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.

78 Comments

  1. Nelson
    July 17, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

    I’m getting bored with this discussion. We just keep going back and forth about nuances in exegesis and translation. It was interesting for a little bit, but it was a red herring from the start. I chased it this long because I like the chase.

    Now, I would like anybody, if interested, to address my comment about the actual topic of Tuggy’s lecture: the incoherence of the death of a fully divine being. Since nobody has addressed that and everybody keeps changing the subject, I’m going to assume that there’s no objection to the way I stated classical Christology. And maybe that’s why another route must be taken to try and undermine it. Here’s my statement of classical Christology:

    I think that “had” works better as possession than inheritance. If Jesus has said “that you have for me”, or “that I have from”, maybe you can argue inheritance. But Jesus said he had/possessed that glory before creation. How can a non-existent entity possess anything?

    Now, what do you think of the philosophical statement of classical Christology I made. I will restate it with some elaboration:

    1. Jesus died; that is, Jesus went through what constitute a human death
    2. Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He had (and always had and has, necessarily) a divine nature, but he also had (historically and contingently) a human nature.
    3. No fully divine being has ever died; that is, there is no such thing as divine death. But there is human death that a fully divine being can fully experience.

    Now, does this way of stating the classical doctrine of Christ avoid the charge of incoherence?

    • Sean Garrigan
      July 17, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

      “I’m getting bored with this discussion.”

      There are a number of problems with your argument, but I’ll let Dale interact with them if he chooses to so that I can move on to engage in conversations with folks who don’t find my contributions “boring”.

      Take care,
      ~Sean

    • Raymond NAVARRO
      July 17, 2016 @ 9:52 pm

      I don’t believe its incoherent, whether its true is another matter.

      The concern I had with the argument was the assumed incompatibility between immortality and death. They appear to be incompatible on the surface, but I’m not so certain when taking a closer look.

      Death is something we as humans have much familiarity and experience, while immortality- not so much. We could take death as our primitive and use it to define immortality.
      If death is defined as biological cessation, and if death and immortality entail the negation of each other, then immortality is an inability to biologically cease.
      In other words, something that is immortal cannot biologically die, and something that can biologically die cannot be immortal.

      The problem arises with common phrases such as “immortal soul” or “immortal God”. At best such wording is simply analytic- adding the word “immortal” to soul or God tells us nothing new about those entities. At worst it seems incoherent, adding a biologically disposed property to something that is not biological.

      However, it seems as though phrases like ” immortal God” or “immortal soul” are trying to communicate something to us that is not obvious in the concept itself – possibly Gods never ceasing to exist, his inability to go out of existence- his everlastingness, or something similar. If immortality refers to something other than biological cessation, then death and immortality would apply to different types of things or different properties of the same thing.

      If death and immortality apply to different types of things or different properties of the same thing, then they are not incompatible- and you could have entity that underwent death and yet remained immortal- you would not even need to postulate something like a Hypostatic Union to refute the argument.

    • Dale
      July 18, 2016 @ 12:09 am

      “Jesus died; that is, Jesus went through what constitute a human death”

      A human death is the death of a human being, yes?

      How, in your view, did Jesus undergo that?

  2. Nelson
    July 4, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

    Assuming hypostatic union, Jesus could have died a human death, without dying a divine death. That is, Jesus’ death meets all criteria for what dying is for a human. However, there is no such thing as divine death, because a fully divine entity is necessarily immortal. In other words, the fully divine Logos accommodated Himself to a human context and died a human death. Let’s analyze this in 1st century categories of thought.

    Both Hebrews and Hellenes believed death was related to the body but that a non-bodily/non-material part of a person survived death in Sheol, Hades or somewhere. Since a fully divine entity was also thought to be non-material/non-bodily, it was possible to conceive that the fully divine Logos acquired a human bodily existence that underwent human death.

    Now, let’s think of this in 21st century categories of thought. Most people, except strict materialists, think of death not as annihilation but as the cessation of bodily/material existence with continuing non-bodily/non-material existence. So, we can still talk of the Logos as acquiring a human bodily context by accommodation and going through what would constitute a human death.

    Therefore, I do not see any incoherence in traditional Christology. The fully divine Logos fully accommodated His existence to a human bodily context and underwent what would constitute a human death, but which would not constitute a fully divine death.

    • Rivers
      July 5, 2016 @ 8:53 am

      Nelson,

      Regardless of what some extra-biblical sources might suggest about what Hebrews and Hellenes supposedly believed, it seems that the biblical writers understood that the “spirit” (life) that God gave to His creatures (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:15) did not go into Sheol but actually returned to God himself (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Luke 23:46). Sheol (or Hades) is just a term that refers to the place (usually a grave) where the flesh (soul) of a person decomposes (cf. Acts 2:27-31).

      The idea that “the LOGOS acquired a body” is also unreasonable because LOGOS refers to something spoken by a person who already has a body. Jesus is called LOGOS (by Implication) in John 1:1 because it was his “mouth” (cf. Revelation 19:13, 15) that was speaking “the word” (LOGOS) of God to people during his public ministry (John 14:24).

      • Nelson
        July 5, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

        1 Samuel 28 shows a different view of afterlife. And others biblical writer might have the conception of afterlife you describe (though that’s debatable). However, extra-biblical literature informs us of different conceptions of afterlife in the 1st century which in turn might’ve influenced the NT writers.

        Also, your definition of the Logos is interesting but it needs to be defended. I can just dismiss it as idiosyncratic based on my own reading of John 1, or by referring to other 1st century sources that have a more concrete conception of the Logos, such as Philo and the Stoics. I do not claim these conceptions to be compatible with the Christian concept of Logos but the could’ve informed or influenced it. In any way, you have to defend your concept of the Logos as most biblical scholars do not seem to share it and it is not obvious.

        Regardless, the point I was making is not that traditional Christology is right, but that it is coherent. I would like your opinion on that as well.

        • Rivers
          July 5, 2016 @ 6:56 pm

          Nelson,

          I don’t think the incident with Samuel in 1 Samuel 28 should govern the way we interpret the hundreds of other references to “death” that we find thoughout the rest of the Hebrew scriptures. God can make something unusual happen at any particular time (e.g. Enoch, Elijah) and yet we know that the people understood that these prophets were still “dead” (John 8:52-53).

          If you’d like to discuss LOGOS in the Prologue further, let me know. I can certainly defend my understanding from both grammatical and contextual arguments. I prefer to take an inter-textual approach to the Prologue and the 4th Gospel, so I don’t concern myself with speculation about external influences like Philo or Greek philosophers.

          I think traditional Christology is also coherent, but something can seem reasonable even it is based upon the wrong assumptions. I think a more comprehensive and coherent explanation of biblical Christology can be given from a modern Biblical Unitarian perspective.

          • Nelson
            July 6, 2016 @ 1:56 am

            I cited 1 Samuel 28 as an example of a different conception of afterlife present in a canonical text, not as a governing hermeneutical key. Clearly, the author of that text believes that something immaterial in humans endures after death. Paul also seems to have believed in the endurance of a non-material human element when he wrote Phil 1:21-24. And if you take John 8:52-53 as an absolute statement, then Moses and Elijah appearing in the Transfiguration would also suggest a post-mortem existence that’s not material.

            I would like to see your grammatical and contextual arguments for your interpretation of Logos in John 1. However, informing myself of the historical and literary context in which John’s Gospel was written is not the same as speculating. A word acquires a specific meaning within a sentence. The sentence acquires meaning within the paragraph. The paragraph within the complete text. The text within a literary-historical context. And given that John’s Gospel was written in Greek, its use of the Greek term Logos would have evoked certain contemporary ideas among educated people then.

            My point regarding the coherence of traditional Christology was that Tuggy’s argument might not be enough to demonstrate its invalidity. Refutation of traditional Christology would have to be done on other than analytical grounds.

            • Rivers
              July 6, 2016 @ 9:33 am

              Nelson,

              As I noted in my previous reply, I think you are not taking into account that sometimes God does unusual things that shouldn’t be taken as a standard for understanding how the ancient Hebrews viewed ordinary life.

              For example, it’s evident that God enabled an ordinary donkey to speak to Baalam in his native Hebrew language (Numbers 22). However, nobody concludes from this unusual incident that all animals secretly speak the native language of their owners.

              Likewise, we shouldn’t assume that an unusual appearing of Samuel, Moses, and Elijah requires that the ancient Hebrews believed that everyone had an “immaterial” existence after they died.

              There is too much other evidence indicating that the ancient Hebrews believed that death (without a bodily resurrection, like Jesus had) was final and that only the invisible “breath” (spirit) of a creature returned to God upon the death of the soul (Ecclesiasates 12:7).

              I’ll comment on John 1:1 in the next reply …

              • Nelson
                July 6, 2016 @ 10:52 am

                You didn’t address Phil 1:21-24 where Paul talks about dying and being with Christ but without a body. And your approach is too ad hoc for me. You have to say for every example I mentioned that something special must have happen. That could be. However, my hypothesis (which is the classical) is more parsimonious and elegant, and less ad hoc.

                Besides, even resurrection implies that something immaterial endures after human death, something intrinsic to human identity. Otherwise, what makes the new resurrected body the same person if the old body gets obliterated. Identity cannot be in the body.

                • Rivers
                  July 6, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

                  Nelson,

                  I’m sorry I missed Philippians 1:21-24, so I will address that in this reply.

                  I don’t think Philippians 1:23 should be understood as any indication that Paul believed in an “immaterial” existence after death. Paul understood that “the dead in Christ” would not be “with the Lord” until the resurrection took place at the Parousia (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

                  This is also consistent with what Jesus was teaching the apostles about a “last day” when the resurrection and judgment of all believers and unbelievers would take place (John 5:25-29; John 11:24-26; John 12:48).

                  Again, I don’t see any reason to make Paul’s experience any exception (especially since he included himself in other passages that show that a resurrection or change of “flesh” is necessary to inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:50-56).

                  • Nelson
                    July 7, 2016 @ 12:26 am

                    Being in the body is contrasted with being with Christ in Phil 1:23, and it explicitly talks about departing. Of course, Paul includes himself among the people of God that will be resurrected. Whenever he talks about the Church he says we. But in Phil 1:23, he’s talking about his own particular case. He saying he might die soon and go be with the Lord. He is not talking about the resurrection anywhere in the context. He is talking about dying.

                    • Rivers
                      July 7, 2016 @ 8:38 am

                      Nelson,

                      The reason Paul contrasts being “in the flesh” and being “with Christ” is probably because he’s speaking hypothetically about experiencing death before the Parousia (which he hoped some would experience with body and spirit intact, 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

                      I don’t think the First Person is significant in Philippians 1:23 either because Paul is part of the “we” that is the church. Thus, the use of the personal pronoun is probably just a manner of speaking because he is talking specifically about his own particular situation.

                      I understand that points you are trying to make. However, as Sean also suggested, you explanation is unnecessarily presumptive and complicated. It’s better to consider the options for understanding Philippians 1:23 that are consistent with other things Jesus and the apostles were teaching about conditional immortality and a final day of resurrection.

                    • Nelson
                      July 7, 2016 @ 10:55 am

                      More presumptive and complicated than a dual view of time introduced ex machina to preserve your interpretation of the text?

                • Sean Garrigan
                  July 6, 2016 @ 8:19 pm

                  Hi Nelson,

                  I agree with Rivers here in that there doesn’t appear to be anything in Philippians 1 that suggests that Paul would die and immediately be with Christ without a body. Bruce Reichenbach rightly criticized Oscar Cullmann for conceding an intermediate existence after brilliantly demonstrating that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is unbiblical. As Reichenbach correctly observed vis a vis Philippians 1:

                  “Cullmann’s two other passages are Phil. 1:23, where Paul states that it is better to be ‘with Christ’ than to continue living on earth, and Lk. 23:43, where the repentent [sic] thief is promised immediate conveyance to Paradise with Jesus. Whereas Cullmann sees these passages as showing that in their expression of a special proximity of the dead to Christ the New Testament affirms an interim existence for the dead. I believe that another and more consistent explanation can be given…The view one takes of these passages depends ultimately upon the view of time which one thinks is being expressed here. As noted in chapter five, time can be considered objectively (In exactly five minutes the rocket will be launched) or subjectively in terms of our experience of time (Time goes fast when you are having fun). Which view of time is to be found in these two passages? The clue is given by Cullmann, though he fails to see the significance of it: the passages teach the experienced immediacy of being ‘with Christ.’ They are not speaking about objective time, but rather subjective time. Though the time between death and resurrection at the End is objectively long, subjectively it is experienced as immediate.” (Is Man the Phoenix? A Study of Immortality), pp. 184 & 185

                  One therefore cannot use this verse to undermine the monistic doctrine of man expressed throughout Scripture. On a superficial or presuppositional reading it may seem to support an intermediate state, but as Reichenbach shows it doesn’t *necessarily* do so. Thus, the biblical monistic view of man is not supplanted by Phaedo on the basis of this verse.

                  ~Sean

                  • Nelson
                    July 7, 2016 @ 12:37 am

                    This is a very contrived argument and it is not a good one at all. I do not think that Paul had such a distinction of time in his mind when he wrote Phil 1:23. He even talks about remaining in the body (literally, flesh).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 7, 2016 @ 6:26 am

                      “This is a very contrived argument and it is not a good one at all. I do
                      not think that Paul had such a distinction of time in his mind when he
                      wrote Phil 1:23. He even talks about remaining in the body (literally,
                      flesh).”

                      I disagree. As Reichenbach correctly observes, the view of time in the Pauline discourse is subjective time, not objective time. That pretty much seals the deal as far as I’m concerned, especially when one comes to realize that the Bible teaches ‘conditional immortality’, not Plato’s innate immortality.

                      It seems that you are attempting to overturn a clear biblical teaching based on texts that ultimately don’t satisfy the burden you’re placing upon them. For Paul, it was not at the moment of his death, but at the coming of the Lord that he would be ushered into the blessed presence forever.

                      ~Sean

                    • Rivers
                      July 7, 2016 @ 8:24 am

                      Sean,

                      Well said. I agree.

                    • Nelson
                      July 7, 2016 @ 10:37 am

                      You are multiplying your hypotheses by introducing a dual concept of time where the text doesn’t warrant it.

                      And I am a conditionalist. I do not believe in the immortality of the soul. But I believe that something immaterial in humans, something that carries the identity of the person and that is spiritually conscious, endures after death by God’s grace. If identity resides in the body (in matter), then identity would perish with the body. Then, what would warrant continuity of identity in the resurrection, especially if the matter that composes the body were obliterated or absorbed into another body?

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 7, 2016 @ 11:19 am

                      “You are multiplying your hypotheses by introducing a dual concept of time where the text doesn’t warrant it.”

                      I disagree, as the text clearly seems to warrant such an interpretation, IMO. I think that Reichenbach is correct to criticize those who argue for conditional immortality on the one hand but then support an intermediate state on the other.

                      Precisely how God will preserve the ego in the resurrection is unknown and probably unknowable, but such questions shouldn’t cause us to multiply hypotheses beyond what is necessary to adequately explain the data, and introducing a doctrine of an intermediate state clearly seems to do just that.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 7, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

                      The text doesn’t warrant dual time. You introduce it only to negate an “intermediate state”. The text can be understood simply at face value as saying: either I die now and go be with the Lord or I survive a little longer to do some more work.

                    • Rivers
                      July 8, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

                      Nelson,

                      What you think is the “face value” meaning of a particular text might not be what Paul intended to say. That is why it is important to consider other evidence about what he believed about when believers go to be “with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

                    • Nelson
                      July 9, 2016 @ 1:01 am

                      I’ve considered the evidence for your interpretation and found it unconvincing. And I was a Seventh Day Adventist for my first 5 years as a Christian. (And I still see them as Christians, and will defend them as such, even if I find some of their doctrines misguided).

                      My point is that I’ve study the matter of afterlife in the Christian worldview, consider all sides with all the arguments and evidence presented and I’ve settled on my current view (heuristically, as I don’t want to confuse map with territory; and apophatically, as I don’t think human minds can understand reality exhaustively).

                      I’ve loved our exchange so far. I’m not trying to change your views on this matter (conditionalism). However, classic Christology still stands, which is what all of this discussion was supposed to be about. I have not seen you address my last comment regarding this. I guess it got lost in the back and forth about the post mortem condition of persons.

                    • Rivers
                      July 9, 2016 @ 7:32 am

                      Hi Nelson,

                      No problem. I think every one should consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind.

                      Please reiterate your last comment about classic Christology so that I can address it. I must have missed it.

                    • Nelson
                      July 9, 2016 @ 8:04 pm

                      John 1:1 personifies the Logos. And John also says: the Logos was towards (pros) God. He therefore indicates the Logos is both divine and not the God (the Father). If the Logos was just a speech-act, then who’s speaking to (pros) God?

                      Also, in John 17:5, Jesus clearly says that He was with the Father before (preceding) the world (kosmos, universe, creation). So the classic Christian interpretation of John’s prologue is reinforced by this verse and by other verses in the NT (Phil 2:6, Col 1:16, Rev 22:12-13; cf Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12, and Rev 1:8) and by the religious-philosophical context of the 1st century (Philo and the Stoics).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 9, 2016 @ 8:19 pm

                    • Nelson
                      July 11, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

                      Sean,

                      How would you translate into English and Sahidic Coptic the following Koiné Greek phrase:

                      “????????? ????” (John 1:18, Nestle-Aland Greek NT, 28th Edition).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 11, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

                      Hi Nelson,

                      “Sean, How would you translate into English and Sahidic Coptic the following Koiné Greek phrase: “????????? ????” (John 1:18, Nestle-Aland Greek NT, 28th Edition).”

                      I don’t have the Coptic text in front of me, but if memory serves there was reason to believe that the Coptic translator(s) may have had two readings in front of him/them and conflated or merged them in translation. I’ll have to see if I can locate the research notes on that, however.

                      As for the Greek, I’m in he minority. My tentative view is that the original reading was simply MONOGENES and later scribes added hUIOS and QEOS to make the implicit noun explicit. I think that this better accounts for the emergence of the two better supported readings than what Metzger suggests in his commentary on the Greek text.

                      As for translation, I don’t recall seeing one that I currently object to on theological grounds. If either hUIOS or QEOS were original, then I would tend to agree with Bart Ehrman that MONOGENES is functioning as an adjective modifying the noun, which would probably yield one of the following:

                      only-begotten son/god
                      one-of-a-kind son/god
                      unique son/god

                      I’m not dogmatic about it though, and tentatively make just a smidgen of room for:

                      only Son, god
                      only Son, [who is] G-god
                      G-god, the only son

                      ~Sean

                    • Rivers
                      July 11, 2016 @ 10:46 pm

                      Sean,

                      Good points about MONOGENHS.

                      I don’t think the variants matter much either. MONOGENHS seems to refer to the child who is designated by God as the heir (e.g. Isaac, Hebrews 11:17-19) regardless of birth order. Sometimes it might happen to be the “only child” of a parent (Luke 7:12), according to the Law of God.

                      My thought is that MONOGENHS QEOS was probably changed to MONOGENHS UIOS simply to clarify the meaning (i.e. the son of God). This may also be the connotation of “the word was God” in John 1:1 as well.

                      It isn’t possible for YHWH himself to be MONOGENHS. Thus, even a MONOGENHS QEOS would necessarily refer to a human son (heir) of God (especially since Jesus was an human being).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 12, 2016 @ 5:44 am

                      Thanks, Rivers.

                      Textual uncertainty can lead to a multitude of theories. Yours makes at least the fifth that I’ve now encountered, and I imagine there may be others that I’ve either forgotten or never stumbled upon that one could add to the mix.

                      While there is evidence of some scribal tampering in the transmission of the NT texts, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, and so in general I won’t opt for a view that has them deliberately changing one word to another, whereas allowing that they may have added a word that can be considered contextually implicit may reflect better on their motivations, which I think were mostly honorable. Unless the original text of John 1:18 turns up some day, I suppose that any view should be held tentatively.

                      I agree that it makes little sense to think that YHWH could be the MONOGENHS. In my judgment, MONOGENHS QEOS at John 1:18 would more naturally support “the Word was a god” than it would “the Word was God”, though not in a ‘polytheistic’ sense. In the Prologue the Son’s ‘divinity’ seems to flow from the fact that he is the one who reveals or expresses the Father, so to speak. In other words, the Son’s ontology simply isn’t in focus in this text, which seems to reflect functional categories.

                      ~Sean

                    • Rivers
                      July 12, 2016 @ 9:02 am

                      Sean,

                      Good points.

                      I think the main thing is that MONOGENHS (even standing alone, as you think was the original) certainly could not be referring to YHWH himself. It seems that either your perspective or mine is a better way to account for both of the strong variants without essentially changing the meaning.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 12, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

                      “I think the main thing is that MONOGENHS (even standing alone, as you
                      think was the original) certainly could not be referring to YHWH
                      himself. It seems that either your perspective or mine is a better way
                      to account for both of the strong variants without essentially changing
                      the meaning.”

                      Gotcha, agreed:-)

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 12, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

                      The reason I ask is because John 1:18 in Horner’s Sahidic Coptic text reads:

                      “PNOUTE PSHEYRE NOUWT”

                      =the God the Son Only-Begotten.

                      While John 1:1c reads:

                      “NEUNOUTE PE PSAJE”

                      = [a] G/god was the Word.

                      If God isn’t qualitative in John 1:1c (divine or Godlike or Deity), why would the Sahidic text call the Only-Begotten Son the God? Does this give us an insight into what the Greek meant or at least what the Coptics thought it meant?

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 12, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

                      Hi Nelson,

                      “If God isn’t qualitative in John 1:1c (divine or Godlike or Deity), why
                      would the Sahidic text call the Only-Begotten Son the God? Does this
                      give us an insight into what the Greek meant or at least what the
                      Coptics thought it meant?”

                      I’m sorry, but I’m not following your reasoning, here. As I said, some have suggested that the Coptic translator(s) had the two primary readings in front of him/them, and merely conflated them into a single translation. If memory serves, Horner himself suggested this in his 1911 English translation. I’m not sure what the translator had in mind vis a vis how that conflation was to be understood, but I don’t see why a definite noun in verse 18 should suggest a “qualitative noun” in verse 1.

                      In light of the liberal application of divine titles to agents of God in the ancient world, I not only do not find such applications surprising in the NT in reference to Christ, but I would be both shocked and appalled to find that such terms were NOT applied to Christ, as he is God’s agent par excellence — His Cosmic power-of-attorney!

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 12, 2016 @ 9:55 pm

                      What I mean is that a qualitative reading of [a] G/god in John 1:1c would be more compatible with the deteminate substantive (the God) in John 1:18. Otherwise, it seems disjunctive to read “the Logos was a God” and then read a few verses later “the God the Son”.

                      I don’t like to conjecture two source text for the Coptic translation. It is unnecessary. There are other texts in the Coptic translation where stand-alone monogenes is translated as only-begotten son (Luke 9:38, John 1:14 & Heb 11:17). We even added the word in English translations. That’s also why I think the original might’ve read theós and not huios. A change from theós to huios is more natural, because as you said, monogenes already contains the idea of sonship. If the original text read just monogenes I don’t see why huios would be added in verse 18 and not in verse 14.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 14, 2016 @ 7:18 am

                      “What I mean is that a qualitative reading of [a] G/god in John 1:1c would be more compatible with the deteminate substantive (the God) in John 1:18. Otherwise, it seems disjunctive to read ‘the Logos was a God’ and then read a few verses later ‘the God the Son’.”

                      As I said, I just don’t follow you’re reasoning, here. It’s quite natural to speak of someone using a definite noun/title and an indefinite noun/title in close proximity, even in the same sentence in some cases, and there’s nothing “disjunctive” about such usage. In our recent discussion we focused on the afterlife, and were I to have an opportunity to express my own faith in conversation, I might quite naturally tell someone that:

                      “God himself is my hope, for He is a god of the living, a god who is merciful and just, and He has given me reason for confidence in the hope that is in me.”

                      There the title ‘God’ is employed first as a definite noun and subsequently as an indefinite noun. Examples of the reverse situation are also easy to conceive. While any number of examples might be given, I thought this one might be amusing:

                      “In the Sistine Chapel was the apprentice, and the apprentice was with ‘The Master Painter’ (Michelangelo), and the apprentice was himself a painter. The Sistine masterpiece came into being with the assistance of the apprentice, who contributed to every aspect of its creation. In him was a brilliant shining talent, which The Master Painter depended on to help bring the Sistine marvel from concept to realization.

                      There came a Pope, who was sent by God, whose name was Francesco della Rovere. He testified before all about the breathtaking beauty of the masterpiece. While he commissioned the masterpiece, he was not its creator, but he testified about the masterpiece and its makers.

                      The masterpiece is like a light, which has come into the world, and which inspires all men. It is in the world and the world is a better place because of them (i.e. The Master Painter and his apprentice) but most in the world never knew them.

                      The masterpiece became reality, and has come to have a favored place among us. It has a glory like that of a special child, conceived by its father, full of life, richness, and beauty. Francesco della Rovere testified about the one-of-a kind child and its makers.

                      No one today has seen The Master Painter, or the painter, the apprentice, who helped him.”

                      I’ve obviously taken liberties in fictionalizing the story, but it illustrates how naturally one could refer to someone as “a painter” and then as “the painter” without introducing a “disjunct”.

                      “I don’t like to conjecture two source text for the Coptic translation. It is
                      unnecessary. There are other texts in the Coptic translation where
                      stand-alone monogenes is translated as only-begotten son (Luke 9:38,
                      John 1:14 & Heb 11:17)….”

                      As Ehrman would probably say, while any adjective can be substantivized, this is not expected when one immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection, which is the situation we have at John 1:18. I tend to agree with Horner, as the Coptic rendering seems to potentially reflect a conflation of the witnesses. Whether or not it’s necessary is a separate question, but it is at least a plausible hypothesis.

                      With that said, I also reject something Horner does, namely, he puts the indefinite article in brackets at John 1:1c when there’s no reason to do so. He claims that this convention is used when the indefinite article isn’t necessary, but take a look at how he renders other verses that in the Greek have a construction that is the same as or similar to John 1:1c, where we find the indefinite article used with a bounded noun, unencumbered by brackets (e.g. Mark 6:49 ? “an apparition”; Mark 11:32 ? “a prophet”; John 4:19 ? “a prophet”; John 6:70 ? “a devil”; John 8:44a ? “a murderer”; John 9:17 ? “a prophet”; John 10:1 ? “a thief”; John 10:13 ? “a hireling”; John 10:33 ? “a man”; John 12:6 ? “a thief”).

                      Obviously either his theological presuppositions or possibly the fear of men caused him to suggest that the indefinite article is not necessary to capture in English the sense of the Sahidic Coptic at John 1:1c.

                      ~Sean.

                    • Rivers
                      July 14, 2016 @ 7:57 am

                      Sean,

                      You make a lot of good points, but one concern I would have with the point you are making from the citations that are translated “a prophet” and “a thief” and “a man” (etc) is that those terms are not titles that are used as the primary designation for a particular individual.

                      The apostles used “God” hundreds of times almost like a name. For example, Paul spoke of “God the Father” which is similar to “Isaiah the prophet” or “Jeremiah the prophet.”

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 14, 2016 @ 9:48 am

                      Hi Rivers,

                      “You make a lot of good points, but one concern I would have with the
                      argument you are making from the citations that are translated “a
                      prophet” and “a thief” and “a man” (etc) is that those terms are not
                      titles that are used as the primary designation for a particular
                      individual. The apostles used “God” hundreds of times almost like a name.”

                      True, but while it’s possible that such considerations may have bearing on the Greek text of the Prologue, they don’t apply to the Coptic text, because the Coptic text has NEUNOUTE (‘a god’) at John 1:1c, which means that they didn’t consider NOUTE to be functioning as a proper noun/name, there.

                      If we’re going to go the route of defining one usage in light of the other, then, since a narrative is read from beginning to end, it would be more natural to understand PNOUTE in verse 18 in light of NEUNOUTE in verse 1 then it would be to understand NEUNOUTE in verse one in light of PNOUTE in verse 18.

                      ~Sean

                    • Matt13weedhacker
                      July 14, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

                      Some interesting information here:

                      Acts 7:43 in the Coptic version speaks of ?????? ?????? (pnoute raiphan, “the god Raiphan”), a false pagan god. Surely the context rules out this instance of ?????? from being translated into English as “God.” So ?????? does not automatically equal “God,” it is context that guides the reader on when to understand ?????? as the one we commonly identify as “God” in scripture and when to understand it as specifying someone else as merely holding the same title, “the god.” So is ?????? best understood as “God” or “the god” when it’s used of Jesus in John 1:18?

                      Contextual Factors

                      The first factor to consider is the immediate context. In the opening verse of John chapter one, as we considered above, “the word” is said to be with a specific person, “the god” or “God.” The verse continues by saying that “the word” is himself “a god” or “divine.” There is a clear distinguishment here between the two, one is a specific god, the other is a non-specific god in his presence. And in verse 18, two gods are again mentioned, ?????? that no one has seen and ?????? that has spoken of him and revealed him. These must be two separate gods for that statement to be true. The second god is further described as “the only son, the one who is in the bosom position of his father.” So because of these clear distinctions, it seems best to reference Jesus merely as “the god,” allowing the text itself to define which god he is
                      for the reader.

                      Next, in considering the wider biblical context, it should be important to recognize what is not said with regard to Jesus. The phrase ?????? ????? ?????? (pnoute pshare enwot, literally, “the god, the only son”) is an apparent combination of two variant readings from Greek manuscripts. Greek texts use either ????????? ???? (monogenes huios, “only-begotten son”) or ????????? ???? (monogenes theos, “only-begotten god”), but not both. So when the Coptic translators used both terms in their translation of John 1:18, we’d expect that they’d modify both nouns, “god” and “son,” with the corresponding adjective “only-begotten,” but they didn’t. They only modified the noun “son.” Why?

                      Evidently the Greek adjective ????????? (monogenes, “only-begotton” or “unique”) was not in common use among Coptic speakers at the time, so the translators used the Coptic word ???? (wot, “only” or “one”) to translate it, though its range of meaning is slightly different. It is likely because of this slight difference in definitions between ????????? and ???? that the Coptic translators chose to use ???? to modify “son,” but not “god.” The term ????? ?????? (noute enwot, “only god” or “one god”) appears three times in the Coptic version of the New Testament: at Ephesians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 8:6 and 12:6. The first two instances explicitly identify the “only god” as the Father, and in the last instance the Father is most likely the implied reference.

                      Thus, the aversion to calling Jesus ????? ??????,the Coptic phrase we’d expect but was apparently viewed as term reserved for the Father exclusively, stands as a significant bulwark against the claim that ?????? should be understood as the personal name “God” when used of the Son. By the time the translation was made into the Bohairic dialect of Coptic, the Greek word ????????? must have gained adequite recognition among Coptic speakers, and so that version uses that word instead of ????, literally reading “the only-begotten god.”

                      Sourced from:

                      http://www.agreatcloud.com/database/coptic.php

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 14, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

                      Hi Matt,

                      “Some interesting information here:”

                      Yes, indeed, and I agree with all points made:-)

                      About the conflation of the two primary readings by the Copts, as I pointed out to Nelson, Horner himself offered that (if memory serves) as a potential answer to the presence of both hUIOS and QEOS at John 1:18 in the Sahidic Coptic translation. I think that’s a plausible hypothesis.

                      I enjoyed your very thoughtful point about how the Copts, not having a perfectly equivalent term reflecting the precise nuance of MONOGENHS, opted not to say “the only god” or “the only god and son”. Perhaps they felt that the ‘only son’ part was meant to clarify ‘the god’ part. What god? The one just identified as ‘a god’ in verse 1:1c, namely the only son who was the expression of God as His LOGOS.

                      ~Sean

                    • Matt13weedhacker
                      July 15, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

                      It appears that, grammatically, “only” in Coptic John 1:18 applies only (ironically) to the Coptic word for “Son”, and not “God”. That’s what I picked up anyway.

                      And that “the” (in “the God”) can used for grammatical reasons, rather than the purely/solely theological, and that “the God” (with the def.art.) in the Coptic is also used of a false “God” (Lit. “the God”) as well.

                      So, when these points are taken into consideration (i.e. the equation of balance), they QUALIFY the SENSE of John 1:18.

                      And that John 1:18 must be taken in the context of (i.e. balanced with) Coptic John 1:1, and comparison between Father and Son.

                      Another consideration, is that the MSS for Coptic Gospel of John are relatively (note relatively) late (as far as I know anyway = I may have to do a little more research on that one).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 16, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

                      “It appears that, grammatically, ‘only’ in Coptic John 1:18 applies only (ironically) to the Coptic word for ‘Son’, and not ‘God’. That’s what I picked up anyway.”

                      I also find it interesting how, on the one hand, modern translators who favor hUIOS as the original noun, often opt for “only Son”, yet few who favor QEOS opt for “only G-god”. Obviously theology is controlling the translation process in many cases.

                      “And that ‘the’ (in ‘the God’) can used for grammatical reasons, rather than the purely/solely theological, and that ‘the God’ (with the def.art.) in the Coptic is also used of a false ‘God’ (Lit. ‘the God’) as well.”

                      Agreed, and that’s what I was trying to demonstrate by offering a prologue-ish fictional re-telling of the Sistine Masterpiece. I think that the definite article is functioning comparably in the two sentences:

                      “No one today has seen The Master Painter, or the painter, the apprentice, who helped him.”

                      “No man hath seen God at any time; the god, the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

                      Just as “or”, “the apprentice”, and “who helped him” helps us to understand that “the painter” in the sentence that mirrors verse 18 is referring to the one who was called “a painter” in the first sentence, so likewise “the only Son”, “who is in the bosom of the Father” (=the one God) and “had declared him” helps us to understand that “the god” in verse 18 is referring to the one who was called “a god” in verse 1.

                      ~Sean

                    • Matt13weedhacker
                      July 14, 2016 @ 12:38 pm

                      On the Coptic renderings.

                      http://copticjohn.blogspot.co.nz/

                      http://nwtandcoptic.blogspot.co.nz/

                      It’s worth noting that the definite article is a variant reading in the Greek MSS. And it is used in NWT at John 1:18 “the only-begotten god”.

                      NWT 2013
                      “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is at the Father’s side* is the one who has explained Him.”
                      Footnotes: Or “in the bosom position with the Father.” This refers to a position of special favor.
                      http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/b/r1/lp-e/nwt/E/2013/43/1#h=6:573-7:0

                      NWT 1986
                      “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god* who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him.”
                      Footnotes:
                      ? ????????? ???? “The only-begotten god,” P75 ?c; P66 ?* BC*,
                      ????????? ???? “only-begotten god”; AC cIt Vg Syc,h,
                      ? ????????? ???? “the only-begotten Son.”
                      http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/b/r1/lp-e/Rbi8/E/1984/43/1

                      ? (?Aleph) Codex Sinaiticus, Gr., fourth cent. C.E., British Museum, H.S., G.S.

                      A Codex Alexandrinus, Gr., fifth cent. C.E., British Museum, H.S., G.S.

                      B Vatican ms 1209, Gr., fourth cent. C.E., Vatican City, Rome, H.S., G.S.

                      C Codex Ephraemi rescriptus, Gr., fifth cent. C.E., Paris, H.S., G.S.

                      It Old Latin Versions, Itala, second to fourth cent. C.E.; H.S., G.S.

                      P66 Papyrus Bodmer 2, Gr., c. 200 C.E., Geneva, G.S.

                      P75 Papyrus Bodmer 14, 15, Gr., c. 200 C.E., Geneva, G.S.

                      Syc Curetonian Syriac, Old Syriac, fifth cent. C.E., Gospels, Cambridge, England.

                      Syh Philoxenian-Harclean Syriac Version, sixth and seventh cent. C.E.; G.S.

                      Vg Latin Vulgate, by Jerome, c. 400 C.E. (Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, Württembergische Bibelanstalt, Stuttgart, 1975).

                      http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1001060001#h=48

                    • Matt13weedhacker
                      July 12, 2016 @ 5:42 am

                      ????????? has only a single Gk., ( ? ) “nu” if anyone hasn’t noticed, not a double Gk., ( ?? ). If memory serves me rightly, this was considered significant in Athanasius time.

                      Any thoughts?

                    • Rivers
                      July 9, 2016 @ 11:59 pm

                      Nelson,

                      I don’t think John 1:1 merely “personifies” the word (LOGOS). Rather, I think the writer is using LOGOS to refer to the human Jesus (by Implication). A “word” (LOGOS) is a verbal expression which cannot exist without a person who actually speaks it. We also know that “the word” became a name for Jesus after the resurrection (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13).

                      John 17:5 certainly doesn’t say that Jesus was “with the Father” before the world began. Rather, the text says that Jesus “had” glory with (from) the Father before the world began. This is the language of inheritance, and not Preexistence. That is why Jesus was requesting to be glorified in the preceding context (John 17:1-2). He was subsequently “appointed heir of all things” when he was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven (Hebrews 1:2-4).

                    • Nelson
                      July 10, 2016 @ 6:11 am

                      I think that “had” works better as possession than inheritance. If Jesus has said “that you have for me”, or “that I have from”, maybe you can argue inheritance. But Jesus said he had/possessed that glory before creation. How can a non-existent entity possess anything?

                    • Rivers
                      July 11, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

                      Nelson,

                      Drawing a distinction between “had” and “possess” is not significant because the evidence shows that the Jews understood that a child who is the heir in a father’s household already “owns everything” even before he is appointed as the heir (Galatians 4:1-2).

                      This is also evident in the parable of the Prodigal son where the younger son asks his father to “give him his share of the estate to which he was entitled” (Luke 15:12).

                    • Nelson
                      July 12, 2016 @ 3:38 am

                      Jesus didn’t say “the glory I HAVE with/from you” – which I already said could be interpreted as indicating inheritance. Jesus said “the glory I had”, that is, then but not now. And the “before the world” clause modifies “had”, indicating when Jesus had God’s glory. Something that doesn’t exist cannot possess anything. If Jesus had God’s glory before/preceding the world, Jesus must’ve existed before/preceding the world.

                    • Rivers
                      July 12, 2016 @ 8:53 am

                      Nelson,

                      I understand your perspective, but I don’t think it’s the correct way to interpret the language in John 17:5. Please consider these concerns that I have:

                      1. It’s evident throughout the rest of the 4th Gospel that the writer believed that Jesus was “not yet glorified” (John 7:39; John 12:16; John 13:31; John 16:12), thus I don’t think it’s likely John 17:5 should be taken as an exception when there is no other indication that he was glorified in the past.

                      2. The immediate context preceding John 17:5 shows that Jesus is asking God to glorify him on account of what he has accomplished on earth (John 17:4) because “the hour” to be glorified has now come (John 17:1). This is the language of specific reward for accomplishment and not restoration of something that was abandoned before.

                      3. The “glory” in the immediate context pertains to “authority over all flesh” and “eternal life” (John 17:2-3) which would not have been possible before the time of Genesis when there were no people of “flesh” and there was no death.

                      4. Where it says, “before the world was”, the term is KOSMOS (“world”) which refers to the Jewish people in the 4th Gospel (John 1:10; John 12:19; John 18:20). Thus, it should not be misconstrued as an allusion to the inanimate creation of Genesis 1:1 or anything that existed prior to the time of Abraham.

                      5. In John 17:22, Jesus spoke of having (already) given “the glory” that God had (already) given to him, to the apostles. This anticipatory use of the language in this verse suggests that the “I had” in John 17:5 should also be taken the same way.

            • Rivers
              July 7, 2016 @ 8:21 am

              Hi Nelson,

              I agree that words must be interpreted in a context.

              The term LOGOS (“word”) is used over 40 times by the writer of the 4th Gospel and it always refers to something that is spoken by a person (in most cases, it refers to something Jesus said during his public ministry). There is no need isolate John 1:1 and try to impose a different meaning based upon speculation about “other contemporary ideas.”

              The reason that most translators simply render LOGOS as “word” in the Prologue is because that it what the term means. In the context of the Prologue, LOGOS is associated with a specific human being who came after John the baptizer and was heard by the disciples (John 1:14-15). See also 1 John 1:1.

              Another consideration is that a “word” (LOGOS) itself is not a person or a being. Thus, I think we should understand that Jesus was called “the word” by Implication (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13) because he spoke the word of God the Father (John 14:24).

              • Nelson
                July 7, 2016 @ 10:34 am

                John 1:1 personifies the Logos. And John also says: the Logos was towards (pros) God. He therefore indicates the Logos is both divine and not the God (the Father). If the Logos was just a speech-act, then who’s speaking to (pros) God?

                Also, in John 17:5, Jesus clearly says that He was with the Father before (preceding) the world. So the classic Christian interpretation of John’s prologue is reinforced by this verse and by other verses in the NT (Phil 2:6, Col 1:16, Rev 22:12-13; cf Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12, and Rev 1:8) and by the religious-philosophical context of the 1st century (Philo and the Stoics).

        • Sean Garrigan
          July 6, 2016 @ 7:43 am

          Hi Nelson,

          You said: “1 Samuel 28 shows a different view of afterlife.”

          Well, it certainly shows that an unrighteous man somehow came to share with some others the misguided view that communication with the dead via a spirit medium was possible, but that hardly stands as an endorsement for the view in question. As Samuele Bacciocchi observed:

          “These attempts to utilize the ‘ghostly’ appearance of ‘Samuel’ at the
          beck and call of a medium to prove the conscious existence of disembodied
          souls after death ignore five important considerations. First, it ignores the
          definite teaching of Scripture on the nature of man and the nature of death
          which we have already examined thoroughly [in Bacciocchi’s book ‘Immortality Resurrection?’). The Biblical wholistic view of human nature envisages the cessation of life for the whole person at death and, thus precludes the conscious existence of disembodied souls.

          Second, it ignores the solemn warning against consulting ‘familiar spirits’ (Lev 19:31; Is 8:19), a transgression that was punished by death (Lev
          20:6, 27). In fact, Saul himself died because ‘he was unfaithful to the Lord .
          . . and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord’ (1 Chron 10:13-14). The reason the death penalty was inflicted for consulting ‘familiar spirits’ is that these were ‘evil spirits,’ or
          fallen angels impersonating the dead. Such a practice would eventually lead
          the people to worship the devil rather than God.

          God hardly could have prescribed the death penalty for communicating
          with the spirits of deceased loved ones if such spirits existed and if such
          a communication were possible. There is no moral reason for God to outlaw
          on the pain of death, the human desire to communicate with deceased loved
          ones. The problem is that such communication is impossible, because the
          dead are unconscious and do not communicate with the living. Any communication that occurs is not with the spirit of the dead, but with evil spirits. This is suggested also by the medium’s statement, ‘I see a god [elohim] coming up out of the earth’ (1 Sam 28:13). The plural word elohim is used in the Bible not only for the true God but also for false gods (Gen 35:2; Ex 12:12; 20:3). What the medium saw was a false god or evil spirit impersonating Samuel.

          Third, such an interpretation assumes that the Lord would speak to Saul by a medium, a practice He had outlawed on the pain of death, after He had refused to communicate with Saul by legitimate means (1 Sam 28:6). A
          communication from Samuel, speaking as a prophet, indirectly would be a
          communication from God. Yet the Bible expressly states that the Lord
          refused to communicate with Saul (1 Sam 28:6).

          Fourth, it ignores the fantastic difficulty of supposing that a spirit from the dead could appear as ‘an old man . . . wrapped in a robe’ (1 Sam 28:14). If the spirits of the dead were disembodied souls, they obviously would not need to be wrapped around with clothes.

          Fifth, it ignores the implications of the grim prediction ‘Tomorrow
          you and your son shall be with me’ (1 Sam 28:19). Where was this
          rendezvous to take place between the king and the simulator of Samuel? Was it in sheol, as Cooper suggests? If that were true, it would mean that God’s prophets and apostate kings share the same living quarters after death. This runs contrary to the popular belief that at death the saved go up to heaven and the unsaved down to sheol–hell. Furthermore, if Samuel had been in Heaven, the spirit-impersonator of Samuel would have said: ‘Why have you brought me down?’ But he said: ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ (1 Sam 28:15). Had the location of the saved changed in the course of time from sheol beneath the earth to Heaven above the earth?

          Reflections such as these give us reason to believe that the séance which occurred at Endor does not support in any way the notion of conscious
          existence for disembodied souls after death. It is evident that it was not the
          spirit of Samuel that communicated with Saul. Most likely, a demon impersonated the dead Samuel, as happens in many séances today.

          The Scriptures reveal that Satan and his angels have the ability to change their appearance and to communicate with human beings (see Matt 4:1-11; 2 Cor 11:13,14). The story of the ‘ghostly’ appearance of Samuel at Endor tells us very little about conscious existence after death, but it does reveal a great deal about the clever deceptions of Satan. It shows us that Satan has been very successful in promoting the lie, ‘You will not die,’ by using sophisticated means such as the impersonification of the dead by his evil spirits. (Immortality or Resurrection? A Biblical Study Human Nature and Destiny), pp. 167-169

          This may not be the only way to understand the account, but it certainly shows that the existence of different views doesn’t suggest that such views are valid.

          ~Sean

          • Nelson
            July 6, 2016 @ 11:13 am

            I’m going to address one point in your long comment: the abode of the dead in the Hebrew Canon.

            As my other interlocutor, Mr. Rivers, correctly states, the Hebrew Canon states in various places that the dead go to Sheol/Hades and the spirit goes back to God. It is so for all people and animals. Even Jesus went to Sheol/Hades. Your view that only the reprobate descend to Sheol/Hades is foreign to the Hebrew Canon.

            Also, revelation was a gradual process that took hundreds of years. So you will see development of new concepts in the Hebrew Canon, culminating with the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus as recorded and expounded in the New Testament.

            • Sean Garrigan
              July 6, 2016 @ 11:51 am

              Hi Nelson,

              You’ve misunderstood my use of Bacciocchi. I didn’t quote him because I agree with every nuance from his five-point counterargument; I quoted him because he rightly observed that Saul’s use of a witch to speak with the dead doesn’t necessarily justify his belief that it was truly possible to communicate with the dead or that the dead still existed in actuality rather than in potentiality. It may be instructive that his actions, which flowed from his false belief, were part of the reason he suffered God’s judgment! (1 Chron 10:13-14)

              ~Sean

              • Nelson
                July 6, 2016 @ 7:41 pm

                It seems to me that the text we’re discussing does entail a believe in a post mortem existence by the author of the text as the author doesn’t indicate a believe that the spirit summoned was other than Samuel. If the author believed that the spirit summoned was a demon, he could’ve indicated it explicitly in the text. However, the author of the text refers to the spirit as Samuel.

                • Sean Garrigan
                  July 6, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

                  “It seems to me that the text we’re discussing does entail a believe in a
                  post mortem existence by the author of the text as the author doesn’t
                  indicate a believe that the spirit summoned was other than Samuel. If
                  the author believed that the spirit summoned was a demon, he could’ve
                  indicated it explicitly in the text. However, the author of the text
                  refers to the spirit as Samuel.”

                  I see no reason to think so. All we can say with certainty is that, according to the author, Saul believed that one could communicate with the dead. Since that practice was expressly forbidden by God and served as part of the basis for Saul’s judgment, I would be chary about basing doctrine upon it.

                  ~Sean

                  • Nelson
                    July 7, 2016 @ 2:16 am

                    Does 1 Samuel refer to the summoned spirit as Samuel or not?

                    “Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”
                    ??1 Samuel? ?28:11-12? ?NIV??
                    http://bible.com/111/1sa.28.11-12.niv

                    Notice that the narrator refers to the summoned spirit as Samuel even before Saul knows what’s going on. So the narrator does believe that the summoned spirit is actually Samuel.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 7, 2016 @ 6:47 am

                      “Notice that the narrator refers to the summoned spirit as Samuel even
                      before Saul knows what’s going on. So the narrator does believe that the
                      summoned spirit is actually Samuel.”

                      The flow of the narrative seems to harmonize quite adequately with the understanding that a demon was impersonating Samuel. The narrator was relaying what Saul “knew”, but it was false “knowledge”. The dead “know nothing” (Ecc 9:5), yet the demon in the account knew things, which he related to Saul.

                      Again, all we can say with certainty is that, according to the author, Saul
                      believed that one could communicate with the dead. Since that practice
                      was expressly forbidden by God and served as part of the basis for his adverse judgment of Saul, I would be chary about basing doctrine upon it.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 7, 2016 @ 9:17 am

                      No. It only harmonizes if you force it with a contrived hermeneutics. Ockham’s razor applies.

                      You also assume a monolithic view of afterlife throughout the Hebrew Canon. That’s not warranted. In fact, there are different and developing views of afterlife in the Hebrew Canon. Ecclessiastes, for example, says that death is the end. There’s no resurrection in Ecclessiastes. The whole book parts from the premise that death is the end of everything under the sun, in view of which everything is vane (literally, smoke or vapor).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 7, 2016 @ 11:12 am

                      “No. It only harmonizes if you force it with a contrived hermeneutics. Ockham’s razor applies.”

                      What I find contrived is the view which suggests that while God outlawed use of spirit mediums on pain of death, he nevertheless allowed his faithful servant to be summoned by one. That introduces an inconcinnity that cannot be sustained, IMO.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 7, 2016 @ 10:41 pm

                      “God can make something unusual happen.” – Rivers

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 8, 2016 @ 6:13 am

                      “God can make something unusual happen.” – Rivers

                      That’s hardly an adequate response to the critical problem with your view that I highlighted. There are things that God can’t do (e.g. lie), and there are things that we can reasonably assume that God wouldn’t do, e.g. outlaw the use of spirit mediums on pain of death, but then turn around and allow a faithful servant to be summoned by a witch.

                      Since God outlawed spiritism, which is really a form of demonism, he wouldn’t empower a witch to perform the outlawed demonic act of raising a spirit. If God didn’t empower her, then she got her power from another source, namely Satan and/or his demons. Your view has God allowing his dead, faithful servant to be subject to the demonic powers.

                      As I said already, the dead know nothing (Ecc. 9:5), but the demon who was summoned by the witch knew things. While the writer of Ecclesiastes may not have known that the dead would someday be resurrected, that doesn’t render his insight erroneous; it merely renders it incomplete.

                      My approach to Scripture is obviously a bit more fundamentalist than yours, as I assume that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), and that would include the book of Ecclesiastes.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 8, 2016 @ 9:47 am

                      You insist that the spirit summoned was a demon. You can certainly interpret it that way but that’s not explicit in the text. I can say that God send Samuel and that the witch didn’t really have the power to summoned anybody.

                      Ecclessiastes has an incomplete picture as you just admitted. So it’s dictum “the dead know nothing” can be understood as true but incomplete. It certainly doesn’t preclude the idea of an immaterial human element that endures post mortem. Even if such immaterial substance cannot participate of the world, except by God’s intervention.

                      And don’t poison the well by suggesting that I do not accept the proper authority of Scripture. I do. Just because I disagree with your interpretation of Scripture it doesn’t follow that I disagree with Scripture. That is certainly a fundamentalist attitude.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 9, 2016 @ 9:06 am

                      Hi Nelson,

                      You said:

                      “You insist that the spirit summoned was a demon. You can certainly
                      interpret it that way but that’s not explicit in the text. I can say that God send Samuel and that the witch didn’t really have the power to summoned anybody.”

                      And you criticize me for supposedly introducing a dual concept of time when it’s supposedly not warranted? It appears that you have a double exegetical standard when it serves you;-)

                      I see nothing in the account suggesting in any way that the witch wasn’t responsible for the appearance of the spirit. So it would seem that the problem remains: Since God expressly forbade the use of spirit mediums on pain of death, He wouldn’t have empowered the witch to summon Samuel. Since it wasn’t God who empowered the witch, it must have been the demonic forces. The reason spiritism was outlawed is because it’s a form of demonism.

                      “Ecclessiastes has an incomplete picture as you just admitted. So it’s dictum ‘the dead know nothing’ can be understood as true but incomplete. It certainly doesn’t preclude the idea of an immaterial human element that endures post mortem. Even if such immaterial substance cannot participate of the world, except by God’s intervention.”

                      In the context of this conversation in relation to the point I made, the only question that matters is whether Ecclesiastes 9:5 is correct in stating that the dead are not conscious. If it’s correct then it’s applicability to my position stands, especially in conjunction with the rest of the argument. As I pointed out above, on a natural reading of the account it was the witch who summoned the spirit, not God. Since it wasn’t God who summoned the spirit, and since it is unlikely that God would allow his deceased faithful servant to be forced to participate in demonism, I think it naturally follows that the spirit wasn’t Samuel.

                      “And don’t poison the well by suggesting that I do not accept the proper authority of Scripture. I do. Just because I disagree with your interpretation of Scripture it doesn’t follow that I disagree with Scripture. That is certainly a fundamentalist attitude.”

                      I wasn’t poisoning the well, but was merely making what seemed to be a reasonable inference from your response, which seemed to imply that you merely disagreed with Eccl. 9:5. Let me connect the dots for you.

                      I had said:

                      “The flow of the narrative seems to harmonize quite adequately with
                      the understanding that a demon was impersonating Samuel. The narrator
                      was relaying what Saul “knew”, but it was false ‘knowledge’. The dead
                      ‘know nothing’ (Ecc 9:5), yet the demon in the account knew things,
                      which he related to Saul…Again, all we can say with certainty is that, according to the author, Saul believed that one could communicate with the dead. Since that practice was expressly forbidden by God and served as part of the basis for his adverse judgment of Saul, I would be chary about basing doctrine upon it.”

                      You replied:

                      “You also assume a monolithic view of afterlife throughout the Hebrew
                      Canon. That’s not warranted. In fact, there are different and developing
                      views of afterlife in the Hebrew Canon. Ecclessiastes, for example, says that death is the end. There’s no resurrection in Ecclessiastes. The whole book parts from the premise that death is the end of everything under the sun, in view of which everything is vane (literally, smoke or vapor).”

                      I think it’s reasonable to infer that that comment, taken by itself, is only an answer to my argument if it is being used to reject the view expressed in Ecclesiastes. After all, you didn’t offer the qualifications that you have now offered, but merely offered the above as though it satisfactorily addressed my point. However, if you agree with me that the development was one that involved the incomplete growing toward the complete, then the challenge to your view based on this verse stands, and your comment above simply sidestepped the problem.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 9, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

                      I don’t have double standards, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Besides, I only said what I said in juxtaposition to your idea of demonic intervention in 1 Sam 28. “You can certainly interpret…not explicit in the text. I can say…”

                      My point was that regarding what the text explicitly says, we cannot say who sent Samuel up. And if we both resort to fill in the blanks I can come up with a good conjecture that’s consistent with my interpretation of Scripture. Sure, the text explicitly says that Samuel came up to the medium, but it does say it was Samuel and not a demon or anybody else. It doesn’t say that a demon impersonated Samuel or that Saul was wrong to think it was Samuel. So the most straightforward reading of the text would be that the medium did summoned Saul, period. How did she? You say demons. I say God allowed it.

                      Regarding Ecclesiastes, “the dead know nothing” is true but incomplete. The dead do not participate of anything “under the sun”. That doesn’t mean they are not aware of God or that God cannot make a dead person appear for a purpose (the transfiguration, for example). But if that’s possible, then there most be something immaterial that endures after death that can be summoned by God.

                      Regarding my view of Scripture, when you said “I assume that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”, you implied that I don’t. If what you mean is that I don’t believe in biblical inerrancy then your right; I don’t. There are errors in the text of Scripture (that is, earlier biblical authors believed and declared ideas that later revelation showed to be incomplete, deficient and sometimes even wrong). But I believe in biblical infallibility and in the authority of Scripture as a whole. Otherwise, I would not have bothered to use Scripture in my arguments and counter-arguments. And when you questioned my subjection to Scripture’s authority you made an accusatory statement that makes it easier to dismiss my arguments as not biblically committed. That’s poisoning the well. If that’s not what you meant, then it’s surely a way to read what you wrote.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 9, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

                      Hi Nelson,

                      Thank you for your followup response. We seem to be at an impasse, and I’m not really into arguments without end, so I’ll let things stand as they are. I think we’ve made our respective positions clear enough so that others can consider them and decide for themselves who has the better case.

                      I apologize for arguing in a way that makes you believe that I was “poisoning the well”, as that was not my intent at all. As I tried to explain, my inference, which I still think was a natural one, was that you were merely rejecting the insight found in Ecclesiastes. You’ve now explained that you don’t reject said insight, and I appreciate the clarification.

                      ~Sean

                    • Nelson
                      July 9, 2016 @ 8:21 pm

                      I agree that we have both stated our views, our arguments, our reasons and our evidence. Like I told Rivers, I never expected to convince you that my view is the right one. I only tried to defend my view sufficiently as a possible alternative. I enjoyed our exchange.

                      Regarding the afterlife, maybe we’ll find out when we die. But that will be my last project in this life.

                      Regarding Christology, I guess we never engaged that subject, which is what the lecture and post were about. Another time maybe. Peace.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 9, 2016 @ 10:14 pm

                      “Regarding Christology, I guess we never engaged that subject, which is
                      what the lecture and post were about. Another time maybe. Peace.”

                      Yes, maybe, though in my experience those conversations don’t ever seem to yield a change of heart, either. While Rivers and I certainly agree that Jesus isn’t God Himself, we nevertheless part ways when it comes to Christology, as he rejects the view that the one who became Jesus the Messiah existed in heaven as a real person before becoming a man, whereas I think that such a view is unavoidable if we let certain texts speak naturally and shape our Christology accordingly.

                      I used to think that I had more in common with Unitarians than I do with Trinitarians, but after posting here for a couple years, now I’m not so sure. I guess I take a middle view of Christology, just as I take a middle view on the afterlife and human destiny.

                      ~Sean

                    • Rivers
                      July 8, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

                      Sean,

                      I would argue from scripture that satan and evil spirits are part of the heavenly host who are commissioned by God himself to put human beings to the test (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-21; Job 1-2). Thus, I can’t follow your line of reasoning with regard to the validity of what the witch did in 1 Samuel 28.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 8, 2016 @ 7:05 pm

                      “I would argue from scripture that satan and evil spirits are part of
                      the heavenly host who are commissioned by God himself to put human
                      beings to the test (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-21). The reason they are
                      associated with “evil” is because God allows them to cause physical pain
                      and destruction (Job 1-2)…Thus, I can’t follow your line of reasoning with regard to the validity of what the witch did in 1 Samuel 28.”

                      That doesn’t really seem to make sense as a response to the considerations I offered to Nelson. I’m sure it makes sense to you, but I don’t see any coherence via the connectives, so to speak.

                      ~Sean

      • nbraithwaite
        September 23, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

        I like to think of humanity beginning when Yahweh breathed life into his creation – both man/Adam and woman/Eve.

        As our organic make-up is just that – organic, it, in and of itself, isn’t what either gives life nor sustains it; rather, the organic, as it was assembled and fashioned by Yahweh into what we know as a human body is simply the vessel which, when energized by Yahweh’s spirit, comes to life. And since that first creation, life has been passed on to this day. Unfortunately, each individual life is subject, because if sin, to decay and eventually die.

        What I believe happens when one dies is that they are simply unplugged from the power source and the organic body continues to decay back to its original state – dirt.

        I believe that nothing about organic humanity is eternal. However, I do believe every individual that has ever lived exists eternally in the mind of the God of all creation and that when the Messiah returns Yahweh will bring every person who has died back to life, as He did the Messiah, to be judged according to their deeds by His righteous will.

        Those who pass the test will live on eternally in His kingdom and those who don’t will again – a second time – be unplugged from the life giving source and die. Only this time they have no chance to ever be plugged in again. They simply cease to exist and are forgotten by Yahweh and all the people of His kingdom. (I’m not on board with the eternal fire and brimstone thing)

  3. Raymond NAVARRO
    July 1, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

    The podcast raises an interesting topic – the concept of death.

    If zombies are possible- exact replicas of ourselves but w/o consciousness- that would point to death not simply being a matter of biological cessation- they are called “the walking dead”- dead corpses walking around

    If we defined death as an event of separation , in the human case, separation of soul from the body, this could accommodate the existence of zombie activity.

    If a divine fully being could undergo a kind of separation- lets say a separation of the the divine mind from its divine substratum (whatever that is)- then a fully divine being could undergo death.

    • Raymond NAVARRO
      July 2, 2016 @ 1:23 pm

      Ok, I thought about this some more- forget about the zombie thing.

      But in keeping with the idea of defining death as a event of separation.

      If God were a Trinity in the classical sense ( a tripersonal being), if it were possible that these persons could somehow become separated from each other- the the Trinity itself could undergo a kind of death.

      Lets say on the cross were Jesus says “my God why have you forsaken me”- thats when one of the members of the Trinity was seperated from the others. This would mean that the Trinity itself underwent a kinda of separation or death.

      If the Trinity is itself God, then an fully divine being could undergo death,

      • Rivers
        July 3, 2016 @ 7:49 am

        Ray,

        I think the issue you have here is properly defining “death.” Even though death might be considered some kind of a “separation”, that is not what the term “death” means. As Dale suggested in his lecture, it doesn’t seem reasonable to think that a divine person could “die” in the sense that the term is normally used.

        • Raymond NAVARRO
          July 3, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

          Agreed, one thing i enjoy about philosophizing is that everything is up for grabs- there are no sacred cows.

          The key here is somehow to reconcile death and immortality- making them compatible- kinda like the compatibilist versions of free will.

          So instead of redefining death, how about we think about immortality.

          If we understand death in merely biological terms, then when contrasted with immortality it would seem that we should also understand that in merely biological terms as well.
          When juxtaposing 2 opposing predicates it would seem that they should overlap and refer to the same kinds of things, properties etc.. In other words, when contrasting blue and red- both predicates are referring to the color of an object- not one predicate referring to color and the other predicate referring to texture of that same object.
          So, if “death” is understood in merely biological terms, then “immortality” should be understood in merely biological terms as well- something that cannot undergo biological cessation.
          On this understanding, speaking of an “immortal soul” turns out to be an incoherent idea. How can an immaterial entity undergo biological death?
          If ” immortal” can be used as a predicate for a soul, this would point to the concept referring to an entirely different area of information, or maybe something over and above the shared areas.
          Whatever the case maybe, if it can be shown that death and immortality are referring to different areas of information, or different kinds of things, then death and immortality would not be incompatible.
          If death refers primarily to material entities
          If immortality refers primarily to immaterial entities
          Then you could have an entity (Jesus-body/soul composite) that both undergoes death and is immortal.

          • Rivers
            July 4, 2016 @ 11:16 am

            Hi Ray,

            Interesting thoughts on “immortality.”

            I think immortality could be defined in biological terms because, even when it refers to God himself (1 Timothy 6:16), it could be taken figuratively since the ancient Hebrews understood “eternal” in the sense of transcending the span of their genealogical heritage (Psalms 90:1-4).

            We may differ in that I think the biblical writers understood the “soul” and the “flesh” to be the same thing. Hence, it would be inaccurate to speak of an “immortal soul” apart from a resurrected body. For example, in Acts 2:27, 31 we find Peter using “soul” and ‘flesh” interchangeably when referring to what “did not decompose” while he was laying in the tomb.

            • Raymond NAVARRO
              July 4, 2016 @ 11:56 pm

              Thanks for the responses Rivers,

              I guess for myself- there just seems to be some type of ambiguity or equivocation in the idea of death and immortality being incompatible.

              So I find it hard to accept premise 3 of the argument.