Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monotheism - Again

The discussion about Monotheism continues, with Chris Tilling helping us along. In the comments to Chris' post, I asked: isn't Paul's "monotheism" more about loyalty to YHWH than a statement about the philosophical nature of GOD? Chris agrees with my position. Being the curious person that I am, I had a quick look at Thiselton's massive contribution where he writes:

Only God is God. Nevertheless, the fact that kyrios-cults do really exist means that habituated patterns of loyalty and devotion long practiced by new converts before their conversion cannot simply be brushed aside as no longer affecting their lives and attitudes in the present. At an existential and psychological level they still leave their mark. Indeed, this may mean even more. Not only do they return a subjective influence; they may also constitute objective forces of evil which bring destruction, disintergration, and pain. Unless we adopt a partition theory between 8:1-13 and 10:14-22, Paul appears to associate them with demonic forces.

[Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, pg. 633]

This seems to offer the best understanding of 1 Cor 8:6. Therefore, it appears that Paul is mocking the existence of "so-called gods" [Thiselton's translation]. These forces may be subjective or objective, but they do not assume Paul's definition of who God is or what God does. These are "so-called gods" which Paul then describes as demons later in 1 Cor 10. Thus, I'm not sure that we can confidently call Paul a polytheist.
Besides, this issue surely has more to do with loyalty and devotion than it has to do with ontological issues. There has to be a stable definition of what constitutes GOD, for there to be discussion about how many or who this GOD supposedly is. Bauckham's categories of Creator and Sovereign appear to appropriate the evidence well. Surely Paul did not believe in other creators or other sovereigns? Surely only YHWH was the Creator and Sovereign, and in that identity they [the early Christians] included Jesus. For all other gods, they were atheists - denying them loyalty and ontological status.

Exegetical Dictionary of the NT

Well, it's nearing that wonderful time of the year when I can begin hinting to my wife what presents should find there way underneath the tree... Or, whatever we decide to put up this year. As this will be our first Christmas as a married couple, my wife is looking to spoil me and so is asking for suggestions. So here's where I need some help.... I'm thinking of the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.

The English translation of the three-volume Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, this monumental work by an ecumenical group of scholars is first of all a complete English dictionary of New Testament Greek. Going beyond that, however EDNT also serves as a guide to the usage of every New Testament word in its various contexts, and it makes a significant contribution to New Testament exegesis and theology. EDNT's thorough, lengthy discussions of more significant words and its grouping of words related by root and meaning (with alphabetical cross-references) distinguish it from simpler Greek-English lexicons. Advancing the discussion of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, EDNT summarizes more recent treatments of numerous questions in New Testament study and takes into consideration newer viewpoints of linguistics.

Is this really as helpful as it claims? I've got Bauer's, Liddell/Scott's, and the abbreviated TDNT. And I'm not sure whether I should upgrade my software package (I'm currently working with Logos) or get hard copies... Obviously, the electronic version is cheaper. Any advice from those who use these tools? Or should I just get some more commentaries/books that will incorporate this?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Was Paul a Monotheist?

The Blog-father, Mark Goodacre, opens up the discussion, apparently initiated by Paula Fredrickson [See also Gods and the One God] about monotheism in antiquity. Dr. Goodacre quotes Fredrickson's article, Gods and the One God, where she states:
The world was filled with other gods, and ancient Jews knew this. Paul complains about their negative effect on his mission. Astral forces (stoicheia) previously enslaved his formerly pagan converts in Galatia (Galatians 4.8). "The god of this cosmos" blinded believers so that they cannot see "the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4.4). Paul writes, "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth -- as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' -- yet for us there is one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 8.5-6). Paul and his Gentile readers do not doubt the existence of many gods. They just do not worship them.
My own question in this discussion is a clarification of terms. Yes, monotheism designates the belief in one god. But surely within the Judeo-Christian worldview it designates loyalty or worship to one god, not just belief in one god. What made Paul a monotheist, was not just his belief but his adherence, allegiance and devotion. Every other god was a demon or demonic allusion [this appears to be what Paul is suggesting in 1 Cor 10:20: No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God.]
Paul appears to be a monotheist because his loyalty and devotion was to the god of Israel revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, and not to others. There apparently were other gods, forces, demons, emperors who claimed the title of GOD within Paul's world[view], but none of them amounted to Paul's identification of GOD as Creator and Sovereign of the universe - revealed in and through the crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus our LORD.
It will however, be fascinating to see if Fredrickson develop this thesis, and if so how... Stay tuned...
For more on this topic, see Richard Bauckham's Paul's Christology of Divine Identity.

Friday, October 05, 2007

IBR - Articles

Torrey Seland notes the following:
The Institute for Biblical Research has launched its new web page with a new URL. Try this one:
In addition to diverse postings of information concerning the activities of the institute, they now also launch a new availablity to the articles of Bulletin for Biblical Research.
BBR Articles Listed by Date (Full text 1991-2004.1; abstracts 2005.1-2007.1)
BBR Articles Listed by Authors The BBR articles listed on their page are found in the following three formats:*.html (Web format for quick viewing on your computer screen);*.doc (Microsoft Word format for using in word processing);*.pdf (Adobe Acrobat format for printing and viewing exactly formatted).
I'm still on leave from work at the moment, catching up on some lovely Birthday reading -> all about Thessalonians, which is very exciting. So back soon... In a week or two...