Monday, May 8, 2017

Evil Angels?

Really enjoying reading a brilliant article by the magisterial Dale Martin, like all good scholarship familiar texts are revealed to hold surprising and unsettling possibilities!

Angels populated Paul's world in a lively way. Contrary to modern popular assumptions, angels for Paul were not always good. They could be evil and malicious or simply morally ambiguous. There certainly are "good" angels in Paul's world (2 Cor 11:14; Gal 1:8; 4:14), and certainly also "bad" angels. 1 Corinthians 6:3 mentions that "we" (presumably Paul and other followers of Jesus) will "judge" angels, implying that there are angels who are criminal. If Paul's reference to the "thorn in the flesh" that tortures him is to an "angel of Satan" (2 Cor 12:7), which I take to be the case, and not just a metaphorical "messenger of Satan," we would have here a satanic angel as Paul's tormentor.

Some scholars believe that the phrase "because of the angels" in 1 Cor 11:10 is a reference to angels who may threaten women, perhaps sexually. Some scholars take Gal 3:19 to teach that angels were those who gave the law to Moses, rather than God himself. That text, if interpreted in light of Acts 7:53, may imply a less than benevolent, if not downright negative, view of their activity, given what Paul says about the intervention of the law elsewhere in Galatians. Finally, if one takes "the rulers of this age" in 1 Cor 2:6 and 8, who did not understand Gods mystery and therefore "crucified the lord of glory," to be a reference to angels (note that αρχαι are coupled with "angels" in Rom 8:38), this would certainly represent a reference to evil angels.

Dale B Martin, "When Did Angels Becomes Demons?" JBL 129, 2010, 657-77

Let me know what you think, :-)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Preexistent Christ in Mark?

Just been reading a fun little article with an approach to Jesus' preexistence in Mark's Gospel that I haven't come across before. I think there are some holes in it, but on the other hand it is quite refreshing to see the usual arguments and texts turned on their heads!

The fact that Mark begins his Gospel with the baptism scene has often been taken to indicate his espousal of adoptionist christology which excludes any attribution of intrinsic divinity. On the whole, this proves to be untenable. Mark specifically identifies John’s baptism as the beginning of the gospel, not of Jesus; there is no denial of Jesus’ personal preexistence, a necessary corollary of divinity. On the contrary, even though the ascription of sonship in 1.11 is phrased in terms of Ps. 2.7, the specifically adoptionist element of that verse is omitted. Instead of ‘this day I have begotten you’, we read, ’with you I am well pleased.' The aorist probably indicates that God’s pleasure in Jesus is already established and does not arise as a sudden whim; Mark began his Gospel with one of his rare biblical citations in order to show that the events he narrates are part of God’s longstanding plan (1.2-3). This leaves us with twological alternatives for the origin of God’s pleasure: Jesus’ preexistence; or his uniquely pleasing earthly life before his baptism.

Clearly, the former is to be preferred. If Jesus’ adoption at the baptism was the reward for his previous deportment, how could Mark refrain from describing that meritorious early life? More importantly, Mark’s divine-human dichotomy is too radical to allow for the implication which arises from adoptionism, which is that the gulf could be bridged from the human side (8.37f.). Finally, given the wide attestation of divine-human christology in Christian sources earlier than and contemporary with Mark, any espousal of adoptionism would need to be quite pointed; but this we do not find.

We do, however, find that Mark’s references to Jesus’ relationship to God lend themselves to the suggestion of intrinsic divinity. They issue largely from supernatural beings, either God (1.11; 9.7) or demons (1.24; 3.11; 5.7), implying that these are supernatural revelations about a supernatural person. Mark’s handling of the transfiguration as a whole raises Jesus above Elijah and Moses, emphasizing that he alone is the Son of God, to whom human beings must listen; he alone overcomes the dichotomy. Further, the parable of the vineyard (12.1-11) contains enough evidence of allegorization that the sending of the (already existing) beloved son in 12.6 is most plausibly understood as implying Jesus’ personal preexistence, much like Gal. 4.4.

Philip Davis, "Mark's Christological Paradox," JSNT 35, 1989, 3-18, 12-13. 

Let me know what you think :-)

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Problem with Atheists

Randal Rauser blogs:

The problem, ironically enough, is that when you brand the in-group as “Reason” and align the out-group (e.g. the “religious”) with irrationality, you undermine the ability of your in-group to develop the very skills of critical thinking necessary for the exercise of reason.
I know lots of wonderful atheists who are intelligent and open to other ideas and points of view, I aspire to be like them in that regard. But Rauser pretty much sums up my recent accidental encounter with the evangelical atheist wing of twitter. As Rauser observes, fundamentalist Christians and evangelical atheists suffer from basically the same disease. They are just two sides of the same ignorant coin. So convinced they know it all and focussed on winning an argument, they don't know how to listen to what is actually being said.

Worth reading the whole thing.