Sunday, April 29, 2018

Divine Passive: Jesus Sayings About God


R. Martin, Approaches to NT Exegesis, p. 237:
“[The divine passive became] customary, with an extended usage, on Jesus’ lips. He uses it over 100x [Mat 5.4; Luke 12.7].”

Jeremias, NT Theology, p 11:
“The divine passive occurs round about 100 times in the sayings of Jesus.”

N.T. Wright, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians & to Philemon, p. 71:
“The [divine passive denotes] in a typically Jewish fashion, the activity of God the Father, working in the Son.”

Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, p 437:
“The passive is also used when God is the obvious agent. Many grammars calls this a divine passive (or theological passive), assuming that its use was due to the Jewish aversion to using the divine name [So BDF, 71 (§130.1); Zerwick, Biblical Greek, 76 (§236); Young, Intermediate Greek, 135-36. Cf. also J. Jeremias, NT Theology 9 -14, especially finds it on the lips of Jesus].”

 “Jesus’ Avoidance of the Divine Name,” Soulen, Jesus and the Divine Name:
The “divine passive” is so typical of Jesus that a full survey basically amounts to a recapitulation of his public teaching.

• x times in Mar 2.5, 9, 20;
3.28;
4.11-12, 24-25;
8.12, 17
9.31, 45, 47, 49;
10.40;
12.10
13.11, 13
14.41


• x time in Luke 4.25, 43;
6.21, 37-38;
7.47
10.15, 20
11.2, 9-10, 50-51
12.2, 7, 10, 31, 48;
13.28, 32, 34-35
14.11, 14
16.25-26
17.10, 34-35;
18.14
19.42
22.16, 22
24.7


• 41x in Matthew 5.4, 6-7, 9, 29;
6.7, 33;
7.1-2, 7-8, 19;
8.12
9.29
10.19, 26, 30;
12.31-32, 37, 39
13.11-12;
15.13;
16.4, 19;
18.18
19.11;
20.23;
21.43;
23.12, 37-38;
24.13, 40-41;
25.29, 34, 41;
26.42
28.18

• 2x in John 3.18;
16.11

Is Jesus God?
"What Does God Do? Divine Actives and Divine Passives in the Gospel of Matthew"
Robert L. Mowery:
“The divine passive are statements that variously identify God as Theos (9:8; 19:6), Lord of the harvest (9:38), the Father (10:20; 11:25; 16:17; cf. 18:14, 19), the One who created (19:4).”
“The verbs in many of these [Sermon on the Mount] statements are divine passives. Many 21st century readers may need assistance in recognizing that God is the implied agent of these verbs.”


Addendum: The Divine Name
Jeremias, Theology, 9-14, p. 9.
"…the use of the passive in place of the divine name."

The forbidding of oaths by Jesus [Mat 5.37] “had in view the guarding against a misuse of the divine name…a conscious avoidance of the name of God.” Dalman, The Words of Jesus, p 229.

Jesus Then and Now: Images of Jesus in History and Christology, Eds. Meyer, Hughes, p 33:
“Abuse of the divine name was punishable by death (Lev. 24.10-11, 14-16, 23; Sanhedrin 7.5). But Jesus does not invoke the divine name [in Mar 2.5]. He pronounces forgiveness, employing the theological passive.”

Karen Kilby, Too Many Trinities? Kendall Soulen’s Trinitarian Trinitarianism in Pro Ecclesia Vol 23-N1: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology, p 29:
“The practice of piety toward the divine name precisely by its avoidance continues in the NT, even if contemporary Christians might often miss this. Jesus, for instance, shows reverence for the divine name in his rejection of oaths, in his distinctive use of ‘Amen, Amen,’ and in his employment of the divine passive (‘Blessed are they,’ ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven,’ etc.).”

The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, Robert H. Stein, pp 64:
“A second way in which the devout Jew sought to avoid the utterance of the sacred name of God was by the use of the divine passive [Mat 5.4; 7.1, 7; 10.30; Mar 4.25]….the number of examples we find and the clarity of many of them clearly indicates that the devout Jew frequently sought to avoid the danger of breaking the Third Commandment by means of this passive construction as well as by the substitution or circumlocution.”

Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13, Robert H. Stein, p 26:
“Since Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic, the presence of Aramaic terms and of customs of Aramaic-speaking Jews in Palestine, such as the avoidance of God’s name by the use of the ‘divine passive’ [a passive tense allows the avoidance of the mention of God as the subject of the action, i.e., Mat 7.1, 7; 10.30; Mar 4.25; 10.40], as well as the substitution of another term for God [e.g., ‘kingdom of heaven’ and Mat 5.34-35; 6.9; Mar 11.30; 14.61-62; Luke 6.35; 12.8-9; 15.10, 21], suggests that in such cases we may well be dealing with a saying or custom that reflects the situation of Jesus.”

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Donald Goergen, p 210:
“A speech pattern characteristic of Jesus although not unique is his use of circumlocutions for God. From the prohibition against pronouncing the tetragrammaton, the proper name for God (YHWH, Yahweh) there also arose the custom of avoiding direct talk about God, speaking of God periphrastically or by circumlocution. Jesus did not necessarily avoid the word God, but he seems to have preferred to do so. Especially notable in the language of Jesus is his use of ‘the divine passive,’ avoiding direct reference to God by use of the passive [Mar 2.5].

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Kenneth E. Bailey, p 109:
“Jews of the first century were very careful not to use God’s name unless it was absolutely necessary. They sense that any casual use of God’s holy name might inadvertently break the Ten Commandments [Ex 20.7]. More than 200 cases of the divine passive are found in the words of Jesus in the Gospels. This is one of the distinctive characteristics of Jesus’ speech as a 1st century Jew.”

The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide, James H. Charlesworth:
“…evidence of Semitics (Hebrew and Aramaic forms) usually indicates tradition received by the Evangelists. [Examples include] the use of the divine passive so as to avoid using the name God.”

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament, Köstenberger, Merkle, Plummer:
“The assumption is that God is not mentioned in the context because of the Jewish aversion to using the divine name (lest they use it in vain). For instance, some of the blessings that Jesus offers in the Beatitudes are given in the passive voice with no agent mentioned [Mat 5.4, 7, 9].”

Knocking on Heaven's Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer, David Crump, pp 116-7:
“Eager to avoid even inadvertent slights to God’s holiness, ancient Judaism devised various circumlocutions that would allow a person to talk about God without actually using the divine name [Mat 7.2].”

From Gethsemane to Pentecost: A Passion Study, Elizabeth Danna:
“By using passive verbs [Mar 4.24-25] Jesus hints that it is God who will be doing the measuring, giving, and taking. This was a Jewish custom, which arose shortly before Jesus’ time, to avoid unintentional irreverent use of God’s name.”

History of the Kingdom of God, Part 2: Liturgy and the Building of the Kingdom, Sofia Cavalletti, p 25:
The prayer that Jesus taught us, therefore, begins by affirming that it is directed to the “Father” who is God. There are three petitions that follow, the first and third of which are redacted in the verbal form called “divine passive” or “royal passive”; this is often found in the sayings of Jesus. It is a paraphrase that is used to avoid speaking about God in direct terms, for the sake of the utmost reverence due to God; it has been called the “reverential passive.”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ezekiel 12 Notes


Ezek. 12.2: “eyes cannot see, ears cannot hear” because God gave them "a spirit of stupor/slumber," i.e., stupefied! Rom 11.7-10

·       Romans 11.7: Contra Calvin, cp. Judaism rejects Jesus, Acts 13.46.

Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, "It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.”

Why would God “blind/harden” your heart? Rom. 1.18-32

·       The “they” keeps piling up throughout the chapter;

·       2 Peter 2.20-22: v.22 “The wicked returns to its vomit, returns to roll around in its mud.”

Benson Commentary

"By their own willful prejudice [were furthered blinded/hardened], a metaphorical expression taken from the skin of the hand, made hard by labor [work of evil]."



Ezek. 12.12-14: Prophecy fulfilled, 2 Kgs 25:7; Jer. 52:11 Zedekiah blinded before being deported to Babylon.

·       12.16: “a few people left,” cp. Isa. 24.6few people are left.”

NOTE: “few people” = remnants for every surviving nation that makes it into the KOG, like the church/saints, Isa 19.18f. Zech. 14.16; Jer. 46.26; 48.47; 49.6; 49.39; Ezek. 16.53.

·       12.22: A call for patience in the face of unbelief: "Time passes and the end doesn’t come" cp. Mat 24.45-51, esp. v. 48 where “evil people = “will not come back soon,” or he has come back!

NOTE: Delay/Pause: Mar 13.7-10; Luke 17.22; 18.1-8; 19.11-27; Mat 24.36-51; Mat 25.1-5; 14-19.


Ezek. 12.21, 23, 25: “soon” but not yet = “near” but not here:

·       The Day of the Lord” is always “at hand”: Zeph. 1.14; Ezek. 30.3; Oba 1.15; Joel 1.15.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dr. Wolfson from Harvard quotes

The Philosophy of the Church Fathers



p 142:
“Christianity did not substitute the belief in Jesus for the Jewish belief in the unity of God…and, inasmuch as Jews were wont to confess the belief in the unity of God twice daily and inasmuch as Jesus himself had declared [the Shema as] “the first of all commandments,” [Mar 12.29] it was only natural that the Christians should repeat that old confession of belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah. It is quite possible that among the early Jewish followers of Jesus the confession of belief in him as the promised Messiah was added to the recitation of the [Shema] but later, perhaps among the pagan converts to Christianity, this old traditional Jewish [creed] was rephrased and integrated with the new Cgristian confession of belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah.”


pp 306-07:
To Paul there was no inconsistency between calling Christ Lord or the Lord or God and the belief in the unity of God. With perfect ease he could proclaim that “there is no God but one,” [1Cor 8.4; cf. 8.5; Eph. 4.3-6] reechoing Jesus’ declaration that [the Shema] constituted the first of all commandments. And so also in the case of John [1.1] he did not necessarily mean to assert the divinity of the Logos…In the case of Philo, he himself explains that the name “God” which he interprets to mean the Logos is not the real God, who is usually called “the God,” [On Dreams, 39] and furthermore that the Logos is called God only “by catachresis” [ibid.]…In short, he would say that the Logos is called God only in the sense that it is “divine” [theion, On Abraham, 41]. This is also what John could have meant when he said that “the Logos was God.” [John 1.1] And so in the case of John, too, there is no conclusive evidence that he held the Logos to be God in the literal sense of the term and so he, too, saw no inconsistency between his assertion that the Logos was God and the established belief in the unity of God, which is reaffirmed by him in his report that Jesus addressed God as “the only true God.” [John 17.3] The very fact that as late as the 4th century there were those within Christianity who, despite their acceptance of the Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of John, still argued against the divinity of the preexistent Christ shows that there was nothing in these writing which could be taken as conclusive evidence of a belief on the part of Paul and John that the preexistent Christ was God in the literal sense of the term.

By the time of the Apologists, with the new harmonization of the Synoptics with the Epistles of Paul and the Fourth Gospel, when the Christian God had become the begetter of the earthly Christ, He also became the begetter of the preexistent Christ…he was generated by God after the analogy of the offspring of a human father…Philosophically minded Christ Fathers found support for this kind of reasoning in the philosophic principle that that which is generated must be of the same species as that which generates it, to which Aristotle have expression in his statement that “man begets man.” [Metaphysics 8, 7, 1032a, 23-24; cf. 9, 8, 1049b, 27-29; Augustine, Cont. Maximin. 2, 6] It was under this changed conception of the origin of the preexistent Christ that Paul’s declaration that Christ was “equal with God” and John’s declaration that “the Logos was God” began to be taken literally. The preexistent Christ, now identified with the Logos, was not merely divine, he was God. And similarly the Holy Spirit, now definitely distinguished from the preexistent Christ…was recognized as an object of worship and adoration by the side of God and the Logos. [J. Martyr, Apol. 1, 6]…the Fathers found themselves confronted with a new problem…how to reconcile their new Christian belief in three Gods with their inherited Jewish belief in one God.

pp 309-312:
The question as it posed to [the Apologists] was: How can three beings, each of them a God, constitute one God? To them, that was a mystery, which they tried, if not to solve, at least to free from the charge of its being self-contradictory and meaningless, and this by showing how philosophers in a variety of ways justify the common practice of designating the many by the term one…and if, therefore, they are still to be regarded as one, some new interpretation has to be given to the concept of the unity of God.
The new interpretation…is that God’s unity is not absolute but only relative. They boldly reject the Philonic conception of the unity of God as a God who is “alone” [monos, Leg. All. 2, 1, 2] and with whom nothing is combined as his “equal”…for “God is alone and one in virtue of himself, and like God there is nothing.” [ibid, 2, 1, 1; cf. Philo, 1, pp. 171-172]…Thus the Fathers in direct opposition to Philo maintain that the unity of God preached by Moses and reaffirmed by Jesus is not absolute unity but relative unity—a unity which would allow within it a combination of three distinct elements. From now on the search among the Fathers will be for a kind of relative unity that would be most suitable for the belief in the Trinity.

pp. 313-16.
An explanation of the mystery of triunity [to explain] the relative unity of God [as opposed to the absolute unity taught in the Bible], is based upon Aristotle’s discussion of unity. The term one, says Aristotle, is a relative term…He then proceeds to enumerate 5 types of unity [the fourth being] three species of beings, such as horse, man, and dog, may be called one, because they are all animals. This is called unity of genus…It is with this Aristotelian analysis…of relative unity in the back of their mind that the Fathers, we imagine, started on their search for an analogy of the relative unity in the Trinity…Aristotle calls one in “formula” or “essence,” that is, one in “species.” Sometimes the Greek term ousia is used…Sometimes the Latin term substantia is used, in which case it is a translation of the Greek ousia in the sense of “second ousia” and hence it means “species” or “genus” or it is a translation of the Greek hypostatis in the sense of hypokeimenon and hence it means “substratum.”

pp. 361-363
[The Church Fathers’ conception of the Trinity was] a combination of Jewish monotheism and pagan polytheism except that to them this combination was a good combination; in fact, it was to them an ideal combination of what is best in Jewish monotheism and of what is best in pagan polytheism, and consequently they gloried in it and pointed to it as evidence of their belief. We have on this the testimony of Gregory of Nyssa: “The truth passes in the mean between these two conceptions, destroying each heresy, and yet, accepting what is useful to it from each. The Jewish dogma is destroyed...while the polytheistic error of the Greek school is made to vanish by the unity of the nature abrogating this imagination of plurality” (Oratio Catechetica 3).
[And John of Damascus, the last of the Church Fathers, writes]: “On the one hand, of the Jewish idea we have the unity of God’s nature, and, on the other, of the Greek, we have the distinction of hypostases, and that only” (De Fide Orth. 1, 7).

pp 420-21:
Accordingly, when the Fathers speak of the perichoresis of two things into one another they mean thereby the same as when the Stoics speak of the mutual coextension (antiparektasis) of two things into one another at all points…[This] really means an attempt to explain it by the analogy of the Stoic “mixture” [John of Damascus, Dialect. 65, PG 94, 66a A.; and] the analogy of the Aristotelian “predominance”…

pp 578-579:
2. Heresies with Regard to the Preexistent Christ
The problems arising from the relation of the preexistent Christ to God had their origin in the two conflicting elements which orthodox Christianity tried to harmonize. On the one hand, there was the original Jewish [Shema] reaffirmed in the NT…On the other hand, there was the newly arisen belief that the Logos was God or that both the Logos and the Holy Spirit were Gods. Already by the time of Justin Martyr, with the very first attempts at the rationalization of Christian beliefs, this inconsistency became apparent and the search of a solution began.
The solution advanced by the orthodox Fathers…is a solution by harmonization, an attempt to combine, as Gregory of Nyssa characterizes it, the monotheism of the Jews [Shema] and the polytheism of the Greeks. The method…was to thin down [the Shema] as a concession to Greek polytheism. The unity of God was not to mean…absolute unity [see Philo]; it was to mean relative unity…