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.

60 Comments

  1. Mario
    January 16, 2015 @ 4:14 am

    Matthew,

    I surely have read from Irenaeus. On the other hand, I believe that you have read “pre-existence” into Irenaeus.

    Can you please indicate precisely where, in your quotation (from Irenaeus, Against the Heresies Book V, Chapter XVII, 3), would you read the “pre-existence of Jesus”?

  2. Matthew
    January 15, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

    I don’t know how anyone could possibly read Ireneus without seeing the pre-existance of Jesus all over his writings 0.o

    “For if no one can forgive sins but God alone, while the Lord remitted them and healed men, it is plain that He was Himself the Word of God made the Son of man, receiving from the Father the power of remission of sins; since He was man, and since He was God, in order that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us, and forgive us our debts, in which we were made debtors to God our Creator. And therefore David said beforehand, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord has not imputed sin;”4598 pointing out thus that remission of sins which follows upon His advent, by which “He has destroyed the handwriting” of our debt, and “fastened it to the cross;”4599 so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, [so also] by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.

    I’m sure you’ve read Ireneus?

  3. Mario
    January 15, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

    Rivers

    1. Why don’t you explain the (apparent) contradiction between Exodus 33:20 and Exodus 33:11? (Your comment of January 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm gives no explanation at all …)

    2. There is no qualitative difference between the plural verb and adjectives used for YHWH God addressing His heavenly council (but the singular verbs associated with ‘elohiym making it clear that ‘elohiym is referred to God, NOT His heavenly council – Gen 1:26-27) and the mix of plural and singular used for Israel’s king Ahab addressing his assembled prophets:

    So the king of Israel assembled 400 prophets and asked them, “Should we [plural] go against Ramoth Gilead for war or should I [singular] refrain?” They said, “Attack! God will hand it over to the king.” (2 Chron 18:5)

    3. As you wish. Please provide clear evidence NOT ONLY that in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 “Paul is using Genesis 1:26 as the basis for his understanding that male and female members of the churches should adorn themselves differently because they were not created as equals”, BUT, MOST OF ALL, that “angels were the ALHYM of Genesis 1:26”.

    4. At long last! Now, care to explain how …

    For this reason a woman should have [a symbol of] authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor 11:10)

    … would provide evidence (however “circumstantial” …) that “angels were the ALHYM of Genesis 1:26”?

  4. Rivers
    January 15, 2015 @ 11:39 am

    Mario,

    1. In the context of Genesis 1:26-27, it isn’t the plural ALHYM that is the only factor. The term “image of God (ALHYM)” must be referring to something that is visible and related to ALHYM because the uses of the words “image” and “likeness” shows that they always referred to an observable shape or physical characteristic of something.

    Since the biblical writers understood that “no man has ever seen God” the Father (John 1:18) because He is “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16), the “image of God” must be referring to something other than YHWH (in the same way that a “graven image” was merely a physical representation of another recognizable form). Besides human beings, the only other creatures known as ALHYM in scripture were the angelic visitors (who looked just like male human beings, Genesis 18-19).

    2. Yes, attributes are not persons. That is another reason that angels (who like like male human beings) is a much more plausible understanding of ALHYM and “us” and “our image and likeness” in the context of Genesis 1:26-27. There is no evidence that YHWH himself was multiple persons either.

    3. I don’t think you want to comment on 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 because you don’t have anything to offer as a plausible interpretation of your own. You are merely scoffing.

    4. I didn’t mean to cite 1 Corinthians 10:11. It should have been 1 Corinthians 11:10 (“because of the angels”). Sorry about the mistaken reference.

  5. Mario
    January 15, 2015 @ 10:42 am

    Rivers,

    1. Here is what we read in Genesis about YHWH God, speaking to His heavenly council:

    Then God [‘elohiym, plural] said [singular], “Let us make [plural] humankind in our image, after our likeness …” (Gen 1:26)
    That plural “Let us make” is fully justified by the fact that God is speaking to His [obviously plural] heavenly council, without having to draw the unwarranted implication that the “image & likeness” refer to the heavenly council rather than to YHWH God Himself. This, once again, is confirmed by the immediately following Gen 1:27.

    Until you and “everyone that [you] know” has explained that said [singular], to claim that “the angels were the ALHYM of Genesis 1:26” is your (singular or plural) unjustified fantasy.

    2. I obviously never affirmed that “us” or “our” in Genesis 1:26 refers to God’s “divine attributes”. This would be sheer nonsense, as attributes are NOT persons.

    3. I am quite happy to leave you to delve into Paul’s funny quirks about Women’s Head Coverings and their fantastically presumed mystical associations with the equally fantastic role of angels in creation (1 Cor 11:3-16).

    This is the other verse:

    These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor 10:11)

    Sorry, you still haven’t explained what it would have to do with anything … 🙁

  6. Rivers
    January 15, 2015 @ 9:26 am

    Mario,

    1. It doesn’t logically follow that because a few individuals associated with Gnosticism happened to interpret scripture a certain way, that the origin of the interpretation is “Gnostic.” Everyone that I know who thinks that the angels were the ALHYM of Genesis 1:26 are deriving the idea from evidence in the Hebrew scriptures (some of which I cited in my previous comment).

    2. I respect your opinion. Every one should consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind. I see no grammatical or contextual evidence to suggest that “us” are “our” in Genesis 1:26 refers to “divine attributes” either. Thus, I’m not persuaded by your interpretation.

    3. I did explain how Paul associated “the angels” (1 Corinthians 10:11) with the image of God and the order of the creation of the man and the woman (1 Corinthians 11:7-9). This is Paul’s own inspired commentary on Genesis 1:26. I think the reference to “the angels” here comes from his understanding of why the plural “us” and “our” were referring to ALHYM.

    If you think you can offer a more plausible interpretation of the reference to “the angels” in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10, why don’t you explain it (instead of just scoffing at things you don’t want to agree with). 🙂

  7. Mario
    January 15, 2015 @ 1:57 am

    Rivers

    That fact that “the origin of Gnosticism is quite obscure” is the very reason that we should disregard it whenever we interpret any part of the canonical scriptures.

    Let’s put something straight, that you seem to have some difficulty with. That Gnosticism didn’t have “any influence on anything written in the scriptures”, does not imply that Gnosticism didn’t have any influence in the way the scriptures were interpreted. For instance, that “angels created Adam”, is a typical Gnostic myth (Valentinus, Saturninus, Basilides) that Gnostics presumed to read in the Scriptures.

    Your objections to the points I made about the angels and creation are certainly warranted. The evidence is circumstantial.

    I am sorry for all the years that you seem to have expended researching, but is not only “circumstantial”, but very, very weak, to be kind.

    In the context of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, I think Paul is using Genesis 1:26 as the basis for his understanding that male and female members of the churches should adorn themselves differently because they were not created as equals.

    I am sure that Christianity can not only survive, but also be explained without resorting to Paul’s funny quirks about Women’s Head Coverings

    … and you still haven’t explained what 1 Corinthians 10:11 has got to do with anything … 🙁

  8. Rivers
    January 14, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

    Mario,

    That fact that “the origin of Gnosticism is quite obscure” is the very reason that we should disregard it whenever we interpret any part of the canonical scriptures. Just like we don’t believe in pink elephants when there is no evidence that they exist, we shouldn’t speculate about Gnosticism’s influence on the apostolic writers either (since there’s no evidence that they had any awareness of it).

    Your objections to the points I made about the angels and creation are certainly warranted. The evidence is circumstantial. However, when dealing with the interpretation of the ancient biblical material, we don’t always have the whole story. Like solving a crime, the best we can do is try to piece together an coherent explanation of the evidence.

    It seems to me that there is less evidence for any of the other options that I’ve research over the years. That is why I favor the conclusions I’ve drawn about the relationship between “the image of God” and the angelic involvement in creation (and other communication from the unseen YHWH). If you have any better options, I’m certainly open to considering the evidence you can put forward. 🙂

    In the context of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, I think Paul is using Genesis 1:26 as the basis for his understanding that male and female members of the churches should adorn themselves differently because they were not created as equals. Apparently, Paul understood that “the man (male) is created in the image and glory of God” whereas “the woman is the (lesser) glory of the man” since Adam was made first, and Eve was made to honor him (1 Corinthians 11:7-9; Genesis 2:20).

    The woman was given “long hair” as a natural “covering” (1 Corinthians 11:15) so that it could be worn tied up on her head so as not to disgrace her husband (1 Corinthians 11:5-6). This comes from Numbers 5:17 where the hair of an adulterous woman was “unloosed” in order to demonstrate her shamefulness in the present of the Lord.

    The mention of “the angels” (1 Corinthians 10;11) in this context of the creation of the man and the woman strongly suggests to me that this is how Paul understood the “let us make the man in our image” (Genesis 1:26) aspect of the Genesis story.

  9. Mario
    January 14, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

    Rivers,

    it seems like you could not ignore my comment for Jonathan … 🙂

    As for Gnosticism in general, I am not quite sure what you mean by “biblical era” (only OT or also NT?). While it is more than likely that Gnosticism was not even incipient, by the time the latest canonical book of the OT were concluded, the origins of Gnosticism are so obscure, that I wonder how you can exclude its presence and influence in the 1st century CE.

    Anyway, it is precisely because I affirm that Gnosticism didn’t have “any influence on anything written in the scriptures”, that I exclude that in the Scripture there is any text affirming (or even just implying, or even just hinting) that “angels were involved in man’s creation”.

    And now, let’s look at your “proofs”.

    1. It is true that ‘elohiym is plural (of the rarely used singular ‘elowah, in turn probably prolonged from ‘el, whose fundamental meaning is “mighty”, in turn shortened from ‘ayil, “ram”). What you omitted to say is that, when ‘elohiym is referred to THE God (YHWH), the singular verb is normally used, as in Genesis 1:1.

    2. I evidently need to repeat that God may well, with that plural (“Let us make” – Gen 1:26) have addressed His heavenly court. Does it mean that it was their “image and likeness” that God was referring to, rather than His own? Of course not! In any case, in Gen 1:27, the Hebrew verb translated “created” (bara’) is in the singular. Sorry, no angels … 🙁

    3 None of the verses that you cite from the book of Job even remotely suggests that the “sons of God” had an active role in creation, nor, in particular, the creation of humans.

    4. Psalm 8:5 simply won’t help you in your claim that “angels created Adam”, nor will Genesis 5:1, where, again, the Hebrew verb translated “created” (bara’) is in the singular.

    5. Care to explain how 1 Corinthians 10:11 would have anything to do with associating “the angels” with “the creation of the man and the woman”?

  10. Rivers
    January 14, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

    Mario,

    Why would you say that “the idea that angels were involved in man’s creation” is a “Gnostic idea”? There was no such thing as “Gnosticism” during the biblical era, and no evidence that it had any influence on anything written in the scriptures. Someone of your superior intelligence should be able to do better than a sophomoric appeal to the boogie-man of “Gnosticism” as a guilt-by-association tactic. 🙂

    Those who consider that the Genesis creation involved the angels derive that conclusion from indications in the biblical testimony itself. Here’s a summary for you to think about:

    1. One of the words translated “God” in biblical Hebrew is ALHYM (which is a plural noun) used with both singular and plural pronounds. This suggests that YHWH himself was not the only being involved in acts that are attribute to “God” (e.g. Genesis 1:1).

    2. In Genesis 1:26, the word ALHYM (“God”) is used with the plural pronouns “us” and “our.” This suggests that God doesn’t refer only to YHWH himself when man is being created.

    3. Job seems to have understood that there were “sons of God” who were present along with YHWH during the time of the creation (Job 38:1, 7). He also understood that these “sons of God” were part of the heavenly court (Job 1:6-7; Job 2:1-2) and could be given divine power over human affairs (Job 1:12).

    4. The Pslamist understood that human beings were “made a little lower than the angels” (ALYHM) when the man was created in “the image of God (ALHYM)” (Genesis 5:1).

    5. Paul also associated “the angels” with the creation of the man and the woman (1 Corinthians 10:11).

  11. Mario
    January 14, 2015 @ 9:52 am

    Jonathan

    I am wondering then how you feel about the two cherubim on either side of the mercy seat, or the two anointed ones, etc. Do you relate these to the Word and the Spirit?

    I think that those “cherubim spreading their wings” in Exodus 37:9 are simply part of a detailed description of the Ark of the Covenant. More difficult to say about the “two anointed ones” in Zechariah 4:14, due to its character of vision, but I still believe they should be identified with Joshua and Zerubbabel, the priest and the governor.

    So no, I believe that Word and the Spirit have nothing to do with angels or anointed ones: they are God’s own attributes.

    Nor do I believe that angels were involved in man’s creation. As I have already commented, the idea that “angels created Adam” is Gnostic through and through.

  12. Mario
    January 13, 2015 @ 11:10 am

    Rivers

    [January 13, 2015 at 8:37 am]

    The translation of John 1:14a (which I don’t dispute at all) does not make any case for you bizarre interpretation of the clause.

    You “don’t dispute at all” “the translation of John 1:14a”, that is the translation of the Greek ho logos sarx egeneto with the English “the Word became flesh”.

    So it is NOT a matter of translation, BUT of interpretation. You deny that “the Word” is something that becomes someone and insist that it would be a “name” attributed to Jesus by the Johannine author (NOT by the apostles during Jesus’ earthly mission, as was gradually clarified), with reference to his becoming known at the time of his baptism by John. Now, is there a Scriptural example for SOMETHING egeneto SOMEONE in the precise sense of “something became a living being (actually, a human being)”? There is. Compare:

    kai egeneto ho anthrôpos eis psychên zôsan “The man [that God formed from the soil of the ground] became a living being. (Gen 2:7 LXX)

    [January 13, 2015 at 8:37 am]

    Your version of “theophany” is certainly not the only way to explain Abraham’s encounter with the “three men” that are called “the Lord” in Genesis 18-19.

    I am not affirming that it is “not the only way”. It is certainly the only way that doesn’t look suspiciously “para-trinitarian”, though, with the interpretation that “the ‘three men’ are [collectively] called ‘the Lord’”. Once again, “the one man who remained to negotiate with Abraham” may well have said “I will go down now and see” (Gne 18:21), but there is no evidence that he (He) ever did: we only read that “two [shanayim] angels [malakim] came to Sodom” (Gen 19:1).

    BTW, there is no way of knowing, from the unpunctuated MT, whether Abraham (Gen 18:3) and/or Lot (Gen 19:2,18) address, respectively the “three men” and/or the “two angels” as ‘adonay (a special plural reserved for the LORD: “my LORD”) or as ‘adoni (an ordinary plural, “my lords”).

  13. Rivers
    January 13, 2015 @ 9:09 am

    Mario,

    Your version of “theophany” is certainly not the only way to explain Abraham’s encounter with the “three men” that are called “the Lord” in Genesis 18-19. It would make perfectly good sense if Abraham was simply having a conversation with all three of the men and understood that YHWH was speaking to him through them all.

    Your attempt to distinguish YHWH (as one of the men) from the “angels” (the other two, Genesis 19:1) is unnecessary and doesn’t fit the language in the context. For example, the one man who remained to negotiate with Abraham said “I will go down now [to Sodom]” (Genesis 18:21). This shows that all three of the men represented YHWH (and not just one of them).

    Another consideration is that when it refers to “the two angels” (Genesis 19:1), it can be taken to infer that the third man who remained with Abraham was a third angel (especially since all three of them were introduced as “men”, Genesis 18:2). It’s unlikely that Genesis 19:1 was intended to make a distinction between three men (other than that two of them left Abraham’s place to go down to Sodom).

  14. Rivers
    January 13, 2015 @ 8:37 am

    Mario,

    The translation of John 1:14a (which I don’t dispute at all) does not make any case for you bizarre interpretation of the clause. Here are the reasons:

    1. There is no evidence that “became flesh” was ever used to speak of someone’s birth. Thus, you cannot substantiate your assumption that this clause was referring to anything that happened when Jesus Christ was born.

    2. The writer of the 4th Gospel never used GINOMAI (“become”) to refer to birth. He always used GENNAW. Thus, you have no grammatical basis for your assumption that “the word became flesh” refers to the birth of Jesus.

    3. The context of John 1:6-15 is talking about things that happened as a result of the public ministries of John the baptizer (John 1:6-9, 15) and Jesus Christ (John 1:10-13). Thus, there is no contextual basis for taking “the word became flesh” as a sudden shift to the time of the birth of Jesus.

    4. The two clauses in John 1:14 are connected grammatically by the word “and” and there is nothing in the context that warrants any disconnection of the two clauses. Thus, it’s more likely that “the word became flesh AND dwelt among us” is referring to two things that happened at the same time. Thus, there is no basis for your theory that John 1:14a happened at the time of the birth of Jesus and that John 1:14b happened 30 years later.

    5. The context of John 1:6-15 doesn’t give any indication that John 1:14 is speaking of two different periods of time. It makes perfectly good sense that “the word became flesh AND dwelt among us” is referring to the time when Jesus was manifested to the apostles by John the baptizer and began living among them. This is what the writer described in detail later in the context (John 1:29-49).

    6. Your idea that LOGOS means “an eternal attribute of God” is never the way Jesus or the apostles used the word. Thus, there is no reason to think that “the word became flesh” was referring to a divine attribute becoming anything. You’re just making it all up and arguing in circles.

  15. Jonathan Jensen
    January 13, 2015 @ 8:04 am

    Mario,

    That’s interesting. You know, I am wondering then how you feel about the two cherubim on either side of the mercy seat, or the two anointed ones, etc. Do you relate these to the Word and the Spirit? I kind of take the Word and the Spirit to be about the same thing, in that the word comes out with a breath, and the word gives life, and the spirit gives life. The Word is indeed the command of God, as in Deuteronomy, the devarim. The Spirit is the life, in that everything that breathes is alive (for all intents and purposes). I can see some early theologians probably having epiphanies about this, where they could conclude from both this and Jesus’ words about the Spirit that the Son is begotten of the Father, but the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. In other words, from the command (Word) comes life, or the breath (the Spirit), and I can imagine this being very significant to them. It’s significant to myself in its own way.

    In any case, the reason I asked about the two anointed cherubim (I made a little stretch there) is because there are those that believe that these are Jesus and Satan (no joke), through whom God says, “let us make man in our image”, in that they are made either righteous or wicked. As far as that which is with God, certainly only His Word, Spirit, Wisdom, and things like that are said to be there: extensions of Himself or that which is produced by Himself. As for me personally, I feel rather that being in God’s image pertains to God, and not to God and Satan, although both could be called “elohim”.

    What do you think?
    -Jon

  16. Mario
    January 13, 2015 @ 6:39 am

    Rivers

    [January 12, 2015 at 12:28 pm]

    I think Mario’s attempt to find “essential attributes of God” in the language of the Hebrew scriptures is for the purpose of trying to substantiate his theory that John 1:1-3, 14 was referring to some sort of “incarnation” of something that existed before Jesus Christ was born.

    It is NOT “some sort of ‘incarnation’ of ‘something’ that existed before Jesus Christ was born”: it is the straightforward translation of ho logos sarx egeneto (“the Word became flesh” – John 1:14). Funny that those who (claim to) give primary importance to grammar, text and context need to go out of their way to … find other ways … 🙂

    [January 12, 2015 at 1:27 pm]

    Your explanation to John doesn’t work because “face to face” implies that both Moses and God have a “face.”

    So, how do you explain the (apparent) contradiction between Exodus 33:20 and Exodus 33:11? (In case you failed to notice, your comment of January 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm gives no explanation at all …)

    [January 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm]
    1. So you deny that the invisible God YHWH, in His omnipotence, can (and does) adopt an appearance – human or non human – by which to manifest Himself to humans? YES or NO?
    2-3. C’mon! Of course Trinitarians would agree with the way you treat the “three men”, collectively, as Lord! What is the point of you citing Gen 19:24? Are you suggesting that there is a reason for speaking twice about the Lord, who “rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah”, and who “sent down from the sky” the same stuff? What?
    4. So, in what sense, pray tell, would God have made “humankind in our image, after our likeness”, “humankind in his own image” (Gen 1:26-27). C’mon, don’t be shy! 🙂
    5. Car you please explain how 1 Cor 11:2-16 would be relevant to explaining Gen 1:26-27? In particular, 1 Cor 1:10. Oh, BTW, it is simply unwarranted by any text that you would write that “angels created the man”. 🙁
    6. So, not only it is angels that would have created Adam, but the true meaning of that “in our image, after our likeness” would mean that Adam was of “male gender”, because the angels “always appeared as ‘men’”. Yikes! Do you seriously believe what you say? Are you at all aware that the idea that “angels created Adam” is Gnostic through and through? Are you at all aware that Islam inherited this idea from Gnosticism?
    7. So, after repeating that hypostasis is used “by the biblical writers” “always to mean ‘confidence’ or ‘assurance’”, after denying that “the apostles ever used ‘UPOSTASIS to mean ‘foundation’”, you translate hypostasis in Hebrews 1:3 with the highly philosophical and unusual term “subsistence”. (In case you’re not aware, the Latin subsistentia is used by Augustine to translate the Greek hypostasis) Interesting … 😉

    [January 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm]

    What do you think a “theophany” is? Who or what do you think “the Lord” was in Genesis 18 that you think makes one of “the three men” different than the “two angels” that went down to Sodom?

    A theophany is an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans. I have already explained that the ONLY way to explain “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD” (Gen 18:22) is through the following “The two [shanayim] angels [malakim] came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. (Gen 19:1).

    3-2 = 1

    What’s your problem with that?

  17. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

    Mario,

    … addendum to previous reply to you.

    What do you think a “theophany” is? Who or what do you think “the Lord” was in Genesis 18 that you think makes one of “the three men” different than the “two angels” that went down to Sodom?

  18. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

    Mario,

    These points correspond to your previous reply to me:

    1. I really can’t answer this question because I don’t make the distinctions between angels that you are loading into it. I think the biblical writers understood that God the Father is an unseen spirit being (John 1:18; John 4:24; 1 Timothy 6:16). The angels were called “spirits” (Hebrews 1:4) but appeared as “men” (Genesis 18-19). Thus, I would attribute any anthropomorphic language to the angels (who had a visible appearance and bodily functions).

    2-3. Trinitarians certainly would not agree with what I’m suggesting about Genesis 18-19. With regard to “theophany”, I don’t have a problem with the term as long as it’s understood that the evidence suggests that only “angels” appeared as “men”, and not that YHWH himself ever appeared (John 1:18). God merely spoke through “angels” and “men” (Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 2:2) when He resided in heaven (Genesis 19:24).

    4. The reason that “the image and likeness of God” cannot be “spiritual” (as you suggest) is because neither word means anything “spiritual.” If you research the usage of the Hebrew words translated “image” and “likeness” (Genesis 1:26) they always refer to the physical appearance or form of something. Even when “likeness” is occasionally used in a figurative sense, it always refers to something perceptible by sight. You’re making the same mistake with these terms that you do with LOGOS because you disregard the biblical usage of the words.

    5. I don’t think Paul’s inspired commentary is “irrelevant” (as you say) at all. Paul used the distinction between “image of God” and “glory of man” to identify the purpose for the difference between the male and female genders (1 Corinthians 11:3-16; Genesis 1:26). The women in the churches were required to wear their “long hair” bound on top (covering) their heads (1 Corinthians 11:10, 15) for the purpose of honoring the fact that the angels created the man as “the image and glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7) and the woman to originate from him, and to serve him (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

    6. No, “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) simply referred to the male gender of Adam (which he shared with the angels who always appeared as “men”). The writer said that Adam “became the father of a son in his likeness and image” because Seth was a male child (Genesis 5:3). This follows from what is reiterated from Genesis 1:26 in Genesis 5:1-2.

    7. Here is how I would render Hebrews 1:3:

    “And he [the son] is the radiance of His [God’s] glory, and the exact representation of His [God’s] subsistence, and upholds all things by the word of his power.”

  19. Mario
    January 12, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

    Dale

    Justin and Tertullian and Origen and Novatian are all clear examples, in my view.

    Of Justin I have already spoken. Tertullian still did not have Origen’s notion of “eternal generation”, and anyway his activity was somewhat after that of Irenaeus. Origen and Novatian are later than Irenaeus.

    Way too metaphysical, I think [to “contend that the OT suggests that God’s dabar and ruwach are precisely those essential structural attributes, through which (which …), He interacts with His Creation”]. I would say that the idea is just that it is by his command (word) and by his invisible power (spirit) that he governs. Which is just to say, really, that he governs directly and solely, and immanently.

    What is “too metaphysical”? Unless you are suggesting that His word and His word and his spirit are not essentially His, you are saying exactly the same as I am saying.

  20. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

    Mario,

    Your explanation to John doesn’t work because “face to face” implies that both Moses and God have a “face.” Do you see any evidence in the story that YHWH has a “face”? We have to pay attention to the language that the writer is using. When Jacob and Gideon saw God “face to face”, they were speaking to angels (Genesis 32:24-30; Judges 6:22).

    I think you’re also ignoring the evidence in Acts 7:35-38 where we learn that the Jews understood that is was an “angel” that spoke to Moses and gave him the oracles of the Law.

  21. Mario
    January 12, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

    I must have missed something – but how does reconcile Exodus 33 v 11 with verse 20 of the same chapter?

    John,

    good question. Let’s try to answer it from the relevant text, without resorting to angels (= distinct spiritual entity, a messenger of God, capable of assuming a visible and human – or quasi human – likeness), but only to “angel” (= an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans). Here are the verses you cite:

    The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the tent. (Exodus 33:11)

    But he [the Lord] added, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

    These two verses, unless there is something else, form a contradiction:

    (1): No one can see the Lord and live [from Exodus 33:20]
    (2): Moses saw the Lord face to face [from Exodus 33:1]
    (3) Moses should have died, when he saw the Lord face to face [from 1, 2]

    Yet Moses did NOT die etc.

    So, how to we reconcile the apparent contradiction? I suggest that the explanation is to be found in the entire exchange between Moses and the Lord at Exodus 33:18-23. And this is how I interpret it: when “[t]he Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend” (Ex 33:11), the Lord never manifested to Moses His full Glory. Moses must have been aware of this, otherwise he would not have asked the Lord, “Show me your glory”. And the Lord will NOT show His Glory (kabowd) to Moses, but his “goodness” (tuwb). So Moses didn’t die. (Q.E.D.)

  22. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

    Dale,

    I agree with your comments.

    I think Mario’s attempt to find “essential attributes of God” in the language of the Hebrew scriptures is for the purpose of trying to substantiate his theory that John 1:1-3, 14 was referring to some sort of “incarnation” of something that existed before Jesus Christ was born. I don’t find any of it persuasive at all.

    As you noted, his explanation is too “metaphysical” and too complicated to be consistent with the simplicity of the Hebrews language as well as logical probability.

  23. Mario
    January 12, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

    Rivers

    1. No, you did NOT “respond to my question about how God manifested himself to human being[s]”. This is the last time I am going to ask you: how would you discriminate between angel (= a distinct spiritual entity, a messenger of God, capable of assuming a visible and human – or quasi human – likeness) and “angel” (= an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans). The question s perfectly clear …

    2-3. I will leave you to your strained understanding of the theophany at Genesis 18. The fact remains that the third “man” (explicitly referred to as “Lord” when He is on His own with Abraham) apparently never made it to Sodom, or anyway never met Lot. I am sure that you will find many trinitarians agreeing with you, anyway … 😉

    4. Your comment (exclusively based on the NT, BTW) is a spectacular non sequitur. The question is whether the invisible God created humans in His own image or in the image of the members of the heavenly court. To interpret Gen 1:26, and, in particular Gen 1:27 in the latter sense, for the simple reason that you refuse to consider “image and likeness” in a spiritual, rather than bodily sense, is a manifestly “motivated” (read: biased) reading.

    5. Irrelevant.

    6. Your reply is a total evasion of my question: “are you seriously affirming that you see no essential, qualitative difference between God making humankind ‘in our image, after our likeness’, ‘in his image, in the image of God’ (Gen 1:26-27) and Adam fathering his son Seth ‘in his own likeness, according to his image’ [Gen 5:1]”?

    7. Instead of long-winded “explanations”, please simply provide your translation of this Greek phrase …

    hos ôn apaugasma tês doxês kai charaktêr tês ypostaseôs autou [Heb 1:3]

    … which is a self-sufficient semantic unit and, therefore, IS translatable. Thanks 🙂

    (If you won’t/can’t, I will understand …)

  24. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

    John,

    Good point about Exodus 33:20.

    I think Mario isn’t taking into account that the expression “face to face” (Exodus 33:11) suggests that both Moses and the one who spoke with him had “faces.” This makes good sense if Moses was actually speaking to an “angel” (as the apostles understood he was, Acts 7:35-38) because those heavenly visitors had a bodily form that functioned like an human being.

    The same is true in the account where Jacob saw God “face to face” when he wrestled all night with the “man” (Genesis 32:24) at Peniel (Genesis 32:24-32). This was probably the “angel of God” that “spoke” to him in the dream earlier (Genesis 31:11). That angel simply called himself “God” as did the one who spoke to Moses (Genesis 31:13; Exodus 3:6).

    Based upon the evidence, I doubt that the ancient Hebrews believed that YHWH had a physical (visible) appearance or an actual voice. Rather, they used anthropomorphic language because the angels actually appeared to the Patriarchs with bodies that had the function of speech just like an human being.

  25. Dale
    January 12, 2015 @ 10:10 am

    ” At the time Irenaeus wrote, not only the full-fledged “trinity” was only in the remote future, but even Subordinationism had not been fully established. ”

    Agreed on the first point. But the second point is trivially true, if by “Subordinationism” you mean 4th c. “Arian” theology. I think it’s obviously false, though, regarding late 2nd and early 3rd c. theology. Justin and Tertullian and Origen and Novatian are all clear examples, in my view.

    ” I contend that the OT suggests that God’s dabar and ruwach are precisely those essential structural attributes, through which (which …), He interacts with His Creation.”

    Way too metaphysical, I think. I would say that the idea is just that it is by his command (word) and by his invisible power (spirit) that he governs. Which is just to say, really, that he governs directly and solely, and immanently. I just don’t see any interest in the OT in listing God’s essential attributes, or defining what kind of being he is. Certainly, at least by the time of 2nd Isaiah they thought of him as a unique god, unlimited in power and knowledge and goodness – but I think you’d be hard pressed to find any doctrine of “structural attributes” in the OT, or really any detailed mechanics of divine interaction with the cosmos.

    Yeah, simplicity is an obvious problem for trinitarians. Hasker simply rejects it, which I think is the best move. In ancient and medieval times, though, they thought they had powerful metaphysical and theological reasons to maintain it.

  26. John
    January 12, 2015 @ 10:02 am

    Mario
    I must have missed something – but how does reconcile Exodus 33 v 11 with verse 20 of the same chapter?

    Blessings
    John

  27. Rivers
    January 12, 2015 @ 9:52 am

    Mario,

    Thanks for the response. Here are my replies to your comments:

    1. I did respond to your question about how God manifested himself to human being. I think the biblical evidence suggests that it only happened through mediation of angelic visitors (Hebrews 2:2) and human beings (Hebrews 1:1-2). The apostles understood that “no man has ever seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Thus, there is no reason to think that the unseen God ever appeared to anyone (1 Timothy 6:16).

    2. The distinction you are trying to imply about “the presence of the Lord” in Genesis 18:2 doesn’t work because the text says that Abraham addressed the three men as “Lord.” There isn’t any distinction made about “the presence of the Lord.” Rather, Abraham speaks directly to the men and addresses them as “Lord” (Genesis 18:3).

    3. The distinction you are trying to make between “the Lord” and two of “the men” in Genesis 18:22 also doesn’t work because the one of the three men who remained to negotiate with Abraham said “I will go down now [to Sodom]” (Genesis 18:21-22). This shows that that term “the Lord” applied to all three of the men (angels) and not only to the one who remained with Abraham. The two “angels” (Genesis 19:1) who departed toward Sodom were “the Lord” in the same sense as the third one (Genesis 18:22).

    4. With regard to “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26), I’m just pointing out that the only way that the ancient Hebrews saw or spoke with God was through the mediation of “angels” (Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:35, 38) and human beings (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 10:34-36). God the Father has always been “unseen” (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16). Thus, the only way to account for an “image of God” would be his messengers (which are usually seen in a male human form when they appear throughout scripture).

    5. I’m glad you see the plausibility of interpreting the “us” and “our” in Genesis 1:26 as a reference to the angelic host in the heavenly court (1 Kings 22:19-22). I think Paul interpreted it that way too when he was applying the story to the appearance of the men and women in the churches (1 Corinthians 11:10, 16).

    6. With regard to Seth, I think “the image and likeness of Adam” language (Genesis 5:1) simply meant they could see that Seth was a male child (presumably, because he had the appropriate physical features). Likewise, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the angels always appear in the same form as a male human being in scripture.

    7. I think you’re making the fallacy of assuming an etymological definition of ‘UPOSTASIS and not paying attention to how it was specifically used by the biblical writers (always to mean “confidence” or “assurance” as it is used in Hebrews 3:14 and Hebrews 11:1). There’s no evidence that the apostles ever used ‘UPOSTASIS to mean “foundation.”

    In the context of Hebrews 1:3-4, the point that author is making is that Jesus became glorified and was exalted above the angels to “sit on the right hand of God.” This refers to the fact that he was placed in a position of that assured him of the power to rule over all things that God the Father had created. When Paul used ‘UPOSTASIS, he was also referring to the confidence he had as one who spoke on behalf of the Lord (2 Corinthian 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17).

  28. Mario
    January 11, 2015 @ 4:56 pm

    Rivers

    [January 11, 2015 at 3:19 pm]

    Who ever said that Moses was the only person who saw God “face to face”? He certainly was the only one among the Israelites during the Exodus, though …

    … and, of course, you have carefully avoided to explain how you would discriminate between angel (= a distinct spiritual entity, a messenger of God, capable of assuming a visible and human – or quasi human – likeness) and “angel” (= an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans). 🙁

    As for Genesis 18-19, instead of blabbering, let’s look at the critical verses that I have already repeatedly cited.

    He [Abraham] lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing across from him. When he saw [them] he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (Gen 18:2)

    The act of bowing means that Abraham has recognized the presence of the Lord, NOT who of the three “men” is (=represents) the Lord.

    And the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham was still standing before the Lord. (Gen 18:2)

    The only way to explain what happened is that “the men” who “went toward Sodom” are the very same two that we find at the beginning of Chapter 19, and that the Lord (YHWH) stayed behind with Abraham:

    The two [shanayim] angels [malakim] came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face toward the ground. (Gen 19:1)

    Easy peasy. All you had to do was read … 🙂

    Where do you read that “Adam was made ‘in the image and likeness of God’ because his physical appearance resembled that of the angelic visitors [sic]”? God may well, with that plural (“Let us make” – Gen 1:26) have addressed His heavenly court. Does it mean that it was their “image and likeness” that God was referring to, rather than His own? I leave it for you to entertain this … er … “interesting” idea …

    But just tell me: are you seriously affirming that you see no essential, qualitative difference between God making humankind “in our image, after our likeness”, “in his image, in the image of God” (Gen 1:26-27) and Adam fathering his son Seth “in his own likeness, according to his image”. Just curious … 😉

    [January 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm]

    There is no connection whatsoever between your rather … er … free paraphrase/explanation (“Jesus Christ attained the same power that enabled God Himself to uphold the universe after God glorified him”) and the original Greek text:

    charaktêr tês ypostaseôs autou

    While “exact representation” is a very appropriate translation of charaktêr, the basic meaning of ypostasis is “foundation”, etymologically “what stands beneath” or “sub-stance”.

  29. Rivers
    January 11, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

    Mario,

    … continued from previous comment.

    With regard to XARAKTHR as it is used in the context of Hebrews 1:3-4, I think it’s evident that it is referring to the assurance and confidence that Jesus Christ attained at the time when God “appointed him heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2) and “he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 1:3).

    Since XARAKTHR (“exact representation”) is only used in Hebrews 1:3, it’s critical to discern the meaning the writer intended by recognizing how it is used along with the other words in the passage. The principle word that modifies XARAKTHR in this text is ‘UPOSTASIS, which meant “confidence” or “assurance” (Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 11:1). Thus, the writer was probably saying that Jesus Christ attained the same power that enabled God Himself to uphold the universe after God glorified him.

  30. Rivers
    January 11, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

    Mario,

    Some of the assertions you are making are simply inaccurate. I think you are making selective appeals to only the part of the evidence that happens to agree with your perspective.

    For example, Moses was certainly not the only person who saw God “face to face.” Both Jacob and Gideon also knew God “face to face” but were actually interacting with “men” and an “angel” (Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22). The term “face to face” was used because the angelic visitors actually had a “face” (like Moses, Jacob, and Gideon did).

    Your attempt to distinguish between the three angels who visited Abraham is also unwarranted and erroneous. The text plainly refers to “three men” who visited Abraham (Genesis 18:2). Abraham worshiped all three of the “men” and addressed them as all as “lord” (Genesis 18:2). The language in Genesis 18:20-22 shows that “the lord” referred to all three of “the men” even though only two of them met with Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:1).

    I think you’ve misunderstood what I suggested about “the image of God” in Genesis 1:26). The fact that God is always “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16) is the reason that the ancient Hebrews used “image and likeness of God (ALHYM)” to speak of the angelic visitors (ALHYM) that they could see carrying out the will of YHWH. Adam was made “in the image and likeness of God” because his physical appearance resembled that of the angelic visitors. That is probably why the text says “let US make Adam in OUR image” (Genesis 1:26).

    The Hebrew words for “image” and “likeness” are never used in scripture for anything other than a visible and physical representation of something. There is no reason to think that the writer of Genesis was using them any differently. He used the same language when Seth was born and they could see that he was a male child (Genesis 5:3).

  31. John
    January 11, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

    Mario
    Regarding QMA
    ” the doctrine of the trinity does NOT reconcile us with any experimental observations- i.e. scriptural texts”

    Precisely.

    We can speculate about theoretical trinity models – yet Trinitarians battle to describe models which are ‘consistent’ and which reconcile with the scriptures!

    There are none and never will be because the doctrine is a falsehood!

    Blessings
    John

  32. Mario
    January 11, 2015 @ 11:03 am

    John,

    it is not so much that “the basis of the analogy is incorrect”. After all, one may rightly contend that how a photon (or even a particle endowed with mass) interferes “with itself” is a logical-rational conundrum, in a way not different to how, according to the doctrine of the “trinity”, God is “one being and three persons”. The fallacy of the QMA, though, is that while QM, with its paradoxes, is the only way to reconcile the theory with experimental observations, the doctrine of the “trinity” doesn’t reconcile us with ANY “experimental observations”, that is with any Scriptural texts.

  33. Mario
    January 11, 2015 @ 10:48 am

    Rivers,

    Interesting that you write “angel”, with reference to Exodus 33:11 and Numbers 12:8, and then to Acts 7:35,38. Now, pray tell, how can you discriminate between an angel (= a distinct spiritual entity, a messenger of God, capable of assuming a visible and human – or quasi human – likeness) and an “angel” (= an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans)? This is a challenge. 🙂

    You simply cannot decide dogmatically who or what Moses saw on the basis of some verses of the NT. The OT explicitly distinguished between Moses, who had the privilege of “seeing God” and all the rest of the Israelites.

    As for Genesis 18, there is a clear distinction between the three “men” that visited Abraham Gen 18:2. When two of them left for Sodom, the Lord remained with Abraham (Gen 18:22). The two [shanayim] angels that left for Sodom are the same that met Lot (Gen 19:1). All you have to do is read … 😉

    That you deny that the image of God that was imprinted on humans at creation (Gen 1:26-27) is other than spiritual would lead to absurd consequences. After insisting that “no man has ever seen God at any time” (John 1:18), that God is “unseen” (1 Tim 6:16) are you suggesting that God, after all, is “something that is visible”, nay, even that in God there are male-female distinctions?

    There is no way you are not going to break your neck on this, if you insist …

    (Oh, BTW, when we read that the Son of God is charaktêr tês ypostaseôs autou, how do you understand that charaktêr?)

  34. Rivers
    January 11, 2015 @ 9:50 am

    John,

    Good points.

    Another problem with analogies from physics is that much of physics is based upon theoretical mathematics (thanks to Einstein, and not scientific observation). Thus, some of these analogies would break down simply because nobody can verify that some things at the quantum level actually exist.

  35. Rivers
    January 11, 2015 @ 9:41 am

    Mario,

    Exodus 33:11 and Numbers 12:8 were referring to the fact that Moses was speaking to an “angel’ when he spoke “face to face” with God. The angel “appeared to him” (Acts 7:35) and “spoke” to him (Acts 7:38).

    In biblical Hebrew, to speak “face to face” with someone requires that each being has a “face.” Thus, it is more likely that Moses spoke “face to face” with the angelic visitors who “spoke” the Law to him (Hebrews 2:2). That is why it was still understood by the apostles that “no man has ever seen God at any time” (John 1:18) because he is “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16).

    With regard to Genesis 18-19, I do know that Abraham and Lot actually saw “angels” who looked like “men”. That is evident throughout the story, and it is very simple to understand.

    Also, there is no evidence for your assertion that “the image of God is spiritual.” The words “image” and “likeness” always refer to an external form, and “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) do not refer to spiritual distinctions (at least not in biblical Hebrew).

    The words “spirit” and “image” cannot be associated in biblical Hebrew or Greek because “spirit” is invisible (John 3:8) and “image” always refers to something that is visible. Thus, to claim that “the image of God is spiritual” would be as silly to an ancient Hebrew as saying that “ice is hot” to a modern English speaker.

  36. John
    January 10, 2015 @ 11:33 pm

    Mario,
    My ‘take’ on the quantum mechanics analogy’ is that Trinitarians are saying that an electron can demonstrate ‘wave’ characteristics while at the same time show ‘mass’ characteristics.
    They would then try to analogise this with God existing in multiple forms.
    If accepted one might argue for some form of modalism.
    However, most physicists I know would argue that what appears as mass is just energy becoming manifest.
    So the basis of the analogy is incorrect.

    I’ve always argued that the key to understanding why the Trinity error still persists lies in the field of behavioural science – not theology.
    People persist in seeing what they want to see!

    Blessings
    John

  37. Mario
    January 10, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

    Rivers,

    I warned you, but you would not heed. You may find yourself trying to oppose 1 Timothy 6:16 and John 1:18 to Exodus 33:11 and Numbers 12:8 …

    [Abraham] “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing across from him” (Gen 18:2). “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD” (Gen 18:22).
    [Lot] “The two [shanayim] angels came to Sodom in the evening while Lot was sitting in the city’s gateway.” (Gen 19:1)
    You simply do not know who or what Abraham and Lot (who were NOT together) actually saw.

    It is doubtful that man was created in “the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26 – NOT of “heavenly messengers”, BTW, as clarified by Gen 1:27) in the exterior sense. The “image and likeness of God”, that, among all creatures, is attributed by God only to humans, is spiritual.

  38. Rivers
    January 10, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

    Mario,

    The apostles understood that God Himself is always “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16) and that “no man has ever seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Thus, whatever was appearing to the ancient Hebrews and speaking to them was not God. The heavenly angels and human prophets were only mediators (as was Jesus Christ, Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrew 2:2).

    The encounter that Abraham and Lot had with the three angels at Mamre and Sodom (Genesis 18-19) is a great example of why there is anthropomorphic language in biblical Hebrew. Throughout the context, the writer uses “angels” and “men” and “Lord” and “God” to refer to these messengers. They function just like human beings (but with superior authority and power).

    This is why the ancient Hebrews understood that the man was created in “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26). They perceived that their human form was like that of the heavenly messengers who were involved in the creation (Job 38:7; Psalms 8:3-5).

  39. Mario
    January 10, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

    John

    One of the sickest “arguments” is what I would call “Quantum Mechanics Analogy” (QMA). The “argument” goes somewhat like this: there are some aspects of QM that we simply do not manage to make sense of, in rational-logical terms, like, for instance, the “double slit” experiment. Nevertheless, we accept apparently absurd “explanations”, like a photon or particle interfering with itself, and/or following all virtual paths. Likewise, the QMA goes, even if the doctrine of the “trinity” seems to lead to absurd conclusions, there is no reason why we should not accept it.

    Question: can anybody point out the fallacy with the QMA? 🙂

  40. John
    January 10, 2015 @ 10:53 am

    Mario.
    I think you highlighted the nonsense contained in the conjoined twins argument some time ago.
    Wasn’t it you who commented on the absurdity of one consciousness ”sending’ another.. and creating another by ‘spiration !

    It’s patently absurd !

    We should really just reject this monstrosity called the Trinity out of hand – but we seem unable top let it go- seemingly drawn in by the scale of the absurdity.

    Blessings
    John

  41. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

    Reading your comment, at first, I was pleased that you seemed to be capable of “extrapolating the imagery of the ‘arms’ of God beyond the scope of the history of Israel and to include the work of the Genesis creation”.

    That is why I found it rather puzzling that, immediately afterwards, you contradicted yourself by affirming that what you had recognized as “imagery”, should be rejected because “arms”, “word” and “spirit” would be “anthropomorphic terms”. I am afraid that you overdid it, this time, in your … er … “sparring partner zeal” … 😉

    Likewise your talking of “[a]ngels and human beings [that] have arms and speak (…) and breath[e]” is along the same line. Far from me to deny theophanies in the OT, but I find it rather hazardous, on your part, to decide for yourself, once and for all, the nature and character of those theophanies. May I advice that you may risk to break your neck, discussing in detail the presence of God and/or men and/or angels in, say, Genesis 18 …

    I will simply ignore the rather repetitive conclusion of your comment … 🙁

  42. Rivers
    January 9, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

    Mario,

    I don’t have any issue with extrapolating the imagery of the “arms” of God beyond the scope of the history of Israel and to include the work of the Genesis creation (since it’s the same God that is being identified in the context of both Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 1).

    My concern is that “arms” and “word” (voice) and “spirit” (breath) are anthropomorphic terms. The biblical writers understood that “no man has seen God at any time” even after the appearing of Jesus Christ (John 1:18). Thus, I don’t think it’s likely that they were describing appendages or attributes of YHWH.

    The evidence in scripture suggests that what the ancient Hebrews saw and heard (in terms of physical form and function) was the result of angelic or human mediation (even though it could be attributed to God Himself). Angels and human beings have arms and speak (word) and breath (spirit). For example, it was an “angel” that Moses heard and saw in the burning bush (Acts 7:35-38). It was an “angel” whose voice was heard from heaven (Genesis 22:11-15). God “spoke” through the prophets and His son (Hebrews 1:1-2).

    With that said, as I noted earlier, I don’t think you’ve established any exegetical or contextual connection between the “everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27) and the “word” and “spirit” (Psalms 33:6). It just seems like you are trying to connect the two passages in order to suggest that God has these supposed “attributes” that are “eternal.”

    It’s also reasonable to consider that “word” and “spirit” are merely being used in parallel in Psalms 33:6 (and thus might not even be two different things in that context at all). Thus, even the “two arms = word + spirit” relationship you are trying to establish may not even be workable from the start.

  43. Rivers
    January 9, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

    Mario,

    I don’t have any issue with extrapolating the imagery of the “arms” of God beyond the scope of the history of Israel and to include the work of the Genesis creation (since it’s the same God that is being identified in the context of both Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 1).

    My concern is that “arms” and “word” (voice) and “spirit” (breath) are anthropomorphic terms. The biblical writers understood that “no man has seen God at any time” even after the appearing of Jesus Christ (John 1:18). Thus, I don’t think it’s likely that they were describing appendages or attributes of YHWH.

    The evidence in scripture suggests that what the ancient Hebrews saw and heard (in terms of physical form and function) was the result of angelic or human mediation (even though it could be attributed to God Himself). Angels and human beings have arms and speak (word) and breath (spirit). For example, it was an “angel” that Moses heard and saw in the burning bush (Acts 7:35-38). It was an “angel” whose voice was heard from heaven (Genesis 22:11-15). God “spoke” through the prophets and His son (Hebrews 1:1-2).

    With that said, as I noted earlier, I don’t think you’ve established any exegetical or contextual connection between the “everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27) and the “word” and “spirit” (Psalms 33:6). It just seems like you are trying to connect the two passages in order to suggest that God has these supposed “attributes” that are “eternal.”

    It’s also reasonable to consider that “word” and “spirit” are merely being used in parallel in Psalms 33:6 (and thus might not even be two different things in that context at all). Thus, even the “two arms = word + spirit” relationship you are trying to establish may not even work from the start.

  44. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

    The “visual trinitarian idol” to which I refer in the OP is obviously this:

    upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English.svg

  45. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

    Rivers

    That you call an “interesting idea” that the “arms” in Deuteronomy 33:27 MAY be the dabar and ruwach mentioned in Psalms 33:6 is good enough for me, at the moment. In fact, it is more than I would have ever expected from you … 😉

    As for the … er … everlasting issue of “context”, once again, what is your problem with interpreting the “arms” (zerowa) at Deut 33:27 as referring to the powers that God resorted BOTH to help “the sons of Israel” AND in Creation (Psalm 33:6)? What is the problem with admitting the obvious, viz. that God is endowed with his dabar and ruwach BOTH as Creator AND as Savior of Israel?

    Don’t you worry for a moment about “trying to give [me] a hard time”. I enjoy having a tough “sparring partner” … 🙂

  46. Rivers
    January 9, 2015 @ 11:53 am

    Mario,

    The problem is that the “arms” in Deuteronomy 33:27 don’t have to be the “word” and/or the “spirit” that is mentioned in Psalms 33:6. It’s an interesting idea, but you would need to be able to establish some kind of grammatical or contextual connection to make your proposition plausible.

    The other issue is the context. Deuteronomy 33:27 is specifically referring to the legal relationship between “the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:1) that God established with the nation after the came out of Egypt with Moses (Deuteronomy 33:2-4; Jeremiah 31:31-33). This doesn’t date backt to the time of the Genesis creation and is probably not the time that the Psalmist was alluding to in Psalms 33:6.

    I’m not trying to give you a hard time. I’m just offering some critical feedback based upon how I would assess the way you are trying to develop a connection between Deuteronomy 33:27 and Psalms 33:6 that just doesn’t seem to be consist with the evidence. 🙂

  47. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 11:18 am

    Rivers,

    I don’t understand your “logic”. I have already commented that Deut 33:27 is obscure enough for it to have been translated in totally different ways …

    “He spread out the primeval tent; he extended the ancient canopy” (NAB)
    “He subdues the ancient gods, shatters the forces of old” (NRSV)

    … although they have no textual foundation.

    What is your problem with interpreting the “arms” (zerowa) at Deut 33:27 as referring to the powers that God resorted BOTH to help “the sons of Israel” AND in Creation (Psalm 33:6)?

  48. Rivers
    January 9, 2015 @ 10:21 am

    Mario,

    There is another critical contextual consideration that I think undermines the plausibility of the connection you are trying to propose here too.

    The context of Deuteronomy 33:27 (“everlasting arms”) is about “the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:1) and their Law covenant that was established with Moses at Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2-4). Since there was no “Israel” until the time of Genesis 32, and no legal covenant with YHWH until the time of Exodus 3, the “everlasting arms” most certainly couldn’t be referring to anything that was happening when God created the heavens and the earth according to the context of Psalms 33:6.

  49. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 9:49 am

    Hi Dale

    Why think there is any connection between the Deuteronomy and Psalms passages, other than that Irenaeus says that there is one?

    That Irenaeus associated the image of God’s “hands” (Deut 33:27) with God’s dabar and ruwach (Psalm 33:6) seems a good starting point to me. At the time Irenaeus wrote, not only the full-fledged “trinity” was only in the remote future, but even Subordinationism had not been fully established. In fact I see Irenaeus’ stance as clearly distancing itself also from the incipient Subordinationism of Justin Martyr, with his deuteros theos filched straight from Philo. Also, when Irenaeus wrote, the theological reflection had very little to do with the NT (it was Irenaeus who indicated the 4 Canonical Gospels as the only ones to be accepted) and all to do with the OT, very much adopting arguments similar to those of Judaism. I believe there is substantial ground to affirm that Irenaeus’ OT image and association was NOT “pre-trinitarian”, not even in a Subordinationist sense.

    I think I know where, historically, the connection ultimately comes from. Next post…

    See if you can do better than me … 😉

    In any case, let’s suppose for sake of argument that the one passage illuminates the other. What point about the Son and Spirit do you think are meant by this claim that they are “God’s hands”?
    One might think that they are thereby called parts of God’s body, but I think that is too literal. I think we can only infer that the two of them are the means by which God does things. But note that this is wholly compatible with their being two separate and lesser beings than God, and with their having come into existence (if “eternal” is taken to mean everlasting, as in, existing for all the time that the cosmos exists).

    Let’s see.
    Of course God has no body, nor, consequently, literal proper parts of body. From this, though, it doesn’t follow that God has no structural attributes. I contend that the OT suggests that God’s dabar and ruwach are precisely those essential structural attributes, through which (which …), He interacts with His Creation.
    Having been so reluctant to considering (even “for sake of argument”) that God’s dabar and ruwach are, indeed, His eternal, essential, structural attributes –for which there is, al least, some possible support in the Scripture– why on earth should one want to insist on the Subordinationist, pre-trinitarian idea that the dabar and ruwach could, after all, be “two separate and lesser beings than God”, for which there is NO Scriptural support AT ALL, unless one projects it back on the Scripture from a Subordinationist and/or Trinitarian vantage point? Sometimes I suspect that … SELF-CENSORSHIP

    NOTE. To affirm that God’s dabar and ruwach are His eternal, essential, structural attributes requires to do away with the notion of Divine simplicity. As I don’t subscribe to “Classical theism”, that is no problem whatsoever to me. However, I just wonder how “trinitarians” can claim that a “tri-personal God” would be “simple”.

  50. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 9:48 am

    Francesco,

    this is not what I wrote. Read again, read properly. 🙁

  51. Francesco
    January 9, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    @ Mario

    I have no idea what an “at least pre-pre-existent person” is

  52. Dale
    January 9, 2015 @ 8:15 am

    Mario,

    I think Rivers is right. Why think there is any connection between the Deuteronomy and Psalms passages, other than that Irenaeus says that there is one?

    I think I know where, historically, the connection ultimately comes from. Next post…

    In any case, let’s suppose for sake of argument that the one passage illuminates the other. What point about the Son and Spirit do you think are meant by this claim that they are “God’s hands”?

    One might think that they are thereby called parts of God’s body, but I think that is too literal. I think we can only infer that the two of them are the means by which God does things. But note that this is wholly compatible with their being two separate and lesser beings than God, and with their having come into existence (if “eternal” is taken to mean everlasting, as in, existing for all the time that the cosmos exists).

  53. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 6:58 am

    Francesco,

    this is what I wrote:

    “I believe that Irenaeus never intended ‘Son’ to be used equivalently to refer to God’s eternal Word, as though the ‘Son’ was an eternal (or at least pre-pre-existent) person.”

    What is it that you don’t understand? 🙂

  54. Francesco
    January 9, 2015 @ 6:40 am

    What is an “at least pre-pre-existent person”?

  55. Pär Stenberg
    January 9, 2015 @ 5:40 am

    😀

  56. Dale
    January 9, 2015 @ 5:31 am

    Wow – I didn’t much like the image, but I did not see it in that way! I’ve changed the pic to another than Mario sent me.

    Readers: if you don’t know what we’re talking about with “goatse” – do NOT google that. Seriously.

  57. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 1:49 am

    Rivers,

    you are getting rather boring and repetitive … 🙁

    … next? 🙂

  58. Mario
    January 9, 2015 @ 1:47 am

    Pär,

    actually Dale had asked me if I wanted to retain the image. I must confess that I wasn’t aware, and even less have the sick imagination to perceive in it a … Heavenly gay icon. Anyway, good for you! 😉

    (Apparently all your interest was exhausted with that … 🙁 )

  59. Rivers
    January 8, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

    Mario,

    I don’t see where you have established any exegetical connection between the “arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27) and the two words “word” and “spirit” (Psalms 33:6).

    It’s wonderful to know that a couple of ancient scholars speculated about the connection, but their quotations don’t establish any substantial reason to correlation between the content of the passages either. Just because people have “two” arms and word and spirit add up to “two” words, there isn’t any exegetical or logical reason to draw the conclusion that these “two” things are in any way related (other than simply being attributed to God in two different contexts).

    Respectfully, this really amounts to nothing more than someone arguing that the angels say “holy, holy, holy” because the he presupposes that there is a “Triune Godhead.”

    I’m hoping that you will add more exegetical and logical substance to your next post in this series. 🙂

  60. Pär Stenberg
    January 8, 2015 @ 5:34 pm

    So… exactly why did you choose the heavenly “goatse” picture? If you do not know what I am talking about, I think you might have made a bad mistake in choosing a suiting image. 🙂

    On a different note, thank you Mario for this post. A good read indeed 🙂