On God’s Glory

Steve, over at Triablogue, did a really good job with the Biblical description of God’s glory.                                    

Causes of the Rise of Scholastic Orthodoxy

From pp. 61-66, Muller gives us a sketch of the causes of the rise of scholastic orthodoxy. The first point he makes is that the polemic in which the Reformers were continuously engaged formed part of the reason why the orderly scholastic method would become necessary (pg 61).

Another factor besides polemics is the method of Ramus. This factor is one among several pedagogical developments in this time period. Ramus (1515-1572) “produced a method of logical discourse by means of partition or dichotomy which gave to Reformed theology an extreme clarity and conciseness of approach.” Scholars influenced by Ramus include Perkins, Polanus, Ames, Yates, Scharpius, and (to a lesser extent) Walaeus and Maccovius (pg. 62). His method was not accepted by all. In fact, Beza and Olevianus rejected the method utterly.

A third factor in the rise of scholastic orthodoxy is “the development and alteration of method in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries…educational progress of the Renaissance, an educational progress related to the application of new forms of logic and rhetoric to the entire arts curriculum of the university and to the advanced study of such fields as philosophy, theology, and law” (63). It is important to note here that “The rise of a revised scholasticism, tuned by Renaissance logic and rhetoric and alied to the study of the classical and biblical languages occurred in the theological disciplines as a result, not of doctrinal change, but of the participation of theological faculties in the academic culture of the age” (63).

To sum up, the four main forces contributing to the rise of scholastic orthodoxy are fourfold: polemics, pedagogical needs, the working out of systematic issues, and the striving for philosophical breadth and coherence (pg. 65). He rules out a fifth commonly cited reason (concentration on a metaphysical principle or central dogma).                                                                                

Difficult Bible Passages, part 2- Genesis 1:1

Well now, what could be difficult about this passage? Everyone knows that it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Well, not so fast. There are grammatical difficulties with the verse. Here it is in Hebrew:

 בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃

And I have already given an English translation. But you can also look here for my Accent Translation. Make sure you read the first post right before it, so that you can understand what I’m doing with the italics, bold, and color schemes.

The difficulty with the verse is that the first word, grammatically speaking, could be interpreted as a temporal clause. That would look like this: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth (the earth being formless and void and darkness over the face of the deep, the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters), then God said, ‘Let there be light.'” In technical terms, is “bereshit” at the very beginning of Genesis in construct (dependent, temporal: the second translation), or is it absolute (the traditional translation)? There are several indications that the traditional interpretation is the correct one.

Firstly, in the non-traditional interpretation, there is too much emphasis placed on the first day’s work. Even if one views verse 2 as closing out verse 1 (“When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters”), rather than a parenthesis, this criticism still applies.

Secondly, the non-traditional interpretation makes the first sentence of Genesis way too long in comparison with the rest of the chapter. The rest of the chapter has stately, short sentences of God saying “Let this happen,” and it happens. It is a very formal style, whereas this interpretation would have a long discursive sentence introducing many short sentences.

Thirdly, contrary to what many scholars say, the first word is not necessarily in the construct state. E.J. Young has noted that the same word occurs in Isaiah 46:10, and is definitely absolute there.

Fourthly, the comparisons usually made with other Ancient Near Eastern texts (such as the Babylonian Enuma Elish) is now almost universally rejected as having any kind of positive influence, except maybe that Genesis breathes the same air. Enuma Elish, we must understand, starts out like this, “When above the heaven had not yet been named, and below the earth had not yet been called by a name.” As a matter of fact, the apologetic intention of Genesis 1 has been noted numerous times. It would be much more likely then for Moses to affirm the absolute beginning of all things with the Word of God. It is highly unlikely that Moses thought of the world as existing in any form prior to God’s creative activity. That is the ultimate problem with the non-traditional interpretations: they make matter eternal, existing before God starts His creative work. Other Scripture affirms that the world was created ex nihilo (out of nothing). See especially Hebrews 11:3. So Moses ascribes creation here entirely to the power of the Word of God and the Spirit hovering over the waters.