September 27, 2009

Ephesians 2:1-2; A Devotional

And you were dead because1 of the transgressions2 and sins in which you once walked, as the world has through the ages3 according to the ruler of domain4 of the air5 ; the spirit now working in the unyielding6 sons.

A major aspect of Christian life is remembering where you came from. Christianity is fundamentally a faith of redemption. Part of redemption is being redeemed from something.

There are two common problems we encounter when dealing with our sinful past:
  1. Forgetting it completely: Many times we look at life from the vantage point of where we are now, a loose site of what a wretch we were before Christ. This creates pride, making us think we're perfect, and often causing us to berate others who are still in need of redemption.
  2. Hanging on to it: There are many that are so caught up in who it is that they used to be that they cannot move on. Either they keep condemning themselves (which is unhealthy), or they are focused on the thing they were redeemed from as the central obstacle in all Christian life (like a former alcoholic believing that all alcohol is evil by nature).
In this particular case, Paul is speaking of the latter sense. Our former existence brings praising God, by reminding us of how grateful we need to be. The grand purpose of Paul is a calling for us to leave that former way of living behind completely, and live in a grander, more heavenly way (which he will describe as being united to one another).

Therefore, this week consider the life you live in comparison to the world. Is it different? Are you living a life that is distinct and holy? Holy doesn't mean that you live perfectly moral. It simply means that you live differently: a life devoted to God. So live that out, and celebrate that we are no longer tied to the concerns and ways of this world, but have been birthed into a greater life.

Translation notes

1 There actually is no preposition here at all, though one is implied because the words 'transgressions' and 'sins' are in the dative (which makes them indirect objects grammatically). Most translations use the term 'in' here, but sense there is really no demand to use any particular preposition here, I thought to use one that explained things better.

2 The word here is literally 'an act of falling aside'.

3 The phrase here is "kata ton aiona tou kosmou toutou" which means "according to the eon of this world". The two basic ways I saw to translate this in other versions was "according to the course of this world" [KJV/etc...] (which is not literal enough to be this cryptic in my opinion) and "following the course of this world" [ESV/NIV]. I think the second is better, but I think both miss the mark since they don't interact with the notion of the 'aion'.
'Aion' is defined as a long period of time. It is even translated as eternity in some contexts. I believe in this context it means the full time of this world, or this world's full lifetime. I then translated it to point this out.

4 Ok, the word is is literally 'air'. What is important to note here is that there is a connection in Greek (and Hebrew) between spirit and air. The Greek (and Hebrew) word for spirit means wind or breath, and the word air can also mean the upper regions. It is also important that the word later on translated as 'spirit' is connected to this word here for this same reason. The "spirit working" is an element of the air. Since it is impossible to translated both of these senses simultaneously in English, I decided to emphasize the other half here.
However, I am really unsure of this choice, and debated for hours before I finally settled on it. Even now I'm really unsure.

5'Exousia' literally means "the right to do what one wishes". Where it was used in chapter 1, I translated it as 'authority', and I still think that that is the best sense of the word. However, it doesn't make sense in this context. The word 'influence' is chosen here just to make the sentence read easier.

6 'Apeitheia' means "won't be convinced". I felt that 'disobedience' was too law focused.

September 19, 2009

Ephesians 1:22-23; A Devotional

And He set1 everything under His feet, and made Him head over the assembly which is His body: the very thing2 which fills every bit3 of everything.
Ok, let us recall Paul's context:
I've not stopped praying for you, recalling you to mind in my prayers; that the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation on the knowledge of Him, having your mind's eye enlightened in order to perceive what is the hope of His invitation, what is the glorious wealth of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power into us, the believing, according to the work of His mighty strength according to the work of His mighty strength which was worked in Christ, arousing Him from the dead and sitting Him at God's right side in the celestial realms, far above any ruler, authority, power, or lordship, or any name named, not only in this era, but also in one to come.
If you follow just the bold above, you can see the train of thought that lead Paul to the point that we are at this week. Paul is praying for the Ephesians to understand certain things, and the final one he lists is the power that God worked in Christ. The ultimate power that God worked in Christ (or at least the one that Paul elaborates on the most) is the establishment of Christ in power. First he states how Christ has be set above everything. Now he states how everything has be set below Christ.

But if we are to understand this text, then we must consider the significance of being the body to the one that is over all things. Through Christ, we have obtained power over the same things. It is important to remember that we have no power in of ourselves, nor do we have power individuals, but we have power as Christ's body, and it is only as a body that we have access to Christ's power.

This is an important lesson that we should learn when living the Christian life. Commitment to the body of Christ gives us victory over the things of this world, whether it be the corruption around us, or the corruption in us. I don't mean going to church every Sunday either. I mean commitment to the people that you find there, not only on Sunday, but every day. We are to be attached to the people of God. We are to be one, for together, Christ moves through us and in us. We we are together, we act as a united body being guided by the head, Christ.

Therefore, I encourage you to be committed to the church where ever you go. Know a body of believers intimately, and both serve and submit to it so that you may experience the power of being united to the head, Jesus Christ.

Translation notes

1 'Hupotasso' is a compound word of 'hupo' which means under (where we get our prefix 'hypo' from) and 'tasso' which means to place/set/put/position/establish. What it actually means is to arrange or establish something beneath something else, often in the sense of arranging people beneath another person in terms of authority. Most often this would be translated as 'to subject' since this is the most basic use of the word, but this proved impossible here if Paul's metaphoric image (which is also a quote from the Psalm 8) was to be maintained.

2 Here I had a problem maintaining the rhetoric due to an issue with the English. The Greek is "to pleroma tou pleroumenou". 'Pleroma' can either mean that which fills something, or that which is full. 'Pleroumenou' is the genitive of the participle of 'to fill': thus "of the filling".
Most translations render this "the fullness of Him who fills..." but I do not see the justification of this at all. The word 'of Him' ('autou') is simply not there in the Greek, even though every translation I'm looking at has that (even the message uses 'by Christ'). It seems to be this is based of the assumption that 'pleroma' must be translated at 'that which is full', and what is the body full of other than Christ? Thus it is a translation that is based off of the interpretation.
However, I believe neither is correct. If take the meaning of 'pleroma' to be 'that which is full' then it would read "the fullness of filling all in all", which I don't think makes anything sense. However, if we take it to mean 'that which fills' then it would read "the filling of filling all in all", now it makes sense. It is saying that Christ is filling everything with His body, that is the church.
However, "filling (noun) of filling (participle)" is confusing in English since we have two homographs. My translation above is to deal with this problem.

3 The Greek here reads "all in all". I've chosen here to elucidate what "all in all" would mean. Thus: "everything that is in everything".

September 17, 2009

The Trinity Program

I was rummaging through my files and I find this document which I had written 3 years ago. I thought I would share because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt how big of a dork I am. Anyway, this is the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in C++. Enjoy:
const Divinity YHWH=Divinity();

class Divinity
aaafor (int c=0; c<∞; c++)

aaaThelitos will();
aaaString knowledge=∞;
aaaPotency power=∞;
aaaInt dimentions[∞];
aaaCharacter goodness=☺;

class HUnion
aaaHUnion(Divinity *divine, Humanity *human)
aaaaaaaaa{God=divine; man=human;}

aaaostream permeationAttributes (istream);

aaaDivinity *God;
aaaHumanity *man;

struct Messiah
aaaHUnion Christ;

int main()
aaaDivinity *Father=*YHWH,

aaaMessiah Jesus;
aaaJesus.Christ=HUnion(Son, *humanity());

September 14, 2009

The Funniest Anti-Arminian Post I Have Ever Seen!

OK, this post by Triablogue is so absolutely ridiculous that I find it comical and wanted to share it. Here Steve Hays actually tries to claim that Arminianism is a form of Manichaeism . Wow. Just wow. For those not familiar with what Manichaeism is, let me say that this would be akin to Michael Moore calling Republicans Communist. Seriously.

Manichaeism was a deterministic theology that held that the whole of reality, especially the human being, was the product of a conflict with the spiritual forces of good and evil. All events, and all that is, are merely the manifestations of the various events that are occurring within the spiritual realm. Though it is very clear that Manichaeism is not Calvinism in the sense that it does not hold to a singular good monotheistic deity, it is also clear that it is much further from Arminianism, not only for the same reason, but also because it is deterministic.

This is also odd, since there is absolutely no historical link from Manichaeism to Armnianism, yet the historical link from Manichaeism to Calvinism is well documented. Calvinism is derived primarily from Augustinianism. Augustine was the one who first introduced deterministic ideas into the church. It is also important to note that Augustine was a Manichean before he was a Christian, and only turned back to more deterministic ways of thinking during his dealings with the heretic Pelagius.1

Now, Steve Hays's actual argument is because Arminians hold that there exist events and ends in the world which do not have their origin in God that there must therefore exist an equally powerful opposing force to God. Thus Arminianism must be dualistic, and must be Manichean. This 'argument' is so ridiculous that one must wonder how existence could have brought into being such a mind as to conceive it. All events and ends which occur only happen within the parameters established by God, and therefore, though there are events and ends which God did not cause, there are no events and ends that ever occur which are beyond God's power to control. This would be akin to saying that when my friend Chris's cat scratches the couch, it demonstrates that the cat is an equally opposing power to Chris. Yeah, that makes sense.

Now, I usually don't make posts like this. I'm a rather irenic fellow. But, I'm sorry, this bit is just so ridiculous that I just couldn't let it go. I mean, really? Really? This is what you are going to argue?

All I want to say is to all Calvinists out there, I have way too much respect for you to ever call the guys at Triablogue 'Calvinists'. Quite frankly, I don't know what to call them other than a group of sophistic "theologians" that need to have their armchairs reupholstered.

1It is important for me to say that I don't actually think that Augustine got his deterministic thoughts from Manichaeism . At least not directly anyway. I believe he got them from Plato (Augustine was also a classical Platonic rhetorian). However, it is important to note that many theologians have documented links between Manichaeism and some of Augustine's theology.

September 5, 2009

Ephesians 1:19b-21; A Devotional

...according to the work of His mighty strength which was worked1 in Christ, arousing2 Him from the dead and sitting Him at God's right side in the celestial realms, far above any3 ruler, authority, power, or lordship,4 or any name named,5 not only in this era, but also in one to come.6

The first thing we must do is to remember the context of this passage. Paul is describing to the Ephesians what he is praying on their behalf. Specifically, he has been praying that they may have a deeper understanding of the things of God. Thus, we can understand this passage to be one of those things that Paul was praying for the Ephesians to understand. Since this is something that he prays for the Ephesians to understand, we can be sure that he will explain some of it in the upcoming chapters.

For now, let us consider what this is saying. It is talking about God's mighty power, and what this power has accomplished.

This was accomplished on the central point upon which the entire Christian church was founded: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think us, as theologians, tend to overlook that according to Scripture, it is the resurrection which is the defining element of the gospel. Often we talk about the cross instead (which is important, don't get me wrong), but that isn't what the NT writers talked about the most. Perhaps if we thought more eschatologically we would recognize that the power of God to resurrect Jesus Christ is the same power promised to us to arouse us from the dead in the age to come.

However, God's mighty strength didn't stop at the resurrection. It also extends to the elevation of Christ over the whole cosmos. Christ the the supreme ruler of all things, and as members of His body we we share in this as well, just as we will share in that resurrection.

What if the Church actually thought this way? What if we considered ourselves to be representatives of this mighty ruler, this ruler who is above all others? What if we walked out in that kind of confidence? What if we walked out with the humility to recognize that we represent something beyond ourselves? I believe that if we did, the kingdom of God would move through this world in power, and speed.

So let is examine our way of thinking and be kingdom minded. Let us think and act in the knowledge of our position in relation to Jesus Christ. From there, we'll see the glory of God on this Earth.

Translation notes

1 Here I am deviating from the norm and it is important for me to explain why. First of all, in Greek, the subject of a sentence can be implied by the conjugation of the verb. For instance, if I wanted to say "I know John", I could say each word: "ego ginosko Ioannen" or I could say "ginosko Ioannen". The 'o' at the end of 'ginosko' tells you that the subject if the 1st person singular, so the inclusion of the subject is unnecessary.
In the text, the verb is 'energesen' which is in the 3rd person singular. There is no subject, so the question is, who/what is the subject. Most translations seem to say God, but I'm not so sure. It seems to me that, grammatically, the word is most closely associated with the word 'energeian' in verse 19. I believe this is supported by the verb and the noun being directly related ('a work' and 'to work'). Therefore, 'en' is translated 'which' instead of 'who' and no new word needs to be introduced. It is important to note that this makes absolutely no change in the meaning of the text anyway since is it God's work that we are talking about. (It is relevant to note that the NLT seems to agree with me, though I'm not sure whether that's good or not)

2 Often translated 'to raise', 'egeiras' does primarily mean to wake someone up. Thus, I used arouse here.

3 'pases ', a derivative of 'pas', is the basic Greek word for 'all', and is also used to mean 'every' or 'any'. Here I translate it as any simply because it flows nicer. The meaning is the same, it is purely as aesthetic choice. The same is true with replacing all of the 'kai's with commas.

4 Paul uses 4 synonyms (or rather 5, though I'll get to that under footnote 5) to describe how much power has been given to Christ. This building up of synonyms is a common Hebraic rhetorical device, and we shouldn't invest too much time in figuring out the differences between these 4.
More specifically, they are:
  1. Arches: Literally means beginning, top, or head. In this case head, referring to a head ruler.
  2. Exousias: Literally, means the right to decide something or one who possesses the right to decide something. It's etymology is a little weird, so I won't get into it. I felt the word 'authority' really captured this meaning.
  3. Dunameos: This is the same word that I translated as 'power' in Eph 1:18-19.
  4. Kuriotetos: Based off of 'kurios which means lord. Kuriotetos refers to the rank of being lord. Thus 'lordship' is a rather exact translation.

5 The Greek here actually literally reads 'name named', 'named' being the past participle. This can mean one of two things. The first (the option taken by the NLT) is anything which has ever been identified. The second (which is taken by the NIV) is any title given. I believe the latter to be correct, making this actually a fifth synonym to 'head', 'authority', 'power', and 'lordship'.

It is important to note that this fifth synonym is grammatically isolated from the other four by the reiteration of 'any' and by the dependent clause which is connected to the verb 'named' ("not only in this age, etc..."). I believe this is because this last synonym is best understood as the full breadth of the category of these synonyms. Perhaps the best translation could be "and any other title that might ever be given".

6 The verb 'mello' means "to be about to happen", thus referring to the immediate future, though the participle, as used here, can be used for the generic future (as most versions translate it). If we take it to mean the immediate future, than Paul isn't referring to all possible future ages, but specifically to the age of the kingdom of God which is to be ushered in by the return of Christ. However, the use of this verb does not demand this, and thus we shouldn't force the issue.