Saturday, July 24, 2021

Early Marian Veneration

So, when did Marian veneration begin?

The earliest record we have of something approach Marian veneration is this:

Luke 11:27

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.

Jesus responded:

28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

I don't think this was a turn of phrase especially created for Mary, but presumably rather a general blessing of mothers for having offspring (particularly notable offspring).  Jesus turns it on its head later in Luke:

Luke 23:28-19 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Jesus response of curbing excessive reverence of his mother is similarly illustrated in Matthew 12

Matthew 12:46-50

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.  Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.  But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Notice the common theme in both Matthew and Luke of Jesus promoting a different priority.

Was there early veneration of Mary?  Undoubtedly there was.  We know of the sect of the Collyridians, for example, whose worship of Mary was condemned by orthodox Christians of the time.  Epiphanius of Salamis, writing in the late fourth century speaks of them, presumably as contemporaries to him.

Ultimately, though, it is sufficient that the practice lacks New Testament warrant or positive example.  

Sometimes it is alleged that this is because Mary was still living during the time when the New Testament was composed.  This should puzzle anyone who bought the argument that veneration of the dead is the same asking living people to pray for them.  It also presumes we know when Mary died, which we don't.  No one knows when she died.




Friday, July 23, 2021

Early Marian Prayers?

 Continuing the series (first response)(second response) of responses to an article about allegedly early veneration of Mary (link to original article), we now examine some alleged early prayers to Mary.  I will quote the post author and then provide my additional comments.

1) Sub Tuum Praesidium

The Sub Tuum Praesidium petitions: “O Mother of God: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble: but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.”

I certainly agree that the STP is an example of early Marian devotion.  I don't agree with the idea that this prayer is particularly early.  It uses the term "Theotokos," which was in popular use to describe Mary only after Nicaea.  So, this is presumably a fourth century or later prayer.  It's origin is not known, although it was eventually adopted for use in many otherwise orthodox churches (along with other inappropriate worship).

2) Anaphoras of Coptic/Egyptian Basil

The Anaphoras of Coptic/Egyptian Basil in its oldest Sahidic manuscript has the following within a Litany: “…the holy and glorious Mary, Theotokos (Mother of God), and by her prayers have mercy on us all…” This work is dated by Anglican scholars to be “at least three hundred years older” than the mid-seventh century (Cuming and Jasper 1990, 67) and “the early fourth century” by the most recent scholarly treatment of the subject. (Shoemaker 2016, 231)

As with the STP, this dates to the fourth century at the earliest.  On top of that, it is puzzling why we would resort to a prayer of a church that is not orthodox by Orthodox standards.

3) Gospel of Bartholomew

The Gospel of Bartholomew contains a short prayer in an apocryphal context: “Bartholomew raised his voice and said thus: ‘O womb more spacious than a city, wider than the spreading of the heavens, that contained him whom the seven heavens contain not, but thou without pain didst contain sanctified in thy bosom!’” (4:17 in Vienna Manuscript)

This initially puzzled me, because the Gospel of Bartholomew is the name of a lost apocryphal work.  It is, however, also an alternative name of the Questions of Bartholomew (not lost), from which the quotation comes.  The work is (best scholarly guess) a fifth century Greek work.   By then, of course, Marian veneration was flourishing in many places.

2) Grotto of Jerusalem Graffiti

The Grotto of Jerusalem has a graffiti that has survived the test of time which states, “Under the holy place of M[ary?] I wrote there the [names?], the image I adored of her.” One source states that “the grotto can be interpreted, according to Bagatti, as an indication of an image of Mary.” (Bigham 2004, 101)

This is the most obscure of the group.  Bigham identifies the location as the Grotto of the Annunciation (which is in Nazareth).  It's hard to date wall writing, but the floor is evidently dated to around the 5th or 6th century.  I am not sure if any expert has opined on the date of the wall writing: Bigham doesn't seem to be interested in the precise date.

In short, however, none of these provide evidence of early Marian veneration.

Does Ode of Solomon 19 Evidence Early Christian Veneration of Mary?

In a previous post (link), we demonstrated an error that alleged veneration of Mary in Psalm 45.  The same author (link to post) argued that Ode of Solomon 19 provides an example of early Christian veneration of Mary.  On the other hand, while the Odes of Solomon are certainly "Christian" in some sense, they are not orthodox (nor Orthodox, for that matter).  They seem to have a Gnostic origin, as evidenced in Ode of Solomon 19, by statements about the Father having breasts that give milk and Mary giving birth "as if she were a man."  There are other reasons to identify the writing as Gnostic, as distinct from Christian, but suffice to say that it is a bizarre writing on a Christian theme.

Is it veneration of Mary?  It doesn't explicitly venerate Mary.  Nevertheless, it is a poem (presumably intended to be sung) partly about Mary.  It may have been intended to be used in worship, though presumably not in a Christian church (one is hard pressed to find early liturgies with space for human compositions). 

On the other hand, while the poem mentions Mary, and she's an important figure in it, it is not primarily about her, does not address her, nor otherwise exalts or extols her in any obvious way.  It seems to simply describe her and her actions with respect to Jesus' birth.

In short, if this is one of the supposedly best examples of early Christian veneration of Mary, it falls far short.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Queen in Psalm 45

I recently came across an argument asserting that there is veneration of Mary in Psalm 45 (Septuagint Psalm 44).  I thought it might be interesting to get a Patristic take on this.  In particular, the first part of the argument is that the Queen in Psalm 45 is Mary.  I could not find a single patristic source to support that interpretation.  The two interpretations I found were the church (which I believe is the correct interpretation) and the human nature of Christ.  The "Ancient Christian Commentary" set also mentions that Basil and Jerome identify the Queen as the soul.  

The author of the argument does not provide any patristic support for his seemingly novel interpretation.  Instead he argues (original post here) as follows (bracketed letters are added by me for ease of reference below):
[A] Not surprisingly, there is a clear, Biblical example of veneration being paid to the Theotokos—provided one takes a Christological interpretation of Ps 44 (LXX)/45 (MT). Take a moment to open your Bible so you can follow along.

[B] The Psalm itself, at least on the surface, is about a King and his Queen. We must have a Christological interpretation, however. Ps 45:6-7 is clearly identified as pertaining to Jesus Christ by Saint Paul in Heb 1:8-9. So, the King is Jesus Christ.

[C] Who is the Queen? Let’s start unpacking the Psalm:

[D] The King has at His “right hand…the Queen.” (Ps 45:9) He also has “daughters.” These are clearly in reference to different people. We know that standing at both Jesus Christ’s left and right hands is not for Him to grant, but the Father. (Mark 10:40) So, for the Queen to be at the King’s right hand is a serious position to be in. A simple interpretation, that the Queen is solely the Church, is insufficient. Who are the King’s daughters given such a reading?

[E] Who is actually at God’s right hand? Orthodox tradition has taught that it is the Theotokos. This Queen is “greatly desired” for her spiritual “beauty.” (Ps 45:11) This is highly similar to Mary who is “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28), which means due to her exceptional holiness she “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). It is reasonable to presume the one who is blessed among women will have a special standing with God.

[F] The Psalm then addresses the Queen directly: “[T]he daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, the rich among the people will seek your favor.” (Ps 45:12) If the Queen is merely the Church, why is she being paid homage and sought for favor herself? In the Scriptures, the nations are usually bringing gifts to God. (cf Is 66:20) The most likely explanation is that “the daughter of Tyre” represents the gentiles paying dulia (“a gift”) and “the people” seeking favor are the faithful asking for Mary’s intercession in prayer.

[G] As a brief aside, asking a glorified saint for prayer is not idolatry anymore than asking any righteous person for prayer. The Scriptures are clear that the saints pray for the living in heaven, such as the martyrs praying to God for an end of persecution. (Rev 6:10; cf Rev 8:3) Furthermore, the saints hear our prayers, as evidenced by Elisha knowing what Gehazi was up to when he asked for money from Naaman: “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you?” (2 Kings 5:26) There is no Biblical precedent for not asking a saint for intercession, which is perhaps why the Jews legitimately confused Jesus Christ quoting Ps 21 LXX/PS 22 MT as calling upon the Prophet Elijah for intercession. (Matt 27:47) Not surprisingly, third and fourth century AD Talmudic sources make clear that Jews had veneration practices including prostrations at the grave sites of the patriarchs and asking for the deceased for prayer. (Bar-Llan 2004)

[H] And so, the Psalm can easily be read in the preceding light in verse 12 as well as other verses. Verse 14 states, “The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.” Clearly, if the Queen is merely the Church, this passage does not make sense as the virgins are clearly the Church as they are brought to God. Interestingly, they “follow her.” This seems to be another obvious reference to the Church’s veneration of the Theotokos bringing them closer to God—literally “brought” into “the King’s palace.” (Ps 45:15)

[I] The Psalm ends with God promising the Queen:

I will make your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore, the people shall praise you forever and ever. (Ps 45:17)

[J] Due to Hebrew and Greek lacking capitalization, some may conjecture verse 17 switches its subject from the Queen back to the King. However, this Psalm appears to be echoed by the Theotokos’ own lips:

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

[K] In any event, being that Ps 45 was understood as typological and prophetic in the first century, it would make sense that the references to the Queen would be typologically understood to apply to the Theotokos—as this would be the simplest explanation of the Psalm if one were to try to maintain consistency between the types.
You may note that the author repeatedly asserts that things are "clear" ([A], [B], [D], [G]x2, and [H]x2).  His first such claim, found in [A], is that there is a "clear, Biblical example of veneration being paid to the Theotokos—provided one takes a Christological interpretation of Ps 44 (LXX)/45 (MT)."  The author is using "MT" to refer to Masoretic Text as distinct from the Septuagint (LXX).  The numbering of the psalms is slightly different between the two texts.  The fathers typically used the Septuagint numbering.  The only specific reference to a psalm number in the New Testament is to Psalm 2 (Acts 13:33), which is before the first split between MT and LXX occurs (MT Psalms 9 and 10 are LXX Psalm 9).  The claim is that Psalm 45 (Septuagint Psalm 44) provides an example of Marian devotion.

I was curious whether patristic consideration of the passage included any identification between the Queen and Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As mentioned above, the two interpretations I found were the church (which I believe is the correct interpretation) and the human nature of Christ.  The "Ancient Christian Commentary" set also mentions that Basil and Jerome identify the Queen as the soul.

Here are some examples of the patristic material: 

Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, Chapter 53
And speaking in other words, which also have been already quoted, [he says]: ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of rectitude is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hast hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. [He hath anointed Thee] with myrrh, and oil, and cassia from Thy garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they made Thee glad. Kings’ daughters are in Thy honour. The queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in garments embroidered with gold. Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and the house of thy father; and the King shall desire thy beauty: because he is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.’ Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ. Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians), is distinctly proclaimed in like manner in the following words, which teach us also to forget [our] old ancestral customs, when they speak thus: ‘Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear; forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire thy beauty: because He is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.’ ”

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VI, Chapter XI
Such David describes the Church: “The queen stood on thy right hand, enveloped in a golden robe, variegated;” and with Hellenic and superabundant accomplishments, “clothed variegated with gold-fringed garments.” And the Truth says by the Lord, “For who had known Thy counsel, hadst Thou not given wisdom, and sent Thy Holy Spirit from the Highest; and so the ways of those on earth were corrected, and men learned Thy decrees, and were saved by wisdom?” For the Gnostic knows things ancient by the Scripture, and conjectures things future: he understands the involutions of words and the solutions of enigmas. He knows beforehand signs and wonders, and the issues of seasons and periods, as we have said already. Seest thou the fountain of instructions that takes its rise from wisdom? But to those who object, What use is there in knowing the causes of the manner of the sun’s motion, for example, and the rest of the heavenly bodies, or in having studied the theorems of geometry or logic, and each of the other branches of study?—for these are of no service in the discharge of duties, and the Hellenic philosophy is human wisdom, for it is incapable of teaching the truth—the following remarks are to be made. First, that they stumble in reference to the highest of things—namely, the mind’s free choice. “For they,” it is said, “who keep holy holy things, shall be made holy; and those who have been taught will find an answer.” For the Gnostic alone will do holily, in accordance with reason all that has to be done, as he hath learned through the Lord’s teaching, received through men.

Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins; or Concerning Chastity, Procilla, The Human Nature of Christ His One Dove, Chapter VIII

Can any one now say otherwise than that the Bride is the undefiled flesh of the Lord, for the sake of which He left the Father and came down here, and was joined to it, and, being incarnate, dwelt in it? Therefore He called it figuratively a dove, because that creature is tame and domestic, and readily adapts itself to man’s mode of life. For she alone, so to speak, was found spotless and undefiled, and excelling all in the glory and beauty of righteousness, so that none of those who had pleased God most perfectly could stand near to her in a comparison of virtue. And for this reason she was thought worthy to become a partaker of the kingdom of the Only-begotten, being betrothed and united to Him. And in the forty-fourth psalm, the queen who, chosen out of many, stands at the right hand of God, clothed in the golden ornament of virtue, whose beauty the King desired, is, as I said, the undefiled and blessed flesh, which the Word Himself carried into the heavens, and presented at the right hand of God, “wrought about with divers colours,” that is, in the pursuits of immortality, which he calls symbolically golden fringes. For since this garment is variegated and woven of various virtues, as chastity, prudence, faith, love, patience, and other good things, which, covering, as they do, the unseemliness of the flesh, adorn man with a golden ornament.

Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins; or Concerning Chastity, Procilla, The Virgins Immediately After the Queen and Spouse, Chapter IX

Moreover, we must further consider what the Spirit delivers to us in the rest of the psalm, after the enthronization of the manhood assumed by the Word at the right hand of the Father. “The virgins,” He says, “that be her fellows shall bear her company, and shall be brought unto thee. With joy and gladness shall they be brought, and shall enter into the King’s palace.” Now, here the Spirit seems quite plainly to praise virginity, next, as we have explained, to the Bride of the Lord, who promises that the virgins shall approach second to the Almighty with joy and gladness, guarded and escorted by angels. For so lovely and desirable is in truth the glory of virginity, that, next to the Queen, whom the Lord exalts, and presents in sinless glory to the Father, the choir and order of virgins bear her company, assigned to a place second to that of the Bride. Let these efforts of mine to speak to thee, O Arete, concerning chastity, be engraven on a monument.

Augustine, City of God, Christian Doctrine, The history of the city of God from Noah to the time of the kings of Israel, of the Things Pertaining to Christ and the Church, Said Either Openly or Tropically in the 45th Psalm, Chapter 16

Then let him look upon His Church, joined to her so great Husband in spiritual marriage and divine love, of which it is said in these words which follow, “The queen stood upon Thy right hand in gold-embroidered vestments, girded about with variety. Hearken, O daughter, and look, and incline thine ear; forget also thy people, and thy father’s house. Because the King hath greatly desired thy beauty; for He is the Lord thy God. And the daughters of Tyre shall worship Him with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat Thy face. The daughter of the King has all her glory within, in golden fringes, girded about with variety. The virgins shall be brought after her to the King: her neighbors shall be brought to Thee. They shall be brought with gladness and exultation: they shall be led into the temple of the King. Instead of thy fathers, sons shall be born to thee: thou shalt establish them as princes over all the earth. They shall be mindful of thy name in every generation and descent. Therefore shall the people acknowledge thee for evermore, even for ever and ever.” I do not think any one is so stupid as to believe that some poor woman is here praised and described, as the spouse, to wit, of Him to whom it is said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a rod of direction is the rod of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of exultation above Thy fellows;” that is, plainly, Christ above Christians. For these are His fellows, out of the unity and concord of whom in all nations that queen is formed, as it is said of her in another psalm, “The city of the great King.” The same is Sion spiritually, which name in Latin is interpreted speculatio (discovery); for she descries the great good of the world to come, because her attention is directed thither. In the same way she is also Jerusalem spiritually, of which we have already said many things. Her enemy is the city of the devil, Babylon, which is interpreted “confusion.” Yet out of this Babylon this queen is in all nations set free by regeneration, and passes from the worst to the best King,—that is, from the devil to Christ. Wherefore it is said to her, “Forget thy people and thy father’s house.” Of this impious city those also are a portion who are Israelites only in the flesh and not by faith, enemies also of this great King Himself, and of His queen. For Christ, having come to them, and been slain by them, has the more become the King of others, whom He did not see in the flesh. Whence our King Himself says through the prophecy of a certain psalm, “Thou wilt deliver me from the contradictions of the people; Thou wilt make me head of the nations. A people whom I have not known hath served me: in the hearing of the ear it hath obeyed me.” Therefore this people of the nations, which Christ did not know in His bodily presence, yet has believed in that Christ as announced to it; so that it might be said of it with good reason, “In the hearing of the ear it hath obeyed me,” for “faith is by hearing.” This people, I say, added to those who are the true Israelites both by the flesh and by faith, is the city of God, which has brought forth Christ Himself according to the flesh, since He was in these Israelites only. For thence came the Virgin Mary, in whom Christ assumed flesh that He might be man. Of which city another psalm says, “Mother Sion, shall a man say, and the man is made in her, and the Highest Himself hath founded her.” Who is this Highest, save God? And thus Christ, who is God, before He became man through Mary in that city, Himself founded it by the patriarchs and prophets. As therefore was said by prophecy so long before to this queen, the city of God, what we already can see fulfilled, “Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shall make them princes over all the earth;” so out of her sons truly are set up even her fathers [princes] through all the earth, when the people, coming together to her, confess to her with the confession of eternal praise for ever and ever. Beyond doubt, whatever interpretation is put on what is here expressed somewhat darkly in figurative language, ought to be in agreement with these most manifest things.

Pope John Paul II (link to October 6, 2004, General Audience) had this to say:
5. Many Fathers of the Church, as is well known, interpreted the portrait of the queen by applying it to Mary, from the very first words of the appeal: "Listen, O daughter, give ear..." (v. 11). This also happens, for example, in the Homily on the Mother of God by Chrysippus of Jerusalem. He was a Cappadocian who was part of the monks who founded the monastery of St Euthymius in Palestine. He became a priest and was the custodian of the Holy Cross in the Basilica of Anastasius in Jerusalem.

"My discourse is addressed to you", he says, turning to Mary, "to you who must go as bride to the great sovereign; to you I address my discourse, to you who are about to conceive the Word of God in the way that he knows.... "Listen, O daughter, give ear to my words'; indeed, the auspicious announcement of the world's redemption is coming true. Listen, and what you will hear will gladden your heart.... "Forget your own people and your father's house': pay no attention to your earthly parents, for you will be transformed into a heavenly queen. And "listen', he says, "to how much the One who is Creator and Lord of all things loves you'. Indeed, the "king', he says, "will desire your beauty'; the Father himself will take you as bride; the Holy Spirit will arrange all the conditions that are necessary for these nuptials.... Do not believe you will give birth to a human child, "for he is your Lord and you will adore him'. Your Creator has become your child; you will conceive and with all the others, you will worship him as your Lord" (Marian texts of the first millennium, I, Rome, 1988, pp. 605-606).
This relatively obscure presbyter from the fifth century may indeed provide an example of an interpretation that lines up with the author.  One such writer does not equate to "Many Fathers of the Church," and unfortunately I have not found the time to check the context or translation (I think that the English text above is a translation into English either directly from the Italian of the book published in 1988, or from whatever language JP2 used for his general audience, and that, in turn, is a translation of Greek that was published based on a single late Greek manuscript).  

What about the argument itself?

As to [B], I agree with the author that the King is Jesus.  I further agree that this interpretation is divinely taught by Hebrews 1:8 (although identifying Paul as the author of Hebrews seems strained at best).

As to [D], the extent to which the "Queen" image should be taken as part of the picture is not necessarily free from difficulty.  The most natural association is the one that was favored by several patristic authors, namely the church.  The church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5).  

The author states, "He also has “daughters.”"  I assume this is just a misreading of the text.  Psalm 45 refers to "daughters," but these are "kings' daughters," the daughters of multiple kings (i.e. a collection of princesses from various families).  

The meaning of the reference to kings' daughters is a little obscure.  The Septuagint groups it with the previous verse, such that all the luxuries there mentioned are given to the King by these princesses.  Possibly, the illustration here would be royal concubines.  

The author goes on: "A simple interpretation, that the Queen is solely the Church, is insufficient. Who are the King’s daughters given such a reading?"  Setting aside that they are not the King's own daughters, it is remarkable to see the overwhelming weight of patristic authority set aside so easily.  Who are the daughters of the kings?  It might seem simple, but the simplest answer may be that they are not the church.  They may simply be a description of the kind of Solomonic opulence and ancient near eastern luxury that would have been understood to accompany a significant and wealthy king (as opposed the king of some small village or insignificant tribe).

As to [E], the author provides no source for the assertion: "Who is actually at God’s right hand? Orthodox tradition has taught that it is the Theotokos."  There is no citation for this alleged tradition.  There is Orthodox tradition (because it is Biblical) that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  There is also Orthodox tradition of placement of icons, such that those of Jesus are always on the right and those of Mary are always on the left, within the context of church buildings.  Typical icons of Mary and Jesus together typically show an infant (or infant-sized adult) Jesus in one or the other arm of Mary.  

I will not say definitively that there is no such tradition, as traditions are numerous, and I am only a student of Orthodoxy.  That said, the weight of any such tradition as an argument seems small.

The author continues: "This Queen is “greatly desired” for her spiritual “beauty.” (Ps 45:11) This is highly similar to Mary who is “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28), which means due to her exceptional holiness she “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). It is reasonable to presume the one who is blessed among women will have a special standing with God."  So many responses are needed.

First, it does say that the King will greatly desire the Queen for her beauty.  The literal sense of this meaning, of course, is one of physical attraction.  The point is that the King loves the Queen: this is not a marriage of political convenience (despite the Queen being herself a princess), but one of passion.

Second, "blessed among women" nor "found favor with God" both indicate that God's blessing and favor were given to Mary, not that she merited them through exceptional holiness.  Moreover, the same term translated "blessed" in "blessed among women" is also found in Ephesians, where it refers to all believers, namely the Church:   Ephesians 1:6 "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."

Third, "have a special standing with God," was clearly fulfilled by -- and this should surprise absolutely no one who is even moderately familiar with the gospels -- Mary carrying Jesus to full term and delivering him, as well as serving in a motherly role to him during most of his earthly life.  There is not, however, any reason to jump from there to some additional special standing.

At [F], we finally come to the crux of the argument.  The author writes: "If the Queen is merely the Church, why is she being paid homage and sought for favor herself?"

The text states: "And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour."  Tyre was a place associated with wealth.  Moreover, Hiram of Tyre was a friend of Solomon. In Isaiah 23:11, Tyre is "the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth."  The gift and the "intreat ... favor" are parallel expressions: people would bring gifts to kings to ask them for favors in return.  The idea that the princess of the wealthiest nearby nation would come with a gift to ask for a favor is a statement about the wealth and power of the King and Queen.  They are not struggling monarchs.  This is a happy, successful, and prosperous marriage.  If the implication is that they come to her before the wedding, it is, of course, because of her association with the King that she's about to marry.  The same applies to the "the rich among the people."  Normally it is the poor that need help from the rich, but when the rich need help, they have to come to the next level up.

The author states: "In the Scriptures, the nations are usually bringing gifts to God. (cf Is 66:20)"  While this may be true, it makes sense that the gifts would be coming to the married couple, given that he's a King.  On the other hand, "usually bringing gifts to God" is an argument in favor of the Queen being God, not the Queen being Mary.  In any event, "usually" isn't a very compelling argument, particularly if we both agree that the recipient isn't God.

The author continues: "The most likely explanation is that “the daughter of Tyre” represents the gentiles paying dulia (“a gift”) and “the people” seeking favor are the faithful asking for Mary’s intercession in prayer."  First, a gift would be doron, not dulia.  Second, the better explanation (as already explained above) is that the focus here is on wealthy people asking for favors, thereby illustrating the political and/or social superiority of the King and Queen.  It's a status symbol.

It's not a symbol of prayer.  And without this, the main argument for veneration of Mary in Psalm 45 falls apart.

As to [G], if you don't understand the difference between having a conversation with a living person who speaks your language and praying to a dead person who didn't speak your language in her life, it may be hard to explain the difference.  Bottom line is that there is no Biblical teaching to engage in such a practice.

As to [H], the author insists that the virgins are "clearly the church."  On the other hand, the Church is the bride of Christ, like the Queen in this Psalm.  The Church is not concubines nor the virgins in the royal family (Compare Song of Solomon 6:8-9).  More significantly, Mary was Jesus' Mom, not his wife.

As to [I], no, the words in Psalm 45:17 are to the King.  

Psalm 45:17
I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

Exodus 3:15
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

Psalm 135:13
Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations.

And the passages are too numerous in the Psalms alone to mention all the cases in which praise is offered by the people to God.  

As to [J], saying that God blessed Mary is not praising Mary.  I'm not sure how this is so confusing.

As to [K], as already explained above, this conclusion isn't justified.
 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Mary, Another Redeemer?

Roman Catholic Pope Francis weighed in on the debate over the question of whether Mary is a co-redemptrix (link to Vatican site):

Christ is the Mediator, Christ is the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2674). He is the only Redeemer: there are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the only one. He is the Mediator par excellence. He is the Mediator. Each prayer we raise to God is through Christ, with Christ and in Christ and it is fulfilled thanks to his intercession. The Holy Spirit extends Christ’s mediation through every time and every place: there is no other name by which we can be saved: Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and humanity (see Acts 4:12).

After several other remarks, Francis continued:

Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Even the first Latin antiphon – sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who ‘covers’, like a Mother, to whom Jesus entrusted us, all of us; but as a Mother, not as a goddess, not as co-redeemer: as Mother. It is true that Christian piety has always given her beautiful titles, as a child gives his or her mamma: how many beautiful things children say about their mamma whom they love so much! How many beautiful things. But we need to be careful: the things the Church, the Saints, say about her, beautiful things, about Mary, subtract nothing from Christ’s sole Redemption. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a child for his or her mamma – some are exaggerated. But love, as we know, always makes us exaggerate things, but out of love.

That said, Francis is not a Protestant.  He concluded:  

Prayers said to her are not in vain. The Woman who said “yes”, who promptly welcomed the Angel’s invitation, also responds to our supplications, she hears our voices, even those that remain closed in our hearts that haven’t the strength to be uttered but which God knows better that we ourselves do. She listens as Mother. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation. Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. To pray with us. Why? Because she is our Mother.

I will save my critical comments for another time.  I think this represents a setback for the movement to give the title "co-redemptrix" to Mary, but those who are in favor of that will presumably say that (1) this is just a general audience not an exercise of papal infallibility and (2) what they mean by co-redemptrix is somehow consistent with Francis' statements.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Verbs and Biblical Exegesis - Two Examples

I recently came across the following paragraph that captures an issue that turns out to be significant for exegesis as it relates to Calvinism and also to Hell.

Any event can be construed from a variety of perspectives. While this flexibility is fundamental to human ingenuity, it poses a challenge for language learners who must discern which meanings are encoded in their language and by which forms. The papers in this dissertation focus on verbs encoding directed motion (e.g., a girl runs into a house) and caused change-of-state events (e.g., a boy blows out candles). Both classes of events can be expressed by verbs that lexicalize different components of the event, namely Manner-of-motion (e.g., run) or Path (e.g., enter), and Means (e.g., blow) or Effect (e.g., extinguish), respectively.

Amy Celine Geojo, "Breaking and Entering: Verb Semantics and Event Structure," Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (2015), p. iii (bold and underline added, italics original)(link).

While there are numerous verbs encoding directed motion and caused change-of-state events in Scripture, and an even larger number of associated nouns, there are two particular cases that I have noticed in the last few years that seem significant to controversies.

A first case is found in Matthew 25:46:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In this case, "punishment," is a noun taken from the verb kolázō (κολάζω).

The verb as such is only used twice in the New Testament, once in Acts and once in 2 Peter 2:9:

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

Interestingly enough, these refer to the same thing.  The punishment that is judicially assigned at the day of judgment mentioned in 2 Peter 2:9 is the "everlasting punishment" mentioned in Matthew 25:46.  The verb, punish, refers to the carrying out of the action, rather than the conclusion of the action.  Even if it can have other uses (and perhaps it can), when the noun form is tied to an adjective that expresses duration (everlasting in the phrase, into punishment everlasting - εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον) it becomes clear that what is in mind is an unending punishment - an action of punishing that goes on and on and on forever.  The verb "punish" (at least in this context) is more like the verb "blow" than it is like the verb "extinguish."

The reason for this difference is that the verbal focus is on the actor and action rather than on the acted-on person and the result.  In the case of "blow" and "punish" it is the action that is the focus of the verb, as distinct from "extinguish" or "kill," where it is the result of the action that is the focus of the verb.  While blowing and extinguishing may be descriptions of the same birthday cake event, the emphasis is different.  

A second case is found in John 6:44: 

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The verb to "draw" here is more like "extinguish" than "blow."  It conveys a result, rather than simply an action in progress.  The Greek verb, helkuo (ἕλκω), is used eight times in the New Testament.  Normally it is used of a force that accomplishes the movement intended.

In English we see this difference more clearly encoded in the difference (in English) between "pull" and "drag."  The former implies the process, the latter implies the result.  If you are pulling something and it is not moving, you're not dragging it.

We sometimes express that difference with the use of prepositions functioning as particles.  For example, to "pull out" a tooth implies motion of the object in the verb itself.  If you yank on a tooth but it doesn't move, you didn't pull it out.  By contrast, to "pull on" something only implies the exertion of force, not any resultant motion.  You could pull on a tooth without pulling out the tooth.

God willing, I will post again soon to discuss the use of helkuo in Septuagint Nehemiah.





Friday, September 18, 2020

Rebuttal Thoughts - Romans 9 Debate

These will not make a lot of sense without the context of the debate, and I may pull this post shortly.

The main counter-point to consider is this: what does God take credit for?  The short answer: everything.  Remember how all things work together for good to those who are the called?  The same point is bookended at the end of Romans 11.


Romans 9:14 - Jewish objector or Arminian Objector

Actually, it's neither.  It's a Roman objector.  That said, it's more important what the objection is, and what's behind it, as well as how it's answered.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

What's the thrust of the objection? The thrust of the objection is that God is showing favoritism.  The answer is, it's not unjust because God is the one who decides these things.  Paul doesn't back away from the claim - he doubles down on it.

What about the claim that what the Jews got wrong was confusing law and promise? Well, is that what Paul answers? Not here.  Instead, what God answers is the challenge to his righteousness for picking some. The answer is: God can do what God wants to do.


Romans 9:15-16 Salvation vs. Unconditional Individual Election

It is a false dichotomy, since Election is what leads to salvation, as we've previously established.  Moreover, it is a consideration of things ex ante - namely from before they occur, as especially comes out in vs. 17.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.


Notice as well that when it comes to the objection about "who has resisted God's will," how would that mesh with the supposed thread about confusing law and promise? It wouldn't.  

It does, however, align with preceding point properly understood about God's authority to do what God wants.

Thus, when God makes the pottery illustration it is to affirm his absolute right to do with mankind as God wishes.

Romans 9:17-23 Hardening vs. Unconditional Reprobation

Once again, we are dealing in false dichotomy.  Also, there is an asymmetry between election and reprobation that the heading does not reflect.  Even setting that aside, since reprobation is the source of the hardening - in other words God takes credit for it - the dichotomy is false.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

9:24  οὓς καὶ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς οὐ μόνον ἐξ Ἰουδαίων ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐξ ἐθνῶν

What does the "ek" there mean? It's that the calling is not universal, it is particular.  And that connects us back to the previous discussions.

As a side note, I do find it interesting how often non-Calvinists will go to Jeremiah 18 simply because it also mentions a potter and clay.

The similarities and differences chart was interesting, but missed the main point.

"Although willing" as concessive? 

9:22  εἰ δὲ θέλων ὁ θεὸς ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ γνωρίσαι τὸ δυνατὸν αὐτοῦ ἤνεγκεν ἐν πολλῇ μακροθυμίᾳ σκεύη ὀργῆς κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν

This seems to be based on the English use of "I'm willing to," as distinct from the Greek use of thelo.



Exegetical Thoughts on Romans 9:14-33

Romans 9:14-33, gets us into the meat of the tangent Paul is providing. Remember that in Romans 8, we saw Paul set forth the idea of God's unbreakable love.  In Romans 9:1-13, we saw Paul beginning to address the objection that God's love broke or failed as applied to the Israelites. Paul's response was to deny the objection and assert that instead God chose some of Israel rather than other.

This leads us to the objections that are always raised against God's sovereignty and unconditional election.  The first objection is that there is some kind of injustice with God.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 

Paul answers this objection by describing God's love as mercy, while denying that is based on human merit.  This is the very definition of unconditional election.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 

Notice that God takes all the credit and places all the determination of God's choice in God.  God does not simply say, "it is not by running, or by willing," God says is it is not of him who wills or him who runs.  Yes, in Greek "him" is not a separate word, but is conveyed by the verb conjugation.  Nevertheless, what is the bigger point is that it is not of that person, but of God who shows mercy.

Paul then presents the point negatively:

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Thus, God takes credit for mercy and also for hardening.  This leads to one of the most common objections to so-called determinism:

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

If God shows mercy to some and hardens others, how is that fair?

Paul responds:

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Paul's analogy of choice is to compare us to pottery, with God as the potter.  If there is one thing that does not have "libertarian free will," it is a pot.  People sometimes mock the doctrines of grace by saying that turn humans into robots that cannot resist God's will, but simply follow their programming.  There weren't robots in Paul's day (that we know of), but pots are - if anything - a step below them.  Paul could have used a sheep analogy as is often used elsewhere in Scripture, but instead the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to compare us to pottery.

There was Scriptural precedent for this.  Isaiah 64:8, as part of a longer prayer, describes Israel as the clay and God as the potter.  Jeremiah 18 also use a pottery analogy. Psalm 2:9, Isaiah 30:14, and Jeremiah 19:11 compare people to pottery in the context of destruction. Lamentations 4:2  

But in fact, this is a quotation from Isaiah 29:16.

Isa 29:15-16

Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

We see the same point Paul is making in the intertestamental Jewish book of Wisdom (aka Wisdom of Solomon 15:7:

Wisdom of Solomon 15:7 For the potter, tempering soft earth, fashioneth every vessel with much labour for our service: yea, of the same clay he maketh both the vessels that serve for clean uses, and likewise also all such as serve to the contrary: but what is the use of either sort, the potter himself is the judge.

Likewise, a similar point is made in another intertestamental Jewish book, Ecclesiasticus 33:13:

Ecclesiasticus 33:13 As the clay is in the potter's hand, to fashion it at his pleasure: so man is in the hand of him that made him, to render to them as liketh him best.

It seems apparent to me that the authors of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus were drawing on the inspired analogy in Isaiah and elsewhere to affirm God's absolute sovereignty over humanity.

In any event, however, the point Paul is making is the same.  God decides what use each person is put to: whether they are put to the use of being vessels of mercy or whether they are put to the purpose of being vessels of destruction, it is all up to God.  It's not as though one lump of clay is more suited to one than the other, or as though God forsees what he will make of the lump and makes it that way because he forsaw what He would do (what an absurdity that would be!).

Paul confirms that God is indeed exercising his sovereignty, that God prophesied he would do this, and that this extends both to the salvation of the Gentile and the falling away of the Jews:

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. 27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

Notice that God's love is back in the picture "beloved, which was not beloved."

Notice that God is taking credit for the change: "he will finish the work" "a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" and "the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed".  This also fits well with the unconditional election mentioned again regarding the remnant in Romans 11.

Paul then begins to introduce salvation by faith, as distinct from works of the law.  Paul introduces the questions 

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

In Romans 10, Paul will go on to explain the principle of salvation by faith as distinct from obedience to the law.  Then Paul will encounter the objection that everyone hears the gospel, but not everyone has faith.  He will end up, in Romans 11, giving God the credit for this as well.

It's important to recognize this overall trajectory.  Salvation is by grace, through faith. At the same time, God is still taking credit.  God laid a stumblingstone, not a stairway or a ladder.

Some of the next discussion about faith may seem to place things back on man.

Rom 10:13

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται

Literally, for all those calling upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Paul makes it sound so easy that the question about Israel comes back:

Rom 10:18

But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Then Paul increases the temperature of the discussion:

Rom 10:19-21

But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

This leads to Paul reiterating the point raised earlier in the beginning of Romans 9 and Romans 10 at the start of Romans 11:

Rom 11:1-6 

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Notice that contrary to what we may hear from those who object to the doctrines of grace, they were not the remnant because they didn't bow the knee, they didn't bow the knee because they were remnant - a remnant according to God's choice by grace, not works.   

This leads to Paul concluding Romans 11 in these words:

Rom 11:25-36

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.¶

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

The last portion is especially reminiscent of Isaiah:

 Isa 40:13-17

Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Exegetical Thoughts on Romans 9:6-13

Romans 9:6-13

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Now Paul answers the objection that God's word failed or was ineffectual.  His solution is simple: he distinguishes between physical Israel and spiritual Israel.  Physical Israel would be his brethren according to the flesh.  Spiritual Israel, however, are the "children of the promise." 

The promise is a theme that Paul developed back in Romans 4:13-22:

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

The children of the promise, therefore, is a reference to the children promised to Abraham. Moreover, keep in mind the point that what God promises, God performs.  Abraham may have brought Ishmael, but God brought Isaac.  Thus, the children of promise have a specific connection to God's work, as distinct from human work.

Paul proves that the promised children are not simply the children according to the flesh in two ways:

  • Isaac, not Ishmael, was the child of promise
  • Jacob, not Esau, was the child of promise

Ishmael was the child that Abraham conceived with Hagar.  Isaac, however, was promised by God to Sarah.  It is not exactly the same promise of being "heir of the world," but it was a part of that.  

Likewise, even while they were in the womb, God made a promise to Rebecca that Esau (the elder) would serve the younger (Jacob).

Moreover, this distinction between Esau and Jacob was based on God's love, returning to the theme we were given in Romans 8.  Paul quotes a couplet from Malachi 1.  The point Paul is making is clear, namely that God loved one brother rather than the other brother from before their birth and not based on what they were going to do.

Some have suggested that the portion of Malachi 1 quoted by Paul relates to the nations of Israel and Edom, as those nations are addressed in the the context there.  

Malachi 1:1-5

1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.

In this passage God is speaking directly to Israel.  Israel complains that God doesn't love them, and God contradicts that.  God uses Edom as a counter-illustration.  God says that although Edom is optimistic about their future, God will make a negative example of them. In the process, God points back to the original brothers: Jacob and Esau.  God says he loved Jacob and hated Esau.  

Paul quotes the same words as are found in the Septuagint, but the Septuagint and the Masoretic Hebrew text have the same meaning here. The Hebrew verb for hated has a perfect aspect, while the verb for loved apparently has an imperfect aspect, while the Greek uses the aorist in both cases.  Our English translation of Romans 9 uses perfect for both and our English translation of Malachi 1 uses past for both of them.  The main takeaway here is that the precise form of the verb is not the key.

Instead, the key is - of course - Paul's usage of God's own statement in Malachi.  Paul is connecting God's love to God's choice about who will serve whom.  Furthermore, Paul is disconnecting that love and choice from the personal history of the brothers. One might argue that Edom got its desolation through its malfeasance.  On the other hand, Paul specifically says "the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil." The point of raising this is not to illustrate God's prescience.

We know that it is not about prescience, because Paul explains: "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth." 

The critical distinction here between "works" and "him who calls" introduces election into the chain that we already say established and specifically prohibits the interpretation that it is about the one who responds.  

You may recall the golden chain:

(Preamble) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 

(1) For whom he did foreknow, (ὅτι οὓς προέγνω )

(2) he also did predestinate (καὶ προώρισεν)

(3a) to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς·)

(2) Moreover whom he did predestinate, (οὓς δὲ προώρισεν)

(3b) them he also called: and whom he called, (τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν· καὶ οὓς ἐκάλεσεν)

(4) them he also justified: and whom he justified, (τούτους καὶ ἐδικαίωσεν· οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν)

(5) them he also glorified. (τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν)

You will notice that God's election, as such, as is not mentioned explicitly in the golden chain.

Now, however, we see the purpose of God mentioned again.  Before, it was explained that the calling was according to God's purpose.  Now, God's purpose is described as being "according to election."

The election in mind here is the selection of one or the other brother as the child of promise.  The children according to the promise are ultimately the children promised to Abraham, namely the children who are to be heirs of the world.  

The key aspect to notice is that the election is not of works, but of him who called.  It is also not "of him who responded to the call."  The point is that the election was conditional on God and God's love, not on the person being elected.

This will lead us to the objection that we are going to discuss next, about whether there is unrighteousness/injustice with God.  It is literally the most common objection to the idea of unconditional election, that it makes God unjust or unrighteous, since it is not conditioned on the person but instead on God.

As we mentioned when discussing Romans 9:1-5, the objection being framed here is ultimately also answered in Romans 11.  There Paul returns to the discussion of God's election.  In Romans 11:5, Paul calls it "the election of grace," meaning that the election is not based on human merit.  Likewise, in Romans 11:7, Paul demonstrates that the election is only about God, by contrasting, "Israel has not obtained ..." with "the election has obtained it" and further with "the rest were blinded."

In Romans 11:8 Paul gives God full credit for those who do not obtain it not obtaining it. 

While Paul then does discuss faith and unbelief, and provides proximate credit to their unbelief, in Romans 11:32, Paul makes it clear that God is behind it all: "God has concluded them all in unbelief...." It leads to Paul's glorious conclusion in Romans 11:36: "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."

These are the same "all things" that work together for good to the called, which we can now also describe as the election, those who were predestined, those who were loved beforehand by God, not because of something in them, and not because of foreseen good deeds, but because of something in God.

Here we must reiterate that in the phrase, "the election has obtained it," the "election" is reference to people.  People obtain something.  The "election," therefore, is not simply the plan of salvation Sola Fide, though God certainly did choose that.  The election are the people God chose.

We saw a first reference to them back in Romans 8:33: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"  Thus, in the context of Romans 9, we see election of people (not plans) in mind.

As we discussed in the context of Romans 8, when addressing the issue of foreknowledge in the plan of salvation, foreknowledge is the basis of election. 1 Peter 1:2 says, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father ..." as we discussed before.

The harmonization of these various strands is unconditional election.  God, out of love of us before our creation - and without consideration of our individual merit - chose some people to be the children of promise, and others he "hated."  Election of people leads to their active, powerful calling, which leads to their justification, and ultimately their glorification.

Some may say that calling is never irresistable.  I cannot agree with this claim.  Recall what is written in the Prophet:

Isa 45:4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

This discussion is part of Isaiah's announcement of Cyrus as well as one of the central claims of God's divinity.  Indeed, only a few verses later we find part of the inspiration for Paul's use of the potter analogy:

Isa 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

For the purposes of the passage we are considering now, however, the point is that calling is not necessarily at all about the response.  Calling someone a name is what God does or our parents do.  We can call ourselves a name (I'm an example of that), but God's calling is not something I have any control over.  Calling myself "TurretinFan" doesn't change the name my parents gave me, nor does it change the name God gives me - the surname of the family of God.

This is not a stretch, because we see it in the direct context:

Rom 9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Notice that the calling here has nothing to do with Isaac's response.  It's all about God and God's claim.  

Later in the chapter, we will see the same thing:

Rom 9:24-25

Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

We need to discard the inserted idea that the "calling" mentioned is simply the gospel call. To "call them my people," is not simply to preach the gospel.  To call Isaac (as distinct form his half-brothers) the child of promise is more than just inviting him to take some further action.

No, God's calling in this context is a calling of power.  It is God taking what God wants.  It is God saying, "these are mine."

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Textual Variant Consideration - Romans 9:1-13

The most surprising differences between the KJV and ESV in Romans 9:1-13 are two places where the ESV is actually longer than the KJV reading: "and cut off" in Romans 9:3 and "next year" in Romans 9:9. While there is a slight difference between the NA28 (link) reading and the TR reading at Romans 9:3, the phrase "and cut off" is not in the Greek.  Likewise, "next year" is also not in the Greek.  The meaning is not significantly altered, but it is interesting to note these free additions without manuscript support.

There is also a difference worth noting at verse 7.


9 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

9 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 


2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 


3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 

ESV includes "and cut off," which the KJV omits.


4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 

KJV has "service of God" where ESV has "worship"  The ESV seems to be a better reading here, as "of God" is not in the Greek and "service" is less precise than "worship."  The meaning is not significantly different.


5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.


6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,


7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

ESV has "named" instead of "called," which may seem like a trivial point.  Likewise, the ESV uses "offspring" instead of "seed," which is a trivial matter here.  The word here, a form of kaleo (κληθήσεταί), is the same in the TR and NA28.  It is valuable to use "called" instead of "named" from the standpoint of making the connection back to chapter 8.  On the other hand, the point of "named," is interesting from the standpoint of its focus on the the person doing the action.  Applying this same principle back to chapter 8, it makes good sense in connection with a call that is effectual.  The difference between "seed" and "offspring" is of greater significance when considering Paul's use of a similar theme in Galatians.


8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 


9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 

ESV includes "next year," which the KJV omits.


10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 


11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—


12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 


13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”



Romans 9:1-5 - Exegetical Thoughts

 Romans 9:1-5 

9 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Here, in a passage that affirms the hypostatic union (vs. 5), Paul sets up an objection (see vs. 6) to the passage that comes before (8:28-39, esp. 38-39).  After all, Paul has just suggested that all things work together for good to those who are the called and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. What about the bulk of the Jewish people in Paul's day? 

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul acknowledges that most of the Jews of his day are lost, despite having received many blessings from God.  These are people that Paul cares about -- not just because they are fellow human beings, but because they are his relatives.  Moreover, of all the nations on earth, up to that point they had received the greatest spiritual blessings.  If everything works together for good, and if nothing can separate us from the love of God, then how could this befall the nation of Israel?

Paul will return to this point and objection at the start of Romans 11:

Romans 11:1-10

11 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

What follows in Romans 9-10 is connected to this objection, in one way or another.  We are about to discuss Romans 9 in more detail, but Romans 10 itself also picks up the same theme from a different angle:

Romans 10:1-3

10 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Romans 8 and the Westminster Confession

 The Westminster Confession was adopted without proof texts.  Nevertheless, it was sent back to the Assembly to include proof texts.  Accordingly, the Assembly did include proof texts after the fact -- not as though the doctrines were not based on Scripture, but simply because that format of the Confession was not the original vision.  The proof texts were not subject to the same level of debate as the text, and consequently one should be very careful about putting too much weight on the interrelationship between the text of the Confession and the associated proof texts.

That said, it is interesting to see how often Romans 8 was selected and for which points of doctrine.  In the following, I've highlighted references to Romans 8:28 and following, though there were additional references to the first half of the chapter.

Some of the uses will not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the Calvinism/Arminianism debate.  The passage relates to God's Eternal Decree, to Providence, to Effectual Calling, and to Perseverance of the Saints.  What may be of greater interest is the passage's relationship to consolation.  WCF III(VIII) explains: "So shall this doctrine afford matter ... of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel," citing Romans 8 among other passages.

Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree

V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory,(i) out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto:(k) and all to the praise of His glorious grace.(l)

(i) Eph. 1:4, 9, 11; Rom. 8:30; II Tim. 1:9; I Thess. 5:9.
(k) Rom. 9:11, 13, 16; Eph. 1:4, 9.
(l) Eph. 1:6, 12.

VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, fore-ordained all the means thereunto.(m) Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,(n) are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,(o) and kept by His power through faith, unto salvation.(p) Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.(q)

(m) I Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:4, 5; Eph. 2:10; II Thess. 2:13.
(n) I Thess. 5:9, 10; Titus 2:14.
(o) Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; II Thess. 2:13.
(p) I Pet. 1:5.
(q) John 17:9; Rom. 8:28 to the end; John 6:64, 65; John 10:26; John 8:47; I John 2:19.

VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care,(s) that men attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.(t) So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God,(u) and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.(w)

(s) Rom. 9:20; Rom. 11:33; Deut. 29:29.
(t) II Pet. 1:10.
(u) Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:33.
(w) Rom. 11:5, 6, 20; II Pet. 1:10; Rom. 8:33; Luke 10:20.

Chapter V. Of Providence.

VII. As the providence of God doth in general reach to all creatures, so after a most special manner, it taketh care of His Church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.(c)

(c) I Tim. 4:10; Amos 9:8, 9; Rom. 8:28; Isa. 43:3, 4, 5, 14.

Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

IV. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake;(x) which that He might discharge, He was made under the law,(y) and did perfectly fulfil it,(z) endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul,(a) and most painful sufferings in His body;(b) was crucified, and died;(c) was buried, and remained under the power of death; yet saw no corruption.(d) On the third day He arose from the dead,(e) with the same body in which He suffered,(f) with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father,(g) making intercession,(h) and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.(i)

(x) Ps. 40:7, 8 with Heb. 10:5 to 10; John 10:18; Phil. 2:8.
(y) Gal. 4:4.
(z) Matt. 3:15; Matt. 5:17.
(a) Matt. 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46.
(b) Matt. 26, 27 chapters.
(c) Phil. 2:8.
(d) Acts. 2:23, 24, 27; Acts 13:37; Rom. 6:9.
(e) I Cor. 15:3, 4.
(f) John 20:25, 27.
(g) Mark 16:19.
(h) Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24; Heb. 7:25.
(i) Rom. 14:9, 10; Acts 1:11; Acts 10:42; Matt. 13:40, 41, 42; Jude ver. 6; II Pet. 2:4.

VIII. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same,(p) making intercession for them,(q) and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation,(r) effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit;(s) overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.(t)

(p) John 6:37, 39; John 10:15, 16.
(q) I John 2:1, 2; Rom. 8:34.
(r) John 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7, 8, 9; John 17:6.
(s) John 14:26; Heb. 12:2; II Cor. 4:13; Rom. 8:9, 14; Rom. 15:18, 19; John 17:17.
(t) Ps. 110:1; I Cor. 15:25, 26; Mal. 4:2, 3; Col. 2:15.

Chapter X. Of Effectual Calling.

I. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time effectually to call,(a) by His Word and Spirit,(b) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ;(c) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God,(d) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh;(e) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power determining them to that which is good,(f) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ:(g) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.(h)

(a) Rom. 8:30; Rom. 11:7; Eph. 1:10, 11.
(b) II Thess. 2:13, 14; II Cor. 3:3, 6.
(c) Rom. 8:2; Eph. 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; II Tim. 1:9, 10.
(d) Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10, 12; Eph. 1:17, 18.
(e) Ezek. 36:26.
(f) Ezek. 11:19; Phil. 2:13; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27.
(g) Eph. 1:19; John 6:44, 45.
(h) Cant. 1:4; Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16, 17, 18.

Chapter XI. Of Justification.

I. Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth;(a) not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,(b) they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.(c)

(a) Rom. 8:30; Rom. 3:24.
(b) Rom. 4:5, 6, 7, 8; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 3:22, 24, 25, 27, 28; Tit. 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30, 31; Rom. 5:17, 18, 19.
(c) Acts 10:43; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:19; Acts 13:38, 39; Eph. 2:7, 8.

III. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf.(f) Yet, inasmuch as He was given by the Father for them;(g) and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;(h) and both freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace;(i) that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God, might be glorified in the justification of sinners.(k)

(f) Rom. 5:8, 9, 10, 19; I Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 10:10, 14; Dan. 9:24, 26; Isa. 53:4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12.
(g) Rom. 8:32.
(h) II Cor. 5:21; Matt. 3:17; Eph. 5:2.
(i) Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7.
(k) Rom. 3:26; Eph. 2:7.

IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,(l) and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:(m) nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.(n)

(l) Gal. 3:8; I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20; Rom. 8:30.
(m) Gal. 4:4; I Tim. 2:6; Rom. 4:25.
(n) Col. 1:21, 22; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the Saints.

II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father;(b) upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ;(c) the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them;(d) and the nature of the covenant of grace:(e) from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.(f)

(b) II Tim. 2:18, 19; Jer. 31:3.
(c) Heb. 10:10, 14; Heb. 13:20, 21; Heb. 9:12, 13, 14, 15; Rom. 8:33 to the end; John 17:11, 24; Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25.
(d) John 14:16, 17; I John 2:27; I John 3:9.
(e) Jer. 32:40.
(f) John 10:28; II Thess. 3:3; I John 2:19.

Chapter XX. Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience.

I. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, and condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law;(a) and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin;(b) from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grace, and everlasting damnation;(c) as also, in their free access to God,(d) and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind.(e) All which were common also to believers under the law.(f) But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected;(g) and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,(h) and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.(i)

(a) Tit. 2:14; I Thess. 1:10; Gal. 3:13.
(b) Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18; Rom. 6:14.
(c) Rom. 8:28; Ps. 119:71; I Cor. 15:54, 55, 56, 57; Rom. 8:1.
(d) Rom. 5:1, 2.
(e) Rom. 8:14, 15; I John 4:18.
(f) Gal. 3:9, 14.
(g) Gal. 4:1, 2, 3, 6, 7; Gal. 5:1; Acts 15:10, 11.
(h) Heb. 4:14, 16; Heb. 10:19, 20, 21, 22.
(i) John 7:38, 39; II Cor. 3:13, 17, 18.



Origen on the Golden Chain

 Rufinus (d. 411) provided Latin translations of many of Origen's works, including his commentary on Romans (published in two volumes in the Fathers of the Church series).

Origen, of course, predates the Calvinism/Arminianism debate by more than a millenium.  Nevertheless, it is interesting to hear his comments on the text.  Origen agrees with my point that those who God foreknows are a specific group of people - a subset of humanity.

Origen makes a connection to 2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Likewise, Origen contrasts with Matthew 7:23:

Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Of course, we affirm both the universal prescience of God as well as general omniscience, but there is an important sense in which God knowing or foreknowing refers to God's special love and care. 

Origen puts the challenge this way:

"He says, 'For those whom he foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.' Let us not pass over what he has said: 'he foreknew and predestined.' For I think that just as he has not said concerning everyone that they have been predestined, so he has not said concerning everyone, 'those whom he foreknew.' For not according to the common opinion of the multitude should it be thought that God foreknows good and evil, but we should think in accordance with the custom of Holy Scripture. For, let the person who is diligent in the Scriptures observe where he finds Scripture to say that God foreknows the evil, in the same way it plainly says in the present passage concerning the good, that 'those whom he foreknew and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.' For if it is those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, and yet no evil man can be conformed to the image of the Son of God, then it is obvious that he is only speaking of the good, 'whom he foreknew and predestined to be conformed the image of his Son.' Of the others, however, God is said not only not to foreknow, but not even know them. For 'the Lord knows those who are his.' But to those who are not worthy to be known by God, the Savior says, 'Depart from me, because I have never known you, you workers of iniquity.' Therefore, in the same way, even in the present passage, whomever God foreknew he has also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son."

(Book 7, Chapter 8, section 7(5), FotC vol. 104, pp. 85-86)

Origen also expressly disagrees with the idea that to "foreknow" here means to foresee.  Origen expresses it this way:

"Above he said, 'Those whom he foreknew, these he also predestined.' Now he adds, 'And those whom he predestined, these he also called; and those whom he called, these he also justified.' And if we interpret 'foreknew' and 'predestined' in the general sense, it will surely seem that the one who is justified is justified because he has been called; and the one who has been called is called because he has been predestined; and the one who has been predestined is predestined because he has been foreknown. Yet once more, the contrary is to be understood. Whoever is not justified is not justified because he has not been called; and the reason anyone is not called is because he has not been predestined; and the reason one is not predestined is because he was not foreknown. And behold, into what an absurd interpretation would they fall who understand in this case the foreknowledge of God, as if only someone who knows beforehand what will come to pass afterwards. For through the things we have set forth above, it is found that God did not foreknow those whom he has not predestined. And again, if to this popular understanding is applied that which says that 'those whom he called, these he also justified,' we shall be opening a huge window to those who deny that it lies within man's power to be saved. For they say: If it is those whom God has foreknown that he has also predestined, and it is those whom he has predestined that he has also called, and it is those whom he called that he has also justified, those who are not justified are not to blame. For they were neither called, nor predestined, nor foreknown."

(Book 7, Chapter 8, section 8(2), FotC vol. 104, pp. 87-88)

Origen then immediately goes on to object that Judas was called but not justified, and certainly not glorified.

To resolve the tension that Origen sees in the text, Origen appeals to "And Adam knew his wife" (Genesis 4:1) and the description of Rebecca as "She was a virgin, a man had not known her." (Genesis 24:16).  Likewise, in a different sense, the sons of Levi were said to be punished because none of them "knew" his own father or mother (Deuteronomy 33:9). 

"Furthermore, you will discover many things said in the Scriptures about "knowing" with this sense; and therefore, it is established that in the present passage as well the Apostle had set down this word 'knowing' in accordance with the custom of Holy Scripture. His aim is to show that those who are foreknown by God are those upon whom God had placed his own love and affection because he knew what sort of persons they were."

(Book 7, Chapter 8, section 8(3), FotC vol. 104, pp. 89)

You will notice, I hope, that this is a slightly different understanding than I've proposed.  If anything, I would say that it would be more accurate to say that God had placed his own love and affection on them despite the fact that he knew what sort of persons they were.  

Ultimately, Origen is not a Calvinist nor a proto-Calvinist. Nevertheless, he is interesting because of his fluency in Greek, his nearness to the apostles, and the fact that he records people disagreeing over these sorts of issues already in his day.

When Origen encounters the choice of Jacob over Esau in chapter 9, he will be quick to agree that the election was not based on works done by the people.  Nevertheless, it seems as though Origen's resolution is that some people are better and more worthy by virtue of who they are.  That position also seems to fall short of the Apostle's doctrine.