Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Trinity a Source of Mental Confusion

The Trinity a Source of Mental Confusion By Hugh Hutton Stannus

It is said that when St. Augustine was writing his discourse on the Trinity, he strolled by the seaside in meditation. There he saw a child digging a hole in the sand, and then attempting to fill it with sea water. In answer to the student, the child said he intended to empty the great deep. "Impossible", said Augustine. "Not more impossible", said the child, "than for you to explain the Trinity ". These are the kind of tales which men tell to save themselves from giving any explanation of a doctrine which they are taught to say is fundamental in religion.

The late Archbishop Sumner, in his sermon on "The Duty of Acquainting Ourselves with God", says:—"Here, however, I am scarcely less foiled than before, if I attempt to form to myself any distinct idea of this mysterious Godhead. I am not able to comprehend, with any clearness, the union of Person, and the distinction of Person, represented in Scripture. I am at a loss to conceive how the nature of God should be incorporated with that of man in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I cannot understand the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart; much less can I explain that operation in the extent and degree which Scripture asserts, and still leave room for the developement of individual character, which the same Scripture obliges me to recognise. A very short inquiry is sufficient to convince me, that if I am not to be at peace till I am acquainted with God in all these mysteries of his nature, I must sit down in despair".

We are disposed to ask, what command or injunction could this dignitary point out, in the religion of Christ, that made it incumbent on him to believe in a union and distinction of persons in the Godhead, that was so perplexing? We have referred to the confession of Dr. Hey, a Trinitarian, who says on the Trinity: "My understanding is involved in perplexity, my conceptions bewildered in the thickest darkness. I confess and proclaim my confusion in the most unequivocal manner". Similar is the language of the learned Jeremy Taylor, in a sermon before the University of Dublin,—that "if you go about to speak of, and to understand, the mysterious Trinity, and do it by words and names of man's invention, you will in the end find your understanding, like St. Peter's on Mount Tabor, at the Transfiguration—you may build three tabernacles in your head, and talk something, but you will know not what".

We offer but one quotation more; the words are those of Bishop Beveridge:—"I cannot set myself to think of the Trinity, or to screw up my thoughts a little concerning it, but I immediately lose myself as in a trance or ecstacy". How widely different are these assertions from certain others, which we are disposed to think more nearly approach the truth and the simplicity of a religion which was level to the understanding of "the common people" and which "they heard gladly"! Our Lord says, "The poor have the Gospel preached to them"; and it is not uncommon now to hear the words, "The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein". Such passages imply that we have in Christianity a religion that meets the mental capacities and the wants of the labourer and the artizan. Dr. Parr, the distinguished scholar and divine, places this fact in its proper light when he says:— "Christianity is a religion intended for general use: it "appeals to the common feelings of our nature, and never clashes with the unbiassed dictates of our reason. We may therefore rank it among the beneficial tendencies, as well as the peculiar evidences, of such a religion, that the Author of it abstained from all abstruse speculations". Endless is the testimony, that the Christian religion is not a mass of riddles and mysteries, but a simple thing, intelligible to the humblest intellect.

We have seen that the doctrine of the Trinity is said to "perplex the understanding"; "bewilder the mind"; we cannot "comprehend it"; "when thinking of it, I lose myself as in a trance or ecstacy"; "it is strange and unaccountable"; "it is the mystery of mysteries"; "seemingly incredible"; "it contradicts our reason"; "it makes us use words without meaning". Such are the exclamations of learned and devout men who say they believe it. Is it possible, we ask, that they are contemplating a doctrine of that Gospel which "the poor had preached to them", and "the common people heard gladly", when they thus speak? Certainly not. The schoolmen of the Church have invented, or imported, this view of our heavenly Father, and so done a great injury to the religion of Christ. It was in view of this perplexing theme, the Trinity, that Dr. Watts, in his last days, expressed himself, in his Solemn Address to God, as "embarrassed and bewildered":—

"Dear and blessed God, hadst Thou told me plainly in any single text, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three real distinct persons in Thy divine nature, I had never suffered myself to be so bewildered in so many doubts, nor embarrassed with so many strong fears of asserting to the mere inventions of men, instead of divine doctrine; but I should have humbly and immediately accepted Thy words, so far as it was possible for me to understand them, as the only rule of my faith. Or hadst Thou been pleased so to express and include this proposition in the several scattered parts of thy book from whence my reason and my conscience might with ease find out, and with certainty infer, this doctrine, I should have joyfully employed all my reasoning powers, with their utmost skill and activity, to have found out this inference, and engrafted it into my soul".

Saturday, October 20, 2018

An 1827 Journal on John 8:58

"We pass to the important words EGW EIMI. Here there can be no allusion to Exod. iii. 14, 'I am that I am,' as many suppose; because in the Hebrew the verb is future, and the expression ought to be understood as a declaration not of eternal existence but of faithfulness in the performance of what had been promised to the people of Israel...As to the time expressed by EIMI, Mr. Bloomfield justly remarks, 'The present is often so put as to have the force of the imperfect, especially when the thing which is said some time to have been still continues to be,' of which he gives examples. The application we should make of this remark is somewhat different from our author's. We understand 'before the birth of Abraham I have been appointed to that office which I am now filling—I have been as I now am, the Messiah.'" ~from The Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature 1827

Friday, October 19, 2018

James D. G. Dunn on John 1:1

From _Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence_ by James D. G. Dunn which is available on Amazon by clicking here and on Barnes and Nobles by clicking here:

We have already noted the attribution of the title 'God' /'god' to Jesus in John's Gospel- the pre-incarnate Word as God (John 1.1), the incarnate Word as the only begotten God/god who makes known the unseen/unseeable God (1.18), and the risen Christ worshipped as 'my Lord and my God' by Thomas (20.28). The fact that even when describing the Logos as God/god (1.1), John may distinguish two uses of the title from each other is often noted but too little appreciated. The distinction is possibly made by the use of the definite article with theos and the absence of the definite article in the same sentence: 'In the beginning was the logos and the logos was with God (literally, the God, ton theon), and the logos was god/God (theos, without the definite artide). Such a distinction may have been intended, since the absence or presence of the article with theos was a matter of some sensitivity. As we see in Philo, in his exposition of Genesis 31.13 (De Somniis 1.227-30):

He that is truly God is One, but those who are improperly so called are more than one. Accordingly the holy word in the present instance has indicated him who is truly God by means of the article, saying 'I am the God', while it omits the article when mentioning him who is improperly so called, saying, 'Who appeared to thee in the place' not 'of the God', but simply 'of God' [Gen. 31.13]. Here it gives the title of 'God' to his chief Word.

The possible parallel is notable, since Philo was clearly willing to speak of the Logos as 'God', as we see here...But he did so in clear awareness that in so doing he was speaking only of God's outreach to humankind in and through and as the Logos, not of God in himself. John's Gospel does not attempt similar clarification in his use of God/god for the Logos, pre-incarnate and incarnate, though he uses language in regard to Christ that is very close to that of Philo in regard to the Logos. [Philo speaks of the Logos both as God's 'firstborn son' (Agr. 51), and as 'the second God' (Qu. Gen. 2.62).] But in possibly making (or allowing to be read) a distinction between God (ho theos) and the Logos (theos) the Evangelist may have had in mind a similar qualification in the divine status to be recognized for Christ. Jesus was God, in that he made God known, in that God made himself known in and through him, in that he was God's effective outreach to his creation and to his people. But he was not God in himself. [Hence, presumably, John had no qualms in depicting Jesus as defending himself against the charge that he was making himself God by citing the fact that Ps. 82.6 called other human beings 'gods' (John 10.33-35).]

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Emanuel Swedenborg on the Name Jehovah

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Emanuel Swedenborg on the Name Jehovah

From The Heavenly Arcana Disclosed which are in the Sacred Scripture Or Word of the Lord, Volume 1

Speaking of Genesis 6:12: "That a state not of the church is here treated of, is evident from the fact that here and in the following verses of this chapter the name God is used, but in preceding verses He was called Jehovah. When there is not a church He is called God, and when there is a church He is called Jehovah—just as in the first chapter of Genesis, when there was no church, He was called God; but in the second chapter, when there was a church, He was called Jehovah God. The name Jehovah is most holy, and belongs only to the church; but the name God is not so holy, for there was no nation that had not gods, and therefore the name God was not so holy. No one was permitted to speak the name Jehovah unless he had knowledge of the true faith; but any one might speak the name God."

Bible Versions from Ancient Syrian, Coptic, Latin, Aramaic CDROM (PDF Format)

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Contents of Disk (created on a Windows computer)

The New Testament of our Lord and our God, Jesus the Messiah a Literal Translation from the Syriac Peschito Version 1851 by James Murdoch

The Witness of the Vulgate, Peshitta and Septuagint to the text of Zephaniah by Sidney Zandstra 1909

An Apparatus Criticus to Chronicles in the Peshitta version, with a discussion of the value of the Codex Ambrosianus by William Emery Barnes 1897

A Critical Examination of the Peshitta Version of the Book of Ezra by Charles Hawley 1922

Syriac Grammar by George Phillips D. D. 1866

The Elements of Syriac Grammar by George Phillips 1837

Remains of a Very Ancient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac by William Cureton 1858

The Epistles of St Clement to the Corinthians in Syriac 1899

A Modern Syriac-English Dictionary (Part 1) 1900 by Abraham Yohannan

Clavis Syriaca: A Key to the Ancient Syriac Version, called "Peshito," of the Four Holy Gospels 1883 by Henry Whish

A Translation of the Four Gospels from the Syriac of the Sinaitic Palimpsest by Agness Smith Lewis 1894

The Apostolical Acts and Epistles, from the Peschito: or Ancient Syriac to which are added, the Remaining Epistles, and the Book of Revelation, after a Later Syrian text 1849 by John Wesley Etheridge

The Coptic Psalter in the Freer Collection 1916 by Charles Lang Freer

The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Northern Dialect 1898 by George Horner

The New Testament: translated from the Latin Vulgate, and diligently compared with the original Greek text; with notes, critical and explanatory 1862 by Francis Patrick Kenrick

William Tyndales five books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, Compared with Tyndales Genesis of 1534, and the Pentateuch in the Vulgate, Luther, and Matthews Bible, with various collations and prolegomena 1884

The Holy Bible translated from the Latin vulgate - Douay Catholic Bible 1914

Plus You Get:

An Aramaic method, a Class Book for the study of the elements of Aramaic from Bible and Targums by Charles Rufus Brown 1884

An Aramaic method, a Class Book for the study of the elements of Aramaic from Bible and Targums, Volume 2 by Charles Rufus Brown 1884

The Aramaic origin of the Fourth Gospel by CF Burney 1922

Targum Jonathan to the Prophets by Pinkhos Churgin 1907

The Targum to the Song of Songs by Hermann Gollancz 1909

A critical essay on the Palestinian targum to the Pentateuch by C Heller 1921

The Targum of Onkelos to Genesis - A critical enquiry into the value of the text exhibited by Yemem Mss. compared with that of the European recension together with some specimen chapters of the Oriental text by Henry Bernstein 1896

The Targum to Canticles according to six Yemem mss. compared with the 'Textus Receptus' by Raphael Melamed 1921

A translation of the four Gospels from the Syriac of the Sinaitic palimpsest by Agnes Smith Lewis 1894

The Second Letter of Baruch - a translation from the Syriac by William C Bompas 1898

A Translation in English daily used of the Peshito-Syriac text and of the received Greek text, of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John by William Norton 1889

A supplement to the authorised English version of the New Testament by FHA Scrivener 1845

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Word ELOHIM and the "Holy Bible - Best God Damned Version"

I noticed a book called the Holy Bible - Best God Damned Version - The Books of Moses: For atheists, agnostics, and fans of religious stupidity (Volume 1) which is available on Amazon at

The book starts off with:

"'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'
So the Bible begins and right away I have a gripe. The Hebrew word translated here as 'God' is 'elohim' and elohim is plural, so the first verse of the Bible should actually read: 'In the beginning gods created the heaven and the earth.' This is no small thing. The difference between God, capital G, and gods, small g, is the difference between monotheism and polytheism."

My response: So this book begins and right away I have a gripe with it as well. Yes, Elohim is plural, but even Moses, a singular individual is said to be "Elohim/God to Pharoah." (Exodus 4:16; 7:1) That's right, one singular man is said to be Elohim/Gods. Why? The Hebrew, Arabic, and almost all Asiatic languages use the plural form in a singular sense when speaking of power. Even in the Koran, when God is represented as speaking, the plural is often used for the singular. It is however well known that the Koran (and Muslims) strongly denounce the trinity doctrine of a plurality of persons in the Godhead.

"That the language of the O[ld] T[estament] has entirely given up the idea of plurality in . . . [´Elo·him'] (as applied to the God of Israel) is especially shown by the fact that it is almost invariably construed with a singular verbal predicate, and takes a singular adjectival attribute. . . . [´Elo·him'] must rather be explained as an intensive plural, denoting greatness and majesty, being equal to The Great God."-The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. XXI, 1905, p. 208.

Hebrew grammarian Gesenius says of Elohim, "The plural of Majesty...sums up the several characteristics belonging to the idea, besides posing the secondary sense of an intensification of an original idea...that the language has entirely rejected the idea of a numerical plurality in elohim (whenever it denotes one God), is proved especially by its being almost invariably joined with a singular attribute." Gesenius Hebrew Grammar, 398-399

At Psalm 8:5, the angels are also referred to as Elohim. The word Elohim is also used when referring to idol gods. Sometimes this plural form means simply "gods." (Ex 12:12; 20:23) At other times it is the plural of excellence and only one god (or goddess) is referred to. However, these gods were clearly not plural (gods).-1Sa 5:7b (Dagon); 1Ki 11:5 ("goddess" Ashtoreth); Da 1:2b (Marduk). At Genesis 42:30, Joseph is referred to as Adonoi which is a plural word meaning "Lords." At Isaiah 19:4 Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as Adonim, another plural form of Lords. Yet how many Josephs or Nebuchadnezzars were there? Only one!

The very first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was a Greek version called the Septuagint made by Jews around the 2nd century BCE. When translating the word Elohim, they used the singular word Theos.

Perhaps the best way to understand the word Elohim is to compare it to our word Sheep or Deer. Deer or Sheep can be used to describe one deer, or many deer. One deer was in the forest. Many deer are in the forest. There is a sheep in the pasture. There are sheep in the pasture.

So if the Holy Bible - Best God Damned Version is wrong right on the first page, perhaps it is also an example of "religious stupidity."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

All Things Were Made BY Him

By James YATES (F.R.S.), Ralph Wardlaw (D.D.) 1815

The passages which represent Jesus as the creator of the material world, also suppose the exercise of power previously to his incarnation. These passages are decisively favourable to the Unitarian doctrine, that, if Jesus was concerned in the formation of the heavens and the earth, he was only employed as an instrument in the hands of God his Father. They are the following: John i. 3. “All things were made by him.” Verse 10. “The world was made by him.” Col. i. 16. “By him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.” Heb. i. 2. “By him He (i.e. God) made the worlds.” [I omit producing Eph. iii. 9. as a proof of the Unitarian doctrine, because the words “DIA IHSOU KRISTOU” “through Jesus Christ,” are rejected by Griesbach.] These passages, as I have now quoted them from the common translation of the New Testament, leave it undecided, whether Christ created all things by his own underived and independent authority, or merely as an instrument directed by the Supreme Being. In the Greek original there is no such ambiguity. The preposition DIA, in these passages translated BY, does not signify by any one as an original cause, (for this sense is expressed by a different preposition, HYPO,) but it denotes THROUGH ANY THING AS AN INSTRUMENT. For the sake of illustration I shall take the first example of the occurrence of DIA in the New Testament: Mat. i. 22. “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet;” or, more accurately, “which was spoken by the Lord through the Prophet.” In the first place, the preposition HYPO, BY, points out the Lord as the original author of the communication; and, in the second place, the preposition DIA, THROUGH, represents the Prophet as the medium, through whom this communication was conveyed to mankind. The same distinction is accurately observed in all cases, (and they are very numerous,) in which the New Testament writers produce quotations from the Prophets of the Old. They never introduce a prophecy by saying, that it was uttered THROUGH the Lord, (DIA TOU KURIOU) and they very seldom, if ever, say, that it was delivered BY the Prophet, (hUPO TOU PROFHTOU,) but through the Prophet, and by the Lord.

The preposition DIA, followed either by a Genitive or Accusative case, occurs in the New Testament about 630 times. It is used to denote the efficient cause of the production of an effect, (of course governing in these instances the Genitive,) about 290 times. I have examined all the passages, where it is found. I have observed, that its general application, when used to point out an efficient cause, is to represent not the primary, but the secondary, or instrumental, cause. [Against the universality of this rule only one passage presents much difficulty: I Cor. i. 9. 3. DI OU EKLHQHTE, “through whom ye were called.” But even here there is strong evidence for considering hUPO as the true reading. See Griesbach. Even allowing D1A to denote the original cause in two or three passages, still the probability that it denoted the instrumental would be in any doubtful case as 100 to 1.] This sense of the word seems indeed to arise naturally from its original acceptation. It properly signifies motion through a place. Hence it has been transferred by an obvious process to the way or method, by passing through which any object is attained, or the instrument, by means of which any end is accomplished.

From reflecting upon the primary application of DIA in reference to place, its common use in Greek authors, and the distinction observed in the New Testament between this preposition and HYPO, I had formed a judgment of the Scripture testimonies concerning the Creation through Christ, before I saw the above remarks in any other author. I was lately much gratified to find that Origen, who lived at the beginning of the third century, who wrote in Greek, and than whom none of the ancient Fathers was more learned, more honest, or more industrious, observed the same distinction, and reasoned from it in the same manner. In his Commentary on the beginning of John's Gospel, having noticed the difference between DIA and HYPO, and having observed that in Heb. i. 2. the expression (DI OU) Through whom, denotes that God made the worlds, or ages, through his Son, he adds, “Thus also here, if all things were made through the Word, they were not made by the Word, but by one more powerful and greater than the Word.” Likewise Eusebius, the learned, accurate, and laborious author, to whom among the ancients the Christian world is chiefly indebted for the testimonies to the genuineness of the New Testament writings, and who could not possibly be mistaken about the common meaning of two prepositions, which he used daily and hourly in conversation and in books, explaining the commencement of John's gospel uses these words, “And when he says, in one place, (ver. 10,) that the world, and in another, (ver. 3,) that all things, were made through him, he declares the ministration of the Word to God. For, when the evangelist might have said, “All things were made by him,” and again, “The world was made by him;” he has not said “By him,” but “Through him;” in order that he might raise our conceptions to the underived power of the Father as the original cause of all things.” Lastly, the same distinction is noticed by Philo, the Jew, who was contemporary with our Saviour, who wrote in Greek, and in several parts of his writings expresses the difference between a supreme and a subordinate creator by the opposed use of these two prepositions. See Wetstein's Note on John i. 3.

For these reasons I think myself authorised to assert, that when a New Testament writer employs the preposition DIA to point out the cause of any effect, he means the instrumental, and refers to some other being, either expressly mentioned or contemplated, who is considered as the first or original cause. What then is the real import of the passages before cited, on the supposition that they refer to the creation of the material universe? John i. 3. “All things were made through Christ as an instrument, but by God as their original contriver.” Ver. 10. “The world was made through Christ as a subordinate agent.” The passsage from Colossians has the same import; “All things were created through him;” (TA PANTA DI AUTOU KAI EIS AUTON EKTISTAI) and the passage from Hebrews, “By whom He made the worlds,” can only signify, if it relates to the creation of the material universe at all, that God made the stars and planets through the instrumentality of Jesus Christ. The Greek words, employed in these passages, cannot bear to be interpreted so as to ascribe to our Lord the creation of the material world by his own uncommunicated omnipotence. They directly contradict the notion, that Christ stretched out the heavens alone, and made the world by himself. They clearly imply, whether they be supposed to refer to the formation of the Earth out of chaos, or to the RE-formation of its inhabitants through the influence of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ was only an instrument in the work, and not a principal.

In the longest and, as it is commonly imagined, the clearest of these passages, (that from Colossians,) sufficient evidence is presented to enable the mere English reader to determine, whether in the creation of the material universe Christ displayed underived glory. After stating the fact, that all things were created through him, the Apostle assigns the cause of this fact in the following terms; “For it pleased the Father, that in him should all ..fulness dwell.” It appears, that the reason why Christ was employed in the work of creation was, that such was the pleasure of the Father, and that the Father bestowed upon him a full participation of his power and glory. Thus, when we direct our view to the first supposed period of our Lord's existence, that preceding his incarnation, we find that every passage of the New Testament, which ascribes to him power in that period, ascribes it to him as a being, inferior to, and dependent upon, the Father.