Thursday, 30 March 2017


Hi blog readers,
I'm pleased to announce that with my friend Reinald I am co-hosting a light-hearted chat podcast called FatScript, which will contain some content that you have seen in this blog. So while it is light in tone, I hope, it nonetheless wants to discuss matters that we think are healthy for Christians to think about. Maybe the style and content may appeal to some non-Christians too, who knows. Anyway, I hope you can try it and maybe even recommend it. Blessings and thanks, John.

PS Next episode will go through the name of [the] LORD", and the subject of evolution is soon to follow!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Well blow me down, nice one Hillsongs!

This morning I stumbled over a new (for me) Hillsongs worship song that I thought I'd share. A while ago I started a series of posts on ambiguous worship. Worship is a most critical part of the Christian life and the words we use during that vulnerable time of exposure and surrender have great power to shape us theologically, so it is with joy that I share this song which is undeniably and I think consistently directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, free from the tangle weeds of modalism.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The name of [the] LORD

Followers of this blog should by now be aware that there are some interesting translator problems and choices behind the words rendered in English Bibles as "The LORD". We have reviewed on several occasions how the definite article - the "the" - implies that this was more of a title than a name. We should therefore expect to find:

* "the LORD of"
* the definite article in Greek

Generally speaking, neither are true. Why only generally? Because on the second point, the "the" is sometimes present in the Greek. However, as we have previously noted on several occasions:

- this is required sometimes by Greek grammar
- after the Septuagint was translated in the third century BC, subsequent translators began to slip a bit, forgetting in some less self-evident scenarios that the original Pentateuch translators had attempted to preserve the name aspect of Yahweh.

On the first point, some explaining might be necessary (and this for the first time on the blog) of the rather famous "the LORD of hosts". This sounds a lot like a title, right? Well, it depends which translation you read actually. The traditional KJV (King James Version) rendering goes this route, and, peculiarly so do my usually more-trusted-translations of the ESV and NET. The NIV opts for "the LORD Almighty". What's going on behind the scenes here?

The first thing to note is that, strangely enough, although the Hebrew יְהוָ֨ה צְבָא֜וֹת - Yahweh ṣəḇā’ō-wṯ - occurs 223 times as "the LORD of hosts" according to the ESV (I have not checked all references, so some slight variations in Hebrew are possible), 


Why do I put that in such a scarily large font? To me it seems of genuine significance to note that the first translators of the Hebrew books only had to deal with Yahweh as a true name, and did not have to deal with this "of hosts" business. Others have obviously noticed this. Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon states that: "this appellation of the most high God, is very frequent in the prophetical books, especially in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Malachi; never found in the Pentateuch [nor in Joshua] nor Judges [nor in Ezekiel, Job, or Solomon]". While the usage of the square brackets here is something of a mystery, we do gain some valuable insight into the various usage - and non-usage - of this notion of Yahweh of the hosts.

Second point: τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου τῶν δυνάμεων (LXX 2 Samuel 6:2), which in English means "[by, to, ...] the name of [the] LORD of the hosts". My first square brackets, [by], refers to the fact that the definite article τὸ is the accusative form of the article, which naturally has to match the noun, onoma, which it does. The second square bracket is different. By it, as I have done for some time now, I am referring to the presence in English of the definite article, which is absent from the Hebrew and the Greek for reasons already described. What it is important to note is that although we are now necessarily outside the scope of the first translators of the Hebrew, the nameness of Yahweh is preserved in and against "the hosts", which conspicuously do receive the definite article. It strikes me as a strange combination for the second generation Septuagint translator, but he seems to be doing the best he can in a difficult scenario.

Sorry, I don't yet have anything that satisfying on this usage other than that this is a second-generation translation scenario. It strikes me as most unlikely that in Hebrew the name of Yahweh could have slipped toward some sort of title, such that it could be used to describe other persons or gods of high standing. Since in Greek the distinction is still made between anarthrous Kyrios and arthrous dunameon, I don't think we have a strong case for any significant exception to the fact that anarthrous Kyrios and Kyriou, when applied to the God of Israel, is intended almost 100% of the time as a name.

Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel.

[anarthrous] Kyrios is the name of the God of Israel.

Hmm. So how does that change our understanding of an ever-so-common phrase: "in the name of the Lord"? I hope that having read this and given it some consideration you will at least give it considerable likelihood that what is meant is not:

In the name (=Name) of the Lord (=holder of the name). 
Surely what must be meant by "in the name of the Lord", given that this is consistently translated without the article, is "in Yahweh's name" or "in LORD's name". There's nothing else. Yahweh is the name! And that name is preserved in the anarthrous translation into the Greek.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Christian origins video, and asking the question of the Christian departure from Judaism

Dr. James Carleton Paget, from Cambridge University, looks here at current methodological trends in Biblical Studies and Christian origins. It's a fairly follow-able condensed summary of where studies have been going in the last few decades regarding the origins of the Christian faith. Of particular interest to my own work are two points that Dr Paget draws out.

Firstly he is going to insist that of the departure of "Christianity" from Judaism, the literature is increasingly emphasising a fragmented and gradual process, which re-frames, re-directs or simply questions the relevance of questions like "was Paul really a Jew?"

Secondly, he is going to insist that there is a substantial lack in "takeaway" value. "So what?", he wants to ask, about different perceptions in history about Paul, for instance.

So, since I am in the process (a highly stop-start process) of writing a manuscript on the Trinity for an interested publisher, I want to self-assess Mutated Faith and the Triune Hub according to these trends that Dr. Paget identifies. On the first count, do I allow for a less simplistic, monolithic understanding of Christianity and Judaism? How will I frame "the departure"? Since my decision is to address readers like me, with little formal training but a keen interest in Christian origins and what we are to do with some of these creeds, I don't think I need to tackle it with the same academic depth or vocabulary. However, since one of my takeaways is that there was a radical shift of Jewish focus within the Jewish followers of Jesus to a threefold centre of their faith in the first century, it would be beneficial to remember that the Christ cult fold in the tapestry of first century Judaism would not have been known by all, and would certainly not have stood out to all among the throngs of other cults and Jewish groups out there throughout the Roman empire. I would nonetheless like to suggest that in addition to the other reasons developed for increasing distance, that the Triune Hub is a major issue and identifier for the early movement (and as such, required enshrining in subsequent times via the 3rd century middle-platonic ideas available at the time) that may have been repugnant for non-Christ-following Jews, many of whom would have been expectant of a Messiah, perhaps an eternal one, but would not be ready to connect all of that to his departure and subsequent commissioning of God's Spirit as the Third, through whom (or which) all else is identified, enriched, empowered, directed to recruit collaborators for the Kingdom that God entrusted in its entirety to his Son, appointed Lord in his stead. This is not the "be-all-and-all" of separation, especially in light of the weight of research pointing toward fragmented separation, however, it should certainly add some hefty weight to the increasing burden of distinction.

As a small aside, I have been doing some thinking about distinction and separation. Not the same thing at all. If you take conjoined twins - they are clearly not separated, by definition! But they are two distinct persons. One might laugh, the other sulk. One might sleep, the other be awake. And so on - in fact, one could conceivably (or theoretically) die and the other live. Indeed, that is what has happened, I am certain, during various attempts to surgically separate such twins. Interesting that the surgical intervention is to provide separation to that which is distinct. This difference, between separation and distinction, has applicability for both the case of the Christian sect - apparently cast out of synagogues even by 60s or 70s in some cases - and the question of the emergence of the Triune God. For the Christians that were cast out of synagogues, their distinction of followers of a resurrected and exalted Messiah, Jesus, did not require their immediate separation. However, there can be a pressure that results from sustained distinction, like with the conjoined twins, that eventually pushes apart and separates the two. A counter example exists, however, in the development of the Trinity dogmas, wherein the man Jesus is increasingly associated with God, whom he prefers to call his Father, that the blinding glory with which he is drawn into at God's right hand binds them so closely together that for some, with separation now forever defeated, the distinction can also come under threat. For those that know me, they know what I will say next: to their great peril! 

So will Mutated Faith also tackle the takeaway problem? I think it should. It aims to, at least. Since it is only semi-academic will mean that the non-academic half needs to be relevant anyway. My key takeaways are that the new threefold hub, Father, Son and Spirit, is a first century Jewish phenomenon (and shouldn't shackle modern individuals and who knows maybe one day churches on a wider level to fourth century interpretations requiring talk of essence and substance), and is especially necessary for the modern evangelical church to re-adopt: for collective worship and prayer, for individual discipleship and consecration, and finally for understanding the church's role as key (but not sole) collaborator for the advancement of the kingdom of God.