Sunday, December 17, 2017
The Philosophy of the Church Fathers
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
[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).
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”…
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…
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Preparing for the Coming Kingdom
Preamble: Matthew 5.47
Jeremias, NT Theology, pp 213-14:
"The breadth of the commandment to love is without parallel in the history of the time, & to this extent the 4th Gospel is quite correct in making Jesus describe [it as the new commandment, 13.34]. Whereas Jewish morality made a man’s personal enemy an exception to the commandment to love [‘You shall love your compatriot (Lev. 19.18) (but) you need not love your adversary’.], & indeed prohibited the giving of bread to sinners [Tobit 4.17 giving bread at a funeral]. Jesus requires his disciples to love even those who do them wrong & persecute them. Still more, they are to pray for them (Matt. 5.44)."
Anything Christians can do? To resist or not to resist? Matt. 5.38-41
2 Cor. 10.1-6, J.B. Phillips:
“Now I am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and sympathy of Christ himself. The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Once we are sure of your obedience we shall not shrink from dealing with those who refuse to obey.”
REMEMBER: Ps 34.21
“Evil people [will eventually] self-destruct.”
Greg Boyd, A Kingdom Not of This World: http://reknew.org/2017/08/kingdom-not-world/
“Jesus was acknowledging that he was indeed a king, but not over any particular [nation, peoples, political party]. He was thus declaring that his kingdom was no more aligned with the nation of Israel than with any other nation, [evidence] that Jesus believed this nationalistic program had come to an end with him….Hence, there’s in Christ no longer any place for attaching any significance to one’s nationality or ethnicity [i.e., neither Jew or Gentile/male or female, Gal. 3:28].”
Friday, September 15, 2017
By Barbara Buzzard
“The complete novelty and uniqueness of Abba as an address to God in the prayers of Jesus shows that it expresses the heart of Jesus’ relationship to God. He spoke to God as a child to its father: confidently and securely, and yet at the same time reverently and obediently.” Marianne Meye Thompson points out that author Jeremias who helped to make the use of Abba popular as meaning ‘Daddy,’ retracted his earlier view that Abba was the language of a small child, almost like baby-talk. He later acknowledged that Abba is used as the address of an adult to one’s father. Jeremias wrote “It would have seemed disrespectful, indeed unthinkable, to the sensibilities of Jesus’ contemporaries to address God with this familiar word. Jesus dared to use Abba, that ‘even grown-up sons and daughters addressed their father as abba.’” As is often the case, we remember the erroneous version rather better than the correction, and pastors are still teaching that Abba equates to Daddy.
In the article, “Abba isn’t Daddy”, the author acknowledges that Jeremias did not argue that Jesus called God ‘Daddy.’
The term Abba apparently underwent a considerable extension of meaning, replacing an older form of address. “The effect of this widening of meaning was that the word ‘abba’ as a form of address to one’s father was no longer restricted to children, but also used by adult sons and daughters. The childish character of the word (‘daddy’) thus receded, and ‘abba’ acquired the warm, familiar ring which we may feel in such an expression as ‘dear father.’”
An interesting observation comes from Gal. 4. Paul argues that those under the Spirit have become heirs, and therefore adults – they would have outgrown the speech of young children. Paul’s argument here is to emphasize maturity; to use the words appropriate to a young child would have been self-defeating. All of which is to say that since Jesus used Abba as our example – we can be sure that it is the appropriate address.
“Evidently ‘Abba’ was the word which the later church regarded as especially important and sacred, being characteristic of Jesus’ relationship to God…when applied to God it expressed a great and even familiar intimacy and personal closeness which every Jew must have regarded as shocking. On the other hand we must not read into the word a commonplace familiarity with God or even the degrading of God’s divine stature. In Jesus’ usage Abba has for its context the proclamation of the coming reign of God. The Father-God is at the same time the Lord God whose name must be hallowed, whose Kingdom is coming.”
 Joachim Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, pp. 62,63; New Testament Theology, pp. 67, 68.
 James Barr, “Abba Isn’t ‘Daddy’”
 New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 614.
 William Kasper, The God of Jesus.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Genesis: Tanner, “Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1, Bibliotheca Sacra 166 (April–June 2009): 181–200.
“This tendency in Jewish circles to see the 70 weeks fulfilled in Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70 is even more strongly affirmed in the Jewish chronological work, Seder Olam Rabbah [c. A.D. 160] the chronology espoused therein became commonly accepted in subsequent Jewish writings, including the Talmud & the consensus of Jewish rabbinical scholars.”
What Did Jesus Say: Young, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary, p 215.
“It is assumed that when Christ spoke of the abomination of desolation, he had in mind [Dan. 9:24-27]. Since therefore he regarded the abomination as future, the 70th seven in which the abomination is to occur, must also be future [Matt. 24:15-16; Luke 21:20-21].”
Why Antiochus Doesn’t Fit: ESV Study Bible, Dan. 11.44-45:
“One striking difference between Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Antichrist lies in the events surrounding the king’s death, which do not fit what is known of the death of Antiochus IV. He met his end during a relatively minor campaign against Persia in 164 b.c., not between the sea and Jerusalem after a grand and successful assault on Egypt. When compared to the precision of fulfillment of the previous verses of ch. 11, these verses may be looking for a greater fulfillment that is yet to come at the time of the end. the glorious holy mountain. This is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which perhaps here should be connected to the fall of the Antichrist in the battle of Armageddon (cf. Rev. 16:13–16).”
The Abomination: a thing or a person? A. B. Mickelson, Interpreting the Bible, 1972, p. 293.
“Hence person and thing are intermingled in the imagery….In Matthew the abomination is described as a thing which stands in a holy place (24.15). But in Mark a neuter noun (‘abomination’) is modified by a masculine participle. This strange grammatical shift shows that for Mark the abomination is a person who stands where he ought not to stand (Mark 13.14). The man of lawlessness in 2Thess 2 is clearly an individual, [the] product of the mystery of lawlessness which is continually operating.”
Antiochus or Titus? Archer, “Daniel”, Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol. 7.
“It is important to observe that [Mat 24.15] conclusively proves that Jesus himself regarded the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel as yet future…This means that a genuine theological or doctrinal issue is at stake here; for if the hypothesis of complete fulfillment by Antiochus is correct, as many liberals insist, it raises a real question as to whether [Jesus] was mistaken in his understanding of prophecy and the theological interpretations of the OT.”
Keil, The Book of Daniel, pp 354-85.
“The reference of this prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans [is] not thereby proved, because in his discourse Christ spoke not only of this destruction of the ancient Jerusalem, but generally of his parousia & the end of the age (Matt. 24:3), & referred the words of Daniel of the Kingdom to the parousia of the son of man.”
Addendum: “the wing of abominations.” Archer, “Daniel”, Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol 7
The phrase “that causes desolation” [lit. “a desolator of abominations”] bears an interesting resemblance to [“the abomination that causes desolation”, Dan 11.31; & “the abomination that causes desolation”, Dan 12.11; cf. Matt. 24.15] Significantly the evangelist inserted the parenthetical exhortation “Let the reader understand.” It is important to observe that this reference…conclusively proves that Jesus himself regarded the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel as yet future rather than as having been completely realized in the time of Antiochus Ephipanes, as the Maccabean date hypothesis supposes.
“At that time…” Dan. 12.1: Anderson, Signs & Wonders: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel:
“The artificial chapter division at this point should not be allowed to obscure the very real nexus between 11.45 [death of Anti-Christ] & 12.1….The immediate context of vv.1-3 [i.e., resurrection] is clear beyond question & is integral to a proper understanding of their significance.”
WBC, Daniel, Goldingay:
“The phrase [At that time, Dan 12.1] again indicates continuity with what precedes…”
Nothing wrong with types: D.J. Moo, The Case for the Posttribulation Rapture Position:
“[Jesus probably] ‘telescopes’ A.D. 70 & the end of the age in a manner reminiscent of the prophets, who frequently looked at the end of the age through more immediate historical events.”
Miller, New American Commentary, “Daniel”, p. 206-211:
“Denying religious liberty is characteristic of dictators (e.g. Antiochus IV, Nero, Domitian, Stalin, Hitler, and others), but antichrist will go beyond what anyone has done before in his attempt to create a thoroughly secular world.”
Ezekiel, Daniel, Thompson, Comfort, Carpenter, pp 427-29:
“While this commentary maintains that Antiochus…foreshadowed the little horn spoken of in chapter 7 as well as the mysterious figures in 9.27 and 11.36-39, 40-45; 12.1-7, 8-13, it also asserts that this book of Daniel does not find its ultimate culmination in this historical figure. The figure portrayed in these latter passages far surpasses the diabolical deeds of Antiochus.”
Last Word: International Critical Commentary, Matthew 19-28:
“In the background [to Matt. 24.14] is the Old Testament motif of the nations’ end-time conversion to Yahweh. Here that conversion heralds the end.” Cp. Isa 2.2-4; 45.14-15, 20-25; Micah 4.1-5.
· 1 & 2 Maccabees, c. 2nd cen. BC.
· Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, c. 90s AD.
· Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls, J. J. Collins.
· The Book of the Prophet Daniel, Keil & Delitzsch.
· Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 7, ‘Daniel ’ by Archer.
· New American Commentary, “Daniel” by Miller.
· Daniel, The Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, Walvoord.
· The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew & English Lexicon.