Monday, 22 February 2021

Monday quote

Better a man with no ideas than the wrong ones.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 15 February 2021

Monday quote

If we have to "choose between unequal prosperity and shared poverty," I'll choose the former.

RJ Moeller 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

A vessel for honour or for dishonour

Romans 9:14-23 is foundational to Calvinist theology.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
The question in verse 21 reads in the following versions,
  • Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (NIV)
  • Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (ESV)
  • Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (NKJV)
  • Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (NASB)
  • Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? (CSB)
  • Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump a vessel that is for honorable use and one that is for ordinary use? (LEB)
  • Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? (NET)
  • Does the potter not have authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and one to dishonor? (LSV)
My thoughts on the translations:
  1. The verse contrasts the previous verse, as emphasised in the LEB, CSB and NASB (and Greek).
  2. "power", "right", "authority", even "liberty" and "freedom" are reasonable translations of exousia, but "authority" may be best.
  3. "the clay" is genitive; "his clay" is a possibility. The same with "lump".
  4. The emphasis on the last part of the sentence is between honour (timē) and absence-honour (atimia). Does "atimia" mean "common" or "ordinary"? Or does it mean "dishonour"?
  5. The Greek uses the conjunctions "men...de" to contrast the "honour" with the "dishonour". In all the above versions the word "and" is used for this contrast. Would "or" contrast more accurately?
Point 5 is important as the reader pictures the potter making 2 objects or vessels: one that has honour and one that has dishonour. But what if one is to picture the potter deciding on whether to make one object which is either to have honour or to have dishonour. If point 5 is correct then the reader is not seeing a potter take the same lump of clay and make half into one object and the other part into another object. Rather there is one lump of clay. The potter can take a lump of clay and make it into an object of honour, or the potter can take that same lump of clay and make it into an object of dishonour.

As a possible translation,
Rather, does not the potter have authority over his clay to make from the same lump, either a vessel that is for honour or that is for dishonour?

Monday, 8 February 2021

Monday quote

 The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism", Christian Reflections.


Friday, 5 February 2021

Middle Kingdom of Egypt and the Israelites

The documentary Patterns of Evidence uses the principle of finding similarities between events which must be synchronous, rather than trying to patch events that historians happen to think occurred about the same time. Findings in Egypt and Canaan that match the biblical record are identified. The movie discusses the epoch of Joseph, of Moses, and Joshua; matching archeological discoveries in Avaris and Jericho to the events in Scripture. Much of the documentary follows the chronology of David Rohl.

Egyptian chronology is divided into
  1. Old Kingdom
  2. First Intermediate Period
  3. Middle Kingdom
  4. Second Intermediate Period
  5. New Kingdom
Following Rohl, but using biblical dating we have
  1. Pharaoh who Joseph served: Amenemhat III, Dynasty 12, c. 1675 BC
  2. Vizier of Amenemhat: Joseph c. 1675
  3. Joseph dies c. 1600 BC
  4. King who did not know Joseph: Sobekhotep III, Dynasty 13, c. 1550 BC
  5. Adoptive grandfather of Moses: Neferhotep I, Dynasty 13, c. 1530
  6. Pharaoh from whom Moses fled to Midian: Khanefere Sebekhotep IV (brother and successor of Neferhotep), Dynasty 13, c. 1490 BC
  7. Pharaoh of the Exodus: Tutimaeus = Dedumose II, Dynasty 13, c. 1450 BC
  8. Hyksos invasion and the beginning of the second Intermediate Period, c. 1450 BC
This compares to secular dating of these pharaohs c. 1850–1650 BC; a 200 year difference.

There have been a range of suggestions for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. But it seems likely that the time that the Israelites were in Egypt corresponds to part or all of the Middle kingdom: Dynasties 11, 12 and 13. Dynasties 12 and 13 collapsed at the time of the Exodus and the Middle Kingdom came to an end. Then begins the rule of the Hyksos who rapidly conquered Egypt who had been bereft of her king and army.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

When you can't defend your position

I read a Calvinist response on a message board that amounted to: Paying attention to a specific non-Calvinist is embarrassing. He suggested a Calvinist author instead. While a rather short retort it raises a large number of issues.

Firstly it is an attempt at cool-shaming. Said author is supposedly an embarrassment to theology or Christian truth. Perhaps, but if the claim is not true this is a false accusation.

Secondly, it fails to deal with the arguments. If a person presents such poor arguments he should be easy to refute. It would be better to actually clearly refute nonsensical claims and prove they are an embarrassment, even if you then state the fact.

Thirdly, suggesting a Calvinist author over a non-Calvinist author is it's own fail. You are generally better to give a better author in the same category. If someone recommends Dawkins as a defense of atheism (and this is embarrassing), there are better atheists to read: Nagel for example. Related to this, why would anyone recommend against an opponent using such poor reasoning? A poor opponent himself is an argument against his own position.

Fourthly, someone is better to steer people away from well meaning but poor defenses of even his own position. If a Calvinist recommends a particular Calvinist author who is enthusiastic but poorly reasoned, others can recommend against that particular author in preference to better Calvinist defenders of the position.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Monday quote

People have a strange tendency to accept bramble-leadership, a fact which continues to baffle us.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

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