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.


  1. des111168
    June 22, 2015 @ 2:10 am

    It irritates me a little whenever someone falls back on “Oh, you can’t take that literally in the Bible” so much. Well, what can be taken literally then? There seems to be no firm guide. Some direct statements are taken as allegory… “unless you eat my flesh”, etc… while others are taken literally… “your god is one god”. It there a literalism referee that’ll give a ruling on these things? The allegory thing starts to make Christianity nothing but a philosophy instead of a religion that saves eternal souls. The whole reason I’m here is to sort out the Biblical truth from the man-made traditions, only to hear from so many sources that, in the end, that truth is almost entirely allegorical. What’s next? “God” is just a name for nature? Where do we start drawing a line on these things? If this is all going to be just one big descent into the relativism that Unitarian Universalism has become… what’s the point?

    • Sean Garrigan
      June 22, 2015 @ 7:04 am

      Yet the Bible, like much writing and idiomatic speech today, is bursting with non-literal language, so if you believe that God inspired it, then you’ll just have to trust that he had good reasons for doing so.

    • Rivers
      June 22, 2015 @ 8:25 am

      Hi Des,

      You make a valid point. Whether a particular word or phrase in scripture is to be take literally or figuratively should always be determined by context. Moreover, the immediate context of the biblical writer’s own usage of the language should always have priority over any wider contextual considerations.

      Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for things like “cultural” context (e.g. Greco-Roman World) or “theological” context (e.g. 2nd Temple Judaism) to take precedence over doing sound critical exegesis of the biblical text in its own uniquely apostolic context. This often results in presumptive interpretations that are forced upon the simple language of scripture from unnecessary speculation about external material that should not have priority.

      • Sean Garrigan
        June 23, 2015 @ 7:11 am

        “Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for things like ‘cultural’ context (e.g. Greco-Roman World) or ‘theological’ context
        (e.g. 2nd Temple Judaism) to take precedence over doing sound critical
        exegesis of the biblical text, which requires that the limited context
        of apostolic usage be given priority over other considerations.”

        I doubt that there are many professionals in the relevant fields who would agree that cultural considerations “take precedence over” the biblical texts. What many appropriately do is recognize is that the Bible didn’t float down to us from the heavens on a pillow. Rather it was written by men who, like us, expressed themselves in the context of their time, place, culture. They are certainly wise in taking this approach.

        • Rivers
          June 23, 2015 @ 8:43 am


          We all understand that the Bible was written by people who lived in a certain historical and cultural context. However, it doesn’t logically follow that any of them believed or taught anything in particular that might be found in other uncorroborated sources within the same context.

          This is especially important to understand when dealing with the testimony of the apostles because they were claiming to have received guidance directly from “holy spirit” (John 14-16) and that most of their contemporaries were unable to comprehend what they were teaching (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

          • Sean Garrigan
            June 23, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

            It’s definitely not a fallacy to recognize the importance of historical context, culture, idioms, religious philosophies, etc, i.e. the presupposition pool of Jesus’ time and place for the biblical interpreter. Even “new” teachings are expressed in such contexts, and our ability to perceive their correct shape can depend on such larger considerations.

            A classic example of how important cultural context is for reaching correct understandings of biblical teaching is the New Perspective on Paul. There we saw a profound paradigm shift in the understanding of Jewish teaching/understanding, which reshaped our understanding of Paul’s teaching.

            Paul himself recognized the importance of cultural considerations for reaching a correct understanding of new things, and used them for precisely this purpose when composing one of his greatest speeches, to the men of Athens and their unknown God.

            • Roman
              June 24, 2015 @ 3:25 am

              I don’t think it’s either or … I mean what the writers wrote must be understood as how the indended Readers of the time would have understood it, that would necessitate knowing the Cultural and historical context, at the same time the Readers might have understood the writing as saying something completely New, but we wouldn’t know that unless we understood the historical and Cultural context.
              That being said I believe there is a difference between exegesis and actual theology, theology can be done by comparing scriptures, and perhaps using one scripture to interperate another which perhaps leads to a meaning unintended by the writer … of course for this you have to aknowledge that the scriptures are inspired by God.
              But for pure Exegesis, we need to focus on the historical background, not to know what the writer necessarily meant, but I believe to know how his writings would have been understood.

              • Sean Garrigan
                June 24, 2015 @ 6:08 am

                “I don’t think it’s either or”

                Quote so; it’s more of a ‘both, and…’

                “But for pure Exegesis, we need to focus on the historical background,
                not to know what the writer necessarily meant, but I believe to know how
                his writings would have been understood.”

                What the New Perspective on Paul shows us is that an accurate understanding of the historical background does in fact help us to understand *both* what Paul meant *and* how his writings would have been understood by those who originally read them.

            • GDunn
              February 10, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

              Yes and the Hebraic Roots of understanding in all of Torah and NT are primal.

              Semitically, the Memra was defined as one of two things, not a Greek definition at all. Semitically pre-existence had certain fence lines of comprehension. Semitically “coming down from Heaven,” and “proceeding out from God” had contextual meaning unlike what modern men think.

              • Rivers
                February 11, 2016 @ 11:46 am


                Good points. However, we don’t need “Hebraic roots of understanding” to figure that out. When we translate the Greek scriptures, we can see that terms like “coming down from heaven” and “proceeding out from God” are used in contexts which don’t require any notion of Preexistence.

                From an exegetical standpoint, I think it’s better to develop our understanding of these terms from the literary context of the 4th Gospel without introducing unnecessary “Memra” notions from outside of the text.

                The “Hebraic” and “Semitic” roots approach can be problematic because we are not in a position to substantiate or verify what aspect of those concepts might have been directly relevant to the writer’s perception. The ancient Jews didn’t all have the same opinion on matters of theology (or the interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures).

                • GDunn
                  February 12, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

                  There are only two definitions of the Memra in accordance to the Jewish Encyclopedia, and I use the dominant one instead of a nuevo definition most modern scholars propose.

                  And Hebraic Roots are defined by Torah, not majority or minority view.

                  In other words, scripture defines scripture. A circular method for philosophers, but not the biblically inclined.

                  • Rivers
                    February 13, 2016 @ 11:53 am


                    What do you think “Memra” or “Torah” has to do with Preexistence or “coming down from heaven” (in terms of the 4th Gospel). I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

                    The “word” (LOGOS) that came through Jesus Christ was different than Torah (cf. John 1:17). This LOGOS had it’s “beginning” with the public ministry of the human Jesus (John 1:1-2; 1 John 1).

                    • GDunn
                      February 14, 2016 @ 1:32 am

                      Sounds like you are using a variant of “what God said.” This is correct.

                      But what God says is predestined or pre-existent to the world’s beginnings AND the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.

                      This Word comes from the Father and Jesus was the mouthpiece. But all Jews knew that this Word is prophesy before it is spoken forth. All prophets WITH this Word of God who spoke forth of Messiah had to know this difference: Word not yet spoken forth, but that which will be spoken forth.

                      It has no direct relation to “coming down from heaven,” or “proceeding out from God as far as I know. But Hebraic understanding does have everything to do with these concepts, as well as what the Word is, especially for the Jew, John the Apostle.

                    • Rivers
                      February 14, 2016 @ 11:15 am


                      In the John books, the term LOGOS always simply refers to a “spoken” saying or message. It does not mean a preconceived “thought” or “plan” or “purpose.” Thus, there cannot be any LOGOS without someone to speak it.

                      Throughout the John books, the writer used the noun LOGOS to refer to “what” was “heard” and “seen” by the disciples during the time when Jesus Christ was living among them (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). This experience “concerning the word (LOGOS) of life” could not have happened before the human Jesus was “manifested” to them (1 John 1:2).

                      I’m skeptical of the “Hebraic understanding” approach because it can lead to a number of exegetical fallacies. The ancient Jews didn’t agree on many aspects of their religion. Moreover, we have a very limited amount of information about what ancient Hebrews thought at any particular time.

                      Thus, I think it’s better to focus on the immediate context and allow the writer or the 4th Gospel to speak about LOGOS on his own terms. He used the noun LOGOS over 40 times so there’s no reason to look outside of his own writings in order to restrict its meaning.

                    • GDunn
                      February 15, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

                      But in the Prologue this BEGINNING has a liturgical alliance to the very beginning in Genesis, unless you think a liturgy was developed in so short a time, within the first generation.

                      I believe John did indeed speak of “the beginning” Word as the Word which Jesus spoke forth from his God. Through him this Word was disseminated among the Jews first and then the Gentiles.

                      But being both liturgical and at the beginning of John’s own gospel, plus the Jewish penchant for starting at the beginning of beginnings in their own diatribes, which by the way is exemplified in NT itself, by Paul and Peter themselves and Stephen before he was stoned…I believe this Beginning harkens to the beginning of beginnings. God spoke forth the world with 13 times specific DABAR Word and so John makes a definite link between Word in OT and Word in NT.

                    • Rivers
                      February 15, 2016 @ 6:54 pm


                      Where do you see a “liturgical” implication in the context of John 1:1?

                      I agree that “in the beginning” alludes to the language in Genesis 1. However, throughout the 4th Gospel, the writer uses “beginning” and “word” and “world” and “light” and “darkness” and “all things” to refer to the historical circumstances of Jesus’ public ministry. The writer doesn’t seem to apply any of this language to anything that happened during the Genesis creation.

                      I understand your point about DBR. However, I don’t think it’s a necessary “link”. The context of the Prologue (and the rest of the 4th Gospel) is about the “word” (LOGOS) that is specifically associated with the public appearing of the human Jesus (John 1:14) and his resurrection (1 John 1:1-2).

                    • GDunn
                      February 16, 2016 @ 1:36 pm

                      Although the Word was definitely not as expanded in meaning as modern theologians would propose…it did have for all Jews a “pre-existent” aspect…that Word which was determined but not yet spoken forth. So then the crescendo in the Prologue is v. 14. when the Word was actually spoken forth. I am not against your strict meaning so much as allowing for another concept included Semitically. Even if I am wrong here, I am right in general…and in general this Word included that which the prophets spoke, that which was to come, and that Messiah who was to come.

                      And John does in fact not make this link from OT Word to NT Word anywhere else in his gospel except at the beginning here, at least in his own words.

                    • Rivers
                      February 16, 2016 @ 8:08 pm


                      I agree that LOGOS had a wider meaning. My point is just that, in the context of the Prologue and the rest of the 4th Gospel, it almost always refers specifically to a “saying” or “message” associated with the human Jesus (John 1:14; cf. 1 John 1:1).

                      I would argue that OUTOS (“this one”) in John 1:2 is identifying “the word” (LOGOS) in John 1:1 as a person. That particular person is the human Jesus (John 1:14) who John the baptizer said was “this one (OUTOS) coming after me” (John 1:15).

                      Since a “word” (LOGOS) requires someone to speak it, I think it’s reasonable to think that the writer was associating the particular “word (LOGOS) of [eternal] life” (1 John 1:1) with the human Jesus who “manifested the eternal life” to his disciples through the resurrection (1 John 1:2; John 21:14).

                      This perspective doesn’t require any wider definition of LOGOS. As far as the John writer is concerned, “the word” (LOGOS) had its “beginning” with the human Jesus (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1-2).

                    • GDunn
                      February 17, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

                      I consider that Word to be “Jesus” or “Jesus become.”

                      Then v. 14 is the point in time when the Word became flesh.

                      Maybe it don’t make no diff. We still have the same base definition which contradicts modern interpretations of the Word being gnostic and Greekish.

                    • Rivers
                      February 18, 2016 @ 9:00 am


                      Our difference on this point would be that I see the context of John 1:14-15 as the time when John the baptizer was telling the people about the “coming” of the Messiah (John 1:15) and when he “dwelt among” the disciples (John 1:14b).

                      The whole clause in John 1:14 says “and the word became [was] flesh AND dwelt among us AND we beheld his glory.” I don’t see any reason (grammatically or contextually) to think that a 30-year gap should be inserted between “the word became [was] flesh” clause and the “dwelt among us and we beheld his glory” clauses. The “and(s)” (KAI) tie these all together.

                      Thus, whatever the writer meant by “and the word became [was] flesh” should be taken in the historical context of the public ministry of Jesus when the disciples were with Jesus. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that this “word became [was] flesh” language was just the way the writer identified “the word (LOGOS) of life” (cf. 1 John 1:1) with the specific human being from whom they “heard” the message (cf. 1 John 1:5) and who’s own “flesh” (SARX) was the eternal life (John 6:51).

                    • GDunn
                      February 20, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

                      I take the harkening to Genesis from these words:

                      2 The same was in the beginning with God.

                      3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

                      …and we see that Jesus is not the subject, rather God.

                    • Rivers
                      February 21, 2016 @ 1:39 pm


                      How can “God” be the subject in John 1:2-3 when “the same” (OUTOS) is said to be “with God”? Isn’t OUTOS in the Nominative (subject) and “God” in the Accusative (object)?

                    • GDunn
                      February 22, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

                      I’m sorry, “all things were made (by God) through him, and without him (Jesus) was anything made that was made (to again become ideal through him, Jesus). Grammatically the subject is him, Jesus. Conceptually the Word comes from the Father, God.

                    • Rivers
                      February 24, 2016 @ 8:17 am


                      What do you think the “all” [things] refers to in John 1:3?

                      I agree that the “him” in John 1:3 refers to Jesus Christ. However, it is referring to the human Jesus who is “this one” (OUTOS) in John 1:2 and John 1:15.

                    • GDunn
                      February 16, 2016 @ 1:39 pm

                      The liturgical aspect is the cadence of the first three clauses in Jn 1:1. And the three times the Word is repeated.

                      Even if we take the last clause “and God was the Word.”

                    • Rivers
                      February 16, 2016 @ 8:18 pm


                      OK, we could speculate that the repetition had some kind of liturgical purpose but I don’t know how that would affect the intepretation. Why do you think a liturgical purpose would make any difference?

                    • GDunn
                      February 17, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

                      Not so much purpose as something already known then.

                      This would mean that John is repeating a known liturgy.

                      If it was a purpose and John came up with it himself, then so much the better.

                      It would still harken to Genesis, when the Word made our cosmos.

                    • Rivers
                      February 17, 2016 @ 4:37 pm


                      I don’t have a problem with that, except that I don’t think it logically follows that a “liturgical purpose” (of any origin) would require that “the word made the cosmos.”

                      If by “cosmos” you are referring to “the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), then I don’t see any of that “heavens and earth” language in the Prologue. As I noted earlier, “light” and “darkness” in the Prologue doesn’t refer to the geophysical elements of Genesis 1 either.

                      If by “cosmos” you are referring to the Greek term KOSMOS (cf. John 1:10), then I would argue that its usage throughout the 4th Gospel suggests that the writer used it to mean the Jewish people (e.g. John 12:19: John 18:30). It wouldn’t make sense to translate KOSMOS with “heavens and earth” or “universe” in the 4th Gospel.

                    • Rivers
                      February 18, 2016 @ 8:34 am


                      I don’t think it follows that “the Jewish penchant for starting at the beginning of beginnings” demands that “the beginning” in John 1:1″ refers to Genesis 1:1.

                      There are many examples of where the apostolic writers used “beginning” to refer to the time when they were with the human Jesus (e.g. Mark 1:1; Luke 1:2-3; John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22). They also affirmed a time when the adult Jesus “began his public ministry” (Luke 3:38; Luke 24:19).

                      Thus, I would argue that, in the context of preaching the gospel, what you call “the beginning of beginnings” for the apostles went only as far back as their association with the human Jesus who came to dwell among them (John 1:14) after John the baptizer identified him as “the Christ” (John 1:15, 31).

                    • GDunn
                      February 18, 2016 @ 11:00 am

                      It wouldn’t be this reason alone, or the “liturgical aspect” alone. It wouldn’t be the general expanded definition of the Memra, in dominant meaning alone.

                      And it would not have to be. My theology isn’t changed whether or not.

                    • Rivers
                      February 18, 2016 @ 2:59 pm


                      Why do you think it’s necessary to introduce the Memra concept into John 1:1?

                      If you say that “the beginning” (John 1:1) should refer to Genesis 1:1, then why doesn’t “light” or “darkness” or “world” refer to Genesis in the same context? John the baptizer certainly couldn’t have been “sent to testify about the light” (John 1:6-9) before even Adam was created.

                      Doesn’t it seem more reasonable to think that all of the Genesis allusions in the Prologue would go together and be referring to the same period of time?

                      Jesus said “while I am in the WORLD, I am the LIGHT of the WORLD … I am the LIGHT of the WORLD and he who follows me will not walk in DARKNESS” (John 8:12; John 9:5). This sounds a lot more like John 1:4-9 than Genesis 1:1.

                    • GDunn
                      February 22, 2016 @ 3:58 pm

                      Whaddya mean, jelly…I mean in your bean?

                      “Light” was the first thing spoken forth in Genesis…and all Semites were mighty mites of the BRIDGE between OT and NT, sir.

                      They were for instance perfectly cognizant of this Bridge, and how Jesus fulfills all things at this Bridge’s crossing.

                      And this WOULD BE the one thing not considered by Trins or JisG. They have no understanding of how a Jew conceived of the world or God adjacent to it. HOW Shema and the First Command of the Ten are NOT abrogated by a Second One who is God. HOW Law is not abrogated but rather FUFILLED in Christ Jesus, who actually refers to Shema in all of his hard commands.

                    • Rivers
                      February 23, 2016 @ 11:58 am


                      In the Genesis creation narrative, “light” is not something that is “spoken”. It is something that is generated by the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14-18) which “governs the evening and morning, night and day” (cf. Genesis 1:5). The ancient Hebrew writer understood that the “light” always came from the sun, moon, and stars (otherwise, there could not have been “evening and morning, the first day”).

                      In the 4th Gospel, the “light” refers to the human Jesus (John 1:7-10; John 8:12; John 9:5) because he was the man appointed to judge the works of men (John 3:19-21; 1 John 1:7).

                      I think we have to be careful with appealing to “Jewish understanding” because it can lead to numerous exegetical and logical fallacies. None of us can know for certain what every ancient “Jew” believed about anything. Thus, there’s no reason to assume that Jesus and the apostles would have agreed with everything that other Jews thought.

                      The best way to approach sound exegesis of the biblical testimony (which is all we know about what Jesus and the apostles were actually teaching) is to allow the apostolic writers to speak for themselves. Thus, we should be giving primary importance to internal, inter-textual evidence regardless of the uncorroborated extra-biblical material.

                    • GDunn
                      February 15, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

                      As far as knowing what the logos is within John’s own gospel and epistles and possibly Revelations, I take a more comprehensive approach, assuming all NT authors are in line theologically. It is technically good to look at the gospel itself, and the over 30 times John uses the word, “logos,” and I do see your point.

                      This blog is deeper than most theological forums and debate sites, and at least you are comprehending the uses John makes himself. Unusual esp. with Trinitarian groups and status quo sites.

                    • Rivers
                      February 15, 2016 @ 7:06 pm


                      Thank you. My concern is that many scholars have missed the simplicity of understanding the meaning of LOGOS in the Prologue because they have become accustomed to entertaining definitions of the term that are based upon ocurences outside of the primary context of the writer’s own usage.

                      From a Biblical Unitarian perspective, I think an inter-textual definition of the noun LOGOS in the Johannine corpus suggests that it is the human Jesus who is the origin the “word” in John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1. Hence, there remains no implication of any notion of Preexistence or Incarnation.

                      The writer says “this one” (OUTOS) in John 1:2 because he is identifying “the word” (LOGOS) with “this one” (OUTOS) whom John the baptizer said was coming after him (John 1:15) and “this one” (OUTOS) who “baptizes with holy spirit” and “this one (OUTOS) who is “the son of God” (John 1:32-34).

                    • GDunn
                      February 16, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

                      Nada against this meaning, I am.

                      John may have and probably also meant that this Word, the GREATEST Word ever spoken forth THROUGH which all things are made ideal has now come to pass, v. 14. This would explain his usage in Revelations in regards to Jesus. Assuming he is the author of Revelations.

                      “Jesus” was the spoken Word, this greatest single word arguably ever spoken…although it is for instance hard to imagine living without “sun” or “water.”

                    • Rivers
                      February 16, 2016 @ 8:31 pm


                      What if the “all [things] that came [about] through him” (John 1:3) was imply referring to the “all [things]” the works and words that God gave the human Jesus to disclose during the time of his public ministry (John 3:35; John 4:25; John 5:20; John 15:15; John 16:25)?

                    • GDunn
                      February 17, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

                      Now we have to consider what “all things” means…so either or…I am not against your consideration.

                      They are compatible anyhow. Mine and yours, and yours might be true.

                    • GDunn
                      February 15, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

                      He used the noun LOGOS over 40 times so there’s no reason to look outside of his own writings in order to restrict its meaning.

                      The Word which wrought forth Jesus as a created being was already well known by John and the other NT authors as pre-existent Word from these verses:

                      22″The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;” 23″I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. Pr.8:22-23 NIV.

                      22″The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” 23″I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” Pr.8:22-23 KJV.

                      22″The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, The first of His works of old.” 23″I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, Or ever the earth was.” Pr.8:22-23 Tanakh.

                      22The Lord acquired me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. 23″From the distant past I was enthroned, from the beginning, of those that preceded the earth.” 24I was created when there were yet no deeps, when there were no fountains replete with water.” Pr.8:22-24 Tanakh:

                      …and I think you are more against an EXPANDED definition of the Memra than your own gleaned from John’s gospel itself.

  2. Roman
    May 20, 2015 @ 11:00 am

    His Reading of John 17:5 and Colossians 1:15,16 is very very iffy in my opinion.
    John 17:5, I don’t see how Jesus could be talking about himself as a plan in God’s mind in this context,he’s asking to be glorified in his presence with the glory he had in God’s presence, an Idea, a plan in God’s head cannot be talked about as being in God’s presence, it’s part of God, also how can an idea or a plan have glory? And that glory be given to a person? If it is true that Jesus had glory before the world was created, that must mean Jesus as a person. If it was just a glorified plan, he wouldn’t have used personal Language in talking about it. The Word EiXon in greek means “I was having” it’s personal, not “it was having.” If you try and depersonalize it the Whole point breaks Down.
    In Colossians 1:16, it says everything was created for him, that can be in Reference to a plan, in other Words all creation was looking forward to his life, but through him, that is clearly referencing the concept of God creating the universe through a secondary agent, and it goes along with vrs 15 calling him the firstborn of all creation.
    In order to make a Socinian Christology work you really have to read all these “pre-existance” texts in a very very strange way, one that kind of looses the plain Reading of the text and very often looses the point.

    • Rivers
      May 20, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

      Hi Roman,

      Even as a biblical unitarian, I don’t find Zarley’s “preexisting plan or purpose” to be the most reasonable explanation of John 17:5 either. I agree that “de-personalizing” the grammar in this context is probably not a good approach.

      With that said, I don’t think that imposing a “preexistence” doctrine is necessary to interpret this text either. There are two things to consider:

      First, the Greek preposition PARA (that is used twice in John 17:5) probably should be translated “from” and not “with.” This is how PARA is (correctly) translated almost everywhere else in the 4th Gospel (over 30 times). This particular preposition is use when speaking of someone partaking of something that is in the possession of another. It is no the preposition that means being “together with” or “alongside” someone. That idea was conveyed by the use the preposition META everywhere else in the 4th Gospel (also over 30 times).

      Second, the use of the Imperfect Indicative verb EIXON (“was having”) doesn’t require that Jesus actually possessed “the glory” at a previous time. The reason for this is because of how the Israelites understood “ownership.” For example, in Galatians 4:1-2, Paul explained that “as long as the heir is a child” in a father’s household, he is no different than a “slave” even though he “owns everything that belongs to his father.” What this refers to is the entitlement of the son to become the “heir” on a particular day when his father appoints him as the heir.

      Therefore, in John 17:5, it’s likely that Jesus was simply referring to the fact that all “the glory” that was possessed of God the Father from the beginning always belonged to him on account of the fact that he became “the son of God” (Luke 1:35). However, during “the days of his flesh”, Jesus was waiting for the day (glorification) when he would be appointed the heir (Hebrews 1:3-4). This is why Jesus could speak of “having” (EIXON) the glory even before the time had come to be given “the glory” (John 17:1-2).

      • Roman
        May 21, 2015 @ 8:08 am

        You’re wrong about Para … it’s Para can bee With or from or besides, it Depends on the case of the noun it’s used With, if used With the Genitive case it’s translated from, if used With the Dative case it’s translated With and the accusative it’s translated as besides … in John 17:5 it’s used With the dative case:

        ???? ?????? ?? ???? ? ?????, that’s the dative …
        and the second time it’s used is With the Accusative,

        ??? ??? ??? ?????? ????? ???? ???

        So the translation is correct.
        EIXON does require that he possessed it at a previous time becuase of the context, he’s asking for something he used to have, again, he had it, he doesn’t have it, and he wants it again, and he had this before the world existed … it’s context requries it to actually have been a possession in the past.
        I think you’re Reading of it simply doesn’t work, if glorify me With teh glory I had before the world was created only refers to a promise, then he’s using the concept of “having glory” in 2 different ways in the same sentance, it’s extremely unlikely that this is the case.
        Why not read it just the more plain common sense way?

        • Rivers
          May 21, 2015 @ 9:25 am

          Hi Roman,

          I think you may be wrong about the “cases” here …

          Just the fact that most translations have “with” for both uses of PARA in John 17:5 shows that the different “cases” (Dative or Accusative) make no critical difference in this text. This is an example of where you can get yourself into trouble imposing grammatical rules that don’t always hold up when converting into English. I’m simply suggesting that using “from” to translate PARA in this passage is also plausible.

          I agree that Jesus “possessed” the glory of God the Father before he was actually “glorified” after the resurrection (John 7:39). However, as I pointed out from Galatians 4:1-2, the apostles understood that a “son” who “owns everything belonging to his father” (even while he is still a child) does not become the appointed “heir” until a later time. This is what you are missing in the context (and the use of EIXON) here.

          In the prededing context, Jesus was praying that he wanted to be glorified (presently) because he had finished what the Father required him to do (John 17:4). The “glory” he is talking about is “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2) which he certainly didn’t have “before the world was” when there was no “flesh” to have authority over. 🙂

          • Roman
            May 22, 2015 @ 5:24 am

            Can you give me examples showing that the difference in case has no difference in John? I haven’t done a study on it, but I find that difficult to believe.
            But when translating, why would one use the propper grammatical translation first? I mean the CORRECT translation is “With” when you’re using Para With the Dative case … this is correct koine greek … you can’t just throw that away unless you have a good reason to. So far I don’t have a good reason, unless you can show that all over the Place in John Para is used With the dative case and doesn’t mean “With” somehow. Your argument is basically that we should translate it incorrectly, but if you think that is the case you need to present evidence that we should.
            I don’t think Your Reading is possible, because a son cannot say “I had everything that belongs to my father and I want it back” if it only means owning in the sense of it being promised to him. It doesn’t work.
            So gramatically you’re wrong … and contextually …
            Unless we have a good reason for not translating Para With the Dative as “With” we need to do so because that is simply and clearly what it means in Koine greek.
            Also if glory is being used in different senses in the same sentance we need a good reason to think that is the case, otherwise we need to take the actual text at face value and contextually.

            • Rivers
              May 22, 2015 @ 3:03 pm

              Hi Roman,

              You’re right, and there’s no doubt that PARA + Dative can be translated “with.” It is used 8 times by the writer of the 4th Gospel and is usually translated “with” in 7 of the 8 occurrences. The exception is in John 19:25 where it is usually translated “by.”

              Thus, there is not much to work with. PARA + Genitive occurs much more frequently. I will give further thought to what might (or might not be) implied by the infrequent use of PARA + Dative, as in John 17:5. In John 8:38 and John 8:40, it’s interesting that the uses of PARA with the Datives and Genitive seem to be related to “seeing” and “hearing.”

              I guess where we differ most on the interpretation of John 17:5 is that I don’t see any implication that Jesus was asking for “something back.” Rather, I think he was asking for “the glory” (i.e. “authority over all flesh”, John 17:2) that he hadn’t received yet from the Father. I realize that the Imperfect form of EXW (“had”) seems difficult, but it’s reasonable to consider that an heir could speak of receiving something he “had” all along (by virtue of entitlement).

              • Roman
                June 7, 2015 @ 7:50 am

                I don’t think you can posit that he had it by entitlement, given that he had it, when he was with the father, anyway, I think we just should agree to disagree :).

                • Rivers
                  June 7, 2015 @ 4:32 pm


                  Your view depends upon Jesus having been “together with” God prior to being an human being. I don’t think there’s any evidence that the apostles were teaching any kind of “preexistence” or “incarnation.” That is where we have the most significant disagreement.

                  Of course, I need to be able to explain a text like John 17:5 from the perspective of no preexistence or incarnation in order to present a coherent view. That’s all I’m trying to do. There are certainly other ways that one can interpret the language from a different perspective (like yours).

                  • Roman
                    June 8, 2015 @ 2:58 am

                    It’s not just one verse pointing to the fact that Jesus was together With God prior to his bieng a human being.
                    It’s texts in other Places in John, the straight forward Reading of the prologue for example, texts in Places like colossians 1, Philippinas 2 and so on and so forth.
                    The question is, had People like John and Paul not believed Jesus existed as a person prior to his being born on Earth, would they have written the Things they did the way they did, I don’t think they would have, I think the plain Reading of the text shows they understood Jesus to be a person who existed prior to his earthly birth.

                    • Rivers
                      June 8, 2015 @ 8:35 am


                      Neither Colossians 1 nor Philippians 2 gives any “straight forward” indication that Jesus Christ was “together with” God the Father prior to being an human being. Both letters were written after the resurrection (Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:9-11) and spoke of what Paul know of Jesus Christ after that time.

                      It’s just begging the question to suggest that your reading of John and Paul necessitates that they believed that Jesus existed as a person before being born on Earth. Not everyone agrees with your reading of theses texts because they are open to interpretation. 🙂

                    • Roman
                      June 8, 2015 @ 10:07 am

                      existing in the form of god is present tense, but that he didn’t esteem it something to be graspt, esteem is past tense, “eigeisato,” it’s something he didn’t do, when it was “existing” together With God.
                      The straightforward Reading is that he was existing but did not try and be Equal With God, but then he emptied himself and took a slaves form.
                      This is the easiest Reading, in order to make it fit With Your position you have to read it in a very difficult way.
                      Of course they were written after the resurrection, everything in the NT was written after the ressurection … that doesn’t mean it isn’t talking about something prior to the ressurection, when it’s Clear that they are “all Things being created” means the creation, if it meant the New creation it would have said the New creation.

                    • Rivers
                      June 8, 2015 @ 1:13 pm


                      I understand your point, but it depends upon the context. For example, I see the use of the Present Participle as an indication that Paul meant the text to be read this way … [brackets] are for clarification of how the syntax works:

                      Philippians 2:5 … “BE HAVING [now, on earth] THIS ATTITUDE AMONG YOURSELVES [Philippians] WHICH WAS [no verb] ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS

                      Philippians 2:6 … WHO [Christ Jesus] ALTHOUGH EXISTING [now, in heaven] IN THE FORM OF GOD, DID NOT REGARD [past, on earth] EQUALITY WITH GOD, A THING IN HIS GRASP …

                      Philippians 2:7 … BUT EMPTIED [past, on earth] HIMSELF, TAKING [past, on earth] THE FORM OF A SERVANT, AND BEING MADE [past, on earth] IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN

                      I think the critical problem with taking the Present Participle “existing in the form of God” as a past tense (i.e. “existed in the form of God”) is that it would have to mean the Jesus Christ had “the form of God” while he was on earth.

                      A Present Participle usually doesn’t work as a past tense unless it is in the context of an historical sequence of events. Present Participles don’t signify something that was going on prior to the sequences of those historical events.

                    • Roman
                      June 9, 2015 @ 2:53 am

                      For that exegesis of Philippians 2 to work you have to assume that christ existing in heaven had nothing to do With his not regarding equality With god a thing to grasp.
                      So for example, if “I say although being 29 didn’t skip high School” the Natural way to read it is to think I was 29 in high School, not that I am 29 now, if I wanted to say “I being now 29, did not skip high School when I was younger” or something like that. The way you’re exegeting it makes no gramatical sense.
                      It would not mean he was in the form of god while he was on Earth, because the Whole point was the present participle was his state at the time, which he gave up. The way it’s written in greek is the exact same way you’d say it in English, it makes Perfect grammatical sense.
                      I don’t understand why you’re saying it would have to mean he had “the form of god” while on Earth … it in no way demands that.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 9, 2015 @ 6:40 am

                      Yeah, Rivers’s view of the account just doesn’t seem to flow naturally, and breaks what appears to me to be the clear progression of the passage.

                      I’ve suggested that he float some of his novel ideas on bgreek, because there are some extremely knowledgeable people there who have been writing about and teaching Greek for many years, but so far I haven’t seen him avail himself of this resource.

                      Another example of presupposition shaped “exegesis” that I’ve heard about recently (haven’t checked the source, yet), is apparently found in Anthony Buzzard’s NT, where I’m told by a trusted friend that he offers the following in a footnote to John 8:58:

                      “…It is also possible to translate the Greek, ‘Before Abraham comes to be
                      [in the resurrection] I am already alive.’ Thus Jesus proved his
                      superiority to Abraham by alone being resurrected on the third day.
                      Abraham will rise from death at the future resurrection when Jesus
                      returns (1 Cor. 15:23).”


                      1. It’s “possible” to translate many Greek phrases in different ways, but that doesn’t make every possible translation a good option.

                      2. It simply isn’t possible that a claim to be “alive” could be twisted into a stoning offense, not even by Christ’s determined opponents.

                      3. In that view, an inference to Christ’s superiority hangs on an event that hadn’t even occurred yet when Jesus spoke those words, making it essentially impossible that Christ’s opponents would have inferred what Buzzard anachronistically reads back into the account.

                      When I read that I couldn’t help but be reminded of the uncomfortable contortions I went through playing Twister as a child. Granted, this was not Buzzard’s primary view (his primary view was more in line with standard Unitarian thinking, i.e. “I am” = “I am [he]” = “I am [the Messiah]”), but the fact that he even considers the alternative possible says a great deal about how the power of presupposition can shape our thinking.

                    • Roman
                      June 9, 2015 @ 7:20 am

                      I agree one should be suspicious of novel ways of translating the greek, very often when an argument Depends on some bizzare way of translating, that ignores the grammatical flow of the text, it’s a weak argument.
                      The translation of John 8:58 by Anthony Buzzard (who is generally an extremely good scholar), is not a translation, it’s commentary, adding “in the ressurection” is adding something that is nowhere to be found in the text, that’s not what John wrote, that’s Anthony putting in what he thinks “Genesthai” refers to.
                      1. Agreed.
                      2. Yes, but that being said in the gospel of John the opponants constantly missunderstand Jesus and constantly stone him for unjustified reasons … so assuming they MUST be justified in stoning him is wrong. The stoned him for claiming to be greater than Abraham.
                      3. I agree, but the Trinitarian also makes the mistake that it MUST then mean that Jesus is Yahweh, there is nothing in the text at all that necessitates, or even allows that.
                      You should see the alternative possibilities trinitarians propose, there are plenty of well respected scholars that still put out there the idea that John 8:24 and 58 are citing Exodus 3:14, an idea so proposterous and idiotic that it should be laughed at, yet they get away with it. Nothing Anthony Buzzard has put out is as careless and cheap as what many trinitarians pretend is exegesis.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 9, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

                      “2. Yes, but that being said in the gospel of John the opponants
                      constantly missunderstand Jesus and constantly stone him for unjustified
                      reasons … so assuming they MUST be justified in stoning him is wrong.
                      The stoned him for claiming to be greater than Abraham.”

                      Well, frankly, both his opponents *and* his disciples often misunderstood Jesus. My point is that the Jews would not attempt to stone Jesus unless he uttered words that could at least ostensibly be construed as a stoning offense. If Christ’s opponents were willing to stone him without logical justification, then they would have already done so. Their problem was that they needed ***justification*** for stoning Jesus lest their positions be undermined and shown to be arbitrary.

                      So, they *certainly* couldn’t have justified stoning Jesus for merely claiming to be alive. He must therefore have said something other than “Before Abraham is resurrected, I am alive”, which, really is a rather silly reply to the question posed.

                      In the context of John 8:58, I would argue that Jesus’ opponents understood him perfectly. I offered the following on another forum recently:

                      Quote Self:
                      In my experience, the verse that the Socinian-type Unitarians (i.e. those who deny Christ’s preexistence) have the most trouble with is John 8:58….Here’s the argument in a nutshell:

                      The Greek at John 8:58 fits an idiom described by grammarian Kenneth McKay as the “Extension from Past”, which occurs when a present tense verb is “used with an expression of either past time or extent of time with past implications.” (A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach), p. 41, 42

                      Based on this understanding of the Greek, McKay offers this superlative English equivalent of what Jesus meant:

                      “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born.”

                      If we accept McKay’s observation that verse 58 is an example of the Extension from Past idiom (and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t), then Jesus’ response (a) makes perfect sense and constitutes an exquisite response in light of the question posed, and (b) would have constituted a stoning offense if untrue. Notice how the pieces fall in place under McKay’s view:

                      Verse 56 – Jesus: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

                      Verse 57 – Opponents: “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham?”

                      Verse 58 – Jesus: “The truth is, I have been in existence since before Abraham was born!”

                      Jesus’ opponents inferred from his statement in verse 56 that Jesus had personally observed (first hand) Abraham rejoice over seeing his day. For Jesus to say the equivalent of “I am God’s name-bearing agent” (which is what James McGrath and at least one other ‘scholar’ argues Jesus meant by EGO EIMI) as a response would be to utter a non sequitur. On the other hand, if we recognize the Greek idiom at work in the text and translate it the way we almost certainly would were it not for Church tradition, then Jesus’ response fits perfectly, even exquisitely in context.

                      One apologist (Bowman, if memory serves) attempted to dismiss this view by saying something to the effect of, “Claiming to be really, really old wasn’t a stoning offense.” While that may be true generally speaking, offering such as a response to McKay’s argument is really rather silly. Jesus’ opponents wanted to stone him, not because a claim to be old was blasphemous, but because his claim to have been in existence since before Abraham was born could only have been viewed as a preposterous lie by them, and for Jesus to present himself as God’s living, breathing power of attorney and then proceed to utter a lie while fulfilling his commission would make God a liar. Now THAT would be construed as blasphemous, especially by those who already sought his death!

                      McKay’s understanding of the Greek isn’t new, and sometimes when translators have broken away from committees and the unavoidable pressures such bodies sometimes exert out of allegiance to Church tradition, then they’ve offered renderings that attempt to capture the idiom. Note a few examples:

                      Edgar J. Goodspeed rendered vs 58, “I tell you, I existed before Abraham was born.”

                      James Moffatt similarly offered, “I have existed before Abraham was born.”

                      Catholic James A. Kleist, S.J. offered, “I am here — and I was before Abraham!” (In the footnote he claims that the utterance intimates eternity, but that’s not a necessary implication of the Greek).

                      Charles B. Williams, whose translation was called “…the best translation of the New Testament in English”, in part because it surpassed “…all other translators of the New Testament in bringing out the tense significance of the Greek verbs” (J. R. Mantey, comments on dust jacket), offered this rendering, “I most solemnly say to you, I existed before Abraham was born.”

                      In their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Louw and Nida offer, “before Abraham came into existence, I existed.”

                      All of these are fine attempts to capture the sense of the Greek, yet only McKay’s rendering truly does it justice, as only his rendering “…expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues…”, as George Benedict Winer put it [1], or “…which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking…[which action is]…conceived as still in progress…” as Nigel Turner put it [2].

                      As William Loader asked, “Need …[the words “I am” at 8:58] mean more than the stupendous claim: I am in existence since before Abraham?” No, they needn’t mean *more* but they certainly mean that he WAS in existence since before Abraham was born.


                      [1] A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, Seventh Edition, p. 267
                      [2] A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. III, Syntax, p. 62
                      [3] The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Structure and Issues, p. 48


                      Note also the translations based on the the ancient Syriac/Aramaic:

                      “Before Abraham was, I have been.” — Sinaitic Palimpsest

                      “Before ever Abraham came to be, I was.” — Curetonian Version

                      “Before Abraham existed, I was.” — Peshitta Version

                      “Before Abraham was born, I was.” — George M. Lamsa’s English version

                    • Rivers
                      June 9, 2015 @ 11:58 pm


                      McKay’s dubious translation of John 8:58 has been shown to be critically flawed in all respects. Here’s a summary:

                      1. The verb GINOMAI doesn’t refer to birth or anything “coming into existence”. GENNAW is the verb used for being “born.” Thus, the “birth” of Abraham cannot be what the words of Jesus were referring to.

                      2. The verb GINOMAI is in the Aorist Infintive form which the writer of the 4th Gospel always uses to speak of something that hasn’t happened yet (i.e. still future from the perspective of the speaker). Thus, “was born” (past tense) isn’t a plausible translation.

                      3. The verb GINOMAI is in the Middle voice which is also never used to speak of anyone’s birth. In biblical Greek, the Passive voice (or Perfect tense) is always used when referring to being “born.” Thus, the “birth” of Abraham cannot be the intended meaning.

                      4. The PRIN that occurs before the Aorist Infintive form of GINOMAI is always used by the writer of the 4th Gospel to preempt something that hasn’t happened yet (from the perpective of the speaker). Thus, Jesus was not saying anything about what happened with Abraham in the past.

                      5. Since the Aorist Infintive form of GINOMAI should not be translated as a past tense verb in John 8:58, the text cannot meet the primary criteria for McKay’s “PPA” (or EP) theory.

                      6. Since there’s no “past tense” criteria for a PPA preceding the EGW EIMI in John 8:58, it should be translated in the simple Present tense (“I am” … as it is everywhere else in the 4th Gospel) and not as “I have been.”

                    • Pär Stenberg
                      June 10, 2015 @ 4:37 am

                      “The verb GINOMAI doesn’t refer to birth or anything “coming into existence” […] The verb GINOMAI is in the Middle voice which is also never used to speak of anyone’s birth. In biblical Greek, the Passive voice (or Perfect tense) is always used when referring to being “born.””

                      What about Galatians 4:4?

                      Also, in regards to infinitive-phrase. Note the similar langauge in Testament of Job (2:1), where ????+aorist infinitive refers to a past action: ? ???? ??? ????? ?????? ? * ????? ? ????????? ??? ? ??????? ? ??? ?

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 6:18 am

                      Interestingly, some translators would also add “since” to Testament of Job 2:1 to conform the language to standard English usage:

                      “For I have been Jobab [since] before the Lord named me Job.”

                    • Rivers
                      June 10, 2015 @ 9:13 am


                      McKay’s preferred translation of TJob 2:1 settles nothing simply because the text can also be translated and interpreted without any implications of a PPA:

                      “For I am Jobab, from before the Lord was to name me, Job.”

                      In this case, the writer is using the “I am” (EGW EIMI) like an historical Present to speak of his identity before (PRIN) the Lord was going to name (ONOMASAI) him, Job, at a later time. This reading is probably more plausible since it doesn’t require forcing EGW EIMI to be “I have been” or adding “since.”

                      It’s understandable that McKay has to make a selective appeal to this particular extra-biblical text because his translation of John 8:58 only contradicts the way the biblical writers used the Aorist Infinitive verbs.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 10:46 am

                      After dialoguing with you for a while now, I’ve come to have the impression that you’ve learned Greek well enough to navigate certain helpful tools for students, but I get the sense that you’re not quite qualified to sit on a translation committee. So, I’ll simply repeat yet again that you should continue to gain a better understanding of Greek, either by going back to school, or by utilizing tools such as b-greek to help you vet out some of your faulty understandings.

                      Humility should suggest that since no one in the entire history of biblical interpretation has viewed the text the way you do — not even scholars from modern times in which the study of Greek has been helped considerably by the application of linguistic insights and a greater understanding of aspect — maybe you’re not giving attention to the data that everyone else finds convincing in how to understand PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI.

                    • Rivers
                      June 10, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

                      Hi Sean,

                      Instead of resorting to condescending rhetoric, why not demonstrate your own understanding of biblical Greek by presenting grammatical or contextual evidence that makes a stronger case for your particular viewpoint? That would promote a much more interesting “dialogue.”

                      From my perspective, all that matters is the exegetical evidence. I’m as capable of sorting through it as is anyone else. Thus, I don’t need to build a case by dropping names or parroting someone else’s research.

                      I understand that nothing compels you (or anyone else) to have to agree with what I’m suggesting in these conversations. Every person can consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind. If I thought McKay’s bizarre interpretation of John 8:58 was plausible, I would have no problem agreeing with it. 🙂

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

                      It’s ironic that you call McKay’s interpretation “bizarre”, to which we must then add the many highly qualified grammarians and translators who have offered a similar understanding, which yields an exquisitely fitting reply from Jesus in context; yet you somehow don’t find your own view — which hasn’t been embraced by anyone in the entire history if biblical interpretation/translation, and which not only yields a non sequitur, but pure gibberish — to be something other than “bizarre”. I hear a pot calling kettle, but he’s not saying anything coherent;-)

                    • Rivers
                      June 10, 2015 @ 11:06 pm


                      As I noted earlier, McKay’s attempt to force a PPA interpretation of the grammar in John 8:58 is critically flawed. If you’re willing to respond to the (6) summary points that I listed earlier in response to McKay’s theory, I’m certainly open to hearing how you would attempt to salvage his view.

                      I’m not the least bit surprised that a number of other scholars may follow the opinion offered by McKay. Scholars are no more immune to committing common exegetical and logical fallacies than you or I might be, if we are not careful.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 11:46 pm

                      It’s not that a number of scholars follow McKay; it’s that _every translator_, past and present, sees PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as a reference to the past, i.e. the period in view in light of context.

                      Name one recoginized authority who agrees with you that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is not a reference to the historical period in view in the context of the dialogue.

                      Your view simply never gets off the ground. We have two views set against each other, McKay’s, along with a host of recognized professional translators with the credentials to speak as authorities on Bible translation, and whose understanding yields an exquisitely coherent dialogue, and you, a person of uncertain credentials, who tries to get people to buy an understanding that hasn’t occurred to anyone in the entire history of translation, and whose rendering of the text not only results in a non sequitur, but in pure gibberish, frankly. If Jesus said what you imagine he said, his opponents wouldn’t have attempted to stone him, they’d have called a medic, as only someone suffering from delirium would say the oddball words that you’re determined to place on Jesus’ lips.

                    • Rivers
                      June 11, 2015 @ 9:01 am


                      It doesn’t matter if most translations (not “every” … e.g. YLT) have used a “past tense” in John 8:58. It’s easy to prove that the Aorist Infinitive was used by the writer of the 4th Gospel like a future tense, and never to signify a past tense.

                      In fact, all translations render PRIN GENESQAI without a past tense in John 14:29. This shows that you need to acknowledge flexibility even when appealing to scholarship. I would have no problem dialoguing with any of your favorite scholars on the exegetical issues in this text.

                      I think you are simply begging the question when you suggest that “the Jews attempted to stone Jesus for saying he existed before Abraham” That is nonsense. According to the biblical testimony, the Jews wanted to stone Jesus Christ because he was a “man” who was claiming to be “the son of God” which made him “equal with God” (John 5:18; John 10:33-36).

                      The impetus to stone Jesus had nothing to do with any notion preexistence or incarnation. A “man” claiming to be the “son of God” would have been understood to mean that he is “the owner of everything” that belongs to his Father (Galatians 4:1-2). This is why a claim to be “the son of God” was also being “equal with God” and was understood as a claim to be “greater than Abraham and all the prophets” (John 8:53).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

                      ” Thus, I don’t need to build a case by dropping names or parroting someone else’s research.”

                      You couldn’t if you wanted to. No one in the entire history of bible translation agrees with you.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 6:48 am

                      BTW, Par, in case you missed it, I FINALLY found where Dunn’s about face regarding whether Jesus was included in the Schema was discussed. Andrew Perriman discusses it on his blog, here:


                      To partially quote Perriman:

                      “During a lively dialogue with Larry Hurtado at the British New Testament
                      Society conference this morning Jimmy Dunn put forward his well known
                      view that there is a significant functional differentiation—even subordination—between Jesus and God in the New Testament that should not be obscured in our efforts to safeguard a high christology…

                      …One particular comment stuck out. Dunn remarked that he used to favour the view that in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul incorporates Jesus as Lord into the
                      shema, effectively identifying Jesus with God or making him equal to

                      [“]…yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things
                      and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8:6)

                      Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4)[“]

                      He has since changed his mind. He thinks now that while the first part of
                      Paul’s statement is a reference to the shema and, therefore, a classic
                      affirmation of Jewish monotheism, the second part—“for us there is… one
                      Lord, Jesus Christ”—brings into focus Psalm 110:1:

                      [“]The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'[”]

                      This seems to me very plausible. The consistent story elsewhere in Paul is
                      that Jesus is given lordship—given the name kyrios—as a result of his
                      faithful obedience in suffering, and that this status will have future
                      consequences with regard to the nations and to the final enemy death
                      (cf. Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Phil. 2:6-11).

                      So in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul is not saying that Jesus must be assimilated into an essential Jewish monotheism. Rather he is setting out the fundamental “Christian” response to the challenge of the dominant pagan culture: for us as heirs of Jewish monotheism there is one God, but this one God has given authority over the enemies of his people to the one who suffered, died and was raised from the dead. It is through him—not from him, as Dunn stressed—that these communities of new creation now exist. So I would say that the two part confession reflects the fact that this new creation has come into existence under conditions of eschatological


                    • Pär Stenberg
                      June 10, 2015 @ 7:18 am

                      Excellent detective work. 😀 But alas, the link which you provided is dead (or is the problem at my end?). One can hope that Dunn says something more on this in print, lest all we have is hearsay forged deep in the pits of our secret unitarian dungeon for the purpose of deceiving the elect.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 7:32 am

                    • Pär Stenberg
                      June 10, 2015 @ 7:43 am

                      Thank you, sir!

                    • Rivers
                      June 10, 2015 @ 8:49 am


                      With regard to Galatians 4:4, I think the use of the Aorist Middle of GINOMAI is related to EXAPOSTELLW (translated “sent forth”) in the same verse. We see the same thing in John 1:6 where the writer used the Aorist Middle of GINOMAI with APOSTELLW when he said “there came (GINOMAI) a man sent (APOSTELLW) from God, whose name was John.”

                      Nobody translates GINOMAI as “born” in John 1:6 because of the use of APOSTELLW refers to what God did at the time of John’s public ministry. Likewise, in Galatians 4:4, the use of GINOMAI with APOSTELLW occurs because of what God did at “the fullness of time” (and not the actual time of the birth of Jesus).

                      I don’t think TJob 2:1 is of any significance because it has no bearing (as evidence) of apostolic usage. I think it’s more significant that the writer of the 4th Gospel himself used PRIN + Aorist Infinitive again in John 14:29 where Jesus spoke of his own resurrection “before it happened.”

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 13, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

                      “I don’t think TJob 2:1 is of any significance because it has no bearing
                      (as evidence) of apostolic usage.”

                      And with that comment you reveal another critical problem with your entire approach. The notion that biblical Greek was a special language was abandoned long ago.

                      This argument corresponds in its “logic” to the arbitrary argument I’ve seen offered by Trinitarians vis a vis Sharp’s Rule. For example, they’ll argue that Proverbs 24:21 must be set aside as a counter example because it’s “translation Greek”, even though it’s clear that if common usage dictated that a second article would normally be used in the Greek to ensure that no confusion results, then the LXX translator(s) could easily have inserted the supposedly needed second article.

                      Such arbitrary restrictions are theologically driven, not “logically” driven.

                    • Rivers
                      June 13, 2015 @ 10:30 pm


                      When doing sound critical exegesis, it’s always a fallacy to force a particular writer’s use of language to conform to another source that cannot be corroborated with it. Moreover, the TJob 2:1 statement isn’t even comparable to John 8:58 because that writer is referring only to his own experience.

                      The purpose of trying to translate John 8:58 with a PPA is to substantiate the interpretation that Jesus Christ was claiming to have existed before Abraham “was born.”

                      I’m just putting forward the grammatical evidence that shows why McKay’s translation is implausible (and is ignored by most translators, for that matter).

                      I don’t think it’s necessary to read “preexistence” into John 8:58 so I’m looking for an interpretation that is more consistent with “before Abraham comes, I am” (YLT) which is the correct translation of the grammar.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 13, 2015 @ 11:52 pm

                      When doing critical exegesis it’s a fallacy to assume that biblical Greek is something other than what all know it to be today, i.e. the common Greek of the time and not some special “divine” form of Greek. The usage of the biblical authors is one part of what translators consider, but it’s not the only part, and no good translator isolates a historical document written in a common language and insists that verses can only mean this and not that because an author never uses word X to mean that anywhere else, especially when you’re talking about common words like PRIN and GINOMAI, and accepted idioms like the PPA. That’s just not how translation should be done, and when you try and invent arbitrary exclusions it makes your position appear very weak. But it’s worse than that, because your arbitrarily restrictive approach forces you to place utter gibberish on Jesus’ lips, and that’s not only bad translation practice, but I don’t think Jesus appreciates it, frankly.

                      Your style of argument reminds me of a Trinitarian I conversed with a year or two ago. This fellow insisted that it is absolutely necessary to conclude that Jesus is the one true God, because in the NT (i.e. “apostolic usage”) QEOS in the singular form is only used of the one true God, and it’s used of Jesus. For him, the usages we find in the OT, DSS, Philo, etc, aren’t relevant, because you can’t use such writings to help determine “apostolic usage”. That’s just not a sound approach, and I suspect that both you and he would be disinclined to doggedly stick to it when doing so causes problems for your own theological understanding. Such approaches are too contrived to be truly helpful.

                    • Rivers
                      June 15, 2015 @ 4:59 pm


                      McKay’s translation of John 8:58 has been proven to be critically flawed at every point of grammar available for analysis in John 8:58. Please let me reiterate a summary of the evidence. If you have an exegetical response to each of these points, please put it forward:

                      1. GINOMAI is not the word for being “born.” When the writer of the 4th Gospel spoke of someone who “was born” he used the verb GENNAW. Thus, translating GENESQAI as “was born” is incorrect.

                      2. GENESQAI is an Aorist Infinitive form. The writer of the 4th Gospel used the Infinitive form of verbs to speak of things when had not happened yet from the perspective of the speaker. Thus, Jesus could not have been speaking about anything that happened to Abraham in the past.

                      3. GENESQAI is in the Middle voice. The writer of the 4th Gospel always used the Passive voice or a Perfect Indicative to speak of someone who was born. Thus, Jesus could not have been referring to the “birth” of Abraham.

                      4. Since GENESQAI is not a past tense verb, John 8:58 cannot qualify for the PPA idiom.

                      5. PRIN is an adverb that the writer of the 4th Gospel always used to speak of something “before” it had happened from the perspective of the speaker. Thus, Jesus could not have been referring to anything that happened to Abraham in his past.

                      6. EGW EIMI is never used as an “historical Present” with an Aorist Infinitive verb. Thus, there is no reason to translate it “I have been” in this passage. It should be translated “I am” just like every other place it appears in the 4th Gospel.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 15, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

                      You’d better check your record, as it appears to have a scratch on it. Please provide the authoritative references that confirm that your bullet list as stated matters vis a vis how to translate John 8:58, esp. how to understand PRIN ABRAM GENESQAI.

                      Your six points are nothing more than contrived excuses to favor a translation that truly is impossible, namely, yours.

                    • Rivers
                      June 15, 2015 @ 10:26 pm


                      You are simply dismissing all of the evidence showing that McKay’s translation is baseless. I can only presume that you aren’t able to counter it with any exegesis of your own since you continue to respond with nothing other than condescending rhetoric.

                      The “authoritative” reference is the usage of the grammar by the writer of the 4th Gospel himself, which is evident for all to reconsider. The Greek in the 4th Gospel is very simple. Thus, someone of your intellect should have no problem sorting through it.

                      I’ve done the best I can to help you. I respect your preference to look at it differently. It isn’t up to me to convince anyone. Everyone can consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind. I’m just offering a different perspective on this very controversial text. 🙂

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 15, 2015 @ 11:05 pm

                      What I’m doing is observing that you’ve offered a series of observations that, even if true, are contrived in that there’s no reason to believe that they refute the consensus understanding of PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI at John 8:58.

                      When people need legal advice, they hire a lawyer. When people need medical treatment, they see a doctor. When people want to know how the grammar/syntax of a language works, they turn to the professionals in the field. That’s how the world works, Rivers. People who want to know how Greek words were used in the ancient world turn to LSJ and BDAG. People who want to understand the grammar and syntax of Koine, turn to the many fine, peer reviewed published works wherein these things are taught. No one in his right mind turns to unknown and unpublished people on the internet.

                      If the points you raised have the potential of undermining the consensus understanding of PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, then surely credentialed folks have written about it. So, provide the references to the published writings of qualified professionals who agree with you, and who have done the hard work it takes to be recognized by their peers as authorities.

                    • Roman
                      June 16, 2015 @ 2:54 am

                      Even though I agree With you on this subject I’d be careful With appeals to authority, I mean how many scholars are totally ok With translating John 1:1 “In the begining was the Word and the Word was With God and the Word was God.” How many scholars will still to this day, Write commentaries saying Ego Eimi in John 8 is pointing back to Exodus 3:14 … unfortunately orthoxody colors some scholarship quite a bit.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 7:31 am

                      The crucial difference is that we can find qualified authorities who admit that “a god” is an accurate literal rendering of John 1:1c (Jason BeDuhn) while others admit that it’s grammatically possible (J. Gwyn Griffiths), while still others will come right out and admit that the reason they reject “a god’ is because of theology, not grammar (C.H. Dodd, Murray J. Harris). Moreover, the connection of EGO EIMI with Ex. 3:14 is a theological judgment that some make, which really isn’t about grammar. Yet here again we can find qualified authorities who recognize that EGO EIMI is not implicitly echoing back to Ex. 3:14 (McKay), while many also recognize that Jn. 8:58 is an example of the idiom known as a PPA (e.g. McKay, Turner, Winer, etc).

                      To quote a friend of mine who weighed in on this issue privately, “…while it’s true that quoting an authority doesn’t necessarily prove anything, and while we should not be enslaved to authority alone–there is a good reason why we appeal to lexicons like BDAG, LSJ, Louw-Nida and others. There must be a lexical or grammatical basis for what we posit regarding the scriptures. We were not born just knowing syntax, semantics or pragmatics. Someone before us learned these things, and then passed them down.”

                      So while an authority can always be mistaken in judgment about some translation issue, there is a consensus about how PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI should be understood. If one wants to overturn such a consensus, then he should publish his thesis and present it for peer review to see whether those with the necessary training and expertise find the argument compelling.

                      In my judgment, his bullet points are comparable to the arbitrary arguments I’ve seen from folks on the other side of this issue (Trinitarians), a couple of which I’ve mentioned. Just as I don’t accept the arbitrary exclusion of exceptions to Sharp’s Rule because they are found outside the NT and therefore supposedly have no bearing on “apostolic usage”, and just as I don’t accept the rather silly argument that Jesus must be God because QEOS in the singular form always refers to the only true God in the NT, so likewise I don’t see any reason to accept Rivers’s arbitrary bullet list. Since I’m one of those people who visits a doctor rather than a Shaman when I’m sick, he’ll need to show me that respected doctors agree with his recommended treatment;-)

                    • Rivers
                      June 16, 2015 @ 9:09 am


                      It doesn’t really matter whether or not QEOS is translated with the article in John 1:1 or not because it’s evident later in the 4th Gospel that the claim to be “the son of God” was understood to be “making oneself equal with God” (John 5:18) and “making oneself out to be God” (John 10:33).

                      Thus “the word was God” (John 1:1c) can be taken to mean the same thing as “the word was the son of God.” There is no implication of preexistence or incarnation in this language. As “the son of God”, Jesus was “equal” with God in the sense that the Israelites understood that a child was the “heir” who is “the owner of everything” (Galatians 4:1-2) even before the day of his appointment (Hebrews 1:2; Philippians 2:9-11).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

                      “It doesn’t really matter whether or not QEOS is translated with the
                      article in John 1:1 or not because it’s evident later in the 4th Gospel
                      that the claim to be “the son of God” was understood to be “making
                      oneself equal with God” (John 5:18) and “making oneself out to be God”
                      (John 10:33).”

                      No, it matters, at least to those who are interested in figuring out what John actually said and meant. It may not matter to certain apologetical types who are interested in John only insofar as they think they can make it support their own theological views, but those who are interested in what John said and meant feel it matters.

                    • Rivers
                      June 16, 2015 @ 4:14 pm


                      Like you, I’m also interested figuring out what the writer of the 4th Gospel actually meant by what he said. That is why I’m always careful to draw conclusions from the writer’s own use of the language in its own context.

                      I try to be as patient as possible with people who pride themselves in taking a different approach because every one should be convinced by the evidence for himself. If you prefer to follow the opinion of Kenneth McKay on John 8:58, I respect that.

                      I wish you had an exegetical response to the many flaws that have been exposed in McKay’s exegesis of John 8:58 because it would give me the impression that you actually have a working knowledge of the grammatical issues. I would like to be able to benefit from a substantial response from you sometime.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

                      “I wish you could offer a substantial exegetical response to the many
                      flaws that have been exposed in McKay’s exegesis of John 8:58 because it
                      would give me the impression that you actually have a working knowledge
                      of the grammatical and interpretive issues. I admire others who have
                      done the research and are able to speak on their own authority.”

                      I haven’t seen anyone expose any flaws in McKay’s exegesis. I’ve seen you present a list of bullet points that you assert are flaws, but I haven’t seen any real flaws.

                      There was a time when I was willing to go back and forth addressing what I consider to be contrived arguments, but I try to restrain myself from doing that anymore. The last time I did so was a couple years ago when the Trinitarian I mentioned doggedly insisted that QEOS (singular) is never used in the NT for anyone but the true God, and so since Jesus is referred to as QEOS, he must be the true God. I spent hours trying to penetrate the fog in his “logic”, but all that came from that dialogue was frustration on both sides and a very sad waste of time that could have and should have been spent more productively.

                      That dialogue taught me something I knew but didn’t take heed of: You can’t reach people who are compelled to offer contrived arguments, because the very fact that they resort to such arguments reveals their motivations, even if such are not apparent to them (self deception is one of the most common human failings). People who offer contrived arguments aren’t looking for a meaningful dialogue from which all parties might learn something; they’re only interested in winning.

                      With your very first bullet point you essentially asserted that the editor(s) of BDAG and LSJ don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not a promising start. It makes me think of an overly competitive logophile who gets an answer wrong in the Reader’s Digest word quiz, and insists before all that Reader’s Digest is wrong. So his friends show him that both Merriam Webster and the OED agree with Reader’s Digest, yet the competitive logophile just won’t budge. Just as I’m not about to waste my time arguing with someone named “Tigger” on the internet about whether Merriam Webster and the OED offer correct definitions of a word, so I’m not going to argue with you about whether BDAG and LSJ offer correct definitions of a word. That’s just not a productive use of my time.

                    • Rivers
                      June 16, 2015 @ 9:40 pm


                      I’ve seen McKay’s interpretation of John 8:58 thoroughly refuted and I’m sharing the information with you in our conversation. I gave a simple summary when I pointed out (6) of the mistakes that he makes in translation (based upon the rest of the grammatical evidence in the text of the 4th Gospel).

                      I realize that there are scholarly sources that consider the evidence from a different perspective. However, when I hear some people defending McKay’s translation, they build their case primarily on the assumption that GENESQAI means “was born.” This is where McKay argues that the required “past tense” verb is in place in order to qualify John 8:58 as a PPA idiom.

                      I’m simply pointing out why it seems implausible to make the Aorist Infinitive of GINOMAI infer a past tense, especially when it is used with PRIN and probably doesn’t even refer to being “born” by definition.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

                      “5. PRIN is an adverb that the writer of the 4th Gospel always used to
                      speak of something “before” it had happened from the perspective of the
                      speaker. Thus, Jesus could not have been using “before” to refer to
                      anything that happened prior to the birth of Abraham or even the present
                      conversation he was having with the Jews in John 8.”

                      Two questions:

                      1. How many times is “always”, i.e. how often does the Evangelist use PRIN?

                      2. How many instances of usage of a term by a writer do you think a reasonable person should evaluate before confidently asserting that a writer wouldn’t use a word according to an accepted definition?

                    • Rivers
                      June 16, 2015 @ 9:31 pm


                      1. I’m using “always” in the normal sense of the word. Thus, “always” would be limited to the usage by the writer of the 4th Gospel with respect to PRIN in this conversation.

                      2. PRIN occurs in three places in the 4th Gospel (John 4:49; John 8:58; John 14:29). In all three places, it is used with the Aorist Infintive form of a verb to preempt something that hasn’t happened yet from the perspective of the speaker.
                      In John 14:29, it is used again with GENESQAI to speak of the resurrection of Jesus Christ “before it happens” (PRIN GENESQAI).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 9:42 pm

                      Precisely. PRIN occurs not twenty times, not ten times, not even five times, but three times, and one of them must be set aside as it’s the subject text. So you are making a dogmatic assertion about how the Evangelist “could not have” used the term — an assertion that is not supported by any published authority — based on a sampling of……two.

                      That, my friend, is a contrived argument.

                    • Rivers
                      June 16, 2015 @ 10:16 pm


                      It is no contrived argument because three times constitutes all the evidence of usage that is available from this writer. Since there is no evidence that he used PRIN in any other grammatical units, we should assume that he didn’t need to.

                      Thus, it’s reasonable to conclude the PRIN + Aorist Infinitive meant that something hadn’t happened yet from the perspective of the speaker. Based upon all the evidence contrary to McKay’s translation, he is the one fabricating any qualifications for the PPA theory he is trying to impose upon the text.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 16, 2015 @ 10:17 pm

                      No, it’s not reasonable; it’s ridiculous in the extreme.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 17, 2015 @ 7:19 am

                      “McKay doesn’t even establish that GENSQAI could mean “was born” and yet
                      it is the critical factor underlying his entire theory. He also seems
                      to overlook the fact that the writer used EGENHQH (from GENNAW) to mean
                      “was born” only a few verses later (John 9:19-20).”

                      That’s another contrived argument. Understanding GENESQAI to mean “was born” is not “the critical factor” in McKay’s exegesis. He doesn’t even mention it, except insofar as he offers it in translation. His compelling exegesis only needs the phrase PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI (e.g. “Before Abraham was”) to be “an expression of either past time or extent of time with past implications.” (A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach), p. 41, 42

                      Verbals aren’t rigidly tied to their tense in Greek they way they usually are in English. There are plenty of instances of present tense verbals in Greek that have past and PPA reference. Certainly more than two! LOL

                      We know that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is an expression of past time because of the context in which it occurs, including but not limited to the question that immediately precedes it.

                    • Rivers
                      June 17, 2015 @ 8:47 am


                      I’m not sure that you understand McKay’s argument or how the PPA idiom is constructed. For the PPA idiom to be identified in John 8:58 it would require that GENESQAI is a Past tense verb. Since there is no evidence that the Aorist Infinitive with PRIN was used by the writer to signify a past action, there cannot be a PPA idiom in this passage.

                      Your reference to “verbals” is misleading because there is no evidence that Present tense verbals in biblical Greek occur with Aorist Infintive verbs and have a past or PPA reference. You simply haven’t done the research. Other PPA references use Present tense verbals with Aorist Indicative verbs.

                      Your “context” argument is also fallacious because the question posed by the Jews (John 8:57) certainly doesn’t require PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI to be an expression of past time. First, there are several different ways to understand the question in this context. Second, the immediate context refers to both death (past) and resurrection (future). Third, the context shows that we can’t be sure that the Jews were asking an informed question.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 17, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

                      Truly remarkable. I understand McKay’s argument; McKay understands McKay’s argument; you do NOT understand McKay’s argument.

                      This means that every post you’ve offered accompanied by the delusion that you’ve refuted McKay has been contrived against a view that you don’t even understand.

                      Good place to end the discussion.

                    • Rivers
                      June 17, 2015 @ 7:21 pm


                      GENESQAI appears 8 times in the 4th Gospel and the John letters and never refers to something that happened in the past. The writer always used it to speak of something that was yet to happen.

                      Please consult a concordance so that you can see the evidence for yourself instead of continuing to misrepresent the meaning of the term.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 17, 2015 @ 8:54 pm

                      I told you that you need to end your exegesis-via-concordance approach, as it’s not helping anyone, especially not you. There’s a saying I heard a while back when I was studying semantics that went something like this: Words have no meanings, only contexts.

                      While I don’t fully subscribe to that approach, I do agree that it can help us snap out of our myopia and refocus on an important truth: Small samplings of usages in a concordance are more capable of revealing how words can be used in the specific referenced contexts, but they’re not good for dictating how words can’t be used in other contexts.

                      You’re confusing opportunities with restrictions.

                    • Rivers
                      June 18, 2015 @ 11:38 am


                      I have a couple of JW friends who agree with McKay’s interpretation of John 8:58 (just like you) and are well-acquainted with it. I’m going to see if I can get either of them to give me any substantial exegetical response to the points I’ve demonstrated here.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 18, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

                      No one here has any doubt that you’ll argue for your idiosyncratic view of this and other texts with anyone and everyone who will listen, and for just as long as they’ll let you, into all eternity. You’ll continue to make your arguments with everyone except the very people you should have started with, i.e. the experts in the relevant field(s).

                      If you wanted to behave responsibly in your effort to create a paradigm shift, you’d go back to school and present your novel views in the form of a doctoral thesis. If you can’t afford to do that or your situation doesn’t allow that commitment at this time, you could write an article and submit it to any number of peer reviewed religious journals, such as JBL, NTS, etc. You could use the title: Misunderstood Resurrection Texts: John 1:1 and John 8:58. Now that would grab people’s attention!

                      The problem is that once they got past the catchy title and read the actual argumentation, they probably wouldn’t recommend publication. They also might realize that what you’re really arguing for is a paradigm shift in the understanding of Koine, thus making a religious journal the wrong venue for presenting your case. Alas, a B.S. in Information Technology, an M.B.A. in Communications, and an an M.Div. in Biblical Forensics doesn’t qualify you to be published in the sorts of journals appropriate for recommending a paradigm shift in the understanding of a dead language.

                    • Rivers
                      June 18, 2015 @ 7:44 pm


                      I’ve already done all that. Obvisouly, you don’t know me any better than you know the scriptures. I can speak with authority on these issues along with any of your favorite scholars.

                      At this point, I can only encourage you to try having some humility and intellectual integrity. It will get you much further in life.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 18, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

                      Where can I obtain a copy of your masters thesis about misunderstood resurrection texts along with the interaction from the relevant authorities so that I can see how your thesis stood up in in the opinions of your peers? What are the the titles of your articles and in what journal(s) can they be found, and where can I read the responses from your peers?

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 19, 2015 @ 6:17 am

                      “At this point, I can only encourage you to try having some humility and
                      intellectual integrity. It will get you much further in life (and
                      biblical studies).”

                      That’s excellent advice. You should consider offering it to the person you see when you look in the mirror every morning, as he needs it as much as much as anyone else.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 21, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

                      So before we go any further, I want to apologize for upsetting you. I didn’t want to get pulled into a conversation that was sure to end as this one did, which is exactly why I bowed out a couple/few months ago. You tried to bully me into continuing then by threatening that my “credibility” would be in jeopardy unless I continued to address your arguments. Remember that? Sadly, while I originally stuck to my resolve not to participate in that discussion, I then let my guard down and found myself in the middle of the very sort of dialogue I sought to avoid for the sake of the dignity of the forum.

                      The truth is that I knew such a dialogue wouldn’t end well, and I just wanted to avoid what has now happened anyway. My “credibility” had nothing to do with it, because, unlike you, I don’t present myself as an authority in these discussions. I merely share things that I’ve learned over the years, and why I find this or that understanding more compelling than any competing views that I’ve encountered or that I encounter for the first time here.

                      I’d like to offer you an invitation and a bit of friendly advice.

                      Invitation: Please share a bit of your story here, or on your own blog if you have one. Since you’ve already done what I said you should have done vis a vis presenting your case to your peers, then why not inform members here where they can find and read your thesis? Why not share the responses you received from your thesis advisers, along with the reaction(s) of your peers? Since you’ve already submitted one ore more articles to theological journals, why not share the references if they were published, or the reasons given for the rejection if they were not? You could thereby set a good example of how to approach these discussions with humility and intellectual integrity.

                      Advice: I would encourage you to shift gears a bit and stop employing some of the odd approaches you’ve been employing here. What do I mean?

                      To start, you should stop trying to goad people into interacting with your views. Threatening that a person’s “credibility” is on the line if they don’t care to debate you on some point is really rather obnoxious.

                      Additionally, goading people by telling them that if they don’t address your every point in precisely the way you’d like to see it addressed somehow suggests that they aren’t able to adequately defend their own view is also rather unproductive. Even if the charge were true, YOU are the one who chose to take his case to non-specialists, and so you shouldn’t demean the very people YOU CHOSE to interact with for offering the sorts of responses that one expects from non-specialists.

                      Finally, try and resist the the temptation to resort to poorly veiled jibes, which is what your comment about approaching JW friends was obviously meant to convey. To finish the obvious intent of your remark, you really meant something like this:

                      “I have a couple of JW friends who appeal to McKay’s interpretation of
                      John 8:58 (just like you do) and are well-acquainted with it. I’m going to see if I can get either of them to give me any substantial exegetical response to the points I’ve demonstrated here [hint, hint, SINCE I CERTAINLY HAVEN’T RECEIVED ANY FROM YOU.]”

                      I’m as flawed a human being as anyone, and if you offer that sort of thing to me, then there’s a fair chance that you’ll receive a peevish response, just as you did in this case (again, for which I apologize).

                      On a positive note, you do have me ferreting around for discussions of GENESQAI. The late Abner Kneeland agrees with you, and offers another proposed rendering:


                      I don’t find his preferred rendering any more plausible than yours, but I can admit that I overstated matters when I said that you’re the only person to whom such an understanding has occurred.

                    • Rivers
                      June 22, 2015 @ 8:36 am

                      Hi Sean,

                      Thank you for the reply. I’m certainly not upset with you; I just decided to let you have “the last word” and withdrew from continuing the conversation.

                      I know that you don’t speak as an authority on these issues because you simply appeal to Kenneth McKay’s work. I was only trying to present the evidence contrary to his translation.

                      I’m glad that you came across an additional source regarding the biblical usage of GENESQAI, so that you realize I’m not the only one who looks at the translation of John 8:58 from a different perspective on the evidence.

                    • Rivers
                      June 18, 2015 @ 8:42 am

                      The facts show that GENESQAI is certainly not used as a Past tense by the writer of the 4th Gospel. There are 8 times the term is used in the John books and the Aorist Infinitive means “to happen” or “to come” (yet future).

                      Thus, John 8:58 simply means that something was “yet to happen” (GENESQAI) with Abraham because Jesus Christ was present at that time (EGW EIMI). This is the natural way of reading the grammar.

                      The Jews misconstrued the statement Jesus made about Abraham “seeing his day” (John 8:56) and thought that Jesus himself was claiming to have already seen Abraham (John 8:53) who had been “dead” for a long time (John 8:53).

                      Jesus corrected them by pointing out that he himself (EGW EIMI) had to be present “before” (PRIN) Abraham was “yet to come” (GENESQAI) in their day (John 8:58). This is because Jesus was the one who had authority to give life to the dead (John 8:36, 51).

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 18, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

                      “The facts show that GENESQAI is certainly not used as a Past tense by
                      the writer of the 4th Gospel. There are 8 times the term is used in
                      the John books and the Aorist Infinitive means “to happen” or “to come”
                      (yet future).”

                      That is incorrect. What your usage argument shows is that the author of the 4th Gospel didn’t use GENESQAI with past tense in contexts where past tense doesn’t fit. You have not shown that he didn’t use GENESQAI with past tense, as everyone on the planet recognizes that he did, at John 8:58.

                      Your counter argument has been shown to be critically flawed across the board.

                      1. You asserted that GENESQAI can’t be used for birth, which is the equivalent of “Tigger” from my illustration dogmatically arguing that Merriam Webster and the OED don’t define words correctly. This just can’t be taken seriously.

                      2. You exposed your argument to be a straw-man, by submitting post after post after post after post presented under the mistaken assumption that understanding GENESQAI to refer to birth is “critical” to McKay’s argument, when (a) McKay never makes your imagined argument, and (b) it isn’t true. GENESQAI merely has to be past tense in context (“was”) for the PPA to work, which it is, according to everyone but you.

                      3. Your argument has been shown to be remarkably contrived. If you were to offer your ridiculous assertion about PRIN (based on two usages!) at an SBL conference, you’d be met with giggles and incredulous gazes. You probably wouldn’t be invited back.

                      4. Your preferred translation not only forms a non sequitur, but it would not have been understood by Jesus’ opponents, and therefore would not have been capable of moving them to pick up stones to kill him. They may have responded to such an unintelligible comment by saying “huh?”, but they wouldn’t have been able to infer from it the justification they needed to kill Jesus.

                      I could go on, but I think I’ve made my case well enough, and have nothing further to say on the matter. The goodness of the good news is not advanced by stubborn people who refuse to agree to disagree.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 10, 2015 @ 5:54 am

                      I would recommend that you stop practicing exegesis via concordance, and start floating your novel ideas past those who have the experience to truly help you, such as the folks on b-greek, many of whom have been teaching and writing about Greek for years. If memory serves, McKay taught Greek for about 30 years, and he understands well how aspect works in Greek.

                      Most Unitarians even disagree with you. When you promote an understanding that hasn’t occurred to anyone else in the entire history of biblical studies/exegesis, then it’s time to stop and ponder that maybe there really is something missing from your understanding.

                    • Roman
                      June 11, 2015 @ 3:24 am

                      They were already trying to kill Jesus without legal justification. I’m not saying that anyone would have stoned Jesus for just saying he was alive, of course he was saying something more, that he was greater than Abraham and perhaps even existed priort to Abraham, but to assume that there must have been some legal justification behind the stoning is not justified. They didn’t need legal justification to stone Stephan, and they were already trying to kill Jesus.
                      Anyway, overall, I agree With Your position.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 11, 2015 @ 7:01 am

                      Well, I’d say that your opinion that they didn’t feel they needed some ostensible justification for killing Jesus is not only unjustified, but unsustainable in light of biblical presentations were stonings were attempted.

                      For example, if they were willing to kill Jesus without ostensible justification for such an action, then Jesus would have been dead in John 5. But they didn’t carry out their designs, because although Jesus uttered words that they felt they could twist into a justifiable excuse to kill him (Jn 5:17,18), his subsequent words included clarifications that negated their wicked design.

                      In John 8, verses 1-6 clearly tell us that Jesus’ opponents were trying to trap Jesus. Why? Because they were trying to get him to say something that could ostensibly justify their intent to kill him. If they didn’t need some ostensible justification, then they wouldn’t have bothered trying to trap him; they just would have stoned him and been done with it. Instead they were stymied, and so they continued to ask questions, present challenges, etc, in an effort to get Jesus to say or do something that they could use as their ostensible justification for stoning him. It wasn’t until verse 58 that they felt they had what they needed.

                      In John 10, again, Jesus utters words that those who sought his death felt that they could use as their ostensible justification for killing him. However, just as in John 5, Jesus subsequent words included clarifications that negated their wicket design, and so they were once again stymied and couldn’t carry out their objective.

                      No, it’s very clear that Jesus’ opponents felt that they needed to justify their objective to kill Jesus. From the questions designed to entrap, to the stymied responses, to the kangaroo court and sham of a trial, they obviously wanted Jesus dead, but they also needed to make that death ostensibly appear to be justified.

                    • Roman
                      June 11, 2015 @ 8:15 am

                      It doesn’t tell us in John 5 why they didn’t kill him, it doesn’t say nor necessitate that it was for lack of judicial justification.
                      When we come to John 8, I don’t see any indication there that they were intending to Catch him saying something wrong. Also by saying “prin abraam genesthai ego eimi,” you’re not saying anything clearly blasphemous, no more so than all the other Things that he had said previously,

                      Your explination that he was claiming to be God’s agent, and this was the Jews catching him in a lie just doesn’t hold up, they could have claimed he was lying about all sorts of Things. This is no really a justicial justification, where would it be? On what basis?
                      I don’t understand why a justicial justification is necessary? I think the text of John fits perfectly well With them just getting offended, not being able to kill him earlier because of lack of opportunity and then getting extremely upset at him in John 8. If you’re demanding that they must have had judicial justification, what Law was Jesus breaking? Being very old could have been considered a lie? But they also would have considered his statement that they were sons of the devil to be a lie also.

                    • Rivers
                      June 11, 2015 @ 9:24 am


                      The legal issue for the Jews in John 8 was that Jesus was making their “God” (John 8:54) his own “Father” (John 8:18-19, 26-29, 37-38, 40-44, 54) and claiming that God was going to “glorify” him as His own son (John 8:35, 54). This would have to make Jesus Christ “greater than father Abraham and all the prophets” (John 8:52-53).

                      Jesus indicated that the claim to be “the son of God” would certainly constitute “blaspheme” if he did not have the testimony of the Father to substantiate it (John 10:36-38; John 8:16-17). Since the Jews did not believe or understand what he was saying about the Father (John 8:27; John 8:43), they thought they had a valid reason to execute him for blaspheme.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 11, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

                      I’m honestly perplexed about why you’re struggling so to resist what is really rather obvious. There’s no dispute here, Roman, i.e. there’s no question at all about the fact that Jesus’ opponents felt the need to try and justify their evil designs against him. If they didn’t feel the need to do so, then Jesus would never have appeared before Pilot, because he would have been stoned long before that horrible day.

                      Perhaps you’re confusing the observation that they sought justification for their evil design with with an unwarranted conclusion that they therefore would have truly been justified in their actions. One doesn’t follow from the other, however, as I tried to make clear by using the word “ostensibly”.

                      One reason they needed to justify their design — though certainly not the only one — is because the crowds held Jesus to be a prophet (see Matt 21:46), and to stone a prophet of God would have made Jesus’ opponents guilty and worthy of God’s judgement. Before they could kill him they needed to discredit him, and thereby prove that Jesus wasn’t a prophet. They also probably feared that if they killed Jesus without justification, then the crowds would rise up against them and riot, which would have forced the Roman authorities to get involved. Once Caesar stepped in to “fix” the problem then their precious positions would have been in jeopardy.

                      We all know that whatever excuse they would have used to kill Jesus would not have been truly justified, but they needed their judgment to *appear* justified, and Jesus responses took the evil wind out of their sails, as it were.

                    • Roman
                      June 12, 2015 @ 3:33 am

                      They appeared before Pilot because according to John they were not permited to put him to Death … I don’t think he wasn’t killed prior because the opponents didn’t feel that they could justify it legally.
                      Even if that was the case, what legal justification did the “Prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi” statement give? I mean it simply doesn’t hold, I think it’s a stretch to say that they were looking to Catch him saying something blasphemous, and everything he said up until that point was not enough, but somehow “prin Abraam genestahai ego eimi” was the legal justification? Not calling them sons of the Devil, not saying that he judges along side the father, saying that they are from below and he is from above, just in the previous Chapter they sent out officers to arrest him.
                      I mean if you’re saying at that point they had some legal justification, what justification? According to what Law? what precedent? And where is that indicated? how is that precedent or legal justification, and nothing else Jesus said previously?
                      I just don’t see it.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      June 12, 2015 @ 7:30 am

                      “They appeared before Pilot because according to John they were not
                      permited to put him to Death … I don’t think he wasn’t killed prior
                      because the opponents didn’t feel that they could justify it legally.”

                      Whether or not they were prohibited from executing someone under Roman law across the board or whether the prohibition only covered certain crimes may be uncertain. What is absolutely certain is that they felt the need to justify their evil designs against Jesus before the Jewish people. If they were going to kill him, whether allowed by Rome or not, they were going to do it for a reason that they felt they could use to ostensibly justify their action before the people, because “they feared the crowd, because the people held that [Jesus] was a prophet” (Matt 21:46). If they killed him for no seemingly justifiable reason, then the people would likely riot. They might riot even if a seemingly plausible excuse for the killing could be offered, but the likelihood was greater if they killed Jesus with no seeming justification. This would place their own lives in immediate jeopardy, and even if they managed to get to a safe secure place in time, the rioting would bring the strong arm of Caesar upon the community, which would ultimately jeopardize their positions. And we know that those evil men were not about allow their positions to be in jeopardy. The sentiment they expressed at John 11:48 would apply equally here.

                      “Even if that was the case, what legal justification did the “Prin Abraam
                      genesthai ego eimi” statement give?”

                      I’ve already explained that to you. One sure way to discredit a prophet and secure your case against him is to catch him in a preposterous lie told in the context of fulfilling his commission, which is what a claim to have been in existence since before Abraham was born was judged to be by them.

                      “I mean it simply doesn’t hold, I think it’s a stretch to say that they were looking to Catch him saying something blasphemous, and everything he said up until that point was not enough, but somehow “prin Abraam genestahai ego eimi” was the legal justification?”

                      There’s absolutely no question that they were deliberately trying to get Jesus to say something that would result in his having incriminated himself:

                      “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.” (John 8:6)

                      And Jesus himself realized that they were looking for an excuse to kill him:

                      “Yet you are looking for a way to kill me” (John 8:36)

                      By “way” Jesus didn’t mean that they were trying to figure out whether to use a sword or stones; he meant that they were looking for an excuse to justify their evil intent.

                      Jesus said things they didn’t like before 8:58, but he didn’t say anything potentially blasphemous.

                      “Not calling them sons of the Devil, not saying that he judges along side the father, saying that they are from below and he is from above, just in the previous Chapter they sent out officers to arrest him.”

                      None of those statements were grounds for killing Jesus.

                      “I mean if you’re saying at that point they had some legal justification, what justification? According to what Law? what precedent? And where is that indicated? how is that precedent or legal justification, and nothing else Jesus said previously?”

                      Some of the things Jesus said prior to verse 58 were annoying to them, while other comments were not understood, but none of the comments provided them with the justification to kill or accuse Jesus. However, for a prophet of God — who presents himself as one who speaks as God’s agent — to utter a preposterous lie while in the commission of his agency, that would make God a liar, because the agent’s words were Gods’ words, legally, just as the agent’s judgments were Gods’ judgments, legally.

                      “I just don’t see it.”

                      That’s fine. I don’t see the need to argue on and on about this.

                    • Rivers
                      June 9, 2015 @ 9:10 am


                      I don’t think that some of Anthony Buzzard’s translations are the best options either. However, I do agree with your point that there are different ways of translating and interpreting these passages (and that is why they are so controversial). What ultimately matters is how the original writer intended them to be understood by his audience. Thus, it is going to be the contextual evidence that is most likely to settle these matters.

                    • Pär Stenberg
                      June 9, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

                      I think we should be cautious not to read too much into the present tense of the participle. After all, participles only express time in relation to the absolute time aspect of the main verb. Most likely, all this tense tells us is that Christ was presently ?? ????? ???? when he did the ???????. This could then be expressed rather fittingly using the past tense in English: He did not consider X while he was being in the form of God.

                    • Rivers
                      June 9, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

                      Hi Par,

                      I agree. Unfortunately, most translators render “existing in the form of God” as a past tense when Paul normally did not use the Present Participle that way. This causes many people to “read preexistence” into Philippians 2:6 without any warrant from the context. Thus, I think it’s necessary to point out that there is a Present Participle in the Greek text.

                      I think there’s much more contextual support for reading “existing in the form of God” as a reference to the post-resurrection heavenly glory of Christ Jesus (in contrast to his earthly humility) because those are the only two aspects of his existence that the ensuing context develops (Philippians 2:7-11).

                      Those who “read preexistence” into a past tense rendering of the Present Participle in Philippians 2:6 have nothing but Philippians 2:6 upon which to “read preexistence” into the passage.

                      I think it’s more reasonable to think that only the human experience (Philippians 2:7-8) and the post-resurrection status of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11) that are explicitly mentioned in the context should govern the reading of Philippians 2:6 which fits perfectly with the post-resurrection description given in Philippians 2:9-11.

                    • Pär Stenberg
                      June 10, 2015 @ 4:25 am

                      Although I can see why it is attractive to view the participle as being in reference to the exalted Jesus, I do not think it is possible on a grammatical level. Had Paul used a finite verb, I would have agreed with you but hr used a infinite verb-form. As you may know, the participle is only present in relation to (and dependant upon) the past tense main verb. In other words: when the action of the main verb took place, Christ was THEN presently existing in God’s morphe. Since the tense of participle is limited by the main verb expressing only relative time (unlike a finite verb) I do not think it is possible to apply it the resurrected Jesus.

                    • Rivers
                      June 9, 2015 @ 9:00 am


                      I don’t think you’re following the exegesis correctly. Please let me try to further clarify it.

                      Paul was using the Present Active Participle in Philippians 2:6 (“existing in the form of God”) to speak of the Christ Jesus that he knew as presently “exalted” (Philippians 2:9-11) and “glorified” (Philippians 3:21) at the time he was writing the letter. He was exhorting the Philippians not to exalt themselves before the proper time.

                      Thus the point he’s making about Christ Jesus can simply be paraphrased like this … “You Philippians need to have humility of mind like Jesus had when he was in your situation before he was exalted. Even though Jesus is now exalted, he did not seek to glorify himself, but humbled himself until the time came that God exalted him.”

                      The difference between the Philippians and Christ Jesus was not a matter of preexistence, but a matter of humility before exaltation. It’s unreasonable to suppose that Paul was encouraging his disciples to follow the example of a preexisting person who became humble. Rather, it makes more sense to think he was telling them to follow the example of an humble person who became exalted at the proper time.

          • kzarley
            June 9, 2015 @ 1:24 am

            I agree. I think God’s glory bestowed on Jesus escalates, so there are increasingly levels of it, perhaps beginning at his birth then his baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, session, and ultimately at his coronation and reception of the kingdom in heaven (Dan 7.13-14) and then ithat becoming visible to humans at his immediately following second coming (e.g., Matt. 16.27; 24.30; 26.64). God has already given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth (e.g., Matthew 28.18), but it does not become fully effective on earth until his second coming (Revelation 11.15-17).

            • Rivers
              June 9, 2015 @ 9:36 am

              Hi Kermit,

              Thanks for the reply. Please further clarify what you mean by “increasing levels of glory bestowed upon Jesus from birth to second coming.”

              What do you do with Hebrews 1:3 where the writer understood that Jesus Christ was already “the radiance of [God’] glory and the exact representation of [God’s] subsistence”? How could this language allow for another “level” of glory at a later time on earth?

              • kzarley
                June 10, 2015 @ 12:52 am

                I’m not positive of what I said. I think of it the same way as I do concerning Jesus as the Messiah and his (messianic) kingdom. Concerning his kingdom, after over 100 years of debate NT scholars now agree there are two aspects to Jesus’ kingdom: realized and eschatological, in which the latter is the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom. I think of Jesus’ messiahship the same way: he did not fulfill much about OT prophecy regarding the Messiah, but he will in the eschaton. During his first coming he was the Messiah and Daniel’s Son of Man in God’s eyes, but his fulfillment of OT prophecies then regarded mostly Moses’ prophecy in Deut 18.15-19 and Isaiah’s suffering servant in Isa 42-55. Then, of course, at his ascension Ps 110.1a was fulfilled. So, Jesus’ ultimate glorification of victory over his enemies and ruling the world happens beginning right before and at his second coming, when Dan 7.13-14, Ps 2 and Ps 110.1b are fulfilled. But none of that is possible without his glorification at being lifted up on the cross, since the cross must come before the crown. I just see it all as a progression in the glorification of Jesus.

              • GDunn
                February 19, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

                Jesus asks for more glory Jn 17. He increased in stature and wisdom in Luke.

                He was glorified in heaven over the angels, having been initially made just under them.

                I can figure out no defined levels of glory yet these verses imply to me there was such.

  3. Rivers
    May 19, 2015 @ 6:42 pm


    Another good discussion with Mr. Zarley. I’m glad you covered a lot of the controversial Christology texts so he could give his opinion on their interpretation.