Thursday, June 6, 2013

Biblical Interpretation, what is your hermeneutical methodology and why?

What are my determining factors when it comes to objectivity in interpretation?

First, I recognize how my stage of truth is defined, and also realize how such factors contribute, hamper, and influence my interpretation. Everyone has factors that can limit or impair judgments, some fail to recognize or admit this. If someone has a proven better way, I would be open to change my thoughts on this.

I recognize the following (STEER from Wesleyan’ quadrilateral) not necessarily in this order:

  1. Scripture (view of inspiration, i.e., verbal plenary)
  2. Tradition
  3. Experience
  4. Emotion
  5. Reason

I also utilize sources outside the Bible, lexicons, commentaries, creeds, and various statements of faith. I use these historical statements of faith to test/validate my views to see if they correspond, and to what varying degree (if any), the certainty I hold them. I don’t view creeds as inspired or equivalent to scripture. There are a few other methodologies (not mentioned here) I use to aid in my self-analysis to see if I am considering all points and if I am reaching a faulty conclusion. While not fool-proof it certainly is a good starting point.

So that is where I differ from some Christian’s, I view the creedal statements as orthodoxy and compare my interpretation to those concerning the core beliefs. To what would non-orthodox compare their beliefs to? How would they consider themselves correct? What would be their process for determining the correct interpretation?

When I look into churches to attend, the first thing I look at of course is their core beliefs and values for obvious reasons.

So, why do I support the historical grammatical method?

By way of comparison, the historical grammatical method would be against a reader response interpretation. This mechanism would be more repeatable and reproducible than a mere reader response. In essence, the reader response is “what does it mean to you” (an informal response and methodology), which disregards the historical content, historic culture, any literary forms. So basically, one would skip all those non-systematic qualifiers and homiletically base their own conclusion upon their immediate understanding without any other regards or concern to the original audience or intent.

I wouldn’t confuse the historical grammatical method with the reader response as the reader response lacks a methodology and a way to validate systematically. They are both very different in that one looks to authorial intent and the latter the clear disregard for the authorial intent. Also a reader response uses the concept of solo scriptura (scripture only, not to be confused with sola scriptura) to which I whole-heartedly disagree with.

Utilizing a reader response methodology, the interpreter is left without any means by which the conclusions of the interpreter may be tested. But using a historical grammatical method one could validate, test, and affirm verifying:

  1. Grammatical, syntactical aspects
  2. Historical background
  3. Literary genre, structure, literary forms
  4. Theological considerations
  5. Contextualization of scriptures

This methodology also involves asking of questions, then determining if a homiletically based principle is warranted for the Christian today. Also, the interpretation of the passage along with the determining of the meaning defines the term hermeneutics; a reader response may not be able to determine using by a mere response without a more critical analysis (interpretation only). I agree with Milton S. Terry that when one neglects these aspects/principles tends to drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture.

I also believe that the historical grammatical method discourages against a mere proof texting approach. While proof-texting isn’t totally incorrect (if used carefully), the problem is when the texts are isolated from the context of the theme of the chapter or paragraph. I see this many times when someone suggests possible contradictions, or does not take account for contextualization (view of all possible passages that could apply).

The proof text method often neglects the historical setting and type of literary genre. The proof text approach tends to be more allegorical in nature which can lead to an incorrect view, especially when the literary form does not warrant the allegorical interpretation. This is where different views of eschatology occur as well.

My view would agree somewhat with a historical-critical method (HCM) however, this method (HCM) could leave out any application for today (to the other extreme).

Lastly, the historical-critical method is the primary method of interpretation for scholars in the major branches of Christianity. I do not use this as a stand alone reason as I have explained above.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trinitarians guilty of Patripassianism?

The so-called heresy of Patripassianism and the Trinitarians

This article is a quick response to the claim (from Andrew Graham) that lays claim that Trinitarians are guilty of the heresy of Patripassianism. Objectively, this response will clearly define both terms of Patripassianism and Trinitarianism and demonstrate how they are mutually exclusive of each other.

Andrew Graham writes:
In Isa 63:16; 64:8 ASV, NWT, YLT and DT Isaiah calls Jehovah the Father, [as does Jesus in Math 6:9] it would therefore, seem reasonable, that the two terms are interchangeable, so that the person called the Father, is also the person called Jehovah, two terms for one and the same person, so that, as the Father, is Jehovah, likewise Jehovah is the Father!
Trinitarians believe that Jesus is Jehovah! The problem with this belief is that it leads to the heresy of Patripassianism. (Graham, 2010)

Isa 63:16 For you are our father [H1],
though Abraham does not know us
                and Israel does not recognize us.
                You, LORD, are our father [H1];
                you have been called our protector from ancient times.
A primitive word; father in a literal and immediate, or figurative and remote application: - chief, (fore-) father ([-less]), X patrimony, principal. Compare names in “Abi-”

Verse Isaiah 63:16 was a discourse about the true father being YHWY, not Abraham. It should also be duly noted that this was before the Trinity was clearly unveiled in the NT through progressive revelation. This verse would not work for the follower of Patripassianism, nor the Trinitarian as the context is describing the term of Father in juxtaposition to Abraham, whom is not Jesus.

Dr. Constable’s notes:
Isaiah next appealed to God, on behalf of the nation, to have pity on Israel. The prophet was speaking for the faithful remnant after the exile who found little evidence that God was among them, in the way He had been during the Exodus and wilderness wanderings.
63:16 He reminded God that He was Israel's true Father. Abraham and Israel (Jacob) may have forgotten their children and may have been incapable of helping them, but the Lord had not forgotten and could help. A second basis for appealing for help was that Yahweh had been Israel's Redeemer in the past as well as its Father (cf. vv. 12, 14). Fathers characteristically feel affection and compassion for their children (v. 15), and redeemers (kinsman-redeemers) normally demonstrate zeal and perform mighty deeds for their relatives (v. 15). (Constable, 2013)

Isa 64:8 And now, O Jehovah, thou art our Father, We are the clay, and Thou our Framer, And the work of Thy hand--all of us. [YLT]

Albert Barnes Notes:
This whole verse is an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God. It expresses the feeling which all have when under conviction of sin; and when they are sensible that they are exposed to the divine displeasure for their transgressions. Then they feel that if they are to be saved, it must be by the mere sovereignty of God; and then they implore his interposition to ‘mould and guide them at his will.’
So neither verse in Isaiah would work for the view of Patripassianism.

So what is Patripassianism?

Patripassianism was the idea that it was the Father who suffered and underwent Christ’s other human experiences, was a corollary which seems to have embraced willingly enough. If Christ was God, as Christian faith took for granted, then He must be identical with the Father; otherwise He could not be God. (Kelley, 1978, p. 120)
It should also be noted that the termMonarchism” was also interchangeable with the Patripassianism beliefs, in which they both believed there was one God, the Father. The monad philosopher Heracleitus also had mutually contradictory qualities. Vox et  sonus oris was the view that the Father himself entered Mary’s womb.

So what were the verses the Patripassianism believers utilized to support their views?
Typically, the verses utilized for the view of Patripassianism were;  Exodus 3:6 (taken with 20:3), Isaiah 44:6 (uniqueness of God), Isaiah 45:14, and Baruch 3:36-8, which suggested that this unique God had been present in Jesus Christ, and John 10:30, 14:8-10m and Romans 8:5, which seemed to point to the identity of Father and Son. They rejected the Logos doctrine, arguing that the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel was to be taken allegorically. (Kelley, 1978, p. 120)

Baruch 3:36 This is our God, and there shall no other be accounted of in comparison of him.

Andrew Graham writes:
If the person called Jesus is also [and at one and the same time, simultaneously] the person called Jehovah, how is it that the person called the Father is also [and at one and the same time, simultaneously] the person called Jehovah, when the person called Jehovah is also [and at one and the same time, simultaneously] the person called Jesus?

If A is the same as B and B is the same as C, then what is A in relation to C, if also at one and the same time simultaneously B?
The permutations are simple and straight forward and no deception is intended.
Jesus is Jehovah
Jehovah is Jesus
Jehovah is the Father
The Father is Jehovah
Jesus is the Father
Jesus is the Father, who is Jehovah, who is Jesus, who is the Father, who is Jehovah, who is Jesus…!
There is no way out of the charge of Patripassianism for the Trinitarian; either he has to drop the “Jesus is Jehovah” belief, which impacts on his Trinitarian belief, or he retain such belief, which in the final analysis is heretical, is apostate (Graham, 2010)

However we see the distinction between the Word and God in John 1:1-2.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Logos] was God.
John 1:2 He [the Word] was in the beginning with God. [Emphasis mine]
·         Word was with God
·         Word was God
John clearly makes the distinction of the Word (Logos) which clearly distinguishes the Logos was with God, then goes on to say the Logos was God, describing the Unity. Concisely, John knows that the Father is distinct from the Son. This is why John did not say Jesus was God without clarification, as to not support a modalistic view.
So when Trinitarians use the moniker that Jesus is God, there is the notion that there is a distinction between the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. So the Trinitarian is not guilty of Patripassianism, and the Patripassianism group would reject the Logos doctrine. All Graham has is an excluded middle fallacy.

To answer Graham’s claim concerning Matthew 6:9, Jesus was demonstrating prayer for his followers. Followers of Patripassianism could possibly have utilized this verse, but most likely they did not.
Mat 6:9 So pray this way:
                Our Father [G3962] in heaven, may your name be honored,
Apparently a primary word; a “father” (literally or figuratively, near or more remote): - father, parent.

Graham writes:
As the famous author Arthur Conan Doyle, said,
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” (Graham, 2010)

This was statement was meant as a practical rule of thumb. As an investigator you create a mental list of all potential explanations for a situation. You then systematically eliminate those explanations that you can demonstrate are impossible, either through logic or empirical evidence. Whatever you are left with is the solution – even if it may seem extremely improbable. The logic breaks down in a world where one allows for the existence of magic. How, then, does one define possible vs. impossible? But Sherlock Holmes was working within a specific framework – a materialist, rational, scientific view of the world. In practice this process does not always work because our knowledge is incomplete. (Novella, 2008)


How did Patripassianism and Monarchism differ from Trinitarianism?

The problem with this hypothetical hypothesis from Graham is that it is not representative of the Trinitarian views. There is a clear distinction between the Father and the Son Jesus. I admit at face value, the problem with stating Jesus is God that it also tends to lead to confusion from non-Trinitarians. Whilst Trinitarians believe Jesus is God we also quantify our beliefs (utilizing the fullness of scripture) to fully explain our view. Again, this could problematic saying—that Jesus is God in the most rigorous sense without explicating what is meant by such a statement. Moreover, stating that Jesus is God would have the requisite qualities for the fallacy of complex question, or have potential attributes that could be attributed as the fallacy of an excluded middle. However, Trinitarians are not modalists and would not be classified as Patripassians in claiming Jesus is God.

In summary, Graham’s claims don’t even carry a gram of weight. In fact, I cannot say Graham has a true grasp of either view (Patripassianism or Trinitarianism). So his claims can be readily dismissed or otherwise completely ignored as a strawman argument.


Works Cited

Constable, T. L. (2013). Notes on Isaiah. Retrieved March 31, 2013, from Dr. Constable's Expository (Bible Study) Notes:
Graham, A. (2010, September 28). Heresy of Patripassianism and the Trinitarians. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from
Kelley, J. (1978). Early Christian Doctrines. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Novella, S. (2008, September 7). A Sherlock Holmes Logical Fallacy. Retrieved March 31, 2013, from The Rogues Gallery:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who were the 144.000?

Who were the 144,000?

A Response to the Watchtower by D. Adams (09/26/2008).

The Watchtower uses the following scriptures for the definition of the 144,000:
Only a little flock of 144,000 goes to heaven and rule with Christ (Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:1, 3; 1 Cor. 15:40-53; Rev. 5:9, 10)

And also they believe that the 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God (1 Pet. 1:23; John 3:3; Rev. 7:3, 4)

Part I Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with Christ
Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Who is this little flock? Is it the disciples in this paragraph?

12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.

Rev 14:1 Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand, who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 14:2 I also heard a sound coming out of heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Now the sound I heard was like that made by harpists playing their harps, 14:3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one was able to learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
14:4 These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from humanity as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, 14:5 and no lie was found on their lips; they are blameless.

1 Cor. 15:40-53 has nothing to do with the 144,000.

Rev 5:9, 10 has nothing to do with the 144,000.

Part II The 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God

Rev 7:4 Now I heard the number of those who were marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed from all the tribes of the people of Israel:  
7:5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand,
7:6 from the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand,
7:7 from the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand,

7:8 from the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.

First question, since the JW had their start in 1870 how can they be from any of those tribes?  (Lesson 14, 1996) “Jehovah's Witnesses had their modern-day start in the 1870's. At first, they were called Bible Students. But in 1931 they adopted the Scriptural name Jehovah's Witnesses.”  These 144,000 are virgins, so any JW that is not male and not a Virgin are not in heaven, according to their rhetoric.

However, who are these others in Heaven?

7:9 After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 7:10 They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These dressed in long white robes – who are they and where have they come from?” 7:14 So I said to him, “My lord, you know the answer.” Then  he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! 7:15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them.

So it is an enormous crowd that no one could count? I thought only the 144,000 (male virgins telling no lies) were the only ones in heaven?

Key location indicators (in heaven):

             This context is within Rev 7
             Standing before the throne (7:9, 7:15)
             One of the elders asked (he can see them in 7:13)
             Serve God day and night in his temple (7:15)

Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?
What Do They Believe? Published in 2000
Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
Accessed 9/26/2008

What Does God Require of Us?
Lesson 14
How Jehovah's Witnesses Are Organized published 1996
Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.
Accessed 9/26/2008