Saturday, June 24, 2017

John H.P. Reumann's Commentary on Philippians 2:6

Hurtado, Philo and Morphe Qeou (Form of God)

Larry Hurtado has suggested that a particular occurrence of μορφή in Philo might comprise "certain virtues, a way of being, not simply outward/visual appearance." The passage he discusses is Embassy to Gaius (110-114). He then tries to ascertain whether there is a possible link (conceptually or linguistically) between Philo's text and Philippians 2:6.

I find the question interesting because of the work I've done on Phil. 2:6ff. Granted, the Philippians text is vexed with exegetical issues and one has to concede that μορφή could denote "status" rather than "external appearance" in Philippians, one has to ask whether the Philo text has any bearing on what Paul wrote. Secondly, how should Philo be interpreted?

One translation of Philo reads: "What connexion or resemblance was there between him [Gaius] and Apollo, when he never paid any attention to any ties of kindred or friendship? Let him cease, then, this pretended Apollo, from imitating that real healer of mankind, for the form of God is not a thing which is capable of being imitated by an inferior one, as good money is imitated by bad."

Hurtado also quotes Embassy 114: "Have we not, then, learned from all these instances, that Gaius ought not to be likened to any god, and not even to any demi-god, inasmuch as he has neither the same nature, nor the same essence, nor even the same wishes and intentions as any one of them"

From these passages, Hurtado extracts the idea that Philo has moral/ethical attributes connected with a deity in mind. But does he?

The late Dr. Rodney Decker writes:

Lightfoot is a classic example of those who base the meaning of μορφή on Greek philosophy. He explains that it refers to "the specific character" (129); that "μορφή must apply to the attributes of the Godhead" (132). "In Gk philosophical literature, μορφή acquires a fixed and central place in the thought of Aristotle. For him the term becomes equal to a thing's essence (οὐσία) or nature (φύσις).”1

However, Decker provides ample reasons to reject this understanding of μορφή in Philippians 2:6. We also learn that Hurtado's suggestion isn't new at all. Lightfoot thoroughly plumbed Philo, Aristotle, and other writers to examine the potential denotation of μορφή. His view of the word fell along similar lines as Hurtado's. Yet Lightfoot was almost surely mistaken as I have pointed out in the first volume of Christology and the Trinity and so has Moisés Silva, in his Philippians commentary.

For Decker's analysis, see

Concerning "the specific character" understanding of μορφή, Lightfoot himself maintains that the ancient Neoplatonists and Philo both knew and utilized the word in this manner. See Lightfoot's analysis at

Nonetheless, I emphasize that Paul likely did not use μορφή this way.

Hurtado's discussion is here:

About the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Link Enclosed)


The page explains why Brill published this helpful resource for Greek students. Sorry, but I still eagerly await the Cambridge Greek lexicon, although Brill is good too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Proverbs 8:22-QANAH Possibly Means "Created"

I think that most, if not all, commentators are aware
of the Hebrew word that appears in Prov. 8:22. When they talk about
QANAH (QNH) being used, they are evidently referring
to the lexical form and not to what strictly appears
in Proverbs. Let us consider what Whybray's commentary

"Created me (QANANI): the meaning of this word has
been disputed since very early times. LXX, Targ.,
Pesh. have 'created'; Vulg. 'possessed'. The verb
QANAH, which occurs frequently, together with its
cognates, in the Old Testament, almost always means
'acquire' or, more specifically, 'purchase' (and so
also 'possess'). In Proverbs, apart from this verse,
it occurs thirteen times" (Proverbs, 129).

Whybray then discusses the semantic range of
QANAH. He subsequently concludes:

"The meaning of QANANI here remains uncertain. Of the
three possibilities, 'begot, procreated' has less
evidence to support it than the other two. 'Acquired,
possessed' is perhaps more likely than 'created' in
view of the overwhelming number of passages in which
this verb has this meaning. But scholars who argue
that QANAH in the sense of 'acquired' must imply that
Wisdom is here seen as having pre-existed before
Yahweh acquired her (Vawter, 1980, pp. 205-16; de
Boer, 1961) are reading too much into the text. This
conclusion, however, is subject to the interpretation
of 8:22-31 as a whole" (Proverbs, 130).

C.H. Toy (ICC on Proverbs), who
definitely knows how the text reads (as shown on page
181 of his work) observes:

"The rendering formed (=created) is supported by the
parallel expressions in v. 23, 24, 25 (made or
ordained and brought into being); the translation
possessed (RV.) is possible, but does not accord with
the context, in which the point is the time of
Wisdom's creation" (Toy, 173).

Admittedly, the exact sense of QANAH in Prov. 8:22 is
highly contested, but there appear to be good reasons
for understanding QANAH as "created" in this verse:

"Some scholars question whether the first verb
mentioned in v. 22a (QANAH) means anything more than
'to acquire, possess,' but the evidence from Ugaritic,
Phoenician, and Hebrew is clear that 'to create' is
one of its meanings. In Ugaritic, the fivefold
repeated epithet of Asherah, QNYT 'LM, can only mean
'creator of the gods.' In Phoenician, 'L QN 'RS (KAI
26.iii.18) can only mean 'El, creator of the earth.' A
similar epithet appears in Gen 14:19, 22, where El
Elyon is called 'creator of heaven and earth.' In Deut
32:6 QANAH is parallel to 'to make' and 'to
establish.' Thus, the Hebrew verb QANAH, in addition
to the meaning 'to acquire, possess,' can also mean
'to create'" (Richard J. Clifford,Proverbs: A Commentary, p. 96).

Additionally, Clifford offers this explanation:

"In Biblical Hebrew, QANAH had two distinct
senses--'to possess (by far the most common meaning)
and 'to create, beget'" (Clifford, 96). Clifford
himself seems to prefer the latter sense for QANAH in
Prov. 8:22. See Clifford, 94-96.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Online Article Pertaining to the Book of Isaiah

I am enjoying an article by J. Blake Couey found here:

While I don't endorse every comment made in this article, the following remarks are worth posting in light of past discussions we've had about Isaiah's place in the canon:

The final stages of the formation of Isaiah, including the appearance of something like its present form, occurred sometime between the 5th and 3rd centuries bce. More precise dates remain contested, owing to the paucity of both specific historical references in the later chapters of the book and external historical sources from this period. The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa)—a complete copy of the book whose content is very similar to manuscripts from nearly a millennium later—dates to the late 2nd century bce; near the beginning of the same century, the author of the biblical book of Sirach knew a form of Isaiah that included both chapters 36–39 and 40–55 (Sir. 48:23–24). Additional editorial work may have continued until the turn of the Common Era, as suggested by differences among copies of Isaiah from Qumran, the early Greek translation of Isaiah in the Septuagint, and later Hebrew manuscripts.9 At the same time, Qumran marks the point at which interpretation of Isaiah began to appear in separate commentaries on the text, instead of additions to the book itself.10 Although it would be historically anachronistic to speak of a biblical canon at this point, this development suggests that Isaiah was viewed as possessing some degree of religious authority.

An Addendum to The Revelation 5:10 Post

The more I think about Bowman's objection regarding NWT treatment of epi for Rev. 5:10, the less sense his objection makes. Nouns are classically defined as parts of speech that name persons, places or things. So we're to believe that epi (in some cases) can be rendered/understood as "over" when it comes to persons (Revelation 17:18) or things (Acts 8:27), but it cannot be so understood when referring to places? Who made this rule and which grammar states it?

Another question for Dr. Bowman would be, is Egypt a place-noun? If he concedes that the noun does name a place, I would draw Bowman's attention to Genesis 41:41:

εἶπεν δὲ Φαραω τῷ Ιωσηφ ἰδοὺ καθίστημί σε σήμερον ἐπὶ πάσης γῆς Αἰγύπτου

Examples have already been provided to show that epi ths ghs also can be rendered "over the earth."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Revelation 5:10: Answering Dr. Robert Bowman

I and other Witnesses have written material addressing the NWT rendering of Revelation 5:10, "over the earth" as opposed to "on the earth." Yet Robert Bowman evidently continues to insist that "over the earth" is an unjustified and potentially agenda-driven translation. He maintains that NWT "has almost no scholarly support" and "is certainly wrong." While admitting that epi can mean "over" at times (Rev 9:11; 11:6), he still asserts that epi never denotes "over" when used in conjunction with a "place-noun" like earth. See Rev 5:3, 13. What should we make of Bowman's claims?

My assessment is that Bowman is "certainly wrong" about the NWT handling of Rev 5:10.

JFB Commentary:
Kelly translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Jud 9:8; Mt 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Re 3:10. "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [Bengel].

Bengel's Gnomon: ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) Ἐπὶ here denotes locality, as ch. Revelation 3:10 and everywhere: or rather power, as ch. Revelation 2:26; as it is said, βασιλεύει ἐπὶ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, Matthew 2:22. And thus the Septuagint, Jdg 9:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Kings 8:20; 2 Kings 11:3. I should not therefore venture to assert, from this phrase, that these remain on the earth, though they rule over the earth. The elders were meek (comp. Matthew 5:5): but the flock of the meek independently is much larger.

Brenton translates 2 Kings 11:3: "And he remained with her hid in the house of the Lord six years: and Athaliah{gr.Gotholia} reigned over the land."

"Gotholia was reigning over the land" (NETS).

On page 166 of his Revelation commentary, Grant R. Osborne explains that epi for authority or rule ("over") is "common"--then he cites Rev 5:10 as an example and Rev 17:18. However, to be fair, see the remarks that he later makes on 5:10. The point nonetheless stands that "over" is far from being wrong. Furthermore, there is adequate scholarly support for the NWT rendering.

See also

Cf. the discussion on epi in BDAG.

If one consults the major lexica and grammars on this issue, he/she will likely find that Bowman's place-noun rule dissipates under the heat of evidence.

The Case for Revelation Being Written Under Domitian's Reign

Jonathan Knight (Revelation, Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1999) concludes that the book of
Revelation was written "in the last decade of the
first century CE at some point before the murder of
Domitian in 96 CE" (page 19). He makes this conclusion
for reasons that are listed below:

(1) Papias of Hierapolis (ca. 70-163 CE) knew the Apocalypse and he
lived during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE). The
evidence from Papias places the book's date in the first century CE.

(2) Justin Martyr (150 CE) and Irenaeus (ca. 185) both
were familiar with the Apocalypse of John (Die
Offenbarung des Johannes
). Thus the book was already
being used by Christians prior to that time.

(3) Irenaeus writes that the book of Revelation was
produced near the end of Domitian's reign (around 96

(4) Eusebius of Caesarea observes that John was sent to Patmos by
Domitian (Hist. Eccl. 3.18.1).

In addition to Knight's proposal for the date of
Revelation, G.K. Beale (Revelation, Cambridge:
Paternoster Press, 1999) also thinks that Revelation
was written around 96 CE. He makes this proposal:

"Therefore, a date during the time of Nero is possible
for Revelation, but the later setting under Domitian
is more probable in the light of the evidence in the
book for an expected escalation of emperor worship in
the near future and especially the widespread,
programmatic legal persecution portrayed as imminent
or already occurring in Revelation 13, though the
letters reveal only spasmodic persecution" (page 9).

All in all, while there may be some debate about
when Revelation was written, I think a good case can
be made for the 96 CE date.

Genesis 3:24-A Comparison of Texts

Targum Onkelos Genesis 1-6: And He drove out the man, and before the garden of Eden he caused to dwell the kerubaya, and the sharp sword which revolved to keep the way of the Tree of Life.


Latin Vulgate: eiecitque Adam et conlocavit ante paradisum voluptatis cherubin et flammeum gladium atque versatilem ad custodiendam viam ligni vitae.

Septuagint: καὶ ἐξέβαλεν τὸν Αδαμ καὶ κατῴκισεν αὐτὸν ἀπέναντι τοῦ παραδείσου τῆς τρυφῆς καὶ ἔταξεν τὰ χερουβιμ καὶ τὴν φλογίνην ῥομφαίαν τὴν στρεφομένην φυλάσσειν τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς

Brenton Septuagint Translation: And he cast out Adam and caused him to dwell over against the garden of Delight, and stationed the cherubs and the fiery sword that turns about to keep the way of the tree of life.

Targum of Jonathan Gen 1-6: And the Lord God removed him from the garden of Eden; and he went and dwelt on Mount Moriah, to cultivate the ground from which he had been created. And He drave out the man from thence where He had made to dwell the glory of His Shekina at the first between the two Kerubaia.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

John 17:3-Ginoskw as Coming to Know?

Melito of Sardis: Modalism and the Passover Homily

It has been a few years since I perused the writings
of Melito in any detail. However, it appears safe to assert
that he was a modalist, who thought Jesus possibly
exhausted the reality of God the Father, Son and
the holy spirit.

Jaroslav Pelikan (The Christian Tradition, volume I)
alludes to the words of Tertullian, who argued that
certain believers in or around his time "protect[ed]
the 'monarchy' of the Godhead by stressing the
identity of the Son with the Father without specifying
the distinction between them with equal precision"

Melito of Sardis was one such Monarchian, according to
Pelikan. He applied Psalm 96:10 to Jesus through
a so-called "christian midrash," whereby one
interprets the words "The Lord reigns from the tree"
as a polemic against Jews who opposed the glorious
Lord, Jesus Christ.

I notice that the Ecole Initiative states:

"The Peri Pascha addressed Marcionite teaching, even
if by extreme rhetoric. Jesus was not just prefigured
in the Hebrew scriptures, he was in the Hebrew
scriptures, suffering with the prophets, David, Moses,
Joseph, et al (415-504). Melito's graphic descriptions
of Jesus's death would be in direct opposition to the
docetic denial of Jesus' material body. Moreover,
Melito's modalism allowed him to affirm that God was
in all of these events and that he even suffered as
the person of Jesus. Marcionites must have found this
link to the Hebrew scriptures coarse and distasteful."

John 13:3-Why Is It Translated with "God" Despite Being Anarthrous?

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος. (John 1:1)

We have a preverbal anarthrous predicate nominative in John 1:1c along with the expression πρὸς τὸν Θεόν in 1:1b: the Word is with the God. However, there is a different construction in John 13:3. There, we find ἀπὸ + the genitive noun Θεοῦ, which suggests definiteness despite being anarthrous. It is not uncommon to find definite anarthrous nouns that are made such by virtue of prepositions.

In the latter part of John 13:3, we encounter τὸν θεὸν (signifying definiteness) describing the one earlier referenced by the anarthrous Θεοῦ. So how we render a scriptural passage involves more than whether the article is omitted: other syntactical and contextual factors must also be considered, but NWT critics generally overlook these factors.

Acts 20:33-No Coveting

ἀργυρίου ἢ χρυσίου ἢ ἱματισμοῦ οὐδενὸς ἐπεθύμησα· (Acts 20:33 WH)

You will notice that all nouns in this verse occur in the genitive case, and so does the adjective οὐδενὸς. As for the verb, it comes at the end: ἐπεθύμησα. James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek, 20) explain that the construction is the genitive of root idea, wherein the verbs take genitive nouns as their objects.

A question that also preoccupies my mind is why Paul spoke this way. What scriptural antecedents influenced his view of covetousness? Obvious candidates are Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21: both verses contain the tenth commandment of the Mosaic Decalogue.

οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν (Exodus 20:17 LXX)

οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν (Deuteronomy 5:21 LXX)

Moreover, the teachings of Jesus (an observant Jew) supplied Paul with the needed impetus to avoid coveting anyone's silver, gold or garb (Luke 12:15). In the Sermon on the Mount and when telling the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus emphasized the vital necessity of eschewing covetousness (Matthew 6:24-34; Luke 16:14).

Many verses could be summoned to demonstrate Jehovah's view of covetousness, but one scriptural passage that also catches my eye is Exodus 3:22: αἰτήσει γυνὴ παρὰ γείτονος καὶ συσκήνου αὐτῆς σκεύη ἀργυρᾶ καὶ χρυσᾶ καὶ ἱματισμόν καὶ ἐπιθήσετε ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς θυγατέρας ὑμῶν καὶ σκυλεύσετε τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους (LXX)

Again, we see the mention of silver, gold, and garb. While it may be too much to ask whether Paul had this verse in mind as he uttered the words of Acts 20:33, it is not a stretch to assert that he was familiar with Exodus 3:22. Lastly, Achan's confession likely is a candidate for Paul's dogged refusal to covet anyone's material possessions: εἶδον ἐν τῇ προνομῇ ψιλὴν ποικίλην καλὴν καὶ διακόσια δίδραχμα ἀργυρίου καὶ γλῶσσαν μίαν χρυσῆν πεντήκοντα διδράχμων καὶ ἐνθυμηθεὶς αὐτῶν ἔλαβον καὶ ἰδοὺ αὐτὰ ἐγκέκρυπται ἐν τῇ γῇ ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ μου καὶ τὸ ἀργύριον κέκρυπται ὑποκάτω αὐτῶν (Joshua 7:21 LXX)

Compare 2 Kings 7:8.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Did Enoch See Death?

As you well know, there are some commentators, who reckon that Enoch was transferred from earth to heaven without seeing death. The new BDAG Lexicon and Louw-Nida both put forth this understanding of Heb. 11:5. William Lane (Word Biblical Commentary) also writes that Enoch did not experience death since he equates the articular infinitival clause TOU MH IDEIN QANATON with the expression in Heb. 2:9, namely, the idiom "taste death." Lane also quotes 1 Clement 9:3: "Let us take Enoch, who having been found righteous in obedience was translated, and death did not happen to him." Cf. Lane, Hebrews, 336-337.

Against this interpretation, however, seems to be John 3:13 and Heb. 6:19-20.

John 3:13 assures us that no man (prior to Christ) ascended to heaven except the Son of Man, who descended from heaven. Heb. 6:19-20 indicates that Christ prepared the way for others to enter the heavens by means of his death and subsequent resurrection. The phrase in Heb. 11:5, while seemingly problematic, may simply be informing us that God made sure Enoch died peacefully without being aware of the pangs of death.

It appears that Enoch did not see death in that God cut his life short and may have placed Enoch in a trance when his life was cut short. Therefore, his death could be identified as a transference.

Gen. 5:24 uses an expression that is commonly implemented as a poetic euphemism for death ("And he was not"); furthermore, the Targum Onkelos says that God caused Enoch to die. The Jewish traditions surrounding
Enoch's death, therefore, makes me wonder whether the Greek METAQESIS was ever used euphemistically.

Compare Genesis Rabba 25.1.

Rashi adds:

And Enoch walked: He was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed [the wording] in [the account of] his demise and wrote, “and he was no longer” in the world to complete his years. — [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

ויתהלך חנוך: צדיק היה וקל בדעתו לשוב להרשיע, לפיכך מיהר הקב"ה וסילקו והמיתו קודם זמנו [וזהו ששינה הכתוב במיתתו לכתוב ואיננו בעולם למלאות שנותיו:

for God had taken him: Before his time, like (Ezek. 24:16):“behold I am taking from you the desire of your eyes.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

כי לקח אותו: לפני זמנו] כמו (יחזקאל כד טז) הנני לוקח ממך את מחמד עיניך

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Issues Related to Colossians 2:16-17

Col. 2:16-17 was written to the "holy ones" in Colossae, so yes, it strictly applies to the anointed but also is incumbent on all followers of Christ. Whether 2:16-17 is referring to written laws or spoken ones, the principle is the same: Christians are not under Jewish dietary laws and they should not let others judge them adversely because they refrain from such laws. The referent for τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων is not clear. Does it refer to Greek, Phrygian, or Jewish traditions? We don't know for sure, but the point from 2:16-17 still holds in my estimation. The law was a shadow, but Christ is the reality/substance: divine edicts concerning food, drink, Sabbath, and new moon all issued from the written law.

Again, I don't see how the translation/interpretation of τῶν ἀγγέλων changes any implications for our understanding of 2:16-18. Even "messengers" could be used to describe spirit beings rather than human prophets (Ps. 103:20; 2 Pet. 2:11). We must also think about the context in which 2:18 was written and what necessitated its composition. In other words, what is the Sitz-im-Leben for the verse?

2:16 is fairly specific when it maintains what Christians should reject. The dietary laws of Lev. 11 seem to be encompassed along with Jewish festivals like new moon and the Sabbath. Historically, keeping the Sabbath has been an identifying marker for reverent Jews (Exodus 31:14-17). Furthermore, according to the Tanakh, Sabbath was only given to Israel--not to Gentiles.

I also keep asking myself, why observe dietary laws for devotional reasons if Christ died for my sins and I'm now justified by exercising faith in his shed blood? What religious purpose would keeping dietary laws serve?

From Coffman's Commentary on Col. 2:16:

All of these refer to Jewish observances; as Macknight said, "Some of these were enjoined in the Law, and others by private authority." Of particular importance is the appearance of the sabbath commandment in this list. "Although the article the is not in the Greek, it clarifies the meaning; Paul was resisting the Judaizers who insisted on legalistic sabbath observance." As F. F. Bruce expressed it, "It is as plain as may well be that Paul is warning his readers against those who were trying to impose the observance of the Jewish sabbath upon them." The sabbath observance is here placed upon the same footing as the other things abolished, and "Thus Paul commits himself to the principle that a Christian is not to be censured for its non-observance."


Euphemisms in the Bible and 2 Samuel 12:14 (Links)