Thursday, September 15, 2016

Evolution, earlier life, and can openers


Here presented are a series of articles in succession regarding an amazing paleontological discovery in Greenland, and the ramifications for life's origins:
  1. Greenland Fossils, Earth's Oldest, Pose an Evolutionary Dilemma by David Klinghoffer
  2. Evolution Just Got Harder to Defend by Eric Metaxas
  3. Eric Metaxas on "Evolution's Can Opener" by David Klinghoffer

Related blog entry:

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Identifying Jesus

The Transfiguration

As introduced here previously,[1] Dr. Hugh Ross works tirelessly to show the harmony between science and Genesis. While I am moved to applaud these efforts, I must also address his occasional Trinitarian apologetics. His latest such effort, “If Jesus is God, Why Did He Call Himself the Son of Man?”[2] will now be appraised in the usual fashion, in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6 and 17, with his comments being prefaced by HR and mine by JS.

HR: I have met a lot of skeptics and cultists who assert that Jesus never claimed to be God.

JS: Denigrating your opponents like Jehovah’s Witnesses as “cultists” is frankly unprofessional and does nothing to reflect the love and respect that Christians are admonished to show others. (1 Peter 3:15) Calling them non-Trinitarians would have clearly sufficed, but no, that term lacks the biting force that the pejorative “cultist” has. Additionally, it is extremely unlikely that any non-Trinitarians will be attracted to Trinitarianism after being insulted with an inappropriate rebuke.

HR: Rather, they say he referred to himself as the son of man. It is not just skeptics and cultists [Here we go again!] who are troubled by this issue. I have met just as many Christians [Trinitarians] who ask, “If Jesus is the Son of God, why did he so consistently refer to himself as the son of man?” The common follow-up question is how can I be certain that Jesus is really God and that the Trinity is a correct doctrine? [emphasis original]

Whole books have been written answering these questions.

JS: The goal then would be to read the right books!—Ecclesiastes 12:12.

HR: My goal here is to provide three brief yet adequate answers that you can quickly share with people expressing these kinds of challenges, concerns, and doubts.

JS: I strive to remain completely objective and not be emotionally invested into any paradigm or position, no matter how long it’s been held or how near and dear it has been to my heart. If HR thus fulfills his word and provides “adequate answers” demolishing opposition to Trinitarianism, then I will seek the true God with him. If not, then I must express why they are inadequate in clear, respectful, and heartfelt terms. These three “adequate answers” he provides have to do with:
  1. The outdated Trinitarian handling of John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14.
  2. Jeremiah 23:6 but ignoring Jeremiah 33:16.
  3. Failing to include Revelation 1:13, 14:14 and other relevant scriptures.
Thus, I am very disappointed and feel behooved to offer responses to these arguments that quite frankly strike me as unprofessional and invalid.

HR: First, while Jesus in the gospels almost always referred to himself as the “son of man,” there is at least one occasion where he explicitly claims to be God. The gospel text is John 8:58, where Jesus declares to the Jewish religious leaders, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” Here, Jesus assumes the name God had assigned to himself in Exodus 3:14, “I AM who I AM. This what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” The Jewish religious leaders clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, and it is evidenced by the fact that they attempted to stone him to death for his act of “blasphemy.”

JS: Yes, Jesus frequently referred to himself as the “son of man” across the four Gospels. Also, I am very glad to see HR posit “at least one occasion” where Trinitarianism teaches that Jesus “explicitly claims to be God.” Thus, a close examination of this only “one” Jesus=God proof text is in order, John 8:58.[3][4] If it can be clearly demonstrated that John 8:58 is not a proof text, that Jesus was in-fact not explicitly claiming to be God, then that would mean that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ever claim to be God. The stakes are high indeed, so let’s proceed:

Taking for granted that “I AM” (‘ego eimi’) is the divine name in John 8:58, let’s run a simple test. This claim that Jesus is assuming the name of God from Exodus 3:14 can be easily tested by replacing “I AM” with another divine name or designation, like “God,” and observing the results.

[test]
“Before Abraham was, God.”
[end of test]

This declaration as it stands is nonsensical. To make sense, it needs the words “I existed as” or “I was,” or something similar: “Before Abraham was, I was God.”

The same is true with “Before Abraham was, I AM.” It needs more words to be complete, like “Before Abraham was, I was I AM.” But, the Greek text does not say that, for it would have to be emended from πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί to πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἦμην ὁ ἐγὼ εἰμί, where ἦμην means “I was” and ὁ signifies that ἐγὼ εἰμί (‘ego eimi’) is a name.

What John 8:58 says as opposed to how Trinitarianism reads it:
  • πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί
  • πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἦμην ὁ ἐγὼ εἰμί
Therefore the Greek words ‘ego eimi’, translated according to many translations as “I am,” are part of the sentence and should be translated likewise. “I am” is an interlinear translation or a hyper-literal translation, therefore not completing the translation process. If a Bible says something like “I have been,” it shows an attempt to do just that, complete the translation process into a literal translation. In fact, the 1996 edition of the New Living Translation has “Jesus answered, ‘The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!’” It places “I am” in a footnote.[5] Also, the 1963, 1971 editions of the NASB have “I have been” as a variant reading in the margin. See Figure 1:

Figure 1
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The NASB Editorial Board explained that the reason for the marginal notations are for “assisting the reader's comprehension of the terms used by the original author,” and gave this reason for the above marginal note: “the translation “I have been” was originally given simply as a smoother, more grammatically correct (in English) rendering.”[6]

Therefore, the Trinitarian translation not only has Jesus failing at proper communication, but it also has Jesus not following a simple conversation. True, the Pharisees he was conversing with were being unreasonable, but Jesus was attempting to answer their last question in a sensible way, not changing the subject. Indeed, they were asking him, “You are not yet 50 years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” As Jesus began his reply with Abraham, it is clear that his intent was to answer their question—if he existed before Abraham or not, which he answered affirmatively. But if that is the extent of it, then why did they want to stone him? The answer is in paying close attention to the context. First, John 8:20 provides the setting: the Temple compound in the treasury area which would locate him in the Court of Women where four massive menorah lamps are reported to have stood that illuminated this Temple courtyard, and doubtlessly symbolized spiritual illumination for the world. It was before these sacred lamps then that Jesus declared in verse 12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NIV)
Thus, his opponents who had a murderous disposition could judge Jesus as unworthy of being in the Temple based on both blaspheming it (in their view) and existing prior to, and therefore being greater than, Abraham. They also charged him with demon-possession in verses 48 and 52, which would at the very least call for his expulsion from the Temple. (While they did revile him as a Samaritan in verse 48, it is interesting that they did not call him a Gentile violating the Soreg wall, which would have been punishable by death.) Therefore their response in verse 59 of driving him away with stones is compatible with Jesus declaring that he, not he Temple, was the light of the world, and as the final straw, that he existed before Abraham, injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige. This interpretation takes the context and language into account, unlike the Trinitarian handling.


To recap: at the minimum the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for:
  • Blaspheming the Temple (saying he’s the “light of the world,” brighter than the Temple lamps)
  • Injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige for existing prior to him and thus being greater than him.
Accordingly, it is high-time for Trinitarians to terminate their clear and obvious misuse and abuse of John 8:58.

HR: Second, the Old Testament in Jeremiah 23:6 assigns the name YHWH (I AM) to the righteous Branch, the King, who will come from the lineage of David. Jesus in several places in the gospel claims to be this righteous Branch and King.

JS: Ignoring the “YHWH (I AM)” statement, there are some responses in order. First, in both Exodus 23:21 and Zechariah 3:1-2 the angel of the Exodus and the angel of YHWH (in this case arguably the same person) are called by the divine name YHWH. This is shown in the NET Bible footnotes. The Exodus 23:21 footnote for “name” says in part: “Driver quotes McNeile as saying, ‘The “angel” is Jehovah Himself “in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.”’” For Zechariah 3:1-2 a footnote informs us that: “The juxtaposition of the messenger of the LORD in v. 1 and the LORD in v. 2 shows that here, at least, they are one and the same.” Thus, there is a scriptural precedent for representing God and bearing his name in a representational sense. So all Jeremiah 23:6 could be saying then is that Jesus represents YHWH, Jehovah God. Regarding Jeremiah 23:6, HR and his colleagues would do well to notice that Jeremiah 33:16 also “assigns the name YHWH” to Jerusalem—the exact phrase in both scriptures being “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.” Thus Jerusalem would also represent Jehovah, but obviously not be Jehovah. Thus one scripture in Jeremiah helps us to properly understand another scripture in Jeremiah.[7] This is accepted and valid hermeneutic.

HR: Third, Jesus is making a special theological point about his deity in calling himself the son of man in the gospels. This point becomes clear in examining the New Testament. For every New Testament passage referring to Jesus Christ that happened chronologically after the first day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–41), Jesus is always referred to as the Son of God and never as the son of man. Conversely, in the gospels, Jesus consistently calls himself the son of man and never the Son of God.

JS: Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” as a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, of the enigmatic, messianic and apocalyptic human figure, “someone like a son of man,” who was exalted to God’s throne to rule in his name. This figure was enigmatic until Jesus identified him as himself. Following the Pentecost event as seen in Revelation 1:13 and 14:14, this figure “someone like a son of man” that Jesus identified as himself is seen again as a reigning king. Thus, HR’s first claim that following Pentecost “Jesus is always referred to as the Son of God and never as the son of man” is invalidated. Secondly, regarding HR’s second claim, Jesus called himself “Son of God” in John 10:36 where he said: “I am God’s Son.” Additionally, Jesus on earth was called God’s son by God Himself without any objection by Jesus—at his baptism: Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, see also John 1:34, and at his Transfiguration: Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35. Thus, HR’s second claim that while on earth he never called himself the Son of God is also invalidated.[8]

HR then uses this invalid dichotomy to base his next point on, that “the same kind of demarcation for the human followers of Jesus Christ,” that prior to Pentecost Christians “are always called sons of men or children of men and never as sons of God,” but following Pentecost Christians “are always called sons of God and never as sons of men.” And while it is true that Daniel was “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11, 19) yet was called a “son of man” (Daniel 8:17), this is another way of saying “human” and does not have the messianic, apocalyptic significance of Jesus’ identification based on Daniel 7:13-14. Similarly, the great prophet Ezekiel who had the rare privilege to behold the “visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1) was himself called “son of man” 93 times. This too is a reference to his humanity and is distinct from the meaning of Daniel 7:13-14.

In closing, I believe that Dr. Hugh Ross has been a powerful witness for God and Christ regarding the validity of creation. However, as he is an Evangelical Trinitarian, I can also identify where God and Christ have been misrepresented, and where authentic witnesses for God and Christ have been denigrated.

To err is easy and takes but a few words. To correct the error though demands wordiness proportionate to the magnitude of damage the error has inflicted.

Footnotes:


[3] One apologetic Trinitarian explained the great importance of John 8:58 for Trinitarianism this way: “This is a very important verse to Trinitarians because it is one of the places we use to show that Jesus is God. We maintain that Jesus attributed the divine name of God (“I AM” from Exodus 3:14), to Himself.” (Slick, Matt. John 8:58 and 10:30-33, “I am.” http://carm.org/religious-movements/jehovahs-witnesses/john-858-and-1030-33-i-am)

[4] As seen in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/b/r1/lp-e/int/E/1985/43/8#s=58


[6] Second graphic and correspondence presented in “The New American Standard Version and its alternative rendering in its marginal note to John 8:58’s “EGW EIMI,” 1963-1971. The implications.” https://web.archive.org/web/20050507035207/http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/newworldtranslation/newamericanstandard_john8.58.htm

[7] This is a known interpretation and I have elaborated on this further under the Excursus here: Trinitarian Samples http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html

[8] See also Matthew 14:33, 27:43, Luke 1:35 and John 19:7. Matthew 27:43 and John 19:7 appear to be recollections from Jesus’ enemies of his statement at John 10:36.


Related blog entries:

From Dr. Edgar Foster:

Related articles by Solomon Landers (1942-2013) on Coptic John 8:58:

Credits:
Pictures are from the book Jesus: The Way, The Truth, The Life (seen here https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/jesus/): Transfiguration scene is from chapter 60. Jesus teaching before the menorah lamp scene is from chapter 68. The John 8:59 scene is from chapter 69.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

A Problem of Papal Proportions


Pope Francis in one of his homilies said regarding Jesus:
He is the intercessor, the One who prays and prays to God with us and before us. Jesus has saved us, He gave us this great prayer, His sacrifice, His life, to save us, to justify us: we are righteous through Him. Now He's gone, but He still prays. Some ask, is Jesus a spirit? Jesus is not a spirit! Jesus is a person, a man, with flesh like ours, but full of glory. Jesus has the wounds on His hands, feet, sides, and when He prays to the Father He shows the price of justification, praying for us, as if to say: But, Father, let this not be lost!
http://www.romereports.com/2013/10/28/pope-s-mass-jesus-continues-to-pray-for-us

Thus he believes in the standard teaching that Jesus never sacrificed his body in that he got it back, and that he still has his original stigmata.

However, both the Pope and everyone else who agrees with him on this would do well to take seriously the Atonement Day drama where the High Priest passed though the curtain from the Holy to the Most Holy on Atonement Day with only the blood and not the body of the sacrificed animal. Also, the High Priest did not have to sprinkle the sacrificial blood continuously, but only 7 times. (Leviticus 16:14) Thus, Jesus would not need to be continuously suffering with gaping wounds showing them to his Father and God.

Also, it’s interesting that he says Jesus is praying now to his Father, and yet sees no contradiction to Trinitarianism where they are supposed to be equals.

Lastly, how in the world can Jesus now be a man “with flesh like ours” yet simultaneously have flesh that is ‘glorified’ which is not like ours? (Is it like a “force field” preventing his flesh from disintegrating in outer space?) Why is that obvious contradiction not addressed?

Sticking to the Bible would have prevented these problems of Gordian knot proportions.

Please see the following concise and engaging Bible-based articles:


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Friday, August 05, 2016

Skeptical About Trinitarianism

A “Q” from Star Trek

It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know.
~ Elihu (Job 32:9, 10 NIV)


“I get a lot of questions about science and the Trinity. My own mother resisted Christianity for several decades because for her the Trinity was a contradiction. Today, in my blog I show why science and the universe we live in only makes sense if God is triune.”—Hugh Ross on Facebook July 13, 2016

I really admire the overall mission of Astronomer Hugh Ross and the Old-Earth Creationist organization he founded and administers, Reasons to Believe (RTB), to demonstrate the harmony between science and scripture (the Bible).

However, from time to time he reminds us that he is a devout Trinitarian. He has recently done just that in a short essay on his website, emblazoned with a large red and yellow Triquetra, and confidently entitled: “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune.”[1]

In it, he rightly eschews physical analogies to the Trinity, like the (in)famous one for water, as unavoidably falling into the trap of Modalism.[2] Therefore, he uses what he calls ‘extra-dimensional and trans-dimensional analogies’ that avoid the Modalistic trap of the physical analogies. However, with these he acknowledges that “even the analogies I offer do not fully illustrate all the known features of the Trinity, let alone the unknown ones.”[3] This humble admission however does nothing to strengthen this presentation for Trinitarianism, especially since the Bible remains a closed book when using it—as I have not seen the scriptures I believe are relevant to the subject being referenced, as in the transcendence description in John 8:21, 23 and the passages presenting initial nonrecognition of Jesus’ resurrection body until an identifying mannerism.—Luke 24:15, 16, 30, 31 and John 20:14, 16.

By way of comparison, science fiction also employs the “extra-dimensional” genre when introducing new and exotic extraterrestrials. For example, in the Star Trek universe, there are extraterrestrial beings known as “the Q” who dwell in the “Q Continuum,” which is defined as “an extra-dimensional plane of existence.”[4] The Q person who introduced this realm to Star Trek even appeared once as a resplendent three-headed cobra orb—as seen in the opening graphic. While not attempting to illustrate Trinitarianism, it is easy to see how this unintentionally does so, for Trinitarian apologists like the esteemed Dr. William Lane Craig employ the three-headed dog Cerberus of Greek mythology. It is argued that if this “Hound of Hades” had an immortal soul (which by definition is immaterial and transcendent), then we would have an entity analogous to the Trinity, “a single tri-personal soul.” Thus the extra-dimensional person Q manifesting himself as tri-personal would also be analogous to the Trinity.[5]

With the above prolegomena presented, I will now begin appraising “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune” point-by-point, with Hugh Ross’ comments being prefaced with HR and mine by JS.

HR: In my book and DVD Beyond the Cosmos, I appeal to extra dimensions to offer better analogies for the Trinity, analogies that do not fall into a modalistic trap. Modalism is the heretical doctrine that avows that God is sometimes the Father but not the Son or Holy Spirit, at other times the Son but not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and at still other times the Holy Spirit but not the Father or the Son. The doctrine of the Trinity states that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always exist and are always fully functional as God and yet there is but one God. (underline added)

JS: When he says “always exist” he means forever into the past as well as future. However, as I stated in my rejoinder to his colleague Keneth Samples in “Trinitarian Samples,”[6] there are three overlooked fatal flaws in that underlined statement. The first has to do with the problem of the Holy Spirit being a person involved like an incubus in Mary’s impregnation and retaining her virginity, as well as the problem of becoming Jesus’ father when Jesus said “I live because of the Father” and not the Holy Spirit at John 6:57. The second deals with Jesus’ emphatic declarations in the Passion Narratives that he would be killed and resurrected, and condemned as a satanic lie that he would not really be dead. The third deals with Jesus’ own theology where he believed that the Father was God, and never once included his divine nature or the Holy Spirit into God. Thus, one can offer all the “extra dimensions” they want to escape the trap of Modalism and still fall into another trap of disagreeing with Jesus’ own teachings that he wholeheartedly believed in. Indeed, there does not seem to be any space here “between Scylla and Charybdis” for safe navigation.

HR: The analogies I offer, however, are still only analogies. They illustrate some but not all the characteristics and attributes of the Trinity. Because God transcends the space-time dimensions of our universe and is fully functional independent of the cosmic space-time dimensions and because our human powers of conception and imagination are limited by the space-time dimensions, it is impossible for us to gain more than a partial description and understanding of the Triune God.

JS: I appreciate his humility and concession that his recourse to extra- and trans-dimensions are analogies as opposed to explanations that they look and sound like, as well as being imperfect. As he also said: “In my book, Beyond the Cosmos, I offer some extra-dimensional analogies … but even the analogies I offer do not fully illustrate all the known features of the Trinity, let alone the unknown ones.” (See footnote 3.) This is a confusing admission. It appears to me though that we’re approaching God’s existence the same way, of locating him in another, nonmaterial realm, but then diverging in application—his being a Trinitarian application oblivious to how it contradicts Jesus. Lastly, I find it contradictory that he says that “our human powers of conception and imagination are limited by the space-time dimensions,” but then confidently discusses extra- and trans-dimensions.

HR: As to how we can better argue for and establish the existence of the Triune God, I have found by experience that one of the best ways is to show people how science makes sense only if God is Triune. (underline added)

JS: Therefore, all scientists who do not embrace Trinitarianism fail to make sense of science. This is a very bold and sweeping claim which he attempts to demonstrate. This bold claim also reminds one of a similar bold claim made popular by Theodosius Dobzhansky, that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” While HR rejects this claim, he as a Trinitarian promotes another one that we will see is of equal persuasive power.

HR: One example would be to point out that love is not possible unless there are at least two persons to express and receive love. The problem with strictly monotheistic religions like Islam and Judaism is that a non-loving entity supposedly created beings that give and receive love. How can the lesser create the greater?

JS: There are a number of problems with this set of claims:
  1. The first is that a person can love something and that love is not restricted to loving someone, and that a person can have the potential for expressing love—as in God before creation. Thus, HR’s claim that “love is not possible unless there are at least two persons to express and receive love” is an artificial Trinitarian constraint operating on his mind, preventing him from appreciating that a person:
    1. Can love something.
    2. Can have the potential for expressing love, which applies to God before creation began.
  2. The second problem here is that HR is interpreting the God of Judaism through the Trinitarian filter that God can only be love (1 John 4:8) if he is not a person but an impersonal construct housing distinct (not separate) persons. Thus he has his own preconceived Trinitarian bias built into his perception of the God of Judaism—that is, in his mind constrained by Trinitarianism, a single person cannot be love. However, what he is failing to take into account is that the God of Judaism, named Jehovah, is a person and is not presented as “a non-loving entity” in the Bible. Thus Jehovah can still be love and be a single person simultaneously. HR and his fellow Trinitarian colleagues would do well to ponder how Jehovah described himself to Moses at Exodus 34:6-7:
    Jehovah was passing before him and declaring: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth, showing loyal love to thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin.”
    Alternately, the NET Bible has Jehovah describing himself as “slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands.” So clearly then HR has misrepresented the God of Judaism who has presented himself as the gold-standard of expressing love and with the greatest potential of expressing love. But HR explains further:
HR: To put it another way, in strict monotheism, God must create in order to have any possibility of giving or receiving love. If God is a single person, he is unfulfilled until he creates. For the Trinitarian God, creation is an option. It is not a need.

JS: The fallacy here is that Jehovah God is “unfulfilled until he creates,” for He did not create to be fulfilled, but for others to enjoy living. As Acts 17:25 says, He does not need anything from us, and therefore certainly does not need love from us to feel fulfilled. Thus creation was not a need for Jehovah. Consequently, the Trinitarian claim about love is refuted by Acts 17:25.

At this point, a response could be: ‘What was a unipersonal God doing before creation?’ The direct answer is that divine revelation begins accounting for God’s activities starting with creation. That our human minds may not be able to comprehend what a unipersonal God may have been doing prior to that is irrelevant. Indeed, Jehovah even declared at Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Thus, it is perfectly harmonious with divine revelation that before creation God was loving because he had the greatest potential to express love, which was expressed when he commenced creating.

HR: The problem with polytheistic faiths is that the multiple gods possess different creation plans and goals. Thus, in polytheistic religions like Hinduism, there is the expectation that the natural realm will be inharmonious and filled with inconsistencies and unresolvable anomalies. However, centuries of scientific research reveal the opposite. The more we study the record of nature the greater level of harmony and consistency we see and the longer the list becomes of resolved anomalies.

Science, therefore, establishes why God in some sense must be uniplural, as the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) used in Genesis 1, implies. The uniplurality of God also explains why both singular and plural pronouns are used for God in Genesis 1:26-27.

JS: That is truly fascinating how “centuries of scientific research” reveal a “harmony and consistency” in nature indicating a common designer behind it. Thus, contrary to his opening claim that “science makes sense only if God is Triune,” he just argued that ‘science makes sense only if God is a person.’ Going any further than that is going beyond science—and into theology. His use of the non-Biblical term “uniplural” was not gleaned from science but from the Trinitarian handling of Elohim and Genesis 1:26-27 as he subtly revealed. These two handlings however are plagued with problems:
  1. First, Elohim never implies “uniplurality.” Strong’s dictionary defines it as “gods in the ordinary sense” and adds that it may also mean “the supreme God,” as a plural of excellence. The later way is how it appears in the Genesis creation account.
  2. Second, Genesis 1:26-27 has God saying “Let us make” in verse 26 but then has God alone creating in the following verse. However, the NET Bible explains what is happening here using the Bible and not human reasoning:
    In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8). ... If this is the case, God invites the heavenly court to participate in the creation of humankind (perhaps in the role of offering praise, see Job 38:7), but he himself is the one who does the actual creative work (v. 27).
Thus the Trinitarian handling of both Elohim and Genesis 1:26-27 are clear mishandlings, and the Trinitarian misuse of Genesis 1:26-27 fails to take other scriptures into account. These two Trinitarian failures constitute scholastic absenteeism for keeping both Hebrew and Biblical scholarship absent from discussion.

HR: One question that remains is why three Persons and not two, four, or more. Both creation and the redemption of billions of humans reveals a division of labor that points to three Persons.

JS: First, creation does not reveal “a division of labor that points to three Persons.” Instead, at a minimum it reveals a common designer as he revealed above, and scripturally Jehovah is the creator who used his Son Jesus in creation with the power of God’s holy spirit. (Genesis 1:2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:17)[7] Second, the scriptural case for redemption also does not reveal a Trinitarian division of labor, for God sent his Son Jesus to earth into Mary’s womb (Galatians 4:4) by the impersonal power of the holy spirit (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35)[8] for Jesus to die and be raised out of death by Him, by Jehovah God.—Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:2; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; Luke 18:31-33; Acts 2:32; 3:15; Galatians 1:1.[9]

HR: Also, John in his first epistle explains that God’s spiritual light in the world has three components: life, love, and truth, wherein the Son takes responsibility for bestowing life, the Father takes responsibility for bestowing love, and the Holy Spirit takes responsibility for bestowing truth.

JS: 1 John does not present “three components” in that Trinitarian manner—that is just his interpretation filtered through his Trinitarian theology. Demonstrating this is the very holy spirit. Regarding that, I think he has in mind 1 John 5:6-8, which says in part: “And the spirit is bearing witness, because the spirit is the truth.” However, this passage includes Jesus’ (baptismal) water and (sacrificial) blood with the spirit in bearing witness to the truth, which obviously are not included in the Godhead. Thus, his apparent reference to this passage ironically supports the interpretation that the holy spirit is not a person.

HR: Psychologists point out that when two people isolate themselves from the rest of humanity, they frequently become codependent in their relationship. A third person breaks the codependency. This need for three persons is illustrated in marriage. The bride and groom unite to become one where the bride and groom become an ezer (essential military ally) for one another. However, for this alliance to truly build an increasingly loving relationship and an increasingly productive ministry, the married couple must completely embrace God as their ezer. (italics original)

JS: In God’s rebuke of idolatry, he declared: “To whom will you liken me or make me equal or compare me, so that we should resemble each other?” (Isaiah 46:5) This demonstrates that the comparison to a human couple needing a third party is irrelevant.

HR: In conclusion, the universe, its life, and God’s plan revealed both in nature and Scripture for the redemption of billions of human beings reveals the work of three supernatural Persons who are one in essence, character, purpose, and plan.

JS: In conclusion, the universe, its life, and God’s plan revealed both in nature and Scripture for the redemption of billions of human beings reveals the work of Jehovah God and his celestial court, as exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ who surrendered his life in our behalf to furnish the ransom sacrifice, and who are one in essence, character, purpose, and plan.

Even though skeptical, I started out as honest-hearted and objective over Trinitarianism, for I need to know the truth about God. I honestly believe that if RTB can convince me that Trinitarianism is true, that I’ll change my mind. But after reading and studying “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune,” my skepticism remains as strong as ever, and this article has even convinced me further that Trinitarianism is a fallacious theology that constrains the minds of its adherents.

While devout Trinitarians can speak of trans- and extra-dimensional manifolds to explain God’s transcendence in being triune, I will be satisfied with Jesus’ own explanation found at John 8:21, 23:
“I am going away … Where I am going, you cannot come. … You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.”
Here Jesus spoke in terms agreeable to the intent of HR, that God dwells in a “higher” transcendent realm. As one source explains regarding Jesus’ ascension to heaven:
Jesus’ ascension, while beginning with an upward movement, from the viewpoint of his disciples, may have thereafter taken any direction required to bring him into his Father’s heavenly presence. It was an ascension not only as to direction but, more important, as to the sphere of activity and level of existence in the spirit realm and in the lofty presence of the Most High God, a realm not governed by human dimensions or directions. (underscore added)[10]
The upward movement was an illustration of the transcendence of the spirit realm, operating on a trans-dimensional level. Digressing from Jesus’ explanation and including him as a distinct (not separate) person within the Trinitarian Godhead creates analogical problems seen in the outset, for instance, of using an immortal soul of a mythological three-headed dog when Jesus stated quite clearly and forcefully on multiple occasions in his Passion Narratives that belief in an immortal soul is satanic.[11] Therefore, all attempts to explain or rationalize Trinitarianism become explorations in blasphemy. They all may even be reduced to what the Apostle Paul warned Christians of in Colossians 2:4 (NET Bible): “I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments that sound reasonable.” Here the NET Bible footnote explains:
Paul’s point is that even though the arguments seem to make sense (sound reasonable), they are in the end false. Paul is not here arguing against the study of philosophy or serious thinking per se, but is arguing against the uncritical adoption of a philosophy that is at odds with a proper view of Christ and the ethics of the Christian life.
Thus all honest truth seekers need to be careful to not be deceived by slick reasoning but instead keep all relevant scriptures in mind as our theological guide. The alternative is falling prey to the “doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) The Apostle Paul repeated this danger in his warning in 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NET Bible):
“But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
This is a clear, clarion call to be alert to doctrinal deception about the identity of God and Jesus Christ. As a result, just as the serpent is a symbol for deception, so the Q seen and discussed at the outset is ironically also a closer match to the Trinity due to appearing as serpentine.


Appendix: The Trinitarian Symbol of the Triquetra

One source says under “Germanic paganism” that:
The triquetra has been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins. It presumably had pagan religious meaning and it bears a resemblance to the valknut, a symbol associated with Odin.
Consequently, I really don’t think it’s appropriate to associate the Christian God with a pagan symbol potentially derived from the pagan god Odin—as this could indicate that theological derailment has occurred somewhere. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triquetra#Germanic_paganism and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valknut)


Footnotes:
[1] Found here: www.reasons.org/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/how-to-persuade-a-skeptic-that-god-must-be-triune and www.reasonsblogs.org/2016/07/13/how-to-persuade-a-skeptic-that-god-must-be-triune

[2] See: Popular Arguments some Trinitarians use that are on a Trinitarian "Never Use" List
jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2012/06/popular-arguments-some-trinitarians-use.html

[3] Facebook July 14, 2016

[4] “Q Continuum.” Memory Alpha. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Q_Continuum

[5] The Trinity and Siamese Twins. www.reasonablefaith.org/the-trinity-and-siamese-twins Here he explained that: “If the alien being is a tri-personal soul in one body, and the body dies, then, yes, we’d have a trinity. The difference is that it would be disembodied, whereas God is unembodied.” (italics original) Since Q was manifesting himself as an immaterial, transcendent three-headed cobra orb (as a being with “semi-transparent cobra-like heads extending from a brilliantly glowing sphere hovering above the ground, surrounded by lights”), then he is an even closer match to the Trinity than Cerberus. (“Aldebaran serpent.” Memory Alpha. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Aldebaran_serpent)

[6] jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html

[7] Regarding Colossians 1:17, a NET Bible footnote notes that “BDAG 973 s.v. συνίστημι B.3 suggests ‘continue, endure, exist, hold together’ here.” Reflecting this scholarship, the NWT has: “by means of [Jesus] all other things were made to exist.” John 1:3 concurs where it states that “through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made.” (NIV) Notice though the word “through” (from the Greek word dia). Thus it is harmonious with divine revelation that Jehovah the almighty creator created Jesus (John 6:57; Revelation 3:14) then everything else through him (1 Corinthians 8:6). Accordingly, Jehovah was the source of creation. This is also the position found in the BDAG lexicon, page 225, where we are told that dia refers to Christ “as intermediary in the creation of the world” at John 1:3.

[8] See this point explained further here: Holy Spirit and the Virgin Birth jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2010/11/do-you-reject-trinitarianism-part-ii.html

[9] Regarding the Trinitarian division of labor in salvation, see “Trinitarian Samples” under “The Trinity and Salvation” here: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html. For additional reading regarding those events in the Gospel accounts which are called the Passion Narratives, see: “A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke” here: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-lesson-from-jesus-rebuke-in-order-for.html. For additional reading regarding how God alone resurrected Jesus, see the “Excursus: Who resurrected Jesus?” in “Hebrews 5:7 and Trinitarianism: A Compatibility Crisis” here: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2012/09/hebrews-57-and-trinitarianism_11.html.

[10] Insight on the Scriptures under “Ascension (Correctness of the Term),” page 187.

[11] Jesus did this as seen in his second and most impassioned Passion Narrative recorded in Matthew 16:21-23 and Mark 8:31-33. Here, he identified any contradiction as ultimately originating with Satan. Thereafter, his disciples were afraid to respond when he repeated his Passion Narrative, as seen in Mark 9:31-32 and Luke 9:44-45. Thus, each time he repeated his Passion Narrative it was understood that questioning its truthfulness had its origin with Satan. As the point of these sobering narratives was that Jesus was going to be killed and resurrected, Jesus clearly did not believe in the immortal soul or in Trinitarianism, and viewed any contradiction—however well-intentioned—as originating with Satan. See: “A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke” here: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-lesson-from-jesus-rebuke-in-order-for.html.


Additional reading:
See also:
Dimensions of the Trinity. A radio interview with Dr. Hugh Ross on this subject. Here, he uses the three-fingers intercepting a two dimensional plane analogy.
www.reasons.org/audio/dimensions-of-the-trinity

Podcasts by Professor Dale Tuggy:

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Keep Calm and...


It never ceases to amaze me how there are so many various different competing explanations floating around about science and religion. So I reassure myself that intelligent, thoughtful, objective and honest people who are not emotionally invested into any particular paradigm or viewpoint (“real eyes”) will be able to sniff out deception and weak arguments to find the truth.

Thus, I produced this meme of the “Keep Calm” genre to remind myself of that. Note that “lies” may not necessarily mean intentional deception and can include misinformation together with weak and unsubstantiated arguments.

It’s worth repeating.



Note: this meme in no way softens the importance or urgency of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

RTB Presents: Earth's Climate History


This video is simply superb and brilliant!

https://youtu.be/AGYYxlnDH-c

It reminds me of Psalm 65:9, 10, 12, 13:

You care for the earth, Making it abundantly fruitful and very rich. The stream from God is full of water; You provide grain for them, For that is how you prepared the earth. You drench its furrows and level off its plowed soil; You soften it with showers of rain; you bless its growth. ... The pastures of the wilderness keep overflowing, And the hills are clothed with joyfulness. The pastures are covered with flocks, And the valleys are carpeted with grain. They shout in triumph, yes, they sing.


RTB is Reasons to Believe, an old-earth creationist think tank.



Related blog entries:
See also:

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Revelation’s Celestial Curtain

Credit: Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand! 1988, 2006, page 86

One aspect of theater play is the curtain providing a theatrical backdrop, that is, painted to represent some scene intrinsic to the unfolding drama. It is a mural scene behind the set of a play that sets the location for the vignette.

In the Bible book of Revelation, chapters 4-5 provide such a theatrical backdrop for the visionary vignettes in the remainder of the book. These chapters 4-5 provide the following characters that John sees all around him: God sitting on His throne with 7 burning lamps together with a glassy sea-like crystal before Him, the four living creatures stationed around Him, then around them the 24 elders, the lamb representing Jesus Christ, and lastly encircling them all are thousands of angels.

This dynamic scene provides a constant backdrop for the visionary vignettes that unfolded for John. In fact, during the unfolding visions there are times when the backdrop is attested to, at Revelation 7:17; 11:16; 15:2-3 and 19:1-10.

Thus, it would not be unusual if entities in the backdrop would appear as something different outside of the backdrop and in front of their counterpart in the backdrop for the sake of highlighting a specific role or aspect in order to describe the fulfillment of the prophecies.

This can be seen for the Lamb, Jesus, who is constantly in the backdrop vision. Yet, Jesus appears again in front of this backdrop and his counterpart: He appears as “someone like a son of man” in Revelation 14:14 and as the horse-mounted “Word of God” in Revelation 19:11-16. This supports that he is also the first horseman released by none other than the Lamb Jesus himself when he opened the first seal. (Revelation 6:1-2) In fact, some have identified the angel in Revelation 7:2 “ascending from the sunrising, having a seal of the living God” as Jesus, and also the angel in Revelation 8:3-5 as Jesus because the duties this angel performs with the golden censer and incense appear to be the same duties as the high priest.[1] Also in Revelation 10 the colossal “strong angel” is likely also Jesus as he roars like a lion, and Jesus the Lamb is identified earlier as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5) Lastly, the appearance of Michael the archangel in Revelation 12 has also been identified as Jesus in a number of commentaries.[2]

This is why in Revelation 14:1-3 the 144,000 can sing before the 24 elders: They are singing before their counterparts in the backdrop.

As the Revelation Climax book says on page 201:
How can the 144,000 sing “before” the elders, since the 24 elders are the 144,000 in their glorious heavenly position? Early in the Lord’s day, those “dead in union with Christ” were resurrected as spirit creatures. Thus, faithful anointed Christians who have conquered are now in heaven, symbolically fulfilling functions comparable to those of 24 divisions of priestly elders. They are included in the vision of Jehovah’s heavenly organization. (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16; 1 Chronicles 24:1-18; Revelation 4:4; 6:11) The remnant of the 144,000 still on earth [awaiting to be resurrected “in the blink of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)] are therefore singing the new song before, or in the sight of, their resurrected brothers in heaven.

At this point we might also ask: Why is it that these anointed overcomers are referred to as the symbolic 24 elders as well as the 144,000? It is because Revelation views this one group from two different standpoints. The 24 elders are always shown in their ultimate position around Jehovah’s throne, installed as kings and priests in the heavens. They symbolize the entire group of 144,000 in their heavenly position, although at present a small remnant of these is still on earth. (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5-14; 7:11-13; 11:16-18) Revelation chapter 7, however, focuses on the 144,000 as brought forth from humankind, and it stresses Jehovah’s grand purpose to seal the complete number of individual spiritual Israelites and to grant salvation to an unnumbered great crowd. Revelation chapter 14 provides a picture confirming that the complete Kingdom class of 144,000 individual overcomers will be assembled with the Lamb on Mount Zion.
This solution is conceivable because the “different standpoints” is a literary feature of Revelation, due to the constant backdrop of the celestial court.

I believe I have discovered another case of this literary feature in a different book, but it will not be found on this blog due to its rather extravagant nature—and is nonetheless available upon request.



Footnotes:
[1] Regarding Revelation 7:2, Adam Clark in his commentary said that: “This angel is represented as the chancellor of the supreme King,” and that “some understand this of Christ.” Regarding Revelation 8:3-5, the Matthew Henry Commentary says: “It is very probable that this other angel is the Lord Jesus, the high priest of the church, who is here described in his sacerdotal office, having a golden censer and much incense. … The prayers of the saints themselves stand in need of the incense and intercession of Christ to make them acceptable and effectual, and there is provision made by Christ for that purpose; he has his incense, his censer, and his altar; he is all himself to his people.” Or, as Robert Hawker (1753-1827) said in his Poor Man’s Commentary: “There can be no question who this other Angel was that came and stood at the Altar with his golden Censer. It could be none but Christ. The office he here performed of the High Priest, belonged only to Christ. He, and he alone it was, whom Jehovah had Sworn into this office, Psalms 110:4.” Adam Clark’s commentary also identified this angel as functioning as the high priest, even specifying that it was on the Day of Atonement. Insight on the Scriptures under “Incense” states that “It appears that the burning of incense, except on the Day of Atonement, was not restricted to the high priest, as underpriest Zechariah (father of John the Baptizer) is mentioned as handling this service. (Lu 1:8-11).” Since the Day of Atonement is not specified in Revelation 8, the precise identity of this angel, beyond priestly, is hard to confirm.

[2] For a number of examples, such as Baptist Theologian John Gill, the theologians John Calvin, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards, and the Geneva Bible Commentary, see: Did you know that Baptist Theologian John Gill connected Michael with Jesus? http://jimspace3000-ya.blogspot.com/2016/03/did-you-know-that-baptist-theologian.html

Additional Reading:

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Monday, June 27, 2016

How Did Jesus Find A Place For The Passover Meal?


By Julia Blum, Associate professor of Biblical studies, eTeacherBiblical

Jerusalem was swarming with people who had come for Passover. Every house had additional guests, every room was packed. Yet, Jesus seemed unconcerned about a place to eat the Passover meal. He told His disciples confidently, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters” (Luke 22:10). Who is that man? And how did Jesus know they would meet him?

THE ESSENES
A man walking around with a jar of water was a very unusual sight, as this was ordinarily women’s work. Why would a man be carrying a water jar in Jerusalem? The only group of Jewish men that traditionally did carry water jars were Essenes. Essenes were mostly celibate, and their men did women’s work. They had their communities, not only in Qumran, but in various towns. They also had a community in Jerusalem.

A ROOM FOR THE LAST SUPPER
One of Jerusalem’s gates was called “the Gate of the Essenes”. It was through this gate that they entered their community. When Jesus told His disciples that they will see a man carrying a water jar, he knew they would enter through the Essenes’ gate. Entering through this gate was crucial to finding a room for the Passover meal. The Essenes’ calendar was different than the regular Jewish one, and, therefore, they still had available guest rooms.

JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY
This story reveals the historical reality of Jerusalem of the 1st century. Discovering the Jewishness of Jesus and of the Early Jesus Movement is a crucial step in the continual process of accurate interpretation of the New Testament.



My comments:

Was Jesus referring to an Essene via the Essene Gate in Jerusalem? If so, then this appears to be the only time. If anything, it’s fascinating to contemplate (at least for me). Another interesting point fueling this fascination is that the Essenes had an esteemed Teacher of Righteousness, who nonetheless was not Jesus, but was also known as a “Teacher.”

Another possibility is that the man carrying the jar of water was a disciple of Jesus with an inconsequential name who expected Jesus’ request. (See for instance the comprehensive article “Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?”, in the August 1, 2013 issue of The Watchtower.)

The scriptures:
Matthew 26:18-19
He said: “Go into the city to So-and-so* and say to him, ‘The Teacher says: “My appointed time is near; I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your home.”’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus instructed them and prepared for the Passover. [* JS: The NET Bible has “a certain man”. This translates from the Greek word deina. Strong’s dictionary has “one whose name I cannot call on the instant, or whose name it is of no importance to mention.” Or as the above article says: “not vital to the account.”]

Mark 14:13-16
With that he sent two of his disciples and said to them: “Go into the city, and a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he goes inside, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Prepare it for us there.” 16 So the disciples went out, and they entered the city and found it just as he said to them, and they prepared for the Passover.

Luke 22:10-13
He said to them: “Look! When you enter into the city, a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And say to the landlord of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 And that man will show you a large, furnished upper room. Get it ready there.” 13 So they left and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared for the Passover.

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Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Stature of Goliath

Slide from Qumran and the Text of the Hebrew Bible lecture by Ronald S. Hendel in The Scrolls, Scripture and Interpretation (DVD, Biblical Archaeological Society, 2009)
~click to enlarge~


Regarding the height of the Philistine giant Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:4 says “his height was six cubits and a span.” This computes to about 2.9 meters or 9 feet 5.75 inches. This is how the Mesoretic Text reads. And if this was how all texts read, then we would be done. However, the NET Bible footnote here accurately states that:
Some Greek [LXX] witnesses, Josephus, and a manuscript of 1 Samuel from Qumran [the Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama] read “four cubits and a span” here, that is, about six feet, nine inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”).
How could this be? Which is the more accurate reading for Goliath’s herculean height?

Interestingly, there is a conceivable way that “four cubits” could have been altered into “six cubits” by a scribe who lapsed in his scribal acumen here, but not the other way around. Simply put, in verse 7 the words “six hundred” appears describing the weight of his spearhead. Now, in Hebrew “hundred” is similar to “cubits.” So it is possible that as the scribe was copying verse 4, that when he came to Goliath’s height, his eyes inadvertently saw the “hundred” of verse 7 and mistook it for “cubits” in verse 4, and copied the six along with it.

If this sounds too farfetched, I don’t blame you—and if this was a sole case of scribal mishandling, then I would probably be inclined to dismiss this explanation. However, consider two related examples: the first being the Nahash of the same book in 1 Samuel 11:1. Here it introduces Nahash like the reader is already familiar with him and how terrible he is. But the same Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama and also Josephus include a proper introduction to Nahash together with his terrible deed that frames 11:1 in better context. It is also essential to note that both the “prelude” and 11:1 begin with Nahash. So what happened? Apparently the scribe saw the Nahash of the “prelude” and then accidentally skipped down to the Nahash of our verse 1, and then continued, inadvertently omitting the “prelude.” (This mistake is called “homoeoarcton,” when two lines begin with similar words and the text in between is unintentionally omitted.)

The second related example is in 2 Chronicles 3:4, where the Mesoretic Text says the height of the Temple’s porch was “120.” However, as pointed out in the NWT-Reference Bible footnote, an LXX witness and the Syriac have “20 cubits.” What happened with the height? The footnote continues:
By a transposition of the letters of the Heb. word for “a hundred” it would read “cubits,” to produce the expression “twenty cubits.”
Here we see the same mechanism for the alleged scribal mistake for “hundred” and “cubit” above for Goliath’s height! That is, the scribe’s eye jumping from the similar word in verse 4 to verse 7.

Hopefully this explanation will give one greater insight when reading about Goliath’s height. We may just need to stand on the shoulders of scholarly giants to discern the stature of Goliath.

For more information on this and how a shorter Goliath may still harmonize with the account, see Reconsidering The Height Of Goliath by J. Daniel Hays in JETS 48/4 (December 2005) 701-14 found online here: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/48/48-4/JETS_48-4_701-714.pdf

See also:
David Versus Goliath—Did It Really Happen?
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/watchtower-no5-2016-september/david-versus-goliath-real/ This article, and the NWT-Reference Bible, follow the Mesoretic Text reading without addressing the LXX and 4QSama reading as corroborated by Josephus. Otherwise this is a nice article.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trinitarianism and Preconceived Bias

When I was in high school, my English teacher warned me against incorporating “preconceived bias” into my homework of writing a term paper. That phrase has been forever branded into my consciousness as a result. For something to be preconceived, it has to be formed beforehand without adequate evidence or due to previously held prejudice. Thus it is subjective as opposed to objective.

In “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Athanasius,”[1] Kenneth Samples appears to me to indulge in preconceived bias to his intended Trinitarian audience, committing “circular reasoning galore.” In what follows, his comments will be prefaced by KS and mine by JS.

Under “What Did St. Athanasius Believe?” he states:
1. St. Athanasius affirmed Nicene orthodoxy and argued that the Son (Jesus Christ) is homoousios (of the “same substance”) with God the Father.

JS: While both the Father and Jesus share the transcendent spirit nature (John 4:24; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45), the Father has the unique attribute of being “the only true God.” (John 17:1-5) Thus the homoousios doctrine falls victim to misplaced zeal, evidently due to a misunderstanding of soteriological mechanics as seen in the next point:

KS: 2. St. Athanasius tied the Incarnation[2] and atonement together in his theological reasoning. He is known for formulating the following theological argument:
Only God can save people from sin.
Jesus Christ saves people from sin.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.

JS: The first premise is true, and he gets a gold star for recognizing that inalienable truth. However, promoters of this syllogism would benefit from Simeon’s declaration at Luke 2:30, where he praised God for letting him see His “soterios.” The Strong’s Outline of Biblical Usage says this word includes “he who embodies salvation, or through whom God is about to achieve it.” Thus the NWT insightfully presents this verse as saying: “your means of salvation.” Jesus Christ is God’s means of salvation, as he is the one through whom God achieves it. Thus, the conclusion of that syllogism is invalid. This may be illustrated by noting that others in the Bible are called saviors: the Judges Othniel and Ehud for instance. They were needed to save Israel due to Israel’s sin. (Judges 3:7, 9, 15) Therefore that syllogism may be tested this way:
Only God can save people from sin.
Othniel and Ehud saved people from sin.
Therefore, Othniel and Ehud are God.

Instead, the initial premise of that syllogism should be revised to express the inalienable truth that only God is the Prime Savior who sends saviors. God saved through Othniel and Ehud and saves us from sin through Jesus Christ.

KS: 3. ... Athanasius argued for Christ’s full deity.

JS: Ironically, Trinitarianism holds that Christ is fully human too, in contradistinction to the lucid Bible teaching that he sacrificed his human life and was resurrected as a divine spirit. Thus, Trinitarianism most obviously denies “Christ’s full deity.”

KS: When contemporary evangelicals encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses at their door, they will gain a sense of what Athanasius was up against with the Arian heresy.

JS: And Jehovah’s Witnesses will gain a sense of what Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul were up against with false teachers pontificating the “teachings of men.” (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7, 8; Galatians 3:1)

KS: Evangelicals can learn from Athanasius’ courage and steadfast witness to Christ, the divine-human Savior.

JS: Jehovah’s Witnesses can learn from Jesus Christ’s courage and steadfast witness to his God, and can learn from the Apostle Paul’s courage and steadfast witness to Christ, ‘sent from God and born of a woman,’ who sacrificed his life and returned to heaven being restored to his divine nature, exalted in position, and granted immortality.—Galatians 4:4; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 5:7; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45 and 1 Peter 3:18.

God has allowed “a strong delusion” or “a deluding influence” to envelope “historic Christianity.” But that does not negate our responsibility to seek God and “search for him,” for “he will let himself be found by you.”—2 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Acts 17:27.

Additionally, I would like to close with a warning myself, that Christians need to be careful to not use humans as the standard for truth, as the Apostle Paul hilariously warned here:

2 Corinthians 10:12 NET Bible
For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. [Footnote: Or “they are unintelligent.”]

Footnotes:
[1] www.reasons.org/blogs/reflections/christian-thinkers-101-a-crash-course-on-st-athanasius

[2] The term “incarnation” is inaccurate as incarnations are materializations, which by definition are not born like Jesus wasfrom Mary (Galatians 4:4). Defenders of the incarnation draw attention to the expression at John 1:14, which states that Jesus “resided [Greek skayno-o, literally, “tented”] among us,” and claim this shows Jesus was, not a true human, but an incarnation. However, the apostle Peter used a similar expression about himself, and Peter was obviously not an incarnation. (2 Peter 1:13, 14) The bottom line is that people who are born, like Jesus was, cannot by definition be incarnations.

Related blog entries:

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