Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Pilgrim Theology and the New Heavens and New Earth

Sometimes it's valuable to remember the Old Testament context to New Testament statements.  

The author of Hebrews uses the expression "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" in the following text:

Hebrews 11:13

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

There is a temptation to see this as meaning that the earth is just temporary place before we go off to a different place forever.  The only other (or possibly the same, though I don't know anyone who thinks this) New Testament author who uses this phrase is Peter.  He write:

1 Peter 2:11-12

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Interestingly, even both Hebrews and Peter are not written by the same inspired man, both Hebrews and Peter are written to first-century Jewish believers.  These believers can be expected to have in mind the Old Testament use of the stranger/pilgrim motif. 

Where does this concept originate in the Old Testament?  The corresponding Greek word for "pilgrim" is found first in Genesis.   

Genesis 23:4

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

The idea of pilgrim or sojourner is used a number of times in the Old Testament, particularly regarding Abraham and his descendants from the time when he first came to Canaan until the reentry into Canaan.

My reason for bringing this up is that while Abraham and his family were strangers and pilgrims in Canaan, there is a sense in which they were not on a journey to somewhere entirely different - just to Canaan 430 years later.

In the same way, it makes sense to realize that one picture of the New Heavens and New Earth in Scripture is of something new coming down from heaven after the world-ending fire destroys everything, even the oceans.  Thus, we are strangers and pilgrims here on this planet, but that does not preclude the post-resurrection new heavens and new earth from on this same planet, rebuilt after the fire.  I certainly don't think I would feel comfortable being dogmatic about that, but the idea is fascinating.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Homily of the Papyrus of Turin - Pseudo-Athanasius

In a previous post, I raised a question regarding authenticity of The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin (link to previous post), sometimes attributed to Athanasius.  It's been a while since that post, but I see that some folks (typically in Roman Catholic apologetic circles) are still citing the work because of what it says about Mary. 

In terms of Athanasius scholarship, this homily isn't considered one of the authentic works.  Its current designation in Clavis Patrum Graecorum is 2187, which is within the range for "dubious" works attributed to Athanasius.

"Dormition et assomption de Marie : Histoire des traditions anciennes" (1995), by  Simon Claude Mimouni part of the Beauchesne collection on theological history, summarizes the discussion of the work this way, in footnote 230 on page 416

As to our question, Mimouni explains that the current scholarly view is that: "Il est difficile de considérer l'attribution comme authentique." (It is difficult to consider the attribution to be genuine.)  Robert Caro's suggestion is that the author may be Didymus the Blind (late 4th century).

It may indeed be from the 4th or 5th century (as Caro thinks). The bottom line, however, is that this is not one of the authentic works of Athanasius.  

From the standpoint of historical theology, keep in mind that the veneration of Mary is something that grew over time.  It is not an apostolic tradition, nor does Scripture teach us to venerate Mary in the sense that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox ask us to do.  We can describe her as being blessed by God in the sense that Scripture says, and we can also affirm her apparent role as one of Luke's eyewitnesses for the Gospel of Luke.  That said, the cult of Mary is entirely inappropriate.

Monday, September 13, 2021

First Parental Lecture in Proverbs

Proverbs 1:10-33 First Parental Lecture


10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

[The Wicked Proposal]

11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:

13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:

14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:


15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:

16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

[Comparison to the Animal World]

17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

[Personification of Wisdom]

20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Introduction to Proverbs

What's the main point of Proverbs?  It's laid out in the introduction section.  Notice the beauty of the structure of the text

Proverbs 1:2-7

To know wisdom and

To perceive the words of understanding;

To receive the instruction of
        justice, and
            judgment, and

To give subtilty to the simple,
                        to the young man
             knowledge and discretion.

A wise man will hear, and
                    will increase learning; and
a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

To understand a proverb, and
                                    the interpretation;
                                            the words of the wise, and
                                                    their dark sayings.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but
                fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Further Defense of James White on Providential Preservation

My previous post (link), defending Dr. James White against the false accusation that he rejects the Reformed doctrine of providential preservation, received a response in a facebook group.  The following provides detailed rebuttals/responses/replies to the comments provided.  I will label Dr. White's critic/accuser as "N" for "Negative," as he expressed a negative opinion about Dr. White.

N: "I would also like to point out that your blog is a prime example of a blog written by someone who doesn't actually understand the position he is attacking."

Mostly, I am just defending Dr. White's position on the high level issue of holding to the Reformed doctrine of providential preservation of the text of Scripture (specifically the New Testament).  I am not defending Dr. White on every detail of his textual critical conclusions, as he and I disagree on some things, and because it goes beyond the scope of the criticism.  Similarly, I am not addressing his views on the Old Testament, which he has not made fully clear to me.  Likewise, it is well known that I disagree with Dr. White on things like church polity and the proper recipients of baptism.  This is not a general defense of Dr. White, just a rebuttal to one specific false accusation.

I do understand the position of many of his critics.  Let's see if my responses below demonstrate my understanding of this particular critic's position and criticism.

N: "I'm not saying that to be rude, but rather to point out that it is unhelpful to try to combat a position without knowing exactly what the position is first."

In principle, I agree.  I have noticed many critics of Dr. White run into this very problem.

N: "This isn't simply a "particular" interpretation, but rather it is the result of going back and actually looking at the whole of what the framers said instead of reading modern evangelical text criticism back into the confession. The modern text critical positions differ from what the framers believed. The underlying beliefs and methodologies are not the same."

Keep in mind that the original (and false) allegation was this: "He's Reformed in many areas...but providential preservation is not one of them."

"Framers" is the kind of terminology we typically hear in the context of Constitutional interpretation, typically from a Conservative perspective.  The Reformed movement didn't exactly have "framers," though it certainly had a number of leading and influential figures, and it also had a number of confessions (which had framers).

It's extremely implausible that our accuser has literally looked at "the whole" of what even the contributors to the Westminster Confession had to say, much less all the major and minor Reformation figures.  Nevertheless, sometimes people do extensive research, in which case we should see evidence of it.

A false dilemma is proposed between this alleged need for extensive research and "reading modern evangelical text criticism back into the confession."  It's one thing to say that authors of the Westminster Confession embraced various forms of textual criticism and another thing to say that the authors of the Westminster Confession anachronistically embraced a specific position on textual criticism that emerged centuries later, or specific tools (such as Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CGBM)) that were only recently invented.

We need to let historical theologians sit in their place in history.  What we can say is that many of them, including leading first generation figures like Calvin and Beza, as well as second generation figures like (the real) Francis Turretin, embraced textual criticism.

Is Dr. White's view exactly the same as Calvin?  Maybe not.  For example, it seems as though Calvin is sometimes willing to accept a conjectural emendation in the New Testament, whereas Dr. White is not willing to accept the same.  In this sense, Dr. White holds to a higher view of providential preservation than Calvin. Nevertheless, Dr. White's view is still within Confessional bounds on this point, as the Westminster Confession does not address that particular nuance.

Are the "underlying beliefs" the same?  In general, yes. Are the "methodologies" the same?  At a high level, yes.  While CBGM did not exist at the time, CBGM is an example of how to do collation.  Collation was done at the time and it, and its product, was embraced by many of the Reformers.

N: "There was a change from the time of the framers to Warfield."

Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield is often the boogieman for folks who oppose "modern" textual criticism.  He's notable as the last conservative to be chair of theology at Princeton.  Warfield did not focus on textual criticism, though he certainly did discuss it.

N: "Garnet Howard Milne's book "Has the Bible been kept pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the providential preservation of Scripture" deals with this in detail. I highly recommend the read. It helps show the original meaning/intent of those who wrote the confession."

Milne's 2017 "independently published" work may be a good read, but let's see what arguments can be presented here.

N: "It is a documented, historical fact that Warfield was the champion of the modern view of the confession, the view that you hold to."

I really don't love when people try to tell me what view I hold to.  Maybe let me be the one to tell you that.  Just a thought.  

N: "It doesn't seem that you've engaged with the sources that show this since you believe the confessional view is some new understanding being read into the text."

The question is really what the Reformers taught and what the Confession says, not what role Warfield had in the debate.  

N: "Milne shows Warfield's struggle with this in the previously mentioned book, as does Theodore P. Letis in his "Ecclesiastical Text." They both give quote after quote. If I have time, I will look through my books and give you more examples later."

It's not particularly germane.  This isn't about whether Warfield was Reformed on this subject, but about whether Dr. White is Reformed on this subject.

N: "He, and those who follow in his footsteps, are in direct opposition to the clear, plain reading of WCF 1.8."

Again, whether BB Warfield is Reformed is a tangent.

N: "Here's one example of what Warfield believed found in his An Introduction to Textual Criticism of the NT: "And while we cannot despair of restoring to ourselves and to the Church Of God, his book, word-for-word, as he gave it by inspiration to men, there is reason to believe that we may never have all the text of The Bible in the original languages."

Dr. White, by contrast, explicitly affirms that we have all the text of the New Testament in Greek.  So, this criticism does not attach to his position.  

N: "And this is the position that all honest text critics must take, and it is why no text critic believes text criticism will ever lead to a copy of the autographa."

Here we start to see the problem.  N has tried to decide what position other people "must" take and if they deny it, they are not "honest."  N is wrong, though.

N: "You can already see his position is at odds with the confession on this point. Believing the church is in possession of a corrupt text that is in need of restoration is in direct opposition to any natural understanding of the words used in 1.8 of the WCF. There is no reconciliation between these two positions. Something cannot be both pure, in the possession of the Church, and known to the church while simultaneously being corrupt and in need of restoration."

One challenge with this interpretation is that the text of the Westminster Confession does not say, "just now in these last days," but "in all ages." They did not mean that there was always some particular copy that was word-for-word correct.  Moreover, the Reformers soundly insisted that texts of the Scriptures that had been in use in the church for centuries needed work.  They insisted that both the Septuagint and Vulgate needed conformity to the Greek and Hebrew.  They did not claim that one particular printed Greek text was perfect and not in need of any revision.

N: "You are missing something major by overemphasizing the point you say the confession is making while minimizing the very important bit about preservation (which is vital for refuting the papist position)."

I don't agree, and since no argument is provided in support, I'm not sure what else to say.

N: "Then you make some odd claim regarding an "English Ecclesiastical text." This is irrelevant to the issue at hand, having nothing to do with this conversation or the position the Confessional Text advocates hold to. The Ecclesiastical Text(s) we are holding to are the Masoretic Old Testament and the Textus Receptus New Testament. These are not English. They are Hebrew and Greek. Do we prefer the KJV? Yeah. But that's because we believe it to be the best translation of the Ecclesiastical OT and NT."

One of the challenges of saying "the Textus Receptus," is this: which Textus Receptus?  The 1550 Stephanus?  The 1894 Scrivener text?

The bigger challenge is that the Westminster Confession didn't mean "the Textus Receptus" it meant the Greek.

N: "None of us believe the WCF is speaking of the KJV. To suggest such shows you have not actually engaged any scholarly works from the Confessional side. At this point, your blog is beginning to read like someone who doesn't know his opponent's position. I mean that as respectfully as possible. It is frustrating to put time into a response when you haven't even taken the time to understand what you're fighting against."

1) I mean this in in the nicest possible way, but works like those by Milne and Letis do not deserve the label, "scholarly." 

2) While the so-called Confessional Text position will often assert that it is not simply adopting the KJV, the reason that those of us who have had to deal with their arguments often highlight the KJV is that there is often a preference for the Scrivener 1894, which is a backtranslation of the KJV in to Koine.  Moreover, we find that some (though perhaps not all) so-called Confessional Text advocates won't acknowledge errors in the KJV where the KJV departs from, for example, the 1550 Stephanus or its main base text, the 1598 Beza. 

N: "You thinking this quote proves your point shows yet again that you don't understand the Confessional position and have not engaged with any material from Confessional Text scholars."

It seems more probable that the opposite is true, given that my post is a defense of Dr. White, not an engagement with one of the many so-called Confessional Text authors.

N (quoting from a "Purely Presbyterian article"): "We do not deny the necessity of textual criticism. We readily acknowledge it. We deny, however, that the the true text of Scripture has been lost with the non-extant autographs written by the hands of the Apostles and Prophets. On the contrary, we affirm, with Turretin, that the infallible, inerrant word of God exists today in the apographs which have been in the possession of the Church in every age."

That, however, is a statement that Dr. White would affirm.

N (I think again quoting from the same source): "This point by Owen is essential to grasp. We believe that the entirety of the Holy Scripture is and was contained in the copies which have been in the possession of the Church throughout the ages. Hence, those copies are sufficient for whatever textual criticism needs to be done. No new discovery of manuscripts needed. We therefore reject the notion that the manuscripts which have been in the possession of the Church in every age are to be corrected by manuscripts that have been hidden under a rock (so to speak) for 1500 years. This would be to deny that God has preserved His word as pure in all ages, and that the Church was left with a corrupted text for many centuries."

Now we are getting at a possible difference, namely whether to use newly discovered manuscripts in the collation.  However, good luck finding any Reformer who rejected, on principle, the use of the most ancient manuscripts, or insisted only that continuously used manuscripts be referenced.  One will struggle in vain to find such.  

N: "From the testimony of Scripture itself it can be shown that God would providentially preserve His word in all ages. It cannot, however, be shown from Scripture that God would leave His Church with text so corrupted that it could not be remedied with the extant manuscripts in the possession of the Church. We reject the idea that God would leave His Church with manuscripts with variants, errors, omissions, or additions that could not be remedied with the copies in her possession in each age, as a borderline atheistic notion."

Again, Dr. White does not say that the variants (etc.) could not be remedied in earlier ages, and can only be remedied now that we have the papyri, despite the fact that the papyri are very helpful and make the task easier.

N: "What you have proven is that you think you understand the Confessional Text position but do not."

There is not just one so-called "Confessional Text" position, and it was not my assertion that I understand that position as well as any of its/their adherents.  My position was that Dr. White is Reformed on the doctrine of providential preservation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

James White and Providential Preservation

Dr. James White has managed to become something of a lightning rod for advocates of the King James Version and its corresponding back-translation into Koine Greek, the Textus Receptus (as provided by F.H.A. Scrivener in 1894).  There are a wide array of KJV advocates, but one narrow band of the spectrum alleges that it is presenting "the Confessional position."

An example comment I recently encountered: "He's Reformed in many areas...but providential preservation is not one of them."

The person is referring to a particular interpretation (or band of interpretations) of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states, in part (Chapter 1, Section 8):
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
The main points of this section are that the final appeal is to the Greek and Hebrew, as distinct from the Latin (or any other translation), but that it is appropriate and necessary to translate the Scriptures into the languages of every nation.  This was a rejection of the Council of Trent, which declared "Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever."  (Fourth Session, April 1546)

In short, the main point of this section was a rejection of the "ecclesiastical text" of the Vulgate in favor of the Hebrew and Greek.  In a most ironic twist, modern advocates of an English ecclesiastical text have latched onto a portion of the paragraph.  

In particular, they have latched onto the phrase, "by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages," as though it referred specifically to the KJV (which had only first been printed less than forty years before) or, in an odd anachronism, to Scrivner's TR that was about two centuries yet to come.

What the Confession means is that the Hebrew and Greek copies have not suffered from corruption, such that they can no longer be trusted, and that we consequently must look to the Latin Vulgate or some other source.  The Confession does not get into the specific issue of the Greek manuscripts and their texts.

We know, however, from contemporary Reformed discussions on the subject, that it was known that there were multiple manuscript copies of the New Testament books in Greek and multiple manuscript copies of the Old Testament books in Hebrew, and that these did not always agree with one another perfectly.

For example, under the question, "QUESTION 11: Are the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New the only authentic ones? Affirmative, against the Roman Catholics." Francis Turretin (the real and original one) addressed the issue raised about textual variants:  "VIII. The variant readings that occur in Scripture do not detract from its authenticity, because they are easily recognized and understood, partly by the context, and partly by collation of the better manuscripts; many are of such nature that, although they differ, yet they agree in meaning."

In short, Turretin acknowledged that there were textual variants, but he suggested using textual criticism (i.e. "partly by context, and partly collation") to resolve these issues.  Turretin wasn't a Westminster Divine, but his position on this is consistent with the understanding the Westminster divines had.

Thus, my friend is mistaken when he claims that "providential preservation" is not one of the areas where Dr. White is Reformed.  On the contrary, there are a number of men who are Reformed in many areas but who, in their effort to bolster an English ecclesiastical text, have accidentally departed from the Confession.

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.