Hey everyone I hope you are blessed and find this material interesting even if you disagree. For a long time now both Christians and Non-Christians, myself included, have had a bad habit of reading our anachronistic ideas into ancient texts like the bible. In the case of biblical law this becomes even more evident the more I have explored this area. That is to say people have a tendency to read these many laws or commands given by God in the Old Testament as some kind of divine or cosmic rule book. Christians tend to become flaming legalists based on this faulty presupposition and skeptics of Christianity often use this information to criticize the Christian worldview. The long held assumption I will challenge here is that the laws given in the Christian scriptures found in the Old Testament are not prescriptive nor legislative laws in the moral sense. Before I do that I need to lay out a bit of historical backdrop to help us understand how we got to this point.
In old testament and ancient near eastern scholarly material there is an ongoing debate on laws in the ancient world which has produced various law models. Dr. Christine Hayes explains in her book What's Divine about Divine Law saying:
"If legal practice was based not on the great cuneiform law collections but on unwritten customs (LeFebvre 2006, 9) what purpose did the former serve? some (e.g., Malul 1990) view these works as idyllic collections of hypothetical exercises produced by a scribal elite. For others (e.g., J. J. Finkelstein 1961) the prologues and epilogues suggest a monumental or apologetic/propagandistic purpose. A third view, advanced by Raymond Westbrook (1985, 250– 54), assimilates the collections to the “scientific list genre” used in professional circles (specifically medicine and divinity) in the ancient near east. We need not adjudicate this debate. Of significance for our inquiry is the emerging scholarly consensus that the cuneiform law collections were written down for purposes other than direct social regulation. " (Whats so Divine about Divine law?, Christine Hayes, pp. 33-34 )
And in fact the scholarly consensus is that:
"The law codes of Israel in the first millennium are deeply embedded in the cuneiform law code tradition."
(A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, Dr. Raymond Westbrook, p. 23)
The waning model I will be criticizing is called the "Legislative model". This model basically holds that these laws found in various ANE sources like the bible are prescriptive in the moral sense and were enforced on the society as legislation by rulers and courts. You see when scholars digging in the desert began to find various cuneiform tablets they ran into things like the famous Code of Hammurabi. And just as our Christian legalists and Skeptics I previously mentioned did, they named these "laws" or "Codes" in their own presupposed anachronistic fashion and the label just stuck in scholarship. After further comparitive analysis of documents like Hammurabi we begin to see all these other models like the "Scientific Treatise Model" for example being put forward in academia because of various defects in the assumed "Legislative Model". In his work Dr. Jean Bottero writing about the casuistic grammar in the Code of Hammurabi says:
"The entirety of the treatise, from the first to the last line, is composed of an unending succession of conditional phrases introduced by "if" and made up of a protasis and an apodosis in the same way that has already been pointed out for our "Code...This use of protasis and apodosis is something that might have seemed to us a special characteristic of the "Code," but in fact is not. This "conditional scheme" could very well have represented to the ancient Mesopotamians the proper canvas for their rational thought, the fundamental logical framework for their discourse-something like the syllogism provides for us. We posit premises to draw out of them a conclusion that becomes apparent to us through them."
(Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, Dr. Jean Bottero p. 170)
In pages 169-179 he explains how this particular linguistic feature along with the form of the document as a treatise is something more like a prescription in the medical or scientific sense rather than a moral one. In other words there is nothing inherent in the casuistic language to demonstrate moral prescription. Dr. John Walton explains more on this saying:
"Bottéro draws attention to the treatise form and provides a helpful understanding of its implications by comparing these legal treatises to other treatises, most notably the medical ones. In these we find a series of related paragraphs identifying symptoms and then suggesting diagnosis, prognosis, or remedy. The paragraphs of the medical treatise, like those of the legal treatise, are introduced by an “if” statement. The paragraphs are arranged together in groupings that show a desire to address variations within a general area. A similar form is found in the divinatory treatises, where the observed or hypothesized omen is introduced in an “if” clause and then a prognostication or interpretation is offered."
"Another observation that brings these three together is that in each, the protasis (“If . . .”) introduces a situation that stands in contrast to order and normality. Each paragraph then offers information or a course of action designed to help resolve the situation or restore equilibrium. So medical conditions need to be recognized and treated, omens need to be responded to, crimes need to be punished, and social wrongs need to be righted."
"When the legal treatises are viewed in this light, one can propose that these are not laws, but exemplary verdicts that can serve the intended didactic function. It is in this sense that they offer model justice. To go the next step, one can infer that not only is what we find in documents such as Hammurabi’s stele not a “code,” it is not even “law.” These are not legislative documents. They report verdicts, they do not prescribe laws."
(Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, Dr. John Walton p. 581)
An ANE scholar named Dr. Raymond Westbrook agrees saying:
"Although modern scholars call these law codes, I subscribe to the view that these documents are not legislation in the modern sense, but rather academic treatises on law expressed in casuistic form."
(Law from the Tigris to the Tiber: The Writings of Raymond Westbrook VII, Dr. Raymond Westbrook p. 164)
Bottero also points out that there is no word for law in the original language of Hammurabi after giving his conclusion on this saying:
"Thus readjusted in its original perspective as a scientific work, the "Code," as it will be seen and understood henceforth , has some chance to escape the anachronisms with which it has been obscured since its discovery...A first element that shows very convincingly that the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia did not understand justice in entirely the same way as we do, is that "they never knew laws," in the juridical area as well as in the scientific one. As I have pointed out above, the word, "law," does not exist in their language. And laws are not found in their writings, because we have to admit that their so-called "codes" are not that, and that they record in fact not laws but decisions of justice. Such a statement could at first contain something disturbing..."
(Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, Dr. Jean Bottero p. 179)
Dr. John Walton likewise points out that even in the Hebrew there is no actual word for law. He says quote:
"In fact, there is no Hebrew word for “law” (= legislation), and now it can be seen that the reason for this is that the ancient societies were not legislative societies."
(The Lost World of Torah, Dr. John Walton p. 40)
As Bottero comments these factual observations will indeed cause much consternation and probably be very disturbing to us who have held on to such traditions as skeptics and believers of the bible. Another scholar named Dr. Delbert Hiller says:
"...there is no evidence that any collection of Near Eastern laws functioned as a written code that was applied by a strict method of exegesis to individual cases. As far as we can tell, these bodies of laws served educational purposes and gave expression to what was regarded as just in typical cases, but they left considerable latitude to local courts for determining the right in individual suits. They aided local courts without controlling them."
(Covenant, Delbert Hillers P.88)
No doubt with this information in place the next two criticisms will be "But regardless God commanded this stuff" and "there are cases where courts cite such laws as legislative in the ANE material". Let us turn to the first objection first before we deal with the second one which will take longer to respond too.
Once again we need to examine why this objection is being made in light of of the ANE material. It has long been argued by us theists of many stripes that God is the ultimate authority and that objective morality if existent is rooted in God's essential moral nature. Skeptics of the bible will then in turn point out laws in the bible to argue that God is somehow contradictory in his nature given what he prescribes his creatures to do. But as Dr. Walton says:
"If God did not give rules, as we have suggested, there are no rules to follow. If God did not provide legislation, there are no laws to obey. Consequently, we may conclude that translating either of these words as “obey” reflects a cultural river violation—it assumes that an idea from our culture dominated Israel’s perspectives and literature. Order in society was the goal, and it was achieved through wisdom, which had its foundation in the fear of the
Lord." (The Lost World of Torah, Dr. John Walton p. 44)
To put this more clearly if these laws were not morally prescriptive or legislative they cannot even possibly reveal the moral nature of God exegetically. So where in the ANE material does this idea of God as the ultimate authority passing his prescriptive authority to his creatures come from? We will once again turn to the code of Hammurabi as a good and prime exemplar to answer this question.
When ANE scholars examined the Stele of Hammurabi they began to interpret the stone carving in various ways. On the stele we have depicted Shamash the Mesopotamian sun God in a pose alongside Hammurabi the human king. Shamash is depicted as extending a hand containing a rod or scepter and a ring to Hammurabi. This was initially interpreted as Shamash giving morally prescriptive commands and authority at the divine level to Hammurabi at the creaturely level. Dr. John Walton explains this saying:
"When first discovered, the texts were referred to as “law codes,” a label that reflected a presupposition derived from our cultural river and correlating assumption about the nature of law and in part from previous decisions about the nature of the biblical “law codes.” This view was believed to be supported by the relief that is found at the top of the stele containing the so-called Code of Hammurabi, which contains a picture of Shamash, god of justice, seated on a throne and extending a rod and ring to Hammurabi, who stands opposite him in a deferential pose. Early interpreters thought this represented the god giving the law to Hammurabi just as Yahweh gave the law to Moses. On further analysis, it became clear that the god Shamash was not delivering the material to Hammurabi, but the other way around. As more information about Shamash was discovered, it was learned that the rod and ring were neither the laws themselves being revealed nor even the authority to make laws. Instead, they were recognized as Shamash’s symbols of authority, and he was displaying them, not giving them to Hammurabi."
(The Lost World of Torah, Dr. John Walton pp. 27-29)
One of the key presuppositions of many libertarian free will incompatibilist theists like Leighton Flowers is the assumption of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. I will be calling this PAP for short and I will refer to Libertarian Freewill as LFW. In his article on freewill he states quite clearly that:
LFW (or contra-causal freedom) is “the categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action.”
He continues saying that:
It makes no practical sense to hold mankind responsible (response-able) to Christ’s words, if indeed they are unable-to-respond to those words, nor is it ever explicitly taught in Scripture.
In other words this kind of PAP is a key presumption for Leighton's LFW version, and is a necessary precondition for moral praise and blame. So what exactly is meant by the "Categorical ability to do otherwise" here? Leighton's version of LFW and PAP would be something like:
An agent S has the ability to choose or do otherwise than ϕ at time t if and only if it was possible, holding fixed everything up to t, that S choose or do otherwise than ϕ at t.
In other words if this categorical ability version of PAP is necessary for moral responsibility then without it a person cannot be morally praised or blamed. Which is just to say they cannot be held morally responsible. But is it true that that the categorical ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral praise and blame logically and biblically? I will contend here that the answer is a clear no.
The Argument from the Impeccability of God's Righteousness
Premise 1 - God always chooses and acts righteously, and lacks the categorical ability to do otherwise than acting righteously.
According to scripture there are many things God does not have the categorical ability to do otherwise. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2; 1 John 1:10; and 1 John 5:10). God cannot break a promise or be unfaithful (Psalm 89:34; Leviticus 26:44; Jeremiah 14:21; and Jeremiah 33:20–22). God cannot stop loving you (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 7:7–9; Psalm 103:17; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:3–6; and 1 John 4:19). God cannot be tempted by nor tempt anyone with evil (James 1:12-13). God cannot stop being God nor deny himself (Psalm 90:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). God cannot sin because he is holy (Psalm 99; Revelation 4:8), righteous (Psalm 97; Romans 3:26), just (Psalm 97:2; Genesis 18:25) and good (Psalm 34:8; Mark 10:18).
Premise 2 - God is morally praiseworthy, that is, he is morally responsible, for his
righteous choices and actions.
On the other hand in scripture we find that while God does not have the categorical ability to do otherwise regarding these things because of his perfect essential moral character or nature he can and is praised and blamed precisely for lacking this ability altogether. The Psalmist tells us to praise God for his love endures forever even though God cannot stop loving (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 135:3). Despite God's inability to stop being God and his inability to not be good we read "Great is the lord, and greatly to be praised" (Psalm 48:1; 145:3; Psalm 150:2).
Therefore Moral responsibility does not require the categorical ability to do otherwise.
If this is true on the highest level then it follows on the lowest level considering that mankind is created in the image of God. In the next post I will go over some responses or possible objections and expound a bit, but consider all of this seriously brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you seriously want to be put into a position where we could not morally praise God? I hope not. We have a perfect God and Savior who can save to the uttermost, and clearly there is no possible world in which a perfect maximally good God and Savior having the categorical ability to sin or be unrighteous is feasibly a good making property. The very existence of God himself shows this conception of PAP and LFW to be false according to scripture and logic.
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15 NAU)
If you have not watched my previous video refuting the solid firmament view please do so before reading this or it will not make as much sense. In that video I explained how Genesis 1 is a theological and cosmological polemic against the competing religious worldviews in the ancient near east. After watching that you may be asking yourself...
"But if Genesis 1 is just theological and cosmogonic polemics against the competing views it seems like a bunch of wasted information on creation. If the point being made is that only the true God of the Hebrews is the one who made all things in Genesis 1 why all the detailed information on how creation happened after verse one? It certainly does seem like a whole lot of needless information if that is all God wanted to convey. So what kind of creation is this?"
Most conservative OT scholars believe this creation account was given to the Israelites in the wilderness, after the Exodus from Egypt but before the conquest of Canaan. It was probably given while camped on the plains of Moab. Having been in bondage to Pharaoh for more than four hundred years the Hebrews had languished in Egypt far from the land promised to Abraham. The people had imbibed all sorts of false concepts of God and Creation from Egypt and were now an ethnically mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38) that found themselves in a wilderness on the way to a promised land looking for a paradise. They were totally dependent on the provision and reliability of God and Moses. With this historical backdrop in mind we are now in a good position to analyze the text to draw out the author's intended meaning and figure out what kind of creation account this is.
Before we do that we must keep in mind that we are dealing with an ancient text and culture. These people did not have rockets or satellites. At best they had local maps which most of them would not even be able to read. They were an agrarian, pre-scientific, and pre-enlightenment people in a desert looking for a stretch of land to call their home that God had allegedly promised for them and their ancestors. They had no conception of planets or a cosmic earth. As Dr. Michael Heiser notes in his book Unseen Realm "The biblical writers knew nothing of nations in another hemisphere (the Americas) or places like India, China, or Australia.". We should not allow our contemporary presuppositions to be read into the text and should point out when that is done. The later Greek idea of a cosmic primeval chaos with primordial elements of water, land, and air are one example of this kind of eisegesis we should avoid to do proper exegesis.
In the first seven Hebrew words of Genesis we find a complete statement expressed in a Merism that Elohim created everything in contrast to any other Gods. Since the Hebrews had no "cosmic planetary perspective" the way they would express the totality of everything would be in a Merism. This would be how they would express what we would call the "universe" or "all that exists". If they wanted to refer to this whole "planet" they would usually use the Hebrew word tebel particularly with the word erets (Psalm 24:1). If it were not for the later genealogies in this book we could even include mankind here. The Hebrew term reshith , translated "beginning" refers to a time before a time. It is used of the earlier period of Job's life before his misfortunes overtook him (Job 8:7; 42:12). Within the Book of Genesis itself, the author uses the term reshith to refer to the early part of Nimrod’s kingdom (Genesis 10:10). It is used of the earlier portion of a kings life before he takes the throne and his reign began to be counted (Jeremiah 27:1; 28:1). The traditional view is illustrated here and what I am saying is illustrated here. This indeterminate period of time before the official reckoning of a king’s reign was called “the beginning [reshit] of his reign.” It was in this indefinite time before a time that everything was materially created.
While verse one is a full statement it is not an independent title evident in the conjunction in the beginning of verse two. If the Hebrews wanted this to be a title or summary of the whole chapter they would use a toledot form like in Genesis 2:4; 5:1. There is no gap theory to be found between verse one and two but the scope shifts from "cosmic" to local. This land is apparently covered with water. The Hebrew word erets rendered "Earth" here usually means land, dry land, or local geography like in Genesis 15:18 and Jeremiah 4:27. The erets is said to be tohu wabohu, translated "formless and void". The phrase is used in Jeremiah 4:23 which closely parallels the events in Genesis 1 to describe the ruined or uninhabitable condition of a portion of desert waste land. It is used of the wilderness where the Israelites wandered for forty years, waiting to enter the land (Deuteronomy 32:10). In this case the promised land.
Day one starts with a conjunction showing that Verses 1-3 are all one linear sequence of text. This is where God begins his acts by commanding light to come forth which is expressed in jussives. Commands make no sense unless there is something already existing to be commanded. The light and darkness already exist and light is commanded to come forth rather than being created since that already occurred in the reshith period of verse 1. The word ore, translated "light" is used to refer to morning sunrise (Gen. 44:3), lighting a region of land (Exo. 10:23), and it's shining through clouds (Job 37:15). It was nighttime so God begins his work by bringing about a sunrise on this land and closes the day out returning it to night. There is absolutely no indication of material creation of light or dark in verses 3-5.
Day two begins with two jussives indicating once again a divine command as opposed to material creation. The Hebrew word asah translated "made" doesn't mean material or ex-nihilo creation. It means to "make" as or put in proper order as in if I told you to "make your bed". It is used of preparing meals (Gen 19:3), making the image of God (Gen 1:26), and of obeying commands (Gen. 6:22). Raqia translated, "Expanse/Firmament" can mean solid, non-solid, both, or something in between. It is where birds fly (Genesis 1:20), and starts at the surface of the water and land (Genesis 1:6-7). Because the material already exists in verse 1 God simply prepared the sky by spreading out clouds to contain water above and provide weather for the land. Raqia in just about all occurrences is associated with clouds, lightning, and storms. This water would then prepare the land for producing wild vegetation on the next day. Although the ancients were pre-scientific they knew water came from the clouds (Prov. 8:28; Job 26:8; 37:11).
Day three also begins with two jussives expressing divine commands translated as "Let the". Instead of material creation God uses normative providence here and works with what already exists (Genesis 1:1). The waters below the sky are gathered into one place then yabbashah, translated "dry" is made to appear. In Hebrew any body or pool of water is referred to as a "sea". The passage itself makes it clear that we shouldn’t have oceans in mind when it describes the waters being gathered together “into one place.” The waters didn’t gather into “many places,” but only “one place.” Only uncultivated herbs and fruit trees are then brought forth from the land along with seeds to self replicate. The whole function of wild and uncultivated plant fecundity is now prepared for the future inhabitants of the land, and all of the essential needs of the land are prepared and waiting to be filled and used.
Day four begins with two jussives expressing yet more divine commands. The Hebrew word asah, translated "made" is used which does not mean creation ex-nihilo. The lights were already materially created in Genesis 1:1 so there is no contradiction between days one and four and that should be our starting point for understanding this passage. In the Hebrew text of verse 14, God does not say, “Let there be lights in the expanse”. It actually says “Let the lights in the expanse be for separating the day and night...”. This difference can be seen when compared to Genesis 1:6. Moses explains to us that these lights are for us to keep track of time rather than the various sky gods. This can be seen in the deliberate use of the word "lights" in place of the words "sun" and "moon" to avoid association with astral deities like shamash.
Day five contains jussive commands in verses 20 and 22. The waters and sky which were previously prepared in the land are now to be filled with aquatic and avian animals. The word bara, translated "created" here does not necessarily mean creation ex-nihilo. It does mean something only God can do. Because the word tannin, translated "sea monster" is used in verse 21 bara is used to emphasize Elohim's power over such creatures (Exodus 7:9-12; Psalm 74:13). Bara is used to turn our attention back to verse 1 to show God does not struggle with such beings, instead he created them all in the beginning and they obey him. The same terminology used here is found in the plague accounts in the land of Egypt and the Nile (Exodus 8:3-6). Similarly God spoke, and frogs, fish, and birds came from somewhere and filled the skies and waters of the land.
Day six has more jussive commands in verses 24 and 26. Verses 25 and 26 use asah which is not creation ex-nihilo but verse 27 uses bara. Again these terms do not inherently mean creation out of nothing but bara means something only God can do and probably points us back to verse one to highlight that Elohim created mankind in contrast to other Gods. The animals which already existed are brought to this land which was previously prepared by God. All that awaits is the arrival of mankind. Mankind is created in the image of God which should be understood as our being his imagers or priestly representatives. The plants prepared earlier are now given to man along with the animals for food. The blessing in these verses is primarily the gift of children. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land” (Genesis 1:28). So already the fulfillment of the blessing is tied to man’s “seed” and “life” which are two themes along with "land" and "promise" that will later dominate the narratives of Genesis. The commands in the creation mandate for mankind to kabash, translated "subdue" and to radah, translated "rule" over the earth and animals are harsh terms. Kabash is used for war conquest (Numbers 32:22; 29) and enslavement (Jeremiah 34:11;16). Radah is used for oppressive domination and trampling underfoot. This suggests that mankind was to rigorously rule a harsh environment and that this would include the death and service of animals as resources.
On day seven God sanctifies or "sets apart" this day and he does not speak or do any work but he simply blesses and rests. We are not given much more information here but I believe this comes after day six to further explain the "image of God" theme. As Dr. John Sailhamer notes:
"If the purpose of pointing to the “likeness” between man and his Creator was to call upon the reader to be more like God (see Leviticus 11:45), then it is significant that the seventh day stresses what the writer elsewhere so ardently calls upon the reader to do: “rest” on the seventh day (cf. Exodus 20:8–11). This is another case in which the author points to the past as a picture of the future. At important points along the way, the author returns to the theme of God’s “rest” as a reminder of the blessing that lies ahead (Genesis 2:15; 5:29; 8:4; 19:16; Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 5:14; 12:10; 25:19). Later biblical writers continued to see a parallel between God’s “rest” in creation and the future “rest” that awaits the faithful (Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 3:11)."
While Genesis 1:1 began with a simple bara or creation of everything expressed in merism, the promised land had not yet been prepared or asah'ed for Elohim's people (Genesis 2:3). Now that the promised land has been prepared for his people the conclusion of chapter 1 is given in Genesis 2:1 again expressed in a merism. In case you haven't noticed I have been arguing that this creation account is the preparation of the promised land in six literal 24 hour days. That is where God had promised to bless his people, Israel and, through them, the rest of humanity. The sequence of the 7 days served as a weekly pattern for the people (Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17) and has strong parallels with temple language found in the rest of the Pentateuch. The tabernacle was constructed in seven stages (Exodus 40:19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32), priests were ordained in seven days (Leviticus 8:33-35) and given an obligation to "work and keep" the Garden (Num. 7-8; 8:25-26). There are also linguistic parallels between Genesis 2:2 and Exodus 40:33, as well as Genesis 2:3 and Exodus 39:43.
Simultaneously refuting and correcting the false notions of God and creation imbibed by his people when in bondage, Moses wanted to remind them and us that it is God alone who created everything, prepares the way, and gives us our plot. This message was necessary for the people with Moses to understand where they came from and why as they are going to take their promised land back from the Canaanites, a group of people with their own competing religious worldviews.
In the next section I will go over chapter two but until then God bless.
Introduction to Omniscience
After going over the logic of anti-foreordination here, you will notice that that argument is framed in the realm of infallible foreknowledge and omniscience. The reason this was formulated that way is because It basically just assumes any view of foreknowledge on it's own terms and demonstrates how the claims against the reformed view do not logically follow. Those who do not hold to a compatibility scheme of freedom and don't adopt a reformed view on predestination and foreknowledge have to adopt different views of omniscience and foreknowledge to make their cases. There are basically three options one can take if one does not hold to the reformed view. I will give a brief summary of those views and provide responses to them as well below. But more importantly we will examine them in light of scripture. This is important to get correct because in the scriptures one test of the false Gods is their inability to know the future (Isa 41:21-24;46:8-11;Psalm 139: 1-4, 16), and God is a God of knowledge (1 Sam. 2:3).
1. Open Theism or the Openness view of God's knowledge.
This view comes in two basic forms. There are those holding this view who just outright say God does not know the future in advance and thus does not know all things, and there are those who would say the future does not exist to be known and thus preserve God's knowledge in that manner. The former is just blatant heresy while the latter is a more sophisticated sort of heresy. The way this is argued in the sophisticated types is by denying that future and past tense truths even exist. Instead only the present is real and thus God is still omniscient since he knows all present tense truths. Passages that imply things God does not know are usually cited to support this view, along with many passages suggesting the future is open. Lastly passages suggesting change or becoming in God are also appealed to by proponents of this view.
2. The Simple Foreknowledge or The Prescient View
The simple foreknowledge view is similar to the sophisticated form of open theism in that it posits that God just knows all of history as present from eternity past. That is to say from our point of view as creatures we experience succession of events as they unfold but God is outside of time and does not experience the future and past the way we do. Instead God predestines and chooses us for salvation or a service based on a future decision he knew in advance that we would make or do. This view has simple forms (pun intended) and more elaborate forms. Perhaps the most elaborate forms of this are found in Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas. Verses that just blatantly say God knows all things are cited along with verses that say God knows things differently than us to lend credence to the "eternal presentness" of his knowledge which on this view is timeless. Foreknowledge on this view is seen as non-causal and impersonal knowledge of facts. This is probably the most widely held evangelical view due to it's sheer simplicity.
Molinism has similarities with the others in that it's modern advocates also usually hold to an A-theory of time which basically says the future and past are not real and only the present is thus tensed truths do not really exist as it were to be known. The difference here is that this view affirms the reformed distinctions of "Natural knowledge" and "Free Knowledge", but it posits a logical type of knowledge in between called "Middle Knowledge" to handle counterfactuals of creaturely freedom of the libertarian sort. Conditional verses like "if x then y" are usually cited to support this view. Like the SPF or Prescient view this view posits God knows timeless truths in virtue of having a different status prior to creation of time, but unlike that view it posits that at the point of creation God entered into time so as to be in access of all temporal truths as well.
Preliminary Considerations and Definitions
Firstly when I say God I always mean the personal God of the Christian scriptures here. I will not delve into the realm of epistemology to heavily but I will be using the common tripartite theory of knowledge rooted in Christian revelation being the solution to it's proposed difficulties such as Gettier cases. Additionally I will be concentrating broadly on a distinction between tensed facts and timeless facts. We will then have to keep in mind the difference between timeless eternity and temporal eternity. A key feature under consideration in this category of omniscience is also foreknowledge. So before moving forward we will have to examine the definitions proposed of omniscience and foreknowledge. After this we will take an inventory of the kinds of knowledge God is ascribed in scripture and proceed from there with our analysis.
Our dictionary or lexical definition of omniscience from the newest Merriam Webster's Dictionary is "the quality or state of being omniscient". Since this lexical definition has only one entry we will have to examine what it means to be omniscient in order to precise the definition. Under the entry for omniscient we have two definitions. 1.Having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight and 2. Possessed of universal or complete knowledge. Because we are dealing with God's omniscience here instead of mankind's, key features will be infinite,complete,universal, and possessed knowledge. Knowledge being something that is true, justified, and at least believed. This is why historically theologians have precised the definition of omniscience as someone who knows every true proposition and believes no false proposition. Just take note that this definition isolates itself to propositional knowledge.
A lexical or dictionary definition of foreknowledge is not found in the same dictionary and is instead provided under the entry 'foreknow' where it is defined as "to have previous knowledge of : know beforehand especially by paranormal means or by revelation". Again keeping in mind that we are addressing God's knowledge the essential features here seem to be 1. knowing something in advance and 2. in some manner involving a supernatural revelation. Now let's turn to the biblical material.
Biblical Survey of God's Knowledge
We do not have the word "omniscience" in scripture but the concept can be found in 1 Jn 3:20. This pretty much rules out the strong form of open theism, but allowing the weak form to be accommodated given it's particular stipulative definitions and view of time. The Prescient and Molinist views also seem to be accomodated here given their presuppositions of time and stipulative definitions. God's knowledge is known from eternity (Acts 15:18) is without limit (Romans 11:33;Psalm 147:5), and in particular the limits of finite man (Isa 55:8-9). The knowledge of God is perfect (Job 37:16), no one can teach him (Job 21:22; Rom 11:34), and he knows what is presently happening on earth (Exo 3:7). God knows the future (Isa 46:10) and the past (Acts 15:18). Scripture informs us that the wicked question the nature and extent of God's knowledge (Psalm 73:11,12). The Lord searches every heart and knows us which presupposes personal knowledge (1 Chr 28:9;1 Jn 3:20),and he knows things before we speak them (Psa 139:1-6) and intimately before we are born (Jer. 1:5). He knows every single thing before such knowledge enters into our mind (Eze. 11:5).
There are various Greek words used for knowledge, foreknowledge, and foreknow throughout scripture. In the tripartite theory of knowledge we can identify what type of knowledge is in view by examining the various helping words in the context. For example propositional knowledge usually has the helping word "that", Procedural knowledge "how", and Personal knowledge "x knows y" where x and y are persons followed or preceded by propositional details about that person. Examples in the bible for Personal(Genesis 4:1), Procedural(Luke 11:13), and Propositional Knowledge (Matthew 24:32) abound in scripture. This makes it easier to identify these types of knowing without having to depend on the Greek language so much.
Foreknowledge is a bit trickier because it is used in some contexts as a noun and in others as a verb. All that needs to be taken into account here is that foreknowledge or foreknowing something is not merely propositional knowledge throughout in scripture though in certain contexts it can be. As you saw in the three models I presented earlier our view of time and what it means for God to be eternal or everlasting is also crucial in our view of God's omniscience. This is primarily because if our definition of omniscience is that "God knows all true propositions and believes no false ones" tensed propositions need to be dealt with. The usual way this is dealt with in all the models I presented is to say God is timeless, deny the reality of future and past, say that God is temporal, or some combination of these like we find in Molinism. Suffice it to say here that the biblical data on God's eternity or everlastingness, timelessness, or temporalness, are both found in scripture. In other words it is not a case of either/or reasoning and is instead a case of both/and reasoning. My main contentions with all these views I explained above will be in the areas of personal knowledge, tensed propositions, and foreknowledge to which I will now turn after a short excursus on God's Immutability.
God's Timelessness or Temporalness?
Because of scriptures such as Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17 classical theologians have traditionally thought of God as outside of time or being timeless and experiencing it all at once or simultaneously. This is known as the eternal present view and examples of folks that held this view include Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas. Others have posited what has been called the everlastingness view or temporal view where God is in time and experiences it's succession as we do albeit infallibly and slightly different. Scripture it seems has aspects of both but it is my view that God is now temporal and was timeless before creation. The biblical data is very clear that time itself was created (Genesis 1) and while God is said to not change in some sense there is some kind of change for example in the incarnation John 1:14. If one turns to these verses on immutability they are clearly expressing that it is God's moral character that is unchanging which does not entail that his knowledge has to. My reasons for rejecting the timeless eternal present view will only be summarized here.
Firstly to say that God is 'timeless' and yet always in the 'present' is itself incoherent and contradictory since the 'present' is itself a temporal notion. Foreknowledge it seems would be rendered incoherent as well on this view, since God would not know the future as future. Knowing something when it is so rather than before it was so is clearly not foreknowledge. Additionally prophecy on such a view becomes incoherent. Moreover many verses about God's knowledge would be rendered incoherent on this view if taken literally. All temporal verbs and prepositions would make no sense because no temporal ascriptions could ever be assigned to God. But once one concedes one of the temporal categories of past, present, and future and ascribes it to God he has conceded God is indeed temporally eternal already rather than timeless. What needs to be understood before evaluating my arguments below is that all of these views share the following maneuvers to precise and qualify what is meant by omniscience:
1. Limiting God's omniscient knowledge to merely propositional knowledge only.
2. Adjusting their views of time.
3. Trying to maintain a sense in which God knows things differently than us.
4. Understanding God's immutability in different ways.
I will now turn to a few paradoxes raised against the Christian doctrine of omniscience that I believe these three views I mentioned in the beginning cannot resolve without very serious consequences.
The Problem of Indexicals
Does God know what time it is right now? It seems that he would if he is omniscient but the historical views of God's omniscience also hold to God's immutability. Immutable is to say that God does not change in any way. An indexical reference is a referent in a sentence that is tied to a particular time, place, or person. You see if at T1 I look at my watch and it reads two o'clock I would know that at T1 it is now two o'clock. However if at T2 which is a later time I look at my watch and it reads three o'clock I would know that at T2 it is now three O'clock. In other words I would of ceased believing and knowing at T2 what I believed and knew at T1 suggesting there was a change in my knowledge. This is essentially the problem of indexicals or tensed truths levied against the historical and traditional views of God's omniscience and immutability. Biblical examples of this sort of thing would be cases where God enters into covenants and such like with Abraham.
The Problem of Personal Knowledge
It has also been argued that an omniscient God cannot know certain truths that only individual persons can know about themselves as well. This is another uncomfortable area for even folks like Dr. William Lane Craig who understands the implications. Just keep in mind earlier that I said typical definitions of Omniscience restrict themselves to propositional knowledge only. To illustrate this imagine that a person named Jones wakes up in the hospital suffering from amnesia as a result of a car accident and is reading the newspaper. He reads about a person named Jones who was in a car accident and was rushed to the hospital. In this situation it seems Jones would know that Jones is in the hospital but he would not know that he is Jones. So Jones when speaking to the nurse about this would say "Jones is in the hospital" instead of "I am in the hospital". So Jones in our example would be in possession of propositional knowledge but due to not possessing personal knowledge would have to express his thoughts differently to the nurse about the information in the newspaper.
The Foreknowledge Problem
How if God knows the future infallibly and exhaustively can our freewill decisions be known for certain in advance by him or can we be free? This is essentially the problem of foreknowledge put bluntly. The first occurrence in history of this problem was put forward by a man named Evodius who put it this way:
P1. If God foreknows x then necessarily x will happen.
P2. God foreknows x.
Conclusion: x will happen necessarily.
Augustine tried to respond to this objection and failed miserably, at which point we do not find any further substantive attempts until Boethius and later by Aquinas. All three ultimately posited that God was timeless and in an "eternal present" to try and evade this conclusion. It is not until Aquinas comes along until the modal fallacy implicit in this argument is exposed at which point the argument is put more accurately this way:
P1. Necessarily if God foreknows x then x will happen
P2. God foreknows x.
Conclusion: x will happen necessarily.
By moving where "necessarily" is put in the first premise the original modal fallacy is avoided but new problems arise. Taken this way the necessity can refer either to the whole conditional statement or to only the consequent event part of the statement. If the necessity applies to the whole conditional statement it becomes a logical or epistemological issue but if it applies only to the consequent event part of the statement "then x will happen" it becomes a metaphysical issue instead. Because of the rule in modal logic that says "whatever necessarily follows from a necessary truth is itself a necessary truth" a debate then ensues about past tense necessity which forces everyone in the debate along with Aquinas to admit the necessity of the action indeed necessarily follows if known by God from eternity past necessarily. To escape this problem Aquinas then posits that God knows all things in an eternal timeless present and that God's knowledge is timeless. The argument that even he concedes was this:
P1. Necessarily if it has come to God's knowledge that x will happen then x will happen
P2. It has come to God's knowledge that x will happen
Conclusion: x will happen
After further analysis by many philosophers and theologians the type of metaphysical necessity which entails has turned out to be truths in the present tense only. The type of logical necessity however turns out to apply across the board at the epistemological level in any tense. This is why all these models posit different views of time and eternity and have resulted in only a couple of feasible positions. The options left in light of the problems above then turn out to be the Reformed view, the Molinist view, and the Simple foreknowledge or Prescient view. Ultimately I believe only the Reformed and Molinist views can provide a solution because there are serious problems with the Simple Foreknowledge View to which I will now turn.
Arguments Against the Simple Foreknowledge/Prescient View
Chances are if you are an Evangelical Christian who has been in the church for some time you have heard this view explained to you before by a fellow believer with different analogies without knowing the name of it. One such analogy would be whereas we finite humans sit in the movie theater watching the movie unfold frame by frame God sees the whole thing all at once simultaneously in an intuitive flash. Let me quote Thomas Aquinas himself to help you understand where this view is expressed from his work Summa Theologiae. You can read more about it here so I will only quote the relevant section which says:
"I answer that, God knows all things whatsoever that in any way are. Now it is possible that things that are not absolutely, should be in a certain sense. For things absolutely are which are actual; whereas things which are not actual, are in the power either of God Himself or of a creature, whether in active power, or passive; whether in power of thought or of imagination, or of any other manner of meaning whatsoever. Whatever therefore can be made, or thought, or said by the creature, as also whatever He Himself can do, all are known to God, although they are not actual. And in so far it can be said that He has knowledge even of things that are not.
Now a certain difference is to be noted in the consideration of those things that are not actual. For though some of them may not be in act now, still they were, or they will be; and God is said to know all these with the knowledge of vision: for since God's act of understanding, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present glance of God extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to Him. But there are other things in God's power, or the creature's, which nevertheless are not, nor will be, nor were; and as regards these He is said to have knowledge, not of vision, but of simple intelligence. This is so called because the things we see around us have distinct being outside the seer."
1. By means of Aquinas's model God does not know anything qua future.
If God only has present tense knowledge God cannot have foreknowledge of future contingencies. So as he knows things they are not future but rather already present. To know something is so when it is so is certainly not foreknowledge by definition.
2. On Aquinas's view God is not omniscient either.
If Gods knowledge is outside of time then no temporal qualifications can be attached to his knowledge. God knows P is a tenseless statement in this view. God's knowledge then would be restricted to timeless truths. God could not know for instance last years final exams are now over because it cannot be timelessly true that last years final exams are over. Two years ago it was not true that last years final exams are over. If this is not timelessly true then it is not a timeless truth and therefore God on this view could not know it. One might say but God would know that the temporal relations around such an event namely that one year ago is not two years ago or even this year. The problem is that we are not relieved by knowing the temporal relations surrounding the exam event rather we are relieved knowing that the exam itself is in fact over. It is knowing that it is now t2 and at t1 the exams were over, but God could not know that it is now t2 and at t1 the exams will be over on this view. If this is is the case on Aquinas's view it would lead us to God being incapable of knowing anything. What could God know of the future? Nothing. What could God know of the past? Nothing. Then what could God know now. Nothing.
3. Prophetic prediction becomes inexplicable in this approach.
How could God infallibly predict things if all he knows is what is present? If God did not know about t2 at t1 then how could he say at t1 what he said about t2? To put it more succinctly If at the earlier moment God could not know about the later moment how could he say at the earlier moment what he said about the later moment accurately? Prophecy then becomes like some kind of sham really.
4. How could God know a state of affairs to be present until it is present?
To see x as present when it is not is erroneous instead of knowledge. For instance on Aquinas's view we would have to say that God does not know that man will land on mars in the year 2010. Instead of God knowing that (Because it is a tensed truth) we would have to say before then God knows man is landing on mars instead. Since the statement man is landing on mars is strictly speaking false it cannot be a matter of knowledge.
5. The notion of a timeless eternity is itself incoherent.
Aquinas basically says that everything is simultaneous with God's eternal knowledge. The reason this is incoherent is that simultaneity is a transitive notion. Transitive meaning if event e takes place at the same time as p and if event f takes place at the same time as p then necessarily event e takes place at the same time as f. For instance if you go to sleep the very moment the Laker game begins and I am opening the refrigerator the very moment the Laker game begins then necessarily I will open the refrigerator at the very moment you fall asleep. If we apply this to Aquinas' view we can see that if at event e that takes place at t1 (my eating pizza this evening) is simultaneous with the eternal knowledge of God. It would then turn out that God's knowledge of your falling asleep at the Laker game at t2 is simultaneous. Consequently it would turn out that my eating pizza at t1 is then taking place at the same time as your falling asleep at the laker game at t2. This turns out to be incoherent and we can see that simultaneity cannot be outside of time in the nature of the case. So basically Aquinas has contradicted himself by using simultaneity which is necessarily a tensed notion to say that God's knowledge is outside of time and tenseless.
6. The present-ness, past-ness, or futurity of an event cannot be relative to it's knower.
The reason this is so is that these categories are objective affairs . An event E has futurity or it does not have futurity regardless of the person who knows the event. For example it may be the case that I know that the laker game is coming in the future but someone who does not follow the basketball season does not know that. This would mean that the knowledge of the event can be relative between the persons but the futurity of the event is not relative and is instead objective whether either of us or anyone knows it or not. Knowledge then is relative to people but the objective state of affairs is not relative to who happens to know about such a state of affairs. Regardless of a persons ignorance of a future state of affairs the futurity of that event is still objective. If this is denied it has some odd consequences. For instance in denial of this principal one would have to say that if one thinks there is a cure for cancer even though this is in the future he could say presently he can be cured of cancer. Which is very odd.
More to Come...
The Logic of Anti-Foreordination/Predestination Arguments about the Christian God of the Bible Explained and Refuted.
(Adapted from Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen on fore-ordination and responsibility)
P1 If it is certain in advance that S will X then S cannot do other than X.
I will agree S cannot do otherwise but "Cannot" here is defined by "with certainty".
"Other than X" is what God foreordained/Decreed.
(S cannot do other than x) = Other than what God ordained.
Can we resist God's Decretive will? No
Can we resist God's Permissive will ? Yes
Can we resist God's Preceptive will? Yes
When God decrees that something is actually going to happen can we resist that? No. Nobody can actually resist what is actually going to happen. Can anyone do other than what God has ordained? No.
So it is certain in advance that S will X means S cannot do other than what God has ordained.
From that ^ it is inferred that if S cannot do other than X in that sense then S cannot do other than x in ANY sense. This is a hasty generalization fallacy.
P2 If S cannot do other than X then S is not responsible for X.
(Because Responsibility requires ability to do otherwise)
The ability to do otherwise we are addressing here may be in accordance with whatever God ordains to take place. If S can do otherwise in this "Morally responsible sense" then there is no problem.
What is the sense in which we hold a person responsible for what he has done, and what ability do we presume him to have to do otherwise? S was not coerced is what we usually mean.
(Example. God puts the tree in the garden but he doesn't teleport the tree everywhere Adam and Eve go to make them eat or 'poof' it into their stomachs "coercion")
If it should be the case that God's ordaining whatever comes to pass is not contrary to the condition of no coercion then there is no problem. If we can hold that God's ordaining X does not imply that he coerced X then these are logically compatible. Ergo S was not coerced by God and therefore could do otherwise and was morally responsible in that sense (Prescriptive will) even though it is not true in the sense that he could of frustrated the will of God (Decretive will).
How can God ordain something,make it certain in advance, and not coerce it?
My answer is I don't know, and I don't owe an answer to that question. I don't know how he brought Jesus back to life, parted the red sea, made donkeys talk, or how he is going to bring about the new heaven and earth. I'm not sure about alot of things but that doesn't make them logically impossible. It just means God knows and has alot more power than I do. Which is just to say God can do things that I can't do. If I want to make it absolutely certain in advance that S will shoot his wife my only option is to coerce him. I could make it fairly certain perhaps by psychological manipulation, putting the gun near him, drugging him, or some similar scenario but it still would not be absolutely certain. The only way I can make it absolutely certain in advance that S will X is to coerce him (Putting the gun into S's hand and pulling the trigger for him). Now does God have the ability to make something certain in advance without coercing? How would we know the answer to that question? The only way we can know is by looking at what God says he can do. This is not a question of Logic (That has been demonstrated above). It is a question of metaphysics. Where is a Christian going to get his metaphysical outlook if not from scripture? Does God say ordination requires coercion? No he doesn't. But he says things like:
16 And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" (Mat 19:16 NAU)
26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Mat 19:26 NAU)
Clearly in this context salvation is in view. It is saying all things regarding salvation are possible with God. This should be obvious because we already know God cannot do certain things, and Adam certainly had something to do with our salvation (Romans 5; 1 Cor. 15). Why then bother to go into metaphysics and conclude God ordained whatsoever comes to pass? Well we really don't have to since this has no logical problems but we do have scripture that tells us plainly he fore-ordained such things even regarding Christ and the Church. And many times not to rely on our rationalism. But nothing about his ordination requiring coercion.
KJV 1 Peter 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Act 4:27-28 KJV)
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Eph 1:11 KJV)
KJV Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isa 55:8 KJV)
Finally the alternatives to this are far too terrible to bear. I personally believe the bible teaches that people who struggle with this idea are probably unregenerate because the bible never presents these concepts as unloving or in a hostile manner. It isn't characteristic of a regenerate mind to paint our God as a heavenly demonic despot because of such rationalism. I would say that is indicative of Atheists and such with their incessant moral charges against God and his word and reveals a deeper issue. That deeper issue is that they are unwilling to submit their minds to the authority of scripture and what God says. So what are the alternatives? If God is not in control of all things it seems to me it is chaos and old knight as Cornelius Van Til once said. That is to say in a universe of chance who do I and God pray too to get things done? Do I have to ask God if he hopes things get done? How would God know anything with certainty in advance? How could anyone be held responsible for anything, or there be any objective purpose in such a gratuitous ebb of chance? I will put some more thoughts here later... if I was ordained to freely do it. Have a Good day and God Bless!!!
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:4-6 KJV)
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!!