Wednesday, May 23, 2018

1 Timothy 5:23: Brief Notes

I like William Mounce's Pastoral Letters commentary in the Word series, but have quibbles with him over some issues. 1 Timothy 5:23 reads:

"Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (KJV).

Greek (SBLGNT): μηκέτι ὑδροπότει, ἀλλὰ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ διὰ τὸν στόμαχον καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας.

Mounce reasons that Paul's words to Timothy deal with drinking wine for medicinal purposes only--something like an "elixir" (a panacea) that cures colds and about everything else. But do we have reason to believe the use of wine in this verse is that circumscribed?

It has been observed that Paul was probably quoting a notable proverb from antiquity. After all, the ancients seem to have extolled the virtues of wine in moderation: they recognized its healing properties when used moderately. However, is 1 Timothy 5:23 limiting temperate drinking (particularly, the imbibing of wine) to health purposes alone? Here are some thoughts culled from biblegateway although I hope to build on these sources later:

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: "use a little wine. Most people drank wine with their meals. It was watered down (often about two parts water to one part wine), and not distilled to a higher than natural degree of fermentation. Some have suggested that Timothy was abstaining from wine to avoid the criticism of the false teachers (4:3). your stomach. Wine was often used to settle stomachs and was thought to prevent dysentery; it could be used to disinfect water. Some restorative diets recommended water, others wine; wine was also used in some remedies (i.e., medicinally)."

Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament: Apparently for medicinal purposes, Timothy is told not to restrict himself to drinking water but to "use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." The word for wine is sometimes used in LXX for unfermented grape juice. Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the wine of Jesus' day was usually rather weak and, especially among the Jews, often diluted with water. Moreover, safe drinking water was not always readily available in those eastern countries.

Asbury Bible Commentary: "A little wine indicates moderation and probably is a comment on the local water. Perhaps Timothy may be interpreting purity more physically/ascetically than Paul intended."

Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary:

For the most part in the NT, oinos is used literally, but occasionally it has symbolic meanings. In 1 Tim. 5:23, Paul exhorts Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake, and wine is a means of healing in Lk 10:34. John the Baptist abstains from drinking wine, perhaps following a Nazirite vow (Lk 1:15). However, Jesus, like most people, likely drank wine, as can be seen by the exaggerated accusation that he was a “glutton and a drunkard” (Mt 11:18–19), used by his opponents to mean that he did not fast nor abstain from wine (9:14–17; Mk 2:18–22; Lk 5:33–38). Additionally, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (Jn 2:1–11).

Symbolically, oinos is used negatively in Revelation, referring to the wine and cup of God’s wrath (14:10; 16:19; 19:15) and to the debauched ways of Babylon (14:8). Positively, oinos serves as a token of hope for the coming celebration for all believers at Jesus’ return. A picture of this coming new age is given in the creation of wine at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1–11) and in Jesus’ promise that he will not drink wine again until the great feast when the kingdom of God comes in all its fullness (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25). See NIDNTT-A, 41–42.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Notes Pertaining to the Book of Proverbs

1. What Is a Proverb?

While the English word "proverbs" conveys the idea of short maxims and pithy observations on life, the Hebrew misle (pl. of mashal) "refers to an apothegm that has currency among those who fear the LORD" (Bruce Waltke, page 56). Others suggest that "proverb" in the biblical sense refers to a brief comparison or representation (ibid.). See Prov. 10:26.

2. Proverbs juxtaposes destructive and healthy patterns of behavior. Proverbs 5:22-23; 14:12; 16:25; 29:3.

3. Authorship:

Proverbs claims Solomon as its writer and I accept what the text states. On the other hand, critical scholars usually want to question Solomonic authorship, and R.N. Whybray maintains that we cannot be sure whether all parts of the book can be traced back to David's son. Nevertheless, Whybray reckons that 1 Kings 4:32 must have some historical foundation; it seems unreasonble to suppose that it does not. He estimates that Proverbs may have been written or produced between the 10th-6th century BCE. See The Book of Proverbs, 4-5.

Robert B. Laurin believes Proverbs was probably edited around the 5th-4th century BCE as it eventually assumed its current shape.

4. The purpose of proverbs seems to be articulated in Prov. 1:7: "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction" (ASV).

The fear of God is reverential awe--it is the fear of displeasing God and is expressed by observing his commandments. Compare Leviticus 19:3; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Malachi 3:5.

6. Specific proverbs and the wisdom they contain:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Prov. 4:23 NIV).

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17 NIV).

7. An exegesis of one proverb:

Commenting on Prov. 2:6, Fox explains: "Wisdom engenders mature piety because God is the source of wisdom, and in seeking it you are in effect seeking him."

See Michael V. Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 113, No. 2 (Summer, 1994): pp. 233-243.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Ontological Argument in Anselm and Descartes

Philosophy of Religion (Loosely based on David Stewart's text)

Arguments for God's Existence

1. Anselm of Canterbury made the ontological argument for God's existence famous: subsequent versions were posited by Rene Descartes, Kurt Gödel and by Alvin Plantinga. The starting point for Anselm's ontological argument is God's being or perfect being theology. This form of argumentation is a priori because it starts from the concept of God (a perfect being in the absolute sense). We might also consider the ontological argument to begin with premises that are deductive and that logically proceed from a possible divine being to an actual divine being (i.e., God).

2. Existence is a great-making property or perfection for Anselm and Descartes: they reason that existent beings take precedence over merely possible entities. The Anselmian and Cartesian form of argumention is a priori as well since it begins with a particular idea concerning God's essence, namely, that God necessarily exists.

3. Why the focus on divine being when formulating the ontological argument? God is called Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (I am the being) in Exodus 3:14 (LXX). The Latin Vulgate has "ego sum qui sum" and also refers to God as "qui est." Both ways of treating the Exodus text seem to place emphasis on God's being: maybe 3:14 even identifies God as being itself (ipsum esse subsistens).

4. The medieval thinkers also tended to view essence and existence as distinct in relation to creatures but they argued that essence and existence in God's case are identical (the same thing), an idea known as absolute divine simplicity. So God exists necessarily because God is his own existence.

5. Descartes maintains that the very idea of God is "clear and distinct." Clear and distinct ideas are transparent, not obscure, self-evident, and easily distinguished from other ideas. The Euclidean postulate, "all right angles are equal to one another" is a clear and distinct idea. Another example is "all triangles are three-sided polygons." That proposition is clear and distinct like 2 + 2 = 4 is. What about the idea of God. Should it likewise be categorized as a clear and distinct idea?

To learn more about ontological arguments in general, see https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

See David Stewart, Exploring the Philosophy of Religion, Seventh Edition (London and Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2010), ISBN: 978-0-205-64519-0.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Milgram Experiment and Human Nature: Nothing New Under the Sun

Stanley Milgram wrote these words about his famous "shock" experiment:

"This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work became patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

Milgram conducted his experiment back in the 1960s. He found that at least 60% of those participating as subjects of the experiment were willing to shock people (administering up to 450 volts), if they could be persuaded that the experimenter (the one conducting the experiment) would take full responsibility for what happened to those who were purportedly being shocked.

Milgram's work was undertaken some 40 years ago. I wonder how most people would respond if they participated in similar experiments today. Would 60-85% of people living in our time be willing to shock their fellow humans if an authority figure commanded them to carry out the action? Certain secular studies have asserted that the human race is getting better in terms of social values, moral practices and aggressive tendencies (e.g., Stephen Pinker). I wonder if a new Milgram study would refute or support these claims. My guess based on the Bible, scientific studies, and personal experience is that "nothing don't change much." Or as Qoheleth said in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Wisdom Texts: the Book of Job (Work in Progress)

The term "wisdom texts" is a designation that has been given to the books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The description is common in professional Bible studies. So in harmony with this familiar way of designating certain Hebrew Bible texts, I want to discuss some general features of the so-called Wisdom texts and their contents. My comments are based on lecture notes I once used in tandem with Robert B. Laurin's Old Testament introductory work.

1. The wisdom texts contain instruction for living the "good life." What is the best way of living? Why are we here? Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes seek to answer those questions and they show worshipers of God how to apply knowledge intelligently (Proverbs 27:11). For example, Proverbs 1:7 states that wisdom begins with fearing YHWH (Jehovah). Ps. 111:10, while not part of the wisdom texts, also repeats this truism: genuine wisdom begins with reverential fear of God. Job likewise emphasizes this point (Job 28:28).

2. Some aspects of life considered in the wisdom texts include living peacefully with others (Proverbs 15:1; 16:32); handling money wisely (Proverbs 22:7; 23:21); understanding the value of a godly wife (Proverbs 18:22; 31:10-31). But the most important consideration in the wisdom texts is one's relationship with God (Proverbs 6:16-19; Ecclesiastes 12:12-13).

3. One unique feature of Job is how the book wrestles with human suffering. Some question whether Job deals with this perennial issue, but the book certainly raises the question, Does God cause suffering? Furthermore, Job makes us wonder about our basis for faith in God. Some answers given in Job are that God does not bring about general human suffering and the book affirms that humans should worship God regardless of personal circumstances.

4. In Job, we equally learn about three "friends" or "comforters" of Job: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These men purportedly visited Job to give him comfort, to be his friends. However, all they did was accuse Job of sin and they unwittingly misrepresented God's will, purpose, and nature. The men later repented as Job ministered in their behalf, but yet another character appearing in the book is Elihu. He was a wise young man, who patiently waited until the "comforters" of Job finished speaking. Job's wife plays a minor part in the book. She's known for telling Job to just curse God and die; he reprimands her by saying she speaks as one of the foolish women do. Job admonishes his wife to accept the good and bad which the true God allows. Regardless of his dire circumstances (loss of property, children, and diminishing health), he will not give up serving Jehovah. Job doesn't know why he's suffering; he even begins to justify himself instead of God. Nevertheless, in the end, Job is rewarded bountifully by God--even receiving twofold what he lost.

5. Job is a book filled with speeches by Job himself and the other characters mentioned above. However, the weightiest speech is given by God himself in Job 38-42. Jehovah reminds Job of his relative insignificance: he was not around when God founded the world. At that time, the morning stars applauded and the sons of the true God sang out with joy. This final speech is given in the midst of a windstorm as Jehovah makes it clear that he is God while Job is not. The book's epilogue is chapter 42, wherein Job is blessed, but also repents in dust and ashes.

6. A question lingering from the book of Job is whether God tempts humans or not. The book itself seems to deny that any injustice can exist alongside God. He is perfectly righteous and holy and just. One Bible writer would later affirm with utmost clarity that God himself does not try people with evil (James 1:13-17). The same Christian writer points to Job as a sterling example of patience and endurance. Additionally, James writes that we see Jehovah's compassion and mercy in his dealings with Job (James 5:10-11).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

1 Timothy 4:3 ("Foods")--Mounce's Remarks and NIDNTT

Greek: κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν εἰς μετάλημψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ ἐπεγνωκόσι τὴν ἀλήθειαν.

ESV: "who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."

βρῶμα, “food,” is used elsewhere with various shades of meaning. Paul uses it in his discussions of food being a stumbling block to “weaker” Christians (Rom 14:15, 20; 1 Cor 8:8, 13). Paul's contrasting of food with milk in his discussion of spiritual immaturity (1 Cor 3:2) suggests that βρῶμα is solid food. Paul interchanges it with κρέας, “meat,” in similar discussions (Rom 14:15, 20, 21; 1 Cor 8:13: “If food [βρῶμα] is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat [κρέα]).

William Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46 (Word Biblical Commentary) (Kindle Locations 12386-12390). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Also from the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology under the entry for βρῶμα

1. Lit. use. In the NT, as in the OT, food is a gift from God. We should ask for it daily (cf. Matt. 6:11) and receive it thankfully (cf. 1 Tim. 4:4). Ascetic and ritual tendencies, which classed certain foods as taboo, are rejected by the NT as false teaching (Col 2:16 - 17; 1 Tim 4:3 - 7; Heb. 13:9). No food is unclean as such (Mk 7:18 - 19; cf. Acts 10:14 - 15), and no food possesses any special significance for our relationship to God (1 Cor. 8:8; cf. 6:13). The kingdom of God is realized not in eating or drinking but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

But Christians can be commanded to avoid a particular food (e.g., meat offered to idols) if a fellow Christian by eating will be plunged into a conflict of conscience (Rom. 14:15, 20; 1 Cor. 8:13). Out of love for that tempted believer for whom Christ died, the "strong" Christian must be willing to forego a particular food.

"for my name is in him": Exodus 23:21 and Later Reflections on YHWH and the Angels

"Be attentive to him and listen to him. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for my name is in him" (Exodus 23:21 CSB).

While the name of God is said to reside in the angel escorting Israel, it does not appear that any angel mentioned in the canonical literature of Judaism is exalted to the extent that Yahoel or Metatron are: the latter angel is called "the lesser YHWH" in 3 Enoch. And one encounters this passage in Apocalypse of Abraham 10:

"I am called Jaoel by him who moveth that which existeth with me on the seventh expanse upon the firmament, a power in virtue of the ineffable Name that is dwelling in me."

Andrei Orlov explains that "the peculiar designation 'Yahoel' (Slav. Иаоиль) in itself reveals unequivocally the angelic creature as the representation of the divine Name. It is no coincidence that in the text, which exhibits similarities with the Deuteronomic Shem theology, the angelic guide of the protagonist is introduced as the Angel of the Name."

See http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/yahoelsinger.html#_ftn1

Now the Apocalypse of Abraham was written after Philippians and Hebrews: its terminus ad quem is probably the end of the first century CE. Moreover, 3 Enoch is quite late in relation to the GNT although the ideas contained in the work must have an earlier inception date. Of course, the DSS are relevant since 11Q Melchizedek uses Elohim, but the exalted figures of apocalyptic Judaism still possibly exceed what the canonical Jewish texts allow ad litteram.