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.

1 comment:

Antonio said...

I was hoping you were going to continue on this thread.

I have written 3 responses to Dr. Wallace's treatment.

It is my opinion that Lordship Calvinists cannot dialogue on this issue, for it reveals the bankruptcy of their doctrine.

It is easy to ignore and brush off my arguments. Not so easy to dialogue with them.