Wednesday, August 13, 2008

universe - etymology

1589, "the whole world, cosmos," from O.Fr. univers (12c.), from L. universum "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. universus "all together," lit. "turned into one," from unus "one" (see one) + versus, pp. of vertere "to turn" (see versus). Properly a loan-translation of Gk. to holon "the universe," noun use of neut. of adj. holos "whole" (see safe (adj.)).

The question I have is: why understand versus as past participle (pp.) of vertere instead of understanding it as the Latin (L.) noun versus which means line or verse. After all "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1) is a single verse (universe) which describes the universe. I wonder how much hard data people have to determine etymology and how much is just conjecture?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

church - etymology

Long story ... but I ran across the Online Etymological Dictionary. This is a neat little tool that gives you the etymological background of words. Of course I had to check a couple of words out, and I figured I'd share my findings with y'all over a couple of posts.

O.E. cirice "church," from W.Gmc. *kirika, from Gk. kyriake (oikia) "Lord's (house)," from kyrios "ruler, lord." For vowel evolution, see bury. Gk. kyriakon(adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c.300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike. An example of the direct Gk.-to-Gmc. progress of many Christian words, via the Goths; it was probably used by W.Gmc. people in their pre-Christian period. Also picked up by Slavic, via Gmc. (cf. O.Slav. criky, Rus. cerkov). Romance and Celtic languages use variants of L. ecclesia.

(For abbreviations see below)
I found this definition very interesting. Here are a couple of observations:
1) the term church does not derive from the term ekklesia which is commonly translated church in the English translations of the Greek New Testament.
2) the term church is derived from an old tradition of calling the place where Christians meet, "the house of God." A tradition which apparently goes back to c. 300. See Spurgeon's quote for my view on this terminology.

So, what do we do with this information? The use of words changes over time, and their etymological root does not have to represent the current meaning. So is it useless? No. There is some historical interest in it. For example, in this case, we see that "houses of Christian worship" apparently existed since ca. 300. It also points to the strong possibility that the term the "Lord's house" is 1700 years old. This gives us some insight into the mutation of Christian customs over time. And, if nothing else, it is an interesting bit of trivia, so just enjoy it.

BTW ... the following is of interest also:

c.1200, northern England and Scot. dial. form of church, from O.N. kirkja "church," from O.E. cirice (see church).

Gk. Greek, Indo-European language spoken in Greece in the classical period, c. 8c. B.C.E.-4c. C.E. Among its dialects were Ionian-Attic (the language of Homer and the Athenian dramatists), Aeolic (used in Thessaly, Boeotia and Lesbos), and Dorian (the language of Sparta).
Gmc. Germanic, a branch of Indo-European, ancestral language of English, German, Dutch, Frisian, Scandinavian tongues and several extinct languages such as Gothic and Frankish.
L. Classical Latin, the Italic language of ancient Rome until about 4c.
O.E. Old English, the English language as written and spoken c.450-c.1100.
O.N. Old Norse, the Norwegian language as written and spoken c.100 to 1500 C.E., the relevant phase of it being "Viking Norse" (700-1100), the language spoken by the invaders and colonizers of northern and eastern England c.875-950. This was before the rapid divergence of West Norse (Norway and the colonies) and East Norse (Denmark and Sweden), so the language of the vikings in England was essentially the same, whether they came from Denmark or from Norway. Only a few of the loan words into English can be distinguished as being from one or the other group.
O.Slav. Old Slavic, another name for Old Church Slavonic (q.v.).
Russ. Russian, East Slavic language of Russia.
W.Gmc. West Germanic, the subgroup of Germanic comprising English, Dutch, German, Yiddish, Frisian, etc.; also the language spoken by the ancestral group during the presumed period of unity. I've made a family tree of the W.Gmc. languages here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I've been rated!

So, from time to time, I am in the habit of doing a Google search on my name. It is always fun to see what pops up.

When I did it a minute ago, I found that I had been rated on I did not know that this site existed and even less that someone had rated me. So since this blog is about sharing our lives, I figured I'd share it with you: apparently I'm hot!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Some final thoughts)

It would seem to me that none of the arguments for a tripartite law offered by theologians throughout the years gain a sure footing in Scripture, and that even their philosophical arguments are strained at times. The early writers seem to have been driven by a theological motivation, versus the clear commands of Scripture, to use a tripartite division of the law, whereas the latter writers seem to rely on the early writer's arguments. Since several convincing Scriptural arguments have been offered for the unity of the law, it makes more sense to keep the law as one. This has a wide range of implications on theology and ethics, but those will have to be the scope of set of posts, which I do not have time to write now.

In closing, let me just suggest that even if one denies that tripartite division of the law and takes another approach such that the Mosaic covenant was conditional and that believers are now under the law of Christ, there is still room to look at the Decalogue as a picture of God's character, and therefore it is still useful to help us develop our ethics today.

In this series:
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Introduction)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Historical Overview)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Aquinas' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Calvins' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Wrapping up with two more historical views)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Some final thoughts)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption)

Having interacted with some of the main proponents of the tripartite division of the law throughout history, and having interacted with some of their thoughts, we shall now entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. As seen already, the tripartite approach is often accused of being arbitrary in its identification of the various categories of laws. This is because, by their own admission, the different precepts/law categories are not neatly divided, but intertwined. For example, reformed theologian Willem A. VanGemeren states,
The book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:22-23:33) – with its regulations for worship (20:22-26; 23:14-19) and its civil laws (21:1-23:13) – extends the Decalogue in three directions. First, there is the complex development of case law. … Second, the criminal laws specify the penalty for breaking the commandments. … Third, the book of the covenant reveals the complexity of Israelite law. The moral laws (i.e., those reflected in the Decalogue) are intertwined with the civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws.[1]
To demonstrate this, he then proceeds to use Ex 22:19-29 as an example. In this passage, he shows that the topics covered vary from moral precepts, to penal precepts, to casuistic/civil precepts, back to moral precepts, and finally to ceremonial precepts, all intertwined in one passage. Reformed Professor John M. Frame is even more candid in his admission that the division between the supposed three parts of the law is not cut and dry. He tells us,
The law does not, of course, come to us with the labels "moral," "ceremonial" and "civil" attached to its provisions. What we call "moral" laws are mixed together in the texts (almost randomly, it seems) with "civil" and "ceremonial" laws, and we must sort them out by determining their meaning and current applicability. Those that apply most literally today we call "moral," those which apply least literally we call "ceremonial." "Civil" is a different kind of category, based not on applicability but upon function, and these would be divided between "ceremonial" and "moral" depending on their applicability. Remember too, that literal and non-literal applicability is a matter of degree, so we may expect some "gray areas," some laws that do not fit neatly into either "ceremonial" or "moral" categories.[2]
His sorting process is quite different from the traditional assumption that only the Decalogue is the depository of moral laws, and after reading his decision making process, one is left to wonder if "applicability" is really a Biblical identification of morality. As can be seen, the lack of clear distinction between the three parts of the law does point to a lack of credibility for the tripartite division of the law.
Barrick picks up on this and stipulates that the,
Division into three categories of law is unmasked as a fallacy by the testimony of the Book of Deuteronomy alone. Moses’s second exposition (4:44—26:19) presented the Decalogue and then illustrated each of the Ten Commandments by means of various legal stipulations. Such an arrangement demonstrates that the so-called civil and ceremonial stipulations are inextricably interwoven with what are considered to be the moral laws. Violation of any of the stipulations is a breach of the Decalogue.[3]
Another Old Testament text that does not square with the tripartite division of the law is Jer 31:31-2. Here God states that "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD" (Jer 31:31-2 NKJV). If God has made a New Covenant which is not like the covenant at Sinai, is it acceptable for us to say that only parts of the Old Covenant have changed? There is nothing in this passage that allows the reader to accept that this is a renewal of the Old Covenant. After all, the term used here has a primary definition of "new," not "renew," and the text speaks of a New Covenant, not like the Old Covenant. It is hard to imagine that this would imply any kind of continuity with the Old Covenant. There is also nothing which substantiates the Calvinistic position that this is a reformatting of the Old Covenant, or even that it is a hyperbolic statement, for again, the promise is of a New Covenant, not just a new medium.[4] Adeyemi also points out that "since the Old Covenant will be abolished, so will its Torah which cannot be divorced from it. ... This view accords with several statements in Isaiah about a Torah other than the Mosaic Law being given by Yahweh when Israel is in her land and Messiah is reigning."[5]
Both Moo and Strickland also offer the Sabbath commandment as an exemplary test case of the abrogation of the Decalogue, and therefore as proof that if the Decalogue is the depository of God's immutable moral law, then even the moral law has changed. The argument goes like this: reformed theologians claim that the Decalogue is the eternal moral law. If that is the case, then all of the Ten Commandments should still be valid for New Testament believers. But the fifth commandment states that rest should be pursued on the seventh day, and since it is in the Decalogue, the lack of observance of the Sabbath in this way is a moral matter. Believers, including ones in the reformed tradition, have been meeting on the first day of the week since New Testament times, because it is sanctioned in the New Testament. Does that then mean that the eternal moral precepts are subject to revision and that God's nature has changed?[6] Aquinas would not agree that God's nature has changed,[7] neither would Calvin,[8] and most probably, neither would modern reformed theologians.
Finally, looking at the use of the law in the New Testament, Moo argues that "Jesus and the New Testament authors treated the Mosaic law as a whole," and that "Jewish theology refused to allow a 'picking and choosing' among the commandments of the law." He also argues, by looking at Matt 23:23, that even though Jesus possibly followed a Jewish tradition of categorizing the law, he insisted that "even the 'light' commandments still must be done." He further points to Gal 5:3 and James 2:8-1, and their message of keeping or breaking the whole law, to suggest that the same perspective was adopted by the New Testament community. [9] Barrick picks up this same theme when he states that "to be disobedient to any one of the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant is to be guilty of disobedience to all of the stipulations of the covenant (Jas 2:10)."[10] Ultimately, Moo also analyzes Paul's use of the terms for the law and the reformed tradition's varied, and apparently arbitrary, interpretation of which laws Paul is referring to (moral or ceremonial law) and does not find any substantiation for their interpretations.[11]
If the historical arguments for the tripartite law are flawed and if Scripture does not seem to support this idea, why is it so popular?

In this series:
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Introduction)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Historical Overview)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Aquinas' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Analyzing Calvins' arguments)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Wrapping up with two more historical views)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption)
Is the Mosaic law tripartite? (Some final thoughts)

[1] Ibid., 30-1.
[2] Frame, 203-4.
[3] Barrick, 229.
[4] Femi Adeyemi, "What is the New Covenant 'Law' in Jeremiah 31:33?" Biblioteca Sacra 163 (July-September 2006): 315-9.
[5] Ibid., 320-1.
[6] Bahnsen et al., 81-2, 88.
[7] Aquinas Summa FS.Q100. A8.
[8] Calvin Institutes 4.20.15.
[9] Bahnsen et al., 85.
[10] Barrick, 231.
[11] Bahnsen et al., 85-6.

Join my blog network
on Facebook