John Wesley on the Biblical Languages

Against Bart Ehrman and JWs, many Orthodox are ill-equipped.

LXX Studies

John WesleyWith this post, I want to begin a series “X Christian from Church History on the Biblical Languages.” I often share these sorts of quotes with my seminary students, and I thought they might be helpful to others as well. These posts are intended to be short, mainly consisting of a quote, which can be rather long at times, with brief commentary from me to provide some context.

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That Which Has Been Believed Everywhere, Always And By All: The Perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos

Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ καὶ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.
-GNT-PT Πράξεις 2·42

“The Fathers formed dogmas on the basis of their experiences of theosis, and not after philosophical reflection on what is mentioned in the Bible.”
-Protopresbyter John Romanides, Patristic Theology

It is common for people raised with a Western φρόνημα to look to Scripture in search of a counter to why heterodox faith traditions don’t believe certain tenets of the Orthodox Christian Faith. This is even more compounded when said people do not know Koine Greek and instead are forced to use Protestant translations of the Scriptures into English (which is itself a Protestant language, which further adds to the problem of arriving at a correct hermeneutic).

The problem boils down to one thing: the approach is wrong. Orthodox Christians have never derived any dogma from Scripture; Scripture is the written record of the dogma which existed prior to it being written down. In the history of the Orthodox Church, it was always heresies that based their teachings on a novel extraction of portions of Scripture. We can see this with Gnosticism’s eisegesis of Scripture (q.v., St. Irenaeus), the Roman Catholic heresy of the filioque from St. John 20:22, Martin Luther’s novel doctrine eisegeted out of the Latin of Romans 1:16-17 (yes, novel. This why Philip Melanchthon had to strike out at the Church Fathers: this (new) doctrine is absent from them; therefore they were in error and Luther a prophet) and complicated further with his addition of “allein” in his German translation from the Koine Greek Textus Receptus. The sad irony in all this is that Luther himself believed in the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos, which is the topic of this post.

Failing to find Scriptural support in an English translation of Scripture for one’s ἀπολογία, one is forced into choosing a branch of theology as a hermeneutic. The thing is that no ἀπολογία is needed for the approach is off. For example, the Church has always believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. When has She not? Even Luther knew this, and he knew it not from Scripture but from <<τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει>> (GNT-PT Ἰούδα 3), for it was “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” (Vincentian Canon).

It is sometimes said as an argument against the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos that it is not found in Scripture; hence the teaching was arrived at via a typological exegesis of the Septuagint; the problem with this is twofold. 1., it is indeed found in Scripture (even the great Greek grammarian, Baptist A.T. Robertson was mistaken on this—but this was because he fell into the fallacy that doctrine is built from Scripture rather than Scripture being the written record of a part of the Faith). And 2., as I have already stated, the teaching is not based upon arguments from Scripture, thus whether or not it is “found” in Scripture doesn’t even matter. This last point will become very clear when we get to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert below.

To elaborate upon No. 1., in the New Testament it isn’t explicit, but it is definitely clear in the Greek: καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. (Most?) Protestants look to ἕως and commit an exegetical fallacy by usually saying something like “ἕως means ‘until'” (C.S. Lewis would lose his shirt over this), and then also forget all the other uses of ἕως where it is very clear that it does not refer to a terminus, for example, Matthew 20:28 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. Ἀμήν. At the end of the aeon Christ leaves us? Further, in Matthew 1:25 above ἐγίνωσκεν is in the imperfect active indicative, so past continuous, not simple past (aorist). To quote Zerwick, “ἐ-γίνωσκεν impf of duration: ἕως would require constative aor. (§253) if indicating termination of action” (Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), 2).

Also, many Greek and even Latin Fathers are clear on the grammar, see for example Sts. Chrysostom & Jerome. Going by an English translation, then yes typology definitely makes the perpetual virginity more clear; however, in the Greek vis-à-vis Greek, it is clear.

To elaborate on No. 2. I quote St. Vincent of Lerins,

(1) I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to inquiring, from the greatest possible number of men outstanding in holiness and in doctrine, how I can secure a kind of fixed and, as it were, general and guiding principle for distinguishing the true Catholic Faith from the degraded falsehoods of heresy. And the answer that I receive is always to this effect; that if I wish, or indeed if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly, that is, by the authority of God’s Law, then by the tradition of the Catholic Church.

(2) Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with the standard of the interpretation of the Church Catholic.

(3) Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

(4) What then will the Catholic Christian do, if a small part of the Church has cut itself off from the communion of the universal Faith? The answer is sure. He will prefer the healthiness of the whole body to the morbid and corrupt limb. But what if some novel contagion try to infect the whole Church, and not merely a tiny part of it? Then he will take care to cleave to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any deceit of novelty. What if in antiquity itself two or three men, or it may be a city, or even a whole province be detected in error? Then he will take the greatest care to prefer the decrees of the ancient General Councils, if there are such, to the irresponsible ignorance of a few men. But what if some error arises regarding which nothing of this sort is to be found? Then he must do his best to compare the opinions of the Fathers and inquire their meaning, provided always that, though they belonged to diverse times and places, they yet continued in the faith and communion of the one Catholic Church; and let them be teachers approved and outstanding. And whatever he shall find to have been held, approved and taught, not by one or two only but by all equally and with one consent, openly, frequently, and persistently, let him take this as to be held by him without the slightest hesitation.

The Chuch Fathers didn’t believe what they believed because they extracted it second hand from intellectual grappling of Scripture. To be sure, my point is that the belief in the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos is not derived from Scripture, rather it is known experientially by all baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians through the Holy Tradition, guided by the Holy Ghost in the Church. Just to be clear, I’m not arguing against typology as a hermeneutic, in fact, I think it is great. But by the same token, we need to keep in mind that the Fathers actually knew the language in which their writings and those of our Scriptures were written in—Greek and Latin.

This issue reminds me of a video I saw recently where Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert go head-to-head on religion. I have no clue who Ricky Gervais is other than that he is an atheist who shows up in memes on social media, but he said something here that is relevant to my point. He said that if all the holy books were destroyed, in a thousand years they wouldn’t come back as the same texts. This, of course, is only a problem for Protestants and atheists; for Gervais the reason why is explicit in the video, and for Protestants because their dogma is based upon various Reformers eisegesis of a specific “holy book.” Remove the book, and all you have is a dead false prophet.

For us in the Orthodox Church, however, you would have to remove all of us who make up the Church: we who live Tradition guided by the Holy Ghost. This truth is so well known that even throughout history this is exactly what has been attempted: in the Roman Empire, by the Muslim Turks, by the Bolsheviks, and now in our own times by legislating Postmodernism’s anti-Logos ideology via identity politics, and through sharia creep via “social justice.”

Further Reading

The Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God By Fr. John Hainsworth

The Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible, “Appendix E: Mark 6:3—The ‘Brothers’ of the Lord”

An Orthodox Hermeneutic by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Resource for Exegesis by Murray J. Harris, “Chapter 24. Notable Uses of Selected “Improper” Prepositions, E. ῞Εως οὗ–Matthew 1:25,” pp. 262-263

Defending the Vincentian Canon “Everywhere, Always, and By All” — A Response to Outlaw Presbyterianism by Robert Arakaki

A Protestant Defense of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity By Brantly Millegan

Interview with Charles Lee Irons: Syntax, Exegesis, and Forthcoming

Mary’s Virginity and its Perpetuity in Biblical Typology By Rdr. Isaac G.

Why is Mary Considered Ever-Virgin?

Non-Lectionary Greek New Testament Reading Plans

4 Years – Master New Testament Greek Mastery Membership Program – Daryl Burling – Reader’s GNT

2 Years – Greek NT Two Year Calendar – Charles Lee Irons – UBS GNT: A Reader’s Edition, A Syntax Guide For Readers of the Greek New Testament by Charles Lee Irons, & BDAG

2 Years – Two Year Greek New Testament Reading Plan – Facebook Group – Any GNT (follows Charles Lee Irons’ 2 Year Plan)

1 Year – Greek New Testament Reading Plan – NT Greek Studies – UBS GNT: A Reader’s Edition & The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament by Cleon Rogers Jr. & Cleon Rogers III

1 Year – Greek NT One Year Calendar – Charles Lee Irons – UBS GNT: A Reader’s Edition, A Syntax Guide For Readers of the Greek New Testament by Charles Lee Irons, & BDAG

260 Days – Reading through the Greek New Testament – Daniel Wallace – NA28 & A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey E. Miller

6 Months – 6-Month New Testament Reading Plan – From ESV.org, the new THGNT available there with many neat tools

28 Days – Reading through the Greek New Testament – Daniel Wallace – NA28 & A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey E. Miller

If any of my readers know of any plans I missed, send them my way. Thanks.

Supervisors & Programs for Septuagint Studies – Part II

Had to Reblog this due to the mention of Trevor V. Evans and Dr. John A. L. Lee.

Septuaginta &c.

We all wish we could study with H. B. Swete (1835-1917)

A few weeks ago I posted the first of what will be a three-part series on supervisors and post/graduate programs in Septuagint studies. As I mentioned, this is mostly for the benefit of students considering pursuing further study in the discipline, which is pretty decentralized and specialist. Since there are not a lot of scholars whose work is primarily focused on Septuagint, there are even fewer programs and resources to learn about it. I’m trying to lower the barriers to entry just a little bit here on this site.

The previous post was focused on North America and the United Kingdom. This (admittedly brief) post is titled “Worldwide,” by which I mean scholars in places that are not Europe, which will come in a third and final post. If I have forgotten someone obvious please let me know and…

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Toll Houses

I had an old post about this topic, where I began to compile all references to this subject. I’ll post the whole thing here:

Aerial Toll Houses (3rd Version, as of Friday 11 March AD 2016)

Here is a list of people that I have found through my own studies–and not from reading what someone else read–who believe the toll houses to be either literal and/or figurative/metaphorical:

circa 580-662 – St. Maximus the Confessor – L

“The Logos . . . reduce[d] to impotence the hostile powers that fill the intermediary region between heaven and earth . . . ” –On the Lord’s Prayer (circa 628-630

circa 7th century – St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic  – L & F

b1815-d1894 – St. Theophan the Recluse – L

b1896-d1966 – St. John (Maximovitch) the Wonderworker – L

b1897/1898-d1959 – Elder Joseph the Hesychast – L

b1934-d1982 – Fr. Seraphim Rose – L & F

The Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose

b1934-d2015 – Fr. Thomas Hopko –  Allegory of a reality?

“Toll Houses: After Death Reality of Heresy?” (audio & transcript)

present day – Metropolitan Kallistos Ware – L & F

present day – Rdr. Thomas Sandberg – L & F

Upon release of The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church I thought for sure the topic was closed, and all the Ecumenists, converts, and academic theologians would surely take a pause and reevaluate their error, especially in light of the endorsements of many Bishops.

I, of course, was wrong. Instead, those above have enough pride to say it is those exact same Bishops who endorse the book who are wrong. Such is the case with Paul Ladouceur’s book review posted on the Ancient Faith blog “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy,” entitled Orthodox Theologies of the Afterlife: Review of “The Departure of the Soul.” Two things are of interest here with this book review, 1. Ladoucer—this is not meant to be an ad hominem attack on him—is an Ecumenist and academic theologian. 2. Ancient Faith, under whose umbrella the review is posted, also sells the book in question, which should give one pause.

I’m not going to go through his review and dissect his errors, of which there are many, as I’m sure the more astute readers will be commenting in the comment section, giving Fr. Damick much to defend Ladouceur over. Instead, I will point my readers to a much better and honest review of the book written by Fr. Lawrence Farley on his Ancient Faith blog “No Other Foundation” and published on June 11th, 2017, entitled Book Review: The Departure of the Soul; also, read the comments therein.

In closing, I would like to point out to my readers that Paul Ladouceur is employed by the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College, which “was established with the blessing of His Grace Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada, Orthodox Church in America.” This is important because as far as I know Ladouceur is a member of the OCA, and His Grace Irénée’s endorsement of the book Ladouceur essentially calls heretical for it’s “ecclesiology” can be found on page 19 of the book in question.

Postmodernism

Postmodernism is difficult to define, because to define it would violate the postmodernist’s premise that no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist. In this article, the term “postmodernism” will remain vague, since those who claim to be postmodernists have varying beliefs and opinions on issues.

– allaboutphilosophy.org

28 November 2016 – JRE #877 – Jordan Peterson

3 May 2017 – Challenges, Dr. Dan Wallace, Biblical Greek Grammarian

9 May 2017 – JRE #958 – Jordan Peterson

What we need to be clear on is that the Postmodernists’ war on so-called “phallogocentrism” is actually a spiritual war against the Logos, and sadly in this end game people suffering from the mental illness of gender dysphoria (http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/…/appi.books.9780890425596.…) are pawns in the manipulating of our thoughts through the controlling of our speech via government legislation.

“2+2=5” -George Orwell, 1984

Free Bible Software for Greek

Without a doubt, I believe Accordance XII is the best. In fact, I was going to buy Logos 7, but due to their marketing and after more research, I bit the bullet and went with Accordance XII Koine Greek Expert.

If you don’t want to spend that much money (plus more for the Greek books included in Koine Greek Master that aren’t in Expert (to avoid buying Latin books)), one can download Logos 7 Basic, Verbum 7 Basic, Noet, and Logos 7 Academic Basic. Once all the apps—via your Faithlife account—sort out all the works that come with them, and your libraries indexed, you’ll have a lot to work with. Even more when you find relevant free books. From there you can build your library with books you actually want, instead of 4,000+ books you’ll never use.

And though I use Accordance, I do use “Logos 7 Basic/Verbum 7 Basic/Noet/Logos 7 Academic Basic” for books that Accordance, unfortunately, doesn’t have. But I must say, do not start using Bible software for Greek until you actually know Greek.

Any questions about which Greek books I have purchased from Faithlife I’ll gladly answer and would love to hear from anyone who uses any of the aforementioned Bible software programs.

Smile For the Picture

I feel as though it’s always “been a difficult couple of weeks,” and it has left me worrying about the future of the Church. Very common talk appears to be towards the secular understanding of human sexuality at the expense of the Orthodox understanding, shorter services, doing away with Koine Greek, American Leftist politics, Ecumenism, and cremation. All towards the acceptance of the aforementioned, a complete rejecting of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (and much other Scripture and patristic references) and a bold trust in the fallen Self-girded together with the unvoiced heresy of modernism—the belief that the Church is in error and one’s thoughts are not.

The thought that one’s thoughts are actually one’s own and not the result of the demonic’s zeitgeist-societal programming from the day of birth never occurs to most people, and why would it? Their φρόνημα is not that of the Church, and the whole concept of co-crucifixion with Christ in order to metamorphose and recapitulate the fallen Self is absent; it is no longer ‘come as you are but don’t leave as you came.’ It is now ‘come as you are and remain the same, the Church will change and legitimise my sins.’

The problem with moving the boundary, with the liberal application of οἰκονομία, is that what is οἰκονομία now becomes the new standard of ἀκρίβεια later, and this has been progressively happening since the legalisation of Orthodox Christianity in the 4th century, and to all those who doubt this I point you to Chapter 7 of Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, and this here and here.

Now here is a nice song to cheer you up

Descent-of-Modernists-268x300

Evolution & Theodicy​

Last night I came across a recently posted question in the Eastern Orthodox Biblical & Theological Discussion group on Facebook. For the most part, the question remained unanswered, devolving into those who hold a black-and-white understanding of Scripture and the Fathers’ hermeneutics of Scripture vs. those who face no fear in approaching higher levels of comprehension. Or, as St. Paul wrote in Κορινθίους ά 3·1-3 (GNT-EPT),

“ΚΑΙ ἐγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην ὑμῖν λαλῆσαι ὡς πνευματικοῖς, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς σαρκικοῖς, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα καὶ οὐ βρῶμα. οὔπω γὰρ ἠδύνασθε. ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε· ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις καὶ διχοστασίαι, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;”

Or as he wrote in Ἑβραίους 5·12-14 (GNT-EPT)

“καὶ γὰρ ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον, πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες γάλακτος καὶ οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς. πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης· νήπιος γάρ ἐστι· τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.”

I encourage those who might object to my position to read the Patristic comments on the above and to keep in mind regarding the topic of this post that science and our Faith were not mutually exclusive.

The question was, “I have a question for this group, does the Eastern Orthodox teaching on evil and ancestral sin require the belief in or the existence of an historical Adam and Eve as the parents of all people alive today?” It brought to mind a picture I saw on Instagram last year:

One of the better arguments out there.  #Atheist #Godless #GodisNotGreat #GodlessUtopia #Islam #GodisDead #GodIsNotDead #Jesus #Mohammed #Christian #Atheism #RichardDawkins #SamHarris #ChristopherHitchens #AlbertEinstein #StephenHawking #CarlSagan #NeildeGrasseTyson #TheThinkingAtheist #Bible #Koran #Science #Skepticism #NoGod #AntiReligion #Humanist #Scientist #Quran #Torah
To actually answer the Facebook question, no; furthermore, there is a flaw in the arguments presented above with the quote and Instagram post. I believe the argument(s) contain a formal fallacy of affirming the disjunct; the crux of the argument—and the heart of the question—is that it was necessary for Christ to incarnate, which is to place on God our fallen human view of the situation, i.e., action/reaction. But we know that God does nothing out of necessity, and from this premise, you will find among some Orthodox theologians and Church Fathers the belief that the incarnation was to happen all along and that it wasn’t necessitated by the Fall.
Further Reading