Monday, December 7, 2015

The OT Doesn't Present Other Gods as Demons?

I don't read Enns' blog anymore, as I find his liberal apologetic of caricaturing opponents, exaggerating problems in texts, and posturing himself as the sophisticated scholar and his critics as a bunch of dishonest, backwood hillbillies who don't want to give up their clearly bad stories to be unbecoming of true scholarship. In other words, it's just a waste of time to attempt to dialogue with such a person.

But I was recently listening to a Mere Fidelity podcast and it referenced a critique he made of Andrew Wilson's review in Christianity Today concerning Enns' book, The Bible Tells Me So. And in his critique, Enns makes this rather revealing comment concerning the way the OT authors view other gods in the OT.

He states, "Wilson calmly assures his readers that the
'gods' were in fact 'demons', even though the Old Testament never says this and Israel’s cultural context doesn’t support it."

Now, this is patently false. For one thing, the OT explicitly says this in a couple places.

Deut 32:17, "They sacrificed unto demons, which are not gods, gods that they knew not, new gods that came up of late, which your fathers dreaded not."

Psalm 106:37, "They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons."

The שדים are not lesser deities, as some have said, as the text plainly states that they are not really deities at all. Instead, they are spirits/demons that can be conjured for purposes of obtaining one's desires (See the discussion in HALOTSE 1417-18). The context, then, indicates that these are "shades," but not gods, that they are worshiped as gods, and that there are a variety of them. The texts also seem to indicate that this is a blanket statement of all of the false gods Israel has worshiped from the wilderness journey to the exile, so that these texts are not referencing a small group of localized deities.

Secondly, demons are all over the place in the ANE, and so to say that it is not within the ancient Israelite mindset to think of powerful forces as demons is rather oblivious to the facts.

There is no doubt that Israelites viewed the demons they worshiped, not as demons, but as gods, but that is precisely the point the biblical texts are countering.

As for the larger view of other gods addressed in the Bible, as not every time other gods are mentioned is referencing demons, I've dealt with that elsewhere, showing that sometimes the reference is to lifeless idols, sometimes to demons, and sometimes its an expression that has lost its implicature, "others gods exist."

I just think it's odd to speak so confidently about a subject, and yet, be unaware of the different uses and basic linguistics involved in interpreting the subject, and thought it necessary to correct a dogmatic and superficial statement made by one who is trusted as an authority.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why the 70 Generations in Enoch and Luke Have Nothing to Do with Jesus Destroying Demonic Powers in AD 70

There are some Preterists who think that 1 Enoch contains a prophecy that confirms Christ's coming judgment in AD 70. The text reads as follows:

 And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: 〈and〉 to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations.

 It's argued that Luke is using Enoch's chronology, as he has a genealogy that adds up to 77 generations from Adam to Jesus, which supposedly matches Enoch's timeline (70 generations from Enoch who is 7 generations from Adam). Now, even if the numbers were right, and they are not, Luke would merely be displaying that the demonic powers were judged within Jesus' generation (i.e., within His earthly lifetime or at least by the end of it), since Enoch states that they will be bound for 70 generations and then judgment. If this had to do with the temple, they would be bound for 71 generations, not 70. It must be remembered that a generation in Luke is specific to the person to which it refers as well. One cannot make up some number, like 40 or 70, and place it on each generation, as it doesn't work out that way. Some in Luke's genealogy lived for hundreds of years and others died young. One could say that it only refers to the time of a person before they give birth to the new person that then starts a new generation, but even that does not work out, as Abraham begets Isaac when he's 100 years old, and Jared begat Enoch when he was 162,  but Enoch begets Methusaleh when he's 65 (same for Mahalalel with Jared). The generation, then, refers to the lifetime of the person, not beyond it. So even if the numbers worked out, it still says nothing toward Jesus overcoming the powers in AD 70. Instead, it would relate His judgment of the powers at His early ministry and/or the cross and resurrection. One could not argue that Jesus was of the same generation as that of AD 70, as the time He makes His "this generation shall not pass away" statement, a new generation has already come. Also, Luke's generations clearly end when one dies. Hence, Jesus' generation does not go past His death in Luke's genealogy, even if used differently elsewhere.

However, 70 in Enoch is likely a figurative number, as apocalyptic literature often uses septadic numbers to represent completion (in Enoch the completion of the temporary bondage of the fallen angels). It's likely then that the 70 isn't literally 70 generations, but rather meant to end in the author of Enoch's day. Either way, it doesn't work out to AD 70.

But what's even worse than this is that Jesus is not 70 generations from the time this occurs in Enoch. People assume that this is 70 generations from Enoch, but the time of their bondage is the flood. This statement is directed to Noah in the apocalyptic narrative, not Enoch (v.1, "Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spake, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, and said to him: 'Go to Noah and tell him in my name "Hide thyself!" and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it). 70 generations from Noah comes out to 80 generations from Adam, not 77. Then you would need at least one more to make it to AD 70, so now we're at 81. Obviously, 77 doesn't match up to 80 to make it about Jesus, and the 70 generations of Enoch plus 7 generations to Enoch don't match up to 81, not to mention 78, which is what was needed even if the original numbers were right.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Lament for the Unbeliever

Unbelief is appealing, not because it is intellectually satisfying, but because it is fun. We disguise it as sophisticated with sophistry and posturing, but in the end, it is intellectually bankrupt, showing itself to be stupidity rather than stupendously coherent.

But aside from our exaltation of it, it is a pseudo-intellectualism, a deformed philosophy, that brings forth deformed creatures.

And this is the judgment of God at its beginning. Not fire from heaven, but a giving over to become less human. The more God gives one over, the more unbelief takes hold, the less a human becomes a human and the more he or she becomes some malformed creature, a creature, not meant for this world, but of chaos, of the abyss, belonging to something like the demons that are described, not even as animals, but as hybrids, distorted and dying.

We see, then, that unbelief is a journey of becoming, but not of becoming a created human, greater than the angels, but becoming something lower than a dog, feeding on whatever passions enslave it to speak and act in the moment: to kill, to bark nonsense continually, to eat itself to death, or lick itself in public. The mind becomes cruder, the mouth becomes ruder, company becomes lewder.

And only in the end will this golem of a creature be thrown into a place where it belongs, a place of chaos, a place where mutants dwell. It is a place that is made for such worthless beings, a place of fire, of darkness, outside the created order where fully formed beings dwell. Such creatures mimic the condition of their eternal destination in the here and now.

As Peter says, there is nothing left for them but to be caged and destroyed like a rabid animal.

What a sad state for this, what we can only call, "thing," both in our day and in that one. Licking up its own vomit, eternally degenerating into something it was never made to be. Enslaved forever by its mental, emotional, and spiritual retardation, a twisted mass of nothingness, it becomes an appropriate dwelling place for blind and deaf spirits, and demons seek it out like zombies feeding on brains.

A hatred for those who are truly human, and the God who creates them by ordering and giving them healthy minds that lead to life, is all that is left. These creatures feed on humans. They desire for all to be ruined as they are, and only those who bind themselves to the Creator will be truly created and escape them. Believers are given eyes to see. That's what believing God does. And they can see clearly what these sad souls cannot . . . that unbelief is anything but fun.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The One Who Denies That Jesus Is Coming in the Flesh

Important in discussing the Second Coming with JW’s and Full Preterists is whether Christ will be physically seen, or whether He will merely come again in some spiritual way. Of course, everyone acknowledges that Christ spiritually receives His kingdom through various returns throughout church history, beginning when He is delivered up in judgment before the Sanhedrin. However, the question is whether there will be a final reception of the kingdom, when the already (spiritual)-not yet (physical)has become one in the future.

One of the more helpful texts in this discussion is 2 John 7.  In the Greek, the text clearly states that it is a heresy to deny that Jesus is coming again physically:

“Because many deceivers went out into the world, those who do not confess Jesus Christ is coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

The Greek participle here is erchomenon, which seems to become an almost terminus technicus in the New Testament and early Christianity for the multiple comings of Christ, both in terms of His “not yet” and future reception of His entire kingdom (all heaven and earth) and in terms of the “already” sense of His receiving His kingdom (see ). The present participle of erchomai is the common way to express a future event or action of someone who “will come,” but Christ’s reception of His kingdom, present or future, is often described with the present participle (Matt 16:28; 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). Compare also the substantival participial forms in Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8, and 11:17: ho erchomenos “the one who is coming” (present aspect – future referring) in contrast to the one who is (present aspect - present referring) and the one who was (imperfect aspect – past referring). 

What the text teaches is, however, widely unknown, largely due to an unfortunate misunderstanding in its translation. Many interpreters and translators simply thought that John was saying the same thing that he had said in his first epistle. Hence, they translate and interpret it according to what they think is the sense of it. One can see this confusion by looking at some of the English translations that interpret the text as John conveying the same concept that he expresses in his first epistle concerning Christ’s physical incarnation.

The NIV translates erchomenon as “has come in the flesh,”  the NRSV and NASB as “as coming in the flesh,” implying a stative (i.e., “as having come in the flesh), and the YLT attempts a various ambiguous translation, “Jesus Christ coming in flesh,” still seemingly implying a past event with the present participle.

The KJV translates it as “is come in the flesh,” which is likely the source of confusion for all of the other translations and interpretations, although it continues a tradition of early English Bibles (i.e., Wycliffe, Purvey, Tyndale, and the Geneva) that ignore the present and translate it as a perfect . The translation “is come,” in English, is a stative idea conveyed by the Perfect aspect in Greek. Hence, even though it sounds like a present to use the English word “is,” the idea of “is come” focuses on the present state of a past result. In other words, “is come” in English is  a perfect, not a present. Hence, to translate the present in Greek as a perfect obscures the actual meaning. 

We translate perfects this way all the time. For instance, “it is written” is often an English translation of the Perfect that expresses the state of what is written. It was actually written in the past, but it still exists in the text to this day.
However, the Present does not convey the same idea. The Present is an “unfolding” aspect, where the author chooses to use it to convey something in process. Contextually, then, it can be molded to refer to any time in the past, present, or future. The issue, therefore, is not one of grammar so much, but of the way that John, and to a larger extant, the New Testament, uses this particular grammar to convey a future idea in contrast to one that is in the past. When referencing the incarnation, John, in his first epistle, uses the Perfect, i.e., “has come in the flesh,” “is come in the flesh.” In 2 John, however, the formula has been purposely altered to conform to the common expression of Christ’s eschatological return, “is coming in the flesh.” 

 We do the same thing in English. If an event is future, we typically say we “are coming” (present) to refer to something we will do in the future. Hence, the present tense, often when used with the word “come,” is future-referring. This same idea holds true for the Greek. As Lieu states:

Particularly striking here, however, is that the present participle “coming” (erchomenon) replaces the perfect participle of 1 John 4:2, “having come,” while the prepositional “in flesh” instead of preceding the participle follows it, although it is a moot point whether this gives it less significance. A number of translations ignore this present tense and treat it as if it were past, “has come,” merely repeating 1 John 4:2 (NRSV); this, however, is not what the participle means, and to translate so fails to explain why the author, if dependent on the passage in 1 John, has made the change—even if he had an aversion to the perfect he could have used an aorist tense. Similarly, attempts to suggest that the present tense expresses a timeless truth or continuous reality clash both with the inherent idea of the verb and with the precision implied by “in flesh.”
It is, however, the nature of the verb that the present participle can have a future reference: “Jesus Christ (as) the one to come in flesh.” The earliest known writer to cite 2 John, Irenaeus, used a chain of Johannine passages—2 John 7; 1 John 4:1-3; John 1:14; 1 John 5:1—to make this precise point: “knowing the same Jesus Christ, to whom were opened the gates of heaven because of his enfleshed assumption, who also in the same flesh in which he suffered, will come [future] revealing the glory of the Father (Against Heresies 3.16.8). The future fleshly coming was a common concern of the period, more frequently made by an appeal to Acts 1:11 (“in the same manner”). Although rarely taken up by translations and less favored among modern commentators, a continuing line of interpretation has seen in 2 John 7 a defense of the expectation of a fleshly parousia. Such a reference cannot be excluded, and might cohere with the warning against eschatological loss of a reward in the following verse.”[1]

Lieu here alludes to a host of modern commentators, largely of the more liberal variety, that do not care to take this statement as referring to the future advent of Christ. One might assume that this is for the obvious reasons that many liberal commentators share the same assumptions about the Second Coming that the Docetic Gnostics held, i.e., that the Second Coming is a spiritual event, not a physical one where Christ literally returns in the same body with which He rose from the grave. 

For instance, Dodd goes so far as to say that the text’s plain reading to anyone who knows Greek would obviously convey the idea that the author was referring to Christ’s Second Coming.[2] He then, however, proceeds to denigrate the author of the Second Epistle by saying that he must not be versed in the subtleties of the Greek language: “We shall perhaps do best to assume that our writer is not skilled in the niceties of Greek idiom, and to understand the present passage in light of the First Epistle.”[3]

Apart from appealing to an idea that denies the meaning of the text as it is written, however, Dodd is correct to admit that the Greek is clear enough to convey the idea that the author is referencing the future coming of Christ, not His incarnation. This is because the Docetic Gnostics not only denied that Jesus had come in the flesh, but because of their denial of His physical entrance into the world, they also denied that he would return in the flesh. If Christ had not come in the flesh in the first place, it was hardly true that He would return in a physical body He never took on in the world. We, perhaps, see this same denial in Paul’s reference to the heresy of Hymanaeus and Philetus in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, where the two men are able to assert that the resurrection has already taken place simply because Christ was not returning physically and the resurrection was not a physical event.

Hence, John intentionally changes the tense of the participle from perfect, which is past-referring in the context, to the present , which is future-referring in the context, in order to combat the same heresy that denied the physical appearance of Christ, both in His incarnation, as John addresses in 1 John, and in His return, as John now addresses in his second epistle.

Hence, the text reads as follows:

“Because many deceivers went out [aorist: past-referring] into the world, those who do not confess [present substantival participle: present-referring] Jesus Christ is coming [present: future-referring] in flesh. This is [present: present-referring] the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Hence, what one can see here is that John is presenting the idea that a denial of the Jesus Christ who is coming in the flesh is a denial of the true Jesus Christ, and confuses the true Jesus Christ with the antichrist, a replacement Christ that is of a different nature and purpose. The Christ who does not physically return is not the Christ of the gospel. 
The physical Christ returns to reclaim the physical as His own in biblical theology. All creation, physical and spiritual, in heaven and earth, belongs to Him. Hence, He is the Savior of the world by redeeming both spiritual and physical aspects of it. As it has often been said in Christian theology, what He assumes, He redeems. Since Christ assumes the physical, He redeems the physical. A Christ who does not do this is not the Christ of the Bible. 

This is why John places such a heavy emphasis on affirming the truth of Christ’s physical ministry: incarnation, propitiation in His blood, and physical return.

One sees this warning in the very statements of Christ when He tells His disciples that the message of the false Christs will be that the “time is engus.” Whereas, most interpreters think that the Greek word engus means “near” in terms of “approaching,” what it actually means is “near” in terms of present access, in one’s presence, something that is here. Hence, the message of the false Christ’s is that the Second Coming is here ( i.e., He has returned already) even though Christ has not physically returned. In opposition to this, Christ tells His disciples that His coming will be a visible advent where He will be seen coming with His holy angels. 

In John’s Apocalypse, the reader is told that “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.” John talks about the bodies of believers being made like His body when He becomes visible at His Second Coming in his first epistle (2:28-3:3). This is His physical appearing and return to His people, not His people’s appearing before Him, as the grammar and terminology indicate. Hence, it cannot be speaking about one’s time of death.

And, of course, this is the “not yet” portion of the “already-not yet” theology of the New Testament that can be seen in Jesus’ words in John 5:19-30 and Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8, consistent as well with Acts 1:11 and early Christian expectation.

[1] Judith M. Lieu, I, II, & III John: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008) 253-254.
[2] C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1946) 149.
[3] Ibid.