Thursday, June 19, 2014

Forensic detection of well-intended Trinitarian error

St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai is a wonderful place to visit (present day security concerns satisfied). A spiritual oasis in a literal desert of rose red mountains with scarcely a shrub or tree to be seen. A long time ago, likely between 325 and 360 AD, scribal activity, perhaps in Caesarea or Rome, carefully produced one of the Bible codices commissioned by Constantine. How and when the codex made its way to St Catherine's, we do not know. Centuries later, partially ravaged by dereliction, the codex to be known as Codex Sinaiticus became the centre of one of the racier stories in the history of the Bible, involving allegations of theft, Stalin, and the British Museum (now British Library).

Recently I had occasion to preach on John 16:12-15. Opening up a commentary or two I noticed reference to a variant reading in verse 13. Jesus, speaking of the Spirit's role, says, according to the NRSV,

'... he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears ...'

The Greek text for the second phrase reads

'but whatever he will hear (akousei) he will speak.'

An alternative reading of the second phrase is

'but whatever he hears (akouei) he will speak.'

Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2002) says that the variant is 'a dogmatic improvement, introduced to suggest the eternal relationship of the Holy Spirit with the Father' (p. 210). That is, a scribe working on Codex Sinaiticus, perhaps in the heady Trinitarian days following the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, thought that the Spirit speaking what he is yet to hear diminished the notion of the eternal relationship of the Spirit with the Father. A slight change with the omission of one letter, changing future tense to present tense, would restore the Spirit to his rightful place. (I myself think that the NRSV (also NIV) using the present tense is stylistic rather than a siding with Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus's sister codex, Vaticanus, incidentally, does not have this change).

There is a strong irony in a scribe seeking to improve John's Gospel in this way. John's Gospel itself is an attempt to improve ('improve') on the Synoptic Gospels in the sense that it consistently presents Jesus from the perspective of a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son than disclosed by those gospels. It is John's Gospel which reveals to us that the Father and the Son are one. From that revelation flows the deduction that the Holy Spirit is one with Father and Son. The ancient anonymous scribe has made a well-intended Trinitarian error as he copied John's Gospel into the new codex and done so according to a Johannine way of thinking.

But many centuries later we might ask whether John himself was in error when he used the future tense in 16:13. However I do not think so. The use of the future tense through passages such as this, in Jesus' last testament to his disciples, consistently looks ahead to the ultimate revelation of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, to the event of his exaltation through the cross-and-resurrection or beyond it ('the things that are to come', 16:13c).

On that day the fullness of God's revelation through Jesus Christ is disclosed, the future tenses anticipate 'all the truth' available on that day, into which the Spirit 'will guide' the disciples (16:13a). John's time here is the earthly chronology in which the resurrection is yet to occur rather than the heavenly chronology in which that day is eternally present to God.

Thus John underscores the importance of the cross-and-resurrection as the single definitive event for Jesus. (If you want to push that, yes, John treats four things we often separate as one event of exaltation, cross-resurrection-ascension-pentecost). In this event, at least in a form of embryo which grows develops and flourishes, all the truth is revealed. The Spirit will speak to us what he will hear on that day.

The Sinaiticus scribe understood too little, not too much!

44 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

I must say, I love all this playing with words - the refuge of scholars? Seems so much like counting the number of angels on the head of a pin. Thank God the Word who became flesh did not have to rely on our grammatical expertise in order to disciple those who belong to Christ. Otherwise, we could be in more of a mess than we now find ourselves in.

This is what makes pseudonyms like 'grammaticus' all the more silly - in an entertaining way, of course.

With regard to Faith - you either have it or your con't. Simple as that! All the philosophizing in the world won't make a scrap of difference. "My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts your thoughts" - Almighty God.

Glen Young said...

wow,what a point you make Ron.Exactly what we tell the Progressive Christians at St.Matthews who never tire of quoting John Dominic Crosson and the likes.Regarding Faith-maybe now we will have enough Faith to take Christ at his Word when he said that He who made them in the beginning made them male and female and for that cause.....

Anonymous said...

From Rosemary Behan

Ron .. With regard to Faith - you either have it or your con't. Simple as that! All the philosophizing in the world won't make a scrap of difference. "My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts your thoughts" - Almighty God.

Ephesians 2:8 .. "For it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith .. and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God .. not by works so that no one can boast."

Father Ron Smith said...

Watch out, though, Glen. God did not says that St. Matthew's parish understanding was always wrong. The word 'your' has a connotation of the plural - including S.M.'s Henderson, too! It's that certainty of yours - and that of the con/evos - that needs to be eliminated.

Remember, God also created the hermaphrodite - strange as that might seem. God also created creatures that reproduce themselves - without coitus! "For there is nothing impossible for God!"

Enjoy the great Feast of the Incarnate God - 'Corpus Christi' - in which Jesus comes to us again, and again, and again! Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

The man who has only a hammer (or one obsession) will treat everything like a nail (to be hammered to destruction). 'grammaticus' isn't silly to those who have used their God-given abilities to become scribes ('grammateus' Matt 13.52) trained for the kingdom.

But then, who needs a tiresome, hard-won education when you already know the answer?

homoousion, homoiousion - what difference does an iota make?
Socrates was extolled as wise man because he knew that he didn't know.

Grammaticus

Glen Young said...

Ron,Are you claiming that God created Hermaphrodites as as a distinct form of human beings.Please quote your Scriptural authority.The only thing that I know as a certainity, is the life,crucifiction and resurrection of the Incarnate Christ.I object to those who deny the very fundamental Doctrine of the ACANZP as definded in the Constitution.St Michaels has up until now been orthodox.In conclusion ,I will point out to you that I never said that God said that St.Matthews was always wrong.I can only put it down to the Noosa sun and that naughty gin.Why dont you have another one.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if God "created hermaphrodites", then He also created "transgender" people born in the "wrong" bodies, isn't that right, Ron Smith?

But then if God makes mistakes, then He isn't perfect, is He? What does that entail for your theology?

Oh dear, 'Theodicy' isn't an epic by Homer.

Grammaticus

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,
No more hermaphrodite discussion here. Before you know it there will be accusations she has no nightie!
This thread is about John's Gospel, Trinitarian theology.
Discussion of what God created, how creation works etc could be developed on another, appropriate thread.

liturgy said...

In a thread devoted to the difference made by even the tiniest change in spelling, my morning was made by the insistence that we are required to believe in the "crucifiction"!

Blessings

Bosco

Jean said...

How I read it Peter is, given Jesus tells the disciples He has more to say but they cannot bare (I hope that is the right spelling in case it gets associated with the no nightie comment) it yet (grasp it), the verses imply the Holy Spirit will reveal what Jesus has to say in the future. Linked with the scripture of Jesus saying He must go to the Father so the Holy Spirit can come.

Therefore He will say what He hears seems an appropriate interpretation. Acknowledging that now Jesus has gone to the Father, the Holy Spirit now says what he hears, and is the means by which God leads us into all truth (present tense).

If the problem is the Holy Spirit is present at the time of the statement or as most would hold to has been present since I would ascertain yes, but only after Jesus's death and resurrection would people have the relationship with the Holy Spirit as Jesus describes enabled by His death.

I best stop now in case I go off track and start agreeing with Bosco - : ) sorry Bosco....

Glen Young said...

Hi Bosco,Try the Nicene Creed:"for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;he suffered death and was buried".And then read Article 8.edbeere the

Anonymous said...

From Rosemary Behan, I found this helpful, I hope it helps others with regard to John's Gospel. It was written by Scott Perry for youth. I have a feeling I may have to post it in two parts. Please don’t skip over it, I would like to hear other points of view.

"Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that Father Son and Spirit decided to make mankind in their own image and likeness. But what does it mean to be made in the image of God? .........But it's not what separates us from the animals that really makes us God's image-bearers. The point in Genesis 1:26-27 is not that we are made 'different from the animals'; it's that we are made 'in the image of God.' What is at the very heart of God? It's not His creativity, although He did create the world and all that is in it, including all people. It's not even His great plan of salvation and redemption. At the very heart of God, is the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit.

This might sound strange, but here's what I mean. In John 17, just hours before the crucifixion, Jesus is in a room with the disciples, praying to God. Jesus' prayer is breathtaking and you could probably spend a month meditating upon it. But in two important verses Jesus says:

"And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." [17:5]

"....the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.' 17:24b]

Anonymous said...

Rosemary’s post continued…
In these verses, we see what was at the heart of God before the world began .. before He made men and women and animals and everything that has life and breath, before the world was plunged into sin because of disobedience, and before men and women needed saving. These verses show us that before the world began, God was defined by relationships. He is after all the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At the centre of the Universe is God, and at the very centre of God, from before the world began, is the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Think about it: the Father is the Father because He is the Father of the Son. The Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Son because He is the Son of the Father. .. And the Spirit is not an abstract and cloudy force that gives power to Jedi knight either. The Spirit is a personal Spirit: the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ. In John 14:16 Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the ‘Counsellor’ [or ‘Comforter’ or ‘Helper’], which sounds very personal. In John 14:17, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit ‘him’ .. not ‘it’ .. no less than five times.

This Trinity stuff is tricky, but at the very least we can see that before the world began, there was an eternal relationship between the persons of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. And in their relationships, the persons of the Trinity gave to each other, sharing glory and love. So if that is at the heart of God, then to be made in His likeness must mean in some sense that we are made for relationships in a way that the rest of creation is not. We are built for relationship with God. We are also built for relationship with other people.

I think this is why God made mankind male and female. There is unity within mankind, just like there is unity within God. But there is also distinction and difference within mankind .. male and female .. just like there is distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are united .. as humanity .. but distinct .. as male and female.”

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I asked for no more hermaphrodite discussion here and the following comment from you is partly edited on that basis and partly on the basis that addressing another commenter in the way you do, rather than issues raised in his comment makes things ever towards the ad hominems I am trying to avoid.

"Father Ron Smith has left a new comment on your post "Forensic detection of well-intended Trinitarian er...":

"...

Remember, "The Word became flesh". ...

Life is for living - taking risks - not hiding away from reality. "

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you all for comments above. It is always good when a little bit of obscurity about a wonderful teaching generates careful consideration of the matter.

liturgy said...

Sorry Glen, but in this thread I'm with Rosemary Behan and the historicity of the crucifixion, as against your construct, "Article 8.edbeere the" notwithstanding.

Blessings

Bosco

Glen Young said...

Hi bosco,What actually is my construct?.All I said,was that I accept it as a historical fact.If you are reading anymore than that into it;you are readiing more than I have written.

liturgy said...

I certainly am not reading more than you have written, Glen. Perhaps you are. I don't know where you said you accept it as a historical fact. Or, since I cannot see your saying that, what that "it" is.
Are you not reading what I actually wrote?
Or are you not reading what you actually wrote?
It spoils the joke to have to so belabouredly go over and over it, but in a thread devoted to the difference made by even the tiniest change in spelling (with and without an "s", with and without an iota), my morning was made by your insistence that we are required to believe in the "crucifiction"!

Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

".The only thing that I know as a certainity, is the life,crucifiction and resurrection of the Incarnate Christ." - Glen Young -

I did wonder what Bosco was talking about until I went through this thread again and caught this one -

"Cruci-fiction" - this seems not to derive from any sort of 'certainty' - not even 'certain-ity'. NJo wo9nder some people are confused.

Rosemary, I would not contend with you that Faith is, indeed, the gift of God. Given to those who earnestly seek it. Deo gratias!

Jean said...

Ha Ron I also missed the spelling error crucifiction. Although I also was amused seeing the topic going off track you are indeed hardwired with wit Bosco.

I thought you were referring to Peter's post of talking about adding a letter leading to ramifications for the interpretation of the crucifixtion and resurrection as being quite a jump ...
and I myself took a while to grasp the connection between the two factors so wide in scope that is not to doubt Peter's scholarly and scriptural precedent of such musings a.k.a the mustard seed and moving mountains.

Father Ron Smith said...

I think John Henry Newman put the case for the Most Holy Trinity quite succinctly - without lots of esoteric Greek or Hebrew or Latin quotations - that might get in the way of ordinary comprehension; in his epic hymn:

E.H. 360

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death as he has died.

Simply in his grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of him alone,
Holy Church as his creation,
And Her teaching as his own.

Adoration ay be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, son, and Holy Ghost.
AMEN!

If only more Anglicans would learn and sing this hymn, we may have a better understanding of what God is really all about.

Glen Young said...

Ron,If anyone is confused,it is not coming from God;1Cor.14:33.I would certainly credit people with more intelligence than to confused by an old one fingered typist.What do you suggest as suitable penance,Bosco?.In my mitigation,though, I would remind you that it made your morning. and it was Ron who led me astray with his talk of the 'naughty gin'.I thought I would try one and things seem to have gone amiss.

Glen Young said...

Come on Ron,Why is it that something else ,other than what is our foundational Doctrine;is always more elucidating?What has happened to good old fashioned study of the infallible Word of God?Prehaps the congregations might come across Matt.19 and realise that God made us male and female.

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, you do seem to be somewhat fixated on a particular aspect of creation - that of sexuality. There are other very important things to think about. For instance, why you stayed working for a health dept. you found neglectful - or at least, thinking differently from yourself on matters of human thriving. The study of the words in The Book do not make a Christian. The love of The Word-made-flesh is what it's all about. To become 'alter Christus' is more important than engaging in semantic speculation.

"Don't talk of love: show me!"

Bryden Black said...

Two things Ron:
To be fixated on the fact that human being is male and female is not such a bad thing - for without such a nature you and I - and Glen - would not exist!

Then, as I painstakingly showed on an earlier thread, this nature of male and female just happens to image the very nature of the Triune God. Not a bad thing at all to be fixated upon I guess.

Glen Young said...

Ron,It is possible to suggest that you may be fixated on the 'love of God' at the expence of His many other attributes.Besides His Love,Grace,Mercy,and Gentleness;He also manifests righteous Hatred,righteous Anger,righteous Vengeance,righteousJudgement,righteous justice and righteous Punishment,etc."...Behold therefore the GOODNESS and SEVERITY of GOD...".Rom.11:22 To create an image of God which only looks at the 'seemingly nice' attributes of God,such as love,gentleness,tenderheartedness,compassion,etc.;and ignores,suppresses or leaves out,all the important attributes of His full nature,is to fall into falsely imaging Good,which is idolatry.

Glen Young said...

Hi Bryden,I agree whole heartedly.It is interesting that people cannot seperate the study of Scripture from the simple acceptence of the Words of Christ.I take His Words in Matt 19 to mean exactly what they say.Blessings.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter, Sorry,but typo in prior message to Ron; last sentence should read....imaging God ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"To be fixated on the fact that human being is male and female is not such a bad thing - for without such a nature you and I - and Glen - would not exist!" - Bryden Black -

Not strictly true, Bryden, I'm afraid. My parents were doing doing what came naturally to them. In the very same way that same-gender lovers do what is natural to them. let's not get too fixated on 'fixation'.

As for you imputed understanding of the word 'normal', I suspect it might just be numerically determined - not necessarily right for everyone!

Glen Young said...

Ron,Give us a break.The same old hackneyed and subjective nonsense.Are you saying that anybody doing what they "feel" is natural for them is normal? The isolation of the 'warrior gene'does not excuse brutality or murder.Many people who bear that gene are not given over to violence.I thought you said that God gave us free will so these people are simply doing what they choose to do;not what is natural for them.It is not normal;it is just acting out their desires which are against "God's Created norms.

Chris Spark said...

Did you ever have a look at the sinaiticus MS Peter to see what you thought about whether this might actually be spelling mistake rather than such a correction - when I had a quick look at it during clergy conf I think I thought it looked like a correction after the first hand rather than such an intentional change - I must have a look again at some stage - but I am interested to see if you had a look as I can't remember details right now. (love an email if you get the chance as my blogging time is nil after this for this week)

Chris Spark said...

Sorry I think I got that last post wrong - I just had the quick look at the MSS again and looks like it is the first hand of Sinaiticus - so could easily be a sp mistake (just as easily as an intentional change) - if it was a corrector it would be much more likely an intentional change as they would be actively changing it - but with it being the first hand it could be a missed letter (indeed perhaps missed because they expected it to be present for theological-assumption reasons - or perhaps missed because it was just a mistake!). Seems a lot of theological-motivation baggage to put upon the scribe on a 50/50 spelling issue!
Right, now I really am getting on with stuff.

Anonymous said...

Glen,Give us a break.The same old hackneyed and subjective nonsense.Are you saying that you share the desires of homosexuals in the manner that all of us, from time to time, share the desire to brutality or murder? Why would anyone choose to do homosexual acts?

Quaestiones

Glen Young said...

Why would anyone choose to do homosexual acts? Quaestiones.
It would appear that they 'feel' that have 'same sex attractions' so it 'normal' for them.It is the distorted use of the word 'natural'which I was challanging.I would contend that the correct word is 'unnatural'.
My personal stance is: 1/Please dont tell me that it falls within God's created norms;2/please dont tell me that such actions are normal;3/Please dont try and convince me that the ACANZP should even be considering 'recognising' let alone 'blessing such relationships.
Believe you me,I certainly draw a distinction between such behaviour and uncontrolled anger.Sorry for that misunderstanding.

Father Ron Smith said...

"My personal stance is: 1/Please dont tell me that it falls within God's created norms;2/please dont tell me that such actions are normal;3/Please dont try and convince me that the ACANZP should even be considering 'recognising' let alone 'blessing such relationships." - Glen Young -

I think we all understand perfectly well, Glen 'where you stand'. - Maybe on a precipice, but, "Don't look now..."

I'm reminded of the old proverb: "There is none so blind as those who WILL NOT see".

However, blindness is no excuse for ignorance, or prejudice, for that matter!

Glen Young said...

Ron,
Is it polite to ask why you play the man and not the ball.
Being blind or partly blind, I admit to;[ as the strength of my glasses and my typos would suggest].As for'WILL NOT SEE';it is more a matter of having difficulty seeing.Unless it is a very small precipice ,I probably would not be able to see the bottom even if I did look.
However,that difficulty aside,I
am not predudiced or ignorant.
The logical ramifications of liberal attitudes is always a downhill slide.Leaving aside all the same old hackneyed and subjective emotionalism;can you give me 12 objective and Scripturally based reasons why the ACANZP should 'recognise'or bless same gender relationships.In fact just one would be fine.

Father Ron Smith said...

Because, Glen, "The great love of God is revealed in the Son" and we who are Christ's followers might better be guilty of love than fear or hatred. That's just one reason. Others could be offered, but I don't want to waste other people's time on this subject.

The First Letter of John, chapter 4, verses 7 ff; says it all:

"Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; FOR GOD IS LOVE....."

It is rumored that, in old age, Saint John (the beloved Disciple) was carried into the church at Ephesus on the shoulders of young men who begged him "Father, give us a message". His answer was reputed to have been: "Little children, love one another!"

(extra-Biblical? Yes! But rather more in the Spirit of the Gospel than some of the statements you have made here).

Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is a longbow to draw from the legendary story of St John on his deathbed (which happens to be one of my favourite stories) to saying it is more in keeping with the Spirit of the gospel than some things you have read from Glen.

The simple fact is you have no idea what St John's attitude would be on the matters you and Glen disagree over. St John had plenty to say about sin, judgment, dissociating with the antichrist etc!

Father Ron Smith said...

Despite your seeming negation of my thought processes, Peter; I cannot help remembering that we are here speaking of 'The Beloved Disciple', whom Jesus loved so much, that he wanted him to take care of his mother - a mutual responsibility. He knew what he was speaking of.

Of that's a long bow, then so be it!

Glen Young said...

St.Peter tells us:"no prophecy ecer came by the will of man;but as borne by the Holy Ghost,men spake from God".[2 Peter 1:21] Here thewhole initiative is assigned to God,and such complete control of the human agents that the product is truly God's work.The men who speak in this"prophecy of Scripture" speak not of themselves or out of themselves,but from "God".They speak only as they are "borne by the Holy Ghost".But it they ,after all,who speak.Scripture is the product of man,but only of man speaking from God and under such a control of the Holy Spirit as that in their speaking they are "borne" by Him.[Biblical Foundations-B.B.Warfield page 63].
It would seem reasonable to assume then, that whatever St John wrote was the truth which God wanted revealed.However,what the scribe did is another story.If Stalin is involved,I am staying out of it.
The Letters of St.John speak of far more than just God's Love.The other content gives meaning and purpose to His Love.In the totallity of the revelation given to John,an great part of the love which we are commissioned to show forth;is to proclaim the Gosple of 'redemption'.In doing so it may be necessary to gracefully lead others out of sin.[1 John 5:16]

Glen Young said...

So,if St John knew what he was skeakinng about;how come we can't say that St.Matthew equally knew what he was speaking about in chapter 19.If Matt.19 needs to be reinterpeted;why does not St John's message about Love.

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, just a very short question of you, if you would be kind enough to answer: Were you at Bible College?

Glen Young said...

Hi Ron,
A fair question.We must keep the integrity of the 'inner circle pure';Weed out all those unlettered fishermen,[they can have a fishy air to them-and during a lecture, a good friend once whispered to me, that they have been known to use orthodoxy for bait].
As for any employee of the IRD.;they have to be straight out.
Do we need to get together and evolve a complete list of acceptable occupations.

Father Ron Smith said...

A very convoluted 'answer', Glen. However, I get the drift. Thank you.
Agape.