Monday, July 26, 2010

Greek Grammar points to Sola Scriptura and the doctrine of the Trinity

A Roman Catholic wrote:

“For example, "the Word was God" was interpreted as "the Word was a god," which is possible in Greek.” This was claimed in the context of saying the Jehovah Witnesses follow Sola Scriptura and the claim that we need an infallible council of an infallible church with an infallible church in order to interpret Scripture properly.

Actually, it is not really possible with a sound knowledge of Greek. It is only “possible” for those with a very shallow knowledge of Greek, who don’t understand the intricacies of the definite articles and predicate nominative issues. If one only has a beginning knowledge of Greek, it is very dangerous. The grammar and Greek syntax of John 1:1 determines the right theology. The doctrine of the Deity of Christ and the eternality of the Son is based on Scripture, not the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea is based on Scripture, and derives secondary authority from the only infallible authority – the Scriptures.

Another Roman Catholic, “Nick the Catholic” also has an article with a title that claims that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were right about John 1:1. “JWs are correct about John 1:1; Jesus is not God” ( !!!)

Then he clarifies later from his controversial, heretical, and inflammatory title. He says they were right if they mean “the Father is not Jesus”; ie the same person; but they are not right in that the JWs deny that Jesus is God or Deity.

The predicate nominative issue is the key interpretive issue, more important than the definite article issue. The Word was God.

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

And God was the Word.

Daniel Wallace has a good word on this issue:

“We know that “the Word” is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: “and the Word was God.” Two questions, both of them of theological import, should come to mind: 1) Why was θεὸς (Theos) thrown forward? And 2) why does it lack the article? In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: “What God was, the Word was” is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word ( Jesus Christ) with the person of “God” (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John’s wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find. As Martin Luther said, the lack of an article is against Sabellianism [Modalism]; the word order is against Arianism.

To state it another way, look at how the different Greek constructions would be rendered:

καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεὸς “and the Word was the God” ( ie, the Father, Sabellianism, [or Modalism])


καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν θεὸς “and the Word was a god” (Arianism) [also Jehovah’s Witness theology]


καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος “and the Word was God” (orthodoxy) [sound, Biblical doctrine)

Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes that the Father has. But He is not the first person of the Trinity. [the Son is not the Father] All this is concisely affirmed in καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. “

Basics of Biblical Greek, William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 1993, p. 28-29. (Quoting Daniel Wallace)

So, here we have the principle of Sola Scriptura as the basis for all sound doctrine and theology. The first four Ecumenical councils were right, only because they got the Bible right. We don’t need Popes or any idea of an “infallible church council”. The Scriptures themselves teach us sound doctrine, and the good and right decisions in the Ecumenical councils derive their rightness from Scripture itself. Only Scripture is infallible. Here we see the Greek grammar and syntax teaching us the distinction between nature and person. God revealed the doctrine of the Trinity based on the Scriptures alone; Sola Scriptura stands.

20 comments:

John Bugay said...

Somehow, Irenaeus figured out the Trinity, 150 years prior to the council of Nicea:

And this is the order of our faith, the foundation of the edifice and the support of our conduct. God, the father, uncreated, uncontainable, invisible, one God, the Creator of all: This is the first article [kephalaion] of our faith. And the second article: The Word of God, the Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was revealed by the prophets according to the character of their prophecy and according to the nature of the economies of the Father, by whom all things were made, and who, in the last times, to recapitulate all things, became a man amongst men, visible and palpable, in order to abolish death, to demonstrate life, and to effect ["irresistible grace"] communion between God and man. And the third article: the Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied and the patriarchs learnt the things of God and the righteous were led in the path of righteousness, and who, in the last times, was poured out in a new fashion upon the human race renewing man, throughout the world, to God."

Irenaeus of Lyon, "On the Apostolic Preaching," John Behr translation, Crestwood: St. Vladimir Press © 1957, Section 6, pgs 43-44.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"So, here we have the principle of Sola Scriptura as the basis for all sound doctrine and theology. The first four Ecumenical councils were right, only because they got the Bible right. We don’t need Popes or any idea of an “infallible church council”. The Scriptures themselves teach us sound doctrine, and the good and right decisions in the Ecumenical councils derive their rightness from Scripture itself. Only Scripture is infallible. Here we see the Greek grammar and syntax teaching us the distinction between nature and person. God revealed the doctrine of the Trinity based on the Scriptures alone; Sola Scriptura stands."

What other alternative to Sola Scriptura is there ... that's better than Sola Scriptura?

Sola Ecclesia?

John Bugay said...

What other alternative to Sola Scriptura is there ... that's better than Sola Scriptura? … Sola Ecclesia?

You have to qualify that just a bit. The official response is Scripture plus the "Living Tradition" plus the "Living Magisterium." So the official explanation runs as follows:

76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

- orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";

- in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".


Keep in mind that this "oral" method is every bit as "authoritative" as Scripture. It is the equivalent to Scripture. The line is, "one common source," (or rather, one "Word of God"), "two methods of transmission." As outline above.

So this Scripture + Tradition has been "handed on to the whole Church"

But that's not enough. That "one common source" must be "interpreted." That's where the Magisterium comes in:

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

So this is "Magisterium alone." So in practice, the only "word" any Catholic may listen to is the Magisterium, or "Sola Ecclesia."

And of course, there is the fine print.

86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."

But who believes "it teaches only what has been handed on"? This is where "development" comes in, and the concept that all the accretions that aren't in Scripture really were "implicit" in Scripture, somewhere, and it has taken "reflection" to bring it out.

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a2.htm

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

John Bugay: "So this is "Magisterium alone." So in practice, the only "word" any Catholic may listen to is the Magisterium, or "Sola Ecclesia.""

Hmmmmm.

Let me tink.

On the one hand, Sola Scriptura. On the other hand, Sola Ecclesia aka Sola Magisteria.

(Places these intellectual, doctrinal, Scriptural arguments on the scale of intellect, doctrine, and Scripture.)

Which one is weightier?

Hmmmmm. Let me tink. How do I scale the various weights? Aaaaah! I recall someting! Jesus, when confronted by Satan, repeatedly said "It is written....". In fact, He said "It is written..." or some close variant numerous times throughout the New Testament. He did not say the OT Church. Instead, He deliberately chose to reference the Hebrew Scriptures.

That being the case, the clear and easy choice is... ta dah...

Sola Scriptura!!!

David Waltz said...

Hi John,

You posted:

>>Somehow, Irenaeus figured out the Trinity, 150 years prior to the council of Nicea>>

Me: I am not so sure about that; fact is, Irenaeus subscribed to a good deal of theology (concerning the Trinity), that a reading of the Nicene-Constantinople creed by modern Evangelicals would clearly reject—please note the selections I typed up in the following thread:

Subordinationsim in St. Irenaeus


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again John,

Forgive me, but the link I just posted is not working; try the following:

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2008/10/subordinationism-in-st-irenaeus.html

Hope it works this time...

Grace and peace,

David

John Bugay said...

Hi David, I read through your Irenaeus citations. I probably mis-spoke, saying that he "figured out the Trinity," but I was amazed at the clarity with which Father, Son and Spirit were present in the passage that I cited.

Letham summarizes Irenaeus's contribution -- "The Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, are fully God, but yet in now way detract from the divine unity."

Irenaeus "roots this triadic view of God firmly in the Bible and in the history of salvation, in contrast to the philosophical speculation of his opponents. These matters directly affect our salvation, Irenaeus says. This triadic view of God, God's eternity, and human history, intimately connected by the work of God himself, is a clear and lasting contribution to theology.

"Moreover, Irenaeus takes a few tentative steps toward considering the relations of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, he does this from a biblical perspective, in his reflection on Jesus' baptism. The Father gifts the Spirit to the Son, who gives him his people" (The Holy Trinity, pgs 96-97).

Nick said...

I would say your title is a bit off, since Greek Grammar certainly does not point towards Sola Scriptura.

This post shows just the opposite is true:

http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/04/sola-scriptura-is-unscriptural.html

Further, I'd say Scripture only points to the Trinity if you know what you're looking for, otherwise you can have the whole Bible memorized and not see the Trinity. And the fact Greek Grammar has to be introduced is a strike against Sola Scriptura as well since most people cannot read Greek and thus don't really understand what's going on in John 1:1 except the essential point that Jesus is God.

Michael Gormley said...

FALSE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURE

The false doctrine of Sola Scriptura, first proclaimed by Martin Luther, created the 'everyone for himself' syndrome for Bible interpretation.

Each individual would claim, 'the Holy Spirit told me'.

This thinking flies into the face of what the Bible actually teaches, that individual interpretation of Scripture cannot be done. See Acts 8:27-39, and 2Peter 1:20, and 2Peter 3:16-18.

Belief in Sola Scriptura is the primary reason for the fact that there are over 28,000 splinters in Protestantism.

There can be only one truth, and yet each splinter claims, 'the Holy Spirit told me'.

Each claims the truth, yet each has differences with the others.

Truth is one; therefore all Churches should be united in the one truth.

Are we led to believe there over 28,000 Holy Spirits, each telling a protestant sect something different, or maybe one Holy Spirit giving a different truth to each?

The doctrine of Sola Scripture is clearly a false doctrine invented by mere men, and has no Scriptural basis whatsoever.

Anyone who believes in the false doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and rejects tradition, is taking away from the Word of GOD.

They are therefore in violation of all of the Bible verses which admonish, "Do not add to, or take away from, the Word of GOD." Deuteronomy 4:2, 11:32, 13:1, Psalms 12:7, 33:4, Psalms 50:16-17, Proverbs 5:7, 30:5-6, Jeremiah 23:36, Galatians 1:8, 1Peter 1:24-25, 2Peter 3:15-16, Revelation 22:18-20.

James Swan said...

"This thinking flies into the face of what the Bible actually teaches, that individual interpretation of Scripture cannot be done."

OK, so give us the list of infallibly defined Biblical verses from the hard exegetical work done by the Roman Church for the last 2000 years.

Or perhaps you're simply interpreting Rome the way you want to?

Ken said...

Nick wrote:
"I would say your title is a bit off, since Greek Grammar certainly does not point towards Sola Scriptura."


Nick,
The title stands true, because the Greek Grammar of John 1:1 points to the eternality into the past of Jesus, the Deity of Jesus, the person- hood of Jesus as in relationship with the Father; so my point was that Nicea and other Biblical councils, especially the first four ecumenical councils, were based on the Scriptures, the final infallible rule of faith and practice for the church. Since they based their doctrinal and dogmatic decisions on Scripture, then the Greek Grammar of John 1:1 points to Sola Scriptura. Scripture is a higher authority than church councils.

The Council of Nicea did not need a Roman Magisterium (and didn't have it anyway at that time) to tell them "what to look for"! Did you read the quote by Dan Wallace? If the grammar was structured differently, it would have pointed to Modalism on the one hand and Arianism on the other, but since the Grammar was a certain way, it points to the Deity of Christ, the distinction between person and nature, and therefore is foundational to the doctrine of the two natures of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. Both the doctrine of the Trintiy and Sola Scriptura are upheld and affirmed as foundational by the carefully crafted God-breathed grammar of John 1:1.

Ken said...

Dear Micheal Gormley,
Did you read any of the article? It was about the Greek Grammar of John 1:1 and how it teaches the full Deity of Christ against Arianism (modern Jehovah's Witness theology) and against Modalism. Since the God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:15-17) grammar is carefully crafted and results in the teaching that Jesus is God and Jesus was and is in an eternal relationship with the Father, the doctrines of the two natures of Christ and the Trinity are founded are Scripture primarily, not on church councils. The first four ecumenical councils, which RCs and EO and Protestants agree on (in their doctrinal declarations) are based on Scripture and derive their authority from Scripture, not the other way around.

Your post did not interact with the substance of the article and just went on to claim that Sola Scriptura is false and creates all the different denominations and sects, etc. It is the failure to follow Scripture that produces so much wrong kind of disunity and division.

But to answer your charge, along with James Swan's pointed question, which you have not answered, please read what Peter Kreft said about who is to blame for the Reformation in the first place:

"The fourth issue is the most crucial of all. It is the issue that sparked the Reformation, and it is the issue that must spark reunion too. It is, of course, the issue of faith, of faith and works, of justification by faith.

This is the root issue because the essence of the gospel is at stake here. How do I get right with God? This was the issue of the first century church at Galatia, a church Protestants see as making the same essential mistake as the Catholics — preaching the gospel of good works. Protestants dare not compromise on this issue or they would be turning to what Paul calls “another gospel”. Thus his harsh words to the Galatians, the only church for which he has not one word of praise:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.

How do I resolve the Reformation? Is it faith alone that justifies, or is it faith and good works? Very simple. No tricks. On this issue I believe Luther was simply right; and this issue is absolutely crucial. As a Catholic I feel guilt for the tragedy of Christian disunity because the church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was failing to preach the gospel."

Peter Kreeft got that part right, although he says lots of other things that we Evangelical Protestants would disagree with here at this article:

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0028.html

Ken said...

Dear Micheal Gormley,
Did you read any of the article? It was about the Greek Grammar of John 1:1 and how it teaches the full Deity of Christ against Arianism (modern Jehovah's Witness theology) and against Modalism. Since the God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:15-17) grammar is carefully crafted and results in the teaching that Jesus is God and Jesus was and is in an eternal relationship with the Father, the doctrines of the two natures of Christ and the Trinity are founded are Scripture primarily, not on church councils. The first four ecumenical councils, which RCs and EO and Protestants agree on (in their doctrinal declarations) are based on Scripture and derive their authority from Scripture, not the other way around.

Your post did not interact with the substance of the article and just went on to claim that Sola Scriptura is false and creates all the different denominations and sects, etc. It is the failure to follow Scripture that produces so much wrong kind of disunity and division.

continued

Ken said...

continued to
Michael Gormley

If he comes back to read this, which I hope he will.

But to answer your charge, along with James Swan's pointed question, which you have not answered, please read what Peter Kreft said about who is to blame for the Reformation in the first place:

"The fourth issue is the most crucial of all. It is the issue that sparked the Reformation, and it is the issue that must spark reunion too. It is, of course, the issue of faith, of faith and works, of justification by faith.

This is the root issue because the essence of the gospel is at stake here. How do I get right with God? This was the issue of the first century church at Galatia, a church Protestants see as making the same essential mistake as the Catholics — preaching the gospel of good works. Protestants dare not compromise on this issue or they would be turning to what Paul calls “another gospel”. Thus his harsh words to the Galatians, the only church for which he has not one word of praise:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.

How do I resolve the Reformation? Is it faith alone that justifies, or is it faith and good works? Very simple. No tricks. On this issue I believe Luther was simply right; and this issue is absolutely crucial. As a Catholic I feel guilt for the tragedy of Christian disunity because the church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was failing to preach the gospel."

Peter Kreeft got that part right, although he says lots of other things that we Evangelical Protestants would disagree with here at this article:

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0028.html

Ken said...

Michael Gromley wrote:
"Anyone who believes in the false doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and rejects tradition, is taking away from the Word of GOD."

I would say that anyone who believes in the false doctrine of Sola Ecclesia,(that the RCC has the final say on what the right interpretation is and is infallible within itself) which is what the Roman Catholic Churches, is taking away from Scripture and adding to it. The Dogmas of 1215 (transubstantiation), 1546-1563 (Trent in anathematizing justification by faith alone); 1854 (IC of Mary); 1870 (Papal Infallibility); 1950 (Bodily Assumption of Mary) and other doctrines such as Penance, Purgatory, Mary's PV, Co-Mediatoriship (a clear violation of 1 Timothy 2:5), treasury of Merit, priestly sacerdotal ex opere operato forgiveness, prayers to saints, baptismal regeneration, venial and mortal sins and the treadmill of "on again, off again" process of not ever really possessing salvation and eternal life - these and other things are what makes the Roman Catholic a false system and a false church and both takes away from the Word of God and adds to it. Those Scriptures you have referenced, the Protestants at least try to follow the spirit of them; your church openly admits that Scripture is not sufficient nor clear.

Ken said...

Michael Gromley wrote:
"Anyone who believes in the false doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and rejects tradition, is taking away from the Word of GOD."

I would say that anyone who believes in the false doctrine of Sola Ecclesia,(that the RCC has the final say on what the right interpretation is and is infallible within itself) which is what the Roman Catholic Churches, is taking away from Scripture and adding to it. The Dogmas of 1215 (transubstantiation), 1546-1563 (Trent in anathematizing justification by faith alone); 1854 (IC of Mary); 1870 (Papal Infallibility); 1950 (Bodily Assumption of Mary) and other doctrines such as Penance, Purgatory, Mary's PV, Co-Mediatoriship (a clear violation of 1 Timothy 2:5), treasury of Merit, priestly sacerdotal ex opere operato forgiveness, prayers to saints, baptismal regeneration, venial and mortal sins and the treadmill of "on again, off again" process of not ever really possessing salvation and eternal life - these and other things are what makes the Roman Catholic a false system and a false church and both takes away from the Word of God and adds to it. Those Scriptures you have referenced, the Protestants at least try to follow the spirit of them; your church openly admits that Scripture is not sufficient nor clear.

John Bugay said...

Hey Ken -- thanks for stopping back and responding to some of the comments here. I thought that this was a very helpful topic.

Ken said...

Thanks John - was out of town and too busy to interact with the comments (until now) and did not even have access to the www much.

Enjoying your interaction with David Waltz over at his blog.

Jim Paton said...

"Sola Ecclesia" = canard. If people wish to be seen by others as honest, then they need to stop using quips such as this. It doesn't do anyone any favors.