Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is the Septuagint Inspired?

Image courtesy of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Gregory-Aland 676: Minuscule. 13th Century. A Gospels, Acts, and Epistles manuscript. 344 leaves of parchment. Single column, 28 lines per column. Muenster. 2 Timothy 3:16 begins with the first word in the first line on the page (click to enlarge).

2 Timothy 3:16 states that "all Scripture is inspired by God" (θεοπνευστος, lit. "God-breathed"):
πασα γραφη θεοπνευστος και ωφελιμος προς διδασκαλιαν, προς ελεγμον, προς επανορθωσιν, προς παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσυνη,
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (NASB)
Most agree that by "Scripture," Paul (or the author of 2 Timothy, if one questions Pauline authorship) means the Old Testament Scriptures (though the statement that "all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable," etc., is applied by Christians to the New Testament, including 2 Timothy, as well). E.g.:
First, to what did Paul refer by his use of "Scripture"? The term "Scripture" (graphē) is usually a reference to the Old Testament (just as is "holy Scriptures" in the preceding verse).48 Paul’s reference to the "holy Scriptures" in 3:15 is clearly a statement about the Old Testament. He continued to refer to the Old Testament in 3:16.

48 Peter used the term γραφάς in reference to the writings of Paul in 2 Pet 3:16. The evidence seems to suggest that he was putting Paul’s writing on the level of OT Scripture although not all evangelicals follow this interpretation. For a discussion of the issue, see M. Green, The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, TNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 147–49.

Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (2001, c1992). Vol. 34: 1, 2 Timothy, Titus The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
And for the author of 2 Timothy, as well as for his readers, the Old Testament Scriptures would most likely have been the Septuagint (LXX) - i.e., the Greek translation begun in the mid-third century B.C. As Lee Martin McDonald, Professor of New Testament Studies and President of Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada, writes:
"The importance of the LXX from a canonical perspective is not only that it was the Bible of the early Christian church and cited more than 90 percent of the time by the NT writers when quoting the OT, but that it also differs considerably from the Hebrew text in several important passages...."

McDonald, Lee Martin (2007). The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority (p. 123). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
This raises a couple questions:
  • When the Masoretic (Hebrew) and LXX (Greek) Old Testament texts differ (see, e.g., my previous post on Hebrews 10:5), why do most Christians almost uniformly prefer the Hebrew readings in their Bibles and translations instead of the text used by the early Christians and the authors of the New Testament?
  • Why do the authors of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, contra the New Testament authors' use and view of the LXX, apply the term "inspiration" only to the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament?
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

II. Articles of Affirmation and Denial

Article X.

We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

III. Exposition

E. Transmission and Translation

Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text* appears to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.

Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autograph. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).
* Note: "Greek text" in "Hebrew and Greek text" is a reference to the New Testament text, not to the LXX text.
Also, since it appears that the LXX in the first century included the so-called "Apocryphal" books, why do most Protestants exclude these "God-breathed" writings from their collection and canon and definition of "Scripture" when it is quite likely that the author of 2 Timothy did not?

I suppose one could argue that even if the author of 2 Timothy was errant in his assumptions and beliefs about the LXX and the Apocrypha, he was inerrant in writing that "all Scripture is inspired by God," etc. Such an argument, however, raises the issue of authorial intent and seems to be at variance with the historical-grammatical method ("The aim of the historical-grammatical method is to discover the meaning of the passage as the original author would have intended and what the original hearers would have understood." - from the Wikipedia link), and hence in conflict with Article XVIII. of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which states:
"We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture."
Is 2 Timothy 3:16 God-breathed and inerrant and infallible in what it says and means and asserts? If so (or even if not so), what are the implications of this verse for the LXX and the Apocrypha?

Image courtesy of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Gregory-Aland 676: Minuscule. 13th Century. A Gospels, Acts, and Epistles manuscript. 344 leaves of parchment. Single column, 28 lines per column. Muenster. 2 Timothy 2:19 begins in the middle of the 6th line from the top (click to enlarge).

Per the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (Edition 27), the author of 2 Timothy uses direct quotations from the Old Testament as follows (all in 2:19): Numbers 16:5, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus - i.e., the Apocrypha) 17:26, and Isaiah 26:13.

The text of 2 Timothy 2:19 reads:
ο μεντοι στερεος θεμελιος του θεου εστηκεν, εχων την σφραγιδα ταυτην: εγνω κυριος τους οντας αυτου, και, αποστητω απο αδικιας πας ο ονομαζων το ονομα κυριου.
Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (NIV)
The LXX passages are:
Numbers 16:5: και ελαλησεν προς Κορε και προς πασαν αυτου την συναγωγην λεγων Επεσκεπται και εγνω ο θεος τους οντας αυτου και τους αγιους και προσηγαγετο προς εαυτον, και ους εξελεξατο εαυτω, προσηγαγετο προς εαυτον.
And he spoke to Korah and all his assembly, saying, God has visited and known those that are his and who are holy, and has brought them to himself; and whom he has chosen for himself, he has brought to himself.

Sirach 17:26: επαναγε επι υψιστον και αποστρεφε απο αδικιας και σφοδρα μισησον βδελυγμα.
Turn again to the most High, and turn away from iniquity, and hate thou abomination vehemently.

Isaiah 26:13: κυριε ο θεος ημων, κτησαι ημας· κυριε, εκτος σου αλλον ουκ οιδαμεν, το ονομα σου ονομαζομεν.
O Lord our God, take possession of us: O Lord, we know not any other beside thee: we name thy name.

I realize that this is a complex and complicated subect. E.g., an essay in The Canon Debate (Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders, Editors) by a Jesuit/Catholic scholar (i.e., a person whose Church has canonized the Deuterocanonicals) examines and questions the evidence or assertion that the Gospels and Epistles quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On Calendars, Nativity, and Epiphany, or: Why December 25?

The Annunciation

The Baptism of the Lord (Epiphany)

Calculating Christmas

William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

The rest of the article can be read here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Yes, Arius, there is a Santa Claus."

While there is obviously a bit of legend mixed in with the life story of Nicholas of Myra, he was in fact a real man, and a real Orthodox Christian bishop, and he is a real saint in the Orthodox Church. From

Commemorated on December 6

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the region of Lycia (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had vowed to dedicate him to God.

As the fruit of the prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant, while still in the baptismal font, stood on his feet three hours, without support from anyone, thereby honoring the Most Holy Trinity. St Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother until after his parents had finished their evening prayers.

From his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books, making himself a worthy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Bishop Nicholas of Patara rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his nephew. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the priesthood, making him his assistant and entrusting him to instruct the flock.

In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an Elder, who aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, in unceasing prayer, the priest Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards the afflicted who came to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor.

There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom St Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desperation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man's poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honorable marriage for his daughter. St Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, St Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.

The Bishop of Patara decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, and entrusted the guidance of his flock to St Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, Nicholas asked his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted a storm would arise and threaten the ship. St Nicholas saw the devil get on the ship, intending to sink it and kill all the passengers. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed the waves of the sea by his prayers. Through his prayer a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured was also restored to health.

When he reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and came to Golgotha, St Nicholas gave thanks to the Savior. He went to all the holy places, worshiping at each one. One night on Mount Sion, the closed doors of the church opened by themselves for the great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.

Upon the death of Archbishop John, Nicholas was chosen as Bishop of Myra after one of the bishops of the Council said that a new archbishop should be revealed by God, not chosen by men. One of the elder bishops had a vision of a radiant Man, Who told him that the one who came to the church that night and was first to enter should be made archbishop. He would be named Nicholas. The bishop went to the church at night to await Nicholas. The saint, always the first to arrive at church, was stopped by the bishop. "What is your name, child?" he asked. God's chosen one replied, "My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant."

After his consecration as archbishop, St Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love for people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians for refusing to worship idols, sustained them and exhorted them to endure the fetters, punishment and torture. The Lord preserved him unharmed. Upon the accession of St Constantine (May 21) as emperor, St Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received their guide and intercessor.

Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, St Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.

In the year 325 St Nicholas was a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith, and he stood up against the heretic Arius with the likes of Sts Sylvester the Bishop of Rome (January 2), Alexander of Alexandria (May 29), Spyridon of Trimythontos (December 12) and other Fathers of the Council.

St Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. (see above paintings) For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.

Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, uprooting heresy, nourishing his flock with sound doctrine, and also providing food for their bodies.

Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. One of the greatest was the deliverance from death of three men unjustly condemned by the Governor, who had been bribed. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The Governor, denounced by St Nicholas for his wrong doing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

Witnessing this remarkable event were three military officers, who were sent to Phrygia by the emperor Constantine to put down a rebellion. They did not suspect that soon they would also be compelled to seek the intercession of St Nicholas. Evil men slandered them before the emperor, and the officers were sentenced to death. Appearing to St Constantine in a dream, St Nicholas called on him to overturn the unjust sentence of the military officers.

He worked many other miracles, and struggled many long years at his labor. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. He appeared to a certain Italian merchant and left him three gold pieces as a pledge of payment. He requested him to sail to Myra and deliver grain there. More than once, the saint saved those drowning in the sea, and provided release from captivity and imprisonment.

Having reached old age, St Nicholas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. His venerable relics were preserved incorrupt in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087, his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (See May 9).

The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in every corner of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is, perhaps, not a single city without a church dedicated to him.

The first Russian Christian prince Askold (+ 882) was baptized in 866 by Patriarch Photius (February 6) with the name Nicholas. Over the grave of Askold, St Olga (July 11) built the first temple of St Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to St Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great, one of the main churches of the city, the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral.

Famed and venerable churches and monasteries dedicated to St Nicholas are found at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobolsk. Moscow had dozens of churches named for the saint, and also three monasteries in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikolsk.

Many of the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and those who traveled by land, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of "Nicholas soaked."

Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land St Nicholas did not cease his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents for the loss of their only child, took the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) before his wonderworking icon. In the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Many wonderworking icons of St Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient Byzantine embordered image of the saint, brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon painted in the thirteenth century by a Novgorod master.

Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially numerous in the Russian Church: St Nicholas of Zaraisk, portrayed in full-length, with his right hand raised in blessing and with a Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the Byzantine Princess Eupraxia, the future wife of Prince Theodore. She perished in 1237 with her husband and infant son during the incursion of Batu); and St Nicholas of Mozhaisk, also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left. This recalls the miraculous rescue of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies, through the prayers of the saint. It is impossible to list all the grace-filled icons of St Nicholas, or to enumerate all his miracles.

St Nicholas is the patron of travelers, and we pray to him for deliverance from floods, poverty, or any misfortunes. He has promised to help those who remember his parents, Theophanes and Nonna.

St Nicholas is also commemorated on May 9 (the transfer of his relics) and on July 29 (his nativity).

Troparion - Tone 4

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Hierarch Father Nicholas,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 3

You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,
For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ
By giving up your soul for your people,
And saving the innocent from death.
Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.

And ... coming to a theater near you around Christmas 2008: Nicholas of Myra

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Slightly edited from a post at an Orthodox discussion forum:
I remember hearing secondhand that a woman was on some forum (I do not think this one) and her pastor-husband asked her what she was discussing. She replied, "The Trinity." To which he said, "With who?" She said, "The Orthodox." Hearing that, he said, "You're going to lose."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Two Greek Readers

I just received the following two books from Amazon:

The two books differ greatly from each other in both content and format.

Most of the selections in KOINE GREEK READER (KGR) by Rodney J. Decker ($17.15 at Amazon) are from the Bible, whether the Greek New Testament (for which there are not translations) or the Septuagint Old Testament (with translations). The book also includes short selections from Ignatius, the Didache, 1 Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas, as well as four Creeds (the Nicene, Nicene-Constantinopolitan, Chalcedonian, and Apostles'), also with translations. All the selections, other than the Creeds, have supplemental readings, too, though these just have parallel translations and not vocabulary and grammatical notes. The New Testament selections begin with grammar reviews and vocabulary previews, and include recommended readings from various grammars, most of which the student should own or plan on owning, or at least have access to. KGR also includes several Appendices with helpful word lists and verbal charts and information, as well as Decker's essay on using BDAG (the Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon), an earlier version of which is accessible from Decker's Website.

A Patristic GREEK READER (PGR) by Rodney A. Whitacre ($19.77 at Amazon) includes selections from the Didache, 1 Clement, Ignatius, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, John Chrysostom, Hesychios the Priest, and Symeon the New Theologian, and includes translations of all texts. There is introductory and historical information for each selection, with extensive running lexical and grammatical notes under the text. A separate section in the book contains translations of all the texts. There are three brief Appendices: Appendix A - All words that occur 50x or more in the New Testament (i.e., the words the reader should already know); Appendix B - Principal Parts of Common Verbs; and Appendix C - The Selections Arranged in Order of Difficulty.

PGR is more of a straight reader, whereas KGR also incorporates aspects of a grammar workbook. The books are relatively inexpensive, so the student who is interested in increasing his proficiency in New Testament Greek and/or expanding his reading beyond the New Testament texts should consider buying both of them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"The Spirit, the holy, the lordly and life-giving one"

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed as it is usually translated states:
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father"

και εις το Πνευμα το αγιον, το κυριον, το ζωοποιον, το εκ του Πατρος εκπορευομενον
(Commas and capitalization are per the text in The Synekdêmos - ΣΥΝΕΚΔΗΜΟΣ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΟΥ. Note that there is no comma after Πνευμα.)

In his book Credo (Yale University Press, 2003), Jaroslav Pelikan writes the following about this phrase in the Creed:
"...the language about believing in the third hypostasis or person of the Trinity as 'the lordly and life-giving' Spirit. The original Greek of that epithet, which is to kyrion in the neuter rather than ton kyrion in the masculine, is, strictly speaking, an adjective meaning 'lordly, of the Lord,' not a noun to be translated as 'the Lord,' as it is already with the Latin Dominum et vivificantem and would be in most subsequent translations into various languages." (p. 52)
Thus, instead of:
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father"
Pelikan translates it as:
"And in the Spirit, the holy, the lordly and life-giving one, proceeding from the Father" (p. 25)
In reciting and translating the Creed I had lazily overlooked this and/or assumed το κυριον was simply a neuterizing of ο κυριος to agree with the neuter το πνευμα. (κυριον would be the accusative form in both the masculine and the neuter.) This would be perhaps similar to the reason some give as to why Jesus calls Peter Πετρος in Matthew 16:18 in the wordplay with πετρα:
καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει Πετρος, και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν, και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης
I.e., since πετρα is feminine, Jesus masculinizes it to Πετρος when naming Simon Peter, since He couldn't call him Πετρα.

(ο κυριος is just a masculine substantival form of the adjective, and η κυρια ("lady, mistress") is a feminine substantival form of the adjective. Couldn't το κυριον similarly be a substantival form of the adjective when referring to neuter nouns like Πνευμα, and not have to be the adjective "lordly"?)

I can think of a couple points in support of Pelikan's translation of κυριον as "lordly" (though I don't know if these were his reasons; he might have based his translation simply on το κυριον being neuter and agreeing with το Πνευμα):
  1. It is rare for the Spirit to be called "the Lord" in the New Testament. It only occurs at 2 Corinthians 3:17 and possibly at 2 Corinthians 3:18:
    17 ο δε κυριος το πνευμα εστιν· ου δε το πνευμα κυριου, ελευθερια. 18 ημεις δε παντες ανακεκαλυμμενω προσωπω την δοξαν κυριου κατοπτριζομενοι την αυτην εικονα μεταμορφουμεθα απο δοξης εις δοξαν καθαπερ απο κυριου πνευματος.
    At 3:17 it's ο κυριος το πνευμα εστιν ("the Lord is the Spirit"), not το κυριον το πνευμα εστιν ("the lordly one is the Spirit").

    3:18 reads απο κυριου πνευματος, and κυριου could be either the masculine noun κυριος, referring to Jesus or God the Father, or the neuter adjective κυριον (κυριος, -α, -ον), agreeing with πνευμα . As it stands, the phrase could be translated as:

    • "from [the] of-[the]-Lord Spirit" = "from [the] Spirit of [the] Lord"
    • "from [the] Lord, [the] Spirit" (i.e., the Lord = the Spirit)
    • "from [the] Lord of [the] Spirit"
    • "from [the] lordly Spirit" (= κυριον)

    If it's the second possibility, then this verse calls the Spirit "the Lord."

  2. In the Creed, God is called "the Father" (more specifically "one Father" - ενα Θεον), and Jesus is called "the Lord" (more specifically "one Lord" - ενα Κυριον), before one gets to the article about the Spirit. It seems to me that the authors would not also call the Spirit "the Lord," since the Creed declares belief in (just) "one Lord." Nor would they want to confuse the Spirit in any way with the Son by calling them both "Lord," especially since they were careful to differentiate the Son's relationship to the Father from the Spirit's: the Son being begotten from the Father, and of one substance/essence with Him; and the Spirit proceeding from the Father (but with no mention of Him being of one substance with Him or with the Son).
As for Pelikan's translation "the Spirit, the holy" (i.e., "holy" as an adjective, rather than as part of the (Holy) Spirit's name), perhaps once one establishes that το κυριον is an adjective, then the whole string of arthrous terms following το Πνευμα (i.e., το αγιον, το κυριον, το ζωοποιον - but not including the rest of the adjectival participles, since the Father and the Son now enter the clause) are viewed as being adjectives. Based on this, I think one could also translate this phrase as:
"And in the holy, lordly, life-giving Spirit"
Some of my questions are:
  1. Is Pelikan is right to translate το Πνευμα το αγιον as "The Spirit, the holy" - i.e., regarding αγιον more as an adjective than as part of the Spirit's proper name? (It seems to me, though, that a lot of the New Testament occurrences of το Πνευμα το αγιον are correctly translated in English as "the Holy Spirit.")

  2. At (or by) the time this phrase was added to the Creed (in 381 A.D. at The First Council of Constantinople), would the Church have regarded το Πνευμα το αγιον as meaning "the Holy Spirit" (as opposed to "the 'holy' Spirit")?

  3. Did the authors of the Creed choose to use the Second Attributive Position syntax (article-noun-article-adjective) - i.e., το Πνευμα το αγιον - instead of το αγιον Πνευμα (First Attributive Position - cf. Acts 1:8) or Πνευμα αγιον (Anarthrous Attributive - cf. Acts 19:2) because they viewed the phrase the same way Pelikan does (i.e., as meaning "the holy (adj.) Spirit")?

  4. Was το Πνευμα το αγιον the way the Church Fathers usually or often wrote "the Holy Spirit" (perhaps because this construction is very common in Acts) - as opposed to it meaning "the holy (adj.) Spirit"?
I posted my questions at the B-Greek list, but no one seems to be responding.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hebrews 10:5: An Interesting Case for Hermeneutics, Canonicity and Inerrancy

(At some point I'll lay out or develop my thoughts about the following. Or maybe they'll just appear in the comments in response to what others may say.)

Hebrews 10:5 reads:
διο εισερχομενος εις τον κοσμον λεγει, θυσιαν και προσφοραν ουκ ηθελησας, σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι

"Therefore when he comes into the world he says: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.'"
  1. What does it mean for the "historical-grammatical method" (or "hermeneutic") that the author of Hebrews makes Jesus the speaker of these words?
  2. What does it mean for Evangelical Protestant beliefs about canonicity and inerrancy that the author of Hebrews used and quoted the Septuagint (LXX) reading of Psalm 39:7?*

    * Psalm 40:6 according to the Hebrew/Masoretic Text numbering. SEPTUAGINTA (Rahlfs) agrees with the Masoretic Text in adopting ωτια ("ears") [Ga (Psalterium Gallicanum)] here, rather than σωμα ("body") [B (Vaticanus), S (Sinaiticus), A (Alexandrinus)].
Feel free to comment!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"A Text Without a Context is a Pretext"

Renowned Evangelical Protestant scholar Dr. Donald A. Carson ascribed to his father, a Canadian minister, this phrase which has become widely-used:

"A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."

It's usually quoted in the slightly truncated form, "A text without a context is a pretext."

I.e., without examining the context in which something (in this case, Scripture) was said, one can easily (or even intentionally) misappropriate or misuse or misapply or misrepresent a text to support a position that it in fact does not support.

But what if the context for a Scripture or a Scriptural passage is not simply its immediate location in the paragraph or pericope or chapter or book, but the Church?

Monday, August 06, 2007

John Rylands Papyrus 470

Reproduced by courtesy of the University Librarian and Director, The John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester

You can click on the above image to see in a larger size. You can also go to Rylands Papyri and use the insight browser viewer to search by Reference number for Greek Papyrus 470 and view it in zoomable high resolution.

This papyrus fragment is a prayer to the Theotokos written about 250 A.D., per papyrologists who have examined the handwriting style. (Theotokos means "God-bearer," a term for Mary that was formally affirmed at the Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431.) Some initially placed the papyrus in the fourth or fifth century (the John Rylands Library description below lists it as 3rd - 4th century), perhaps because they didn't think that Christians would have been praying to the Theotokos that early. If the early dating is correct, this prayer must have already been part of the Church's services or prayers, showing that petitions and prayers to the Theotokos and the Saints go back to the early days of the Church, perhaps to the second century.

Reference number: Greek Papyrus 470
Side: recto
Image Number: JRL021620tr
Image Title: Christian Prayer
Alternative Image Title: Prayer to the Virgin Mary
Subject: Christianity
Subject: Religion
Description: This fragment was probably a private copy of a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary. It is written in brown ink. The verso is blank. Lines 4-9: "Mother of God (hear) my supplications: suffer us not (to be) in adversity, but deliver us from danger. Thou alone....". Aquired in 1917.
Date created: 3rd - 4th century
Time period covered: 1 BCE - 500 CE
Place covered: Egypt
Language: grc
Item height: 180 mm
Item width: 94 mm
Technique used: Scripts (writing)
Medium: Ink
Support material: Papyrus
Discovery site: Egypt
Bibliography: Catalogue of the Greek & Latin Papyri in The John Rylands Library at Manchester
Current repository: John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester, U.K.
Type: Text
Category: Archives & Manuscripts
Sub-category: Fragments
Image rights: JRUL
Work rights: JRUL
Image sequence number: grc0470r
Image technique: Scanned from colour transparency by Gten, August 2003
Metadata language: eng-GB

Image ID: 100285
Resolution Size: 6
Format: JP2
Media Type: Image
File Name: jrl021620tr.jp2
Width: 3683
Height: 4743

- - -

The present form of the prayer in the Greek services and prayer books is:

Υπο την σην ευσπλαγχνιαν
καταφευγομεν Θεοτοκε.
τας ημων ικεσιας μη παριδης εν περιστασει,
αλλ' εκ κινδυνων λυτρωσαι ημας,
μονη αγνη, μονη ευλογημενη

This roughly translates as (adapted from the Wikipedia entry for "Sub tuum praesidium," the Latin version):

Beneath your compassion
we take refuge, Theotokos.
Our petitions do not despise in time of trouble,
but from dangers ransom us,
Only Holy, Only Blessed

In uncial (capital) letters this would be:


The papyrus reads:

  • The writer uses a lunate Sigma (i.e., "C") for Σ
  • Gray letters are those missing or partly missing from the papyrus; I wasn't always consistent with whether to put a partial letter in gray or not
  • Some words are split at the end of a line and continue on the next line
  • The papyrus does not have spaces between words, but I used spaces in my transcription of the text

1 Beneath your
2 compassion
3 we take refuge
4 Theotokos Our
5 petitions do not de-
6 spise in time of trouble
7 but from danger
8 rescue us
9 Only Holy On-
10 ly Blessed

Note the following differences from the traditional reading:

6 "ΕΝ" is (mis)spelled as "ΕΜ," probably because the "Ν" sound would have assimilated with the "Π" in the next word and been pronounced like "ΜΠ," with the "Ν/Μ Π" perhaps even becoming a "mb" sound
7 ΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ (singular) is used instead of ΚΙΝΔΥΝΩΝ (plural)
8 ΡΥCΑΙ (ΡΥΣΑΙ) is used instead of ΛΥΤΡΩCΑΙ (ΛΥΤΡΩΣΑΙ)

- - -

Thanks go to Frederica Mathewes-Green for bringing this papyrus to my attention in her book THE LOST GOSPEL OF MARY: THE THEOTOKOS IN THREE ANCIENT TEXTS.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Best Job in the World

Among some comments about the passing of the great Christian historian Jaroslav Pelikan (converted to Orthodoxy in 1998), I found this delightful bon mot:

Nancy Wellins Says:
May 16th, 2006 at 9:43 pm


How vividly I recall his encomium to the academic life, which I recall verbatim, 30-odd years later: "Here I sit, day after day, reading exactly what I want, and at the end of every month the university mails me a rather large check. I’d almost feel guilty about it, but I’ve never been very good at feeling guilty."

From :

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two Wolves

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

- - -

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.... Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.*

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.... So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.**

* The Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Galatians 5:16-25; 6:7-8
** The Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans 8:6-8,12-14
(New American Standard Bible)

Monday, March 05, 2007

"If someone disagrees, kiss him."

A great post today (slightly edited by me) from a respondent on an Orthodox forum under the topic "Debate with Roman Catholics":
I learned some time ago from debating on this forum, and in general from debating with all those wonderful people that I debated and argued with (or argued against), that there is no true fulfillment in debating, only egoistic pain from proving oneself to be right for the egoistic pleasure of being right.

If someone asks, tell him.
If someone disagrees, kiss him.
If someone argues, leave him.

For much more good can that person receive by your subdued and humble nature than by your arrogant knowledge.

In this you will know how much you care about someone – for every minute spent arguing with someone is a minute wasted not praying for someone.

After all, we with all our knowledge cannot change one iota of someone’s mind without the will of the Lord.

So, pray a lot and argue only a little.