Friday, August 18, 2017

Ante- or Co-Adamism?

Can the Bible allow for other humans to have existed before or contemporaneously with Adam and Eve? (Called Ante- and Co-Adamism respectively.) Such a notion is certainly not what is found leaping from the pages of Genesis. However, there are some passages that some may use to reason that there is some broader context being alluded to regarding the actual extent of human existence. One is the condemnation of Cain in Genesis 4:11-15, where Cain in verses 13-14 expresses dire concern over his safety in exile. Dr. Michael Heiser asks if Cain was concerned about people finding him “a thousand years later? Five hundred years later, a hundred years later?” He continues: “I mean it seems like when God puts a mark on Cain to protect him that the protection is needed right then.”[1] I agree to an extent, but without the need to employ Co-Adamism. First, it is true that the context only allows for three people at this point: Adam, Eve, and Cain; and Cain was not afraid of his parents executing him, avenging Able. So who was he afraid of that day? Genesis 5:4 states that Adam “became father to sons and daughters.” While this is stated after the birth of Seth, this line in the Genesis 5 genealogy is a summary. Thus, Cain could have been afraid of one of his unnamed siblings, both that day and following it for as long as he lived. Cain was not just concerned about meeting someone in the land of Exile or Nod (Genesis 4:16), for as he was to be by divine decree “a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth,” (Genesis 4:12) so he was also looking ahead in time, concerned about preserving his potentially long life. Another point to consider is this: If there really were other humans around living in Nod or elsewhere, why would they have any beef with Cain over killing Able? They could care less! If anything, they would have viewed Cain as a strange, new visitor for possible bartering. No, the mark or sign associated with Cain would only make sense for ones in Cain’s tribe, not for foreigners who would be ignorant of Cain’s deed and ignorant of the significance of his mark or sign. Thus, if he was concerned about being avenged that very day by someone, he had one of his unnamed brothers in mind.

Following this we are confronted with two important events showcased in Genesis 4:17:
  1. While in exile, Cain all of sudden has a wife without any introduction. Did he meet her in Nod? Or did he take one of his unnamed sisters (which at this early time was not incestuous)?
  2. Then in the same verse she gives birth to Enoch and then Cain builds a city named after him.
An example of a primitive Mesopotamian city

This verse presents some very condensed history. It is thus very possible that Cain was married before he killed Able. In this scenario, his wife chose to remain with him and departed from her parents and everything else she knew of, never to return. Regarding building Enoch, what’s most likely happening here is that they built the nucleus of Enoch that was later enlarged into a sprawling urban center. So saying he “built” Enoch is an accepted anachronistic way of saying that he founded it.

Another passage is found in the last verse, Genesis 4:26. First, Adam’s third named son, Seth, had a son whom he named Enosh. Then, it enigmatically adds that “At that time people began calling on the name of Jehovah.” (RNWT) Or, as the NWT put it: “At that time a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” The NET Bible has “people” here like the RNWT, but notes that:
The word “people” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation. The construction uses a passive verb without an expressed subject. “To call was begun” can be interpreted to mean that people began to call.
Regardless of what type of “calling” was being performed, whether or not it was pious or impious, the question is raised on why this is significant, if this implies that foreigners existed who were evangelized or took a position on worshipping Jehovah. However, this leaves out that the genealogy in the next chapter includes the same summary for Seth that it had for Adam, that he “became father to sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:6) So we could conceivably be working with quite a few unnamed people, a small community at this point, without the need to bring in foreigners. So if it was a pious calling, then this would indicate a revival.

But there is an implication of Ante- and Co-Adamism that I find troubling and unscriptural, and even opposed to the teachings of Jesus, namely that death was occurring prior to Adam among these people. This in particular nullifies Jesus’ declaration that Satan “was a murderer when he began,” a clear reference to the time when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Tree of Life due to Satan’s deceptions, being called the “father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Jesus is clearly speaking from the vantage point that Adam and Eve were innocent before Satan’s involvement and interception. It also contradicts Romans 5:12-14, that “through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned,” and that “death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses.”[2] Additionally, Romans 5:17 contrasts “by the trespass of the one man [Adam] death ruled as king through that one” to salvation “through the one person, Jesus Christ.” Thus, there is absolutely no room for Ante- and Co-Adamism here, and it would violate the text and context of salvation through Jesus. (Refer to the opening graphic depicting Adam and Jesus the “last Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45.)

Another consideration is that, even IF you can get away with an allegorical Adam as some (not all) theistic evolutionists do, then you still have the problem of the historical Eve being deceived, who “was to become the mother of everyone [every human] living.” (Genesis 3:20) If that is an allegory too, then the Bible’s foundation is too muddy to stand on. It just becomes an interesting literary work to contemplate and study, but with a greatly reduced means of trust.

This is why I think that not every hominin is a child of Adam. The only ones Adam can claim for his own are specifically called, in anthropological nomenclature, Homo sapiens sapiens. Other hominins could perform various abilities, some impressive, but they still fell short of the abilities of God’s crowning, genius creation: us, modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens.

The testimony of Luke-Acts
The book(s) of Luke-Acts contributes what may be seen as a clear statement of human origins. First, Acts 17:26, NET Bible states: “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live.” The footnote for “man” is: “The one man refers to Adam (the word “man” is understood).” Supporting this is the messianic genealogy in Luke 3:38, where Adam is called “the son of God.” The NET Bible footnote here states that:
The reference to the son of God here is not to a divine being, but to one directly formed by the hand of God. He is made in God’s image, so this phrase could be read as appositional (“Adam, that is, the son of God”). See Acts 17:28-29. (emphasis added)
Thus, the testimony of Luke-Acts is that all humanity began with the man Adam.

Footnotes:
[1] From a video snippet presented by General Han Solo: Michael Heiser - Is the Pre-Adamite Hypothesis Biblical? https://youtu.be/QmvWnqijFs0 Dr. Michael Heiser does not take a position on this.

[2] The rest of the verse says “even over those who had not sinned in the same way that Adam transgressed.” This curious statement would apply more consistently with people in Adam’s line, as opposed to people under Co-Adamism, for it would be strange to introduce that here in this context without elaboration.


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Credits:
Introductory picture from jw.org.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Clarifying Creation


Let’s consult the NET Bible and its footnotes regarding the Genesis creation account:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The footnote here reads, with divisions added in brackets:
[A] Or “the entire universe”; or “the sky and the dry land.” [See B below.] This phrase is often interpreted as a merism, referring to the entire ordered universe, including the heavens and the earth and everything in them. The “heavens and the earth” were completed in seven days (see Gen 2:1) and are characterized by fixed laws (see Jer 33:25). [B] “Heavens” refers specifically to the sky, created on the second day (see v. 8), while “earth” refers specifically to the dry land, created on the third day (see v. 10). Both are distinct from the sea/seas (see v. 10 and Exod 20:11).
Part B of the footnote is clarified in the footnotes for verses 8 and 10.

Genesis 1:8 God called the expanse “sky.” [Footnote: Though the Hebrew word can mean “heaven,” it refers in this context to “the sky.”]

Genesis 1:9, 10 God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear.” It was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land” [Footnote: Heb “earth,” but here the term refers to the dry ground as opposed to the sea.] and the gathered waters he called “seas.”

To conclude that Genesis 1:1 is only referring to Earth’s sky above the Mosaic composer and that the earth refers only to the dry ground he is standing on would demand the question of how the oceans introduced in Genesis 1:2 were created. Additionally, the sun and moon must have been included in “the heavens” of Genesis 1:1 for life to be possible on earth, with the light sources finally becoming discernible to an earthly observer in Genesis 1:14—per the elaborating creation account in Job 38:9: “when I made the storm clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band.” Thus the creation account is from the vantage point of an earthly observer. As the NET Bible notes for Genesis 1:14 (God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky.”):
Light itself was created before the light-bearers. The order would not seem strange to the ancient Hebrew mind that did not automatically link daylight with the sun (note that dawn and dusk appear to have light without the sun).
Additionally, “light” in Genesis 1:3 is from the Hebrew word ’ohr, but “lights” in Genesis 1:14 is from ma’ohrʹ. One book explains this difference by noting that ma’ohrʹ
means the source of the light. Rotherham, in a footnote on “Luminaries” in the Emphasised Bible, says: “In ver. 3, ’ôr [’ohr], light diffused.” Then he goes on to show that the Hebrew word ma’ohrʹ in verse 14 means something “affording light.” On the first “day” diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands [per Job 38:9], but the sources of that light could not have been seen by an earthly observer because of the cloud layers still enveloping the earth. Now, on this fourth “day,” things apparently changed.[1]
The sources of light were now discernible phenomenologically, as the next footnote explains:
The language describing the cosmos, which reflects a prescientific view of the world, must be interpreted as phenomenal, describing what appears to be the case. The sun and the moon are not in the sky (below the clouds), but from the viewpoint of a person standing on the earth, they appear that way. Even today we use similar phenomenological expressions, such as “the sun is rising” or “the stars in the sky.”
Thus we can see how being reasonable with the creation texts is not about capitulating to modern science, but is merely about letting the text speak for itself and noting its semantic range of meaning while discerning its phenomenological presentation. In this way we can see that it harmonizes with modern science all on its own without any persuasion or manipulation.[2]

Footnotes:
[1] Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? page 31 (2006).

[2] In discussing how Genesis presents creation and other events, like the Deluge and the antiquity of humanity, I’ve found that it’s best to note the semantic range of descriptive Hebrew words and then be reasonable or yielding in your interpretation. This is not about capitulating to modern science, it is about being reasonable with the text, noting what its semantic range allows for.


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Does Dr. Craig Have an Orthodox Christology?


“Dr. Craig clears up rumors concerning his views on the doctrine of Christ.”[1]

In a podcast released July 9, 2017, Dr. William Lane Craig elaborated on his orthodox Trinitarian Christology, and offered this concession at minute marker 10:40:
Anybody who claims that he doesn’t go beyond the Bible [laughter from Trinitarian interviewer] doesn’t have an orthodox doctrine of the Trinity or the incarnation, because these doctrines are shot through with philosophy. Talk of persons and natures and essences and substances and things of that sort. These doctrines are formulated in philosophical categories.
While it is fine to approach the Bible and Biblical theology and Christology with intellectual categories, these must be introduced by the Bible itself, otherwise there will be contradictions in one way or another. One such contradiction is in regards to soteriological mechanics and another in regards to Jesus’ Passion Narratives. These are “deal-breaker” contradictions of colossal proportions. Thus, we can be most thankful that Dr. Craig has alerted us and confirmed for us that Trinitarianism is not in the Bible, which is precisely why many Christians don’t believe it.


Footnotes:

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Did the Apostles believe in the Trinity?

Peter speaking to the Transfigured Christ
“Messianic Judaism” is a movement that accepts the authenticity of the Christian Scriptures but has been hoodwinked into believing that Trinitarianism is Biblical monotheism, when in fact it is a brazen misrepresentation of it. While there is much to sympathize with in their approach to the Bible in understanding the Christian Scriptures, and thus much to appreciate and learn from, their acceptance of Trinitarianism, which is utterly foreign to the pages the Bible, exposes a very human, imperfect face on the movement. Perhaps Messianic Judaism is merely unaware of the competing and superior interpretation of Patritheism, that only the Father is the almighty God and Creator.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg is one such Messianic Jew, and while there is much to appreciate from his hermeneutical approach, he has nonetheless presented a question-and-answer supporting Trinitarianism that I feel should be responded to.[1] In his presentation he made some revealing concessions that will be noted. At the outset however I will point out that when he says “Christian” or “traditional Christianity,” that he is falling victim to the typical and convenient preconceived bias that Trinitarianism is authentic Christianity.

With that said, Dr. Eli’s comments will be prefaced with his name and mine by ‘JS.’

Dr. Eli: It is no secret that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as such is not found in the Bible. It is systematized from various Biblical texts by later Christians to present one coherent and accurate teaching that attempts to unify all true believers.

JS: I appreciate his concession that Trinitarianism is not found in the Bible and that it was instead borne out of the ecumenical movement, the desire to unify diverse believers and to anathematize dissidents. However, to describe it as “coherent” is inaccurate as it creates far more questions than what it attempts or proposes to answer. Additionally, it is far from “accurate” as one can possibly imagine, due to contradicting the very fiber of Jesus Christ’s teaching and mission.

Dr. Eli: Traditional Christianity holds that:
  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One God (not three Gods).
  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal in power and glory (same in essence).
  • The Father functionally is superior to the Son and the Holy Spirit (both Son and the Spirit are obedient to the Father).
JS: I appreciate him stating the basic tenets of this theology so concisely. However, it is still diametrically opposed to Jesus’ lucid theology of John 17:1-5 that only the Father is God. Thus, Jesus’ God was not a multipersonal construct but was a real person, the Father, who was not only functionally superior but also ontologically as well in Jesus’ monotheistic theology.

Dr. Eli: As we think through this important topic, here are few things to keep in mind:
First, the original Christ-following movement was still very Jewish and as such was not very interested in doctrines per se. What really concerned first-century Jews was not so much the details of correct beliefs, but rather the details of holy living.

JS: This claim is certainly debatable. See for instance Galatians 3:1-5 where Paul is enraged over the doctrinal compromises being committed by them. While the doctrinal statements in the Christian Scriptures, as well as in Jewish works like Philo, 1 Enoch, and the Damascus Document for instance may not spell out all aspects of the Divine Court or monotheism-monolatry as well as we’d like them to, they definitely contain many statements of belief that appear to deflate this claim.

Dr. Eli: Second, some Jews even prior to Jesus thought of the relation between God and his Word in nearly identical terms as does John’s Gospel (John 1:1). Other pre-Jesus Jews, among many intriguing things, believed in the notion of “the Son of Man” as eternal heavenly being whom God will one day seat on the throne of His glory.

JS: If you’re downloading a file from the Internet, and it’s nearly downloaded, say 99%, is it completely downloaded? What if it stops at 99%, would you have the file? No and no. The exact same situation applies to “nearly identical terms.” “God and his Word” are, by the logical conclusion of his own admission, not the same. Thus, with John 1:1, the Word was with God, and therefore obviously cannot be that God he is in association with, and whose “god-ness” is contrasted with the “god-ness” of the God he is with. Thus, for ones who are objective without a Trinitarian agenda, it is extremely clear that the Word is not the God he is with, that God is the Father the Word is with together in the Divine Court. This is because the Bible presents monotheism as being monolatry—accommodating the existence of the Divine Court.

Regarding “the Son of Man” figure, he is referring to the “Parables of Enoch” in 1 Enoch that expands on the role of the “someone like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, which presents him as sitting on the throne of God by divine appointment. (1 Enoch 51:3; 61:8) However, this privilege of sitting on God’s throne is seen in 1 Chronicles 29:23 with King Solomon, and he was not “God” in the Trinitarian sense. This usage provides the proper precedent for understanding the “placed on God’s throne” language also seen in Revelation 3:21 for Jesus. Again, “nearly identical” is “not the same.”

Dr. Eli: Third, while the Apostles did not think of the Holy Spirit as simply God’s power void of any kind of personality (as in Jehovah Witnesses’ theology) there is embarrassingly little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit in New Testament.

JS: If the holy spirit is a person, then we run into a problem with Jesus’ birth from Mary, who “was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18 ASV) If the holy spirit is a person, then it filled the role of an incubus. That the Apostles did not believe that Jesus’ birth was anything like that of an incubus or like the Watcher demons of 1 Enoch (Book of the Watchers) and Genesis 6:1-4 is seen in Luke 1:35, where the holy spirit is called the “power of the Most High.” Thus Mary became pregnant without any interaction with another person, but with an impersonal power. Therefore, it should be no surprise that “there is embarrassingly little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit in New Testament,” for it is not there—not even in Acts 5:3-4 or anywhere else for that matter.

Dr. Eli: I therefore conclude that if the Apostles were presented with the Christian doctrine of Trinity in its traditional form they would be deeply puzzled as to why such a systematization was necessary or considered essential. But then after being pressed for an answer they would have with some hesitation agreed that the basic ideas presented to them were correct.

JS: I agree that “they would be deeply puzzled as to why such a systematization was necessary or considered essential.” But “after being pressed for an answer,” I doubt there would be any hesitation on their part regarding the blasphemy the Trinitarian “solution” creates—and would have condemned it as a blasphemous misrepresentation of Biblical theology in danger of fulfilling their prophecies of apostasy in the Christian congregation.[2] The Apostles would then have been anathematized as heretics by those responsible for the Trinitarian creeds.

Apostles before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:27-40)


Footnotes:
[2] Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 7-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1, 3; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:2, 3; 2 John 1:7, 8.


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Friday, June 16, 2017

SDA Creationism and Self-Contradiction

The SDA church is identified as being young-earth creationist, and to deny that would be to deny SDA membership. Verifying this is the official SDA news website, which reported:

Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson forcefully asserted that life has existed on the Earth for only a few thousand years, not millions of years. …

He pointed to Bible passages such as Genesis 1, 2 and Psalm 33:6, 9 and the writings of [SDA Prophetess Ellen G.] White to reject a popular teaching that each day in the biblical creation week might have lasted millions of years, thereby making the world much older than the 6,000-odd years that Creationists believe have passed since the Earth was formed. …

In his speech, Wilson quoted from White’s book Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers: “When the Lord declares that He made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, He means the day of 24 hours, which He has marked off by the rising and setting of the sun.”

[Actually, Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 presents the opposite, giving the repetitive formula: “there was evening and there was morning.” He endorsed White’s unscriptural reversal to bolster his next concluding point:]

“How much plainer could it get?” Wilson asked.

He said that the very name “Seventh-day Adventist” pointed to a literal six-day creation because it would make little sense to commemorate a seventh-day Sabbath if the original Sabbath had lasted for years instead of 24 hours.

“If one does not accept the recent six-day creation understanding, then that person is actually not a ‘Seventh-day’ Adventist since the seventh-day Sabbath would become absolutely meaningless historically and theologically and most of our Biblically based doctrines centered in Christ and His authoritative voice would become meaningless as well,” Wilson said.

He cautioned against associating with scientists, humanists and “some who claim to be Seventh-day Adventists” who have embraced an evolution-based creation theory.

[If he’s lumping old-earth creationism in with evolution, then his whole talk was an imprecise and confused denunciation.]

“Do not believe them nor participate in this manipulation of biblical truth regarding creation and the visible commemoration of creation—the Sabbath,” he told conference participants. …

He said educators should support creationism from the heart or do “the honorable thing” and resign.[1] (end quote)

But then the same news website, on the same page, presented the research of a Chinese member who stated regarding Chinese history: “you have 4,000, 5,000 years of Chinese history.”[2]

This is clearly incompatible with the young-earth creationist 6,000-year interpretation, for Chinese culture has to be post-diluvian (after Noah’s Flood) according to the Bible![3] No comment is made regarding this, for it passed under their official noses unnoticed. Leaving this demonstrably glaring contradiction unaddressed in an official news outlet is extraordinarily unprofessional and is itself a sound reason to reject the SDA church as being hypocritical.

Both articles are on the same page on creation, providing a self-contradictory (absurd) presentation: http://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/humanity/creation/


Footnotes:
[1] Wilson: No room for evolution as truth in Adventist schools (August 18, 2014) https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2014-08-18/wilson-no-room-for-evolution-as-truth-in-adventist-schools/ Complete talk is here: ‘God’s Authoritative Voice’  http://www.adventistreview.org/affirming-creation/%E2%80%98god%E2%80%99s-authoritative-voice%E2%80%99

[2] Researcher finds relationship between Chinese characters and Biblical text https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2017-06-15/researcher-finds-relationship-between-chinese-characters-and-biblical-text/

[3] In this scheme, there were 1,656 years from Adam to the Noachian Deluge (Noah’s Flood). Thus, the Deluge occurred over 4,344 years ago (6,000-1,656). If Chinese culture is 4-5,000 years old, then it would either begin before the Deluge (and consequently would have been wiped out by it) or begin too soon after it. Thus, it is clearly incompatible with 6,000 years of human history.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dating Dinosaurs


On one discussion board where I have limited involvement, one person said this to me regarding dinosaurs: “I do not pretend to be an expert but,” and then proceeded to belch forth ignorant and opinionated comments. Needless to say, I refuse to get involved in debates over such matters with people who are too lazy to first educate themselves before speaking. (Compare with Jesus’ principle at Matthew 7:6.) One subject he ignorantly and foolishly raised was on the recent findings of dinosaur soft tissue. People who are fact-conscious will inquire on how “soft” the tissue is. On the other hand, people who are intellectually lazy will prefer imagining that muscle or blood was found with the dinosaur bones, and then draw their own opinionated conclusions regarding the dating of dinosaurs.

To fight against this tendency, I will now share the comments from a trusted source to ones who are interested in learning:


What Dinosaur Soft Tissue Says about the Earth’s Age

May 1, 2016
By Dr. Fazale Rana

Perhaps one of the more amazing discoveries made in recent years has been the recovery of original soft tissue remnants within the fossilized remains of dinosaurs that lived nearly 80 million years ago. Paleontologists have unearthed multiple dinosaur specimens containing soft tissue parts.

What an unbelievable boon to paleontologists! Common wisdom has long held that soft tissues should readily degrade in a few thousand years. Yet, in some cases, these biomaterials have persisted for as long as a few hundred million years. Such unexpected discoveries excite the research community because they open up the possibility for scientists to gain important insight into the biology of ancient organisms.

These discoveries also excite Christians who believe that the earth is young. They see these breakthroughs as compelling scientific support for their interpretation of Genesis 1—one that regards the creation days as calendar days that occurred roughly 6,000 years ago. Young-earth creationists have capitalized on these findings to argue that it is impossible for the fossils to be millions of years old. They reason that soft tissues could not survive that long. In their view, these finds challenge the reliability of radiometric dating methods and, along with it, all other evidences of Earth’s antiquity.

Are they correct?

The scientific community is unimpressed with this latest argument for a young earth. Even though the recovery of soft tissue from fossilized remains was unexpected, it troubles virtually none of the science on which Earth’s age determinations are made. Neither does it trouble Christians who accept the age evidences for the fossil record and the earth. These Christians (including me) do have great concerns, however, about the impact of such young-earth arguments on evangelism. They may hinder nonbelievers from examining the powerful scientific evidence for God’s existence and Scripture’s reliability.

The purpose of my new book, Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth, is to help Christians understand why it makes sense—from a biochemist’s standpoint—for soft tissue remains to have been preserved in fossils that date to several hundred million years in age. As a biochemist, I understand the structure, function, and stability of molecules. I hope that my insights can help prevent well-meaning believers from making a scientifically questionable argument and, at the same time, help Christians exercise discernment when evaluating and employing arguments for the credibility of our faith.

http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-dinosaur-soft-tissue-says-about-the-earths-age


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Friday, June 09, 2017

Compilation of articles on SDA

Colorized photograph of Ellen G. White, SDA founder

The SDA or Seventh-Day Adventist church has some peculiarities, to put it politely, that I regard as “deal-breakers” for membership. I’ve also taken note of some articles published by Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years that introduced the reader to certain problems inherent with SDA. Here they are in one place: (‘g’ stands for the Awake! magazine and ‘w’ stands for the Watchtower magazine.)

  1. Adventist “Prophet” a “Plagiarist”?
  2. Adventist Controversy Sharpens
  3. Adventist Visions Rocked?
  4. The “Investigative Judgment”—A Bible-Based Doctrine?
  5. The International Date Line and the Sabbath

g81 1/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist “Prophet” a “Plagiarist”?

Delegates to last year’s international Seventh-day Adventist convention reaffirmed that Ellen G. White is “inspired in the same sense as were the Bible prophets.” She wrote more than 50 books. Now an Adventist minister for 36 years who spent two years researching her writings declares: “She was a plagiarist.” Pastor Walter Rea claims that the evidence is so plain that “I could take a truck driver off the street and he can see it.” He states that Ellen White’s sources were often non-Adventist religious writers of the mid-1800’s and offers a number of examples to prove it. Thus far, he asserts, he has not found a major work by Ellen White that did not use a previously published source. “The important thing is that she and the denomination always claimed that she didn’t copy and that she wasn’t influenced by anyone,” Rea said.

Commenting on the discovery of this literary borrowing, Donald R. McAdams, president of Southwestern Adventist College in Keene, Texas, wrote: “Ellen White is so central to the lives of Seventh-day Adventists that her words impinge on practically every area of Adventist teaching and practice. . . . To consider her words as possibly derived from someone else and not necessarily the final authority introduces an element of chaos into the very heart of Adventism that makes all of us uneasy.”


g81 4/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist Controversy Sharpens

“Plagiarism by foundress rocks Adventist Church,” declared a headline in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The controversy centers around recent findings regarding the writings of the Church’s main founder, Mrs. Ellen G. White. She had claimed that her writings, from 1844 to 1915, were based on the many visions she had in which God’s voice supposedly instructed her on everything from Bible doctrine to matters of diet and dress. However, Adventist scholars have discovered that in her writings she had copied various other sources “more extensively than we had previously believed.” Desmond Ford, who was recently stripped of his ministerial credentials by the Church for challenging Mrs. White’s writings, said: “Her teachings have been misused as a basis for doctrine, almost as a substitute for the Bible.”

Former Adventist minister Walter Rea, who also was ousted after finding extensive evidence of her plagiarism, declared: “She copied and borrowed for almost everything. Some of this was known before, but not the immense extent of it. What we’ve now discovered magnifies it tremendously, much of it at the very heart of her theology.” He noted that a “shocking amount” of the plagiarism is being concealed from lay members of the Church, adding: “This [concealment] is more damaging than simply telling the truth. It’s not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.”


g81 9/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist Visions Rocked?

At a conference of the American Academy of Neurology held in Toronto, Canada, two doctors reported that “a rock that hit the forehead of a founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Ellen Gould White, when she was 9, almost certainly accounts for her visions, which are the basis of the church’s doctrine,” says the Toronto Star. The doctors, Delbert Hodder, an Adventist, and Gregory Holmes, based their diagnosis on eyewitness accounts of Mrs. White’s behavior after the accident. About 25 percent of this type of injury to the brain is said to result in a form of epilepsy that typically “causes a person to become religious, have a sense of destiny, be highly moralistic, write extensively and keep detailed diaries,” says the report. Doctors back then did not recognize this type of epilepsy, according to Hodder, and only within the last five years have doctors documented such personality changes.

Recognizing that church authorities may view his research as more fuel for the controversy over the authenticity of Mrs. White’s writings that has been raging among Adventists in recent months, Hodder says: “I see it as a unifying concept. It explains everything about her. It’s the answer.”


w97 7/15 pp. 25-29
The “Investigative Judgment”—A Bible-Based Doctrine?

OCTOBER 22, 1844, was a day of great anticipation for some 50,000 people on the East Coast of the United States. Their spiritual leader, William Miller, had said that Jesus Christ would return on that very day. The Millerites, as they were called, waited in their meeting places until darkness fell. Then the next day dawned, but the Lord had not come. Disillusioned, they returned home and thereafter recalled that day as the “Great Disappointment.”

Yet, disappointment soon gave way to hope. A young woman named Ellen Harmon convinced a small band of Millerites that God had revealed in visions that their time calculation was right. She held that a momentous event had taken place on that day—Christ had then entered “the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.”

More than a decade later, Adventist preacher James White (who had married Ellen Harmon) coined a phrase to describe the nature of Christ’s work since October 1844. In the Review and Herald of January 29, 1857, White said that Jesus had begun an “investigative judgment.” And this has remained a fundamental belief among some seven million who call themselves Seventh-Day Adventists.

However, some respected scholars in the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church have been wondering if the “investigative judgment” is a Bible-based doctrine. Why are they having second thoughts about it? If you were a Seventh-Day Adventist, this question would concern you. First, though, what is “investigative judgment”?

What Is It?
The anchor text cited to support this doctrine is Daniel 8:14. It reads: “He said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (King James Version) Because of the phrase “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” many Adventists link this verse with Leviticus chapter 16. It describes the cleansing of the sanctuary by the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement. They also connect Daniel’s words with Hebrews chapter 9, which describes Jesus as the Greater High Priest in heaven. One SDA scholar says that this reasoning is based on the “proof-text” method. A person finds “a certain word like sanctuary in Dan. 8:14, the same word in Lev. 16, the same word in Heb. 7, 8, 9” and holds “that they are all talking about the same thing.”

The Adventists reason this way: Ancient Israel’s priests performed a daily ministry in the temple compartment called the Holy, resulting in forgiveness of sins. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest performed an annual ministry in the Most Holy (the temple’s innermost room) that resulted in the blotting out of sins. They conclude that Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven consists of two phases. The first began with his ascension in the first century, ended in 1844, and resulted in the forgiveness of sins. The second, or “judgment phase,” began on October 22, 1844, still continues, and will result in the blotting out of sins. How is this accomplished?

Since 1844, Jesus is said to be investigating the life records of all professing believers (first of the dead, then of the living) to determine if they merit eternal life. This examination is the “investigative judgment.” After people are thus judged, the sins of those who pass this test are blotted out of the record books. But, explained Ellen White, those who do not pass will have ‘their names blotted out of the book of life.’ Thus, “the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death.” At that point, the heavenly sanctuary is cleansed and Daniel 8:14 is fulfilled. So Seventh-Day Adventists teach. But the SDA publication Adventist Review admits: “The term investigative judgment is not found in the Bible.”

A Missing Linguistic Link
This teaching has troubled some Adventists. “History shows,” says one observer, “that loyal leaders in our ranks have undergone agony of soul as they contemplated our traditional teaching on the investigative judgment.” In recent years, he adds, agony turned to doubt as scholars began to “question many pillars of our usual sanctuary presentation.” Let us now examine two of them.

Pillar one: Daniel chapter 8 is linked with Leviticus chapter 16. This premise is weakened by two main problems—language and context. First, consider language. Adventists believe that the ‘cleansed sanctuary’ in Daniel chapter 8 is the antitype of the ‘cleansed sanctuary’ of Leviticus chapter 16. This analogy seemed acceptable until translators learned that “cleansed” in the King James Version is a mistranslation of a form of the Hebrew verb tsa·dhaqʹ (meaning “to be righteous”) used at Daniel 8:14. Professor of theology Anthony A. Hoekema notes: “It is unfortunate that the word came to be translated be cleansed, since the Hebrew verb usually rendered cleansed [ta·herʹ] is not used here at all.”[1] It is used in Leviticus chapter 16 where the King James Version renders forms of ta·herʹ as “cleanse” and “be clean.” (Leviticus 16:19, 30) Hence, Dr. Hoekema correctly concludes: “If Daniel meant to refer to the kind of cleansing which was done on the Day of Atonement, he would have used taheer [ta·herʹ] instead of tsadaq [tsa·dhaqʹ].” Yet, tsa·dhaqʹ is not found in Leviticus, and ta·herʹ is not found in Daniel. The linguistic link is missing.

What Does the Context Reveal?
Now consider the context. Adventists hold that Daniel 8:14 is “a contextual island,” having nothing to do with the preceding verses. But do you get that impression when you read Daniel 8:9-14 in the accompanying box entitled “Daniel 8:14 in Context”? Verse 9 identifies an aggressor, a small horn. Verses 10-12 reveal that this aggressor will attack the sanctuary. Verse 13 asks, ‘How long will this aggression continue?’ And verse 14 answers: “Until two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; and the holy place will certainly be brought into its right condition.” Clearly, verse 13 raises a question that is answered in verse 14. Theologian Desmond Ford says: “To detach Dan. 8:14 from this cry [“How long?” verse 13] is to be exegetically at sea without an anchor.”[2]

Why do Adventists detach verse 14 from the context? To avoid an awkward conclusion. The context ascribes the defilement of the sanctuary, mentioned in verse 14, to the activities of the little horn. However, the “investigative judgment” doctrine attributes the defilement of the sanctuary to the activities of Christ. He is said to transfer the sins of believers to the heavenly sanctuary. So, what happens if Adventists accept both the doctrine and the context? Dr. Raymond F. Cottrell, a Seventh-Day Adventist and former associate editor of the SDA Bible Commentary, writes: “To pretend to ourselves that the SDA interpretation reads Daniel 8:14 in context then would thus be to identify the little horn as Christ.” Dr. Cottrell honestly admits: “We can’t have both context and the Adventist interpretation.” With regard to the “investigative judgment,” therefore, the Adventist Church had to make a choice—accept the doctrine or the context of Daniel 8:14. Unfortunately, it embraced the former and dropped the latter. No wonder, says Dr. Cottrell, that informed Bible students blame Adventists for “reading into Scripture” what cannot “be drawn from Scripture”!

In 1967, Dr. Cottrell prepared a sabbath school lesson on Daniel, which was sent to SDA churches worldwide. It taught that Daniel 8:14 does relate to its context and that the ‘cleansing’ does not refer to believers. Significantly, the lesson omits any mention of an “investigative judgment.”

Some Remarkable Replies
How great is Adventist awareness that this pillar is too weak to support the “investigative judgment” doctrine? Dr. Cottrell asked 27 leading Adventist theologians, ‘What linguistic or contextual reasons can you give for the link between Daniel chapter 8 and Leviticus chapter 16?’ Their response?

“All twenty-seven affirmed the nonexistence of any linguistic or contextual reasons for applying Dan. 8:14 to the antitypical day of atonement and the investigative judgment.” He asked them, ‘Do you have any other reasons for making this link?’ Most of the Adventist scholars said that they had no other reasons, five replied that they made this link because Ellen White did, and two said that they based the doctrine on a “fortunate accident” in translation. Theologian Ford remarks: “Such conclusions offered by the cream of our scholarship assert in effect that our traditional teaching on Dan. 8:14 is indefensible.”

Any Help From Hebrews?
Pillar two: Daniel 8:14 is linked with Hebrews chapter 9. “All our early works draw heavily on Heb. 9 when explaining Dan. 8:14,” says theologian Ford. This link was born after the “Great Disappointment” in 1844. Searching for guidance, Millerite Hiram Edson dropped his Bible on a table so that it would fall open. The outcome? Hebrews chapters 8 and 9 were facing him. Says Ford: “What could be more appropriate and symbolic of the Adventist claim that these chapters hold the key to the meaning of 1844 and Dan. 8:14!”

“That claim is crucial for Seventh-day Adventists,” adds Dr. Ford in his book Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment. “Only in Heb. 9 . . . can be found a detailed explanation of the significance of . . . the sanctuary doctrine so vital to us.” Yes, Hebrews chapter 9 is the chapter in the “New Testament” to explain the prophetic meaning of Leviticus chapter 16. But Adventists also say that Daniel 8:14 is the verse in the “Old Testament” that does so. If both statements are true, there must be a link between Hebrews chapter 9 and Daniel chapter 8 as well.

Desmond Ford observes: “Certain things stand out immediately as one reads Heb. 9. There is no obvious allusion to the book of Daniel, and certainly none to Dan. 8:14. . . . The chapter as a whole is an application of Lev. 16.” He states: “Our sanctuary teaching cannot be found in the only book of the New Testament which discusses the significance of the sanctuary services. This has been acknowledged by well-known Adventist writers around the world.” So, then, pillar two is also too weak to support the troubled doctrine.

However, this conclusion is not new. For many years, says Dr. Cottrell, “Bible scholars of the church have been well aware of the exegetical problems our conventional interpretation of Daniel 8:14 and Hebrews 9 encounters.” Some 80 years ago, influential Seventh-Day Adventist E. J. Waggoner wrote: “Adventist teaching concerning the sanctuary, with its ‘Investigative Judgment’ . . . , is virtually a denial of the atonement.” (Confession of Faith) Over 30 years ago, such problems were presented to the General Conference, the SDA Church’s leadership.

Problems and an Impasse
The General Conference appointed a “Committee on Problems in the Book of Daniel.” It was to prepare a report on how to resolve the difficulties centering on Daniel 8:14. The 14 committee members studied the question for five years but failed to propose a unanimous solution. In 1980, committee member Cottrell said that most committee members felt that the Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14 could be “established satisfactorily” by a series of “assumptions” and that problems “should be forgotten.” He added: “Remember, the name of the committee was the Committee on Problems in the Book of Daniel, and the majority was suggesting that we forget the problems and not say anything about them.” That would have amounted to an “admission that we had no answers.” So the minority refused to back the majority’s view, and there was no formal report. The doctrinal problems remained unsolved.

Commenting on this impasse, Dr. Cottrell says: “The issue of Daniel 8:14 is still with us because we have been unwilling, thus far, to face up to the fact that a very real exegetical problem does exist. That issue will not go away so long as we keep pretending that there is no problem, so long as we insist on holding our heads, individually and collectively, in the sand of our preconceived opinions.”—Spectrum, a journal published by the Association of Adventist Forums.

Dr. Cottrell urges Adventists to make “a careful reexamination of the basic assumptions and the principles of exegesis on which we have based our interpretation of this—for Adventism—indispensable passage of Scripture.” We would encourage Adventists to examine the doctrine of “investigative judgment” to see whether its pillars are based solidly on the Bible or are founded on the unstable sands of tradition.[3] The apostle Paul wisely urged: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”—1 Thessalonians 5:21.


[Footnotes]

[1] Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies defines tsadaq (or, tsa·dhaqʹ) as “to be righteous, to be justified,” and taheer (or, ta·herʹ) as “to be clear, bright, and shining; to be pure, clean, purged; to be clean from all pollution or defilement.”

[2] Dr. Ford was a professor of religion at the church-run Pacific Union College in the U.S.A. In 1980 the SDA leadership gave him a six-month leave to study the doctrine, but they rejected his findings. He published these in the book Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment.

[3] For a reasoned explanation of Daniel chapter 8, see pages [164-179 in the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses].

[Box on page 27]

Daniel 8:14 in Context
DANIEL 8:9 “And out of one of them there came forth another horn, a small one, and it kept getting very much greater toward the south and toward the sunrising and toward the Decoration. 10 And it kept getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens, so that it caused some of the army and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it went trampling them down. 11 And all the way to the Prince of the army it put on great airs, and from him the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And an army itself was gradually given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success.

“13 And I got to hear a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one proceeded to say to the particular one who was speaking: ‘How long will the vision be of the constant feature and of the transgression causing desolation, to make both the holy place and the army things to trample on?’ 14 So he said to me: ‘Until two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; and the holy place will certainly be brought into its right condition.’”—New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.


w10 2/1 p. 13 Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?
The International Date Line and the Sabbath

The international date line presents a challenge for those who believe that they must keep a weekly Sabbath on the same day everywhere. The date line is an imaginary line that runs for the most part through the Pacific Ocean along the 180th meridian. Countries to the west of the date line are one day ahead of those to the east.

For example, when it is Sunday in Fiji and Tonga, it is Saturday in Samoa and Niue. So if a person keeps the Sabbath in Fiji on Saturday, members of his religion in Samoa, just 711 miles [1,145 km] away, would be working because it is Friday there.

Seventh-Day Adventists in Tonga keep their Sabbath on Sunday, reasoning that by doing so, they are keeping the Sabbath at the same time as their members in Samoa, a little over 500 miles [over 850 km] away. However, at the same time, Seventh-Day Adventists less than 500 miles [800 km] away in Fiji are not resting because it is Sunday there, and they observe the Sabbath on Saturday!

[Admittedly, this just highlights a humorous circumstance. But the complete article is here: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2010084]



In summary, the “deal-breakers” for SDA membership are as follows:
  1. Creature worship like the Mormons do, falling victim to the “follow the founder fallacy.”
  2. There is no “last days” prophet or prophetess.
  3. The alleged prophetess Ellen White sadly had blunt-trauma neurological damage. (See: “Adventist Visions Rocked?” above and “The Significance of Ellen White’s Head Injury” https://www.nonegw.org/headinjury.shtml.)
  4. Ellen White was a plagiarist, a literary thief!
  5. Christ set us free from Sabbatarianism.
  6. “Investigative judgment” was a patch to fix a burst balloon, and now patches need to be placed on that patch.
  7. Immature Biblical hermeneutic galore (young-earth creationism comes to mind).
Consequently, as with debunked Mormonism, the true God is not to be found in the SDA church.



See also:

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jesus’ life before his birth


When did Jesus Christ really live? Did his life begin at his conception in his mother Mary’s womb, or did he enjoy a prior existence as a divine, spirit person in the transcendent spirit realm with his God and Father? (Galatians 4:4; John 8:23; 16:28; 17:5) This blog entry will address this subject and will kindly point out some deficiencies of the “No Personal Preexistence” school of thought espoused by “Socinianism” or “Ebionism,” also known today as “Biblical Unitarianism.” Hereon, this school of thought will be addressed simply as NP.

One thing that is clear is that Jesus called God his Father (notably at John 17:1-5) in accords with divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Jehovah as the Father. He recognized his parents Joseph and Mary, but he always directed attention to God as his Father, never to Joseph, not even in passing.

Additionally, at his baptism the ‘heavens opened up’ to him. (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21-22) Now, the ‘heavens opening up’ can include revelation, which finds precedent in Ezekiel 1:1, and this motif was repeated later with Stephen in Acts 7:56 and with John in Revelation 4:1 and 19:11—thus he likely experienced a baptismal revelatory enlightenment. Following this notable event, he spoke as if he had lived before his birth as recorded at Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, apparently recalling specific cases of him reaching out to the Israelites before his birth, as in working alongside warning prophets like Elijah and Jeremiah from the spirit realm. (See Appendix A.)

Descent Narratives
But perhaps the most descriptive and explicit explanation of Jesus’ origin is found in the Descent Narratives of Ephesians 4:9 and Philippians 2:5-8:

In Ephesians 4:8-10 the reference is being made to Psalm 68:18 where God ascends “up high” back to heaven. Thus, after identifying the application to Jesus in Ephesians 4:7, in Ephesians 4:9 (NET Bible) Paul writes that Jesus “also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth,” and the NET Bible footnote for “earth” informs us that “the phrase ‘of the earth’” is “a genitive of apposition” and that “many recent scholars hold this view and argue that it is a reference to the incarnation.”[1] Thus this phrase explicitly specifies that Jesus descended to the earth just like he ascended from it. (Acts 1:9, 10) Alternatively, one NP-friendly translation presents Ephesians 4:9 as: “it says he ascended, but that means he also had previously descended.”[2] This translation ends the verse prematurely and fails to include the highly relevant and qualifying ending of “to the lower regions, namely, the earth.” Hopefully this was an unintentional omission, especially since this omitted phrase may be seen as a significant contribution to the debate. While NP may want to view the descent as one into the grave,[3] that this omission may consequently allow for, this verse is not talking about Jesus descending into the grave from the earth, no, it is talking about Jesus descending from heaven that he ascended to. (Acts 1:9, 10) This is the only way Paul’s logic works—as Jesus ascended from earth to heaven, so he then previously had to descend from heaven to earth. This is also consistent with Jesus’ words at John 8:21, 23, where he made the contrast with his audience who was from the earth with himself who was not from the earth, and said that he was returning to his transcendent abode where they could not follow him on their own. This powerful contrast is deflated if Jesus was really from the earth.

In Philippians 2:5-8 there is a contrast with Adam made, for Jesus is the “last Adam.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) Exploring this contrast, NP posits that as Adam was created in the image of God, so he was in God’s form (Greek: morphe), as Jesus was in Philippians 2:6,[4] even though morphe is not in Genesis 1:26, 27 LXX—Adam was in the “image” of God only, not the “form” of God there. Ignoring this inconsistency as irrelevant, NP continues to posit that Jesus was born on par with Adam in God’s image or form, and that he “emptied” himself (Philippians 2:7) in the same manner as Isaiah 53:12 describes, where the suffering servant “poured out his life even to death.” Now, while it is true that Jesus “poured out his life even to death,” this act was referred to in Philippians 2:8 where “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death.” But when Jesus “emptied” himself, this resulted in him becoming human, his birth on earth. (Galatians 4:4) This is where NP appears to crumble. To his credit, one Biblical Unitarian said it’s possible that this Philippians 2 passage can support Jesus having a prehuman existence that he emptied himself of.[5] However, one concern he posits is that we can’t relate to having a prehuman existence that we’re emptying ourselves of to imitate Jesus. But as we can still relate to the humility that action demonstrated, that concern would fall to the wayside. It is also noteworthy that Jesus is called the same thing Adam was called, the “image of God,” at 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15 (see also Hebrews 1:3). In contrast, Adam is never referred to as having the “form” of God that Jesus explicitly is said to have. Jesus is spoken of as having both the image and form of God, whereas Adam is only spoken of as having the image of God. This is the second weakness with the NP position—the first and primary weakness is not taking it seriously enough that Jesus emptied himself to become human, not dead.

Thus, these two Descent Narratives portray Jesus as a true missionary, one who left his home in the transcendent spirit realm to be subsequently born without male conception to be the savior of humanity. Per NP, Jesus was not a missionary in the true sense of the word, for he never left his home, he was strictly an itinerant preacher to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” reluctant to preach to Gentiles or Samaritans. (Matthew 10:5; 15:24; Luke 8:1; John 4:3-5; Acts 13:46; Romans 15:8) Thus, per NP, he was the savior of humanity only who was conspicuously born without male conception. In the NP interpretive model then, the virgin birth stands out even more conspicuously than what the Descent Narratives imply. For if Jesus was a true missionary descending from heaven, then yes, the virgin birth would be naturally expected. Thus the virgin birth is only fully congruent with Jesus enjoying a prehuman life, for that’s how he entered our world via his descent.[6] This may be seen as a third weakness with NP. Thus, Jesus enjoying a personal preexistence may be seen as scripturally compelling, even as the most likely interpretation, as it has no such strikes against it.


Footnotes:
[1] The term “incarnation” is inaccurate as incarnations are materializations, which by definition are not born like Jesus was—from Mary. (Luke 1:31; 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.

Additionally, Paul’s application of God in Psalm 68:18 to Jesus in Ephesians 4:7-10 does not automatically support Trinitarianism, for Jesus represents his God and thus may be seen as acting in God’s name. The same situation exists elsewhere, in Psalm 102:25-27 and Isaiah 40:3, for which see “A Trinitarian Take on Jehovah” here: http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/05/a-trinitarian-take-on-jehovah.html.

[2] Buzzard, Sir Anthony. The One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation – New Testament with Commentary. (2014)

[3] The NET Bible footnote referenced above presents this view by stating: “The traditional view understands it as a reference to the underworld (hell), where Jesus is thought to have descended in the three days between his death and resurrection. In this case, ‘of the earth’ would be a partitive genitive,” as opposed to “a genitive of apposition.” However this view, a descent into the grave, is seen as inconsistent with the referent drama of Psalm 68:18 of going from the earth (with captives) to heaven, the transcendent realm of “up high.”

[4] Being in the “form” of God may simply mean that Jesus was a divine spirit being in God’s heavenly court per Biblical monotheism, monolatrism.

[5] Dr. Dale Tuggy. Podcast 49 – 2 interpretations of Philippians 2 – part 2. http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-49-2-interpretations-of-philippians-2-part-2/

[6] In other words, denial of the preexistence makes the virgin birth more peculiar, as in why not have him be born naturally from a zygote cleansed of imperfection? That way there would be no controversy over Mary’s premarital conception. However, with preexistence then the virgin birth would make sense, as it would be the only way for the Messiah to enter our world through a mother.

Appendix
  1. Jesus’ Jerusalem Lamentations
  2. Jesus’ Johannean Reminiscence
Jesus’ Jerusalem Lamentations
In Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem as recorded in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, the NET Bible offers this observation: “Jesus, like a lamenting prophet, speaks for God here, who longed to care tenderly for Israel and protect her.” This is really remarkable. Either Jesus is expressing empathy alone for God, or he is recalling his own feelings he expressed during his preexistence. The later may be seen as more compelling for this reason: if he was empathizing alone, he could have spoken clearer if he had said God had longed for it instead of himself. As he was replacing God’s point-of-view with his own in a time-period predating his own birth, it seems pretty clear that this constitutes a personal reminiscence event.

What may support this is a consideration of the context for both the Matthean and Lukan parallels. While Matthew presents the setting as a single occasion as seen in Matthew 23:34-39, Luke separates it into two different contexts as seen in Luke 11:49-51 and 13:34, 35. To recap, Matthew does not separate the account, but Luke does. See Table A, where Luke 13:33 is included for additional relevant context:

Table A
Matthew
Luke
(Matthew 23:34-39) For this reason, I am sending to you prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them you will kill and execute on stakes, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you did not want it. 38 Look! Your house is abandoned to you. 39 For I say to you, you will by no means see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Luke 11:49-51) That is why the wisdom of God also said: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, and they will kill and persecute some of them, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the founding of the world may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house.’ Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.

(Luke 13:33-35) Nevertheless, I must go on today, tomorrow, and the following day, because it cannot be that a prophet should be put to death outside of Jerusalem. 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her brood of chicks under her wings! But you did not want it. 35 Look! Your house is abandoned to you. I tell you, you will by no means see me until you say: ‘Blessed is the one who comes in Jehovah’s name!’”

Notice that in Matthew, it is Jesus who says “I will send prophets to them who will be mistreated,” but in Luke it is “the wisdom of God,” “a personification of an attribute of God that refers to his wise will,” who says that. (NET Bible footnote) Putting these together, it becomes alarmingly apparent that Jesus is claiming to have existed and acted as “the wisdom of God” prior to his birth, acting out God’s “wise will” prior to his earthly mission. As one scholar explains:
Here Jesus does speak as a person who transcends the time of his earthly ministry in his reference to his longing throughout the entirety of Israel’s history to call the nation to God. (Simon J. Gathercole. The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Kindle Locations 264-265. Kindle Edition. Underline added.)
What makes this observation particularly striking is the contrast between what Jesus says in Matthew 23:35, summarizing the dark history of mistreating God’s people and his prophets, with his first-person lamentation over Jerusalem. In speaking this way, Jesus was likely drawing on Jehovah’s lamentation seen at Jeremiah 35:14-15 where he said: “I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not obeyed me. And I kept sending all my servants the prophets to you, sending them again and again … But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.” (See also 2 Chronicles 36:15-16.) Jesus then appears to be taking Jehovah’s lamentation as his own, and adding to it. The same scholar explains:
[T]he reference to “how often” in connection with Jesus’ attitude to Jerusalem portrays Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel as a transcendent figure who has been summoning Israel to repentance throughout her history. … [W]e can to a large extent agree with [one scholar’s] statement that “for Matthew, Jesus is a trans-historical figure.” (Ibid, Kindle Locations 2341-2343. Underline added.)
Therefore, these Jerusalem Lamentation passages in their contexts indicate that Jesus is being depicted as speaking as the preexistent “wisdom of God,” not just as a personification but as a real person who expressed emotions, and who in Judea could now reminisce on his prehuman career.

Jesus’ Johannean Reminiscence
At John 8:56 Jesus said to his opponents: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” His agitated interlocutors, now even more irritated, pressed him to explain, aggressively asking him: “You are not yet 50 years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” To this, Jesus replied with a statement that has reverberated thunderously for centuries, with both grandiose and mundane interpretations being understood from his answer. The most popular and grandiose interpretation is ironically the most unsubstantiated and absurd one, the interpretation of Trinitarianism that has inflicted incalculable damage on Biblical exegesis. That fallacious interpretation presents Jesus as saying, “before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (NET Bible) As explained in the blog entry “Identifying Jesus,” the Greek words for “I am” are basically left untranslated (translated only as an interlinear translation) with the disproven claim that they refer to the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, which is also a debatable translation. As explained in “Identifying Jesus,” this is just ridiculous for more Greek words would have to be present to justify this interpretation, as in “before Abraham came into existence, I existed as the I am!” Noticing this glaring deficiency, NP posits that the claim that Jesus had literally seen Abraham in his prehuman life derives from Jesus’ enemies (John 8:57), and that his answer to them should be understood as being “before Abraham ever existed, I am the Messiah.” (Buzzard, Sir Anthony. The One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation – New Testament with Commentary. 2014) Here though more words are added that are not in the Greek, and are inserted per the NP interpretation. Additionally, NP holds that this interpretation of inserting “the Messiah” refers to “the Messiah planned in God’s great design for humanity.” (Footnote 608.)

To review, Trinitarianism doesn’t add words but reads the text in a way that demands more words. NP on the other hand adds words and then reads the revised text in a way that demands even more words, as in “before Abraham ever existed, I am the Messiah in the sense of being planned in God’s great design for humanity.”

Is this not a sad state of affairs? Rescuing Bible readers from exegetical oblivion is the more mundane translation of Jesus’ stellar reply: “before Abraham was born, I have been” (1963, 71 NASB with marginal reading), “before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (NWT), and “I existed before Abraham was even born!” (1996 NLT). No dangling “I am” with a blank to be filled in. No, Jesus was indeed attempting to answer their derisive question of seeing Abraham or not—and it was his answer affirming pre-Abrahamic existence that amounted to a grievous stoning offense (in their eyes) of injuring their sacred genealogy, in addition to Jesus’ other perceived offenses that in their eyes could only be remedied by hurling stones at him.

With this interpretation in mind, we can see that it was actually Jesus, not his enemies, who broached the subject of seeing Abraham back in verse 56. Commenting on this, one researcher wrote:
Here Jesus talks about the reaction of Abraham upon ‘seeing his day.’ Jesus says that Abraham “saw it” and then “rejoiced.” But there is no account in the Bible [or any known contemporary document for that matter] that records any such emotion by Abraham upon seeing the “day” of the Messiah. It is clear, then, that Jesus is looking back to a time when he saw Abraham rejoice! This is so clearly the meaning of his own personal reflection on the emotions Abraham displayed, that the Jews responded to Jesus [in the next verse]: “You have seen Abraham?” (Stafford, Greg. Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended 3rd ed., 223-4. 2007) (Italics original.)
Perhaps Jesus had in mind the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 where it is said that “all the families of the ground will certainly be blessed by means of you.” While it is possible that Jesus was merely imagining Abraham’s natural response of rejoicing at hearing this, his repetition of Abraham’s rejoicing and him not clarifying to his incensed enemies that he was only imagining it serve as indicators that this is another “reminiscence event” of a person “who transcends the time of his earthly ministry” as “a trans-historical figure.” (See Appendix A.)


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Friday, April 21, 2017

Saul and Samuel

With whom did the spirit medium of Endor get in touch?
Did King Saul visit with Samuel after Samuel’s death? This account is presented in 1 Samuel 28:3-19. In it, Saul is seized with panicked fear over his impending doom at the hands of the Philistines. As his pleas for help were going unheard, in palpable desperation he turned to a “spirit medium” called the “Witch of Endor.” What made this especially ironic was that King Saul had just executed a purge in the land of the very type of person he was now so desperately seeking. (1 Samuel 28:3) Interestingly, a NET Bible footnote for verse 3 describes the scene of Saul’s meeting with the witch:
The Hebrew term translated “mediums” actually refers to a pit used by a magician to conjure up underworld spirits (see 2 Kgs 21:6). In v. 7 the witch of Endor is called the owner of a ritual pit.
So in this ritual pit, a representation of the dead Samuel is manifested, and is called in Hebrew elohim, gods. (1 Samuel 28:13) On this point, the NWT-Ref note says:
Heb., ʼelo·himʹ, pl., evidently to denote excellence and applying to an individual even though the verb “coming” is pl., for the woman saw only the form of an old man come up.
And the NET Bible footnote similarly says in part:
Heb “gods.” The modifying participle (translated “coming up”) is plural, suggesting that underworld spirits are the referent. But in the following verse Saul understands the plural word to refer to a singular being.
So perhaps she saw multiple manifestations of spirits that coalesced into one or diminished until one was remaining. But the salient question is, was it really Samuel or an impostor? While the text does not say outright that it was an imposture, is it at all implied?

The following explanation from Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2 pp. 1027-1028 under “Spiritism” successfully unravels this enigma:
King Saul’s visit to a medium. When Saul went to the medium, Jehovah’s spirit had for some time been removed from him, and in fact, God would not answer his inquiries by means of dreams or by the Urim (used by the high priest) or by the prophets. (1Sa 28:6) God would have no more to do with him; and God’s prophet Samuel had not seen Saul for a long period of time, from before David’s being anointed to be king. So it would be unreasonable to think that Samuel, even if still alive, would now come to give Saul advice. And God would certainly not cause Samuel, whom he had not sent to Saul before his death, to come back from the dead to talk to Saul.—1Sa 15:35.
That Jehovah would in no way approve of or cooperate with Saul’s action is shown by his later statement through Isaiah: “And in case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons? To the law and to the attestation!”—Isa 8:19, 20.
Therefore, when the account reads: “When the woman saw ‘Samuel’ she began crying out at the top of her voice,” it obviously recounts the event as viewed by the medium, who was deceived by the spirit that impersonated Samuel. (1Sa 28:12) As for Saul himself, the principle stated by the apostle Paul applied: “Just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting … Although these know full well the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death, they not only keep on doing them but also consent with those practicing them.”—Ro 1:28-32.
The Commentary on the Old Testament, by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch (1973, Vol. II, First Samuel, p. 265), refers to the Greek Septuagint at 1 Chronicles 10:13, which has added the words “and Samuel the prophet answered him.” (Bagster) The Commentary supports the view that is implied by these uninspired words [that is, attested only] in the Septuagint, but it adds: “Nevertheless the fathers, reformers, and earlier Christian theologians, with very few exceptions, assumed that there was not a real appearance of Samuel, but only an imaginary one. According to the explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, an apparent image of Samuel was presented to the eye of Saul through demoniacal arts. Luther and Calvin adopted the same view, and the earlier Protestant theologians followed them in regarding the apparition as nothing but a diabolical spectre, a phantasm, or diabolical spectre in the form of Samuel, and Samuel’s announcement as nothing but a diabolical revelation made by divine permission, in which truth is mixed with falsehood.”
In a footnote (First Samuel, pp. 265, 266), this Commentary says: “Thus Luther says … ‘The raising of Samuel by a soothsayer or witch, in 1 Sam. xxviii. 11, 12, was certainly merely a spectre of the devil; not only because the Scriptures state that it was effected by a woman who was full of devils (for who could believe that the souls of believers, who are in the hand of God, … were under the power of the devil, and of simple men?), but also because it was evidently in opposition to the command of God that Saul and the woman inquired of the dead. The Holy Ghost cannot do anything against this himself, nor can He help those who act in opposition to it.’ Calvin also regards the apparition as only a spectre … : ‘It is certain,’ he says, ‘that it was not really Samuel, for God would never have allowed His prophets to be subjected to such diabolical conjuring. For here is a sorceress calling up the dead from the grave. Does any one imagine that God wished His prophet to be exposed to such ignominy; as if the devil had power over the bodies and souls of the saints which are in His keeping? The souls of the saints are said to rest … in God, waiting for their happy resurrection. Besides, are we to believe that Samuel took his cloak with him into the grave? For all these reasons, it appears evident that the apparition was nothing more than a spectre, and that the senses of the woman herself were so deceived, that she thought she saw Samuel, whereas it really was not he.’ The earlier orthodox theologians also disputed the reality of the appearance of the departed Samuel on just the same grounds.”
Thus, there is historical president for seeing the conjured spirit Samuel as a demonic imposture. Additionally, The Jewish Study Bible in a note on verses 12-14 states that
The Bible believes in the possibility of sorcery, soothsaying and necromancy, but prohibits them as heathen practices (Deut. 18.9-14).
Therefore, why would Samuel if still alive reward irreverent Saul by submitting himself to the control of a heathen spiritist? This question reveals the inherent weakness of the position that it really was a postmortem appearance of Samuel. Additionally, assuming there were initial attendant spirits appearing with him, who were they? Why were more than just one manifesting themselves to the eyes of the infernal witch? Thus, understanding this as the authentic Samuel is intellectually problematic and theologically disastrous.

However, there is another historical precedent that demands consideration: an ancient Mesopotamian parallel found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh digs a pit into the ground to perform a séance to contact his dearly beloved but deceased companion Enkidu. As one source explains:
Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the Gilgamesh Epic also attest the use of pits or holes in the ground as portals through which the dead could ascend from the underworld; Gilgamesh used such a pit to summon his departed companion Enkidu.[1]
The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) explains that these versions of the Gilgamesh Epic present Gilgamesh as digging a pit in the ground and summoning the spirit of Enkidu, and that “the entire episode reminds us of 1 S. 28.14.”[2] The tablet explaining the séance portrays it as successful. It states:
He freed Enkidu to speak once to kin. … Enkidu’s shadow rose slowly toward the living and the brothers, tearful and weak, tried to hug, tried to speak, tried and failed to do anything but sob.

“Speak to me please, dear brother,” whispered Gilgamesh. “Tell me of death and where you are.”

“Not willingly do I speak of death,” said Enkidu in slow reply. “But if you wish to sit for a brief time, I will describe where I do stay.”

“Yes,” his brother said in early grief.

“All my skin and all my bones are dead now. All my skin and all my bones are now dead.”

“Oh no,” cried Gilgamesh without relief. “Oh no,” sobbed one enclosed by grief.[3]
Notice how clear and unqualified the language is. Gilgamesh is portrayed as successfully conjuring Enkidu from the grave and holding a conversation with him. Therefore, what appears here may expose a problem of consistency. That is, if the ones who posit that Samuel really appeared to the witch deny that the other séances in the Ancient Near East were successful, on what basis do they do so? This is inconsistent and falls victim to the logical fallacy of cherry picking. If you believe that it was really Samuel, then you must also believe that it was really Enkidu. If not, then on what basis do you doubt the clear language of the Gilgamesh Epic? On the other hand, if you believe that the witch’s Samuel was a demonic impostor, then you can consistently hold that all other such successful séances were also demonstrating demonic impostures.

In summary, concluding that the conjured Samuel was the historical Samuel is a superficial reading that ignores that it would sully God’s hands and contradict the historical Samuel who had nothing to do with necromancy. Additionally, by being a superficial reading it would also ignore Jesus’ parenthetical admonition to use discernment when reading the scriptures.—Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14.


Footnotes:
[1] The Necromancer from Endor – John Walton and Phil Long. http://zondervanacademic.com/blog/necromancer-from-endor/

This reference also states concerning the relationship to the Samuel account:
As regards Saul’s night visit to the necromancer at Endor, opinion is divided over whether the real Samuel appeared or a mere apparition. The startled reaction of the woman in verse 12, her immediate realization that she has been deceived (she is not dealing with her “familiar” spirits), and the narrator’s unqualified statement that the woman “saw Samuel” all suggest that Samuel really appears. That in this instance Yahweh should deign to return Samuel from the grave—to the surprise of the woman and the dismay of Saul—in no way represents a validation either of the efficacy or the acceptability of necromancy.
A number of responses are in order:
  1. Her “startled reaction” was in response to the realization that the disguised man was her mortal enemy King Saul, not about unfamiliar spirits.
  2. The narrator’s unqualified statement obviously recounts the event as viewed by the medium, who was deceived like Eve had been.—Genesis 3:1, 1 Timothy 2:14, Revelation 12:9.
  3. Why would Jehovah who condemned necromancy now cooperate with it? Would that not soil his hands so-to-speak? No, the holy God of Israel would not cooperate with a witch of a conjuring pit. This is a neglected dilemma for those authors who should be concerned with the sanctity of their God.
[2] 1:131-2.

[3] Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet XII, found online here where the rest of the séance can be read if you so desire: http://www.piney.com/Gil12.html What was quoted from it was done so to clearly establish the unqualified language describing an allegedly successful séance.


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Credits:
Picture from page 91 of You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth (1982).

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