Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Got What Tim Challies Wanted for Christmas...

One of my Christmas presents was the DVD of Petra's Farewell tour. I thought I would take a moment to reminisce a bit. Only a year and a day late for Petra Appreciation Day...

My history with the band Petra stretches back all the way to about 1985. I had heard the song "Blinded Eyes" at a church youth group, and I decided I needed to hear more of them. It turns out that my dad's best friend from high school (the same one who produced To End All Wars) knew the band (specifically Bob Hartman, if I remember right). He gave me a copy of Not of This World, which is still my favorite Petra album. They were on the Beat the System tour at the time, and Mr. Hafer was also kind enough to get us tickets to the concert, as well as backstage passes.

The concert was great. Opening for them were two unknowns (unknown to me anyway). One was a young lady with an amazing voice; it was Kathy Troccoli. The other opening act was a guy and his band--a bunch of rowdies jumping around on stage in basketball jerseys and a Gumby head on. But what made an impact on me that night was when the band left, and under a single spotlight he played this new song from a couple of yellow legal sheet pages. The song was "Rocketown," and the artist, of course, was Michael W. Smith.

After Petra was done, we were able to go backstage and meet the band. I don't remember much about it, except that the "X" in Greg X. Volz's name stands for nothing (he has no middle name), but it was great.

Shortly after that concert, word came out that Petra was breaking up, and their live album, Captured in Time and Space came out. By that time, I had picked up Beat the System, and over the course of time, I was able to go back and pick up all the old albums, including the original self-titled album and Come and Join Us. (I suffer from a completist compulsion, which I suppose goes along with my perfectionist tendencies).

Petra added John Schlitt as the new lead singer, and my mom and sister took me to see them on the Back to the Street tour. We all remember the same thing--it was loud! The Celebrity Theater in Phoenix is a great venue for a lot of different types of events, including concerts, but not rock concerts. Ironically, DeGarmo & Key, who opened for them, was actually louder than Petra, though that may have been a combination of them not having adjusted the two piles of 6 speakers until after them, as well as the earplugs they handed out at the break.

In any case, I followed Petra at a slight distance from that point forward, still collecting albums up through Unseen Power. Out of the John Schlitt albums I have, I think the best is Beyond Belief. In fact, I think that may actually be their best album period--polished pop rock produced by the Elefante brothers.

But no matter the new albums that came out, the Volz era remained my favorite. Songs like "Run for the Prize" and "Second Wind" came to mind as I participated in high school sports. Just something about that voice, I guess...

In the meantime, I had gotten older, married, and was buying music that my wife and I both liked, I finally decided that the new direction wasn't as interesting to me, so I didn't really follow them anymore, except if they had a song that hit Christian radio (and if you're familiar with the band, you'll know how seldom that is).

The DVD is a real joy to watch. There were some songs I wasn't familiar with, but which were good nonetheless. Former lead singer Greg X. Volz and former keyboardist John Lowry come up on stage for a few songs, as well as being included in interviews.

Petra is one of those bands that you think "they'll go on forever," and it's hard to believe that it's finally over. Although I just read on the website that Bob Hartman & John Schlitt are teaming up for a new worship record, so who knows...

(A belated) Congrats to the guys on 30+ years of ministry and music.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Fat Man Dwarfeth

This picture, recently given to the TR Secret Police by an anonymous source, was reportedly taken outside the house of a prominent TR Blogger's home.

If true, this would violate Section 15, Sub-section 8, Paragraph 4, regarding PDIS (Public Display of Inflatable Santas) height limits.

Any information regarding the owner of this home should be forwarded immediately to TR headquarters...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Letter 2006

No internet since about 2pm yesterday. Wasn't sure whether I would be able to get this posted Christmas Day or not.

Here is the Gumm Christmas letter for 2006. Enjoy.

Dearest Family and Friends,

As another year comes to a close, we again find ourselves so thankful for God's provision in our lives. Of specific note this year is the birth of our fifth child (and fourth son), Isaac Brenton. God's blessing remains upon us, and we can truly rejoice that our quiver is full!

Our daughter (and princess) Averee is in Second grade; she is reading up a storm, as well as enjoying piano.

Trevor, our eldest son, is in Kindergarten this year, and is learning to read. He is a whiz at math, and demonstrated natural talent on the soccer field this year, too.

Our four year old, Caleb, is loving preschool, and enjoys his therapy, which is good, because he gets speech, occupational, and developmental, in part (we think) because of the one-on-one attention he receives--something that has been hard for Hollie or me to provide. He is making huge strides in his development.

Jayden is talking almost non-stop, and gets remarks every week on his high degree of cuteness. He loves to play with his siblings and his friends at Sunday School.

Isaac is a sweet baby, and has been a true joy to all of us. Each of the bigger children takes seriously their role as big brother/sister to "Baby Isaac," and they have been wonderful with him.

With this crew, Hollie is busy, as you might imagine. She also homeschools the older two, and is the primary logistician in the household, which probably equates to 3 or 4 full-time positions in the work world. As it is, she does it with composure and grace, and we struggle to adequately express our appreciation for all she does for us.

In September, I undertook my largest job change to date--I left Stephens, Inc. (and financial services altogether) and joined Capital Research, doing commercial real estate appraisal. I'm grateful for my time at Stephens, but also thankful for this opportunity, as it will provide more schedule flexibility, which is important as the kids grow older.

One highlight of my new job is that I am taking classes to get certified. Actually, the classes themselves weren't the highlight, but the fact that I was able to stay with our friends Laurie and John while I was in Dallas, and Scott and Kim and their two sons in Boca Raton, Florida. Both of those times were very special.

The word "Christmas" evokes many different thoughts, and word associations; but something that most people don't think about during Christmas is God's wrath--His anger and His punishment. Yet, if Jesus came as a Savior, it must be to save us from something. That something was our sin and the resultant punishment. Many people are indifferent to the Savior, just as the chief priests and scribes were in Matthew chapter 2; they knew he was in Bethlehem, but they didn't care to go see him. Some, like Herod, become disturbed, or even angry, because if Jesus is more than just a baby in a manger, then there might be something he requires. But some, like the Magi, find Jesus, and are filled with exceeding joy, and worship him.

That is the true meaning of Christmas, and we hope and pray that you and your family will find and worship the one who is the Savior of the world.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The "Primer" primer

When I mentioned the movie Primer a couple of weeks ago, Nate (who says I never link to him) wanted to know what blew me away. But I wasn't sure I could do it justice, so I called in the big guns.

TheLyamhound, a gentleman who some of you may remember from our atheist discussions earlier in the year (he represented the Buddhist perspective in our discussions), has kindly agreed to write a brief intro. He is imminently eminently more qualified than I, since he is actually "in the biz," so to speak--he is an actor, involved in the arts, and because of that he brings a unique perspective to the table.

So Matt posed a question several posts ago as to whether any of his readers had seen Primer, noting that he and his spouse had been "blown away" by the film. I concurred, but offered little else on the film. Now, for the benefit of a member of Matt's audience--hi there, Nathan--I've been asked to describe the film in greater detail (though hopefully not to explain it, as I'd be hard-pressed to do so).

Let me first say that the last time I recall seeing a film dealing with the issue of time travel that was so patently unreliant on F/X was probably back when Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour did Somewhere in Time, and that was less a time travel movie per se than a seeping historical romance with a time travel element to offer a tragic twist to the end as silly--and as effective--as the deus ex machina of your choice. That film was a sentimental favorite. But Primer revels a good deal more freely in the mechanics of time travel itself, as its characters attempt to evade responsibility, courting paradox and dissolution at every turn.

The premise would be simple, were it not so maddeningly vague: Two men working on a machine designed to . . . well, I'm not sure, really, but it seems like something wonkish and numerical, like a statistical error-checking machine (the beauty of marketing a science fiction film to me is that I can claim only the broadest, most abstract understanding of any science whatsoever). In any case, they begin finding mold in the machine that takes longer to grow than the machine has been in existence, and realize that they have inadvertently created a time machine.

Given that setup, it's only fair to say that not much happens in Primer, at least not on the surface. The guys try to profit from use of the machine, and things, predictably enough, go wrong; they then spend the remainder of the movie trying to undo the paradox created while each still attempts, subtly, to subvert the other. The whole thing weighs in at a lean 78 minutes. What I find impressive is that the film relies on the talents of its cast and its script; direction is highly economical, even spartan, and the real joy and drama emerges from the endless--and, for me, ultimately unsolved--puzzle presented.

Also, as a 30-something actor/writer with no film credits, it's heartwarming to see a 30-something actor with no film credits pull something together that's so deceptively simple, and that manages to inject some high-minded ingenuity into a genre that's needed a good kick in the backside for a few decades.

To that, I can only add that after you see the movie, if you want to try to unravel the mystery, you might take a look at this site, which offers discussion of the movie, as well as a graphic that tries to piece together the sequence of what happened.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anonymous Expert weighs in on James 1:21

OK, so the next part of my James 1:21 series was going to be a discussion of the meaning of σῴζω and ψυχή, but then Frank posted this, and seriously, anything that I could say about the matter pales in comparison.

So I am reprinting Anonymous Expert's critique, and I will close out the series later on hopefully really soon with a discussion of what I think 1:21 means (I'll throw an abbreviated discussion of the translation part in with it).

Take it away, Anonymous...

One of the problems of the GES in defending their views from the LXX is that they don't seem to take into account theological development. In particular, the belief in the bodily resurrection and (thus, implicitly, the afterlife) doesn't appear explicitly until Daniel 12. Hence, any texts prior to the sixth century BC would not be relevant to the discussion. At the same time, there are several references listed in the LXX, three of which are in apocryphal works and thus late. This is of course useful information, but whether it is entirely relevant may be a different matter.

A critique, however, would be as follows:

1. The use of BAGD is myopic: although marshaled as an authority on each word, the author of the piece on Jas 1.21 does not look at what BAGD (let alone BDAG) says about the usage in Jas 1.21. There, the lexicon lists swvzw in Jas 1.21 as meaning "save/preserve from eternal death." So, is the GES author claiming that this lexicon is mistaken in its assessment? BDAG is remarkably objective; the authors have few axes to grind. Perhaps the error is on the part of the GES interpretation rather than on the part of everyone else.

2. The author did not look at the apostolic fathers. But on a theological trajectory, it is important to see how the expression was used in the Greek immediately after the NT was written by those who followed the teachings of the apostles. Further, in the AF the bodily resurrection and afterlife is already well established. Thus, apart from three instances in the LXX that come after Daniel, we might say that the usage seems to move in a different direction-toward salvation from hell. Cf. 2 Clem 13.1; 15.1; Barn 19.10; Shep 61.1.

3. Of course, in the rest of the NT we would expect to see the best parallels. To be sure, the phrase does refer at times to saving a person from physical death (cf. Mark 3.4 and parallel, Luke 6.9). But that seems hardly to be the force in Matt 16.25 and parallels (Mark 8.35; Luke 9.24): If someone loses his life he saves it: does this mean that if he loses his physical life he saves that? or does it mean that if he commits his life to the Lord it is eternally saved? Surely the latter is closer to the truth.

4. The reliance on Moulton-Milligan strikes me as myopic as well. Why should we expect to find treatments of eternal life and death in the non-literary papyri? (BTW, the author consistently misspelled papyri as papyrii.) If belief in the afterlife was not prominent among non-Christians (cf. 1 Thess 4.13), then should we expect the phrase to bear this meaning in their writings?

5. The collocation of 'save' with 'soul' and with other key terms used normally for eternal life and death matters is ignored by the GES. In Jas 5.20 we read "the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." Sinner, save, soul, death, sins are all terms that are theologically rich. Where else do we read of such a cluster of terms where only physical life is in view? This strikes me as the greatest single error of the GES in this matter: they refuse to look at the collocations in James when making their judgment. Of course, the cluster in Jas 2.14-26 that has almost a dozen verbal and conceptual parallels with Rom 3-4 is not to be missed in this discussion. That is way too many for a mere coincidence (as GES members would assert). There, 'soul' does not occur but 'save' does. Even by itself, the verb can often, especially in certain contexts, bear the sense of save from hell. To ignore all of the contextual clues and simply to look at statistics is hardly the way to do proper lexical research.

Blogger/Blogger Beta

For those out there who have done both, are you glad you switched? Any reason not to do it?

English Grammar Links

For all you homeschool moms (and wannabe Greeklings) out there, I found this reference page that lists links to English grammar.

I haven't reviewed the individual pages yet, so I don't know the overall value. Maybe someone with an English degree can go check them out and do a review.

What I do know is that most of the Greek books I have indicate that people's problem with learning the language is usually a deficiency in understanding English grammar.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gojira Weighs In

Gojira has gotten a spark from something Danny said here, and it looks to have moved to a full-fledged fire. (Notice how I refrain from quoting the James passage about tongues and fire, despite the delicious irony).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Who's This "We" You're Talking About?

A point has been raised, and I think it's a good one. "Why are you saying we shouldn't use the Septugint for our vocabulary definitions when the lexicon you've referenced says that the LXX is by far one the most influential of their own sources?"

That's a fair question. So let me amend my previous statement with this qualifier about who "we" are. We are not everyone in the world who want to know what Koine Greek means. We are people who haven't spent their lifetimes studying the language, various papryii, documents from not only the New Testament, but also the NT psuedopigrapha, the writings of historians, philosophers, and the common people, as well as the LXX. And if you are one of those people, I would suggest that you would do well to start your search for what a word means with a reference book devoted to that purpose, instead of a translation of another document, even if the translated document had a profound influence on the development of a language.

Think about it this way. If you were going to try to found out what an English word means, would you go to the King James Bible, or would you go to the Oxford English Dictionary? Most people (the "we" here) would go to the dictionary, despite the fact that the King James Bible had a profound influence on the development of our language.

In the same way, we have no need to limit ourselves to a single source, because we have a source that discusses those words--it talks about the semantic range they have, and it discusses them in context. And that source, as I've previously mentioned, is A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

By the way, as an aside, if you want to know which one you have, the easiest way to tell is the cover. Blue boards are BAG (1957), green boards are BAGD (1979), and maroon boards are BDAG (2000).

I'm still one my way to discussing the meaning of the two words in question (σῴζω and ψυχή). We'll follow that with a discussion of how people have translated James 1:21 (not interpretation yet) down through the years, and why it's significant the no one has translated the phrase "save your souls" as save your lives. And finally, we'll end with a discussion of the verse in context, and attempt to reason out it's meaning.

Hope you'll stay with me while I, er, we, make this journey together.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Nature of Septuagint Greek

Let's examine the assertion Antonio made--that we should use the LXX as our guide for the meaning of Koine Greek words. In his post, Antonio then goes on to give specific examples of the phrase "save your souls" is used in the LXX (all 11 times it occurs it means "save your life"), and from there, he concludes that this is how we should understand it in James.

Now, I'm going to set aside progressive revelation, Jesus' own teaching, and the fact that a standard lexicon for NT Greek already exists for the moment, and compare Antonio's view of the LXX with what some scholars say.

Antonio says:

The common language of the then-known world at that time was Koine Greek. The Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) were translated sometime between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. into Koine Greek, in what is now known as the Septuagint. Also, known as the LXX, the Septuagint is a rich resource for Koine Greek word studies, for it is roughly three times the size of the New Testament, and such studies net authoratative results because of wide and plentiful usage of words.

No one would dispute that the Septuagint is valuable. But in this case, the question we must ask is, is the nature of that document (and the syntax used within) such that it should be used to establish common usage for the New Testament?

Thankfully, we're not the only ones to ask this question, and certainly not the first. People have been looking at the nature of Septuagint Greek for more than a hundred years now. But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to highlight a current effort to provide a new translation of the LXX in English. It is called A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under that Title, or NETS for short. It is an academic work, and will eventually be published by Oxford University Press, and they have posted their provisional translations on the web in PDF form. This is a great LXX resource.

The following statement is taken from the General Introduction to that work (with footnotes added into the text, surrounded by [ ]):

While it is obvious that the so-called Septuagint in time achieved its independence from its Semitic parent and that it at some stage shed its subservience to its source, it is equally true that it was in its inception a Greek translation of a Hebrew (or Aramaic) original. That is to say, the Greek had a dependent and subservient linguistic relationship to its Semitic parent. More particularly, for the vast majority of Septuagint books this linguistic relationship can best be conceptualized as a Greek inter-linear translation of a Hebrew original within a Hebrew-Greek diglot. Be it noted immediately, however, that the terms "interlinear" and "diglot" are intended to be nothing more than visual aids to help the reader conceptualize the linguistic relationship that is deemed to exist between the Hebrew original and the Greek translation. In other words, "interlinear" is a metaphor and as such it points not to the surface meaning of its own components but to a deeper, less visual, linguistic relationship of dependence and subservience. Be it noted further, that the deeper linguistic reality, which the metaphor attempts to make more tangible, is in no way contingent on the existence of a physical, interlinear entity in 3-1 BCE. What precise physical format the linguistic relationship took historically we may never know. A variety of possibilities is not difficult to imagine.

Looked at from a different perspective, NETS is presupposing a Greek translation which aimed at bringing the reader to the Hebrew original rather than bringing the Hebrew original to the reader. [Cf. Brock, S. P. "The Phenomenon of the Septuagint," OTS 17 (1972) p. 17] Consequently, the Greek's subservience to the Hebrew may be seen as indicative of its aim.

NETS has been based on the interlinear paradigm for essentially two reasons. First, this paradigm best explains the "translationese" Greek of the Septuagint with its strict, often rigid quantitative equivalence to the Hebrew. As Conybeare and Stock [Conybeare, F. C. and Stock St. G. Grammar of Septuagint Greek. Hendrickson, 1995 (expanded and reprinted from the edition originally published by Ginn and Company, Boston, 1905) p. 21. ] (and others) noted nearly a century ago, Septuagintal Greek is often "hardly Greek at all, but rather Hebrew in disguise," especially in its syntax. Secondly, the interlinear paradigm of Septuagint origins makes it legitimate for the NETS translator to draw on the Hebrew parent text as an arbiter of meaning, when appropriate. "Translationese" is here a purely descriptive, linguistic term, meant to indicate that typically the Greek of the LXX is different in kind from standard Greek used for original compositions in the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, NETS rejects the notion that the Greek of the Septuagint simply reflects the language of Alexandrian Jewry, even for the basic pentateuchal books.

I will also add that Conybeare and Stock's Grammar of Septuagint Greek is a great tool for anyone who is interested in learning about Septuagint Greek, and you can view it for free from CCEL (or download it, but registration is required).

Did you catch what they were saying here? There was a lot there, and in case all that translation-speak made your head spin or your eyes roll, I'll try to highlight what I think is important.

The folks that are sponsoring this new Septuagint translation into English think that typically the Greek of the LXX is different in kind from standard Greek used for original compositions in the Hellenistic period. That's a powerful statement. In fact, they feel so strongly about the difference LXX Greek from the Greek of the period that it has affected the structure of their entire project. Their "interlinear paradigm," the driving force behind all they've done, considers Septuagintal Greek "translationese Greek," with "strict, often rigid quantitative equivalence to the Hebrew." And they quote Conybeare and Stock, the men who a hundred odd years ago wrote in a Grammar of Septuagint Greek, characterized LXX Greek as often "hardly Greek at all, but rather Hebrew in disguise."

What can we say, then, about the Septuagint? First, we can say for certain that it was used and quoted in the New Testament in some places. Moreover, in the Old Testament (depending on your translation), it even carries what textual critics consider to be the original reading.

But whatever we decide about its value, it seems clear that, from a scholar’s point of view anyway, we would not use the LXX as our guide to vocabulary, since it is so formal, rigid, and stringent in its translation that it ceases being common usage. (This reminds me a bit of what was said about the ASV’s approach to the New Testament--good Greek, terrible English).

More importantly, we have no need. There already is a lexicon that fills that role admirably--A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (commonly referred to as BDAG).

In the future, we'll take a deeper look at the definitions of σῴζω and ψυχή, and talk about James 1:21 in translation.

Reply to Danny

Danny has been waiting patiently for a reply from me. He's asked a couple of times for my views on James. Here's his latest comment:

Gummby, I do hope you don't take a soteriological view of James 1:21. James affirms that his readers are regenerate in v. 18, and then tells them to receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save their souls. Some of my fellow Free Gracers see the expression of "saving the soul" as referring to saving themselves from a ruined life, not necessarily death. However, in 1:15, he does mention death. And I still think Antonio has a good case based on the LXX. Also, have you noticed that in 2:12-13, James makes a refernce to the Judgment Seat of Christ, before moving on to the faith without works discourse? Some of people in FG take a Bema view of 14-26. That is, the salvation in 2:14 refers to being saved from a merciless judgment (with the attendant loss of rewards).

For Danny (and anyone else wondering where I've been headed with this), I don't have a firm opinion on what James 1:21, 2:14ff, etc., mean. I'm still looking into it.

What I can say, with dogged certainty, is that the kind of research that Antonio has done will in no way persuade me to take his view.

Why? Is it because I'm a dogmatic Lordship Salvation guy, who just ignores everything anyone else says? Or maybe it's because I've just been beguiled by this guy Centuri0n, and I've forgotten how to think for myself.

Danny, it's because Antonio's argument isn't a very good one, and it isn't made very well, either. I'm about to knock the LXX peg out from under the tent. But even without doing that, I'm quite disinclined to listen to Antonio's research, for two reasons.

1) I don't know his methodology. How did he arrive at those passages he quotes as parallels? How do I know there aren't others? Unless I know what steps he took (whether he used software, or a concordance, or just speed-read the Bible), I'm just putting my trust in what he says.

2) I don't trust what he says. Let's take his quotation of BAGD, for example. He quotes the definition as being a possibility, and then moves on, as though his point has been made & supported.

The problem is, BAGD has a lengthy citation about ψυχή, including actually mentioning the James 1:21 passage, all of which Antonio left out. It would be one thing if he said,"Here's what the lexicon says about ψυχή, and here's why I think I'm right and they are wrong." Instead, his statement gives an impression of support for his position which just isn't there.

Earlier today, Centuri0n suggested that Antonio doesn't know how to use the reference material, meaning that he wasn't intentionally being misleading, he just didn't know better. And I'm OK with that. But it means that when he posts a lexical study, and then gets all fired up that folks are "going to great lengths to wiggle out of the evidence," I'm going to yawn and go back to verifying comparable sales.

All that to say, if you want to know what I think about James 1:21, stick around; I'm getting there. No need to rush--it's important to do a job right.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Before We Continue

Before we press on, I just wanted to take a moment to respond to some assertions Antonio has made at various blogs recently. His statements are of the "you people" variety, which lumps me in with all the other mindless Lordship Salvation people, so-on and so-forth.

Let me be clear. I do believe in Lordship, and I believe it for the same reason I believe in Calvinism: because the Bible teaches it. If someone, be it Antonio or someone else, can convince me from Scripture that what I believe is incorrect, I will be first in line to change. That is, after all, what this blog is about--Still Reforming.

That said, the work that Antonio has done recently is what I would characterize as prooftexting. He has indeed done some work, only he has conveniently left out all the pieces that don't fit his thesis. It doesn't stand up under scrutiny.

Since there's a lot there, I'll continue to use his post as a springboard for areas that I think will be of interest and edification to my readers (I'm not just trying to be part of a big blogfight here); the first of those, which I hope to publish soon, will be on the nature of Greek in the LXX.

In the meantime, I am willing to review evidence from any and all quarters that doesn't suffer from the same selective bias.

(P.S. to Bobby Grow: if Blogger keeps giving you fits, feel free to use the Anonymous option, and just sign your name.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Three Reasons Antonio is Wrong

Well, Antonio published this article about saving your souls, ala James 1:21. The specific wording that is under debate here is τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, hyper-literally, "the one being able to save souls your," or in more standard English, "which is able to save your souls." (Quick note here: for ease of discussion, I'll be quoting from the New King James Version, which I believe is the one Antonio uses most often; and as a reference, I have the handy The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, which is a compilation of the NKJV & The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.)

Antonio quotes a lot of statistics to make this point. But in the end, statistics alone don't win the argument. I'd like to point out 3 significant issues with Antonio's argument.

1) Where's Jesus?

Antonio says: [The Greek reader] obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively [sic]) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it. This would be especially true for the early Jewish Christian readers of James, absorbed as they would have been both in Koine Greek and the Septuagint (which was read in their synagogues). He bases this on the age of James (it was written fairly early on), its audience (which is primarily Jewish), and the meanings of those words in the Septuagint (LXX).

Sounds pretty convincing, except for one thing: Jesus.

The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, the conquering king, to come and deliver them. Over and over, they looked for a temporal deliverance. Yet Jesus teaching about salvation is one of spiritual deliverance, not a physical one. For example, at Christmas, we often hear quoted Matthew 1:21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people...". From what? Their oppressors? No--"their sins." Jesus came to seek and to save--not just temporally, but spiritually, and eternally.

Now I am sorry to say that, at the moment, I don't have the resources to purchase the software necessary to do the searches on every occurrence of a word in the New Testament. If someone does, and would like to help, it would be appreciated. Until that time, I will not state the affirmative without knowing it to be true; instead, I will just say that Jesus actually talked about saving in a soteriological sense, and that since James was his (half) brother, I think it is a fair assumption that Jesus' teaching had some impact on his brother, as much if not more than the Septuagint.

The principle of progressive revelation stands with me on this, BTW.

(As a late entry in this category, I'll submit Antonio's post on NT occurrences of σῴζω. You can review all of the instances for yourself, paying special attention to who speaks about physical/temporal deliverance, and who speaks about spiritual.

But don't take Antonio's word for what is what--read the passage and context, and then decide for yourself. For instance, Matthew 18:11, speaking about seeking and saving that which was lost, Antonio puts in the temporal category--the calling of the nation of Israel to repentance. But Antonio ignores the real context of this passage, which in Matthew 18 is talking about the Kingdom of heaven, and he mentions a parallel in Luke 15, about repentance, but again, the context seems, to me at least, to be speaking about spiritual salvation, not temporal.)

2) Lexical meaning of ψυχή

Antonio says: BAGD (2nd Edition, 1958, pg 893), the standard Greek lexicon, gives the entries “of life on earth in its external, physical aspects” and “earthly life itself” for psyche (soul/life).

First of all, BAGD (as the second edition is known) was published in 1979, not 1958. It certainly must be the second edition (the one I don't have), because BAG has the entry on pg. 901. But Antonio's quote here leaves out a lot of context--sort of like if I boiled down the definition of love to "deep affection for someone."

In any case, here's a better idea of what ψυχή means, from BDAG (that's the third edition, published in 2000).

BDAG has definitions separated into broad categories, followed by more specifics within a category. It provides three broad categories for ψυχή (all formatting in the original, unless otherwise noted; for the sake of space, time, and copyright, I'm only including the first three sub-entries for each entry):

1. life on earth in its animating aspect making bodily function possible

In this category, it includes
a) breath of life, life-principle, soul, of animals;
b) the condition of being alive, earthly life, life itself;
c) by metonymy, that which possess life/soul; a living creature

2. seat and center of the inner human life in its many varied aspects, soul

In this category, it includes
a) of the desire for luxurious living
b) of evil desires
c) of feelings and emotions

3. an entity w. personhood, person ext. of 2 by metonymy everyone

It's important to note that the folks that produce this volume don't assert these things in a vacuum; they put references in for each and every entry--giving the lexical reason why they believe the word means what it does.

They list James 1:21 under #2, letter "d," with the following entry:

d. as the seat and center of life than transcends the earthly.

The BDAG folks appear to be on the side of this being more than a merely temporal deliverance.

Alexander Souter, whose small lexicon I consider to be a real gem, despite its age (and is available for free download from this page), has this to add to our discussion:

In the LXX, there is, in general, a lack of sharp distinction between ψυχή (lit. breath [cf. anima], breath of life in the individual), πνεῦμα and καρδία, though ψυχή general refers to appetite and desire; it is there as a rule a translation of the Hebrew nephesh, one of the words for the 'breath-soul', the personal soul; in Paul, soul (ψυχή) and spirit (πνεῦμα) are hardly to be distinguished (yet cf. I Cor. XV 45): . . .The general use of the word in the Bible is in the sense of whatever is felt to belong most essentially to man's life, when his bodily life has come to be regarded as a secondary thing. It comes near the modern conception, self.

I think it's fair to say that if it does mean temporal deliverance in James, it is a marked exception, not the foregone conclusion Antonio makes it sound like.

OK, before we leave #2 here, just one other note here that concerns what we've just looked at.

You can clearly see that a single word can have a variety of meanings. Linguists call this a "semantic range;" if you clicked on the link for the definition of love above, you'll see 21 different meanings.

But perhaps an easier way to understand (and remember) it is like this: I love my wife, and I love blogging. You implicitly know that I'm talking about two different things, even when I use the same word.

It's possible to make an error, especially if what you're reading is not your first language (like when I read that "the Word became meat" in John 1:14); but it may also happen when reading reading a literal translation, if we automatically assume that the same word will always mean exactly the same thing, regardless of the context.

Here's why I bring this up: Antonio says that James 1:21 is the first instance of “sozo” in his epistle, and can give an indication of the type of “saving” he has in mind in the remainder. This is true, up to a point.

But consider here Luke 12:19-20, quoted from the NKJV.

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

Is it reasonable to state that both uses of soul here are the same? No. In fact, the NIV renders the first one "myself," and the second one "life." So we must be careful to make sure the context fits what we say it means.

Therefore, we cannot just take it for granted that James is using the word in the same sense each time he uses it in his letter--we must look at the context.

3) Translation of ψυχή in James 1:21

You've already read part of the issue, if you read Frank's Question 4 on Debate Blog.

The bottom line is this: these translators are not dummies, and Frank didn't just use literal translations, which (according to Dynamic Equivalence advocates) have a tendency to under-translate; if they thought it should be "life" instead of "soul," they could and would have put it there. No one translates it "life" because that's not the best fit, in context.

So, while Antonio wants to make this an argument between knowledgeable, linguistic-savvy Free Grace Advocates and Lordship Salvation and Reformed Soteriologists who are unwilling to do careful lexical work and instead import a present-day understanding of "save the soul" into the text, it is actually between well over 400 years of translators from all theological persuasions stacked up against two people with a clear agenda and an interest in making the text say something that supports their assertions.

Update: Unbeknownst to me, Centuri0n was also working on a response to Antonio's post. If I did my math right, he was up almost as late as I was working on part 1.

He has just posted part 2, which includes a scan of BAGD's entry for ψυχή (the paper one is BAGD--the one Antonio quotes from; the BibleWorks one is BDAG--same as the one I quoted above). This is particularly important since Antonio has thus far refused to answer my question about what BAGD itself says about James 1:21. Regardless of your feelings about what I've written in this post, you owe it to yourself to compare what Antonio says BAGD says with what it actually says. Then ask yourself,"Is this the kind of rigorous research that I want to rely on?"

Friday, December 08, 2006

The purpose of music

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;

Praise him in his mighty heavens!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;

Praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;

Praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;

Praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
---Psalm 150---

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Favorite Blogging Tool

Back when I was just getting started on the blogging scene, I was casting about looking for something to help me with Haloscan comments. I came across TED Notepad, and it has since become an essential tool for me. It is on every computer that I use with any regularity and every USB drive & floppy disk that I use for writing. It's that good.

Here are some reasons I like it:

The price is right: free--like most software I use. I hate to pay for software.

It's small--Only takes up about 120K; as a result, I have it loaded on every USB & Floppy I use.

This is why I use it for blogging. I have the HTML codes for italics, bold, & hyperlink on keyboard shortcuts. As I mentioned, this is particularly useful for Haloscan comments, which is why I draft my comments almost exclusively now in TED (anything longer than about one sentence), as well as most of my blog first drafts (I occasionally have to add things through the Blogger tools, but I still edit most everything in the HTML).

Other features I like
Minimize to tray: I love this one--this makes it useful as a notepad; I use it for my To Do list at work
Save settings on exit: you can omit this box, which will make it come up the same size every time (again, perfect for a To Do list), or else remember the last state you had it in.
Unicode support: For Win XP, you get Unicode support, so you can actually cut & paste other languages. Greek, for instance, looks like this: Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (I don't claim to be the Unicode expert by any means, but if you choose to do this, my suggestion is to save everything as file type UTF-8. I'll tackle fonts some other time in another post, but when working in TED I prefer monospaced fonts, like Courier or Lucinda--some computers have the full fonts to recognize the letters, and others will just give you the annoying boxes).

There are many other features that are too numerous to mention; you're really only limited by your imagination.

Even if you have no interest in hand coding your blog entries and prefer a WYSIWYG editor (or even Microsoft Word), you should still pick up a copy, to use for Haloscan, or just for a better all-around notepad.

To get more information, you can visit the homepage, and here is the download page. It is constantly being updated (in fact, I just noticed there is a 5.0 release available--I have 4.5.3). If you want to edit in Unicode, make sure you download the one that is not labeled "RE Clone."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Such a Blessing

I'm still commiserating with my wife over the Hogs' loss to the Gators, so to help me work things out, I'm posting this.

Last week, I had a very rare treat--I got to meet someone "offline." I got to meet Even So himself.

I'm the one in the glasses.

He was there with Mrs. Even So.

Aren't they a cute couple?

They had driven from Florida all the way to Oklahoma, and were willing to change their homegoing route just to come up and meet us.

Ok, not just for that--they also wanted to watch Florida/Florida State.

We met at TGI Fridays. It was such a wonderful time.

All of us together. Aren't we purty?

As J.D. said, we'd better get used to each other--we'll be spending an eternity together in the future.

Here's his version of events. I just want to tell them both again how much we appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with y'all last week. I'd take your side over the McCoys any day of the week.

Oh, and in case you missed it, J.D. also has a book coming out--a series of devotions, based on the blog. More details to come, I'm sure.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Has anyone seen this movie? My wife & I watched it last night, and we were blown away.