Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Romans Road According to Jesus

If you are not familiar with the Romans Road, please see my previous blog entry.

Here's the same Gospel message, in the words of Jesus:

Mat 5:19: Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says that God gave us the Law in the OT to show us how to be righteous. He says that unless our righteousness *exceeds* that of the Pharisees (known for their scrupulous attempts to keep the Law), we will not enter heaven. In other words, no one can keep the Law. God gave us the Law to show us how Holy He is and how much we fall short of His glory. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Law is a "tutor" that leads us to Christ - the Savior we all need.

What to do? -> Admit that you are a sinner.

Mat 25:46: Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Sinners - which Jesus defines in the context as anyone who breaks the Law - will not obtain eternal life. If we're honest with ourselves, and compare our actions to the Ten Commandments (the Law distilled), we'll see that each one of us has broken God's Law many times. Thus, our "default destination" is certainly not heaven.

What to do? -> Understand that you deserve death for your sin.

Mat 20:28: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus says that His life will be given as a "ransom" to buy us back from sin and death. The wages of sin is death - eternal separation from God. But the free gift of God is eternal life. Jesus paid the price for our sins - He took upon Himself the punishment we rightly deserved for our many sins.

What to do? -> Ask God to forgive you and save you from the punishment you deserve.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We must place our faith in Christ. This doesn't mean just believing that He existed. This doesn't mean believing that what He said was true. It means trusting that He really did take our punishment upon Himself on the cross. In exchange for our sins, Christ gives us His perfect righteousness. That's *how* our righteousness can exceed the Pharisees - because it is not our own, but His!

What to do? -> Give your life to God... His love is what saves you -- not religion, or church membership. God loves you!

John 14:6: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father and heaven. Instead of all roads lead to heaven, Jesus taught this:

Mat 7:13: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
Mat 7:14: But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

What to do? -> Call out to God in the name of Jesus! His is the only name under Heaven by which you can be saved (Acts 4:12).

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus always is ready to receive you. I believe He is knocking at the door of your heart as you read these words.

What to do? -> If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door, ask Him to come into your heart.

The Romans Road

Perhaps you've heard of the "Romans Road?" It is a series of verses from the book of Romans that encapsulate the essentials of the Gospel.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

We all have sin in our hearts. We all were born with sin. We were born under the power of sin's control.

What to do? -> Admit that you are a sinner.

Romans 6:23a "...The wages of sin is death..."

Sin has an ending. It results in death. We all face physical death, which is a result of sin. But a worse death is spiritual death that alienates us from God, and will last for all eternity. The Bible teaches that there is a place called the Lake of Fire where lost people will be in torment forever. It is the place where people who are spiritually dead will remain.

What to do? -> Understand that you deserve death for your sin.

Romans 6:23b "...But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Salvation is a free gift from God to you! You can't earn this gift, but you must reach out and receive it.

What to do? -> Ask God to forgive you and save you from the punishment you deserve.

Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!"

When Jesus died on the cross He paid sin's penalty. He paid the price for all sin, and when He took all the sins of the world on Himself on the cross, He bought us out of slavery to sin and death! The only condition is that we believe in Him and what He has done for us, understanding that we are now joined with Him, and that He is our life. He did all this because He loved us and gave Himself for us!

What to do? -> Give your life to God... His love is what saves you -- not religion, or church membership. God loves you!

Romans 10:13 "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved!"

What to do? -> Call out to God in the name of Jesus!

Romans 10:9,10 "...If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

What to do? -> If you know that God is knocking on your heart's door, ask Him to come into your heart.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Faith and Reason

I've been reading Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, by Dr. William Lane Craig. In the opening chapter, he draws a distinction between knowing that Christianity is true and showing that Christianity is true. He says that we know Christianity is true ultimately because the Holy Spirit reveals that it is so. He says, however, that we can show Christianity to be true to an unbeliever by use of reason. Using Luther's categories, Craig distinguishes between the magisterial use of reason (placing reason over what the Bible says) and the ministerial use of reason (using reason to support and explain to others why what the Bible says is true).

In my own experience, I think Craig is essentially correct. While I regard my faith to be completely reasonable, and - in fact - I find my faith strengthened by reasonable arguments and evidence, it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit that brought me to saving faith.

How can this fact be used in apologetics? Because saving faith is a result of one's openness to the witness of the Holy Spirit, it relieves the pressure on the apologist to "make the perfect argument." Obviously, we should strive to make our arguments the best they can be, but a hard-hearted unbeliever may reject even the best argument; and the sovereign Holy Spirit can make up the lack in even the worst argument to make it effective in a soft-hearted unbeliever. The most effective weapon in the apologist's toolchest, therefore, is prayer that God will soften hearts and open minds!

I'll leave you with Craig's advice:

"What, then, should be our approach in apologetics? It should be something like this: 'My friend, I know Christianity is true because God's Spirit lives in me and assures me that it is true. And you can know it is true, too, because God is knocking at the door of your heart, telling you the same thing. If you are sincerely seeking God, then God will give you assurance that the gospel is true. Now, to try to show you it's true, I'll share with you some arguments and evidence that I really find convincing. But should my arguments seem weak and unconvincing to you, that's my fault, not God's. It only shows that I'm a poor apologist, not that the gospel is untrue. Whatever you think of my arguments, God still loves you and holds you accountable. I'll do my best to present good arguments to you. But ultimately you have to deal, not with arguments, but with God himself.'" [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 48.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Worship and the Son of Man in Daniel 7

It is often argued that Jesus is not depicted anywhere in Scripture as receiving "worship" in the same sense that God is worshipped. I have written about the Father and Son together receiving true worship in Rev 5:13 here.

Daniel 7:14 offers additional evidence that Messiah would receive true worship. Here, the Aramaic word 'pelach' is rendered latreuo in the oldest versions of the LXX, a Greek term none deny refers to the sacred service (= "worship") offered to God alone.

Some have tried to avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true worship by suggesting that the title "Son of Man" refers to humanity collectively. I will offer five reasons why I think Daniel 7:14 refers specifically to Messiah, and thus offers another testimony that Jesus is worthy of the praise, honor, and worship reserved for God alone.

1. Whenever the title "Son of Man" is used in the OT to represent humanity collectively, it always occurs in the formula "man...son of man" (Nm 23:19; Jb 25:6, 35:8; Ps 8:14, 80:17, 144:3; Is 51:12, 56:2; Jer 50:40). There are two "exceptions" - Jer 49:18, 49:33. But here, "no one" serves the function of "man" (cf., Jer 50:40, in which the wording is nearly identical, except "no man" replaces "no one"). Outside of this formula, the title belongs to a specific person (who, perhaps, is representative of the race). The NT usage, of course, is entirely Messianic.

2. While modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish exegetes. The Babylonian Talmud associates this passage with Messiah (Sanhedrin 96b-97a, 98a, etc.). A fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q246) quotes this verse and calls the messianic figure "Son of God," "Son of the Most High," and "a great god of gods," which indicates that the Qumran community looked for a divine messiah of some sort, and believed Dan 7:13ff referred to Him. The Midrash Numbers (13:14) says that Dan 7:14 refers to "King Messiah." I'm unaware of any earlier testimonies of the rabbis.

3. The early church fathers who commented on Dan 7 all associated it with Jesus. Not one understood it as mankind collectively (cf., Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 31; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:20:11; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3:7, 4:10, etc.; Hippolytus, Christ and AntiChrist, 2:26; etc.).

4. Modern Jewish interpreters prefer the translation "their kingdom ... serve them" in verse 27 (JPS). This translation also occurs in the RSV and NRSV. This translation reinforces their view that the Son of Man refers to mankind. The problem is that now 'pelach/latreu' is given to men - when Jesus said we should latreu God alone (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8).

5. There is only one occasion in the OT where the Son of Man is said to "come on the clouds," and that's here. Whenever one is said to come on or with clouds in the OT, that "one" is God (cf., Ex 19:9; Lev 16:2; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13). When the High Priest asks Jesus if He is the Messiah, Jesus answers:

"You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." (Mt 26:64, cf., Mk 14:62).

So, Jesus specifically identifies Himself as Messiah - the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of power (Ps 110) and is coming in the clouds (Dan 7:14). He makes the same association in Mt 24:30 (Mk 13:26). It is a real stretch to think that Jesus is not quoting Dan 7:14 here - every Bible I'm aware of cross-references these verses; every commentator I'm aware of notes the association. Jesus refers to Himself 84 times as 'the Son of Man;' thus, it is certainly a Messianic title arising from the OT - and Dan 7, which teaches that the Son of Man receives an everlasting kingdom from the Father - is in perfect harmony with what we know about Jesus as King Messiah elsewhere in Scripture - thus, it really is pressing Scripture to the breaking point to deny that the Son of Man here is Messiah. And I doubt anyone would contest this association, if the word 'pelach' were not used.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eight Reasons I am Not One of Jehovah's Witnesses

(The following are taken from the disassociation letter of Rick and Laverne Townshend, June 22, 1984)

Follow the accompanying links for more information.

1. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is guilty of continued presumptuous prophetic speculation, beginning with its founder and continuing to the present. Without exception these prophesies have failed to come true. The Society in turn has denied responsibility for these false prophesies. (link)

2. They have tampered with the sacred scriptures in the translation of their New World Translation to conform these with their particular doctrines. To give credence to their version they have gone so far as to misquote noted Greek scholars such as Dr. Robertson, Drs. Dana and Mantey. They have used a bible translated by an admitted spiritist to give support to their translation and doctrines after having exposed this translator some six years before the printing of their bible. (link) (link)

3. They have a pattern of ever-continuing doctrinal and policy changes that often make full three hundred and sixty degree circles. Their new light has gone from being new light to darkness and back to new light many times over. (link)

4. They have a unity that is the result the threat of expulsion from the Society as well as their friends and family. This is true even when the Society and its representatives are unable to refute the bible based arguments of such persons. (link)

5. They have presumptuously interjected themselves into the chain of salvation in violation of Paul's words in 1 Timothy 2:5 where it is clearly stated there is only one mediator between God and men. (link)

6. They have forced the unchristian act of shunning family members who do not agree with the Watchtower hierarchy. (link)

7. They have endeavored to take away from Christians the God-given right to investigate the truth using God's Word the Bible without the influence of the Watchtower literature and the right to express their Bible-based opinions freely. (link)

8. The Watchtower Society is personally responsible for the death and sufferings of thousands of individuals because of their inconsistent application of their own doctrines in various parts of the world; as an example Malawi and Mexico. The same has resulted due to the interferences of the Society in the health care of its adherents in such areas as transplants and inoculations. (link) (link)

Ten Reasons I am Not a Mormon

In 1973, I met some Mormon missionaries. I agreed to go through their lessons to see if the LDS church was the true Church of Jesus Christ, as they claimed.

You can read a fuller account of this (and more!) in my testimony, which you can find here.

I could not reconcile what little I knew about the Bible with the doctrines of the LDS church, did not receive a "testimony" about Joseph Smith, and ultimately decided not to become a member of the LDS church.

When I later subjected the truth-claims of Christianity to rigorous examination (and found them to be true!), I did some in-depth research into Mormonism. What I found reinforced my decision in 1973.

I will list here ten reasons why I consider the Mormon gospel to be false. There are other reasons as well, but these are some of the most significant. Follow the accompanying link for more information.

1. No Book of Mormon Geography (link)

2. The "Lost" 116 pages of the original Book of Mormon (link)

3. The Spaulding Enigma (link)

4. No essential LDS theology in the Book of Mormon (link)

5. Plagerism in the Book of Mormon (link)

6. No DNA or Linguistic Evidence of Hebrew Peoples in the New World
(link) (link) (link) (link)

7. The False Translation of the Book of Abraham (link)

8. Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates (link)

9. Joseph Smith and Money-Digging (link)

10. Multiple Accounts of the "First Vision" (link)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hoskyns and Coptic John 1:1

A blogger calling himself "Memra" has posted a number of blogs defending the NWT's "a god" translation by way of the Coptic Sahidic Translation. I have responded to most of his arguments here.

However, I have just returned from the local Seminary library where I looked up the following scholarly citation in one of Memra's blogs:

"In The Fourth Gospel, the late Edwyn Clement Hoskyns, Bart., D.D. (St. Andrews), Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, writes concerning John 1:1: 'It is impossible to reproduce in English this contrast [between hO QEOS and QEOS]. The Coptic version alone has been able to reproduce the meaning of the original Greek.'"

The first thing I noted was that the "contrast" Hoskyns is speaking of is between "the God" and the anarthrous "God." He uses English terms, not Greek, and capitalizes "God" both times. Further, he says it is "impossible" in English to reproduce this contrast, and the Coptic version alone has been able to do so. This fact should be the first clue that Hoskyns may not be saying what Memra hopes he is, for surely Hoskyns is aware that if the Greek THEOS actually meant "a god" in John 1:1c, it would be simple to convey this sense in English!

Memra goes on:

"Why would Hoskyns state that "the Coptic version (of John 1:1) alone has been able to reproduce the meaning of the original Greek"? No doubt because he appreciated the precision of this ancient version that possessed both definite and indefinite articles in its grammatical structure, unlike the contemporaneous versions in Latin and Syriac. The Coptic version was and is able to clearly distinguish the nuance of meaning between the Word as a divine being and the divine Being the Word was with."

What Memra isn't telling us is that previously on this page (p. 141), Hoskyns clearly says of the Word, "He who was God became flesh." Thus, whatever appreciation Hoskyns has for the "precision of this ancient version," it clearly cannot be a distinction between the Word as "a divine being" and "the divine Being" he was with.

I will repeat Memra's question: Why would Hoskyns say that the Coptic version alone represents the actual meaning of the Greek? Clearly, Hoskyns cannot be referring to an indefinite usage in the Coptic; he must, therefore, be referring to qualitative usage. It will be remembered that Hoskyns was writing in 1947. While a number of Greek scholars at that time and before understood THEOS in John 1:1c to mean that the Word had the same nature as God, it would remain until Harner's landmark study on qualitative nouns to fully describe its semantic nuance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

John 1:18 in the Sahidic Coptic Translation

"God the only Son"

This is how George Horner translates 'pnoute pShre nouwt' in the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:18. A literal translation would be: "the God the Son only." The nouns "God" and "Son" are in apposition, both preceded by the definite article.

I have written about this translation and its relationship to John 1:1c here. Basically, I argue that if we have an ambiguous situation in John 1:1c, where it is possible to render 'noute' as either an indefinite or qualitative noun, John 1:18 lends strong support for the latter, in that the Coptic translators would hardly have called the Word "a god" in 1:1c and "the God" just 18 verses later. It is far more likely that they understood 'noute' in 1:1c to signify that the Word had the quality of God.

Jehovah's Witness apologist Solomon Landers has posted several responses to my argument on the Internet. I will briefly interact with them here.

First, Solomon suggests there are text-critical reasons why the Coptic translators included the definite article. On B-Greek, Solomon said that the translators likely were working from a Greek MS like P75 which reads HO MONOGENHS QEOS hO WN KTL. On Rob Bowman's Evangelicals and JWs board, Solomon argued that the translators had two MSS in front of them, one reading hO MONOGENHS hUIOS and the other reading MONOGENHS QEOS and simply conflated the two into a combined reading.

I would first note that J. Warren Wells, in his hypothetical Greek text on the Sahidica website, believes the correct source to be MONOGENHS QEOS. Coptic scholar P.J. Williams agreed with this conclusion in private email to me. Second, the Greek word MONOGENHS contains the idea of "son" or "child" within its meaning (i.e., "only child" or "one and only Son" - cf., Paul R. McReynolds, "John 1:18 in Textual Variation and Translation," in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Bruce M. Metzger, Epp and Fee, eds, 1981, Oxford: Clarendon Press; Gerard Pendrick, "MONOGENHS," NTS, 41). Third, a number of Greek scholars have argued that MONOGENHS QEOS should be understood as two nouns in apposition: "The only one/son, God" (e.g., Burton, du Plessis, de Kruijf, Finegan, Theobald, Fennema, Beasley-Murray, Carson, McReynolds, BAGD, Westcott, R.E. Brown, William Loader, Feuillet, Lagrange, Cullmann, Lindars, E.A. Abbott, Barnard, Rahner, J.A.T. Robinson, W.F. Howard, and the translators of the NIV and ESV). It is true that George Horner suggested that the Sahidic reflects a conflated text, but he did not have the benefit of more recent linguistic studies that demonstrate that there is no need to do so, if MONOGENHS contains "only son" within its semantic range (c.f. John 1:14 NWT). It is significant that in all three NT examples of MONOGENHS used absolutely (Luke 9:38, John 1:14, and Hebrew 11:17), and where this is virtually no possibility of a conflated text, the Sahidic translators included a form of 'Shere,' ("son" or "child").

But even if we grant Solomon his textual speculations (either version), this really amounts to a red herring when it comes to translation and exegesis. The Coptic translators - regardless of the MSS they were working from - called the Son "pnoute" ("the God") in John 1:18, and they would hardly have done so, had they understood Him to be "a god" in the sense Solomon and other JWs want.

Next, Solomon notes that 'noute' with the definite article need not refer to the true God, citing Acts 7:43. He states categorically: "the grammatical rule is simply that if it ['noute'] does refer to GOD, it must have the definite article." But, he says, if it does have the definite article, it need not refer to the true God. This is special pleading. Acts 7:43 places 'pnoute' in apposition to a personal name - it literally names a god other than the true God; it would be begging the question to say the same is true in John 1:18. Indeed, the overwhelming use of 'noute' with the definite article in the Sahidic NT refers to the true God (well over 900 examples). There are also several cases where 'noute' without the definite article also refers to the true God (Romans 1:21, 30, 15:9; Revelation 16:7).

In an article found here, Solomon quotes me as asking "Is it reasonable that the Coptic translators understood the Word to be a god at John 1:1 and then refer to him as the God, or God, at John 1:18?"

He responds:

"That is a logical question, but the logic is backwards. Since John 1:1 is the introduction of the Gospel, the more logical question is 'Is it reasonable that the Coptic translators understood the Word to be God at John 1:18 after referring to him as 'a god' at John 1:1c?' No."

Solomon begs the question. Coptic scholars tell us the use of the indefinite article with 'noute' in John 1:1c is either indefinite or qualitative. There are two possibilities - either one or the other - and the translator must decide on the basis of context which one best represents the original intention of the Coptic scribes. Thus, it is not logically defensible to assume that it is indefinite and then argue on that basis that it must govern the translation of John 1:18. My position, of course, is that John 1:18 is part of the immediate context, is not ambiguous, and thus lends strong support to 'noute' in John 1:1c being qualitative.

Solomon continues:

"Although the Coptic translators use the definite article at John 1:18 in identifying the Word, this use is demonstrative and anaphoric, referring back to the individual , 'the one who' is previously identified as 'a god' in the introduction. Thus, John 1:18 identifies the Word specifically not as 'God,' but as 'the god' previously mentioned who was 'with' ... God. This god, who has an intimate association with his Father, is contrasted with his Father, the God no one has ever seen."

Of course "the God" in 1:18 refers back to the Word in John 1:1, but it is - again - begging the question to assume that the Word was "a god."

Solomon cites "a modern translation" as follows:

"'No one has ever seen God at all. The god who is the only Son in the bosom of his Father is the one who has explained him,'as found at"

He neglects to tell his readers that this "modern translation" is his own.

[NOTE: I see that Landers has now refined his translation somewhat, perhaps in response to this blog. When I originally posted this, his translation on the CopticJohn blog read exactly as I have stated, above.]

More importantly, Solomon misuses a gloss used to help identify nouns in apposition ("who is"). Apposition in Coptic is identical to apposition in Greek and English (cf., Layton, Coptic Grammar, Section 149). Wallace's Greek Grammar defines "apposition" as follows:

"Simple apposition...the appositive does not name a specific example that falls within the category named by the noun to which it is related. Rather, it simply gives a different designation that either clarifies who is the one named or shows a different relation to the rest of the clause than the first noun by itself could display. Both words thus have the same referent, though they describe it in different terms" (GGBB, p. 96).

Let's look at Solomon's translation: "the god who is the only Son." The gloss "who is" does not occur in the original Coptic. But it can be added for clarity between to nouns is apposition (c.f., GGBB, p. 95, where he suggests the gloss to help clarify the genitive of apposition). For example, "The man, the plumber, is talking to me." 'Man' and 'plumber' are nouns in apposition. They both refer to the same person. We could rephrase as follows: "The man, who is the plumber, is talking to me." Both nouns, standing on their own, refer to the same man.

You will notice the presence of the comma before "who is." The comma indictes that the "who" clause is a non-restrictive relative clause. A non-restrictive relative clause functions identically to nouns in simple apposition. It provides additional information about the head noun. The head noun and the subject of the relative clause independently refer to the same person.

But in English usage, there is a significant change in meaning if the comma is removed: "The man who is the plumber is talking to me." In this case, the relative clause ("who is...") becomes restrictive. A restrictive clause helps identify the head noun. We are no longer merely adding information about the same referent; we are restricting the referent to "the plumber." Indeed, we can only fully indentify the referent by including the restrictive clause. This situation, obviously, does not yield the same meaning as a non-restrictive clause.

See here for more information on restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses.

The important point is that the gloss "who is" for nouns in apposition can only be non-restrictive - that is, can only be used with a comma - to properly reflect the sense of nouns in apposition. Using the gloss without the comma - as a restrictive clause - is not conveying the same meaning as two nouns in apposition.

Solomon's translation lacks a comma. He is using the gloss as a restrictive clause, which does not accurately reflect the meaning of the appositional construction 'pnoute pShre nouwt.' What his translation does reflect is Solomon's theological convictions that "the God" and "the only Son" cannot refer to the same referent, even though that's what the grammar of John 1:18 in Sahidic Coptic implies.

A similar appositional construction occurs 11 times in the Sahidic NT: "pnoute peiwt" ("God the Father"), and while we may paraphrase this as "the God, who is the Father," we cannot do so with: "the god who is the Father."

I have asked several Coptic scholars if they would translate 'pnoute pShre nouwt' any differently than Horner, and none have said that they would. If we use the "who is" gloss properly, and if we translate 'pnoute' as it is in 900+ examples in the Coptic NT, we get the correct sense: "God, who is the only Son..."

A final point: The Sahidic translation (not just in John 1:18, but also 1:14 and Hebrews 11:17) supports most Greek scholars who understand the Greek MONOGENHS to mean "only" or "only Son," as opposed to "only-begotten," the rendering in the NWT, and thus dogmatically supported by JW apologists. It has been suggested by some JW apologists that Sahidic lacked a term for "only-begotten," but if this were the case, the Sahidic translators could simply have translitered MONOGENHS, as they did with many other Greek terms for which there was no Coptic equivalent (e.g., SARX). This is precisely what the Bohairic translators did a hundred or so years later, after which time MONOGENHS had become 'fixed' as a theological term. Also, Sahidic contains words meaning both "only" (see Crum for "mise," and "ouwt") and "begotten" (see Crum for "mate," "meeue," and "Jpo"), so it seems there were several ways for the translators to have expressed the idea of "only-begotten," had they understood MONOGENHS to have such a meaning.

In conclusion, then, the translation of Coptic John 1:18 in English is most probably "God, the only Son." And this translation suggests that the Sahidic translators understood the Son to be fully divine, and this was the sense they were conveying in their translation of John 1:1c. I suspect this conclusion will be further supported as investigation into other Christologically significant verses in Sahidic translations of John's writings continues.

Friday, October 20, 2006

John 8:58 in the Peshitta - "I was" or "I am?"

"Before Abraham existed, I was!"

Thus read both the Lamsa and Murdock English translations of John 8:58 from the Syriac New Testament (the Peshitta). Paul Younan also translated it this way, but when asked if it could also be translated "I am," he replied:

Yes, John 8:47 [8:58] can also mean "I AM". It's just a different way of saying it than what is used in 8:13 [8:24]. The second word, Yty0 comes from the Aramaic root ty0, which means "is, are."

Here is the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon entry:

)yt V1 passim there is, are

2 Syr + some . . . others
LS2 16
LS2 v: )iyt

So you see, the Aramaic root "ith" encapsulates the same linguistic sense that a copula does... the only difference is that it's actually spelled out in another word rather than implied as a shortened form of the Independent Pronoun.

George Kiraz's Analytical Lexicon of the Syriac New Testament also defines )yt as "is, are." Syriac scholar P.J. Williams in private email told me that he would translate the last clause in John 8:58 in the Peshita as "I am." This is also how J.W. Etheridge translated it (The Peschito Syriac New Testament: Translated into English, 1846).

While some anti-Trinitarian apologists on the Internet have offered Murdock and Lamsa as translations denying that ego eimi should be translated as "I am" in John 8:58, it appears that the underlying Aramaic may actually support the traditional translation after all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Did John Calvin Really Teach that Jesus was the Archangel Michael?

An internet article called "Jesus is NOT God" argues that Jesus Christ is equated to the Archangel Michael in various places in Scripture. I was surprised to learn that apparently the Reformer John Calvin was among those who believed this. And here I thought Calvin was a staunch Trinitarian!

Here's the quote from Calvin from the article:

"I embrace the opinion of those who refer this (Michael) to the person of Christ, because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people." - John Calvin, COMMENTARIES ON THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET DANIEL,trans. T. Myers (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), vol. 2 p. 369.

Calvin's comment regarding "Michael" and Christ come only in reference to Daniel 12:1. It is significant that in this passage (and previously in chapter 10), Michael is not explicitly called an "angel," but rather the "mighty prince." If we consider Calvin's comments in context, it is clear that he is NOT saying the ANGEL Michael is Christ:

"Michael may mean an angel; but I embrace the opinion of those who refer this to the person of Christ because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people....The angel...calls Michael the mighty prince. As if he had said, Michael should be the guardian and protector of the elect people" (Calvin, Commentary on Daniel 12:1, Lecture 65).

Most non-Trinitarians who quote this passage leave out the first 5 or 6 words, and thus make it appear that Calvin believes that the Angel Michael is Christ. However, the first clause, and the telltale "but" signal that this is not the case. Calvin believes that Michael, in the book of Daniel, is not necessarily the archangel (though he admits this possibility), and if not, Michael prefigures Christ in His role as Head of the church. Calvin implies a strict dichotomy: If Michael is an Angel, he's not Christ; if not an angel, Christ makes the most sense, given the context.

Elsewhere in his commentary on Daniel, Calvin says that the identification of Michael is open to question. In another work, he warns against too much speculation about angels in general, and specifically of trying to "ascertain gradations of honor" among them (Institutes, I, xiv, 8). He admits that some angels, including Michael, may seem to be placed in positions over their peers, but Calvin enjoins us to refrain from drawing any conclusions from this. His commentary on Jude 9 identifies "Michael the Archangel" as one of many angels ready to do service to God, not as the pre-Incarnate Son. His commentary on Hebrews makes it clear that Calvin views Scripture teaching that Christ is "above the angels" (Commentary on Hebrews 1:6).

So, the most one might say is that Calvin identifies Michael "the mighty prince" in Daniel 12:1 as Christ. Of course, if you convinced Calvin that this Michael was actually the archangel, he would abandon his identification of Daniel's Michael with Christ.

It is sloppy scholarship (at the very least) to imply that the Biblical evidence elicited Calvin's support of an archangel christology.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Free! Sahidic Coptic New Testament Resources

The Sahidica Project for e-Sword!

I have created three e-Sword addon modules, based on the work of J. Warren Wells' Sahidica Project. E-Sword is the popular freeware Bible software program (available for download here) written by Rick Myers.

The modules are:

1. Nova Sahidica - The complete Sahidic Coptic New Testament
2. The Sahidica Sahidic-English Lexicon
3. Nova Sahidica - Transliterated Version

You can download these free modules (and others in my Original Languages Library) here.

Thanks to J. Warren Wells for producing and making freely available his Sahidica texts, and for his approval of these modules.

By the way, Logos Bible Software has just announced the upcoming release of the Sahidic Coptic Collection, consisting of 3 volumes, also based on the Sahidica Project. This collection will consist of: Nova Sahidica, The Sahidica Sahidic-English Lexicon, and the reconstructed Greek Text from which the Sahidic translators worked. The list price for this collection is $129. But you can get two of these three resources today - plus the transliterated version - for free!

John 1:1 in the Sahidic Coptic Translation

Several Jehovah's Witness apologists have claimed that the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1 fully supports the rendering of the New World Translation (NWT): "and the Word was a god."

I have written on this topic here.

Recently, Witness apologist Solomon Landers and an anonymous blogger calling himself "Memra" have created several blogs and websites touting the Sahidic Coptic translation. One would think that two apologists (assuming Memra is not Solomon) would only need to bring up two sites, but perhaps they are trying to create the impression of 'buzz' on the Internet.

In any event, both apologists have attempted to respond to my comments. I have no doubt that others may soon jump on board, as Witnesses see the Sahidic translation - a translation dating back to at least the 3rd Century - as vindication of the NWT in a big way.

Solomon and I exchanged several posts on Robert Bowman's Evangelicals and JWs discussion board, the transcripts of which appear in the Mars Hill section of my website. But, in an attempt to shore up their side of the argument, Memra has gone beyond what Solomon posted to me on Rob's board. While I don't think his additional points warrant a response on my website, I will post some quick thoughts here.

Memra writes:

"Recently, certain Trinitarian apologists have quoted Yale University's Dr. Bentley Layton in an attempt to deny that a correct translation of Coptic John 1:1c is 'the Word was a god.'

But they show that they are not really listening to what he said."

He goes on to argue that Layton's comments actually support "a god" as the proper translation.

First, let's review what Layton says and see who is not listening. Here's what Layton's Coptic Grammar says:

"Indefinite Article
one specimen of the lexical class of ... ;
one specimen having the quality of the lexical class of ... "

Memra says that 'noute' in Sahidic means "an entity not a quality." This is simply begging the question. Layton says the indefinite article: "predicates either a quality (we'd omit the English article in English: 'is divine') or an entity ('is a god'); the reader decides which reading to give it." Now, if one determines that 'noute' in John 1:1c refers to an entity, then the indefinite article will be translated with the English indefinite article: "a God." (The original Sahidic, like Greek, was written in all capital letters, so it is an unwarranted imposition on the text to render "God" with a lower-case "g"). But notice that, according to Layton, the indefinite article can also predicate the quality of 'noute' - as he says in his grammar, "one specimen having the quality of the lexical class."

Layton's additional comments in personal email regarding "divine" were specifically referring to 'noute' in John 1:1c. He says that the indefinite article can predicate either an entity or a quality. Memra is assuming that 'noute' in John 1:1c refers to an entity, and so - of course - Layton would agree (as he apparently did in email to Memra or Solomon) that "a god" is the proper translation. However, he says that 'noute' with the indefinite article in this verse can also predicate quality, and nothing Memra has written disproves this point. Memra, apparently, does not understand the concept of predication when he makes the statement "noute is an entity not a quality," or - at the very least - he is not "really listening" to what Layton is saying.

Memra goes on to summarize an email he received from Coptic scholar Ariel Shisha-Halevy, but this scholar also says that the indefinite article may be used qualitatively ("godlike/divine"). This point has also been made to Solomon Landers in personal email from J. Warren Wells of the Sahidica Project: ""The idea in this context to me is that the Word was like God. The literal text simply doesn't say the degree to which he was like God; be it partly or absolutely" (quoted on Rob's discussion board).

Shisha-Halevy and Wells both have pointed out (the former in the email summarized by Memra, the latter in email to me) that it is impossible to avoid bringing theology into this discussion. The grammar, alone, cannot prove that the Word was "a god," "a God," or "had the quality of God" in the minds of the Coptic translators. Indeed, a thorough study of the Sahidic Translation, based on the published MSS, is needed to even begin such a task.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Welcome to my blog!

Occasionally, I have something I want to get down on "paper," but don't have time to do the research or compose a formal article for my website. I have contemplated a 'blog' for quite some time, now, but have only now decided to take the plunge!

There are several things this blog is not:

1. It is not a forum for debate. Other sites serve that purpose admirably. Instead, this is just a place for me to say something informally that I think may be of interest to others.

2. It is not an apologetics website. What is written here is informal - that means that while I will try to be accurate in everything I write, comments made here should not be taken as my final word on the subject. See my website for more fully researched articles.

So, with those caveats in mind, read on and enjoy!