Thursday, November 29, 2018

Impale in the NWT


In 1950, the New World Translation was released which, in the spirit of being accurate and open-minded, employed “impaled” instead of the traditional “crucified.” However, this word has always included an unintended meaning of running a stake through a person. Thus, the 2013 Revised New World Translation Appendix A2: Features of This Revision, admits the following concerning the translation choice of “impale”:

The English verb “impale” was used in previous versions of this Bible in connection with the execution of Jesus. While this term could refer to the way that Jesus was nailed to the torture stake, it is more often used in reference to the ancient method of execution by running a sharp stake through the body and fixing the victim on it. Since Jesus was not impaled with the torture stake, this revision uses such expressions as “executed on a stake” and “nailed to the stake” with regard to the manner in which Jesus was fastened to the torture stake.—Matthew 20:19; 27:31, 35. (italics original) https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1001070202
The Roman impalement stake was specifically called a stipes in Latin. Thus, as the Romans also practiced rectal impaling on a stake (which Jesus thankfully did not experience), I applaud its removal for clarity. May we ever continue to humbly smooth-out translation choices and not cower from making further emendations to our RNWT “in order to touch the heart of today’s reader.”

Thus, we should also conform to this usage and refrain from saying that our Lord Jesus Christ was impaled. Frankly, that sounds horribly confusing.


Related news, released the same day as this posting!
Humor: The 2013 movie Frozen illustrated the unintended meaning of “impaled” of running a stake through a person when the snowman Olaf was run-though by an icicle. He said: “Oh look at that, I’ve been impaled.” (This movie was released a month after the 2013 RNWT.)

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Linchpin of Truth

The Greek word for “east” (anatolon, genitive case) in Isaiah 43:5 and 46:11 LXX

In mathematics, a truth claim is easy to test without any debate. In science, it becomes more complicated as evidence is weighed and experiments are tested for repeatability, with bias occasionally rearing its ugly head. Religious truth claims are even harder to test, as biases and emotions usually hold sway over interpretations of sacred text. However, that does not mean it’s impossible to test a religious truth claim. Even if it has devout adherents, if a religious teaching is thoroughly refuted, sometimes repeatedly, then honesty will eventually prevail. This is especially true if the teaching is exposed to be completely without merit and only benefitting a select few or even just one leader.

A sterling example of this is with a non-Trinitarian church originating in the Philippines, officially going by its name in Tagalog: Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) (“Church of Christ”). The INC has a very central, unique and equally testable truth claim. It is so central, that if it fails, then the entire INC implodes, like removing a linchpin holding an entire structure together.

This church states: “We believe that the late Brother Felix Y. Manalo is God’s last messenger; he was the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies concerning the messenger from the Far East (Rev. 7:2-3).” (Under “Beliefs” of their official website.)

Scrutinizing this truth claim is rather easy.

The NET Bible says for Revelation 7:2, “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east...” The Greek word for “east” is ἀνατολῆς (anatolēs) which means “1) a rising (of the sun and stars) 2) the east (the direction of the sun’s rising).” (Anatolia derives from this word, being “east” of Greece.) The NET Bible notes here that it means “from the rising of the sun,” and may be taken “as a geographical direction.” The Greek text specifically reads ἀνατολῆς ἡλίο (anatolēs hēlio), which literally means “rising of the sun.”

But the INC says it means “Far East” for the Philippines. While it is true that in modern geographical terminology that the Philippines are in the “Far East,” as opposed to the “Near East” or “Middle East,” this is a self-serving identification that is inconsistent with the same usage in Revelation 16:12. This interpretation appears then to be a clear and tangible linchpin.

In its article “The fulfillment of the prophecy” on its official website, INC also uses Isaianic references to “east” to validate its truth claim: Isaiah 43:5 and 46:11. Both scriptures use the same Greek word in Revelation 7:2 in the LXX, ἀνατολή (anatolḗ) for the Hebrew word מזרח (mizrach). It additionally claims that the “bird of prey” in Isaiah 46:11 is the INC founder, the “last messenger.”

However, it must be stated that there was a fulfillment of these prophecies with Cyrus from the east acting like a “bird of prey” and liberating the Jews from Babylonian captivity. Thus, Isaiah 43:5 was fulfilled when they were released from that captivity and reunited in the west in the Promised Land. The reference to “north” and “south” in Isaiah 43:6 are assurances that “Not even the remotest parts of the earth will be beyond Jehovah’s reach when the time comes to free his sons and daughters and to bring them back to their beloved homeland. (Jeremiah 30:10, 11)”[1] This was fulfilled.

INC’s problem then is failing to look at how the prophecy was originally fulfilled. Instead, they are just grabbing frantically at anything in scripture to validate their church. Simply put, it’s getting lost in small details and not seeing the bigger picture on how those prophecies were initially fulfilled.

Concisely: If it does not demand the meaning of “Far East,” then the linchpin of INC’s truth claim has been removed and the structure falls down.

Honest truth seekers follow the truth wherever it leads. A religion may have some things right, but if a central, primary teaching shows signs of having a linchpin removed, then it really is time to move on and follow the truth wherever it takes you. Fortunately, there is another non-Trinitarian family of believers that does not suffer from having a linchpin of this nature being removed: Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s worth investigating.

Footnote:
[1] Isaiah’s Prophecy vol. II page 50.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Exposing a Trinitarian trap


The Trinitarian “Jesus is Jehovah” is a slogan. One Trinitarian strategy when dialoging with Jehovah’s Witnesses is to use the Bible against itself using their New World Translation (NWT) to support that slogan. Below is my response to a strategy to try to trap Jehovah’s Witnesses into unwittingly saying their slogan.

The trap is set this way:
First, ask them to open their NWT to John 12:41 and note its marginal references to Isaiah 6:1 and 8. In the NWT, these read:
(John 12:41) Isaiah said these things because he saw his [Jesus’] glory, and he spoke about him.
(Isaiah 6:1) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw Jehovah sitting on a lofty and elevated throne, and the skirts of his robe filled the temple.
(Isaiah 6:8) Then I heard the voice of Jehovah saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said: “Here I am! Send me!”
John said Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory, and Isaiah saw Jehovah’s glory via the NWT’s marginal references.
Thus, according to John NWT, Jesus is Jehovah.
The solution to this trap is pretty straightforward. First, educate your Trinitarian interlocutor of the main problem with this conclusion, that the Bible identifies Jehovah as the Father, and Jesus is not the Father. This is declared in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all irrefutably identify Jehovah or God as the Father.

Next, highlight the “us” language in Isaiah 6:8. The NWT marginal reference there is to Genesis 1:26 which also has “us” language. The prehuman Jesus is the primary member of the “us.”

Additionally, in Isaiah 6:8 in the NET Bible, its footnote states: “Heb ‘for us.’ The plural pronoun refers to the Lord, the seraphs, and the rest of the heavenly assembly.” It states this even though “the rest of the heavenly assembly” was evidently not seen in Isaiah’s vision. “So it is reasonable to conclude,” the Study NWT states in its note for John 12:41, “that when John wrote that Isaiah ‘saw his glory,’ this refers to Jesus’ prehuman glory alongside Jehovah. (Joh 1:14) This harmonizes with such scriptures as Ge 1:26, where God said: ‘Let us make man in our image.’” So both the NET Bible for Isaiah 6:8 and the Study NWT direct our attention to “the heavenly assembly” where the prehuman Jesus was included. The NET Bible footnote for Genesis 1:26 cites Isaiah 6:8 and points out that “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).” Thus, the “us” language in Isaiah 6:8 and Genesis 1:26 is being interpreted as including the prehuman Jesus as the primary referent.

There is also the relevant concern of being aware of Jesus “being Jehovah” representationally. This is showcased in the NET Bible for Exodus 23:21: “Take heed because of him [the angel], and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him.” The footnote on “name” says in part: “Driver quotes McNeile as saying, ‘The “angel” is Jehovah Himself “in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.”’”

As Jesus represented his Father and came in his Father’s name (John 5:43; 8:29), it could be said that Jesus is ‘Jehovah God Himself in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.’ It is representational not ontological.

Additionally, at Zechariah 3:1-2 a NET Bible footnote informs us: “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.” Therefore, there is a scriptural precedent for representing God and bearing his name in a representational sense.

Consequently, the Trinitarian trap of using John 12:41 has been disarmed.


The binary star system GG Tau A illustrating the heavenly court.

Bibles:


Additional reading:

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fact-Checking Assurances


The 2011 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses revealed that a greater concerted effort at fact-checking had recently been implemented, resulting in some unreliable information being eliminated, with two examples being given: Gandhi’s statement to Lord Irwin and Newton’s model of the solar system.[1] This situation was showcased in the November 2017 JW Monthly Broadcast where David Splane of the Governing Body said that “we have to keep up. We have to check, check, check.” He added: “And when credible research reveals that we have to adjust or tweak a statement that we made in the past, we do so without hesitation.”[2] Thus, some information prior to this era of rejuvenated fact-checking may be suspect and in fact be unreliable, or less reliable than what we would prefer.

In this broadcast he also assured us: “We would never deliberately distort a quotation.”[3] That is, craft a quote as saying something that its author never intended.

Additionally, he stated after that their goal of keeping up with the latest research on a topic:
Now, it’s important to keep up with the very latest research. Something that was stated years ago as a fact may have been disproved. And the reason why is obvious. Someone may spend his entire life researching a very limited point in history—a very small point in history—and, of course, if he spends so much time researching, he’s going to uncover things. And so it’s not surprising that from time to time we have to adjust our view of some historical points. We have to check, check, check.[4]
Following this admission, Brother Splane provided an encouraging anecdote:
Now, someone might ask, ‘Why is it necessary to be so picky, to be so fussy, about accuracy?’ And in answer, I’d like to give an experience that I heard about a few years ago. In Northern Europe, there was a man who accepted a Bible study from Jehovah’s Witnesses. And when he was asked what motivated him to want to study, he said: “I read an article in your Awake! magazine on trees. Now, I happen to be a bit of an expert on trees. And after I read the article, I said to myself: ‘That article was so well-documented. It was so precise. Any organization that is that careful when writing about trees is going to be just as careful when teaching me the Bible.’” And on that basis, he accepted a Bible study.[5]
I applaud this effort at rejuvenated fact-checking, and I hope it produces beneficial results in pruning away past points that lacked sufficient fact-checking. Personally, I think we can see this at work in the new commentary on Ezekiel released this month at the Annual Meeting.

Lastly, this assurance of more conscientious fact-checking may remind one of this statement announced as recently as February, 2017, where a Watchtower commenced a paragraph confessing: “The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible. Therefore, it can err in doctrinal matters or in organizational direction.”[6] While such humility is great to see, may our rejuvenated fact-checking apparatus also add to our credibility across the board!

Footnotes:
[1] Tracing All Things With Accuracy,’ pages 9-13. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/302011018#p12
[3] Ibid. From minute marker 4:20-25.
[4] Ibid. From minute marker 4:33-5:03.
[5] Ibid. From minute marker 5:10-6:00.
[6] w17.02 4:12, page 26. (italics added) Or, as the Simplified Edition put it: “The Governing Body is neither inspired nor perfect. It can make mistakes when explaining the Bible or directing the organization.”—page 24. (italics added) https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2017283#h=23 Simplified: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/402017283#h=23

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Who Is on Jehovah’s Side?”


The title comes from Exodus 32:26, where Moses is the speaker. Immediately after asking this pleading question, he declares: “Come to me!” (Revised 2013 NWT) I found this interesting since the previous NWT I grew up on had Moses simply saying: “To me!” Comparing other translations, Byington has: “Whoever is for Jehovah, come here to me!” Additionally, the NET Bible has: “Whoever is for [Jehovah], come to me.” It explains in a footnote: “‘come’ is not in the text, but has been supplied.” It adds: “S. R. Driver suggests that the command was tersely put: ‘Who is for Yahweh? To me!’ (Exodus, 354).”

Thus, the earlier NWT had the terse style of translation of “To me!”, whereas the RNWT has updated this to be smoother, now like other Bibles reading as “Come to me!” I like this much better, for it is so much clearer to me!

The application is also clearer: we must gather to God’s appointed agent(s) for direction, judgment, and salvation.

Credits:
Image from:
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/watchtower-study-july-2018/who-is-on-jehovahs-side/

See also:
Moses’ Example jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2018/06/moses-example.html

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Saturday, September 08, 2018

Serpentine connection?


Asclepius was the Greek god of healing, and his Rod was a staff with a serpent wound around it. While visually similar to the account in Numbers 21:8, 9, it is only coincidental to it as this was an isolated event. If there would be any scriptural origin for the Rod of Asclepius, it would be the account of the “original serpent” who said: “You certainly will not die” while likely mounted on a tree branch; thus the serpentine Rod of life would be a legend harking back to this event Eden with the claim of not dying. (Genesis 3:4; Revelation 12:9) However, it is only coincidental to this too.

In fact, its actual origin is likely more down-to-earth and less-savory. Regarding the asclepian Rod, a medical doctor reported: “The single serpent staff also appears on a Sumerian vase of c. 2000 B.C. representing the healing god Ningishita [sic: Ningishzida], the prototype of the Greek Asklepios. However, there is a more practical origin postulated which makes sense.” He adds:
In ancient times infection by parasitic worms was common. The filarial worm Dracunculus medinensis aka “the fiery serpent”, aka “the dragon of Medina” aka “the guinea worm” crawled around the victim’s body, just under the skin. Physicians treated this infection by cutting a slit in the patient’s skin, just in front of the worm’s path. As the worm crawled out the cut, the physician carefully wound the pest around a stick until the entire animal had been removed. It is believed that because this type of infection was so common, physicians advertised their services by displaying a sign with the worm on a stick.[1]
This Rod is also similar to the caduceus, a rod carried by the Greco-Roman god Hermes/Mercury that sported wings at the top and two serpents intertwined around it, which is also associated with the medical practice. However, this too has a more profane origin, as the Encyclopedia Britannica notes:
Originally the caduceus was a rod or olive branch ending in two shoots and decorated with garlands or ribbons. Later the garlands were interpreted as two snakes entwined in opposite directions with their heads facing; and a pair of wings, in token of Hermes’ speed, was attached to the staff above the snakes. Its similarity to the staff of Asclepius the healer (a staff branched at the top and entwined by a single serpent) resulted in modern times in the adoption of the caduceus as a symbol of the physician and as the emblem of the U.S. Army Medical Corps.[2]
Thus we are dealing with sets of coincidences. There is nothing here with a Biblical origin; instead, they have mundane and practical origins. This highlights that we must be careful before associating something serpentine with a Bible account.

Footnotes:
[1] Blayney, Kieth. The Caduceus vs the Staff of Asclepius (Asklepian) http://drblayney.com/Asclepius.html
[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/caduceus

Credits:
  • Introductory picture from Instagram user jw_united_in_truth
  • Picture of Moses and the copper serpent on a pole is specifically from My Book of Bible Stories, Story 41: The Copper Serpent, available at jw.org.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Mining Gems in Jonah


The book of Jonah is jammed with gemstones of extraordinary value. Jesus himself mined such gems regarding what he would have to experience being the Messiah, being in the grave for three days, calling it the “Sign of Jonah.”[1] However, to be like Jesus and mine gemstones from Jonah, we need to apply his hermeneutical principle of ‘reading with discernment.’ (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) This involves reading the text with our eyes being like pickaxes, digging into it, always being curious about the meaning of the Hebrew words involved, including how they are used; and using our mind like a headlamp to picture the scenes as if they were unfolding before our very eyes, even placing ourselves among them. If you do that, you will be rewarded with great spiritual wealth, even as Jesus was.


One way to read the text with mining tools is to use annotated Bibles offering insight into the text. Facilitating this effort is the NET Bible, which can be read here: https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Jonah+1.

Jonah 1:3 in the NET Bible:
Instead, Jonah immediately headed off to Tarshish to escape from the commission of the LORD. He traveled to Joppa and found a merchant ship heading to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went aboard it to go with them to Tarshish far away from the LORD.
Its note on commission of the LORD explains:
Three times in chap. 1 (in vv. 3 and 10) Jonah’s voyage is described as an attempt to escape away from the LORD – from the LORD’s presence (and therefore his active awareness; compare v. 2). On one level, Jonah was attempting to avoid a disagreeable task, but the narrator’s description personalizes Jonah’s rejection of the task. Jonah’s issue is with the LORD himself, not just his commission. The narrator’s description is also highly ironic, as the rest of the book shows. Jonah tries to sail to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh, as if by doing that he could escape from the LORD, when the LORD is the one who knows all about Nineveh’s wickedness and is involved in all that happens to Jonah throughout the book. Compare Jonah’s explanation when talking with the LORD (see 4:2).
It also seems like Jonah should have reflected on the Psalm penned by David, Psalm 139:7-12 on the utter futility of trying to run and hide from the Almighty God. This theme though is emphasized in his choice of Joppa to flee from:
Joppa was a small harbor town on the Palestinian coast known as Yepu in the Amarna Letters (14 century b.c.) and Yapu in Neo-Assyrian inscriptions (9th-8th centuries B.C.). It was a port through which imported goods could flow into the Levant (Josh 19:46; 2 Chr 2:15 [16]; Ezra 3:7). It was never annexed by Israel until the Maccabean period (ca. 148 b.c.; 1 Macc 10:76). Jonah chose a port where the people he would meet and the ships he could take were not likely to be Israelite. Once in Joppa he was already partly “away from the LORD” as he conceived it.
Rabbi Professor and Jewish theologian Jonathan Magonet comments regarding his flight:
To flee from God, he reproduces the experience of the patriarchs, of ancient Israel and of the Jewish people, of going into exile, but this time against the will of God. Yet the author hints that his flight is more than just an attempt to escape the immediate task. Three times the Hebrew verb for ‘going down’ (yarad) occurs in the first chapter—as Jonah goes down to Jaffa [Joppa], and into the boat (v. 3), then down into the innermost part of the boat to sleep (v. 5)—and then a fourth time, because of a pun in the Hebrew text, when he goes into a deep sleep (vayeiradam). There is a direction in his journey—into unconsciousness as he sleeps though the storm, and ultimately into oblivion, as he asks to be thrown overboard. Jonah in flight is on a journey away from God, on a journey towards death.[2]
Jonah explained his disastrous decision in Jonah 4:2 in the NET Bible, which says with “LORD” being replaced with “Jehovah”:
He prayed to [Jehovah] and said, “Oh, [Jehovah], this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish! – because I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment.
The footnote for Tarshish explains:
The narrator skillfully withheld Jonah’s motivations from the reader up to this point for rhetorical effect – to build suspense and to create a shocking, surprising effect. Now, for the first time, the narrator reveals why Jonah fled from the commission of God in 1:3 – he had not wanted to give God the opportunity to relent from judging Nineveh! Jonah knew that if he preached in Nineveh, the people might repent and as a result, God might more than likely relent from sending judgment. Hoping to seal their fate, Jonah had originally refused to preach so that the Ninevites would not have an opportunity to repent. Apparently Jonah hoped that God would have therefore judged them without advance warning. Or perhaps he was afraid he would betray his nationalistic self-interests by functioning as the instrument through which the LORD would spare Israel’s main enemy. Jonah probably wanted God to destroy Nineveh for three reasons:
  1. as a loyal nationalist, he despised non-Israelites (cf. 1:9);
  2. he believed that idolaters had forfeited any opportunity to be shown mercy (cf. 2:9-10); and
  3. the prophets Amos and Hosea had recently announced that God would sovereignly use the Assyrians to judge unrepentant Israel (Hos 9:3; 11:5) and take them into exile (Amos 5:27). If God destroyed Nineveh, the Assyrians would not be able to destroy Israel. The better solution would have been for Jonah to work for the repentance of Nineveh and Israel.
Thus, Jonah fleeing his commission was not necessarily out of panicked fear, but from his own confession, it was due to selfishly wanting to spare the Israelites by having the capital of the Assyrians destroyed, thus hopefully removing that potentially ominous threat from the horizon. (However, Jonah’s mention at 2 Kings 14:23-25 seems to place him prior to the ministries of Amos and Hosea, during the idolatrous reign of Jeroboam II,[3] imbuing point 3 with irony as the Ninevites returned to their wicked ways, seemingly justifying Jonah’s concern!)

In Jonah 1:5 where “The sailors were so afraid that each cried out to his own god,” the NET Bible notes:
Or “gods” (CEV, NLT). The plural noun אֱלֹהִים (ʾelohim) might be functioning either as a plural of number (“gods”) or a plural of majesty (“god”) – the form would allow for either. As members of a polytheistic culture, each sailor might appeal to several gods. However, individuals could also look to a particular god for help in trouble. Tg. Jonah 1:5 interpretively renders the line, “Each man prayed to his idols, but they saw that they were useless.”
This shows a usage where ʾelohim may function as “plural of majesty.”

In the next verse, Jonah 1:6, we read:
The ship’s captain approached him and said, “What are you doing asleep? Get up! Cry out to your god! Perhaps your god might take notice of us so that we might not die!”
Regarding Get up! Cry out, it notes:
The imperatives “arise!” and “cry out!” are repeated from v. 2 [“Go immediately … and announce] for ironic effect. The captain’s words would have rung in Jonah’s ears as a stinging reminder that the LORD had uttered them once before. Jonah was hearing them again because he had disobeyed them before.
This tangible irony was also noted by Magonet, when he wrote:
Certainly for Jonah other messages were continually coming through. In one of the most subtle ploys of the author, the words of the captain to Jonah when he asks him to rise up and call on his God (1.6) are identical with the words of God’s call. For the captain they merely mean: ‘Wake up and pray!’ For Jonah the words of God echo in the air waiting for him to respond. Thus the captain becomes the unconscious messenger of God’s word, and indeed the wind, the storm, as later on the fish, the gourd, the worm, all of nature, become agents of God, bringing the divine word to the recalcitrant prophet.[4]
Thus, mining this account also reveals the gem of agency.

Continuing to Jonah 1:14, we read:
So they cried out to the LORD, “Oh, please, LORD, don’t let us die on account of this man! Don’t hold us guilty of shedding innocent blood. …”
The NET Bible notes:
“Do not put against us innocent blood,” that is, “Do not assign innocent blood to our account.” It seems that the sailors were afraid that they would die if they kept Jonah in the ship and also that they might be punished with death if they threw him overboard.
As far as they knew, Jonah had died, sacrificing his life to save them. In this sense, he ironically acted as a Christ-like character. However, Jonah in his viewpoint may have anticipated dying in the stormy waves as a relief from his divinely-instigated torment.

This later point is manifested in Jonah 2:6, where the NET Bible offers an enlightening translation:
I went down to the very bottoms of the mountains; the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever; but you brought me up from the Pit, O LORD, my God.
Regarding the gates, the NET Bible interestingly notes:
“As for the earth, its bars…” … The word translated “bars” appears elsewhere to speak of bars used in constructing the sides of the tabernacle and often of crossbars (made of wood or metal) associated with the gates of fortified cities (cf. Exod 36:31-34; Judg 16:3; 1 Kgs 4:13; Neh 3:3; Pss 107:16; 147:13; Isa 45:1-2).
Regarding the translation of netherworld, it notes:
“the earth.” The noun אֶרֶץ (ʾerets) usually refers to the “earth” but here refers to the “netherworld” (e.g., Job 10:21, 22; Ps 139:15; Isa 26:19; 44:23; BDB 76 s.v. אֶרֶץ2.g). This is parallel to the related Akkadian term irsitu used in the phrase “the land of no return,” that is, the netherworld. This refers to the place of the dead (along with “belly of Sheol,” v. 2, and “the grave,” v. 6), which is sometimes described as having “gates” (Job 38:17; Ps 107:18).
Similarly, it notes regarding the Pit:
Jonah pictures himself as being at the very gates of the netherworld (v. 6b) and now within the Pit itself (v. 6c). He is speaking rhetorically, for he had not actually died. His point is that he was as good as dead if God did not intervene immediately. See Pss 7:15; 30:3; 103:4; Ezek 19:3-4, 8.
Magonet comments further: “For Jonah in flight, even death seems to be the better option than living with the God who haunts him. But even the luxury of death is not permitted him—waiting in the wings is the fish.”[5]

Regarding this “fish,” and the language of agency noted above, we should compare how both it and the worm are described. In Jonah 1:17, God “sent a huge fish,” and in Jonah 4:7 “God sent a worm.” All of His creatures regardless of their size or mass immediately respond to His bidding without any dissension, unlike Jonah of God’s crowning creation created in His image. (Genesis 1:26-27) Additionally, the NET Bible notes that the same word sent is used for both the fish and worm.

Regarding the fish:
Or “appointed” (NASB); NLT “had arranged for.” The Piel verb מִנָּה (minnah) means “to send, to appoint” (Ps 61:8; Jonah 2:1; 4:6-8; Dan 1:5, 10-11; HALOT 599 s.v. מנה 2; BDB 584 s.v. מָנָה). Joyce Baldwin notes, “Here, with YHWH as the subject, the verb stresses God’s sovereign rule over events for the accomplishment of his purpose (as in 4:6-8, where the verb recurs in each verse). The ‘great fish’ is in exactly the right place at the right time by God’s command, in order to swallow Jonah and enclose him safely” (Joyce Baldwin, “Jonah,” The Minor Prophets, 2:566).
Regarding the worm:
Or “appointed.” The verb מָנָה (manah) in the Piel stem means “to send, to appoint” (Ps 61:8; Jonah 2:1; 4:6-8; Dan 1:5, 10-11; HALOT 599 s.v. מנה 2; BDB 584 s.v. מָנָה).
Thus these were miraculous appointments, and they both responded without any deliberation.

All in all, my favorite gems mined from an analytical reading of Jonah are of agency and realizing that Jonah may not have run in the opposite direction out of fear of the brutal, bloodthirsty Ninevites. Instead, as he himself confessed, he may have selfishly wanted that potential threat to Israel’s existence eliminated. In other words, warn them and they will repent and live; do not warn them, and the potential dreadful threat is removed!


Jonah is featured in an epic dramatization in the 2018 Regional Convention: The Story of Jonah—A Lesson in Courage and Mercy.


Footnotes:
[1] This phrase is explained here, along with other spiritual gems:
jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2011/05/messianic-symbolism-jonah-jonah-wayward.html
[2] Bible Lives. London: SCM Press Ltd. 1992. 138
[3] Bible Book Number 32​—Jonah. “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” p. 153 wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101990093 Additionally, the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in its introduction to Jonah states that the reference to Jonah in 2 Kings 14:25 “places the setting for the book…in the generation just before Amos and Hosea,” during the reign of Jeroboam II.
[4] Supra note 2. 140
[5] Ibid.


Additional reading:

All underscoring is added, and all italics are original.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A startling admission on Trinitarianism


A leading Trinitarian philosopher and analytic theologian, Dr. Richard Swinburne, made a fascinating yet startling admission about Trinitarian theology, that it ‘cannot be derived from the New Testament’:



It seems to me, although I shall not argue it here, that even if you regard the New Testament as an infallible source of doctrine, you cannot derive from it a doctrine of the Trinity. Although there are many passages in the New Testament which speak of Christ as divine, and passages which speak of the Spirit of God, or of Christ and of the Comforter, there are non-Trinitarian ways of interpreting these later passages, which are just as possible as interpreting them as expressing the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, and so entailing a doctrine of the Trinity. I shall not argue this here, that this is not in the New Testament, but it seems to me that it isn’t.

So unless Christians today either recognize some good a priori argument for a doctrine of the Trinity, or unless they consider that the facts that the subsequent church taught a doctrine of the Trinity, is a significant reason for interpreting the passages in a Trinitarian way—unless they’ve either got an a priori argument or they believe the church’s authority, it seems to me that most Christians today would not be justified in believing that doctrine. Those who do recognize the church’s authority to teach normally regard the Nicene Creed, promulgated by the First Council at Constantinople, as the first binding authoritative statement from which a doctrine of the Trinity can be derived.[1]
[End quote]

He issued these statements, that Trinitarianism is not in the New Testament per se but is first derived from the Ecumenical Councils centuries after the New Testament Canon was closed, in Professor Dale Tuggy’s Podcast 231 – Swinburne’s Social Theory of the Trinity, which I heartily recommend: trinities.org/blog/podcast-231-swinburnes-social-theory-of-the-trinity/

But how can the highly esteemed Theologian get away with saying that? Dale explains how in a cleverly facetious manner in his next podcast #232 – Trinity Club Orientation trinities.org/blog/podcast-232-trinity-club-orientation/. He can get away with saying that because he’s a card-carrying Trinitarian, that’s how.

Lastly, Dale reported on another Trinitarian theologian who made other similar and related comments on his Trinitarian theology, that it is not in the scriptures, which I have presented here:
A theology in crisis? jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2017/12/a-theology-in-crisis.html

Additionally, Dr. Craig has also gone on record as saying that the Trinity is “beyond the Bible.” See: Does Dr. Craig Have an Orthodox Christology? jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2017/07/does-dr-craig-have-orthodox-christology.html

Footnotes:
[1] Transcribed by Mark Cain as seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/trinities/permalink/2039459139707375/?comment_id=2040331569620132&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R8%22%7D

See also:

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Not all is well in Russia

Can a corrupt throne be your ally, a throne that makes evil laws? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.

Psalm 94:20-21, Christian Standard Bible

I can only offer my full spiritual and emotional support to my dear friends, my brothers and sisters in Russia.

Information on the tragic condition in Russia, on the corruption of its police force, transforming it into a criminal gang of thieves and thugs against its own law-abiding citizens, is repeatedly reported on in the news media around the world, and is seen here in official reports:

https://www.jw.org/en/news/jw/region/russia/

In the Russian language: https://jw-russia.org/

The introductory picture is found here:
Campaign of Terror Begins for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/russia/campaign-of-terror-for-jehovahs-witnesses/

The entire judicial system in Russia has descended into the anarchy of a kangaroo court, where trumped-up charges trump justice.

Regarding crooked judges, the Easy-to-Read Version presents the above Psalm as saying:
They use the law to make life hard for the people. They attack those who do right. They say innocent people are guilty and put them to death.
Lastly, the New Living Translation present it as saying:
Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—leaders whose decrees permit injustice? They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
Russia is committing horrible and libelous crimes against its own tax-paying citizens, ganging-up on a minority Christian congregation to steal valuable property and personal electronics. While this unjustified persecution is criminal, it has not resulted in executions as that Psalm states, and I certainly hope it never does! However, being imprisoned and robbed of valuables can seem like death!

Please see this video: How Did Jehovah’s Witnesses Come to Be Labelled as ‘Extremists’ in Russia? https://youtu.be/8C_XP74ZizQ

Additionally, I want to remind my Russian friends of the divine decree in Zechariah 2:8, which I have cast into this graphic:


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Monday, June 18, 2018

Moses’ Example


There are a number of times in the Scriptures where Moses is presented as being a good example to imitate.

One is in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, which reads: “In fact, to this day whenever Moses [the Pentateuch] is read [in the Synagogue], a veil lies upon their hearts. 16 But when one turns to Jehovah, the veil is taken away.”

The NET Bible offers two enlightening footnotes here for verse 16. For “one,” it states:
Or perhaps “when(ever) he turns,” referring to Moses.
At the end of the verse, its footnote says:
An allusion to Exod 34:34. The entire verse may refer to Moses, viewing him as a type portraying the Jewish convert to Christianity in Paul’s day.
This makes a lot of sense, for Exodus 34:34 says: “But when Moses would go in before Jehovah to speak with him, he would take off the veil until he went out.” The application being that, the convert to Christianity can now act like Moses and remove the veil by studying the scriptures and seeing their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, seeing God’s glory as reflected by him.

Moses also provided an example of pleading before God at Numbers 12:13, in this case to heal Miriam from being stricken with leprosy. It says: “And Moses began to cry out to Jehovah, saying: ‘O God, please heal her! Please!’” (RNWT) This is quite a bit different than how the NET Bible presents it: “Heal her now, O God.” This is more like a dry, sterilized command to God to do his bidding. However, one scholar explains that:
In translation, it sounds straightforward. But in the original Hebrew what Moses actually said was, El Na Refah Na La -אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָהּ.

This five-word phrase has perfect symmetry. The central word Refah means “heal”. It is surrounded on both sides with the word Na, meaning “please”. The two outermost words are El (“God”) and La (her”), both containing the sound “L”. This short phrase has poetic symmetry, where the repetition of the word “please” strengthens Moses’ prayer.[1] (underline added)
So I’m afraid the New Word Translation enjoys superiority over the NET Bible, and any other translation similar to it here. Moses at Numbers 12:13 presents a good example to emulate in prayer, not forgetting to season your petitions with politeness and proper etiquette even if feeling desperate.


Footnotes:
[1] Moses’ holiest prayer.
lp.israelbiblicalstudies.com/lp_iibs_biblical_hebrew_shortest_prayer-en.html
Also the source for the opening graphic.

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