paul's point is this: if Christians give no thought to their actions
when those actions are controversial, then although their actions are
seemingly correct for them, others who do not share their convictions
may misunderstand and be led astray" (1 Corinthians, page 178).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tweaking an Old Argument Pertaining to Divine Foreknowledge (Editing Stage)

It is quite possible that God knows all that is knowable (possible to know) and only all that is knowable. This would mean that Jehovah knows the potential as potential, the indeterminate as indeterminate, that which is necessary as that which is necessary and that which is actual as that which is actual. He also would know the incongruent or false as either incongruent or false. Hence, we could express the situation in the following ways.

(1) If P, God knows that P.
(2) If ~P, God knows that ~P.
(3) If potentially P, God knows that potentially P.
(4) If necessarily P, God knows that necessarily P.

And so forth. If I had more time I would refine these statements. Nevertheless, you should get the basic point: God knows the potential as potential or God possibly knows what is knowable. So if Adam and Eve had the potential to sin and their apostasy was just possibly or contingent (not necessary)--then God knew about Adam and Eve's deviation as a potential or contingent event (not as an actuality).

My position is not that God was required to act before the Fall if He knew that Adam and Eve would sin. Rather, the problem I have with many accounts of the Edenic Fall is that if Jehovah knows an event will surely happen prior to its occurrence, then it seems that we live in a deterministic universe and libertarian free will is evidently illusory. But quantum mechanics indicates that ontological contingency (indeterminacy) is part of our ontological experience (the subatomic cosmos is likely contingent, even if we cannot prove that the macrocosmic cosmos is too). Now if the cosmos is contingent and if ontological contingency is not an illusion, then God evidently knows the contingent nature of the subatomic cosmos as contingent (i.e., Jehovah does not know the subatomic cosmos as necessary). I believe that the same principle applies to human existence, which is highly contingent.

Conversely, if God already knew that Adam and Eve would fall away spiritually before He issued the command at Genesis 2:16-17, then knowledge of the Fall was apparently possessed before that divine warning and God's knowledge would have preceded Adam and Eve's opportunity to make their own choice regarding the tree in the midst of Eden. But I might simply point out that if God knew Adam and Eve would sin before they disobeyed Him, then it appears that Adam and Eve had no other choice but to sin. For if Jehovah knows at T1 that I will have a math test on quadratic equations at T2, then I will have a test on quadratic equations at T2. If I did not have the test on quadratic equations at T2, but God knew that I would have the test (i.e., He knew it as a necessary event), I would thereby falsify what God knew at T1.

Applying this principle to Adam and Eve: If God knew that the Fall was an actuality before it happened, then how could it not happen? If G (an omniscient Being) knows that at T1, Jones will cut his grass at T2, then it seems that Jones must cut his grass at T2. If Jones changes His mind and decides to go fishing at T2 instead, he would thereby falsify the belief that G held at T1. But since G is an omniscient Being, beliefs that G holds cannot be falsified. So Jones (or Adam and Eve) has no choice but to cut his grass at T2 if an omniscient G holds that Jones will act thus.


[I also want to clean up the "Jones" part, which derives from a work by Nelson Pike]