Thursday, May 27, 2010


There are several words in my Twitter “Day Texts” which are different from what you might find in other translations. This is because, while I make no special claims about any of my translations, I do believe I have good reasons for moving away from some of the more commonly found or accepted renderings for pistis (the Greek word often translated “faith,” “belief,” or “trust),” to what I have used in certain of my Day Texts, namely (for pistis), “belief(s) based on good reasons.”

In explaining why I chose to use this expression rather than one or more of most common single-word translations for pistis (several of which are noted above), consider the Day Text for May 14, 2010, from James 2:14-17 (with underlining added, though bracketed comments are original to the Day Text):

My brothers, what good can come from someone who may say he or she believes for good reasons, but does not have the works to show it? Beliefs based on good reasons [or, ‘faith,’ ‘trust,’ which must be based on good reasons] will not save a person. If your brother or your sister are in need of clothing and have too little food for each day, and if a certain one of you might say, “Go your way in peace, be warm, and eat until you are satisfied,” but you do not give them what they need to be safe and satisfied, what is the point? In the same way, belief based on good reasons [or, ‘faith’], if it does not have works, then it is dead to itself.

The underlined portions of the above are my renderings of three separate occurrences of the one Greek word, pistis. As I noted at the beginning of this Blog, pistis is often translated correctly into English as “faith,” “belief,” and “trust.” Though all of these words accurately represent how pistis can be translated according to its use in the New Testament and in other early Greek literature, consider the following meanings for pistis as given in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition, edited and revised by Frederick W. Danker (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 818-820:

1. that which evokes trust and faith

a.      the state of being someone in whom confidence can be placed, faithfulness, reliability, fidelity, commitment ...

b.      a solemn promise to be faithful and loyal, assurance, oath, troth ...

c.       a token offered as a guarantee of someth. promised, proof, pledge ...

2. state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence, 
    faith in the active sense=‘believing’,

a.     God: ... faith, trust, confidence in God 

b.   Christ - a. of belief and trust in the Lord’s help in physical and spiritual distress;

3. that which is believed, body of faith/belief/teaching

It is clear from the above, from the uses of pistis in James 2:14-17 (quoted above), and from numerous other uses of pistis in the New Testament that pistis is one word but which may require more than one corresponding word to fully or even fairly express the meaning in another language, such as English. With the above definitions in mind, let us go back to James 2:14-17 (my above quoted, May 14, 2010, Day Text) and look at the two occurrences of pistis in verse 14, as well as the final occurrence of pistis in verse 17.

In James 2:14 pistis is used, but it is set apart from “works” to show that pistis itself “will not save a person,” that is, if it “does not have the works to show it.” Then in verses 15-16 James gives an example of a person with pistis, who has the belief or trust that the person who is in need will receive what he or she needs, but who does not actually give the person “what they need to be safe and satisfied, [so] what is the point?” James concludes the matter in verse 17, noting that pistis must have “works” to reveal this “faith” or “trust,” otherwise it does not actually exist as a ‘living,’ ‘savingpistis. Without “works,” pistis is “dead.”

But why “beliefs based on good reasons”? Why not simply “belief(s),” “trust,” or “faith”?

Consider now the uses not only of the noun pistis, but also of the related verb pisteu’o, in verses 18-20 of James Chapter 2, according to my own translation which I will explain below, in furtherance of this question involving the meaning and translation of pistis:

But someone will say, “You have beliefs based on good reasons [or, ‘faith’], and I have works. Show me your beliefs based on good reasons apart from works, and I will show you my beliefs based on good reasons by means of my works.” You believe for good reasons that God is one, so you are well prepared. But evil spirits [or, ‘demons’] believe for good reasons and yet they tremble with fear. But are you willing to recognize, O foolish man, that beliefs based on good reasons [or, ‘faith’] apart from works is useless? [Taken from the Elihu Books’ Twitter “Day Text” translation for May 27, 2010.]

Clearly, the pistis of the “evil spirits”/“demons” is not a “trust,” or a “faith,” such as those who are not “evil” by intent may have in “God” as “one,” in as much as to “tremble with fear” is a reaction or a condition resulting from the lack of “works” which (should) correspond to the “belief”/“faith” of even “evil spirits,” or “demons,” namely, that “God is one” (at least according to James). This is consistent with what else the Bible teaches, for “spirits” and “angels” according to the Bible know their Father.—Hebrews 1:10; 12:9; 1 Peter 3:19-20; 1:6; compare Mark 3:11; 5:12.

However, there are no discernible, corresponding “works” associated with the pistis of “evil spirits” (thus, they are said to be “evil”), though it is unclear if such ones would/could be moved to, in fact, make their belief consistent with the appropriate, corresponding “works” and thereby show more their belief for good reasons, indeed, show by works a trusting “faith” in “God” as “one.” In any case, it is clear that here in James 2:19, in this context of a larger discussion about “faith” and “works,” the demons have only “beliefs based on good reasons.” They do not have “faith,” or “trust,” not unless it can be shown by their “works” (James 2:14-17), though they do “believe” (Greek form of pistue’o).

Still, it is clear all three (“faith,” “trust,” and “beliefs based on good reasons”) require corresponding “works” to please “God,” hence, “the evil spirits … tremble with fear,” even though they do “believe,” that is, they understand accurately the “belief” about “God” as “one.” It is the same with each and every single one of us who may have “good reasons for belief,” but not the works corresponding to the beliefs we accurately hold or should understand, that is, if we add things up along our way through life.—Compare Psalm 8:3-4; Acts 10:34-36; Hebrews 3:4; Revelation 4:11.

We may have equally good and sure reasons for belief about God, just as his ‘evil sons’ have reasons for their belief (they have lived with and seen their Father [compare Genesis 1:26 (“us”); Job 38:7; Hebrews 1:10; 12:9]). According to how they are viewed, “evil spirits” simply do not have the works to complement their beliefs, beliefs which are based on the best available reasons. So, again, we can have beliefs that are clear, but if we do not have the works to show we truly do accept and trust in what we have good reasons to believe, then our pistis “cannot save.”—James 2:14.

With this in mind, let us go back to several of the main readings from the above quoted Third Edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature:

1. that which evokes trust and faith

Could anything which truly “evokes trust and faith” be based on anything but “good reasons,” or on what the person believed (at the time) to be based on good reasons? True, what we think are good reasons for a particular belief may turn out not to be. But the question in terms of “faith” or “belief” is whether you are/were in a position to learn more about the best available reasons before allowing them to build up your trust/faith in a particular subject/issue? “Faith” or “belief” itself, apart from what are considered to be good reasons, could only be an assumption and an assumption is never a good reason unless, as it is sometimes used, “assumption” means “belief based on good reasons” (this can be determined by the context of the use of ‘assume’). But the thing(s) which “evokes trust and faith” is not “trust and faith”! Rather, it is the beliefs which are either based on good reasons, the best available, or not.

2. state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence, faith

“On the basis of the reliability of the one [or of the good reasons] trusted.” The “state of believing” is not the pistis (“faith” / “belief[s] based on good reasons”) alone. Rather this “state of believing” includes (is founded on, in fact [see 1., above]) the beliefs which have been formed “on the basis of” a person, thing, or because of some other good reasons. These good-reason-based beliefs are what then bring about the ‘state of belief,’ which includes both demons and Christians, but who are then differentiated by their “works,” which “works” (not our beliefs or “faith,” or even the state which they bring about in us) then show we either trust in ourselves, in others, or in Jah God and in Jesus of Nazareth. And so James teaches us this about Abraham’s “faith,” or “beliefs based on good reasons,” and his “works”:

James 2:21-24 (New Revised Standard Version [1989])

Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

3. that which is believed, body of faith/belief/teaching

Anyone you know who with conviction puts forth his or her beliefs will almost never do so unless the person believes the basis for the beliefs, or the supporting good reasons, are not only “good” but (hopefully) the best available. These reasons do not always have to be evident by sight (compare Hebrews 11:1). There are many things we do not directly “see” but which we believe exist (wind, gases, various microorganisms, and even for many the existence of extra terrestrials [non-spirit types]). Yet, there must be some “evident demonstration” (NWT), something which caused belief in the subject to come up in the first place, and so also whether we are supposed to believe it in association with “what is seen.”—Hebrews 11:3.

Still, there must be good reasons, the best available, otherwise we are talking science fiction, or using our imagination, not considering what is truly demonstrable or according to good reasons. If we apply this test to ourselves, we will see that in other areas of life we are guided by the best (or what we think are the best) available reasons, such as when we decide to pass through a traffic intersection. Though none of us know for sure what will happen when we go through it, we proceed anyway, even taking our lives in our own hands, perhaps every day, but for good reasons.

We do not always act consistently with the best available reasons. In most instances where this is the case, I believe this to be “sin,” essentially, for anyone who acts in a way that God would not act or encourage is, in effect, claiming to know better than the God who made us and who permits us all of our choices. Yet, if any of our chosen ways were "better" than what God intended for us, would not God have intended it for us? Of course, there are many things we do while still learning and growing as humans. But what choice of any man or woman has stood up over time and can tell us about the end after we are through, now after over 6,000 years, so that we should fail to seriously consider the possible (likely) judgment upon our death, according to our works?

The pyramids have been robbed. The temples of the ancient Americas are gone, or no longer in any use. The Goseck Circle is there, but only a trace. And what is here now will come to be just as these other places have become, regardless of how they once were, or how they were once thought of by others. Their beliefs were either good-reason based, or something else. So, too, will it prove to be for each one of our generations, or so I and others far greater than I have seen, and so we, too, believe(d).—Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

Yet, this must then be shown or proven to whatever extent is possible, reasonably, similar to how we already make other important decisions in life, as reasoning creatures. Through this process of evaluating good reasons we, ultimately, determine what to believe, or what to keep believing, and what no longer to believe if we have progressed in our pistis, which can be shown by what we do, and by how treat others, since we should be consistent in both.

There are always exceptions. But I'm talking about belief(s), faith, something we can trust in because of having available the best reasons, or because they are there to find. It starts out that way for each one of us, and then comes and goes as we come and go through life. Yet, it is unavoidable: We have beliefs. We have faith. We trust many people, and in many things. Usually, if not always but certainly most often, we do so because of the best available reasons, or because of what we perceive (hopefully also for good reasons!) them to be.

Humans can and should try to achieve an increasing, individual consistency, which can then be tested against or in comparison with the beliefs, with the supporting good reasons, and with the resulting “works” or actions of others. Then each individual can determine if any correction is warranted, if any improvement can be reasonably made, or if something can be done to help bring about a greater good for all, and why not to Jah’s praise?

Ultimately, as a Christian, a person will accept his or her failures, keep working at doing good to others, and so also thereby to ourselves, for what we send out comes back (compare Matthew 12:35-37). A Christian tries his or her best to show “faith” in Jesus of Nazareth by our “works,” just as we try to do with every other belief we have which is also based on the best available reasons. In so doing, we do not think we “earn” forgiveness for the errors we have made while existing on this earth in God’s image. We do ask for, we do hope for, and we do pray for forgiveness, according to our “faith,” or beliefs based on good reasons, which should be shown by and which should be consistent with our “works.”

The ultimate test for any belief, for any good reason, or for any “work” is whether you would accept it yourself, and so use it to measure others (compare Matthew 7:1-2). This is, in fact, what it means to be a Christian or to have pistis shown by works in following the “Golden Rule,” given by Jesus of Nazareth. If this is who you are, or whom you try to be, and if you also praise Jah God at the same time for his expressly evident, intentionally intelligent designs (including the demonstrably intelligent intent in our use of “time” and in the division of human language), then you are a Christian Witness of Jah, or Jah’s Christian witness.—Psalms 149 and 150; Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

They're Not Who They Think They Are

Millions of those loyal to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society follow exactly what is told to them by the ones who govern the Watchtower Society, namely, by the ones who govern the Society’s teachings. These ones have taken upon themselves the name, “Governing Body,” and in a larger sense, the “faithful and discreet slave” (based on Matthew 24:45-47). The Governing Body and thousands of others in the Watchtower Society claim to be part of the 144,000 described in Revelation Chapters 7 and 14.

Together with millions of others who are said to be the “great crowd” of Revelation Chapter 7, the Governing Body and the remaining number of those claiming to belong to the 144,000 comprise the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and its related agencies and congregations, though they also call themselves, “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Yet, the “great crowd” in Revelation Chapter 7 is said to appear after “the great tribulation,” which even the Watchtower Society does not believe has been concluded. So this is a false identity, one in which millions of people believe they are already a part of a “great crowd” which according to the group’s own teaching could not possibly be here, yet (Revelation 7:14-17). But the group which is not yet here is the largest part of the Watchtower organization! What, though, about the other part of the organization, the one which is made up of the Governing Body and the balance of those whom the Society accepts as part of the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14? Does it, too, have a false identity demonstrable through the Society's own teachings?

Consider the identity which occurs with the Society’s teaching about itself as the “faithful and discreet slave[s]” appointed by Jesus according to Matthew 24:45-47. The Society continues to claim it was appointed as a composite “slave” (and so not one of individual identity) in 1919, after Jesus was made King in 1914, according to the Society’s interpretation of various Bible texts which are themselves not in line with or based on the best interpretation of the best available, biblical evidence.

That this is, in fact, the teaching of the Society and of its Witnesses concerning the “faithful slave’s” appointment by Jesus in 1919 is clear from the following (with my underlining added):

[W]hen the Master arrived, he found his faithful slave conscientiously feeding the domestics as well as preaching the good news. Greater responsibilities now awaited that slave. Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:47) Jesus did this in 1919, after the slave had passed through a period of testing. Why, though, did “the faithful and discreet slave” receive greater responsibilities? Because the Master had received an increase in his belongings. Jesus was given the kingship in 1914. What are the belongings over which the newly crowned Master appointed his faithful slave? All the spiritual things that belong to Him here on earth. For example, two decades after Christ’s enthronement in 1914, “a great crowd” of “other sheep” was identified. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) [“A Slave Who Is Both Faithful and Discreet,” The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, page 12, paragraphs18-19.]

Yet, in spite of what they claim occurred in 1919, or in 1914, or in any other year, these self-appointed “faithful slave[s]” have continuously, and without any expressed, meaningful (and thus enduring) apology, proclaimed, “The appointed time is near!” in Jesus’ and in Jah’s names, in spite of Jesus’ and Jah’s explicit warnings about those who would speak in the just such a way, using the exact or nearly the exact same words, “Many will come in my name saying, ... ‘The end has come!’ Do not follow them.”—Luke 21:8; compare Deuteronomy 18:20-22.

Note again the final part of Luke 21:8 as Jesus’ directive to anyone who would call him- or herself his follower, “Do not go follow them,” that is, do not follow those who say, “The end has come!” in his name. The final part of Deuteronomy 18:22 is Jah’s directive to his people, “Do not become frightened of him,” that is, do not be afraid of the prophet who falsely speaks to others in Jah’s name. If the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and its earlier and other corporate identities is not the leading religious organization for over the past 125+, that is, leading in terms of having falsely proclaimed, “The end has drawn near!” then who is? Who else would better fit this description, demonstrably, (meaning I can show you), than the Society?

Who other than the Society even comes close to so consistently and with such world-wide notoriety attaching Jah’s and Jesus’ names to false proclamations and to false, public teachings about “the end”? I know of no person or any other group which can match the Society in this ongoing, enduring, and refusal-to-stop intent on proclaiming, “The end is near!” for well over the past 125+ years. For details on various dates put forth by the Society see the First Dissertation in my Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2002), pages 61-150. Yet, the Society does not identify itself as those against whom Jesus speaks. And they cannot possibly have the freedom of speech to identify anyone else as such. Who, then, do they think they are?

In addition to appointing themselves as ‘Governors’ over their organization’s teachings and policies, and as the “faithful and discreet slave[s]” of Matthew 24:45-47 (whom Jesus says will not be identified as such until “he comes” according to Matthew 24:46 [translated “arriving” in NWT]), the Society identifies its Governing Body and the others alive today who claim to be part of the 144,000 of Revelation Chapters 7 and 14 as the “brothers” of Jesus according to Matthew 25:40. Note carefully, please, the Society’s presentations here (underlining added):

In the near future, Christ will judge people of the nations on the basis of how they have acted toward his brothers yet on earth. … Matthew 25:31-46. [“Waiting in ‘Eager Expectation,” The Watchtower, September 15, 1998, page 17, paragraph 7.]

Have members of the [“faithful and discreet” slave class] been helped similarly by individuals who are not anointed members of the Israel of God? Yes, they have been supported by the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have appeared on the scene during these last days. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16; Isaiah 61:5) Foretelling the warm, loving support that these “sheep” would offer his anointed brothers, Jesus said to them prophetically: “I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”—Matthew 25:35-40. [“When Jesus Comes in Kingdom Glory,” The Watchtower, May 15, 1997, page 13, paragraph 16.]

Today, almost five million members of the great crowd are living under the active leadership of the heavenly King Jesus Christ. They are in subjection to Christ and in close association with his anointed brothers yet on earth. Concerning the treatment that the great crowd accord these anointed ones, Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Because they unselfishly render aid to Christ’s anointed brothers, those of the great crowd are judged to have done good to Jesus himself. This helps them to have a secure relationship with Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. They have been privileged to join the anointed remnant in becoming God’s Witnesses and bearers of his name.—Isaiah 43:10, 11; Joel 2:31, 32. [“Saved Alive Through the Great Tribulation,” The Watchtower, February 15, 1995, page 15, paragraph 8.

What is done to his brothers he counts as being done to him personally. The sheeplike ones deliberately do good to Christ’s brothers because they recognize them to be such. They appreciate that Jesus’ spiritual brothers are the ambassadors of Jehovah’s Kingdom, and they want to give concrete evidence that they are taking their stand with them on the side of that Kingdom. [“Expanded Activities During Christ’s Presence,” The Watchtower, May 1, 1993, page 20, paragraph 21.]

Note especially the last quoted paragraph’s underlined part, “because they recognize them to be such. The People of God, Part Three: ‘The Sons of the Kingdom,’” IN MEDIO 2.5 (May, 2007 [rev. April, 2008]), page 14. Yet, as I wrote in an earlier article on a similar subject, “If the ‘sheep’ are those who today know those who are Christ’s ‘brothers,’ and they treat them as if they were Christ himself because of this prophecy [Matthew 25:39-40], why would they in the future then question the basis for their approval?”

It is not possible for the “sheep” of Matthew 25:34-40 to be those who already know the identity of the ones they are to support, for they say clearly in response to Jesus’ approval of their works, “When did we see you?” If these “sheep” are those who follow the Watchtower Society’s teaching that its own “faithful slave[s]” are Christ’s brothers, then they would not later be unclear at all about how is it they were approved, because they believe they already know their identity!

This point has not gone unnoticed by the Watchtower Society, by its Governors, or by its “faithful slave[s].” But it has gone unanswered. Consider the Society’s comments here in response to a question similar to the one I have raised about the “sheep” and the “brothers” of Christ, according to Matthew 25:39-40, which further shows why I believe they are not who they think they are:

If the other sheep are now preaching the good news with the anointed and aiding them, why would they ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?” (Matthew 25:37) There could be various reasons. This is a parable. By means of it, Jesus shows his deep concern for his spiritual brothers; he feels with them, suffers with them. [“What Future for the Sheep and the Goats?” The Watchtower, October 15, 1995, page 26, paragraph 12; underlining added.]

The above is a clear deflection, a non-answer followed by an unrelated consideration of Jesus’ ‘feelings,’ when the point raised by the question asked in the opening sentence of the above quoted Watchtower shows that the Society recognizes the very problem they have with their view of themselves. As for the “various reasons” for why this problem exists, The Watchtower mentions what everyone already knows (it is a “parable”) as if that has something to do with the issue. Is the Society suggesting that the “sheep” really do know those whom they are to treat as if they are Christ himself? Yes, in fact, they are teaching just that in the above quotation!

Rather, however, perhaps Jesus was right: Those to whom he speaks do not know those to whom they are giving. Is that not the very point of Jesus’ illustration about the Samaritan neighbor (Luke 10:29-37)? Indeed, that is precisely how acts of giving are to be made:
Matthew 6:2-4, New World Translation (1984)

[W]hen you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.
This is a much more consistent understanding of the subject, and one which will not permit any man or group of men to elevate ourselves above others when we are supposed to be Christ’s “slave,” and so the ‘slave’ of others if necessary (John 13:13-16), but not ‘Governors.’ As for the identity of Jesus’ “brothers,” as it turns out, this is rather easy to define, “Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister.”—Matthew 12:50.

As for who determines whether we individually do Jah’s will, this will be shown by our faith, and our faith will be shown by our works (James 2:17-26; compare Romans 2:6-11). Our works need not include anything having to do with supporting those who are, demonstrably, and for good reasons, not who they think they are, or who millions of others want them to be for their own sakes, though not for Jah’s or Jesus’ glory and praise.—Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:1-6.

As for the Watchtower Society and its “faithful and discreet slave[s],” Jesus’ warnings in Luke 21:8 and his teaching in Matthew 25:39-40 in contrast to the Society’s own teaching about its “faithful slave[s]” as Christ’s “brothers,” shows clearly to me that they are not who they think they are. Otherwise, their “sheep” would not know they are treating and supporting the Christ by their treatment of the Society’s Governors and by the way they treat the rest of its “faithful and discreet slave[s].”

If the Watchtower Society’s “faithful slave” class comprise Christ's "brothers" on earth, then those whom they treat as Christ's "sheep" would not be misled into a similar identity crisis, thinking they are already a “great crowd” who by their own teaching has not yet even appeared, in as much as no one has come “out of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). Thus, like the Watchtower's “faithful and discreet slave[s]” whom the "great crowd" (which has not yet appeared) support, they are not who they think they are, either.—Revelation 7:9, 13-17.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Using "Amen"

If you pray according to a Jewish, Christian, or other religious tradition, do you say, "Amen"? Many people do, for it is a biblical term often heard or used openly at times to conclude a 'blessing' over a meal or a prayer for a group.

"Amen" is a Hebrew word ('amen) which comes to us from the same root from which we get the Hebrew word for "truth" (Hebrew: 'emet). According to Alfred Jepsen, it is nonetheless "difficult to determine whether the original meaning [of 'amen] is closer to the Arabic and thus meant 'faithful' or 'secure,' or to the Syriac and thus meant 'enduring.'" Jepsen then writes (with underlining added):

Furthermore, we cannot confidently deduce the meaning of a word in the later development of a language even if we clearly establish the original meaning of that word. Thus, the meaning of the word derived from the root 'mn can hardly be explained by determining its original meaning. And when we do not know the original meaning, the development of a word can lead us far from that meaning to something entirely different. The meaning of a word cannot be inferred from the (more or less certain) etymology, but only by a careful study of the way it is used in the language. [Alfred Jepsen, "'mn," Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 1, Revised Edition, G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, eds., translated by John T. Willis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), page 293.]

In the Hebrew-Aramaic books of the Old Testament, 'amen is used 27 times in the sense of "amen," that is, similar to the use(s) of the same word today. It is used twice in Numbers 5:22, twelve times in Deuteronomy Chapter 27 (once in each verse from 15-26), once in 1 Kings 1:36, once in 1 Chronicles 16:36, three times in Nehemiah (once in 5:13 and twice in 8:6), six times in the Psalms 41:14; 72:19 (2); 89:53 (2); 106:48, and twice in Jeremiah 11:5; 28:6.

There are two other uses of 'amen which are different in their use from the above 27 instances, but where 'amen can similarly be transliterated, "A/amen," namely, in Isaiah 65:16 (discussed in 5., below). Jepsen ("'mn," pages 320-322) notes the following five (5) Hebrew Bible uses of 'amen according to these texts:

1.   'Amen indicates the speaker's acknowledgment and shared feeling for what has been previously said or planned. Examples: 1 Kings 1:36; Jeremiah 11:5 and 28:6.

2.   Curses which are first uttered and then accepted by others through use of 'amen with the meaning, "May it happen in just this way." Examples: Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Nehemiah 5:13.

3.   Affirmative responses to prayers in praise of Jah, which by use of 'amen "the community makes the prayer ... its own" (Jepsen, page 321, c.). Examples: Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36.

4.   From the practice of ending community prayers with 'amen, noted in 3. above, there likely arose "the practice of ending individual books of the Bible with an ascription of praise to God and its accompanying 'Amen'" (Jepsen, page 321, d.). Examples: Psalms 41:14; 72:19; 89:53; 106:48.

5.   The use of 'amen in this last category is different from the preceding four uses, in that there are instances which appear to use the expression, "God of Amen," where 'amen either has a meaning which describes the kind of "God" Jah is or it should be transliterated, "God of Amen." If this latter use is accepted, then Jepsen believes it is correct to understand this as containing the same biblical tradition we find in the New Testament, where Jesus is "called ho amen ['the Amen']" (Jepsen, page 322) after also being described as "the beginning of God's creation" in Revelation 3:14. Examples: Twice (2) in Isaiah 65:16.

These last uses in Isaiah 65:16 bring us into the New Testament use of the same expression, though it is only used once in this way (Revelation 3:14). Apart from this one instance where it appears to parallel the use of the same word in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 65:16 (compare also the way the "Amen" speaks in Revelation 3:2, 12, again paralleling the "God of Amen" language found in Isaiah 65), the majority of NT uses of amen have Jesus as the most frequent user.

However, unlike the common use of "amen" today to conclude speech or prayers, Jesus uses "Amen, amen" (doubled for emphasis) twenty-five (25) times to begin his speech. Never does Jesus use "amen" or even "amen, amen" to conclude a prayer or a blessing, not even when concluding his model prayer for others to use.—See Matthew 6:9-13; Luke11:1-4.

Of course, there is nothing in the books of the Bible which is made 'invalid' (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13) by a tradition which uses "amen" in a discreet or in an expressed, appropriate manner to show a person's acceptance of what has already been said, or to otherwise give an affirmative response or assurance when concluding our own prayers, or at the end of any prayer said for and accepted by others.

This is something which early Christians did do according to 1 Corinthians 14:16, and possibly also according to 2 Corinthians 1:20, though this latter example may involve saying "amen" at times other than at the end of written or spoken prayers or expressions.—See also Romans 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; Galatians 1:5; 6:18.

On the other hand, there is no reason why this one word ('amen) must always be used to give forth such expression, or as a part of a prayer to God or at the end of a blessing said for a group or family.  So next time you conclude your prayer, try ending it with an expression of meaning which you personally can accept as similar to "amen," such as, "May these things be so." It may make your calls and prayers to God more personal.

You'll be tempted to still add an "amen" even if you do express the meaning rather than the word. If so, that's okay! Remember, Jesus often started his speech using "Amen, amen," so there is nothing to suggest Christians cannot use either an expression of meaning related to "amen," or an expression to God together with "amen," when we conclude our prayers or blessings, in Jesus' name.—John 15:7; 16:23.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Letter from A.T. Robertson to E.J. Goodspeed about "Russellite Propaganda"

In my answer to the question, "Why do different editions of the New World Translation (NWT) contain different footnotes to its rendering of John 8:58?" ("Upon the Lampstand," December 17, 2009), on page 8 and on the related note on page 14 (for note 38 on page 8), I wrote  the following in part concerning a possible reason for why renowned Southern Baptist Greek grammarian A.T. Robertson (1863-1934) failed to properly identify the Greek idiom used in John 8:58, namely, because in my view Robertson was "at times overly motivated by loyalty to Trinitarianism." 

Here is what I wrote from my pages 8 and 14 on this point in a larger context:
Though several Greek and New Testament scholars before K.L. McKay accurately wrote about the meaning of John 8:58, McKay has helped to further undo part of the damage done by Trinitarian scholars such as A.T. Robertson, whose theology appears to have overridden his grammatical skills when it comes to texts such as John 8:58. ... [A.T.] Robertson was at times overly motivated by loyalty to Trinitarianism in his treatment of certain grammatical issues, which can be seen in his handling of the use of eimi in John 8:58. Consider Robertson’s lamenting of “those who” believed various things during his time, including “those who accept the New Testament writings as adequate interpretations of Christ and Christianity, but who say that Trinitarianism is a misinterpretation of the New Testament” (A.T. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, repr. 1977], page 61).

The Elihu Books Topical Index now contains a copy of a handwritten letter from A.T. Robertson to Bible translator E.J. Goodspeed (1871-1962) dated May 19, 1931, which I believe further reveals a theological bias which may explain why at times in his writings Robertson cites or even discusses certain theologically charged texts (like John 8:58), only to then abandon a full and fair  grammatical assessment in favor of the assumption of Trinitarianism.  

This does not mean Robertson's works are not full of much that is useful, enlightening, and historically interesting. But I do believe this letter from Robertson to Goodspeed further reveals the importance of keeping Robertson's knowledge, in particular his written expression of that knowledge, in its proper and full context, especially given the wide and longstanding circulation that Robertson's writings have been given, which writings should be accepted or rejected based on the good reasons provided or not provided or considered thoroughly or even at all by Robertson, as with anyone else's writings.

In this letter (a transcription of which I provide below) Robertson expresses his receipt and appreciation for Goodspeed's (then) newly released, "Strange New Gospels," in which Goodspeed reviews various documents and texts related to the New Testament, as understood during that early part of the twentieth century (in the mid to late 1920s). In writing to Goodspeed about this new work, Robertson brings up the English "Concordant N.T.," which Robertson calls "Russellite propaganda," referring to the founder and first president of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society (later Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society), C.T. Russell (1852-1916).

Here is my transcription of the letter below the handwritten date:
My dear Dr. Goodspeed: I have
only this morning, after my re-
covery from the influenza,
read your useful and timely
"Strange Gospels."

I get frequent inquires about
some of that stuff and I am
glad to be able to tell of your
careful presentation of the facts.

Only this morning I have a
letter from California (sent
by way

from New Zealand) about the

[Page 2]
Concordant N.T.; a Russellite
propaganda which is de-
ceiving many innocent people.
I denounce it on occasion.
I wish you would take one chapter (or one N.T. book)
in it and expose its fal-
lacies and hallucinations.

It is doing much more
harm than the "Strange Gospels."
I have marked in the circular
the "New Short Grammar"
(Richard R. Smith, Inc.) which
you may stumble on.

Cordially yours,
A.T. Robertson
Clearly, despite being a learned and accomplished Greek grammarian, A.T. Robertson was heavily influenced by his theology, so much so that he considered other groups' views (such as those of the "Russellites" and those expressed in the "Concordant N.T.") to be "propaganda which is deceiving many innocent people," and whose "hallucinations" Robertson 'denounced on occasion.'

Yet, it is A.T. Robertson whom we also find characterizing  another well-regarded Greek grammarians before him, G.B. Winer, as having "exerted a pernicious influence" over those scholars who differed with Robertson (including Winer) over texts such as Titus 2:13. But this very text is one Robertson himself interprets according to later (that is, post-biblical) theological constructs, specifically, those having to do with the Trinity and its concepts of "God" as positively referring not only to the Trinity (though only "one God" is claimed) but also applying positively to the "persons" of the Trinity, none of whom are individual beings themselves, but all of whom share equally in the one being of the Trinity. This equal sharing is what it is that allows Robertson to use "God" or "Deity" for Jesus in New Testament texts such as Titus 2:13.—See Robertson's, "The Greek Article and the Deity of Christ," The Expositor, 8th Series, volume 21 (1921), pages 182-188.

See page 275 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, note 103, for the reference to Robertson's characterization of Winer (which is on page 187 of "The Greek Article" article by Robertson, cited above). See Chapter 2 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended for a discussion of how Trinitarian writers and scholars have for centuries (for over 1,500 years, in fact) misinterpreted the use of "G-god" nearly everywhere if not, in fact, everywhere the original words for "G-god" appear in the Old and in the New Testaments, as well as in many if not in all Dead Sea Scroll and Jewish Pseudepigraphal literature available to date.—See Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, Chapter 2.

Of course, Trinitarians' view and uses of "G-god" would not necessarily keep them from using the same terms for "G-god" of idols or for non-Judeo-Christian "gods," accurately. Yet, because the words informing Trinitarianism are either biblical words (for examples, "God," "Father," and "Son") or they seem like and may in some sense be biblical words, but the biblical meaning and what we read about the meaning of the same words in the writings of Trinitarians are nothing alike. This includes the word "person," which is used by Trinitarians in a theological, metaphysical sense for members of the Trinity, though "person" is never used in this same way in the Bible in relation to the Trinity, or for the Trinity itself, leaving Trinitarians such as Dr. James White to refer to the Trinity as a "what" as opposed to the three "persons" of the Trinity who are "who's."—See James White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany, 1998), page 27, and my review and response to the same in my Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, pages 134-154.

Still, unless people require the Trinitarian to explain the basis for his or her use of every single use of the words for "G-god," then it will be that much more difficult for you and for them to see the meanings given to the words for "G-god" and for related, descriptive words and phrases such as "Son" or "sons of God" in the biblical writings and in other, related literature written or available during the biblical periods.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Correction and Prefatory Note to "Origin of Life" Blog Series

In my third part of the "Origin of Life" series, in my post dated April 5, 2010, "Intentional Intelligence in Non-Human Life: The Division of Human Language," I have added the following corrective, clarifying note at the end of that article:
[*AUTHOR'S NOTE: On Monday, May 3, 2010, I removed "biological, evolutionary view of life" from the second-to-last paragraph in this article and in its place I am using "non-biological, evolutionary view of the origin of life." By this I intend to correct and to make clearer that I believe Hawking's (and others') view of life ultimately involves acceptance of something other than "life" or of what or of who is already alive as the origin of life itself. I believe such a "non-biological" view of life's origin is not only unscientific (because it does not build from even one single, observable, repeatable example) but it also contradicts what science otherwise, everywhere, and always to this day has shown us: Life only comes from something or from someone already alive.]
This correction was necessary and important enough to also cite here in a separate Blog, both to highlight the correction itself and so also to then set the stage properly for my next Blog in this series, which will further discuss some of Professor Hawking's views of life, of its origin, and of its evolution, specifically, its intentional or unintentional evolution. In this case, the above error was one of expression on my part, in that the point I am making or that I was trying to express prior to the correction noted above is, in part, that many evolutionists (such as Hawking) ultimately are not consistent with science when it comes to their view of life, that is, from its origin to its evolution. 

I believe and I intend to further show and support with what I believe will be considered good if not the best available reasons, that a large part of the failure to connect life with life and, ultimately, to show that scientifically life should be considered eternal (since life is, in fact, here), involves the misunderstanding and/or a failure for some reason by many to actually use what science shows us more clearly than nearly anything else, namely, that life only comes from something or from someone already alive. Therefore, I will attempt to further this discussion with additional, testable reasons in my next Blog in this series.

Until then, I want to make sure I correctly express my understanding of Professor Hawking's view of the origin of life as "non-biological," ultimately, though his related view of the evolution of already existing life may and is likely in many ways "biological," though after the fact, that is, since I can and will show further that for Hawking life does not evolve from life. Rather, only after life is already existing would its evolution then also be potentially considered as having to do with "life," at least for those who would consider anything but life or something or someone already alive as the scientifically demonstrable, eternal source of all other forms and types of life.