Friday, September 02, 2022

Genesis 3:15, Sam Shamoun and the Crushing of the Serpent's Head

Sam Shamoun provided a two-hour video response to the question of what Genesis 3:15 says.  He phrases it this way: does the woman or her seed crush the head of the serpent? (link to the portion of his video where his response starts)

Sam was commenting on my debate with Robert Sungenis (link to video) regarding the truth of Sola Scriptura. I appreciated Sam's comparison of my speaking style with that of David Wood.

The issue is significant for a number of reasons.  One reason is that the Papal Encyclical, Ineffabilus Deus, which defined the dogma of the immaculate conception repeatedly interprets the text of Genesis 3:15 as though it said that hell crushing the head of the serpent was that of a woman.  The reason for this error is that the Latin text is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew original. 

The Vulgate had "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, ... ipsa conteret caput tuum ... ."  Ipsa is a feminine pronoun.  The New Vulgate corrects this error in the following: "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem ... ipsum conteret caput tuum ...."  Ipsum is a neuter pronoun.  The difference is between "her" crushing the serpent's head, and "it" (i.e. the seed of the woman) crushing the serpent's head.

Sam compares the Douay-Rheims wording (which translated the Latin Vulgate of that day) with the King James Version, which translated the Masoretic text.

Sam's first interaction with the debate (around 28:30 into the video) is to provide about a five-minute quotation of one of Sungenis' arguments that Scripture needs an external interpreter.  Sam seizes hold of a remark about those at the early councils being willing to die for their faith.  

At 41:45, Sam goes to another clip, where Dr. Sungenis and I are discussing his proposed alternative to Sola Scriptura, and Dr. Sungenis acknowledges that he would not trust the current pope with any theological question.

With that, at 45:20 or so, Sam comes back to the particular verse in question.  For this, he turns to 59:30 in the debate (link to Sam's replaying).  

Sam spends some time building up Sungenis' high intelligence, because he's going to argue that Sungenis made a mistake.

Sungenis argued that the Hebrew is ambiguous.  Sam acknowledged, however, that the Hebrew itself is clear, and not supportive of the papal interpretation.  

Sungenis further argued that Jerome put her (i.e. "ipsa") in the Latin Vulgate. Sam says that Jerome did not, citing Jimmy Akin for support.

Finally, at 1:02:30 so into the clip, we get to what appears to be Sam's argument, which is that "seed" does not refer to Christ, but to all believers, and Mary is one of those believers.

Around 1:50:30 or so, Sam argues that the DRB must have been translated from "defective copies." 

(I would point out that the Clementine Vulgate has the same error.)

Next, Sam provides an audio version of a Catholic Answers article, claiming that because Mary also participated in what Jesus did, the "she" understanding is "also true."

Sam then provides a "Catholic Commentary," that confirms that the "she" reading is wrong, and which speculates that this reading entered through a copyist error early on.

Around 1:24:00, Sam argues that the pope interprets the pronoun as "he." Sam bases this on the fact that pope says, "These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent ... ."  Sam is just wrong that this is an interpretation of Genesis 3:15 that correctly identifies that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent (Sam made the same mistake on his blog). The phrase "by which he crushed," refers to the act of God's sentence immediately preceding the comment about crushing the head of the serpent.  Specifically, here is the full paragraph from Ineffabilis Deus:

The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly Scriptures, had nothing more at heart than to vie with one another in preaching and teaching in many wonderful ways the Virgin’s supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin, and her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. This they did in the books they wrote to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful. These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” — taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.

The reason that the pope got it wrong is because the Clementine Vulgate got it wrong.

Next (around 1:25:30), Sam turns to Luke 10:17-20.  There, Jesus tells his disciples that they have the power to tread on serpents and scorpions.  Sam interprets these as demons or devils.  

At 1:28:30 or so, Sam turned to Romans 16:20 ("And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."). 

Then Sam argued that Mary is a believer, and consequently that these statements to believers also apply to Mary.

For the sake of the argument, we can grant this aspect of Sam's video.  When we do that, though, notice the result: Luke 10 and Romans 16 are not about Mary particularly, but about believers (if Sam is right, all believers).  Thus, if the fulfilment of Genesis 3:15 is to be found in those passages, it is wrong for the pope to interpret the passage as referring specifically or uniquely to Mary, so as to say that she was immaculately conceived.

At 1:32:00 or so, Sam argues that the word "seed" can be a collective singular, rather than an individual singular.  On this particular argument, Sam should be careful.  While sometimes it is used collectively (perhaps Romans 4:18 is an example), it is also used singularly and uniquely of Christ (Galatians 3:16 is an example).

As well, remember that in the Roman Catholic and papal view of Genesis 3, the woman represents Mary and the seed represents Christ.  So, to make the woman represent Mary and the seed also represent Mary is self-evidently problematic enough, that we can see that Sam is grasping at straws on this point, having lost track of the argument.

Moreover, Sam reads from what I believe is Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which interprets the "seed" as "sons."  Mary is definitely not a son, and - as I mentioned above - even if "sons" could apply to all believers, it undermines the Mary-Eve comparison used and undermines the use of the passage as having special reference or applicability to Mary.  Indeed, the interpretation of Pseudo-Jonathan wrongly interprets the "seed" to be distinct from the Messiah! 

Sam seems (1:38:30) to adopt the targum view and apply it to Revelation 12, to say that the children of the woman in that chapter are the seed from Genesis 3:15.  While this is a creative tying together, it is wrong.  Sam then goes to another Targum with a similar interpretation.  In one of these Jewish documents, the seed is interpreted as all the sons of the woman, not just the Messiah.  Of course, Mary isn't a son of the woman, so that would not help any more than any of the preceding arguments. 

Ultimately, Sam's arguments can't prop up  Ineffabilis Deus.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Jude 7, Sodom, and Eternal Fire

Some annihilationists see Jude 7's comment about Sodom and eternal fire as lending support to their view that the fire of the final judgment may be eternal, without the punishment lasting forever.

Jude 5-7 (KJV/NA28)

(5) I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (6) And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (7) Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

(5)Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν, (6)ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλ’ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν, 7ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι.

The typical annihilationist argument is that the Sodom was completely consumed by the fire, and its punishment quickly ended, therefore "eternal fire" can just mean "fire from God, the Eternal."  Here a few rejoinders:

1) Even assuming that "eternal fire" just means "fire from God, the Eternal" in this passage would not imply a general rule that it always means that.

2) The same concept can be applied to fire, both that it is from God, the Eternal, and that duration of the fire will be long.  We see an example of that in Baruch 4:35 ("For fire shall come upon her from the Everlasting, long to endure; and she shall be inhabited of devils for a great time.") 

3) In context, the more natural understanding of "eternal" (αἰωνίου) is as conceptually parallel to "everlasting" (ἀϊδίοις).  In other words, just as the chains are everlasting so the fire is also eternal.

4) Jude's comments regarding "eternal fire" and "everlasting chains" as well as the reference to Sodom need to be understood within their historical context, namely the way that they would have been meant by Jude and understood by his initial audience.  

We know that Jude was familiar with intertestamental literature.  For example, Jude 14 quotes from 1 Enoch 1:9.  Furthermore, Jude 7 is quite similar to 3 Maccabees 2:5 ("You consumed with fire and sulphur the men of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices; and you made them an example to those who should come afterward.")

In those intertestamental works, there is a clear link between chains and fire.  For example, 1 Enoch 10:11-15:

And the Lord said unto Michael: 'Go, bind Semjaza and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. 

Notice the idea that of being chained down in the abyss of fire, being tormented in prison for ever.  One may be tempted to look at "to the end of all generations" as suggesting a final terminus of the destruction, but "to all generations" is essentially a Hebraism that means forever.  

Similarly, 1 Enoch 54:1-5:

And I looked and turned to another part of the earth, and saw there a deep valley with burning fire. And they brought the kings and the mighty, and began to cast them into this deep valley. And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ' For whom are these chains being prepared ' And he said unto me: ' These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel, so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded.

This is a picture of hell.

The author of 1 Enoch is not alone in picturing eternal conscious torment in the intertestamental period:

Judith 16:17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.

(Compare Ecclesiasticus 7:17 Humble thyself greatly: for the vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms.) All this is great, but what about the connection to Sodom?  As we mentioned above, the author of 3 Maccabees uses Sodom in a similar way as an example, namely a learning example.

The author of 2 Esdras has a similar use for Sodom, 2 Esdras 2:8-9

Woe be unto thee, Assur, thou that hidest the unrighteous in thee! O thou wicked people, remember what I did unto Sodom and Gomorrha; Whose land lieth in clods of pitch and heaps of ashes: even so also will I do unto them that hear me not, saith the Almighty Lord. 

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon, has a similar testimonial take, Wisdom 10:6-7

When the ungodly perished, she delivered the righteous man, who fled from the fire which fell down upon the five cities. Of whose wickedness even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony, and plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness: and a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul.

The "she" there is Wisdom.  

Notice, however, that the author of Wisdom understands the fire at Sodom to still be burning.  It is not the land that "smoked" but the land that smokes.  The NETS version has: "a smoking waste still remains," which conveys the same point.  

It is not clear whether Jude had the concept of Sodom from the non-canonical book of Wisdom in mind or not.  What is clear, though, is that Jude likewise speaks of Sodom's burning as though it is ongoing: "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," not merely "were set forth as an example," nor "are set forth ... having suffered ...." 

5) Of course, we must not overlook the parallel context in 2 Peter 2:4-9 (KJV / NA28)

(4) For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; (6) And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; (7) And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (8) (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (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:

 (4)Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους (5)καὶ ἀρχαίου κόσμου οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλ’ ὄγδοον Νῶε δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα ἐφύλαξεν κατακλυσμὸν κόσμῳ ἀσεβῶν ἐπάξας (6)καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρας τεφρώσας καταστροφῇ κατέκρινεν ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν τεθεικὼς (7)καὶ δίκαιον Λὼτ καταπονούμενον ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ἀθέσμων ἐν ἀσελγείᾳ ἀναστροφῆς ἐρρύσατο· (8)βλέμματι γὰρ καὶ ἀκοῇ ὁ δίκαιος ἐγκατοικῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας ψυχὴν δικαίαν ἀνόμοις ἔργοις ἐβασάνιζεν· (9)οἶδεν κύριος εὐσεβεῖς ἐκ πειρασμοῦ ῥύεσθαι, ἀδίκους δὲ εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως κολαζομένους τηρεῖν,

The phrase "turning into ashes" is a single verb in Greek, apparently deriving from the noun "ash."  We might approximate it in English by "ash-ify" or or incinerate.  This is the only time the word is used in Scripture (even including the LXX), and there does not seem to be an abundance of Greek usage.  Cassius Dio (c. A.D. 155-235) uses it in Roman History 66:21 to describe the interior of the still-active crater of Mt. Vesuvius.  Obviously, 2 Peter was written well before that work.  I mention it merely as an example of ancient usage.

Whether it means that Sodom was burned down, covered in ash, etc. the interesting thing for our purposes is that Peter does not explicitly refer to fire, yet nevertheless similarly sees Sodom and Gomorrha as an example for those who come after (like Jude and the author of 3 Maccabees). 

In Peter's usage, the participle is an aorist participle, rather than a present participle. I think the translators used an English present participle because the time is understood from "condemned" in the main verb of the phrase.  So, Peter is focused on the past action, as distinct from Jude who mentions an ongoing situation.

There are other contrasts between Peter and Jude.  Peter mentions the fallen angels, the world in Noah's day, and the destruction of Sodom, whereas Jude mentions the Exodus, the fallen angels, and the destruction of Sodom.  Peter brings out the difference between the Lord's salvation of the righteous and Lord's destruction of the wicked.  Jude is more focused on the destruction of those once favored by God.  Thus, Jude does not mention Lot, while Peter spends several verses on him.

6) Internal parallel considerations are perhaps the final point to consider.  As noted above, there is a parallel between the chained angels and the men of Sodom.  In this context, the "eternal fire" may refer to the fire presently tormenting the men of Sodom in hell.  

Matthew, quoting Jesus, uses everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8 and 25:41) in a way that unambiguously refers to punishments received after death.  Moreover, these are the only other two scriptural uses of the phrase in the New Testament.  Given the parallel to the bound fallen angels, the "eternal fire" reference may be to the present day suffering of Sodom.

In favor of this interpretation is the fact that although Peter does not specifically mention it in 2 Peter, Peter had previously pointed out that those who died in the flood were presently in Tartarus (1 Peter 3:19).  Thus, Peter's mention of the ash-ify-ing of Sodom may be understood as the way that its residents were moved on to the afterlife, just as bringing in the flood did for those of Noah's day, and the casting down of the fallen angels did to them.  By contrast, Jude does not mention the angels being cast down, just that they left their habitation, with the focus being on their current state.  Likewise, Jude focuses on the fact that the Israelites were destroyed, without dwelling on the various means by which God accomplished that.

7) In conclusion, the easiest harmony that combines the above is that Sodom was (at least literarily, if not literally) smoking in Jude's day, but that Jude probably had in mind more than just the literal ongoing fires in the tar pits in the valley of Siddim (assuming there were such fires), but their ongoing eternal punishment in hell.