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Sunday, June 23, 2013, 1:04 PM
Baptism of Neophytes by Masaccio, 15th century, Brancacci Chapel, Florence
Everybody knows (more or less) what Christian Baptism is ...
... or do they?
Let's see what the dictionary says, what Wikipedia says, and what the Catholic Encyclopedia says.
• Baptism: (n.) 1. A religious sacrament marked by the symbolic application of water to the head or immersion of the body into water and resulting in admission of the recipient into the community of Christians. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)
• Baptism: (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma; itself derived from βαπτισμός baptismos, washing) is a Christian rite of admission (or adoption), almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also a particular church tradition. Baptism has been called a sacrament and an ordinance of Jesus Christ. In some traditions, baptism is also called christening, but for others the word "christening" is reserved for the baptism of infants. (Wikipedia)
• Baptism: "Holy Baptism holds the first place among the sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life; for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church." (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Aspects of Baptism that are mentioned are "cleansing of sins", "following Jesus in his path of death and resurrection".
Does any of the above catch the essence? Not really. A much better approach is to look at the Greek origin of "to baptize".
βαπτίζω (baptizō - G907) 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) 2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe 3) to overwhelm
"This word should not be confused with baptô (911). The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (baptô) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizô) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change."
We are now getting closer to the essence: to be baptized "into the name" (Greek: eis to onoma) of the Lord Jesus Christ means to become essentially his, part of his body, his Church.
But there is another important aspect, about the expression "into the name":
• "(5) The phrase eis (to) onoma tinos is frequent in the papyri with reference to payments made "to the account of any one" ... (J.H. Moulton and George Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, 1914, page 451)
• "Through baptism eis to onoma tinos those who are baptized become the possession of and come under the dedicated protection of the one whose name they bear." (Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2000, page 713)
In conclusion, to be baptized "into the name of the Lord Jesus" (see Acts, e.g. Acts 19:5) means to chose him as Lord of one's life. This must be seen, in particular, in the context of the baptism of heathens, who, through baptism, renounced any allegiance to demons, and chose Jesus instead.
How about the "trinitarian baptismal formula" ("... baptizing them in the name [eis to onoma] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ...", Matt 28:19)?
Well, NOWHERE in the NT do we find any example of its application ...
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 4:09 AM
Let's pretend ...
Let's pretend that the notion of "trinity" makes some sense, and is not just a "toy for theologians" (as Kant must have said, somewhere).
Let's assume that God subsists as a "Trinity of Persons", and that, in the Incarnation in Jesus, human nature has been united to the divine nature of the "Eternal Son" so as to constitute one Person.
How is Jesus, resurrected and sitting on the right hand of the Father, posited with respect to this Trinity?
Two only are the possibilities:
a. either the divinity of the Son has been changed and somehow “enriched” by the humanity of Jesus,
b. or the humanity of Jesus has been entirely “absorbed” into the divinity of the Son.
(Sorry, no third option, I am afraid ...)
In the former case (a.) it is God’s immutability which is questioned; in the latter case (b.) it is the very reality, value and meaning of Resurrection which dissolve into a haze. (Sorry, no third option, I am afraid ...)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 3:58 AM
This is what a highly respected theologian says:
“To say that Jesus is “before” him [Abraham] is not to lift him out of the ranks of humanity but to assert his unconditional precedence. To take such statements at the level of “flesh” so as to infer, as “the Jews” do that, at less than fifty, Jesus is claiming to have lived on this earth before Abraham (8:52 and 57), is to be as crass as Nicodemus who understands rebirth as an old man entering his mother’s womb a second time (3:4).” -- J. A. T. Robinson, The Priority of John, 1987, p. 384.
Jesus certainly existed “before Abraham came into existence”. The question is, HOW?
w. Some claim "in the Father's mind", from eternity;
x. Some claim, before creation, even before the beginning of time, BUT as an "inferior deity" (deutheros theos);
y. Trinitarians claims, as a "pre-existing, co-eternal, co-equal person".
z. I claim, as God's Eternal Logos, an Essential Attribute of God.
w and x are, respectively, inadequate (w) and incompatible with scriptural monotheism (x).
I do not agree with y, because I don't think it is objectively attested in the Scripture, but, even more so, because I believe, and I have amply argued, that it is incompatible EITHER with the reality of the Resurrection, OR with the unchangeability of God.
Monday, March 25, 2013, 6:04 PM
Jesus Enters Jerusalem - Gustave Dore 1832-1883
Triumphal Entry of the Messiah in Jerusalem
This is Zachariah’s original prophecy
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9 - NIV)
And this is Zachariah’s prophecy as quoted by Matthew:
This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:
"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and [Greek: kai] riding on a donkey,
and [kai] on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' "
(Matthew 21:5 - NIV)
Apparently, in his zeal, Matthew has misinterpreted the original Hebrew and/or mistranslated in Greek. And this is the disconcerting result:
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. (Matthew 21:6-7 - NIV - emphasis by MdS)
EITHER a physical impossibility, OR something absurd and silly. This, much more than the discrepancy with Mark, Luke and John, all speaking ONLY of one donkey (Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:14-15), is the real problem.
In fact there is quite a straightforward explanation: Matthew did not translate Zechariah 9:9 from the original Hebrew, but cited from the Septuagint, which apparently makes exactly the same “mistake” as Matthew, viz. of mentioning two donkeys (see Zechariah 9:9 in original HEBREW and in the Septuagint translation in Greek LXXM).
Some may claim that there are differences between Matthew and the Septuagint, but a careful comparison of the texts shows that the differences between Matthew and the Septuagint are not so relevant, and they can all be easily explained. Let’s order the two Greek texts (transliterated) by corresponding stich (source Zechariah 9:9 – NET; Matthew 21:5 – NET):
1. [LXX] Idou o basileus sou erchetai soi (See, your king comes to you)
[Matt] Idou o basileus sou erchetai soi (See, your king comes to you)
2. [LXX] dikaios kai sozwn autos (righteous and having salvation)
[NOTE] stich entirely missing in Matthew: perhaps a copying error, quite common
3. [LXX] praus kai epibebekos epi hypozygion (meek and riding on an ass [lit. “beast of burden”])
[Matt] praus kai epibebekos epi onon (meek and riding on an ass)
[NOTE] the “beast of burden” of LXX has been shifted to stich no.4 in Matthew
4. [LXX] kai pwlon neon (and a young colt)
[Matt] kai pwlon uion hypozygiou (and a colt, the foal [lit. “son”] of an ass [lit. “beast of burden”])
[NOTE] see NOTE at stich no.3
It is also possible that both Matthew and the Septuagint translators were working from a different Hebrew original than the one which made its way into the Masoretic text (this would be confirmed by similar parallel findings at Qumran). But the main point remains that LXX and Matthew closely mirror each other. This happens only with Matthew, and not with Mark and John, and also with Luke (only John, besides Matthew, quotes Zachariah 9:9)
From the above analysis, the similarities between Matthew’s and the Septuagint’s rendering of Zechariah’s 9:9 far outweigh discrepancies:
i. LXX has hypozygion (“beast of burden”) in stich no.3 and Matthew in stich no.4, whereas they both have pwlon (“colt”) exactly in the same position,
ii. Only Matthew uses onon (“ass”, generic, without explicit reference to sex), but this may be Matthew’s choice to specify clearly that it is an “ass”, and not, generically a “beast of burden”. In fact, by not using the Greek word for “ass”, rather than the LXX “beast of burden”, Matthew may want to underline that in fact the “beast” upon which Jesus rides, being a “young colt”, is not yet, properly speaking, a “beast of burden”.
iii. Only Matthew uses uion (lit. “son”), but that can be easily explained (it is witnessed in Greek codices as a mistaken copy of neon - “young”).
What is unique to LXX and to Matthew, with respect to the original Hebrew Zachariah 9:9, is that while Zachariah 9:9 apparently speaks of ONE donkey (“riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass”), both LXX and Matthew speak of TWO donkeys (“riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass” - a physical absurdity-impossibility). This is even more remarkable, bearing in mind that neither Mark, nor John, nor even Luke follow LXX and Matthew in the same apparent “mistake” or absurdity.
I believe that NOT ONLY my attempt to explain the Matthean oddity (of “riding on two donkeys”) by recourse to the LXX is perfectly reasonable and satisfactory, BUT ALSO that, if one chooses not to resort to this explanation, one ends up in really deep waters as to why Matthew (and ONLY Matthew, NOT Mark, Luke and John) would have consciously reported this awkward image of the Messiah riding on TWO donkeys.
It seems reasonable to assume that Matthew drew his Zechariah 9:9 from a Hebrew text with “two steeds” similar (but perhaps not identical) to the one used as a basis for the LXX.
And it is precisely at this point that the visionary nature of Zachariah’s prophecy at Zech 9:9 appears.
Zechariah’s "gradual" Vision
Let’s suppose that the prophet Zechariah had a gradual vision of the Messiah and of two donkeys, an ass and her colt, and of the Messiah riding on the colt, possibly tied to his mother. Let’s examine again the LXX translation of Zechariah 9:9, stich by stich (ST1:ST4)
Zechariah probably, in the fuzziness of the vision, first saw the Messiah:
[ST1] “Behold, your king comes to you”
Then, like in a film, closing in on the Messiah, he had a strong impression of his majestic aspect:
[ST2] “righteous and having salvation”
Then the image “expanded” and he saw that the Messiah was humbly riding an ass:
[ST3] “meek and riding on a he-ass” [Hebrew: rwmx chamowr <H2543>, masculine (“he-ass”)]
We can perceive here that the vision is confused, that the seer “knows” there is more to the vision, and yes, he realizes that, in fact there are two animals, a colt (“young male he-ass”) [Hebrew: rye ’ayir <H5895> and its mother, a she-ass [Hebrew: Nwta 'athown <H860>]:
[ST4] ”and [on] a colt, the foal [lit. “son”] of a she-ass”.
Note on the Vision
More comments on “Zechariah’s Vision”.
i. The uncertainty and “graduality” of the vision is hinted at by the Hebrew prefix conjunction we (“and”), before bkr rakab <H7392> (“riding”), which makes it appear as bkrw (we-rakab) and repeated before the conjunction rye ’al <H5921> (“on”, “upon”), which makes it appear as lew (we-‘al).
ii. Also the LXX translates perfectly the Hebrew text of Zechariah 9:9, because the Greek conjunction και (kai <G2532>), in this verse, bears NOT the meaning of “and” BUT of “even”.
iii. The two English translations that are most faithful to the Hebrew text are NASB and NLT. They are the only ones that NEITHER omit the second vav/we (the one before rye ’al <H5921> “on”, “upon”, which transforms it into lew - we-‘al), NOR translate it (as the KJV does) with a misleading “and”, BUT correctly express the sense of surprise proper of the vision with “even”.
Matthew's awkward verse 21:7
Now that the quotation of Zehariah's vision is over, Matthew proceeds on his own, and we can safely say that what he writes at verse 7 ...
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. (Matt 21:7)
... is awkwardly phrased
There is no doubt that the Greek phrase epeyhkan ep autwn ta imatia (“[they] placed their cloaks on them”), which obviously refers to BOTH animals, is already misleading enough, even if not wrong.
But the last part of the sentence, kai epekaqisen epanw autwn is more than just misleading, because:
1. epikayizw (epikathizo <G1940>) is used only once in the whole NT, at Mat 21:7. And we do not fare much better considering Greek literature in general. The most authoritative Liddle-Scott A Greek-English Lexicon records only 6 (six) occurrences throughout ancient Greek Texts (approx 5 million words). Besides epikathizô can be both transitive and intransitive, and, because the 3rd person singular is identical to the 3rd plural, epekayisen epanw can be translated equally as “[they] sat [him] thereon” (KJV) or as “he sat on top”: they are both equally legitimate, and the grammar does not allow to decide.
2. epanw (epano <G1883>) means “above”, “on top” as adverb, but occasionally it can be also preposition + GEN. This is certainly the case at Mat 21:7, where autwn is the GEN. plural of autoV (autos <G846>).
3. autwn (autos <G846>), being a pronoun, could refer to the immediate noun (more grammatically correct), therefore refer to the imatia (“cloaks”), or refer to more remote nouns (less common and also less correct), thn onon kai ton pwlon (“the ass and the colt”)
In conclusion, the probable meaning is ...
“[Jesus] sat on top of them [the cloaks]”
... BUT Matthew has phrased it so awkwardly that, from a lexical-grammatical POV, it could equally well mean “they sat [him] on top of them [the ass and the colt]”. Which, of course, would be total nonsense.
Friday, March 1, 2013, 9:07 AM
Image purporting to show the 'hands of God' in a cloud formation associated with 2004's Hurricane Charley
In the OT we find what may seem an obscure reference to the "eternal arms" of God:
“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath [you] are [his] eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
I have already amply argued, in a remote thread ("The Everlasting Arms of God") that the "eternal arms" of God are His Word and His Spirit.
If there was any doubt on this, a verse in Psalms makes perfectly clear what God's "arms" are:
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (+ c. 202 AD) took up this image of the Word/Logos/Dabar an of the Spirit/Pneuma/Ruwach as the two arms (or hands) of God over and over and over ...
"Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit ..." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, IV, pref. 4)
"For God did not stand in need of these [beings, the angels], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things ..." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, IV, 20.1)
"For never at any time did Adam escape the hands [Viz., the Son and the Spirit.] of God, to whom the Father speaking, said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” And for this reason in the last times (fine), not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by the good pleasure of the Father, [John i. 13] His hands formed a living man, in order that Adam might be created [again] after the image and likeness of God." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, V, 1.3)
"For by means of the very same hands through which they were moulded at the beginning, did they receive this translation and assumption. For in Adam the hands of God had become accustomed to set in order, to rule, and to sustain His own workmanship, and to bring it and place it where they pleased." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, V, 5.1)
"And therefore throughout all time, man, having been moulded at the beginning by the hands of God, that is, of the Son and of the Spirit, is made after the image and likeness of God ..." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, V, 28.4)
"And, since God is rational [logikos], therefore by (the) Word [Logos] He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit [Pneuma], and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. [Ps. 33:6 LXX]" (Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 5)
"But man He formed with His own hands, taking from the earth that which was purest and finest, and mingling in measure His own power with the earth. For He traced His own form on the formation, that that which should be seen should be of divine form: for (as) the image of God was man formed and set on the earth. And that he might become living, He breathed on his face the breath of life; that both for the breath and for the formation man should be like unto God." (Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 11)
... then, unfortunately, Origen (184/5–253/4), with his "three hypostases" and with his "eternal generation of the Son" started the abominable distortion ...
... and the Cappadocian scoundrels (active in the 2nd half of the 4th century AD) completed the job with their abominable trinitarian idol ...