John 8:58

Here is the Greek text:

 εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.

Followed by the English translation (ESV): “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The New World translation has this: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.'” The Watchtower organization has argued that there is no relation at all of this verse to the famous “I am that I am” of Exodus 3:14. But there are several points to notice here which they do not address in any way, shape, or form. First of all, the tense of their translation is completely and utterly wrong. If John had wanted to say that Jesus existed before Abraham did in the past (but not including any idea of eternal pre-existence), without any confusion on the score, he had no fewer than three tenses at his disposal: aorist, imperfect, or perfect. The NWT reflects what would be a perfect tense. The Greek is PRESENT TENSE. It indicates ongoing existence before Abraham was. God does not exist in time the same way that we do. God is both transcendant and immanent in time. The way to express this is to say that in the past God is (present tense). The NWT translators knew this, which is why they completely changed the meaning into something finite.

The second point that they do not engage at all is the fact that what Jesus says here mirrors Exodus 3:14 ***precisely*** in the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint, or LXX for short). They Watchtower people offer *zero* argumentation for why there is no connection, especially given the exact Greek correspondence between the two verses. I should mention that it is the first two words of the Greek in God’s words in Exodus 3:14 which I am talking about. The Watchtower people also fail utterly in their explanation of why the people picked up stones to stone Him. That happens when someone is uttering blasphemy. Jesus could have corrected their misunderstanding of His actions if He wasn’t claiming divinity. No, it is because He *was* claiming divinity that they picked up stones to stone Him.                        

The Purposes of the Second-Generation Reformers

Muller says (pg. 60) that “Protestant theology is no longer, in the latter period, reforming a church- it is establishing and protecting the church.” The latter period, of course, refers to the second generation, the codifiers.

What is interesting in this thought is that if the purposes of the first generation differed from the second generation, then we could expect the style of their theology to differ as well. In order to teach theology in a school, one needs a slightly different style than one would need to preach theology to people who have never heard the truth before. Although, even here, the first generation was not opposed to codifying (as we saw before with Melancthon).

He draws one contrast of the Reformation era scholastics versus the Middle Ages scholasticism on the same page when he says, “Yet, when compared either methodologically or stylistically with the scholasticism of the later Middle Ages, this new scholasticism appears profoundly humanistic in its approach to method, languages, and literary style.” We must remember at this point that Muller is not using the term “humanistic” in the same way we usually use it today, which is to refer to secular humanism, the doctrine that man is the measure of all things. Rather, the humanism to which Muller refers is the humanism of the Renaissance, the humanism of “back to the original sources,” the reading of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The call was “ad fontes,” “back to the fount.”

Question 4 of the LC

Q. How doth it appear that the scriptures are the word of God?

A. The scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of god, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.

Proof-texts: after “majesty” Hos 8:12, 1 Cor 2:6-7, 13, Ps 119:18, 129; after “purity,” Ps 12:6, Ps 119:140; after “parts,” Acts 10:43, 26:22; after “glory to God,” Rom 3:19, 27; after “salvation,” Acts 18:28, Heb 4:12, James 1:18, Ps 19:7-9, Rom 15:4, Acts 20:32; after the second occurrence of “word of God,” John 16:13-14, 1 John 2:20, 27, John 20:31

It is important in discussing this question to realize something about our argumentation: we take Scripture to be our starting point. This means that you cannot prove in a strictly logical sense something which you have taken as an axiomatic starting point. That being said, however, there are other ways of getting at this question. There are things you would expect to see if Scripture was inspired by God. You would expect the things in this question and answer to be true of Scripture. You would not expect to see the Scripture saying things like “What I am about to say is my own private, personal opinion; God is not talking through me.” Instead, you would expect Scripture to make certain claims about itself, as indeed it does in 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1, especially verses 16-21, 2 Peter 3:15-16, and the myriad places in the OT where the prophet says, “Thus says the Lord.”

The argument here is not circular as long as you understand it to be evidence and not mathematical proof. After all, as the LC itself says, the only way for anyone to be convinced that the Bible is God’s very Word is for the Holy Spirit to convince them of it. Logic may be helpful in breaking down false barriers which people have erected against the truth. However, logic will never argue people into the kingdom, unless the Holy Spirit works in the logic. Notice that I am far from saying that we should eschew logic in apologetics. Far from it. But we must not assume that we can argue people into the kingdom of God. By going from the greater to the lesser, if we can not argue them into the kingdom of God, then we cannot argue them into accepting God’s Word as Scripture either.

Jephthah’s Daughter

Check out Lee’s great post on Jephthah’s daughter. He makes some great arguments against the human sacrifice interpretation.

On Ted Haggard

I have read many good thoughts in the blogosphere about the hypocrisy of Ted Haggard. However, what is more seriously the problem is that he is a different kind of “h” word: heretic. Tolle, Blogge’s comments are the best, in my opinion, as well as being the wittiest.

Kataphatic and Apophatic Theology

Most people are probably looking at the title of this post and thinking, “huh?” But let me explain the terms. Kataphatic theology is positive theology, describing what and who God is. Apophatic theology is negative theology; it describes who and what God is not. This is another difference between East and West in the doctrine of the Trinity. Kataphatic theology is the way that the West uses; apophatic theology is the method of the East. There are inherent pluses and minuses to both ways of thinking. Kataphatic theology assumes that we can know something about God as He truly is. Especially it assumes that the revelation of the Bible describes God truly as He is. However, the danger is an arrogance that we can know God fully, and find out everything there is to know about Him. Apophatic theology assumes much more mystery about God. Oftentimes, it assumes that we cannot know God as He truly is. The danger here is complete agnosticism about God, that we cannot know anything truly about God. It should be noted that the best practitioners of each kind of theology recognize the shortcomings and attempt to alleviate the dangers. Personally, I see nothing inherently wrong with either approach. However, I strongly side with the West in that I firmly believe that the God of the Bible is God as He truly is, though the Bible does not exhaustively describe Him. The Bible gives us truth about who God really is, though we cannot exhaustively know Him. We can therefore know Him truly, though never completely. In this sense then, I believe that the dangers of apophatic theology are more dangerous than the dangers of kataphatic theology. But it is helpful in theology to describe both the truth as it is, and also the falsehood as it is. it is oftentimes helpful to know what God is not, but always with a view to better describing who He is. I think this is the path of wisdom, as long as we recognize that there is a remainder in theology which we can never fully comprehend. We must be humble in our pursuit of the knowledge of God.