Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Last Round: No Graven Images

OK, my wife has thoroughly rebuked me for spending more time on this, rather than working on my stuff that's due in, so this really has to be my last word on this for now. As I said before, I don't expect Steve to know everything I'm talking about in my literary argument from John, since I haven't actually set that argument down yet in writing, so I hope to do that in the future at some point. I've enjoyed the discussion. This is another example of how Reformed guys keep you on your toes and make you define and clarify what you would otherwise leave as unclear and ambiguous, so I thank Steve for making me think through it a little more. Here's my (truly) final response, and Steve can have the last word.

i) In the Fourth Gospel, does the revelation of Christ’s glory reveal nothing about his person and work? Does the Fourth Gospel erect a wall between the manifest glory of Christ, on the one hand, and his person or work, on the other? Does Hodge seriously think that’s exegetically supportable?

I never said there was a wall erected between them and that the revelation of Christ’s glory reveals nothing about His Person and Work. I said His mere physical presence, and the miracles He produces, in and of themselves, apart from the words He speaks that tells us who He is, what these miracles mean, etc. are not revelatory in telling us who He is in order that we might know/have a relationship with Him. Their contribution is significant only in the context of the Word.

ii) Does the Fourth Gospel drive a wedge between what is seen and what is heard? Or does the actual dichotomy lie in how both are either perceived or misperceived, depending on the spiritual condition of the percipient?

That’s a false dichotomy, as what is seen is misinterpreted/misperceived without faith in what is heard, and it is seen rather than heard because of the unregenerated spiritual condition of the recipient (e.g., the unbelieving Jews who attribute His miracles to the devil). When the recipient is regenerated, faith by what is heard replaces faith by what is seen (e.g., John 4:39-42).

ii) Apropos (i), there are two things that make these miracles significant:
a) A natural affinity between the nature of the sign and the nature of the significate. The reason the multiplication of loaves and fishes can illustrate the bread of life discourse is because there’s a natural analogy between physical sustenance and spiritual sustenance.
Same thing in the relationship between physical sight/blindness and spiritual sight/blindness. Same thing in the relationship between the raising of Lazarus and Jesus’ identity as the “resurrection and the life.”
b) There is also the chronological juxtaposition of word and sign. These happen in close conjunction so that observers (as well as readers) can discern how the emblematic action is designed to illustrate the person, work, and words of Jesus. The narrative preserves that sequence.

Sure, because Word interprets the world around us, including supernatural events that occur within it. The Word uses language that is also based in the physical world. I’m not arguing with any of this, unless you are attempting to say that the natural affinity between them is always apparent and cannot be interpreted to communicate a different message.

iii) Apropos (i-ii), the narrator can only interpret the significance of a miracle if there is something significant about the miracle in the first place. Unless the miracle was inherently meaningful, there would be nothing to interpret.

This language is confused. Inherently meaningful to whom? Obviously, we both agree that God intended the miracle for a specific purpose, so if that is what you mean by “inherently meaningful” then we agree, but that doesn’t touch what I’m saying. The miracle is not inherently meaningful to us unless we are told its significance by the one who produced it. We don’t have access to that metaphysical information, so we have to be told what it is, and we are told via words.

Hodge acts as if the relation between word and sign is purely arbitrary. As if the narrator assigns a totally artificial significance to the miracle. Superimposes meaning on an essentially meaningless event.  But you can’t interpret what isn’t there. You can’t take more out of it than God put into it.

No, not at all. The narrator assigns the significance that God intended to assign to the miracle. We both believe the narrator is being directed by divine inspiration. I’m simply saying that we don’t know that significance until it is revealed to us through Word.

ii) However, since he brings it up, it’s superficial to confine an “image of God” to a physical, visible image. For a physical, visible “image of God” is just a concretized concept of God.

That we receive through sight rather than through hearing. This is not a superficial distinction at all. It’s a very important one if faith comes by hearing the Word of God and not by bowing down to an image.

In a deeper sense, a miracle can be an “image of God” by manifesting the nature of God.

Not using biblical concepts of image it can’t. What is an image of God in a deeper sense is the Word of God, as it manifests the nature of the one true God specifically and in distinction from all other gods, while giving access to God’s presence through it.

i) That’s rather confused. John contrasts discerning perception with undiscerning perception.

And discerning perception in John is gained by faith in the words of Christ. Undiscerning perception is produced by faith via sight apart from Word.

ii) It’s also misleading to speak of miracles taken apart from revelation, for many of Christ’s miracles have OT antecedents in OT miracles or paradigmatic events. The observer is supposed to appreciate the nature of the miracle in that larger context.

And that context is the Word of God, as you have just said. So this isn’t an argument for the miracle being revelatory in and of itself. It needs the Word to provide its significance for us.

That’s vague. Theophanies are images of God.

No, a theophany is not an image of God. Otherwise, you’re saying that God is contradicting Himself when He says that the Israelites saw no form/image (təmûnā[h]—same word used for the forbidden image in the 2d Commandment) on Sinai when God appeared to them in a theophany. An image is a physical, representative symbol, picture, or statue through which the deity makes certain characteristics of himself  known to his people, and through which his people can worship him. It gives a body to the invisible deity that allows him to enter into our world in order that we might have access to him. It is meant to reveal him to us. A theophany in the OT, in contrast, hides the deity from us. The Israelites do not have access to Him through the theophany. They are not even allowed to approach the mountain when God appears on it. The theophany reveals nothing specific to them about YHWH in distinction from other deities. It’s not a medium through which they can worship Him, etc. It’s a talking/speaking manifestation without concrete form.

The Bible is chock-full of theological metaphors that are not interpreted. Rather, the reader is simply expected to be able to infer the significance of the metaphor. And the same principle applies to emblematic events.

Because language functions within the logic of a physical world. We don’t disagree on this point. I disagree that literary imagery that comes to us via hearing and physical images that come to us via sight can both function as mediums through which we know and distinguish the true God from a false one.

I find it surprising that someone with Hodge’s theological education doesn’t know what “dominical” means in this context. In theological usage, “dominical” is an adjective which means “of or pertaining to the Lord (Jesus Christ).”

Me too. Who educated that guy? LOL. I do know what the word “Dominical” means, but the statement you made threw me, as you said that “Dominical miracles” don’t attest to Christ. I thought, then, that perhaps you were using some terminus technicus that referred to some form of miracle of which I was perhaps unaware. Since you say you are using it in the normative sense, I’m not sure how the statement does not contradict itself. In other words, how can a miracle that attests to Christ’s Lordship not attest to Christ? Or did you mean the “words of Christ”? Of course, miracles display power, but we only know that they attest to His Lordship by the interpretation of the Word. The Jews who did not believe that Word saw their attestation of His power, but attributed it to His demon (i.e. His servitude to Satan), rather than as attesting to His Lordship.

Is that how the Gospels treat dominical miracles? That half a dozen other guys could do the same thing?

No, because the Gospels interpret the miracles for us. The miracle of the resurrection, I would say, could only be performed by God, but we know of this God and of this Christ who was resurrected, the significance of it, etc. through the Word that interprets it for us. Otherwise, some guy just rose from the dead. Maybe it’s Zeus playing a trick on us. The context of the miracle is the Word. Hence, it does say something to the community of the Word in that sense, but not apart from it. I think you’re assuming the context the Word has already provided to the community and then acting as though the miracle communicates something specifically revelatory about Christ or God in and of itself, even though it is clearly reliant upon the Word that gives its sense.

i) Which begs the question of whether what’s physical or visible is someone unspiritual or untrue. Since, however, we’re discussing miraculous signs in the Fourth Gospel (and elsewhere in Scripture), it’s nonsensical to quote Jn 4:23-24 as if that that’s intended to contrast the words of Jesus or the words of the narrator with the miracles of Jesus. Does the narrator think the miracles of Jesus are untrue and/or unspiritual? 

Well, I never used the words “unspiritual” or “untrue.” The narrator and Christ thinks they are insufficient for knowing the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Sometimes those who believe because of miracles take the next step to truly believe in the Word that is spoken (e.g., the Samaritan villagers), and sometimes those who believe due to miracles reject Christ once the Word is spoken (the crowd in Chapter 6). There’s nothing untrue about a miracle. It’s just deceptive to us, because we are deceptive in our use of it, when we attempt to follow Christ by sight (i.e., through the miracle) when we can only really follow Him by hearing His voice and obeying it.

ii) You act as if “truth” or “spiritual” is synonymous with something immaterial. But in the Fourth Gospel (and elsewhere in Scripture), what makes something true or spiritual is the use that God puts to it. The divine intention behind the action or event.

Sure, I don’t disagree with the latter statement. I disagree with the former, i.e., that I take “truth” and “spiritual” as synonymous with what is immaterial in all things. I’m referring specifically to how we take hold of truth and what is spiritual, i.e., through hearing the Word of God by which our faith relationship with God comes to us.

Because miracles can be concrete metaphors. I cited some examples from John’s oGspel. A metaphor already has conceptual content. It isn’t just a cipher.
When Jesus says he’s the “true vine,” that metaphor has implicit propositional meaning. That’s why Scripture uses so much poetry. So many picturesque metaphors. Word-pictures.
When Jesus calls himself the “light of the world,” and when that occurs in apposition to the healing of the blind man, his emblematic act has interpretive significance. Yes, words interpret actions, but actions can also explicate the meaning of the words. Nonverbal communication is still communicative.

Sure, I have no problem with that. As I’ve been saying, the physical accompanies the Word, as the sacraments accompany the Word. The Word obviously uses the sensible world around us to communicate and create mental images in our minds. But God reorients us by telling us to experience reality primarily through hearing, which is to interpret in submission to another's interpretation and report rather than through seeing, which is to interpret independently for ourselves. The former leads us to worshiping the true God. The latter leads us to creating false gods in service of ourselves.

You act as if the sensible world is delusive. But God made the sensible world. God uses nonverbal as well as verbal communication.

No, we are delusive in our exile from knowing the true God who made us. The world is sensible, but we are senseless in understanding metaphysical purpose, so the divine must communicate to us through word when He produces an event for a particular purpose.

It doesn’t? “The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

Steve, this is said in a context, not by itself. The context indicates that Moses has already proclaimed the meaning of these miracles, to whom they point and for what purpose, to all of Egypt through Pharaoh, his court, and their Israelite slaves. The passage, in context, therefore, does not convey that the miracle communicates these things in its own right.

I didn’t say words have no bearing on how the observer ought to understand the event. But you act as if the event has no inherent significance or interpretive value in its own right.

How can data interpret itself? It has value in that God intended it to be interpreted a certain way through His Word. His Word reveals what God intended the miracle for. Apart from God telling us what it means, we’re baffled by it. It reveals nothing on its own, but that some unknown, powerful being did something amazing for some unknown reason.

I didn’t cite Exod 9:6. I cited Exod 9:16.

My comments refer to Exod 9:16. That was just a citation error. But you didn’t answer my question here. How does a miracle or even a theophany for that matter reveal YHWH in distinction from other deities without an interpretive message that gives us that distinction?

The OT has theophanies and emblematic miracles both before and after the Exodus. Where is the switch?

Where do you see theophanies after Sinai? When I say that most of what people, including some scholars, consider theophanies are not true theophanies, I’m referring to imagery of God seen in visions and dreams as not true theophanies. A theophany proper is God manifesting His presence through a physical medium. He does that in the cloud/pillar of fire and in the scene in Exod 33. Unless you see angels as theophany, which you may, God doesn’t appear through a physical medium again to people until the time of Christ (hence, He is a prophet like Moses because He sees God face to face, i.e., through a physical medium, both of which conceal the divine rather than reveal it). So the switch (I’m referring to within the Pentateuch when I say that a switch is made) is made after the covenant is given at Sinai.

No, that’s not my argument. We’re discussing miracles because you posited a disjunction between word-media and event media. I haven’t said miracles justify pictures of Jesus. I’m merely responding to your false antithesis.

Got it. I misunderstood us to be discussing the whole ball of wax, which is why my comments on somewhat scattered between the two issues. However, I don’t see how your argumentation does not also undermine the 2d Commandment. I have still yet to see where it is possible to retain your argument without it being an objection to God’s command at the same time.

Once again, you’re confusing the history of the event with the history of reception. The plagues of Egypt are, in the first instance, directed at observers, not readers. The Egyptians weren’t reading the Book of Exodus. That was written in the Sinai, after the Israelites left Egypt. But Yahweh is describing something which happened in Egypt, something which the native Egyptians would be in a position to appreciate. So it must have some independent significance apart the subsequent canonical interpretation, for it to discharge the function that Yahweh ascribes to it (e.g. Exod 7:5; 9:16).

I’m not arguing that Word as canon was always needed, but merely Word in order to interpret the event. So I’m not confusing event with later interpretation of the event. I’m saying that all events are in need of interpretation, and thus, if God produces an event for a specific purpose, we will not know it unless we are told for what purpose, and what God, the event has been produced. Hence, Word is always necessary for us to know the divine significance of the event.

Likewise, dominical miracles are originally directed at contemporary observers of the event before they are later directed at future readers of the Gospel. It’s not as if the miracles are just a blank slate until, years later, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John interpret the miracles.

But a point that all of the Gospels make is that the original observers didn’t know what to make of the miracles. They did not tell them who Christ was or whether He was from God or the devil. Flesh and blood could not reveal His identity to them through the miracles performed, but only the Father who is in heaven. If they believed He was of God, it was through the word spoken accompanied by miracles, otherwise, without word, the belief is seen as superficial and insufficient.
I also disagree that miracles are directed at the contemporary observers. I think they’re directed at the disciples to accompany the word spoken to them, things they would not understand until Christ departed and the Spirit was sent.

The Fourth Gospel describes a scene, like the wedding at Cana. If a Christian artist illustrates that scene, his interpretation of the event can also incorporate the narrator’s interpretation of the event. There’s no fundamental tension between these two things.

Unless the scene is meant to contribute to a larger argument that sets miracles, i.e., what is seen, as ineffective toward true belief. What that would convey is that the spoken word ought to be the means through which Christ is communicated rather than through physical depiction or representation. If that is the case then the artist, merely be his attempting to render a representation of Christ is already in conflict with the intended purpose of the scene as the Gospel communicates it.

i) According to Exod 33:17-23, the theophanic angelophany was a revelatory event. Event-media. Disclosing the goodness and glory of the Lord.

But not revelatory in distinction. That can only be the case when YHWH gives the law to Moses, which is what precedes and follows this event—thus interpreting it.

ii) Somehow you treat that as a generic property of goodness or glory that isn’t specific to Yahweh. Yet the narrative makes this a privileged manifestation of Yahweh. Not some detachable accessory that another creature or imposter would simulate.

I don’t necessarily think another creature or imposter can simulate the sort of theophany that occurred with Moses on Sinai. I just don’t think it reveals that this is YHWH making the theophany as opposed to Marduk or Amun-Re or Baal. Moses only knows whose glory it is that he is seeing because of the word spoken to him. He knows YHWH through what YHWH has said. Hence, he knows that this is YHWH’s glory that he is seeing.

iii) And in the teeth of sacred account you continue to talk about “spirit and truth,” as if this theophany were unspiritual or false.

I never said anything of the sort. There’s nothing false about what is meant to hide God. That’s not really an appropriate category for what I said. Theophanies, which are physical manifestations of YHWH, don’t actually reveal anything specific about God to the one to whom the theophany appears. They show His power and His glory, but we know of this God through what He communicates verbally and in written form on Sinai.

You’re the one who treats the miracles of Christ (in the Gospels) or the miracles of Yahweh (in the Pentateuch) as if they’re interchangeable with miracles by other gods or other miracle workers. Is that how the Pentateuch treats the miracles of Yahweh? Is that how the Gospels treat the miracles of Christ? Don’t these miracles demarcate the true God or the true Messiah from imposters in the Biblical narratives?

No, they don’t do that at all in and of themselves, unexplained by word. We only know that they defeat other deities and religions by what the Word tells us about them. How do we know that Moses isn’t a prophet of the Ptah cult attempting to overthrow the cult of Atum? Because he told us that YHWH sent him, along with the reason why YHWH is attacking Egypt.

I haven’t discussed that one way or the other. But on the face of it your statement is false. For instance, the physical medium of the tabernacle was one way in which Jews could  relate to Yahweh. Indeed, a divinely authorized medium.

The Jews don’t relate to YHWH through the tabernacle. It’s merely the house that holds God’s replacement image, i.e., the Ten Commandments. His presence is with His Word. That’s why setting up a foreign/alternative altar to that of the Jerusalem temple is prohibited in the OT. If it were merely the tabernacle then the Israelites should not have been condemned for setting up alternate temples and places of worship.

That sounds more Platonic or gnostic than Scriptural. Why does the Bible use so many theological metaphors, drawn from physical objects and activities, to convey an impression of what God is like and how we ought to relate to God?

LOL. No. Steve, no intention to join Mani anytime soon. I am Augustinian, but post-conversion rather than pre-. ;-)

I do think it’s interesting that the Gnostics used John’s language to communicate platonic ideas, but that is not what I am saying. One could accuse someone of being a Gnostic by using Pauline language of flesh and spirit in order to convey some of Paul’s ideas, but that would be to take him out of context. I’m simply trying to mimic John’s language to communicate the idea that I think he is trying to convey, albeit this is in Pauline terms, that faith must come by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (empowered by the Holy Spirit). The physical world does not deceive. There is nothing unspiritual about it (I never used that language). I said the physical was insufficient to provide anything through which we could come to know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s not revelatory in the sense that it distinguishes in order to allow us to have a relationship with God/Christ. I didn’t say it was unspiritual. Obviously, Christ comes in the flesh, is resurrected, will resurrect us, will recreate the physical world, etc. God uses physical sacraments, miracles, and a whole host of other physical things to accompany the word as physical images and imagery that is to be then interpreted by the Word, but it is by that Word that all of them must be interpreted. Thus, the Reformers took issue with the medieval church performing sacraments without the preaching of the Word.

i) Both the spoken world and written word are physical communicative media. Audiovisual modes of communication.

I agree that they are audiovisual. I’ve been saying that the whole time. I disagree that they are physical communication in the sense that they are received through sight. Obviously, you would agree with me there, correct?

ii) You also act as if there’s no such thing as nonverbal communication. But I can communicate with my dog through gestures like pointing, or whistling. I can communicate affection by petting my dog.

Of course there is. I said nothing about nonverbal communication. God could have used that all He wanted, but that’s not what He used. Again, I’m not arguing that all forms of sight are contrary to verbal communication. That would be absurd. I’m arguing that John contrasts believing through word, which is sufficient versus believing through sight, which is insufficient.

Really? Where does the Gospel of John argue that Jesus’ physical presence hindered the disciples from truly knowing him?

Well, of course, this is a literary argument taken from what the book has been arguing all along. In that context, John 16:4-24 seems to imply that it is a disadvantage for Christ to remain with them, but an advantage that the Holy Spirit is sent to them to lead them into the truth that He has spoken to them, and will speak to them, but they cannot bear it now because He is actually with them. He then plays on the words theoreo and horao, saying that a little while and they will no longer “see” Him, but then in a little while, they will “see” Him. I take palin here as meaning “on the other hand.” So what is implied is that they see Him physically, but don’t really “see” Him. They will only “see” Him once He goes away and sends the Spirit who recall for them His words.

In that event, why the Incarnation? Why did Jesus ever appear to anyone?

To redeem humanity.

Moreover, your objection is a bit silly. You seem to be suggesting that when we read the gospels, where they describe people, places and objects, we should consciously suppress any spontaneous mental images which the picturesque descriptions naturally trigger. When, for instance, we read Jn 4, we should make a strenuous effort not to visualize a woman, a well, white fields, a mountain in the distance, and so on. And under no circumstances should we imagine Jesus as a tired, thirsty traveler. We must keep our imagination absolutely blank as we read this account, with its many pictorial asides.

LOL. That is a silly suggestion. I don’t know who made it, but it wasn’t me.

ii) You can say God is invisible, but by the same token you can also say God is inaudible. Your principle rules out the spoken word, which is often the basis of the written word, viz. the recorded words of Jesus.

How is God inaudible if He, by His own nature, can speak to where we can hear Him, and He has given us His Word to be preached through men? I don’t see how this statement is true.

iii) You allude to Jn 1:18, but that’s a contrast between the discarnate Father and the Incarnate Son. The disciples did, indeed, see “God” revealed in Christ.

Christ is clear in the Gospel that He reveals the Father in a non-physical manner. It is through the words the Father has given Him to speak. He’s not revealing the Father by His physical form. When He says that if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father, He doesn’t mean that He looks like the Father, but that His words and actions are the words and actions of the Father.

iv) Yes, Jesus goes away and sends the Spirit in his place. But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus is coming back. The physical return of Christ.
Moreover, John saw a Christophany (Rev 1).

I’m not sure what either of these has to do with my argument? John has seen Christ before (although he’s using apocalyptic imagery from Daniel to describe Him here). And Christ will return and we will see Him as He is. We’ll be glorified and the delusions and temptations of our clueless and idolatrous hearts will be removed.

v) You also misconstrue Jn 6:63. In context, “flesh” isn’t a synonym for “physical.” Rather, “flesh” is a synonym for death. Mortal flesh. The impending death of Christ.
And death is unprofitable apart from resurrection. That’s the intended contrast.

The content of the message (i.e., the words that He has spoken to them) in John 6:63 is about His death and resurrection, no doubt, but the contrast is between flesh and spirit, where spirit is defined as the words (i.e., the message of His death and resurrection) that He has spoken. So this isn’t about Christ’s death versus His resurrection, where the death of Christ profits nothing unless followed by the resurrection (I think it would still profit us to be forgiven by His death). If we follow the passage, however, Christ just told them of His death by saying that they all need to eat of His flesh (different use of “flesh” there as John likes to mix up alternate definitions of the same word in the same context) and drink of His blood. Those following Him start to disbelieve. He then rebukes them by asking whether they would believe if they saw Him ascending to heaven (again, not resurrection, but ascension), coming into power. He then rebuts this by saying that belief must be through spirit (i.e., what is unseen), not through what is physically seen (i.e., flesh), and the words/message He has spoken to them (i.e., the gospel) in words is spirit and life. He then says, but some do not believe even through words. Hence, He said to them that only those the Father has drawn can come to Him. That’s the context, and that supports what I’ve been saying is the argument of G of John.

Again, if we do not make the distinction between physical images of deity and physical images that accompany the Word, and literary imagery versus physical image, then I’m unsure how to maintain that the 2d Commandment is somehow coherent with the rest of the Bible. That’s what I was asking of you before. I read your comments on the 2d Comm., but I didn’t see you address this contradiction in thinking. Perhaps, it’s in an article I didn’t read? Could you summarize how you work out that inconsistency?

You also ask why a narrator could not just depict the Wedding at Cana scene as an accurate portrayal of the Gospel message without distorting the message. But the point the Bible seems to be making, and John with it, is that images of deity are to be exclusively replaced by the Word of God as the means by which we know God. Again, I am not arguing against all images. The tabernacle is an image, but it is not the means through which the Israelites come to know God. The tabernacle is a moveable temple. The temple is meant to house the image of the deity. It is through that image that the unseen deity can interact with the physical world. It provides his body for him. Hence, his presence is in his house/temple. But in biblical religion, the image is replaced, not by the tabernacle/temple (that’s pretty much the same), but by the Ten Commandments placed within a chest to hold them, accompanied only by two artifacts that represent the miracles God performed. When Deut 4 talks about worshiping God, then, it makes reference to these Ten Commandments (lit. “ten words”) as the means through which the Israelites are to know Him. Hence, no form is to be made, since words are to be used instead of the image. Instead, His presence is there because His Word is there.

This same theology is then applied to Jesus in John, who performs miracles that communicate His power, but tells us that it is through His words, God’s truth, that we must come to Him, know Him/have eternal life, and be sanctified. John then continually contrasts faith by sight (e.g., the woman at the well and the townsfolk believing because of the miracle performed) as superficial and insufficient (there’s nothing unspiritual or deceptive about it) with faith by hearing the word of Christ (e.g., the townsfolk once they have heard Christ speak).

The imagery you mention in John almost all goes in that direction (e.g., “My sheep hear My voice,” “I have bread you do not know of,” referring to His teaching, we abide in the vine by listening/obeying His commandments, He is the way/truth/life, etc.). Again, I am not arguing against imagery, but image, i.e., literary imagery is obtained through hearing but physical images are obtained through seeing. I disagree that we “see” literary imagery. We mentally conceptualize, but that’s not my point. My point is that we are to take hold of truth through hearing, which requires us to think about what is said, whether we make mental projections of God or whatnot, but seeing does not require this. I could read of God shadowing His people under His wings, and that imagery causes me to make all sorts of connections to God’s nature and character, but I likely will not see God as a bird; but if I erect a statue of a bird and say that this is YHWH, I start to think of YHWH as a bird without necessarily thinking about what is said in the larger context of the psalm. It is I who distort it. The image is nothing. There is something about hearing that is better than seeing in terms of being presented to a people who need to have faith in what is spoken, and John tells us that it is because God is spirit/unseen Himself and must be worshiped through what is unseen and spoken.

The physical doesn’t help us there, and the event-media Hence, if you were standing there with fellow Jews, and did not have the words preached, or the Father through the Spirit bringing you into the truth, then you would just marvel as they did and ask, What does this mean? Or say, This man casts out demons by the ruler of the demons. The physical displays of event-media are intended to convey something (I don’t disagree with you there), but what they intend to convey must be told to us, as we are clueless. It’s not the fault of the event-media. It’s our warped, idolatrous minds that are not in full communion with the one true God that causes us to interpret it differently than what God intended. Without the word, Christ turning the water into wine could be set on the OT precedent of YHWH turning water into blood or the demonically empowered Egyptian magicians turning water into blood. Obviously, the event testifies to the former, but we are unaware of it without the word telling us that it does (and the Spirit causing us to believe in that report). So seeing the miracle doesn’t help us. It’s hearing the interpretation of the miracle that does. The same goes for the works of Christ.

Hence, in Exod 9:16, the only way to interpret it as you are doing is to say that without any word media, the Egyptians would have seen a miracle occur and automatically, by nature of the miracle that is inherently revelatory, that “YHWH has done this.” You, then, concede that the miracles are not void of an interpretive word, but then also argue that they are revelatory within themselves, so I’m at a loss on how that works out. I certainly don’t mean to say that miracles are essentially arbitrary, and we simply pour meaning into the event. My point is that God intends to display something with them, but we are unaware of what it is that He intends to display without an interpretive word of that data.

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