Monday, 25 July 2016

2 Corinthians 3:16 and Luke 1:16 --> the LORD in the New Testament continued...

I have already mentioned the distinct possibility that the passage written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 is distinctly Yahweh-esque (please refer to that post here).

Noting how the context of this explanation of Paul is firmly and immediately rooted in the story of the Israelites and that Kyrios (LORD) lacks the article in 4 out of 5 occurrences, I proposed the following translation:

But whenever anyone turns to LORD, the veil is taken away. 17 Now LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of LORD is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate LORD's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from LORD's Spirit.

I showed through comparison with some other passages that the lack of the article before the first LORD is very suggestive, as we have elsewhere in the undisputed Pauline corpus (e.g. 1 Thes 1:9) the same verb and same suffix with the article for Theos.

This is pretty standard practice for stacks of Old Testament declarations about Israel's God. "Yahweh, the God of Israel". Or "Yahweh, the God of us", and so on.

In Greek, of course, this goes: Kyrios (LORD), the God of Israel".

Today I stumbled over even more evidence in favour of my hypothesis that Kyrios is deliberately anarthrous, and therefore referring back to the God of Israel and not specifically to Jesus.

I tried running this search: πρὸς κύριον (to LORD). In the New Testament, this occurs once. However you will see below the exact hit there are also the indirect hits, for πρὸς τὸν κύριον (to the Lord).

A second piece of evidence in favour of capitalisation of LORD in this passage (or even applying Yahweh), is that a similar Greek word behaves the same way and with the same case (accusative): ἐπὶ κύριον. This also means "to LORD" or, at the very least "to the LORD". The context of the only hit (Luke 1:16) here makes it staggeringly plane that capitalisation would be a clearer rendering if the article is kept (which it isn't in the Greek):

He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

In my view, this should probably read at the very least:
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the LORD their God.

The challenge of course is being consistent in the more ambiguous instances.

Please note that in line with Larry Hurtado, I am not suggesting that there is an ultra-neat match of

However, as Hurtado recognises in God or Jesus? Textual Ambiguity and Textual Variants in Acts of the Apostles, there is correlation ("In the majority of their 70 (or so) uses in Acts, the arthrous-singular forms of κύριος are applied unambiguously to Jesus", p. 2, you can read it for yourself here). This ambiguity he traces in Acts is fascinating and I will at some point review it on this blog when I have finished processing it all.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

John's gospel: "the Lord"

A crazy-short post today as I'm mega busy. I did procrastinate just long enough to check all the mentions I could find of the English rendering "the Lord" in John's gospel.

Every single one that was specifically referring to Jesus was arthrous. This means that Kyrios, the Greek translation for our word "Lord", is systematically translated with the definite article in John's gospel when referring to Jesus.

This cursory glance is suggestive of different usages of "Kyrios" in the Bible, where Yahweh is often translated "Kyrios", but without the article.

Since these gospel citations are likely emmanating from a later stage of 1st century understanding, given common dating of John's gospel, it seems that this usage is Jesus' earth-ministry title accorded and remembered by his disciples. The name that he inherited as the Son of God (see Hebrews 1:4) is probably a quite different kettle of fish.

Friday, 1 July 2016

A new (very small additional) argument for a Triune Divinity from canonicity

...The second part that is overlooked is early Christianity. Did the early christians think that Jesus was Fully Divine, where that means that Jesus has all the Divine attributes? No they didn't. It's a matter of record that leading mainstream theologians taught that Jesus was not eternal, Jesus does not know as much as the Father, Jesus doesn't have the same kind of power, Jesus isn't good in the same way - his goodness depends on the goodness of God, whereas God has his goodness independently. Who am I talking about? Mainstream theologians in the 100s, and in the 200s and even into the 300s. When they came to a text like: "The Father is greater than I", they just said: yes, see: "greater". They didn't say greater with respect to his human nature but equally great with respect to his divine nature". And when he said he didn't know the day or the hour, they said "yes, only God is omniscient". Jesus isn't omniscient, he says he doesn't know something, you don't want to say he's a liar, right? You just don't find most early Christians saying that Jesus is fully divine. You see them saying things that go very clearly against that. Even after they're speculating about the pre-existent logos, the logos is divine, even after they're calling Jesus "our God", they'll turn right around and say the one True God is the Father, and only he is eternal, only he is perfect in knowledge and so on. And as we have just looked at, this claim that Jesus is fully divine is fully loaded with problematic speculations; it always was.

- Dale Tuggy, 2016, at ‘Tis Mystery all - 21st Century Reformation Theological Conference 30/04/2016

For me, originally a die-hard exegesis fan (and the die-hard is not dead yet), this argument is very significant. In my paper Trinitarian Interpretations, I argued that if we are right about the early church Fathers not believing that God was Triune, then we have a problem. One of the solutions I considered, which I have never heard argued, is that the inspired 1st century authors were so inspired that they were literally centuries ahead of their subsequent interpreters. Most people prefer to argue that the earlier (Ehrman would call them "proto-orthodox") theologians, were roughly right, but they were less refined or something like that.

I think there are quite a few theologians who believe the conciliar Christologies are basically on track and that this perspective simply takes a very long time to work out (and it is not finished yet, and its various interpretations today are multiple and mutually-incompatible). That might mean that non-triune things are said in the Scriptures, which, if all are to be considered true on a deep level, that you end up with something looking like a form of Trinitarianism. But God set the whole thing up for a huge debate from an obscure beginning in order for it to stand somehow (because it didn't come easily; paradoxically because it was not as blazingly obvious as evangelical apologists like to assume and argue today). That's an argument I'd be more open to: but I think I have another option still. These beliefs about the Triune God began around about the same time the canon was sealed, so to speak. It could be argued that the wrestling and debating going on with regard to canonicity are not independent of the christological wrestling. Had the canon been clearer earlier, then maybe the Triune God perspective would have emerged earlier too. The same church that decided these are the books, is the church that said, this is our Christ.

My position might be considered to drift. It isn't, or hasn't much. I still firmly believe given the lack of clarity and the supreme position of the Scriptures, the close proximity of the church Fathers in terms of chronological interpretive distance, that we have to allow for greater breadth and tolerance and welcome differing views of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For me, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit remain central to church life, individual faith and the advancing Kingdom of God. And that has always been the case for me.

This is where the Biblical Unitarian communities, I think, also need to be careful. They can be so sceptical of a whiff of a "divine" Christ, that it could be harder for them (I speculate) to worship Jesus, even if they knew it was to the glory of God the Father, as explicitly stated in Philippians 2.

Let the debate roll on!