The firmament as conceived of by many biblical flat earthers (Whom I shall from here on out call BFE's) and some OT scholars is said to be a solid crystalline or ice-like dome that encloses the sky and the luminaries. Sort of like a snow globe. If we look at the section in question it reads:
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
(Gen 1:6-8 KJV)
The arguments used by the BFE community and the scholars they cite are the following:
BFE Arguments For a Solid Firmament
1. The Hebrew word for firmament here is 'Raqia' which is listed in the lexicons as both Solid and Expanse.
2. The Hebrew noun 'Raqia' is derived from the Hebrew root verb 'Raqa' which can mean stamp, beat, and spread out.
3. Using the law of first mention if we turn to Job 37:18 (Since Job predates Genesis) where 'raqa' is used it implies solidarity.
4. Historical appeal is made to the various ancient creation conceptions that the Hebrews would of been in contact with in their cognitive environment. The concept here is of some kind of solid barrier holding back the 'water above'.
5. It is consistently said in the Genesis one text that things are placed 'in' or 'inside' the firmament suggesting solidarity.
6. The heavens are said to be spread out like a tent/curtain/garment with windows and doors regulating rain which implies solidity.
7. The Book of Enoch describes the firmament as a solid dome.
Responses to BFE Arguments and a case for a Non-solid Firmament
1. Lexical definitions only provide us with a limited semantic range of meanings as historical records of the various ways any given word has been used. Thus appealing to a lexicon alone will not resolve this issue, which is why there must be more arguments made to precise the definition. I readily agree the BDB Hebrew lexicon for example says it can mean solid but it also says it can mean expanse. But we would already know this from the biblical material where firmament/raqia is used of where birds fly (Gen 1:20) which starts at the face of the earth (Genesis 1:7).
2. The Hebrew word 'raqia' is indeed derived from the verb 'raqa', but usually the point of cognates is to precise which meaning of the root is being emphasized. That is to say that the noun form is supposed clarify the root verb and not the reverse. In any case it is the action that carries over to the noun not the substance. The same argument could be made for expanse meaning to spread out in the root verb 'raqa'. Thus this will not settle the issue either which is why more evidence must be adduced. The real problem with this argument is that either attempt as explained above commits what has been called a 'root fallacy' or 'etymological fallacy'. To use a comparable example from Greek in the NT we have the words 'timeo' (To honor) and 'epitimao' (to rebuke) which share a common root 'Tim'. This fallacy would have Jesus honoring Demons, or change the commandment to rebuke your parents.
19 Honour (Timao) thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Mat 19:19 KJV)
25 And Jesus rebuked (epitimoa) him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. (Mar 1:25-26 KJV)
3. While I believe this 'First Mention' hermeneutical principle to be problematic and probably fallacious I will simply assume this principle is correct for the sake of argument. Here I believe we have a different problem playing out. What is ignored is the fact that the argument for expanse can be made in the same way. The word-concept fallacy is employed here by the BFE proponent. The word concept fallacy occurs when you only appeal to some words connected to a concept rather than including them all in your study. An example would be ignoring that there are many Greek words used in the concept of love and only concentrating on one of them. The result would be a deficient view of the concept of biblical love. You see in the law of first mention principle we have the following:
"II. The Meaning Of The Law Of First Mention
The law of first mention may be said to be the principle that requires one to go to that portion of the Scriptures where a doctrine is mentioned for the first time and to study the first occurrence of the same in order to get the fundamental inherent meaning of that doctrine. When we thus see the first appearance, which is usually in the simplest form, we can then examine the doctrine in other portions of the Word that were given later. We shall see that the fundamental concept in the first occurrence remains dominant as a rule, and colors all later additions to that doctrine. In view of this fact, it becomes imperative that we understand the law of first mention."
What the BFE'er has done is confused the first occurrence of a word with the first occurrence of a concept. He then limits himself to only those words (Raqa/Raqia) when other words are employed of the same concept. The problem with this is that concepts are expressed using various words and to exempt other words employed in the explanations of this concept is arbitrary and in most cases special pleading or a committal of the taxicab fallacy. This also means that the BFE'er conflates the meaning of a word with the meaning of a concept connected to the word. In Genesis 1:8 for example 'Shamayim' is also used of this concept so that word needs to be included in the study to not be guilty of this word concept fallacy. Using the principle of first mention with concepts in mind we can look at what Job 9:8 (which is earlier than Job 37:18) says:
8 Which alone spreadeth (Natah) out the heavens (shamayim), and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. (Job 9:8 KJV)
So we should not be surprised that in Job 37:18 we have 'raqa' (Not 'raqia') probably meaning solid though not necessarily (Because lexical appeal can equally be made to spread for 'raqa') but in Job 9:8 'Natah' as non-solid since this spreading is applied to all the "shamayim' which is plural. Finally returning to the passage in Genesis 1:7 the eminent OT and Assyrian scholar Dr. Umberto Cassuto points out that the subject of the verse is God and not as some think the firmament. He says:
"7. And God made the firmament, etc.] Here, too, as in verse 3, the words of the Divine fiat are repeated in the announcement that it had been executed. But in the present case, since the theme is much more comprehensive than that of the two short words yehi ’or, ‘Let there be light’] in v. 3, modifications have been introduced in accordance with the principle described above in the Introduction § 6, p. 16 f., and the verbal changes serve to explain the subject more clearly. The phrase, separating the waters from the waters, of the preceding verse is here elucidated thus: separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And separated...The subject is God and not, as some interpret, the firmament; compare v. 4: and GOD separated the light from the darkness. Furthermore, in v. 6 it is not written: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate w e yabhdel the waters from the waters; the text is wihi mabhdil … —‘and let it be a separator’, etc., that is, and let it be the means that I shall use for the purpose of separating the waters from the waters."
(Umberto Cassuto, A commentary on Genesis from Adam to Noah)
In the immediate context the nouns 'God' and 'Firmament' are both tied to the verb 'separate' (Badal). So it is not the firmament itself that does the action of separating. Rather separating is something God does and he is immaterial. Instead this firmament is what could be called an instrumental cause or a means by which there is a separation. The subject is God, the object is the firmament, and both are involved in this verb of spreading suggesting that the firmament is a means or tool used by God to separate.
In the Egyptian cosmology it is Shu the God of air and Tefnut a deity of moisture who are used as a tool by Atum/Ptah for being a separator and Nut is the separated one who resides in the primeval waters above known as the 'duat'. In other words the solid waters above are separated by the non-solid Shu/Tefnut who hold up the sky instead of Nut. Egyptologist Dr. James P. Allen says about this:
"In the Egyptian conception, the sky is not so much a solid "ceiling" as a kind of interface between the surface of the waters and the dry atmosphere. The sun sails on these waters just as people can sail on the Nile: "The bark of the Sun courses through the Waters"...Her name (nwt) may be a feminine adjective meaning 'of the Waters' though the etymology is far from certain...In keeping with the notion of sunrise as (re)birth Text 1c1-c4 locates Duat within the body of Nut--that is somehow 'inside' the sky."
(James P. Allen, Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts, pp. 5-6)
4. With the possible genetic fallacy aside it is true that most ancient historians and OT scholars believe the ancient cosmologies contemporaneous to the Hebrews all share this concept of a primordial water from which everything arose along with some sort of erected barrier for holding back and separating those waters above from earth and regulating rain. Think about a bubble of air in a mass of water to get the idea here. The best examples are found in the Babylonian Enuma Elish with Tiamat, and the various Egyptian accounts with the Gods Shu, Tefnut, Nut, and Geb.
In the Babylonian account after being defeated, the goddess of water Tiamat is divided in two by the victor God Marduk. Marduk then uses part of Tiamat's body to create the sky in some fashion by raising it. Dr. Wayne Horowitz has shown in his work that this account thinks of the sky as flat rather than a dome. In the Egyptian accounts which vary Atum/Ptah the creator God separates the land God Geb from the sky God Nut and depending on which texts you read among their records Shu the God of air and Tefnut the God of moisture are placed between Nut and Geb. Because the Genesis account contains a creation by word of mouth with a single creator deity it seems that the Egyptian account espoused in Memphis is the closest parallel we have. Although I think Genesis does take shots at other accounts along the way. Keep in mind that there were four main schools of thought regarding this in Ancient Egypt throughout time (Heliopolis, Memphis, Thebes and Hermopolis.).
In particular it is the Memphite theology with it's creation by a spoken word feature with a single creator deity that makes it distinct from the other ancient Egyptian Schools of thought as well as the Babylonian and Mesopotamian ones. Additionally this account contains the Gods Shu and Tefnut unlike others providing us with a very close parallel of a triple-decker sky concept. Also unlike the Babylonian accounts the Hebrew and Egyptian accounts are not creations by battles of many Gods. A good exemplar of this Memphite theology is found in the Shabaka stone which is dated as early as the 19th dynasty period (1292-1187 B.C.) and as late as the 25th dynasty (716-702 B.C.). The stone itself says it comes from an earlier document referring to it as "worm eaten".
Line 55 of the Shabaka stone reads “His (Ptah’s) Ennead is before him as teeth and lips. They are the semen and the hands of Atum. For the Ennead of Atum came into being through his semen and his fingers. But the Ennead is the teeth and lips in this mouth which pronounced the name of every thing, from which Shu and Tefnut came forth, and which gave birth to the Ennead.”
This line is taking one of the polytheistic aspects called the Ennead or Ogdoad from the Heliopolitan account and applying them to Ptah as his speech, essentially contrasting it with the other accounts of creation by copulation or spitting with speech for commands. Atum is then replaced in this account with Ptah as his hands. In other words the Shabaka Stone is meant to be a Polemic against the competing Egyptian Schools of thought. According to Ragnhild Bjerre Finnestad, there are three theories on the possible purpose of the Shabaka text:
a. To assert the supremacy of the Memphite theological system over the Heliopolitan
b. To claim the hegemony of the Memphis and its priesthood over Heliopolis and its priesthood
c. To present an ontology.
Because space does not permit me to go through everything on this single blog post and we are only focusing on one aspect here consider the words of OT scholar Dr. Meredith Kline who had degrees in Assyriology and Egyptology when he said:
"The pagan cosmogonic myth, a garbled, apostate version, a perversion, of pristine traditions of primordial historical realities, could not pass through the conceptual grid that forms the consistent framework of the teachings of Scripture except as already demythologized poetic idiom. Even among the ancient myth-makers themselves the practice is attested of redacting earlier cosmogonic myth with polemic intent. In order to propagandize for some new development in the cult, they would so adapt the myth that the old god who was to be eclipsed would be replaced by his rival, the current favorite, in the role of heroic conqueror of the chaos monster in the mythopoeic drama of cosmic origins. The adoption of the earlier myth was thus for the purpose of rejecting its message, if not at the conceptual level of its mythological cosmogony as such, at least at the political level of rival cultic claimants. The Bible's use of the cosmogonic conflict myth is with similar, but incomparably more radical, polemical intent. When the biblical revelation identifies Yahweh, the living and true God, as the Creator who slays the dragon, it is not a mere matter of substituting one deity for another while maintaining the essence of the myth. In its adaptation of the myth the Bible demythologizes the myth as such. It demythologizes the hero-god, it demythologizes the dragon (whether identifying him as Satan or as tempestuous nature), it rejects the mythical cosmogony and cosmology root and branch."
(Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, pg. 28)
So just as the Shabaka text polemically redacts and alters earlier Egyptian accounts in order to reject the other accounts of creation and their understanding of the Gods, so the Genesis account functions in the same way. That is to say omission of details, different word choices, and filling old concepts with radically new meaning by whom I believe to be Moses (Acts 7:22) were common Egyptian literary devices employed by him for monotheistic theological polemics. Examples include the following:
1. Using a different Hebrew word for Sun to avoid association with the solar deity Shamash.
2. Calling the luminaries 'lights' to de-personify them as deities.
3. Using a different Hebrew word for the deep to avoid association with Tannin a serpentine water deity.
4. Using the Hebrew word 'Raqia' to avoid association with the sky gods Shu, Tefnut, and Nut.
Even if I am wrong about the polemical angle and I don't believe that I am the last point here to be made is the ontology being presented. If this ontology is not a material one like our modern material one then it follows that this firmament is not solid. Egyptians and many ANE cultures have a very foreign concept of ontology or existence and being than our own materialistic one. None of them believed they could throw a rock in the sky and hit Shu or Nut's belly or shin. As American Egyptologist Dr. James P. Allen explains in his book:
"Unlike classical Newtonian physics, however-but increasingly like modern physics-the Egyptian explenations are more metaphysical than physical. They are concerned primarily with what lies beyond physical reality."
(James P. Allen, Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts, 56)
Or as Dr. John Walton who I think is one of the leading scholars on this says:
"In the ancient world, what was most crucial and significant to their understanding of existence was the way that the parts of the cosmos functioned, not their material status.How can we know this? The evidence comes both from the biblical text and from the literature of the ancient world. The former is more important because, of course, it is possible for the biblical text to take a different view of ontology than the ancient world."
(The Lost World of Genesis One, pg. 26)
5. The word 'in' by itself does not necessitate any physical boundaries or locale. If the raqia/firmament can be defined as expanse or stretched out space (Non-Solid) as I argued above there is absolutely no problem here. The Hebrew preposition 'bet' (in) does have a massive range of uses (See: An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Waltke & O'Connor-section on prepositions). For example if I say "I am in the group." it can easily mean I am among them but it does not entail that I am physically located in the middle of them. If I say "I work in medicine" it means I function in a certain field of work. So it can also operate as a domain or function indicator rather than only a location indicator. I would suggest as others have about Genesis 1:14-19 that this is a setting in place three functions.
1. To separate day and night.
2. To be for signs and seasons, days and years.
3. To be for lights in the heavens (As opposed to the various sky deities)
Besides all of this no translation reads 'inside' and if the author wanted to make this clear other Hebrew words were available (mib-ba-yiṯ -Genesis 6:14; Exodus 25:11; Exodus 37:2). Moreover in the Egyptian depictions of Nut like this one notice that the luminaries are inside her body and BEYOND it. Biblical flat earth models pretty much universally ignore this and try to place all the luminaries on or below her. It is a great example of special pleading considering the Egyptians believed these waters to be infinite.
6. The phrase 'windows of heaven' only occurs 3 times in some translations of the bible with the first occurrence being in Genesis 7. Likening to a curtain or tent occurs 2 times. Firstly let us not be guilty of employing the word concept fallacy in any of this and let's try to see if these verses can be made sense of based on the BFE's own criterion. Let's start by asking where is this concept of water being regulated in the sky by God first mentioned in scripture?
Job 26:8 He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them. (Job 26:8 KJV)
10 By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
12 And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.
13 He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. (Job 37:10-13 KJV)
9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, (Job 38:9 KJV)
37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
(Job 38:37-38 KJV)
So it seems the ancient people did know water came from the clouds and they referred to them as bottles, doors (Psalm 78:23), garments, and windows. This of course makes perfect sense now when we look at Genesis chapters 7-9 where God set the bow as a covenant sign among the clouds (The instrumental objects God used for the watery judgement in the worldwide flood) to constantly remind us of that promise.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
(Gen 9:12-13 KJV)
7. While Enoch is not inspired scripture and therefore should be rejected let's assume for the sake of argument that it does describe a solid dome firmament. If Enoch proves the dome is solid then it also proves that it was annihilated prior or during the flood and is no longer around!
OTP 1 Enoch 83:1 And now, my son Methuselah, I will show thee all my visions which I have seen, recounting them before thee.
2 Two visions I saw before I took a wife, and the one was quite unlike the other: the first when I was learning to write: the second before I took thy mother, (when) I saw a terrible vision.
3 And regarding them I prayed to the Lord. I had laid me down in the house of my grandfather Mahalalel, (when) I saw in a vision how the heaven collapsed and was borne off and fell to the earth.
4 And when it fell to the earth I saw how the earth was swallowed up in a great abyss, and mountains were suspended on mountains, and hills sank down on hills, and high trees were rent from their stems, and hurled down and sunk in the abyss. (1EN 83:1-4 OTP)
In conclusion many of those advancing this BFE position are engaging in special pleading, abusing hermeneutical principles, misrepresenting scholars, and forcing their westernized modern presuppositions into the ancient near eastern text. Perhaps the strongest argument for my position is that since the inception of Genesis it has been used polemically whether correctly or incorrectly. Even skeptics do so to criticize the scientific accuracy of the bible. This is just to say they all already believe Genesis is a polemic and act accordingly which is exactly what the text was intended to invoke in both the modern and ancient reader alike. While much debate is made over Isaiah 40:22 it can be rendered sphere, circle, round, or even circuit as it is in Job 22:14. Those suggesting that it means disk ignore the fact that there is a different word in Hebrew for that 'Oben". Circuit makes more sense since 'erets' is used instead of 'tebel'. 'Tebel' has a broader scope comparable to world unlike 'erets'. This circuit then would be a reference to the shoreline with 'erets' being dry land. Here is a list of OT scholars saying the same things. God Bless.
"Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the biblical authors stripped the ancient pagan literatures of their mythological elements, infused them with the sublimities of their God, and refuted the pagan myths by identifying the holy Lord as the true Creator and Ruler of the cosmos and of history. Israel’s God stands apart from his creation, transcends matter, lacks sexuality, engages in no combat with other gods, for there are none, and establishes humane laws."
(Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, pg. 200.)
"For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. (Psa 96:5 KJV)"
I have always had problems with the definition of 'atheism' proposed by the mast majority of modern atheists. I have also always had issues with the definition of 'theism' proposed by moderns theists. We have the following historical definitions from Noah's 1828 Dictionary:
"A'THEISM, n. The disbelief of the existence of a God, or Supreme intelligent Being. [.] Atheism is a ferocious system that leaves nothing above us to excite awe, nor around us, to awaken tenderness."
"THE'ISM, n. [from Gr. God.] The belief or acknowledgment of the existence of a God, as opposed to atheism. Theism differs from deism, for although deism implies a belief in the existence of a God, yet it signifies in modern usage a denial of revelation, which theism does not."
Notice the word 'Disbelief' in this definition of Atheism. Observe also that under Theism it is broad enough to include polytheism but is distinct from deism in that it affirms the possibility of Revelation (A key feature of personhood).
Disbelief is defined here with more verbal force in that it would be a positive rejection of more than what we now generally consider. Because of this issue with the definition an ex-atheist philosopher named Antony Flew tried to precise the definition by making more appropriate distinctions. The result was a distinction between a positive atheist and a negative atheist in a paper he wrote called the "The Presumption of Atheism". In it the definition he proposed for a negative atheism was done by trying to precise the word 'disbelief'. He said:
"the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way. Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist."
(A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford: Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)
As a result many and most modern atheists have imbibed or adopted this definition along with some form of verificationism. The strange thing about this definition precising is that it ignores the fact of quiescent beliefs. They are beliefs that you are in possession of but are not always held consciously. An analogy would be like the way your computer stores information when you turn it off and the information is still there when you turn it back on. The big problem with this definition is that it is virtually identical to having a belief that is quiescent instead of not present at all. Thus we could make the same distinction as theists. Namely that of positive theism and negative theism. We could then precise our definition and still fit into the semantic domain of 'disbelief' with lack of belief being the quiescence state of our possessed belief in God. We could say for example that while we are asleep our possessed belief in God is quiescent. This will not suffice alone though because we need to accommodate the deism distinction while agreeing that beliefs are cognitive. We could precise our Mono-theistic definition for (Negative) theism to the (Negative) atheist thus:
"The presence of the belief or acknowledgment of the existence of a God who can make possible revelation"
What this results in is that both become trivially true in a validly circular fashion by definition. Because this is the case we would arrive at Presuppositional Atheism and Presuppositional Theism. After all 'Presumption' as Antony Flew called it is just another word for 'Presupposition'. These two sorts will have to basically argue against the existence of the presence or non-presence of a belief. How would anyone be able to do that? I will let you think about that but this is all to say such a negative definition seems like it could be used as a clever and deceptive tactic to always leave open an escape hatch. As such both definitions seem to have a deficiency.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
(Jam 1:2-8 NAU)
Semantic/Linguistic Theories of Meaning
We all presuppose some linguistic model of communication but rarely do we spend the time to work one out. A theory of meaning is a model we use to establish how we should determine the meaning of words used in speech and written material.
Ideational theory of meaning: A theory holding that the meaning of a word is the idea with which it is regularly associated or for which it stands. According to the theory, ideas are private and independent of language. ... A linguistic expression gets its meaning by being used to indicate ideas.
1. The meaning of a word or phrase is not identical with the idea or thought
2. We dont form sentences like Idea+idea+idea...
3. Sentences can still be meaningful without ideas in the mind of the speaker
4. Some words have no corresponding Idea at all (Not/When-these are functions and not ideas)
5. Mental images are not always identical every time we use them.
(Do you always think of the same dog when the word dog is uttered?)
6. Two seperate expressions could evoke the same idea
(Run/football player/ Sports could all conjure up football player)
7. Meaning can be said to be in the speaker's mind but never simply so.
Behaviorist theory of meaning: The theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns. Stimulus response-mostly evolutionary model.
1. How is it decided which responses are relevant to the meaning of the expression in question?
(Pass the salt could mean belch based on observation of behavior)
2. Some sentences simply carry no practical response in any non-linguistic behavioral sense.
(Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492)
3. Delineation problem of conditions.
4. The meaning of sentences does not vary directly in proportion to the distribution of situations and responses in the world.
Referential theory of Meaning:
1. Claims that the meaning of a word or expression lies in what it points out in the world.
2. The object denoted by a word is called it's referent.
3. Expressions have meanings because they stand for things: they mean what they stand for.
4. Words are like labels.
1. Two expressions can have the same referent but very different meanings. (Morning star-Evening star-Venus)
2. Two expressions can have the same meaning but different referents.(The present president of the united states-different contexts/times) Indexical referents.
3. Syncategorematic terms don't refer to anything. (If,and,is,be, and therefore)
4. Modal Auxiliary terms don't have referents either. (Should,would,might, and must)
5. A word like dog does not refer to the class of all dogs. (The meaning and referents are different).
6. The meaning of a phrase cannot be identical with a referent of a phrase, because you can say things of referents that you cannot say of meanings and phrases.
What is the referent of the phrase "The author of Perelandra."? C.S. Lewis! Now consider the expression "The author of Perelandra got married". We can say C.S. Lewis got married but we cannot say the meaning of the phrase got married.
The meaning of a sentence,phrase, or word then cannot be limited to what would be experienced or observed if the sentence were true; which is what the referential theory says and requires. This view confuses or conflates the criteria of meaning with a theory of meaning.
Use Theory of Meaning:
1. Claims that meaning of a word lies in it's use.
2. Conventions and traditions play an important role.
3. Not every word stands for objects.
4. World of fiction,ethics,dance,music,aesthetics etc. do not have referents.
Speech-Act Theory of Meaning:
1. Introduced by Oxfard Philosopher J.L. Austin.
2. Words can be used not only to present information but also to carry out actions.
3. Speaking is a performance.
4. In speaking we do certain things, e.g., promise,request,question,assertion, etc.
5. Locutions,illocutions and Perlocutions
A. Locutionary Act:
1. the act of making a meaningful utterance.
2.The act of "saying something" in the full normal sense.
3. content of a locutionary act can be either expressed directly or implied.
4. I warn you to stop smoking.
5. I warn you that cigarette smoking is dangerous.
B. Illocutionary Act:
1. Speaker's intention in delivering an utterance.
2. the type of function a speaker intends to accomplish in the course of producing an utterance.
3. e.g. pass me the glasses please.(Request,order)
4. Also called illocutionary force.
5. the effect a speech act is intended to have by a speaker.
C. Perlocutionary Act:
1. An action or state of mind brought about by, or as a consequence of, saying something.
2. cause physiological changes in the audience, either in their states or behavior.
3. an act is performed by saying something. A person shouts "fire", causes people to exit the building.
Cognitive Linguistics theory of Meaning/Usage variant:
1. Cognitive linguists deny that the mind has any module for language-acquisition that is unique and autonomous.
2. It understands Grammar in terms of conceptualization.
3. Knowledge of language arrives out of language use.
4. Finally, cognitive linguistics argues that language is both embodied and situated in a specific environment. This can be considered a moderate offshoot of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis inasmuch as language and cognition mutually influence one another and are both embedded in the experiences and environments of its users.
The scripture says we are created in the image of God and part of this is an innate ability to learn language. In other words part of the image of God is that we are linguistic beings like God is. Consequently adopting the Cognitive linguistic theory in total is un-biblical. However we can agree with elements of it. Namely that society and the environment do regulate meaning, and there really is a correlation between psychology and linguistic acts.
In conclusion of all this I think that it is best to primarily use some form of the Usage and speech act theories of meaning for exegesis. Not that the other theories should never be employed but that they are extremely problematic and definitely more deficient as tools to get at the author's intended meaning of a text, which is what we want to do using the historical grammatical method. This has important implications for how we do exegesis and properly handle literature. For example the Biblical Flat Earth view rests heavily on the assumption of the referential theory of meaning. But if that model is unworkable (as I argued above) then a significant foundation of their hermeneutical method is vacuous. This also applies to the scholars arguing their positions on the matter.
1. No Reason to fear death
14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb 2:14-15 NAS)
On conditionalism there is absolutely no reason to fear death. Capitol punishment would end up being a relief or deliverance from all suffering and fear. Consequently the view cannot make sense of what the bible teaches about fearing death.
2. No hope in death for unbelievers/those outside of Christ
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (1Th 4:13-14 NAS)
If conditionalism were true there would be hope of relief from suffering via capitol punishment for the wicked. Which is to say there would be hope for those outside of Christ in death. But this verse declares the opposite.
3. Why should punishment end?
-Their answer is the penalty is paid
-Why then do the lost not get into heaven?
* Works salvation of a sort
4. No escape/relief from punishment
7 "Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exo 23:7 NAS)
6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (Exo 34:6-7 NAS)
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. (Nah 1:3 NAS)
On conditionalism there would pen-ultimately be relief, escape, and some means whereby the guilty are left unpunished, cleared, and acquitted.
5. Christ took our Punishment on the Cross-not in Hell
30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (Joh 19:30 NAU)
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:13-14 NAU)
6. The Punishment Christ bore for us is the wrath of God
10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Rev 14:10 NAU)
36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (Joh 3:36 NAU)
9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Rom 5:9 NAU)
6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, (Col 3:6 NAU)
7. If the punishment Jesus bore for us is death why do we still die?
15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. (Joh 3:15 NAU)
36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (Joh 3:36 NAU)
24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (Joh 5:24 NAS)
8. There are situations that are better than to come under the wrath of god-Annihilationism (Being rendered non-existent or unconscious is one) since it would be as though we were never born.
24 "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." (Mat 26:24 NAU)
9. The bible explicitly says it is appointed for men to die once. The annihilationist view requires that to happen twice (If the punishment is capitol punishment).
NAU Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Heb 9:27 NAU)
This is important because if people die once then everyone already pays this debt and so a second death that is identical would be a tremendous case of double jeopardy.
10. Capitol Punishment is indistinguishable from mercy killing or relief from punishment.
In the bible Jesus says no man takes his life from him but he lays it down of his own will (John 10:18). Jesus basically willed the punishment to end by dying which was a relief from his suffering.
11. The bible teaches that after the judgment, and after being thrown into the lake of fire unbelievers will still exist consciously outside the kingdom after a new creation.
11 "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 8:11-12 NAU)
26 "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets';
27 and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.'
28 "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out.
29 "And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
30 "And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last." (Luk 13:26-30 NAS)
11 And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:11-15 NAS)
NAS Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:1-2 NAS)
8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev 21:8 NAS)
11 "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (Rev 22:11 NAS)
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
(Rev 22:14-15 NAS)
12. Unbelievers will share the same fate as the devil and his angels, who are apparently immortal.
34 And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,
35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage;
36 for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
(Luk 20:34-36 NAS)
41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mat 25:41 NAS)
13. Eternal life and Eternal punishment/shame/contempt are parallel.
2 "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Dan 12:2 NAS)
46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:46 NAS)
14. Life is parallel for the resurrected saved and unsaved.
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life (ζάω) and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life (ζάω) until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.
(Rev 20:4-5 NAU)
Just about all Old Testament scholars are theological liberals. But could such a gentle and intelligent scholar like Dr. Michael Heiser be one?
Heiser says that in theology, “Liberal refers to the notion, really, of the denial of the supernatural. In some cases the denial of the existence of God. In other cases, if we do believe there’s a god, a liberal would sort of downplay, or deny, totally, that God can do anything, such as miracles. Liberal is a word that is really loaded even still today, and we need to be careful how we use it.”
In other words naturalizing everything. He explains his view of biblical inspiration to us here....
I want you to notice how he himself downplays God's abilities. He then says there is zero evidence in the bible for a view he caricatures as "downloading 21st century" ideas into their brains. I would beg to differ with him and find his attempted reductio quite disanalagous. I will get to that in a moment. He then uses examples of words that meant something in that culture that do not mean the same thing in this culture. I do not deny that language is almost entirely equivocal and changes, but if God can't do that with a word then how can he do that with prophecies? What else can't God do?
Who says God cannot communicate something as an open referent without making the human author "modern", "destroying communication", or "lobotomizing" them? Notice these restrictions on what God can or cannot do here fit his own definition of liberal and what his rationalism dictates is possible. I also want you to notice the false dichotomy presented. The question isn't about divine lobotomies or rendering language useless as a consequence of revealing later information at all. The question is do the human authors of scripture consciously recognize that what they are writing as God's word is written in parts and with a view to the future? Do they write knowing more linguistic data is coming and available? Yes!
1. The Bible is written self consciously in parts with other linguistic material in mind.
KJV Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (Deu 18:15 KJV)
KJV Joshua 24:25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. (Jos 24:25 KJV)
KJV Joshua 24:26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.
Did Joshua break the ordinance that God's word shall not be added too? No because he writes knowing the law is consciously written, knowing there will be more linguistic material.
NAU Proverbs 25:1 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed. (Pro 25:1 NAU)
More linguistic data...
4 "But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase."
5 Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river.
6 And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long will it be until the end of these wonders?"
7 I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.
8 As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, "My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?"
9 He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.
(Dan 12:4-9 NAU)
More information is expected to be revealed in the future but is sealed until the end...
NAU Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:1 NAU)
This verse cannot stand alone and anticipates a future fulfillment....
NAU Luke 1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,
2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
(Luk 1:1-3 NAU)
NAS Acts 1:1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2 until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. (Act 1:1-2 NAS)
More linguistic parts...
3 And this is the very thing I wrote you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy would be the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.
5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree-- in order not to say too much-- to all of you.
6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,
7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
9 For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
(2Co 2:3-9 NAS)
16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, (2Pe 3:16-17 NAS)
18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." (1Ti 5:18 NAS)
Quoting from the Gospel of Luke and or the OT...
NAS Hebrews 1:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Heb 1:1-2 NAS)
2. The Bible is written with a view to the future. That is it expects further linguistic data in it's anticipation and fulfillment pattern.
24 "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. (Act 3:24 NAS)
NAS Romans 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
(Rom 1:1-3 NAS)
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 NAS)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
(1Co 15:3-4 NAS)
Old Testament in view...
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1Co 10:11 NAS)
4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Gal 4:4 NAS)
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry,
11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
(1Pe 1:10-11 NAS)- The OT Prophets realized there was more to it when writing....
Finally I want you to notice this pericope which I think is all we really need to refute such a deficient view of inspiration.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased "--
18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,
21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
(2Pe 1:16-21 NAS)
Notice this verse clearly says no prophecy of scripture was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the holy spirit spoke from God. The point here is that this verse is saying the prophets were not merely speaking the words of men. That is the opposite of Dr. Heiser's view! But in case you think I am making too much out of this there is more...
Dr. Heiser informs us that Genesis 1 is simply theological messaging in which God did not bother to "update" his chosen people's views.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVBxIC4caHI&t=6095s @ 2:07:00 ish
Elsewhere he says Genesis 1 is a polemic against the other polytheistic worldviews-which I agree with. Question. Is saying this God did it instead of those Gods an "update" to their understanding of cosmology? I think it is! I am not endorsing scientific concordism here (My view is canonical concordism). The point is how utterly self defeating such a view is.
Even at the human level it should be obvious that the way you would do something is probably not the same way I would do something, after all we are different persons. This would clearly be a case of revealing new linguistic and conceptual information to God's people that does not require divine lobotomies nor purely natural means. I really do enjoy Dr. Heiser's work and all but I think I have established pretty clearly that he is inconsistent and fits his own definition of "Theological Liberal". Consequently I cannot endorse him any longer. Don't be fooled by the fancy theological mumbo jumbo and pretended neutrality. Examine the presuppositions and you will find all you need to demolish any scholar. I mean with this kind of liberal naturalizing of scripture I would probably write a book to try and restore the supernatural aspect I removed too! (This is an allusion to his book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible)
My view that I expressed here about inspiration in citing all these passages is an appeal to a non-mystical working model of Sensus Plenior taking into account progressive revelation and the analogy of faith. It is nothing new, and if it aint' broke don't fix it! With all that out of the way you may want to heed the warning from Dr. Walter Martin HERE. God Bless!!
I am always baffled at how obvious our presuppositions being integral to examining evidence ought to be to others. Hardly anybody seems to think in this fashion anymore. Such is the case with this charge that we shall examine. Perhaps you have heard this charge before:
"The early Church fathers did not hold to the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and total depravity. It wasn't until Augustine in the 3rd century AD, who was influenced by Gnosticism and Greek philosophy that these concepts arose. He was a Manichean you know! John Calvin simply continued this pagan Greek school of thought of Augustine and smuggled it into his theology just as Augustine did."
This charge is demonstrably false, and historically naive. Because of the presuppositions many of the people who make this charge hold, namely their absolute committal to autonomy; we can observe how arbitrary they are in selecting and suppressing evidence. Jesse Morell argues in this exact manner to defend his Pelagianism. He has even produced an entire work on this in video form around this very premise. On his website he notes that even Ignatius believed in libertarian freewill and denies, original sin, and the total spiritual inability of mankind. For example he cites Ignatius as saying:
APE Ignatius to the Magnesians (long. 5:1 Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life upon our observance|of God's precepts¦, but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life.
2 For I remark, that two different characters are found among men— the one true coin, the other spurious. The truly devout man is the right kind of coin, stamped by God Himself. The ungodly man, again, is false coin, unlawful, spurious, counterfeit, wrought not by God, but by the devil. I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but that there is one humanity, sometimes belonging to God, and sometimes to the devil. If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice. The unbelieving bear the image of the prince of wickedness. The believing possess the image of their Prince, God the Father, and Jesus Christ, through whom, if we are not in readiness to die for the truth into His passion, His life is not in us. (IMl 5:1-2 APE)
But Ignatius also said the following in his letter to the Ephesians:
APE Ignatius to the Ephesians (long). 8:2 They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But ye, being full of the Holy Spirit, do nothing according to the flesh, but all things according to the Spirit. Ye are complete in Christ Jesus, "who is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe." (IEl 8:2 APE)
Obviously the Gospel is a spiritual matter if there ever was one. Many such examples can be furnished but my point is simply that one can find early church father examples of the doctrine of total inability and spiritual death. This is contrary to the claim that Augustine the Manichean invented this notion and prior to that the doctrine is lacking and therefore a novelty. Let me give you one more example before I move on to my main point. Barnabas writing around 70 A.D. says the following:
APE Epistle of Barnabas 16:7 Learn, then, how it shall be built in the name of the Lord. Before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak, as being indeed like a temple made with hands. For it was full of idolatry, and was a habitation of demons, through our doing such things as were opposed to|the will of¦ God. (Brn 16:7 APE)
The problem is multiplied for the person pushing this Gnosticism Myth when we examine early Jewish thought leading into the 1st century A.D. We can note right away that there are some Jewish sects going into the first century who upheld the views of total depravity and absolute predestination before any church father ever existed, and before Gnosticism even existed. There simply was no "Monolithic Judaism". Josephus noted that these issues inclusive of the debate on freewill and original sin existed among the Pharisees and Essenes. The Pharisees believed in freewill and fate, while the Essenes held to total depravity and absolute predestination, the Saducees however denied all forms of fate and maintained only freewill. Here we have a very early account of Pelagians, Semi-Pelegians, and Monergists. Hence the International Bible Encyclopedia reads of Josephus' summary of these competing views:
"The account given of the doctrines of the Pharisees by Josephus is clearly influenced by his desire to parallel the Jewish sects with the Greek philosophical schools. He directs especial attention to the Pharisaic opinion as to fate and free will, since on this point the Stoic and Epicurean sects differed very emphatically. He regards the Pharisaic position as mid-way between that of the Sadducees, who denied fate altogether and made human freedom absolute, and that of the Essenes that "all things are left in the hand of God." He says "The Pharisees ascribe all things to fate and God, yet allow that to do what is right or the contrary is principally in man's own power, although fate cooperates in every action." It is to be noted that Josephus, in giving this statement of views, identifies "fate" with "God," a process that is more plausible in connection with the Latin fatum, "something decreed," than in relation to the impersonal moira, or heimarmene, of the Greeks. As Josephus wrote in Greek and used only the second of these terms, he had no philological inducement to make the identification; the reason must have been the matter of fact. In other words, he shows that the Pharisees believed in a personal God whose will was providence."
Josephus writes in the Antiquities of the Jews:
"9. At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essens. Now for the Pharisees, (11) they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate. But the sect of the Essens affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly. However, I have given a more exact account of these opinions in the second book of the Jewish War."
The section where he discusses this more thoroughly in the Jewish Wars that he mentioned in the Antiquities citation above is 2.119-166. He notes that even among the Essenes there were different beliefs regarding their customs. But he explicitly affirms the existence of these three different belief systems which obviously look like our modern day debate on Synergism and Monergism. All of this from the 2nd century BC going into the 1st century AD, before any Gospel accounts, and before any church father existed.
You see how arbitrary and historically naive it is to claim that this view of the predestination, original sin, and total inability started in the time of Augustine is? Recent discoveries of the Qumran community of Essenes have been very helpful in this area. As John Piper points out the Qumran community (who, as we shall see, emphasized total depravity in a way very similar to that of Paul) connected God's absolute predestination with the individual eternal fates of all humanity. Some were predestined to eternal bliss, and others, eternal damnation. Look at the way many sections of the Qumran material reflect this:
"And I, because of Thine understanding, I know that [the righteousness of man] is not in the hand of flesh [and] that man [is not] master of (13) his way and that mankind cannot strengthen his step.....And I know that the inclination of every spirit is in Thy hand (14) [and that] Thou hast ordained [the way of every man] before creating him. And how can any man change Thy words? Thou alone hast created (15) the just and established him from his mother's womb unto the time of good-will (cf Romans 9:23) that he may be preserved in Thy covenant and walk in all Thy way. . . And Thou hast raised up (17) his glory from among flesh whereas Thou hast created the wicked [for the time of] Thy [wr]ath and hast set them apart from their mother's womb for the Day of Massacre. . .(19) Thou hast created all [them that despise] Thy [will] to execute judgment against them (20) in the eyes of all Thy works that they may serve as a sign, and wo[nder unto] everlasting [generations] that [all] may know Thy glory [cf Romans 9:23] and awful might [cf Romans 9:22]." (1 QH 15:12-22)
“Before things come to be, [God] has ordered all their designs, so that when they do come to exist—at their appointed times as ordained by His glorious plan—they fulfill their destiny, a destiny impossible to change…. He created humankind to rule over the world, appointing for them two spirits in which to walk until the time ordained for His visitation. These are the spirits of truth and falsehood. Upright character and fate originate with the Habitation of Light; perverse, with the Fountain of Darkness…. It is actually He who created the spirits of light and darkness, making them the cornerstone of every deed.” (1QS 3.15-19, 24-25)
“And you, O God, created us for yourself as an eternal people, and into the lot of light you cast us for your truth. You appointed the Prince of Light from old to assist us, for in his lot are all sons of righteousness and all spirits of truth are in his dominion. You yourself made Belial for the pit, an angel of malevolence, his dominion is in darkness, and his counsel is to condemn and convict.” (1QM 13.9-11)
A very interesting parallel emerges in all of this regarding the relationship between total depravity and unconditional election as the reformers uphold. For the reformers, because the human person is totally depraved, our will is utterly bent against the things of God and can never assent to the things of God. We therefore cannot believe in God unless God saves us by transforming our will, causing us to believe in Jesus Christ. Most are aware that us reformed folks are fond of citing many Pauline texts to support this. But notice that Paul's notion on these matters strongly resembles those of the Essenes. In a Qumran text called "The Community Rule" it emphasizes the depravity of mankind in a way that bears a striking resemblance to Romans 7:14-25.
"As for me, I belong to wicked mankind, to the company of ungodly flesh, My iniquities, rebellions, and sins, together with the perversity of my heart, belong to the company of worms, and to those who walk in darkness" ( 1 QS 11.9-10)
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:14-25 NAU)
Before I move forward to the next area of interest I want to make it perfectly clear that I am in no way considering these Qumran texts as infallible scripture. My point is that it is simply false that these concepts did not arise until Gnosticism and Augustine. I am no way saying that Paul is being syncretistic with the Essenes either. Again the point is that these concepts existed before any NT writing, and before any Church fathers.
More to come......
Sola Scriptura is the view that the that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. More specifically it means that all other sources of authority are subordinate to scripture. It does not deny the existence of other authorities. It really attempts to answer the following question:
How, and on what authority, do Christian believers discern between doctrinal differences today?
Scripture teaches that our convictions are not to be based on human wisdom. Human wisdom is not always wrong, but it should be rejected because it is 1: Fallible and 2: Not a sufficient foundation for believing anything about God because only God is adequate to witness to himself. We therefore should not depend upon human wisdom but God's own Revelation of himself instead of the conflicting opinions of man, or untrustworthy speculations of man. Notice in 1 Cor 2:4,5 Paul's conviction of how to resolve matters of doctrine for those in Corinth, and think about his conceptual scheme as we read verse 5.
4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1Co 2:4-5 NAU)
Notice how he separates the power of God and the wisdom of man into two categories and makes a complete contrast of the two. Paul then says explicitly that it is not persuasive words of men, or their own understandings of spiritual insight that our faith rests on. Instead it is the power or strength of God that our faith rests on. Notice also verses 10-13...
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1Co 2:10-13 NAU)
After laying out those categories Paul then draws a sharp contrast between the words which man's wisdom teaches and those which God reveals to us through the spirit. So on the one hand we have words taught by the wisdom of man, and on the other we have words that are revealed through the spirit. Paul has made the point in verse 4 that the apostolic message did not originate in the persuasive words of men, but rather the apostolic message originates from the power of God. Paul is saying the understanding itself comes from the wisdom of God's own spirit. Paul thanks God in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 that the Thessalonians did not receive his word as the wisdom of men, but as it is in truth; the word of God. Paul very clearly contrasts the words of men and the words of God. The wisdom of God and the wisdom of men. The spirit of the world and the spirit of God. It is unambiguous here that there is a clear demarcation.
Paul spoke of the Sacred writings which are which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. He says that all these writings known as scripture are literally God breathed "θεόπνευστος -Theopnustos" (2 Timothy 3:16). The bible then would have us beware of the uninspired words of men which are not θεόπνευστος. In other words it is only scripture which is theopnustos and all other authorities are not. In Jeremiah we read:
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. (Jer 23:16 NAU)
So even in the old testament we find this distinction drawn between words from the mouths of mere men and the mouth of God, with the prescription to not listen to the former. It is not as though human wisdom cannot ever attain truth, but human wisdom can never have absolute assurance except it come from the mouth of God himself. I reiterate that in scripture we find that only these "writings" or "scripture" are called God breathed. In Colossians 2:8 Paul warns God's people not to allow their faith to be compromised by any philosophy which is after the tradition of men rather than Christ. It is made clear again that there is a contrast between man's authority and Christ's authority. The tradition of man on one hand and the authority of Christ on the other.
In Matthew 15:6 our Lord Jesus himself condemned those who "make void the word of God" because of their tradition. God also warns that we are not to add or take away anything from his word (Deut. 4:2). This is such a serious issue that in Revelation God says that whoever does this will attain all the curses in the book and lose all the blessings in that book.
Many people will cite various verses about tradition in support of their views as if tradition is meant in the Eastern orthodox or Roman Catholic sense. This is of course circular but that is why we should examine these verses among the apostles. We will see that tradition in the NT is not the way either the EO or RC conceive of them. There are some verses that speak of tradition as authoritative so we must understand those correctly. In Hebrews 1:2 the author tells us that in the past God spoke to us in many ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son. Christ then is the epitome or apex of all of God's soteriological revelatory manners and means. So much so that John declares him the word of God. But since we do not experience Christ the same way as the apostles where then did we get our information about Christ? The Gospels.
Jesus also commissioned certain men the right to speak for him in these Gospels. They had the power of attorney. This is very close to what the word apostle meant in the times of the NT. The apostle was considered the man himself. In John 14:26 we see that Christ inspired the apostles themselves with his very word. He did this so that they would not pass on their own wisdom,word, and insight, but rather HIS. We see this expressed in Matthew 10:40 and then culminate in the Great commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Scripture then teaches that the apostles spoke God the father's, and God the son's revelation and not their own. All of which is revealed by the holy spirit. Think about this in light of Peter's own confession and how Christ told him flesh and blood did not reveal Christ but it was the father.
We can see another example in Galatians 1:11-12 where Paul is Jealous for the truth of the gospel and what he has taught precisely because it is not his words, but the words of Christ. This pattern is everywhere in the NT..not man, but God. The father and Jesus Christ revealed the word to the apostles who were taught by the holy spirit. It is then in virtue of this revelatory work of the Apostles as they reveal the father and the son and the power of the spirit that Christ builds his Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.
Contrary to most opinions regarding Peter's confession the rock is not Peter's person because a few verses later Peter is called Satan. If the Romanist view of this verse were correct then we would have to conclude the church is built upon Satan. Some fellow protestants believe Christ to be speaking of himself but I think that view involves too many exegetical gymnastics to make any sense of the matter. I believe that Peter was speaking for all the apostles and so the rock was the confession of Peter speaking for all the apostles. Support for this view can be found in Ephesians 2:20.
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, (Eph 2:20 NAU)
So the sense in which the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets is in how they present the word of God faithfully, as they are the authorized spokesmen for Jesus words and not their own. If they do that then they provide the foundation for the Church. This teaching then was received as a body of truth which was a criteria for doctrine and for life in and outside the Church. But now we have to answer the next question. How did the church come to know this truth? How did the Church in it's early days come to know of this Apostolic body of truth from God?
Well we know that this body of truth was passed down to the church and through the church. Also, because the truth was passed down from the apostles to the church it was often called "that which was delivered" or the "deposit". So the body of truth gets passed down to the church. Because it is passed down or "handed over" the Greek word paradosis is used. Since this word broadly means to deposit, deliver, or that which is communicated to another, the English word for this is often rendered "tradition" or "the tradition". So the apostles have the truth of God and they hand it over or deliver it to the church, and that comes to be called "the tradition ". The tradition then is just the truth that the apostles teach as a revelation of God the father, son, and holy spirit which is delivered to the church. But what does the NT teach about this tradition?
13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
(2Ti 1:13-14 NAU)
Here there is a network of sound words or a body of truth and doctrine that Paul calls a treasure or a "deposit". He says what was entrusted to him and passed on is in need of being guarded ...1 Timothy 6:20-21. So the apostolic deposit is this pattern of sound words or body of doctrinal truth. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 we are told to depart from those persons who depart from this tradition which has been received through the apostles. In 2 Peter 2:21 it is said that "it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them". So it is better to have never known the apostolic deposit than to have known it and turned away from it. These verses clearly show that this body of truth is the standard of sound living for the Christian. In 2 Timothy 2:2 this deposit is to be the standard for all future teaching in the church. So the apostles received a revelation of God which was entrusted to them as a deposit. This deposit is then delivered to the church to be guarded as the standard for all the Christian's sound teaching and living. Moreover the church is prescribed to depart from heretics who depart from this deposit of doctrinal truths that the church received from the apostles.
What is this tradition? Is it the Eastern Orthodox tradition or the Roman Catholic tradition? No, it is the apostolic tradition of sound words which they received by revelation from the father,son, and holy spirit. It is not church tradition, church father tradition, or papal succession. The next question to answer is "How was this tradition or deposit delivered to the church? In what forms? "
In 2 Thess. 2:15 we read that it was by word or epistle. The church then learned about this tradition by receiving it from the apostles orally or by writing. So in two ways this pattern of sound words or body of truth as a deposit came to the church. There is absolutely no hint in this verse that part of the truth came orally and part of it came in writing. Instead it is the whole truth that was transmitted in two forms. It is here just called "the traditions" as if it is one body of truth conveyed in two modes. Moreover Paul does not say here that one mode supplements the other and instead teaches the opposite here. This is important to remember because Roman Catholics and those in the Eastern Orthodox persuasion will use this verse and say that if we only use one of these modes we have not gotten all the truth. There is a huge logical fallacy in their reasoning that way because Paul does not say that. Instead Paul says hold to the traditions you were taught whether by word of mouth or epistle. The church did not receive two sets of truths from the apostles, and instead received one body of truth in two forms. So if you have this body of tradition in either form you have the apostolic traditions. The reason this was so was because of apostolic authority. Remember Christ's words "If they receive you they receive me". The apostles had the power of attorney when they delivered these teachings to many churches. Their word then binds the church. When the apostles speak they speak with divine authority received from God to the church. There are no apostles in the church today. There is absolutely no hint in this verse that this authority is passed on to other people either.
Instead the authority of the apostle's lives on through their teaching. That is to say through their deposit which was passed to the church. This means that the only way which we receive this body of truth now is in writing. The apostles are dead and gone and what they taught continues in their writings. These are in the scriptures which we take as the standard of our faith. In the new testament what the apostles wrote is considered to be the very word of God. For example in 1 Cor. 14:37 Paul says exactly that. Indeed what the apostles wrote even came to have the same authority in the church as what Peter called "the other scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). Peter considered Paul's writings to be on par with the old testament scriptures. Since there are no more apostles, the authority extends only to the apostles in their 1st century writings.
What are the requirements to be an apostle? I ask this since merely having the contents of this tradition alone does not in any way mean that the authority is transferred. Scripture answers this question for us. In order to be an apostle one must be a witness of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 9:1), be personally commissioned by Christ (Galatians 1:1), and be personally taught by Christ. Notice also that while Paul considered himself as the least or last of the apostles, his student Timothy is never referred to as an "apostle" at all. So in the very nature of the case apostolic authority and revelation ceased along with the apostolic generation. This is why when we look at Jude 3, it reads " the faith""which was "once for all delivered". The faith here is the teaching contents of the Christian faith. This is that body of truth or tradition that was received by the apostles and taught orally, and then committed to writing so that all generations can receive it by it's being deposited in the church.
Long before any reformer Paul, Jesus, Peter, and James give us examples of Sola Scriptura in many ways within holy writ. Jesus often held his audience accountable to the old testament scriptures. This would be strange for Christ himself to hold men accountable to a collection of literature they were unaware of. Christ would do this by asking his audience "Have you not read" or often times in a declarative manner "It is written". Paul similarly would string together sections of the OT for illustrative appeal to authority known to the Rabbi's as Halakh, or stringing pearls. These things are important to keep in mind because many arguments against Sola Scriptura are that what is meant in the passages supporting Sola Scriptura in the NT apply only to the OT. This is why I noted that if that was the case then Peter's putting Paul's words on par with the OT scripture is very significant. Moreover suppose I parallel that argument between Christ and Paul. Suppose I say Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 is not attesting to the Gospel accounts of communion since his account is later. You see this is exactly the point of Sola Scriptura that our testimony alone is not enough and requires the backing of the authority of scripture. So for example among the apostles how did they settle their differences? Not with Plato, Aristotle, or appealing to non-Apostles (Remember Christ is called an Apostle in scripture). Instead I will furnish an example in scripture where scripture is what settles tradition, councils, and personal experience.
In Acts 15 all three criteria were satisfied since all three apostles appealed to scripture as justification, with James' last appeal to Amos 9 closing the council and shaping his personal beliefs on the matter. I believe I have furnished enough information about this already but just in case I have three propositions which I believe firmly establish this doctrine in scripture.
1. We are to recognize only Scripture as what is θεόπνευστος (2Ti 3:16 BGT) God Breathed.
2. Only Scripture is sufficient ἄρτιος (2Ti 3:17) for equipping the Christian for every good work.
3. When we go beyond what is written we run the risk of leaning on mere human wisdom (1 Cor 4:6, 1 Cor 2:4,5).
1. There are many interpretations of scripture therefore you could be wrong about this belief in sola scriptura because you hold a fallible belief in an infallible source!
This objection is very easy to answer. It commits the logical fallacy of Hasty Generalization. It essentially says that because I may have provisional knowledge in one area then I could be wrong in all areas of my knowledge. This objection ignores the distinction of different kinds of knowledge. It focuses on one kind of knowledge and then makes the conflated leap that all other categories of knowledge are equally fallible, therefore committing a second fallacy known as a non-sequiter. Two points of contention here. Firstly, if all knowledge is fallible (known as fallibilism) then fallibilism must infallibly be fallible. The only way for the fallibilist to escape this glaring contradiction is to borrow from infallibilism the same distinctions it tries to avoid.
Secondly, operating on Sola Scriptura this question borrows propositional truths aforementioned in scripture itself (1 Cor. 2). Moreover it assumes the noetic effects of sin which is found in scripture (Romans 1:18-22), and just because I could be wrong in my exegesis it does not follow that Scripture is itself fallible. It should be noted as well via illustration that if there were something wrong with my car radio, it is more likely a problem on my end than on the end of the broadcaster. Similarly, just because my interpretation may falter it does not follow that the revelation, or transmission thereof falters.
We may just as well ask the Prima Scripturist and the Sola Ecclessia adherents how they can rest assured that the magisterium or consensus of church fathers avoids a fallibilist belief in an infallible source. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
2. Only a cessationist would be convinced of this argument since they would use it to support that view.
There may be some merit to this objection in a sense because many cessationists do utilize this argument. However it does not follow that in order to be consistent with this argument you should be a cessationist, because other reasons could be furnished for denying cessationism that would not apply to this argument. For example Sam Waldron and others who do argue in this fashion for cessationism never answer questions about their suppressed premises. For example Sam Waldron and Richard Gaffin presuppose in their similar arguments that if there is a new revelation it must be written in scripture. But nowhere in scripture do we find the "tongues" of Apostles recorded.
3. How do you know what books belong in the canon from scripture?
This objection takes more time to respond too because out of these three objections it is the most difficult. Basically only God and his word are infallible, and only he is our infallible ultimate authority. All attempts of justification on this matter via history, allegedly infallible churches and Popes, are impossible to establish apodictic certainty of the canon. It is God himself who is the Canon or standard. I shall work on that article and when it is ready it will be available HERE. In conclusion since none of those methods can establish apodictic certainty of the canon it is proven by the impossibility of the contrary. One may escape this by saying knowledge does not require certainty, but then two things follow. The question cannot be asked since it assumes infallibilism, and two we could then reason that Sola Scriptura does not require apodictic certainty.
Does Ezekiel 18:20 teach that Souls can die? The short answer is that this passage is talking about physical death and not incorporeal existence or lack thereof in the after life. Many older translations like the KJV render this verse as 'Soul' and indeed the Hebrew word here is 'Nephesh' which can refer to an immaterial part of man. But 'Nephesh' can refer to the material part of man as well, or even animals and plants which is evidenced in the opening chapters of Genesis. Many newer translations render it 'Person' here because of this, not to mention that it's old testament citation uses 'Person'.
So why am I making a post about this verse? Well, it is my conviction that understanding this verse as teaching a death of souls leads to many errors in doctrine. Some of these errors are serious and others are not. I have seen Annihilationists, and Trichotomists use it in this fashion. Those opposing the doctrine of Original Sin abuse this text repeatedly citing the second part of the verse as support for a denial of the imputation of Adam's sinful guilt to all of mankind from birth. I am not saying that all of these folks do this deliberately, perhaps most of them do this without meditating on such a pericope in light of other scriptures that seem contradictory. So my goal in this post is to explain what this verse really means according to the context and historical analysis. In other words what did Ezekiel mean when he said this?
In order to understand the author's intended meaning here, it is important to examine the immediate context and then the historical setting to understand Ezekiel's audience. This will give us important clues as to Ezekiel's practical application. This chapter opens up with a question about a proverb in circulation which reads " The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge " . It blames the present situation of exile on the older generation, and bespeaks the fatalism of the “children” of the Exile.
The only other place that I have found that quotes this proverb is in Jeremiah 31:29;30. The meaning in both places differs in details, but both have in common the notion of blaming the current situation on the previous sinful history of ancestry. Since Jeremiah was older and both Ezekiel and Jeremiah were preaching the certainty of Judah's future punishment for her sins in Jerusalem, some believe Ezekiel to be Jeremiah's pupil. We know that Ezekiel wrote this chapter sometime between 590-591 BC since Ezekiel was so meticulous in dating his visions many times right down to the day. This means that this proverb being used was in circulation at least during the time that Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd was ruling Babylon, and possibly when Jehoiachin was ruling Jerusalem.
Though little is known about Jehoiachin's death, it appears that after the 597 BC siege Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd enthroned Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah (whom he later renamed Zedekiah) as a Babylonian puppet. It was during the reign of Mattaniah that a massive deportation involving 10,000 Judahites occured, and Ezekiel was among this group (Ezekiel 40:1).
At the end of his eleven year reign in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded in capturing Jerusalem. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape, making their way out of the city, but were captured on the plains of Jericho, and were taken to Riblah. There, after seeing his sons put to death, his own eyes were put out, and, being loaded with chains, he was carried captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; 2 Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 32:4,-5; 34:2-3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11; Ezekiel 12:13), where he remained a prisoner until he died.
In the next two verses we have a statement of disapproval of this proverb from the Lord, and then a claim to ownership of all souls. It seems that the thrust of this disapproval and claim of ownership lies in the fact that men were treating other men as property and functionally making themselves arbiters of justice, instead of God's law. This could also be because many Suzerain treaties required allegiance to other Gods. Ezekiel then gives three examples of how this thinking results in injustice and arbitrariness or righteousness and justice. Now we can examine the main passage in question. What is it that verse 20 means when it says:
NAU Ezekiel 18:20 "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Eze 18:20 NAU)
So given that Ezekiel's audience are those in the captivity of Babylon under the reign of Mattaniah /Zedekiah, these exiles would be imbibing certain laws that Nebuchadnezzar would of required his enthroned vassal ruler Mattaniah to enforce to this annexed people. This was the common way a ruler would expand his territory in the ancient near east after a victory. This mode was called a Suzerain-Vassal treatise. The Suzerain (in this case Nebuchdnezzar) would appoint a Vassal (In this case Mattaniah) to enforce the Suzerain's rules on this newly appended people group. Much like our state representatives enforcing federal laws. Many of these rules were simply court rulings about murder, marriage ,trading, theft, and employment.
One thing almost all of these treaty laws had in common in the middle east was the concept of Vicarious Punishment. Vicarious punishment occurs when the tendency to engage in a behavior is weakened after having observed the negative consequences for another engaging in that behavior. This is similar to the aforementioned case of Mattaniah watching his children die for his rebellion. What this scripture is teaching is that among magistrates this was not how God commanded legal cases in court to be done among the Jews. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with how God punishes anyone or reckons their guilt, and everything to do with how mankind should among each other.
You see, before verse 20 Ezekiel points out their objection saying:
19 "Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. (Eze 18:19 NAU)
Some examples of this vicarious punishment can be found in scripture and in many ancient middle east writings. Ezekiel responds to their proverb and objection by quoting Deuteronomy 24:16 in verse 20. In his work on Ezekiel, Greenberg makes the observation that Ezekiel’s theological principle (vv. 4, 20) is a literary inversion of and, therefore, an intentional reference to the law of individual responsibility in Deut 24:16. (“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin”):
Deut 24:16 Ezek 18:20
1. not fathers for children 3. the soul sinning dies
2. children not for fathers 2. son not with the father
3. each dies for his sin 1. father not with the son
Deuteronomy has been well documented as work that follows this Suzerain vassal treatise form. Moses was dealing with the same issue here, so this must be Ezekiel's application as well. What sort of laws were Moses and Ezekiel talking about regarding rejection of this "Vicarious Punishment"? I will supply three examples, from a Hittite Code dating around 1650-1500 BC.
§1 [If] anyone kills a [a man] or a woman in a quarrel, he shall [bring him] (for burial) and shall give 4 persons (lit. heads), male or female respectively. He shall look [to his house for it.]
§44a If anyone shoves a man into a fire, so that he dies, (the guilty party) shall give one person (lit. head) a son in return.
§174 If (when) men are hitting each other, one of them dies, (the other) shall give one slave (lit. head).
Regarding our responsibility to God rather than other men, scripture is very clear on the matter. You see earlier in Deuteronomy 5 Moses speaks of the Jew's responsibility toward a sovereign God as a Suzerain who gives blessings and curses as stipulations to breaking or maintaining their covenant duty on that mountain. There he says:
'You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deu 5:9-10 NAU)
Moses and Ezekiel do not seem to present any explanation for this seeming contradiction. This implies that they did not hold this to be problematic since there was always a thread of the creator / creature distinction inherent in the Torah. In other words God as creator has and does punish often times through ancestry or federal headship but prescribes men not to do so to other men.
One example is the story of Achen in Joshua chapter 7 where Achen is stoned along with his entire family, and his property is destroyed because of his sin. Moreover in this account the Lord says that they lost the battle against Ai because of this sin against him which brought suffering to all of Joshua's people. There are other examples like the fact that each evil king of Israel of Judah brought punishment to their nations (i.e. no rain because of King Ahab 1 Kings 17f) and all the nation of Egypt was punished for Pharoah's stubbornness (Exod. 7-11). Finally whole lineages being affected due to idolatry (Exodus 20:5).
So in conclusion Ezekiel 18:4,20, like Deuteronomy 24:16 does not teach about the eternal fate of souls, spiritual death, nor do either deny the doctrine of original sin and federal headship. And they certainly do not deny that God can punish people corporately. Instead they are God's commands to us about how creatures living in a moral environment with other creatures should regulate guilt and punishment in this life. This creator creature distinction is even found in our Lord's greatest commands which were always in the law. Just as their are two prescriptions given, one for man's obligation to God and one for mankind's obligation to each other; so there is a punishment for God upon men, and another from men to men. They differ significantly and in both cases no one receives injustice. For more information see this video.
Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;
AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'
"The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
(Mar 12:29-31 NAU)
Some opponents of Reformed theology argue the following:
Calvinism as a system claims that God reprobates a large segment of mankind so that they can never be saved. It further claims that the atonement is for this reason limited only to the elect who alone will benefit from the atonement and be saved (with no possibility of falling away). In such a system Jesus died only for the sins of the elect. If this is the case it seems that many passages of Scripture are disingenuous in commanding all people everywhere to repent and believe on Christ when repentance is impossible for reprobates and Christ did not die for them anyway.....
If Calvinism is to be consistent in these claims it cannot allow for a person to rightly tell someone that Christ died for them. The best one can do is say that if they repent and believe, Christ died for them or that Christ died for sinners (meaning “some sinners” but not necessarily the sinner they are presently speaking to) or that Christ might have died for them, or something similar. Therefore, consistent Calvinists say it is wrong to tell the unsaved that Christ died for them.
After making this charge the one issuing it will usually appeal to one pericope primarily, and other passages secondarily. First we will examine the primary text and provide an exegetical response. Let's turn to our text:
NAS 1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1Co 15:1-4 NAS)
Paul is not saying that he is bringing forward new knowledge, but rather he is reminding his audience of the message he received, confirmed with John and James, then made known to them years earlier. He adds to this that it is that same apostolic message that they are currently standing in, rather than "could" be standing in. So it is evident that his goal here is not to make converts but to remind converts of the original message and compare. Paul then adds "by which also you are saved". The idea here is of an already continuing, firm, salvation that will persevere in the future. Contrary to the objector's interpretation Paul is not trying to convey this message to produce converts among them. As Ellicott's commentary for English Readers notes:
The idea here is not, as implied in the English version, that they were converted, and yet that heretofore no results have followed from their belief; it is the same thought which comes out more fully in 1 Corinthians 15:17. They are saved by their faith in the gospel as preached by St. Paul, unless (which is impossible) the whole gospel be false, and so their faith in it be vain and useless.
Paul then adds the phrase "unless you believed in vain". The Greek word used here is "εἰκῇ" and it is overwhelmingly not conveying the idea that unbelievers are being corrected about salvation here. This is shown in the work called "An Exegetical Summary of 1 Corinthians 10-16" by Ronald Trail where he lists the many ways this word can be taken to be meant. He writes:
QUESTION—What does εἰκῇ ‘in vain’ mean?It means that what they believed will not be realized [TH]. Paul addresses the whole membership of the congregation and some may not have a genuine faith [MNTC, TNTC]. This means unless their faith is worthless and they believed without effect [MNTC]. It means believing without due consideration or thoughtlessly [NIGTC]. It means ‘at random’ so that it led nowhere and resulted in nothing [Lns]. It means worthless [AB, Ho]. It means without consideration, heedlessly, rashly [ICC]. It means of no purpose, which would be true if Christ has not been raised [Vn]. The word refers to 15:14 and the possibility that the faith of the Corinthians might be in vain if Christ has not been raised [Alf, NCBC, NIC2]. Paul is using this ironically to refer to the hypothetical possibility that their faith just might be in vain if it turns out that Christ is not raised [Ho, NIC2].
All the contingency is then placed on the veracity of the bodily resurrection itself, it is the object of our faith in question here and not the veracity of faith itself. It would indeed be vanity for any of them to believe if the bodily resurrection is a sham. As if speaking anew to arouse the attention of his audience, Paul begins to give them the same arguments and repeat exactly what the original message is. He starts by emphasizing that this creed is of "first importance" and begins to define the good news they already received so that he can compare their message with his, just as he did with John and James.
Paul then states in verse 3 that Christ died for "our sins". The objection here is that it does not say "the elect's sins". I can readily agree on this point. However, It can equally be said that it does not say "every person's sins". In fact it is probably better to understand this phrase to be Paul including himself along with his audience. And who is his audience? He tells us in the salutation that it is not unbelievers. He explicitly says this letter is to " the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:2 KJV)". It is likely that even here the usage of the word "Our" is referring to the Apostolic circle because they are here called saints who were sanctified. Additionally in scripture, while justification is attached to Christ's resurrection, the canceling of the sin debt and the penalty of death was still paid upon Christ's death.
Returning back to verse 3 of 1 Corinthians 15 it has been noted that the word "our" is a gloss as well; and the whole phrase is likely an allusion to the song in Isaiah 53:3-7 hence the phrase "according to the scriptures". But the attempt made by those who deny limited atonement here rests on the assumption that Paul is quoting this message verbatim (including you or our) in his kerygma. This is simply wrong. The language here is indeed very indicative if a passing on of oral tradition due to use of the words "paradoka" and "paralambano". But the way in which a strict quote is to be found in the Greek is not found here. James White explains it here.
With all of that out of the way only one issue remains to be answered. So are Calvinists telling someone something false when they say Christ died for sinners? Absolutely not! Since we do not know who the elect are. How can we be disingenuous, or labeled liars, for something we are unaware of ? Liars are people who tell somebody something they know is in reality false. Which is why saying Christ died for sinners, or sin is very legitimate. This is known as a synecdoche and there is absolutely nothing wrong or illogical with such usage. Especially considering every person has the quality of being sinful. Additionally this same charge applies to the Arminian due to his scheme of God's foreknowledge. As Loraine Boettner put it in his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination:
1. THE SAME OBJECTION APPLIES AGAINST GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE
Although the Gospel is offered to many who will not, and who for subjective reasons cannot, accept, it is, nevertheless, sincerely
offered to all. The objection so strenuously urged on some occasions by Arminians, to the effect that if the doctrine of Predestination is
true the Gospel cannot be sincerely offered to the non-elect, should be sufficiently answered by the fact that it bears with equal force
against the doctrine of God's Foreknowledge. We might ask, How can the offer of salvation be sincerely made to those who God
foreknows will despise and reject it, especially when their guilt and condemnation will only be increased by their refusal? Arminians
admit that God knows beforehand who will accept and who will reject the message; yet they know themselves to be under a divine
command to preach to all men, and they do not feel that they act insincerely in doing so.
Finally there is a charge regarding how counter intuitive it is for God to command things people are unable to do. While I have dealt with that issue here, and disagree with Schreiner in a sense, I will leave you with Thomas Schreiner's comments in this post for your consideration on this final point.
It should be acknowledged that Wesleyan logic is coherent here, and one can see why Wesleyans would deduce human ability from the giving of commands. Nonetheless, even though their logic is impeccable, it does not necessarily follow that their conclusion is true. An argument may be logically co-herent and not fit with the state of affairs in the world because the answer given is not comprehensive. To put it another way, one of the premises in the Wesleyan argument is not in accord with the reality of life as it is portrayed in the Scriptures. They are incorrect in deducing that God would not give commands without giving the moral ability to obey them. The distinction between physical and moral ability is crucial. For instance, human beings are physically able (in most cases) to walk up steps, but they are physically unable to jump over houses. In a similar way, God gives commands to unbelievers that they can physically obey; that is, they could observe his commandments if they desired to do so. Unbelievers are morally unable to keep God's commands in the sense that they have no desire to obey all of his commandments.