Friday, February 03, 2017

Did Jesus ever break the Sabbath?


See the new appendix to my blog entry: A Rebuttal of Trinitarianism
http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-rebuttal-of-trinitarianism.html

This is very important. The short answer is No, only his murderous enemies thought so.

Credits:
Picture from Plucking Grain on the Sabbath
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/jesus/ministry-in-galilee/plucking-grain-on-sabbath/

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Friday, January 13, 2017

A Word of Advice


When talking to others about:
  • When Adam was created
  • Noah’s Flood
  • Jesus’ death
Please stress the basics, not the specifics. Specifics tend to be less secure than the basics anyway.

The basics of these are:
  • Adam was created thousands of years ago.
  • Noah’s Flood destroyed the wicked human society, and select fauna were preserved on the ark which landed on one of the Ararat mountains.
  • Jesus was nailed upright to wood and furnished the ransom sacrifice.
Stress these basics on these topics and the conversation will go way smoother, and you’ll still get your main point across.

If you stress the specifics then you may find yourself getting bogged down in the specifics, which will then be the time to abandon the specifics and return to the basics.


Thank you for listening!

(Another thing to not be that specific on is whether or not Peter was ever in Rome. Interestingly, one Watchtower left the door open on Peter ever being in Rome. It said: “Even if Peter did preach in Rome, as some secular literature from the first and second centuries implies, there is no proof that he was head of the congregation there.” (2011 8/1 p. 25 Is the Pope “Saint Peter’s Successor”?) http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011571 Thus, the only point now being contested is that he was the overseer of the Roman Christians.)


Related blog posts:

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Who will escape?


Joel 2:31 presents “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” Who will escape it? The following verse (Joel 2:32) answers: “And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, just as Jehovah has said, The survivors whom Jehovah calls.”

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) presents the last part with a different twist. It states: “Those telling good news; those evangelizing [from εὐαγγελιζόμενοι, euaggelizomenoi] whom [Jehovah] calls.”

Why this change? Why are the survivors evangelizers? For the answer we must look at the Hebrew text:

והיה כל אשר־יקרא בשם יהוה ימלט כי בהר־ציון ובירושלם תהיה פליטה כאשר אמר יהוה ובשרידים אשר יהוה קרא׃

The underlined word is ubassridim, “among the survivors or remnant (שרידים, sridim).” Now, to go from that word to euaggelizomenoi, evangelizers, can be accomplished through the following easy modification: if the initial “b” in ubassridim was taken as the initial letter of the word basar, “to preach, tell good news,” (instead of the particle “b” meaning “in” or “among”) along with confusing the similar “r” and “d” (ר and ד), then one Hebrew word was transformed into another similar Hebrew word, which was then translated into the LXX. As the late Solomon Landers[1] once said:
The similarity between “b.sr(idim)” [“among the survivors”] and “bsr(iyim)” [“evangelizers”] in an unpointed, paleo-Hebrew text—such as the LXX translators would have had—is striking.
But were the LXX translators that far off in their modification? As it harmonizes with the Great Commission that Jesus later gave in Matthew 28:19, 20 and described in Matthew 24:14, they were not off the mark. Ironically, while it was ultimately a mistranslation, it did harmonize with later divine revelation.

Thus, in closing, who will escape the Day of Jehovah? The evangelizers appointed by Jehovah.


Footnotes:
[1] Solomon Landers (1942-2013) was a very scholarly Jehovah’s Witness who also maintained an excellent collection of blogs on the Coptic translation of the scriptures.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Festival of Dedication

A priest lighting the oil lamps of the Temple Menorah

At John 10:22 the Festival of Dedication is mentioned. As explained in one article,[1] this festival was held in “wintertime” and commemorated the rededication of Jehovah’s Temple in 165 B.C.E. It was held for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Chislev, close to the winter solstice. This festival is thus late and is not mentioned on the Hebrew Bible, and it is also the direct product of the Maccabean Revolt.

What sparked this insurrection? In 168 B.C.E., the Greek, Syrian Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) made an earnest effort to eradicate Jewish worship and customs, and to complete this purge, he had a pagan altar erected atop the altar in Jehovah’s Temple in Jerusalem. Upon it, he had sacrifices offered to the Greek god Zeus, including swine—animals considered unclean in Jewish worship.—Leviticus 11:7, 27.

As you can imagine, the Jewish reaction was nothing short of outrage and open revolt. Who took the lead in this uprising was Judah Maccabee, and he succeeded in recovering Jerusalem from the Seleucids, and then had the defiled altar demolished and a new one built in its place. Exactly three years after the altar had first been desecrated, Judah rededicated the cleansed Temple to Jehovah, and relit the sacred Temple Menorah lamp (which according to legend miraculously continued to burn after exhausting its oil supply). This “festival of dedication” (Hebrew, chanuk·kahʹ) has been celebrated in December by the Jews ever since. Today, the festival is known as Hanukkah.

Origin of the surname Maccabee
In the early days of the rebellion, Judah received the surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba, “hammer” or “sledgehammer” in recognition of his ferocity in battle.

It is also possible that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the words found in Exodus 15:11 Mi Kamokha Ba'elim Jehovah (מכבי), “Who among the gods is like you, O Jehovah?”, his battle-cry to motivate his troops.[2]
What were the odds of success?
One scholar explains:
Realistically, the Maccabees had absolutely no chance of winning. The [Greek] Syrian army consisted of more than 40,000 men—it was another David vs. Goliath scenario—but, as in the story of David, God performed a miracle, and after a series of battles, the war was won.

When the Maccabees, miraculously, recaptured the Temple, they had to cleanse and restore it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrians.[3]

Did the Maccabean Revolt enjoy divine support and intervention?
Answering this question:
There is no direct statement in the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah gave Judah victory and directed his repair of the Temple, its refurnishing, the making of utensils, and finally its rededication. Yet, for the prophecies regarding Jesus and his ministry to be fulfilled and for the Levitical sacrifices to continue until the great sacrifice of God’s Son would be accomplished, the Temple had to be standing and its services in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Joh 2:17; Da 9:27) Jehovah had used men of foreign nations, such as Cyrus, to carry out certain purposes as regards His worship. (Isa 45:1) How much more readily might he use a man of his dedicated people, the Jews.[4]

Another source repeats:
Nevertheless, the Christian Greek Scriptures do record the fulfillment of Messianic Hebrew Scripture prophecies in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Some of these prophecies required that the Temple be in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Daniel 9:27; Haggai 2:9; compare Psalm 69:9 with John 2:16, 17.) Thus, unless the Temple was cleansed and rededicated to Jehovah, these prophecies could not have been fulfilled. Clearly, God wanted the Temple to be rededicated. But was Judah Maccabee his chosen instrument for accomplishing this?

In the absence of an inspired record, we cannot say for certain. Of course, Jehovah had in years past used non-Jews, such as Cyrus the Persian, to carry out certain aspects of his will. (Isaiah 44:26–45:4) How much more so might God use someone from among his dedicated people, the Jews![5]

Did the Maccabean Revolt fulfill Bible prophecy?
This would be totally remarkable, and yet there are two scriptures in the 12 Prophets that seem to do so. The first is Micah 5:7-9.

These sources explain:
They would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity, and they would be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Mic 5:7-9) This latter prophecy apparently had a fulfillment during the Maccabean period, resulting in the preservation of the Jews in their land and the preservation of the Temple, until the Messiah’s coming.[6]

A remnant from among the exiled Jews did indeed return to Judah and revive the worship of Jehovah at the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. In the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes, this remnant would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity. They would also be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Micah 5:7, 8) This latter expression may have been fulfilled during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the family of the Maccabees expelled their enemies from the Promised Land and rededicated the Temple, which had been defiled. Thus the land and the Temple were preserved so that another faithful remnant would be able to welcome the Son of God when he appeared there as the Messiah.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 1:13-17, 67-79; 3:15, 21, 22.[7]

This prophecy may have had its first fulfillment during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the Maccabees expelled their enemies from Judah and rededicated the Temple. This made it possible for a remnant of the Jews to welcome the Messiah when he appeared.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:15-22.[8]

Second, there is Zechariah 9:13 foretelling the successful warfare of the ‘sons of Zion’ against Greece.[9] Spectacularly, this was specifically fulfilled during the successful warfare of the Maccabees.


In conclusion, we can see that the Maccabean Revolt was a sincere and devout rebellion lead by someone with great love for his God Jehovah and for pure, undefiled worship. Additionally, as it paved the way for Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled, and evidently fulfilled Bible prophecies in the process, it certainly enjoyed divine support in a mighty way, until its purpose was fulfilled.


Footnotes:
[1] Watchtower, 2011, 9/1 p. 14, seen here: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011650#h=7

[2] Wikipedia, Judas Maccabeus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Maccabeus

[3] Hanukkah Reflections for Christmas http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/hanukkah-reflections-christmas/

[4] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Festival of Dedication p. 825 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001506#h=7

[5] Awake! 1990 12/8 p. 13 Hanukkah—Is It a “Jewish Christmas”?

[6] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 Remnant p. 770

[7] Watchtower, 2001 11/1 p. 11

[8] Live with Jehovah’s Day in Mind p. 170 footnote

[9] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Javan p. 1258

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Russia’s Legal System is in Serious Trouble


The following 3-part report on jw.org is absolutely incredible and sobering. There appears to be a reign of terror in Russia, complete with government-sanctioned police abuse—even worse than when under the Soviet regime.

Fortunately, this situation has not gone unnoticed by objective academicians, who have unanimously decried these abuses as seen here:

Part 1:

Experts Explain: Russia Uses Anti-Extremism Law as Ploy to Criminalize Jehovah’s Witnesses
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/anti-extremism-law/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/anti-extremism-law-interviews/

Part 2:

Experts Decry Russia’s Threat to Ban the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/threat-to-ban-new-world-translation/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/threat-to-ban-new-world-translation-interviews/

Part 3:

International Experts Discredit Russia’s “Expert Analysis” in Identifying “Extremism”
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/expert-analysis-identifying-extremism-discredited/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/expert-analysis-identifying-extremism-discredited-interviews/


Other resources:

Recommended reading:

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Foreknowing the Fall?


Did God create Adam and Eve knowing that they would fail to meet his standards and behave offensively and disobediently? (Romans 5:18, 19)

Two Pauline scriptures are used to argue that God indeed did that: 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, for both conclude with the phrase πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, which literally means "before times everlasting."[1] The NET Bible has it rendered as "before the ages began" with a footnote saying "before eternal ages." The NIV however has it translated as "before the beginning of time," and the HCSB similarly has "before time began." This makes it appear like God began the redemptive process for humanity before the creation of the physical universe, as in foreknowing that the Fall would happen even prior to physical creation.

However, this would create a theodical problem, a problem affecting God's righteousness by making him party to the disastrous consequences of our primeval parents' fall into sin and death. As the book Reasoning From the Scriptures notes:[2]
Would it be just or loving to condemn a person for doing something that you yourself planned for him to do? ... Jehovah is a God of love. (1 John 4:8) All his ways are just. (Ps. 37:28; Deut. 32:4) It was not God's will for Adam to sin; he warned Adam against it. (Gen. 2:17) ... Perfection did not rule out the exercise of free will to disobey. Adam chose to rebel against God, despite the warning that death would result.
Interestingly, the NWT does not translate either scripture as seen above, but as "before times long ago" (2 Timothy 1:9) and as "promised long ago" (Titus 1:2).[3] Thus, the redemptive process began only when it needed to, thousands of years prior with the first redemptive promise expressed in Genesis 3:15, right after the Fall occurred and not before. The BDAG lexicon concurs with this handling of the Greek text, for it says on page 33 under αἰώνιος in boldface type that it pertains "to a long period of time, long ago," and only offers "before time began" as a secondary, possible rendering in those two pastoral scriptures.

Click to enlarge.

Even if the phrase is literally "before time began," this may be taken as hyperbole.

In closing, ones who think that God created with redemption in mind fail to appreciate that this would include God in the Fall, making him a party to it. Thus, having God create knowing in advance that his crowning creation, humanity, would rebel and offend him does nothing to support theodicy. Claiming that God being omniscient means that he knew in advance that humanity would offend him is ridiculous and assumes that knowing everything means that you know what someone else will do at all times and with all choices.[4] It is an anti-theodicy and is nonsense.


Footnotes:
[1] Astronomer and creation apologist Hugh Ross argued like this in this podcast discussing his excellent new book Improbable Planet: http://www.reasons.org/audio/improbable-planet-2-3

[2] "Adam and Eve" page 29. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989205#h=23. See also under "Fate" page 142 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989229#h=29, and in Insight on the Scriptures under "Foreknowledge, Foreordination: Predestinarian view" p. 852 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001549#h=13

[3] It is interesting that Paul while writing under divine inspiration did not provide a chronological total here from Adam's sin to his day, not even a rough one (as in "about 4,000 years ago" per the 6,000-year interpretive paradigm), but simply left it as 'a real long time ago.'

[4] This explanation is called "Open Theism," which is defined as here at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/o-theism/.


Recommended video:
Depicting the Fall and Jesus' ransom sacrifice:
https://tv.jw.org/#en/video/VODBible/pub-jwbcov_201505_11_VIDEO

Related blog entry:
The Earth that Adam Knew?
http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2012/01/earth-that-adam-knew-what-did-earth.html

Additional reading:
They Listened to Satan—With What Results?
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/listen-and-live/adam-eve-listened-to-satan/


Credits:
Opening picture from Learn From the Great Teacher chapter 8, seen here: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/learn-from-great-teacher-jesus/others-are-higher-than-we-are.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trinities Podcast Share


This is an excellent podcast (#51) from Dr. Dale Tuggy’s Trinities website that I feel compelled to share. It is a rejoinder to Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a former Hindu, on the Trinity, seen here:

trinities.org/blog/podcast-51-dr-ravi-zacharias-on-the-trinity

Here, Dale makes a simple response to the Trinitarian “love” argument, that is: “If God is love, then who was he loving before he created Jesus? Hmm? Checkmate! The Trinity must be true then as all three persons in the impersonal Godhead are eternal loving each other!” Later he made more sophisticated responses to this superficial reasoning in these podcasts:

Podcast 132 – 10 Apologists’ Mistakes about the Trinity – Part 2. The argument about love is addressed from ca. 3:50-9:40.
trinities.org/blog/podcast-132-10-apologists-mistakes-about-the-trinity-part-2
Podcast 157 – Listener Questions 2. The argument about love is addressed from 7:38-11:00.
trinities.org/blog/podcast-157-listener-questions-2

His response to the Trinitarian “love” argument is that God was loving himself before creation. The expected Trinitarian response to that though is the charge of narcissism.[1] However, this reaction attributes that sinful trait to God—and is thus sensational and wholly unconvincing.

What I find so special about this podcast 51 is that it covers a lot of issues that Zacharias so eloquently presented.

Footnotes:
[1] Trinitarian Kenneth Samples argued in that manner, and I have offered my cogent rejoinder to that here: Trinitarian Samples http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html.


Related Trinities Podcasts:


Related blog entries:

See also:


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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mormons seeing the man behind the curtain


Professor Dale Tuggy has presented a two-part podcast on Mormonism entitled "Mormons seeing the man behind the curtain," part 1 being here and part 2 being here.

After giving a fascinating review of everything Mormon, from its history to some of its most current issues, he applies the same dilemma facing Mormonism to the Evangelical Christian community.

These are very enjoyable to listen to, especially if you've ever been interested in Mormonism and its attendant issues.


Related blog entry:
See also:

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Evolution, earlier life, and can openers


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

Related blog entry:

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Identifying Jesus

The Transfiguration

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

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

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

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

Whole books have been written answering these questions.

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

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

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

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

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

Taking for granted that “I AM” (‘ego eimi’) is the divine name in John 8:58, let’s run a simple test. This claim that Jesus is assuming the name of God from Exodus 3:14 can be easily tested by replacing “I AM” with another divine name or designation, like “God,” and observing the results.
[test]
“Before Abraham was, God.”
[end of test]
This declaration as it stands is nonsensical. To make sense, it needs the words “I existed as” or “I was,” or something similar: “Before Abraham was, I was God.”

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

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

Figure 1
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:


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

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


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

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

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


Related blog entries:

From Dr. Edgar Foster:

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

Podcast with Rabbi Tovia Singer:
Torah Pearls – Season 2 – Shemot
Why do Christian bibles translate and capitalize Exodus 3:14 as “I AM”? Find out the answer to this and many other questions in this week’s Torah Pearls!
http://www.truth2u.org/2015/01/08/torah-pearls-season-2-shemot/
When downloaded, the minute marker is specifically 58:40-1:04:50. Rabbi Tovia Singer says he needs “Dramamine” when listening to the Trinitarian explanation for Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58, which he humorously says gives him “acid reflux.” He says it “doesn’t match at all,” and uses this to lampoon Christianity!


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



Appendix
More background regarding John 8:58-59 and blasphemy
One source[A1] provides the following background information to help us have greater insight into the thematic mechanics involved with Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees in John 8. After comparing the adversarial scene in John 8 with the one in Mark 14:60-64,[A2] where Jesus was condemned as a blasphemer by the high priest for stating that he was the Christ, and after noting that Jesus stated that he was a witness to Abraham rejoicing at seeing his arrival as the Christ (John 8:56),[A3] he writes:

[Quote]
When they realized the implications of Jesus’ claim to have existed before Abraham, as the Christ whose “day” Abraham “saw,” the Jews took up stones to stone him. They rejected his claim to be the Christ, as well as any suggestion that he was superior to their “father,” Abraham.133

Several references to “blasphemy” in the writings of Josephus help further illustrate how the Jews of Jesus’ day could have interpreted his words as blasphemous without associating them in any sense with a claim to be God. For example, in his Antiquities of the Jews 3.180 Josephus refers to “blasphemous charges” that are made against the Jews which are “really seen as an attack against the lawgiver Moses, who is seen as speaking for God.”134 In Antiquities 12.406 a connection is made “between blasphemy and attacking the people of God, especially the leadership.”135 Finally, in Antiquities 20.115 a soldier “seized the Laws of Moses, that lay in one of those villages, and brought them out before the eyes of all present, and tore them to pieces; and this was done with reproachful language [Greek: epiblasphemon, ‘blasphemies’], and much scurrility” (Whiston’s translation). It is clear, then, that disrespect for God’s law and for his leadership was, for the Jews, tantamount to disrespecting God himself.

(P. 298)
Additionally, in the Qumran scrolls “blasphemy” is used for how God’s servants are treated (1QpHab 10.13) and of those who ‘open their mouth against the statutes of God’s covenant by saying, “They are not right”’ (CD-A 5.12; compare 5.21).136 In the OT Apocrypha, “blasphemy” is used to characterize actions against God’s name, against his people, and against their holy places, such as the temple and its sanctuary (1 Maccabees 2:6-14; 2 Maccabees 8:2-4; compare 2 Maccabees 12:14; 15:24). In Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 3:16 the one who forsakes his father is “like a blasphemer” (hos blasphemos). This understanding is perhaps because of the position and the responsibility God is said to have given fathers according to Sirach 3:2.

When I consider the high priest’s declaration of “blasphemy” against Jesus upon hearing him affirm that he is the “Christ,” “the Son of the Blessed,” and the “Son of man,” [Mark 14:60-64] together with the general understanding of blasphemy found in Jewish literature during this time, it is easy to understand why the Jews attempted to stone Jesus according to John 8:59: He claimed to be the Christ whose “day” Abraham “saw.” He also claimed to have “seen Abraham” by existing “before” him, showing his superiority137 to the one whom the Jews believed Jesus was ‘not greater than.’—John 8:39, 53.138

Footnotes:
133 Consider, too, this Midrash (a rabbinical investigation into the meaning of a particular text completed sometime after 200 CE) on the book of Psalms:
R. Yudan said in the name of R. Hama: In the time-to-come, when the Holy One, blessed be He, seats the lord Messiah at His right hand, as is said The Lord saith unto my lord: “Sit at my right hand” (Ps. 110:1), and seats Abraham at His left. Abraham’s face will pale, and he will say to the Lord: “My son’s son sits at the right, and I at the left!” [The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude, trans. (New Haven: Yale, 1959), page 261.]
Here Abraham is presented as upset over the Messiah’s place at God’s right hand! It should be no surprise, then, that those who viewed Abraham as their “father” (Joh 8:39) were also upset when Jesus claimed to have existed “before Abraham was born.”

134 Darrell L. Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1998), page 54.

135 Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation, page 57.

136 James Charlesworth, ed., The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, vol. 2, Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1995), page 21.

137 Interesting in this connection is Satan’s statement to Michael the Archangel in the Life of Adam and Eve 14.3. After being told to “worship the image of God” (namely, “Adam”), Satan responds (with underlining added): “I will not worship one inferior and subsequent to me. I am prior to him in creation; before he was made, I was already made. He ought to worship me” (M.D. Johnson, “Life of Adam and Eve,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, James H. Charlesworth, ed. [New York, NY: Doubleday, 1985], page 262). This shows that there was a definite sense of superiority associated with one who existed before another. Johnson (“Life of Adam and Eve,” page 252) dates the original composition of this work from between 100 BCE to 200 CE, most probably “toward the end of the first Christian century,” with the Greek and Latin texts produced between that time and 400 CE.

138 Other ancient Jewish references that speak of Abraham in exalted or elevated terms can be found in Philo (see Allegorical Interpretation 3.9, 83, 203 [compare 244]; On the Cheribum 18; Sacrifices of Abel and Cain 5; The Worse Attacks the Better 159; Posterity and Exile of Cain 27, 174; On the Giants 62, 64; On Sobriety 17; On the Change of Names 69, 88, 152; On Dreams 1.70; 2.244; On the Life of Moses 1.76), in the Apocalypse of Abraham (10.5-17; 14.2), and in the Testament of Abraham ([Recension A] 1.2, 5-6; 2.3; 4.6; 10.5-11, 13; 15.14-15; 16.9; 17.7; [Recension B] 13.9-10). Compare also Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 1.225, 256.

[End of quotation.]

What I found particularly noteworthy from this was:
  1. how it was possible to blaspheme the Temple,
  2. the Midrash on Psalms that preserved the ancient Jewish concern to protect Abraham from the notion that the Messiah should enjoy priority over him,
  3. and the similar complaint voiced in Life of Adam and Eve which preserves “that there was a definite sense of superiority associated with one who existed before another.”
Thus, regarding the last two points, for Jesus to have declared that he existed prior to Abraham would have hit both nerves, and stresses the severity of injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige.

Appendix endnotes:
[A1] Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics, third edition by Greg Stafford, chapter 3 “Jesus of Nazareth—The Christ from Heaven” pages 297-8. (Elihu Books. 2009, digital version 2012)

[A2] Pages 296-7.

[A3] Pages 223-5.

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