Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

59 Comments

  1. Marg
    July 20, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

    I think we agreed that in the gospels the Son of God comes into existence and therefore is not in existence before that.

    Would you please identify the comment where I “agreed” to any such thing?

  2. Anthony
    July 20, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    People misread Heb 5:10 (a single verse, not the extended clear info of Matt and Luke1) to think that Jesus entered a body! That is not the idea at all.

    The writer is citing a psalm which says “I have come to do your will.” You have to examine the quotes here carefully, some from the LXX [Greek version of the OT]. The context is about the “ears being dug”.

    This concept is about obedience, listening to what God say, a great lesson for us all.
    Jesus supremely listened to what God told him and did the will of God perfectly. We are to do the will of God in obedience, Heb. 5:9 should be posted on every refrigerator!

    The word body, in Hebrew thinking often means the whole person. Just as we say anybody and nobody. in Rom 12 do we really think it means “offer you body” and not your self!

    A body prepared in Hebrews is a perfectly submitted human being as was Jesus, who did the will of his Father.

    The key to good Bible study is to listen to what the angels told Mary and Joseph about the identity of Jesus and then believe it.

    Zechariah did not quite do that, and suffered!

    “To come into the world” means to be born! People read all sorts of wrong ideas into this easy phrase.

    It does not mean you existed before you began to exist!

  3. Anthony
    July 20, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    Marg

    Yes, I entirely agree about the supreme authority of Jesus. But are you now saying that Heb. 10:5 is to explain the begetting and conception of Jesus in Matt and Luke? Do Matt and Luke want us to believe that only a body not a person was there in the womb?

    I think we agreed that in the gospels the Son of God comes into existence and therefore is not in existence before that.
    It is impossible to imagine anything else, after the words of the angels to Mary and Joseph, and major scholarship as we know, confirms my point here.

    The creative, begetting work of God in Mary leads to the simple fact that the Messiah came into existence, not just a body!

    The Son of God is the referent in Matt and Luke.

  4. Marg
    July 19, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

    No one has commented on the passages in the synoptics that imply someone much more than we would expect an ordinary human to be. If, as Hebrews 10:5 suggests, the human body miraculously conceived in Mary was the body prepared by God for his Son when he came into the world, then these passages make sense.

    One statement that Matthew, Mark and Luke all record is this one:

    “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

    The speaker of such words must either be a lunatic (which Jesus definitely was not), or else he knew that his words were literally true.

    And if he knew that his words were literally true, he was obviously not afraid of failure.

    All three of them also record his summation of the law (Luke indirectly). I will quote from Mark 12:29-33, because it is the fullest and clearest account:

    Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, Israel: the Lord your God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. … the second is, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
    And the scribe said to him, “Right, teacher, you have spoken truly, that God is one and there is no other besides him; and to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the soul and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

    Did Jesus actually fulfill the law as thus described by him?

    There was obviously no doubt in his mind. He came to fulfill the law; and he knew he WOULD fulfill it, and that his words would never pass away.

    I would go a step further, and add that he had ALWAYS loved the Lord his God totally, had ALWAYS delighted to do his Father’s will; and the possibility that he would change character completely did not exist.

  5. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    Marg

    Yes, but begetting is procreating and so it is a form of creation. One can look this up in any dictionary
    And Luke replies to you by saying that  Isaac was OF Abraham, and Adam was OF God. In both cases we understand it easily.

    So what is your point, since begetting means procreating?

    You are right of course that Adam did not come from a womb of a mother.

    But Jesus is described as having been “begotten” by God.

    So tell us what YOU mean by beget in the case of Jesus.

    Then we will understand.

    In Isa 45:18 what is the difference between creating and forming. Then look in Isa 49;5 what is “forming from the womb”.

    In Gen 2:7 man was formed and in 5:1 man was created. What is the difference?

    Please explain what is meant by the conception of a person in the womb.

    Is this or is it not the beginning of the existence of a new person?

  6. Marg
    July 19, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

    Andy, I think you were planning to study what is said about Melchizedek. I don’t want you to skip your own personal study (and I know you won’t!!) but I want to look again at what is said about him in Hebrews 7:1-3.

    For one thing, he is obviously a type – a picture – of the Son of God. So how does this picture emerge?

    For one thing, he was the King of righteusness (that’s the meaning of his name). Also, his title was King of Salem, which means king of peace.
    No one will question that those two things will characterize the kingdom of the Messiah.

    Verse 3 makes 7 other assertions, all of which seem to be based on what is MISSING from the narrative in Genesis. So (the author says) Melchizedek was
    without father
    without mother
    without genealogy
    without beginning of days
    without end of life
    having been MADE LIKE unto the Son of God
    remains a priest in perpetuity.

    No father; no mother; no genealogy. Melchizedek was actually priest of the Most High before Levi was even born. So his priesthood takes precedence over the levitical priesthood.

    And because there is no record of his birth and no record of his death, Melchizedec is pictured as having no beginning of days nor end of life.

    So, according to the picture drawn for us, he always was and always will be (typically) priest of the Most High – priest in perpetuity.

    I conclude that what Melchizedek was in type, the Son of God is in reality.

    All of this makes perfect sense, IF Samuel Clarke was right.

  7. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    Marge,

    May I suggest that you are making a quite unnecessary and bit tiring objection!

    You agree that God BEGAT the Son (that is what the text says) but you then say that “beget” means sex from a man and so in the case of God, beget is figurative! Yes, but then you must tell us what does it mean for GOD (not a man) to BEGET? You must supply your meaning to make us see what you mean.

    The text says equally that Mary conceived and surely you know that at a conception a new person begins to exist who did not exist before. So then the conception means the beginning of a new person, the Son of God. Then the begetting must also mean that too, granted that sex is nothing to do with it.

    This is crucial, since conception/begetting means the beginning of a new person. It is not the coming of an already existing person, into the womb of Mary.

    That would be completely a different sort of person.

    So will you accept that Matt and Luke describe the beginning of a new person, in the womb.

    The point of this whole discussion is that we identify the real Son of God, Christ, not an imagined one.
    In hope of the Kingdom.

  8. Marg
    July 19, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    Dale, it might be of interest to note that God CREATED Adam. We are told that six times in Genesis 1 and 5.

    We are NEVER told that Adam was “begotten”. He is the CREATED son of God, not the BEGOTTEN son of God.

    Conversely, we read that Jesus was BEGOTTEN by God, but we NEVER read that he was CREATED.

    Those statements can be tested. They are falsifiable. If they are wrong, I would appreciate correction.

  9. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    Marg,

    How in the world would God express the idea that he brought a Son into existence? You tell us. What would he have to say?

    What do you say about God being the father of Adam? Is that figurative or literal? Please say clearly.

    But you are missing also the conception by Mary. Do you not know that a conception means the beginning, the coming into existence of a person?

    So you are stuck.

    Just admit that the Son of God was conceived and thus began to exist. Or is this conceiving of Jesus figurative? If so what does it mean in terms of history?

  10. Marg
    July 19, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    Dale, you mentioned somewhere that, although the method by which Jesus was conceived is not told us, you have wondered about it, and you made two POSSIBLE suggestions that make sense.

    My own imagining (that’s all it is) is that God caused Mary’s own single strand of DNA to duplicate. In other words, Jesus was genetically his mother’s son in every way.

    As for his maleness, I read that “Even when the chemical formulas are written out, one must look carefully to notice the placement of a few atoms that distinguish, for example, between the hormone that makes a male from the hormone that makes a female.” (In the Likeness of God, Yancy/Brand, page 435)

    But every cell in the developing fetus gets the message, reads it correctly, and …
    Frankly, the program that produces a human being is so – I can’t think of an adequate adjective.

    In the end, we simply don’t know for sure what the miracle consisted of.

    The only thing we can be sure of is that it was NOT the same as the “begetting” referred to some 40 times in Matthew 1. God did not become father to Jesus by providing divine sperm. That is grotesque. And it would produce a hybrid, which none of us believe in.

    So – we cannot take literally the idea that God begat a son, just as Abraham begat Isaac. He didn’t.

    That makes the lexicon’s listing of “begotten by God” as being figurative, rather than literal, a reasonable choice.

  11. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    Dale, thanks:

    But my point is a purely semantic one! “To beget” means “to cause to exist”! It is so used 40 times in Matt. It is so defined in the Greek language and in English No philosophy needed here, I think.

    Again, is Raymond Brown all wrong in his careful exegetical work?

    God is the CAUSE of the BEGETTING and pregnancy. That is childishly easy to see. Pregnancies and BEGETTING mean in the Hebrew Bible and NT the BEGINNING of a NEW person, who BEGINS TO EXIST and DID NOT EXIST BEFORE. (Yes, we know that Levi was in Abrahams’ loins! But that is not what we are discussing in Luke and Matthew).

    The issue here is the whole CHARACTER and DEFINITION of the SON of God. Luke has simply, VERY SIMPLY stated (what else would you expect of an angel speaking intelligibly to a teen age girl?!) that the basis for Jesus’ sonship, HOW he began, WHERE it began and WHEN it began, is the miracle effected by God through His CREATIVE spirit.

    What of my statements here is to be questioned?

    Luke 1:35 could not be clearer and is in fact very clear to the major commentaries too. Certainly to Raymond Brown.

  12. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    Marg,

    Yes, the word “typical” is also there in that passage, telling us FORCEFULLY that “the rock” is a SYMBOL of the Son of God who came into existence in Mary (Matt 1:20; Luke 1.35; 1John 5.18).

    Note the mistranslation “conceived” (Matt. 1:20) in many versions which is corrected in good authorities. Gennao in the womb NEVER means conceive, it is the work of the Father and Luke 1:35 and Matt 1:20 and 1 John 5.18 were written to try to obstruct the amazing idea that the Son existed before he began to exist! The aorist passive “what is BEGOTTEN” is also a DIVINE PASSIVE as the linguists term it; i.e., God is at work doing the miracle.

    The opening chapters of the NT lay the indispensable groundwork of all that follows. Alas, people are off into Paul, before they understand the simpler works of Luke and Matthew. Peter warned about Paul being difficult! But little notice is taken of Peter here!

    The very fact that the arguments are furious on these very simple narratives suggests that OTHER THAN objectivity is at work! In fact the whole departure from truth of the Church via Greek philosophy is shown HERE.

    Matthew and Luke are simple realists and so was Mary! Gabriel was addressing a teenager! His language is easily understood.

  13. Dale
    July 19, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    “I think that texts speak at the level of non-philosophy, ie just the ordinary way language works ”

    Anthony, ironically, it is I who am taking this text in a non-philosophical way; the subject here is the cause of Mary’s pregnancy – it is God. It is not, it seems, about the start of the Son’s existence in time. You are insisting that it asserts that at this point the Son came into existence – that is a claim of metaphysics that you are seeing there. In my view, it is not part of what is asserted, though. My point in bringing up different plausible theories about human beings is to break your conviction that Mark can only mean that Jesus begins to exist at his conception, for this is not quite common sense, nor do the learned agree on it.

    I know that you’re not interested in theories about human persons, but that does not enable you to avoid having such a theory yourself, which I think is contributing to what you see here.

    I don’t have anything like your impressive theological library, but I suggest that these commenters, if you look really closely, are opining about the author of Mt. assumes, not what he asserts.

    I think you would agree that it can be important to separate assumption from assertion, e.g. when the author assumes that Jesus will come back shortly, or that there is a dome of water above us, or that the earth is at absolute rest, etc.

  14. Marg
    July 19, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    I see your point, John. And certainly, the fact that the word “spiritual” is used three times makes it abundantly clear that the subject has nothing to do with a material rock. [There WAS a material rock from which literal water DID come; but that was just a picture of the spiritual.]

    Paul tells us that the fathers were
    – all under the cloud (a cloud they could see)
    – all passed through the sea (a material, not spiritual, sea)
    – all were baptized unto Moses (same cloud, same sea)
    Then:
    – all ate the same spiritual food (spiritual – NOT material)
    – all drank the same spiritual drink (spiritual – NOT material)
    – because they all drank of (ek) a spiritual rock following them.

    The writer goes on, “and the rock was Christ”.

    I am not adverse to what you are suggesting, John. Maybe what they were eating and drinking (spiritually) was just a promise for the future (some time). That certainly is not clear from the text, but it really doesn’t matter very much.

    The fact is, no one is disputing the fact that Christ did NOT “speak” to men – in literal words, the way prophets spoke – until the end of the ages that God “made” through him (Hebrews 1:2). That is when he appeared as a man, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (ch. 9:26). And that is when he spoke literal words, many of which have been preserved for us in the four gospels.

    But this does NOT preclude the pre-existence of Christ. I believe (and there are scriptures that back up my belief, none of which have been explained away) that Christ was God’s principal agent in creation, as well as in redemption, and finally in judgment and in lordship over all things. For ever.

    In other words, I believe he always WAS what he is NOW and what he always WILL be.

  15. Anthony
    July 19, 2012 @ 6:27 am

    Marg

    Would you please read our books first, if possible. We went through all of this much detail. BUT failing that…

    Did you read in this passage that the people were baptized in a cloud and in the sea? What sort of baptism is that, a literal one?

    Paul uses the word TYPICALLY and TYPE in this passage [“types”, vv. 6,11]. The rock was a TYPE of Christ.

    Where else, please, do you find the SON of God speaking in the OT? What verses?

    Hebrews did WARN that God DID NOT speak in a SON in the OT times, Heb. 1:1-2.

  16. john
    July 19, 2012 @ 2:02 am

    Hi Marg
    I think that some people would argue that the ‘rock’ to which the people clung, was the promise of salvation through the promised Messiah.
    Blessings
    John

  17. Marg
    July 18, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    In 1 Corinthians 1-5, Paul says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers all were under the cloud
    all passed through the sea
    all were baptized unto Moses …
    all ate the same spiritual food
    all drank the same spiritual drink …”

    That all happened in the OT.

    Paul goes on to explain –

    For they drank of the spiritual rock following them, and that rock was Christ.

  18. Anthony
    July 18, 2012 @ 6:26 am

    Marg

    PS: This is really a strange way to argue, Marge!

    The subject in Heb. 1:1-2 is the way God spoke in OT times! Quite simply not through a SON, but through other channels.

    If you think that this allows for the Son to be there (contradicting the whole OT promise of the Messiah and the birth narratives in Matt and Luke), then would you please tell us expressly about the texts which refer to that SILENT Son in the OT. Where is He? What verses.

    We are agreed that God was not speaking in a SON in OT times, so then the Son did not say anything. But you cling to the idea that the Son was there.

    But which verses in the OT tell you this?

    We are trying to identify the true Jesus and this is a central concern of the NT for us all.

  19. Anthony
    July 18, 2012 @ 6:25 am

    Marg

    Then exactly who is your SON in the past? If not an angel and not God, then who? Which verses in the OT expressly?

  20. Anthony
    July 17, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    Dale, I think we would agree that the birth narratives define who Jesus is originally.

    I think that texts speak at the level of non-philosophy, ie just the ordinary way language works and works well.

    I agree of course that the conception of the Son is what we would call it today. Since this is a unique event, an absolute miracle, it is nice to stress the work of the Father.
    What cannot be argued is that the texts as we have them tell us that Joseph was not the father of Jesus– God was.

    It is the Adam creation for the second time.

    Can there not be easy and total agreement on this?

    Mrs X reading the verses needs comfort and she gets it easily without having ever thought about theories of personhood etc.

    The problem is that Luke and Matt are a HUGE embarrassment to CHURCH which veered off in a quite different direction.

  21. Anthony
    July 17, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Dale,

    Please note the careful discussion of Bruce, Robinson and Vine to the effect that the ref in Acts 13:33 is NOT to the resurrection. KJV was misleading here.

    Jesus did not “become” the son at the resurrection as we know. Nor at his baptism.

    Secondly the resurrection is expressly given us in v. 34 by contrast.

    Heb. 1 is not obviously to the resurrection either.

    In Ps 2 an oracle can just as easily be “he said in regard to me.” There are examples of this, rather than “he said to me”.

    But the point is too, that I Jn 5:18 knows of a begetting in time for the Son, also.’

    Matt 1:20 and Luke 1:35 (as vastly agreed by commentary too) shows a begetting in the womb, or in the case possibly a birth from Mary.

    Gennao means as we know beget of father and bear of mother.

  22. Marg
    July 17, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

    It may be useless to repeat that I do not believe Jesus is “God the Son.” Those words come only from you.

    Nor do I believe that Jesus was an angel. Hebrews makes that very clear. The Son of God never WAS an angel, and when he came into the world he did not take on himself the FORM of an angel. Instead, he became a man.

    I feel a bit like the professor who began a lecture with, “What is going to follow has been said before. But it needs to be said again because no one has been listening.”

  23. Anthony
    July 17, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    Marg

    PS: Thankfully you are not the judge! We have changed our minds on nearly everything over the post 50 years!

    I personally judge as very stubborn the idea that Matt and Luke support either a God the Son or an angel coming INTO Mary.

    You must defend that position. First deal with Matthew and the begetting word and tell me exactly what you hear with this:

    That which is begotten in her is from the Spirit of God = that which is caused to come into existence in her is from the Spirit.

    And you say that this is really some alien person changing into a fetus?! That is a different story altogether.

    Have you considered that Matt is lesson one in the NT?

  24. Anthony
    July 17, 2012 @ 11:29 am

    Marg,

    No one in the field of dialogue imagines that quoting an authority on the meaning of ONE WORD means that one is authorizing or approving EVERYTHING that is said in that dictionary! That is just silly!

    Perhaps you would like to agree with the plain and easy definition of gennao?! It means “to cause to come into existence”. Do you agree?

    I am discussing the basic issue of understanding Matt 1. Matthew read to be understood and his words are easy enough, until Church gets in the way!

  25. Dale
    July 17, 2012 @ 11:25 am

    About Ps 2, a pedestrian point from me: the author remembers that God said to him, “today I have begotten you” – and obviously this was well after the speaker’s conception and birth. So begetting here is just becoming the parent of, presumably in the manner of an adoption, and this is what some translations have. It could be that the king is remembering something that happened at his coronation, or perhaps a “word” given by a courtly prophet?

    So it should not come as a surprise if the NT applies this to something later than Jesus’ conception or his coming into existence.

    And it seems that on the face of it, the resurrection is in view in both Acts 13 and Hebrews 1:4-5. This is consistent with the writers thinking that in another sense, Jesus was *already* God’s Son at that point.

  26. Marg
    July 17, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    “I think you are a perfect example of that principle, Anthony. But readers will have to decide for themselves.”

    I’m sorry. That’s wrong, and I apologize. Readers can judge ARGUMENTS, but they cannot judge MOTIVES, and neither can I. God is the only one who can judge motives; and he does it through his primary agent, “that man whom he has appointed” (Acts 17:31).

  27. Marg
    July 16, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    So an authority that you recommend to a learner as being the “right literature” can flatly contradict what you say, but you are right. Always.

    In the post entitled “Theophilus Lindsey on human stubbornness,” Dale quotes Lindsey as saying

    …very rarely is there found candour enough in the human breast, for a man to recede from opinions, for the defence of which he has drawn his pen, and been highly applauded, however strong and demonstrative be the evidence to the contrary that is presented to him.

    I think you are a perfect example of that principle, Anthony. But readers will have to decide for themselves.

  28. Anthony
    July 16, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    Marg

    Thanks, I cited the dictionary for one purpose only! It was to established the meaning of BEGET! I did not say I agreed with everything else it had to say by way of commentary!

    I certainly do not retract the obvious sense of Ps. 2:7! I do not accept that words like beget in connection with fathers and sons and especially when describing an event in the womb of a mother, can just be evaporated of their proper and natural meaning.

    I note also that Ps. 2:7 is used of the beginning of the life of the Son in Acts13:33 (Bruce, Vine and Roberson and others have warned against the popular misapplication of Ps 2:7 to the resurrection)! The King James facilitated this by adding the word AGAIN! [v.34 is the obvious ref to the resurrection and v.33 shows the Son being begotten when God produces him.]

    This again allows beget to mean what it means! All this goes back to Luke and Matthew who set the pace for the NT. Many do not see that Matt is the proper introduction to the NT.

    It is there that the begetting of the Son is laid in concrete as the obvious basis for the Son’s existence.

    Ps 2:7 also fits nicely in Heb 1 as the beginning of the Son’s life, when he comes into the world which for Jews (and me!) means being born!

    The of course there Is the beget word in I John 5:18. This refers to a point in time in which the Son was begotten, fathered.

    So then when do YOU think that the Son was begotten? When was he brought into existence?

    Hope the dialogue will be useful to the various readers. We need to find out who Jesus is!

  29. Marg
    July 16, 2012 @ 11:44 am

    So do you retract your statement that “Ps 2.7 clinches the fact that the Son was brought into existence in time.”?

    After all, you yourself cited the authority that contradicts you. And you claimed to be introducing Andy to “the right literature”.

    The point is, you made a mistake. If you were right in making the dogmatic assertion that you made regarding Psalm 2:7, then you were wrong in calling the authority that flatly contradicts you the “right literature”. That authority says, without leaving any room for argument, that

    Wherever Ps. 2 is quoted in the NT, a physical, sexual begetting is utterly precluded.” (Emphasis added)

    There is nothing wrong with the authorities you cited, Anthony. But I think you could learn a lesson from Andy, who is willing to acknowledge a mistake and learn from it.

  30. Anthony
    July 16, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    Marg

    Thanks, I was simply establishing the meaning of the word BEGET. You are raising a quite different issue: i.e., Ps 2:7!
    These are separate points.

    The POINT I am making with full support of every lexicon is that BEGET means to bring into existence. Therefore in Matt. 1:20 we read: “The one brought into existence”; “The one caused to come into existence”.

    It seems amazing that one would have to labor about such an obvious thing.

    You are right about Ps. 2:7 at least in those authorities, but what you say does not affect my point about the meaning of gennao (or yalad in Hebrew).

    I note that people seem to have such difficulty with this easy word! For example, Andy said that the Greek form in Matt 1:20 (gennethen) is a rare form. What on earth were we supposed to think, then? If I say that “shrank” is probably not used very often and therefore the meaning of shrink is in question!

    What is established beyond argument is that GENNAO about 95+ times in th NT and often in the LXX means “to produce, cause to begin, cause to come into existence”.

    Do I have some hearty amens?!

    I strongly suspect that there are other agendas at work here, busy avoiding a simple truth about the ORIGIN [genesis, Mat 1.1, 18] of the Son of God!

  31. Anthony
    July 16, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    Andy

    A “LITERAL BEGETTING”: Please do not make things so difficult! We ALL know that God did not have sex with Mary.
    But the word BEGET means “to cause to come into existence” and that is what is stated in Matt 1:20. God caused the SON to be brought into existence in the womb of Mary, It is wise to believe the text!

    So yes, beget means LITERALLY to bring into existence.

    Allow language to breathe a bit.

  32. Marg
    July 16, 2012 @ 6:15 am

    Dale – I notice that in comment #2, Anthony invites you to “See TDNT or Liddel and Scott or NIDNTTh,” and then asks, “Do you object to the authorities I cite?”

    He gave similar advice in the thread you gave a link to in the first installment. He told Andy to “Look under Gennao for this easy info in NIDNTTh.”

    Andy looked, and then quoted:

    Strikingly, the NT does not apply Ps. 2:7 to the birth narratives of Jesus. Wherever Ps. 2 is quoted in the NT, a physical, sexual begetting is utterly precluded. Acts 13:33 applies the words “this day have I begotten thee” to the resurrection of Jesus.”

    I think it would be to Anthony’s credit if he admitted that this authority does NOT support his assertion that:

    Ps 2.7 clinches the fact that the Son was brought into existence in time.

  33. Dale
    July 15, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    “How can you say that she asserts the same thing? In her mind being conceived while still an atheist is significantly different from being conceived as a Mormon. That’s how cognitive linguistics work. ”

    If I were a philosophy of language specialist, I could explain this better. But we must separate the meaning of a word from one’s other assumptions about what is going on. Being conceived is what it is – there is no disagreement between atheist and Mormon about it! It is (we now know) a sperm and egg coming together, resulting in zygote – yes, I seemingly new thing.

    But is that thing *you*? That is not obvious! Or at least, people just as smart as you and me hold different views about it. e.g. Many, many people have believed that it (the immediate product on conception) was only the start of human body, the soul entering at the time of “quickening” some months later. But those people agree about when a given person’s conception was, even though they disagree about how long ago the person came into existence. I’ll say a bit more about the differening philosophies of human persons in the next and last post.

  34. Dale
    July 15, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

    “Dale, what is the basis for saying that “coming into existence” or “being caused to come into existence” ceases to mean that?!”

    “BEGET means to give existence to someone.”

    Sigh… I’m just not getting through. I’m about ready to give up. Sir, I’m afraid you are just assuming that to be fathered is to be brought into existence. The first may imply the second, but it is not part of the meaning of gennao, as best I can tell. Remember, I am *agreeing* with you about what the authors of Mt and Lk think.

    “Gennao is the causative form of ginomai and the basic meaning for Gennao is beget of a father and bear of a mother. …Matt has 40 GENNAO in the first chapter and added to it the cognate genesis, to mark the parallel with the first book of the Bible.”

    Right. There is no disagreement about this. But note the basic meaning – it has to do with human reproduction, and not with metaphysics – this is not a technical term, like “generate” in a philosophical context. It’s an ordinary term; so we can’t insist that it must bear a special, philosophical meaning. It would make my life easier to take your position; all things being equal, the simpler argument is the better one. But your grammatical argument seems answerable, as I’ve tried to lay out.

    “Translations like RV grudgingly put “begotten” in the margin, There was too much at stake for orthodoxy.”
    Honestly, I don’t see the difference it makes to interpretation, nor the difference it makes whether we credit conception to the mother, or to both mother and father.

    I have to disagree, though, there catholic theology should feel threatened by “beget”. Since at least the 5th c. they’ve been saying that Jesus was begotten or generated or born twice – once eternally, and once in time. So they’ll just say that here is his temporal begetting/generation.

    I’m willing to call “foul” when catholic (or other) theology messes up a translation… I just don’t see it here, I’m afraid.

  35. Andy
    July 15, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

    Sorry Anthony, I don’t understand some of what you’ve just written.

    In Matthew the angel appears to Joseph in a dream and reassures him…

    I’m not talking about the preexistence of human souls either. I said in a literal begetting, by which I was referring to the sexual act resulting in conception due to the action of the sperm and egg, etc. therefore it’s not something out of nothing…

    I then quoted your question to Dale “Do you then think of the Son as NOT beginning his conscious existence in Mary?” and said I thought it was the pertinent one – and that I looked forward to Dale answering it.

    Andy

  36. Anthony
    July 15, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

    Andy

    Thanks for your work. We all know that conception & begetting occur at the same time. BUT the one is the action of the father and the other is not!

    So then why is gennao NEVER elsewhere rendered “conceived”?

    The aorist is exactly that “a completed action” in the past. So then in history the Son is to be begotten, brought into existence. He is to be fathered.

    You agree.

    Then you puzzle me: you shift to the question to one about creating out of nothing!

    BEGET means to give existence to someone. You know that means the beginning of a person: the issue of creation out of nothing or otherwise is totally irrelevant.

    The issue is what is meant by the Son being caused to exist? Why is this hard? You did not argue the point for any of the 40 other begettings in that chapter. You seem to divert into different questions!!

    Scripture is in Greek– that is all you have. Your answers are there or nowhere.

    The angel certainly reassures Mary but part of that assurance is giving the facts that the one begotten, causing to begin to exist, is a creation of holy spirit. You seem a bit nervous about the obvious sense??

    I am sure it has occurred to you that Scripture is meant to be understood!!

    If you are going to talk about the preexistence of all human souls, you are moving way outside the Bible!

    Please, we are talking about Matthew!

  37. Andy
    July 15, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    Oops – it lloks like the formatting of my previous post has gone wrong and some words were chopped off. I had quoted Anthony as follows:

    “The aorist participle is indeed only there, but you surely know that the part of speech does not alter the meaning of the word! It still means BEGET, cause to come into existence!

    On what basis should anyone say that an aorist participle changes the meaning of the word?!! That is just not so.

    “That which is begotten in her” is plain and easy.”

    and then followed up with the words in the previous post…

    Andy

  38. Andy
    July 15, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    Hi Anthony

    I agree that the participle does not change the meaning of the word. I looked this up in the B-GREEK discussion group with the thread you started:

    http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-greek/2006-December/041345.html

    and it probably covers it enough. George Somsel, in that thread, probably hits the nail on the head when he describes begotten/conceived as being 2 sides of the same coin and that many translations have simply adopted the KJV rendering.

    I suppose it is possible that those that render V20 with ‘conceived’ might be looking at the aorist as emphasising results of the begetting. McKay “A New Syntax of the Verb in NT Greek” section 4.4 states “The aorist … describes an activity as a complete action or event”, but I agree that ‘begotten’ is a perfectly good way to express that.

    Anthony – I agree with you about the translation of Matt 1:20 🙂

    The question you raised to Dale “Do you then think of the Son as NOT beginning his conscious existence in Mary?” seems the pertinent one, as we all know that a literal begetting is not creating something out of nothing. I will be interested in seeing Dale’s next posts and if he answers that question…

    There’s also the question of whether the birth narratives are as theological in nature as we might assume. From Joseph’s point of view the questions he most wanted answering, if you put yourself in his shoes, were “who is the father of the child?” and “how could she do this?” – at least that is what would be going through my mind. There is no doubt that the angel’s statement in Matthew 1 answers these questions, as I said in that other thread, using the usual words for it (although he probably spoke Aramaic and Matthew has translated them into Greek). So, can we extract from these verses the full details of everything that occurred?

    Dale’s other points about souls (Abraham and Isaac etc) are also interesting, in a theoretical way.

    Andy

  39. Jaco
    July 15, 2012 @ 5:27 am

    Dale, thank you for your response

    Suppose Annie is an atheist. She says, “I was conceived on 1/1/80.” Then, she becomes a Mormon who thinks that all souls pre-existed Now again, she says “I was conceived on 1/1/80?. She doesn’t mean something different – she has asserted the same thing!

    How can you say that she asserts the same thing? In her mind being conceived while still an atheist is significantly different from being conceived as a Mormon. That’s how cognitive linguistics work. When I say, “God sent Jesus” while a JW, I mean something significantly different from “God sent Jesus” as a biblical monotheist. Subjective reality is what we want to ascertain here and, rather strikingly, our naturalistic understanding of conception implies what was also shared by the ancient Jew (non-Hellenized, that is) and that is a person’s beginning. Before that event there was no such person. In plan and in purpose, yes, but it has not “come to pass.” We may formulate such an understanding in modern terms to approximate the original understanding as much as possible. “Coming into existence” and “coming into being” best fits that understanding. I therefore do not think Anthony’s arguments are over the top.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  40. James Goetz
    July 15, 2012 @ 1:10 am

    Dale says:

    “I see no teaching in Scripture that implies eternally begotten.”

    Nor do most evangelical scholars, I think.

    Hmm, evangelical scholars have told me that they believe that doctrine, but I never heard a convincing biblical defense for it.

  41. Anthony
    July 14, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

    Apologies for doubling up the previous comment.

    Dale, what is the basis for saying that “coming into existence”  or “being caused to come into existence” ceases to mean that?!

    Words have stable meanings in this case.
     
    The point is that GENNAO is the action of the father (as most frequently in the whole Bible) here, because it happens IN her not from her as birth.

    We all know that a human father is not involved!

    TDNT makes the obvious point that the new creation is involved like Gen 1:1-2.

    We all can understand easily that gennao does not mean conceive! That is what the mother does.

    Some of the lexicons rightly correct “conceive” to  “beget” here.

    Can you provide any example of “GENNAO” in the womb meaning conceive?

    There is a sort of crime scene situation here because the begetting of the Son in time and space undoes the Trinity!

    Matt. 1:20 will yet change the world!

    I am taking my data from the standard lexicons.  (we all know that figurative meanings exist and that is not relevant to Matt 1:20).

    Gennao is the causative form of ginomai and the basic meaning for Gennao is beget of a father and bear of a mother.

    This is easy and works for the Heb. Yalad equally well, see any Hebrew lexicon (we have about 5 in Bible works now).

    Matt has 40 GENNAO in the first chapter and added to it the cognate genesis, to mark the parallel with the first book of the Bible.

    Abraham begat Isaac of course points to the begetting and subseqent birth, obviously.
    The case of Jesus is exactly parallel, same verb as aorist participle (gennethen) and the activity is IN her, and this not a birth (yet)!

    Translations like RV grudgingly put “begotten” in the margin, There was too much at stake for orthodoxy.
    I Jn 5:18 helpful has the same aorist participle in masc, to refer to Jesus, meaning only that John and Matt agreed!

    All this is not hard I think.
     
    It is worth looking up all the refs to Matt 1:20 in the 10 vol TDNT and the article on beget in the DCG.
    Nothing difficult at all.    The Son came into existence by miracle in the womb of Mary,

  42. Anthony
    July 14, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Andy

    The aorist participle is indeed only there, but you surely know that the part of speech does not alter the meaning of the word! It still means BEGET, cause to come into existence!

    On what basis should anyone say that an aorist participle changes the meaning of the word?!! That is just not so.

    “That which is begotten in her” is plain and easy.

  43. Anthony
    July 14, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    Dale

    Dale, would you accept the dictionary definition of Gennao, as the causative of ginomai?
    That is just a language fact, I think.

    See TDNT or Liddel and Scott or NIDNTTh.

    We all know that figurative meanings are possible too, Paul can beget Titus.

    Quarrels can be begotten.

    But when you are speaking of Abraham begetting Isaac, the meaning is “beget” for the father, and  gennao of course is more rarely  to bear of the mother.

    Do you object to the authorities I cite?  Ginomai in Greek is to begin to be, and Gennao is the causative, “to cause to begin to be”.

    That is my base,  Matt. 1:20 gives the time and place the begetting took place.  I Jn 5:18 just confirms this.
     
    Do you then think of the Son as NOT beginning his conscious existence in Mary?

    What do you think the passive participle in Matt. 1:20? The one begotten, I think.

    The RV, 1881 made that clear and many lexicons.

    See also the article on “beget” in the Dict of Christ and the Gospels.

    The point is an easy one, I think.  Read also the standard Birth Narratives of R Brown, and there is much more, makiing the same point.

  44. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    “I am not convinced that the Platonic idea of human dualism had pervaded Judaism homogeneously to the extent that all Jews understood every human to have had a pre- and post-existence.”

    Me neither, especially because of the pre- part. I *think* it is uncontroversial that Palestinian Jews were somewhat less hellenized than in some other places, like Alexandria.

  45. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

    “Four centuries is a very long time”

    No – Origen (d 254) But he’s just an example. My point has nothing essentially to do with him or his theories.

    Suppose Annie is an atheist. She says, “I was conceived on 1/1/80.” Then, she becomes a Mormon who thinks that all souls pre-existed Now again, she says “I was conceived on 1/1/80”. She doesn’t mean something different – she has asserted the same thing! Even though, before she would’ve thought she existed no earlier than 1/1/80, and now she thinks she just made a transition on that date.

    Again, atheist Al says “Uncle Joe” died. And so also says his brother, Catholic Cal. The former assumes Joe no longer exists, while the latter assumes that Joe is in heaven with God. But “die” means the same thing in both of their mouths.

    Let us assume that Mt and Lk don’t believe that any human pre-exists. They say that a person was conceived/begotten at time x. Jimmy the Greek says the same thing. They mean the same thing by “conceived” even though the former assume that a person can exist no earlier than this, while the latter things everyone has had previous lives, so that becoming pregnant is, in part, receiving one of these “used souls” as it were.

    Same with genealogies – if Smith begat Jones, that just means that Smith was the bio father of Jones. A Hellenized Jew can accept the letter of the text, even if the guy who wrote it didn’t believe that a human could pre-exist.

    OK, I’m just pounding the table now. I’ll stop.

  46. Jaco
    July 14, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

    Dale,

    It can’t be the “temporality” is the issue with being conceived/begotten. Even Origen etc. would hold that a literal, biological conception occurs at a time. (Of course, in 5th c. terms, this would be just one of his two begettings, but I digress.)

    You’re making more of Origen that he deserves. The finer particulars of Jesus’ birth on earth and how Origen would relate that to “beginning” vs. “continuation” we can only speculate about. Fact is that Origen writes in a different time with a different culture after various additional theological and philosophical influences. Four centuries is a very long time, especially after continuous interaction with various influences. Once “gennao” underwent expansion in its domain of meaning, it no longer meant the same as the “gennao” before this happened.

    Perhaps you mean that they all materialists about human persons, and so *must* have thought a human to come into existence at or after conception. (A complex thing can’t exist at a time when it has no parts!) I don’t know that that’s true, though. The Hellenistic influences had been at work for quite a while, and it is arguably that the NT too assumes human souls (though not the whole Platonic group of doctrines about them). A very controversial issue, of course…

    I am not convinced that the Platonic idea of human dualism had pervaded Judaism homogeneously to the extent that all Jews understood every human to have had a pre- and post-existence. Your argument above is very general and even if it were given the benefit of the doubt, would have made the conception of Jesus no different from that of every other human being – thus nothing special at all. Jesus’ genesis would therefore still be like every other man’s, save God’s involvement in it. I don’t think this line of argument will bring us anywhere.

    Thanks

  47. Andy
    July 14, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

    Xavier

    Whole books have been written on the subject of Greek moods and tenses! It’s not simple and neither do they relate 100% to English tenses, even if they share the same name.

    And grammarians are still developing the subject with such things as discourse grammar and verbal aspect. It’s way too big a topic to discuss here 🙂

    I’m happy to admit that I haven’t studied this version of GENNAO enough to have formed a definite opinion on its valid translation, or even translations. I just quoted the BDAG to show that some scholars agree with the ESV’s translation, etc. whether they are right or not I cannot say…

    Andy

  48. Xavier
    July 14, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

    Dale

    I think it actually doesn’t matter whether it is translated “conceived” or “begotten.”

    The Father “begets” and the mother “conceives/becomes pregnant”. To miss this is to ignore what the text is trying to tell you in relation to the “generation” of the Son. Think about it.

    Andy

    I’d just point out that the GENNAO of Matt 1:20 is in the aorist passive participle singular nominative neuter and this verse is the ONLY place in the NT where this form of the verb appears.

    Thanks for the info, didn’t know this. But how do the different tenses affect the INHERENT meaning of the word? i.e., rains, raining, rained…it is still RAIN. 😛

    In other words, the idea of “generation” is ESSENTIAL in gennao since the term is repeatedly used in the genealogies of the Old and New Testaments of fathers who beget children.

  49. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    “Mat 1.20: Of the 96 times the Greek word gennaö appears in the New Testament, this is the only place where it has been rendered ‘conceived’.”

    It’s being unusual doesn’t show that there’s bias here. The parent somehow gives rise to, is the source of the offspring. But here, uniquely I think, a text has in view not a child but rather a zygote or fetus. Hence, “conceived” – what resulted from her becoming pregnant.

  50. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    Hi Anthony,

    I think it actually doesn’t matter whether it is translated “conceived” or “begotten.” A person might agree that God caused Mary to be pregnant, and yet deny that this involved Jesus coming to exist. I mean, this is self-consistent.

    “The activity is of the Father here at work IN her, and it is wrong to translate as conceive.”
    I don’t see why one should accept this; evidently neither do the translators…. Are you thinking that “conceive” must mean that a human father was involved?

    ” John and Matthew agreeing that the Son came into existence”
    Am I understanding you correctly – that in your view they are deliberately, explicitly asserting this? Myself, I doubt this, because I don’t see that being a disputed issue for those authors…

  51. Andy
    July 14, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

    I don’t want to get heavily involved in this discussion until Dale has made his third instalment, if I get involved much at all.

    I’d just point out that the GENNAO of Matt 1:20 is in the aorist passive participle singular nominative neuter and this verse is the ONLY place in the NT where this form of the verb appears. It does not appear in the LXX in this form.

    Therefore, it is not entirely surprising that the translation of it in some Bibles of Matt 1:20 is different from the other 90+ times it appears… The BDAG lexicon supports this translation and it is too good a lexicon to be summarily dismissed.

    I am not arguing, here, for any particular translation – I’m just pointing out its grammatical form and that it is unique within the NT and that at least one authority gives it some support.

    Andy

  52. Xavier
    July 14, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

    Dale,

    as far as I can tell, there is no bias when the the translators render “conceived” in the places we’re talking about.

    Found this online sometime ago…

    Mat 1.20: Of the 96 times the Greek word gennaö appears in the New Testament, this is the only place where it has been rendered ‘conceived’. That should tell us something. ‘Conceived’ is not the intended meaning of the original Greek.

    http://www.wcg.org/lit/gospel/born/matt120.htm

  53. Anthony
    July 14, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    Dale

    Gennao is beget of father and bear of mother. BUT Matt. 1:20 is activity IN her and this is not bearing the child!
    The activity is of the Father here at work IN her, and it is wrong to translate as conceive.

    The RV put the proper Greek in the margin: “Begotten”.

    This is exactly the same as 1 Jn 5:18. So we have John and Matthew agreeing that the Son came into existence.

    Very simple.

  54. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Hi Jaco,

    It can’t be the “temporality” is the issue with being conceived/begotten. Even Origen etc. would hold that a literal, biological conception occurs at a time. (Of course, in 5th c. terms, this would be just one of his two begettings, but I digress.)

    If we could discover something about 1st c. Judaism that would make a difference here, I think it would be puzzlement when someone expressed believe in any human being’s pre-existence. I’m not aware of any such…

    Perhaps you mean that they all materialists about human persons, and so *must* have thought a human to come into existence at or after conception. (A complex thing can’t exist at a time when it has no parts!) I don’t know that that’s true, though. The Hellenistic influences had been at work for quite a while, and it is arguably that the NT too assumes human souls (though not the whole Platonic group of doctrines about them). A very controversial issue, of course…

  55. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    Right one standard meaning of ginomai is to come into existence. I see it’s translated quite a few ways, depending on the sentence it’s in.

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ginomai.html

    I’ll take your word that this is morphologically related to gennao. But when I look at it:

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/gennao.html

    it seems that the main meaning is exactly what I said in the post. So it might be used in a metaphysical sense, to mean come into existence – but as far as I can tell, there is no bias when the the translators render “conceived” in the places we’re talking about.

    I think, Sir, you’re assuming that being conceived involves coming to exist. That may be so – but that is a philosophical assumption about human persons, about when they begin. To say that Dale was conceived at x does not mean that Dale began to exist some time close to or at x.

    As to your end interpretation, I agree with you, pretty much – not that they’re explicitly asserting that Jesus came to exist, but rather that they are assuming it. I don’t have the Brown source, but I’m betting that he makes use of what I called Dunn’s “unstated assumption” in Part 1. I urge that you need that premise as well (as do I).

  56. Dale
    July 14, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    “I see no teaching in Scripture that implies eternally begotten.”

    Nor to most evangelical scholars, I think.

  57. Jaco
    July 14, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    Dale, thanks of scrutinizing the arguments here. It’s necessary and can only refine our understanding and debating skills. You said:

    Rather, my sole point is that these scenarios are not obviously self-contradictory. And so begetting isn’t by definition causing to come into existence. It could, though, actually imply that – but this is a controversial thesis, not a matter that dictionary-makers can settle.

    The scenarios you’re sketching are only non-contradictory if the meaning of a word is expanded so as to exclude the contradiction. A “square circle” loses its contradiction as soon as I change the meaning of either “square” or “circle.” The same with begetting. If temporality inherently and prototypically associated with the word is changed then the contradiction disappears. The fact remains that this change took place and was made, not by bible writers, but by later hybridizers begging to reconcile contradictory concepts.

    But “death” has a common meaning, and even though, in this naturalist’s view, death implies ceasing to exist, arguably the word doesn’t mean that, even when he uses it.

    Conceptually a word may have various meanings to different people, I agree. Language, linguistic construction and cultural usage all shape the meaning of a word. What “hungry” means to you may not be exactly the same as what it means to a black South African, for instance. But if we want to understand the meaning of a word used by a person, we need to consider his/her specific culture, specific language, and genre of usage. If the meaning I give to that word violates some conceptual aspect thereof, as used by that person, then I am not accurately representing that meaning. If temporality is implied and I impose atemporality onto it, this violation can even be called “contradictory.”

    Knowing this, I can describe the usage and meaning of a word as used and understood by someone, and call it its “definition.” Once again, keeping in mind culture, language, and genre, I can determine the user’s prototypical understanding or definition attached to it. Derived usage does not change it. Matthew and Luke happened to use this word in the normative sense. The anthropology of their day gave the meaning of gennao a naturalistic one, especially in the genre they wrote. I therefore have my reservations on your points above, but will await your “better way.”

    Thanks, Dale.

  58. Anthony
    July 14, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    Dale, would you accept the dictionary definition of gennao, as the causative of ginomai? That is just a language fact, I think. See TDNT or Liddel and Scott or NIDNTTh. Ginomai in Greek is “to begin to be”, and gennao is the causative, “to cause to begin to be”. That is my base, Matt. 1:20 gives the time and place the begetting took place. 1 Jn 5:18 just confirms this.

    Do you object to the authorities I cite?

    We all know that figurative meanings are possible too, Paul can “beget Titus”; Quarrels can be begotten. But when you are speaking of Abraham begetting Isaac, the meaning is “beget” for the father, and gennao of course is more RARELY to bear of the mother.

    Do you then think of the Son as NOT beginning his conscious existence in Mary?

    What do you think the passive participle in Matt. 1:20? The one begotten, I think. The RV, 1881 made that clear and many lexicons. See also the article on “beget” in the Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels.

    The point is an easy one, I think. Read also the standard Birth Narratives of R. Brown, and there is much more, making the same point.

  59. James Goetz
    July 14, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    I suppose that the church fathers teaching of eternal generation (subordinationist and Trinitarian) developed in large part from their interpretation of monogenes in John. However, monogenes commonly referred to an *only son* or an *only daughter*. Hmm, I see no teaching in Scripture that implies eternally begotten.