Challenged by Sulla

Challenges to the article, "The Body of Christ and the Identity of God," by Rotherham
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:24 pm

Sulla wrote:Uhhh. I asked this:

Let me suggest that you ask the good doctor directly whether, in his opinion, this statement in Revelation must mean that Jesus is the first created thing and why he reasons thusly. That should make for interesting reading.


And you said you would ask him. You said, "Done." I'm just looking for his answer. I don't think you need to "help" me except by relaying his direct answer to this direct question. You said you asked him the question back in October.

Now I get a riff about how his role is not to answer theological questions. Look, if his perspective is linguistics, that's fine with me. I just want his opinion on whether this statement must mean Jesus is the first created being or not. And I'm not thinking I need a lecture from you about this.

And I really am beginning to think you aren't playing this straight. So let me ask you directly: did Jason Beduhn answer this question or not?


That's funny. You think I'm not playing straight and I think you're not playing straight. You've spent more than a dozen pages arguing against a partitive genitive at Rev 3:14 and when I point out that Beduhn says that's precisely what it is you claim to be a simple man who doesn't really understand what that means.

I have provided you with his response to your question, as he chose to respond to it, which is in the spirit that I just described in the previous post. I essentially cut & paste the related parts of his reply. I didn't use quotations because I didn't get his permission to directly quote his words from the email. Chances are he would be fine with me doing it, because he has given his permission every other time I've asked, but he generally tidies stuff up for final quoting and I don't really want to bother him again with such a request right now because he's really busy.

Now, if one were to try to present his answer in a way that explicitly answers your question precisely as it was asked, one could imagine that there may technically be grammatical possibilities such that he need not literally be the FIRST created thing in an absolute sense, depending on what kinds of propositions and philosophies you are prepared to put forth or accept, but there are no possibilities whereby he is not partitive or inclusive in 'the creation by God' in his role as the arche of it. So, if you wanted to argue for "source" instead of "beginning" it would be with the understanding that in his role as the source of the creation by God (whatever that really means) he is still part of the creation by God. Beduhn is saying that whatever role or designation you wish to interpret this word as assigning to Christ from the allowable semantic range, in that role or designation he is part of the creation by God. In other words, it doesn't work to pull the old switcheroo by trying to say that Christ is the one through whom God brought all creation into existence but he later took on a human nature in addition to his God nature, becoming part of creation, and that's why it's OK to use a partitive genitive. As the 'arche of the creation by God' he is partitive and inclusive in 'the creation by God'.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:46 pm

I think we can conclude, if this is Sulla's final comment on my questions, that his anwers are logically inconsistent. They are a contradiction. I'll retain my claim to victory.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Thu Dec 03, 2009 4:26 pm

I think we can conclude, if this is Sulla's final comment on my questions, that his anwers are logically inconsistent. They are a contradiction. I'll retain my claim to victory.


Good for you, Rotherham. If I were you, I'd be claiming all the victories of this sort I could.

Ah, HeKS.


That's funny. You think I'm not playing straight and I think you're not playing straight. You've spent more than a dozen pages arguing against a partitive genitive at Rev 3:14 and when I point out that Beduhn says that's precisely what it is you claim to be a simple man who doesn't really understand what that means.


Perhaps you missed the irony. In any case, you are certainly missing the point. I asked a direct question and, as it turn out, he has declined to answer it. I wish you had simply said so earlier.

So, even Beduhn refuses to endorse your reading of the scripture. It's a little surprising that he wants to take a pass on this: he is the chairman of the Religious Studies department of an American university. One might think he would feel qualified to offer an opinion. He has published on NT exegesis, has he not?

But whatever. If he doesn't want to comment, he certainly doesn't have to.

I also think you are mis-reading my position regarding the entire "source" thing. To drastically summarize, if Philo can call God the arche of all, then I probably don't need some sort of radical separateness between God and his creation. But precisely such a radical seaprateness was the way the question was framed to Beduhn.


So, if you wanted to argue for "source" instead of "beginning" it would be with the understanding that in his role as the source of the creation by God (whatever that really means) he is still part of the creation by God. Beduhn is saying that whatever role or designation you wish to interpret this word as assigning to Christ from the allowable semantic range, in that role or designation he is part of the creation by God.


Well, since Philo seems able to describe God as the arche of all things, are we all prepared to insist that God is partitive with creation, too? Perhaps we are, I think, especially within the Jewish understanding. Might not matter.

In any case, what Beduhn is specifically NOT saying is that Jesus is a creation. And having established that, over this entire day, I await your response to my long post.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:55 am

While it's somewhat fascinating to see this attempt of yours to dismiss as unimportant Beduhn's affirmation of the very grammatical and semantic point you've been denying for several months and 16 pages, it's not particularly impressive or convincing.

I haven't read anything from Beduhn on NT exegesis, beyond what comments he may have made in Truth in Translation. However, if you read that book, you will notice that he's quite careful not to argue in favor of one Christology or another or to take any position on whether Christ was or was not created, or whether he is or is not God. I forwarded your question to him because you asked me to, but I had no expectation that it was somehow going to cause him to take a stand on it one way or the other. What I do know is that over the course of the fairly lengthy discussion we had over the course of several weeks, the only aspect of my analysis and argumentation with which he found any fault or disagreement was on the authorship of Revelation, which of course is not unexpected, but even then he agreed that if it does have the same author as the gospel of John then that point was sound too.

So, even if he's unwilling to take a public stand on a particular Christology or aspect of Christology, he has been willing to endorse the soundness of the analysis and argumentation as well as the grammatical and semantic conclusions and said in the first response I posted from him here that he thought I'd discerned the author's meaning correctly here.

Now, if you decide that you'd like to both ignore the absence of a meaning of "source" for arche in scripture as well as champion a new Theo-Philosophical position of creatio ex christi(?), creation out of the substance of Christ, such that Christ is partitive in creation in the sense of his substance being the thing all creation is made of, then you could probably escape the implications of what Beduhn's has said. But if you are going to do that, you should have done it 16 pages ago and saved us all a lot of time.

The three most common translations here are "beginning", "ruler", and "source". "Ruler" is out, "beginning" (first in time or sequence) is the only one with precedent, and "source" must be taken partitively (as must any other translation), which still places Christ within "the creation by God."

When it comes to Philo, you have once again seized on a quote that you think helps your case when it really doesn't at all. I'm covering why in my response to your long post, so there is no point repeating myself here. But it reminds me to mention that Beduhn didn't think that either the quotes from Aristotle or Clement of Alexandria helped your case either.

I'm well along in my response to that long post of yours, but I'm pretty swamped for the next two days, so I'll try to get it on here my Monday.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:26 am

Well, Beduhn is well known for taking exotic positions on things. Doesn't make him wrong, but it doesn't make him right, either. You know very well I did not ask for a Christological opinion on this question, I merely asked whether the verse must be read to say Jesus is a creation. In any case, it does seem strange that a guy who knows that John 1 absolutely cannot be read as a claim to monotheistic identity for Christ, and who absolutely knows that John 8 cannot possibly be read as a claim to divinity doesn't seem to want to say whether Rev. 3 must be read to say Christ is a creature.

But, you know, that's clearly within his rights to decline to be involved in every two-bit internet discussion. But, loook, if he is going to decline to take a position, let's not pretend that he actually took a position. You seem to want to have it both ways. That's not ok.

But,as to his comments about the connotations of arche, there seems to be plenty of room for him to be either simply mistaken, or else correct in a way that does not support your position.


When it comes to Philo, you have once again seized on a quote that you think helps your case when it really doesn't at all. I'm covering why in my response to your long post, so there is no point repeating myself here. But it reminds me to mention that Beduhn didn't think that either the quotes from Aristotle or Clement of Alexandria helped your case either.


Well, they weren't my quotes, of course. They were examples given by respected academics in the field. If you and Beduhn want to say that the rest of the world has it wrong, that's ok with me. I mean that seriously. But I have two issues

1. Beduhn has not supported your reading, so far as you have said. He certainly has supported the JW reading on passages like John 1 and John 8 and been very direct about how those passages cannot be read. Here, he does not seem to be taking a position. So, let's respect his decision and not do this weird dance where we pretend he both has and has not supported your position. OK?

2. We have examples where arche is used in ways that are clearly not partitive in what I guess we have to call a strong sense. If Philo can say that God is the arche of all, then we certainly have to consider the way in which the arche is associated with creation to be quite a bit more complex than you are letting on.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:04 am

Hi Sulla,

You don't seem to be recognizing the distinction between what he has done in Truth in Translation and what you're asking him to do here.

While he argues in Truth in Translation that John 1:1 and 8:58 cannot reasonably be read the way Trinitarians generally like, in so doing he is simply removing a few Trinitarian proof-texts. He is saying that those scriptures can't be used to prove the Trinitarian argument. But he is not saying that any part of the Trinitarian perspective is proved wrong. He is simply saying these passages aren't evidence for it.

To take a position on Rev 3:14 such that he says it must prove Christ is the first creation is to say that this is Biblical proof-positive that an extremely significant aspect of one Christology is in total conflict with a Biblical statement while another particular Christology has got it right ... not just the unitarian perspective in general but the brand of unitarianism that believes in Christ's personal pre-existence rather than the brand that believes he was a regular human who became God's son only by adoption.

These are two very different things.

Nonetheless, he has agreed with the analysis and argumentation as well as the grammatical and semantic conclusions. That is what I approached him about. Taking the kind of stand you were asking for was not what I approached him about. I passed on your question because you asked me to, what I take to be his response to your question is in the vein I expected based on the type of conversation I was having with him. I'm not inclined to go back to him to ask for a more direct stand on what it must mean as a Christological statement. I approached him to weigh in on how it must be read from a grammatical and semantic perspective. His response is something you've been disagreeing with all this time, but you now dismiss is it as unimportant.

As for Philo, it doesn't matter who uses it, it doesn't support your position. I have a hard time believing that whoever you got the citation from (was it Bauckham? I think so) was attempting to use it to prove a non-partitive source, because that's pretty obviously not how he's using it. But again, I'm going to be addressing this in my other response, so no point going at it here.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:44 am

Hello heks,

Since Sulla wont answer my questions, I'll present this here to you and maybe you can get him to listen.

There can really be no question as to how arche in the phrase "beginning and end" is meant to be understood when you compare the lexical meanings of the words it is paralleled with, protos and alpha. Whatever arche is supposed to mean must be found within the overlap of meanings assigned to both protos and alpha. Sulla has agreed that they are parallels and he has agree that the meanings assigned to the words would not be outside their lexical range. What does that cause us to find?

Arche has been defined as source(?), ruler or beginning. Protos is defined as first in time, number or rank. Since source is not within the lexical range of protos, then it rules that out as the meaning of arche. Alpha of course is just the first letter of the alphabet. Ruler and source are not within the lexical range of alpha. Alpha is certainly not the ruler of the alphabet, nor the source, but the first member of the class. Therefore, when we see what protos and alpha MUST refer to, there is but only one meaning that is lexically shared by all three, and that is beginning in relation to a series.

To take any other meaning than that is to assign meanings to both protos and alpha which are outside of their lexical range of meanings. This proves that arche in this phrase means "beginning", not ruler and not source.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:52 am

I don't know why you insist on misreading me. Look, if the passage in Rev. 3 cannot be read except that Jesus is a creation, then you would think this is right in his wheelhouse. Now, if there is a distinction that he figures need to be made between the statement

a. Rev. 3 can only be read to mean Jesus is the first created thing
b. Rev. 3 can only be read to mean Jesus is a created thing

then that would be pretty easy to do, wouldn't it? And, so far as I read, this is precisely what he doesn't want to say. Beduhn doesn't have to take a position on a particular flavor of unitarianism if he doesn't want. All I really wanted to determine was whether his poistion is that Rev. 3 necessarily means Jesus, as arche of creation, is merely a creation. You are attempting to introduce a distinction that is entirely unnecessary to this discussion.


Nonetheless, he has agreed with the analysis and argumentation as well as the grammatical and semantic conclusions.


Excuse me, but what does this mean? The grammatical and semantic conclusions are precisely that Rev. 3 cannot be read except to say Jesus is on our side of the created order. All I wanted to know was whether Rev. 3 must be read that way. Is this his position or not?
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:55 am

As I told you, Rotherham, the method for determining the meaning of those titles is not properly the one you pursue here. As I already told you, we need to follow the method I have already outlined. You are reading in a way you should know is not correct.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:00 pm

I see, so we should not pay any attention to the lexical range of the meanings of protos or alpha. Simply assign a meaning outside their lexical range, is that what you are vieing for?

Sulla wrote:As I told you, Rotherham, the method for determining the meaning of those titles is not properly the one you pursue here. As I already told you, we need to follow the method I have already outlined. You are reading in a way you should know is not correct.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:18 pm

I don't think I said we should pay no attention whatever to the dictionary. On the other hand, as your source, Burney, has demonstrated, we cannot be bound to an unresponsive and wooden dependence on dictionary meanings, especially when the context suggests additional levels of meaning.

Thus, Burney expands the set of meaning for the Hebrew resith to include sum-total and other concepts, even though these are not, strictly speaking, in the definition of the word. He does this simply because the context (St. Paul's letter) requires him to do so.

So, you see, we couldn't let ourselves allow a dictionary to override the other relavant factors.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:58 pm

So, in order for arche to mean 'source' here, we have to go completely outside of the lexical meanings for protos and alpha. No one has ever suggested that alpha or protos could mean source, not Burney or anyone.

Sulla wrote:I don't think I said we should pay no attention whatever to the dictionary. On the other hand, as your source, Burney, has demonstrated, we cannot be bound to an unresponsive and wooden dependence on dictionary meanings, especially when the context suggests additional levels of meaning.

Thus, Burney expands the set of meaning for the Hebrew resith to include sum-total and other concepts, even though these are not, strictly speaking, in the definition of the word. He does this simply because the context (St. Paul's letter) requires him to do so.

So, you see, we couldn't let ourselves allow a dictionary to override the other relavant factors.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:22 pm

I'm sure you grasp the process and argument that Burney followed, Rotherham, no need to play dumb.

In any case, I have outlined the reasoning we find from respected academics like Bauckham and even the sources that HeKS quotes approvingly (when they happen to say something he likes). This is fairly uncontroversial stuff and is pretty standard. I'm sorry you don't like it, but there it is.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:28 pm

So just let me get this straight. Are you indeed saying that we must go outside of the lexical meanings of both protos and alpha in order for arche to mean source? And are you saying that it is because of CONTEXT that we have to do that?

Sulla wrote:I'm sure you grasp the process and argument that Burney followed, Rotherham, no need to play dumb.

In any case, I have outlined the reasoning we find from respected academics like Bauckham and even the sources that HeKS quotes approvingly (when they happen to say something he likes). This is fairly uncontroversial stuff and is pretty standard. I'm sorry you don't like it, but there it is.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:40 pm

There's not much point in me responding to any of this right now because I cover all of it in my longer response.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:19 pm

OK, HeKS. I guess part of the question is the way in which my examples could be said to be in line with what Beduhn has spoken about. I think that either you are making too much of his comments by reading into them what is not meant to be there, or else he is simply mistaken about the connotation of the word. I guess we will see.

Oh, Rotherham!


So just let me get this straight. Are you indeed saying that we must go outside of the lexical meanings of both protos and alpha in order for arche to mean source? And are you saying that it is because of CONTEXT that we have to do that?


I keep trying to help you. We obviously do not need to go outside the dictionaries in order for arche to mean "source." Don't we all know that it is in all the dictionaries? I mean, some of us thought it wasn't in the dictionary at first, but we are all past that now, aren't we? I think HeKS has said that "source" is a perfectly legitimate word to use now, but I'd have to check. Anyhow, we know it is right there in the lexical field of the word.

So, no.

Actually, your question isn't as dense at it appears at first. You know, when it comes to establishing word meaning, the way you go about doing that is by establishing the way the word is actually used in language. That is, lexicons aren't the determiners of meaning, they are really just reporting on the meaning that the users have established. That's how a word like arche collects meanings and nuances that are reported.

So, alpha merely is the name of that letter, and it is through usage that it collects a meaning like "first." Alpha dog, alpha male, etc. Also, depending on context, the word actually means, "A." That is the meaning associated with pilots, the military, coast guard, whoever. Interesting.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:27 am

Sulla wrote:OK, HeKS. I guess part of the question is the way in which my examples could be said to be in line with what Beduhn has spoken about. I think that either you are making too much of his comments by reading into them what is not meant to be there, or else he is simply mistaken about the connotation of the word. I guess we will see.


You seem to have forgotten to include the possibility that I have understood Beduhn correctly and that he is correct, and that you are simply failing to see the distinction between the type of usage you are arguing for and the usage in the sources you are citing. It seems very likely to me that this is precisely what is happening. This clearly seems to be the case with your use of both Philo and Josephus (via Bauckham). Further on this point, you don't seem to get that arche can be a partitive source in a continuous sense, which basically maps to the concept of metaphysical immanence, as well as in a contiguous sense, which basically maps to the concept of metaphysical non-immanence. You seem to think the latter is actually a non-partitive sense, but it's not. A continuous, metaphysically immanent sense for arche as "source" is like the heart or brain in an animal, or the foundation within the larger individual unit of the house. A contiguous, metaphysically non-immanent sense for arche as "source" could be like the first element in a contextual series that gives rise to or produces subsequent discrete elements in the series or that can fall under the same classification. Both these senses are partitive in one way or another. In the latter sense, the arche is not of an entirely different class than that of which it is the arche; it is not an unrelated cause of some sort. And you must recognize the difference between the partitive connection explicitly stated in a partitive genitive and the type of contiguously partitive connection that is implicitly intended between things that fall within one or more larger, unstated (though easily identifiable) classifications, like a father who is called the arche of his son. On those occasions where arche is used to mean source, the intent is not in any case we've considered so far to separate it from classification and connection with that which it produces. Just the opposite really. And the philosophical viewpoint of the writer often seems to determine how they feel they can use the word, and slight differences in wording, context and intent can make all the difference in whether arche works or not.

However, it should be noted that Beduhn's comment about audience - a comment I made myself earlier in this thread - stands. The NT writers were not writing to philosophers and theologians by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, this type of usage I was just discussing is part of a fairly specialized philosophical and metaphysical vocabulary. There were much more common meanings to which a late 1st century and early 2nd century audience would have defaulted. "Source" is a less common meaning used nowhere in scripture and relegated primarily to philosophical works or theological works by writers influenced by philosophy and metaphysics.

Sulla wrote:Oh, Rotherham!

So just let me get this straight. Are you indeed saying that we must go outside of the lexical meanings of both protos and alpha in order for arche to mean source? And are you saying that it is because of CONTEXT that we have to do that?


I keep trying to help you. We obviously do not need to go outside the dictionaries in order for arche to mean "source." Don't we all know that it is in all the dictionaries? I mean, some of us thought it wasn't in the dictionary at first, but we are all past that now, aren't we? I think HeKS has said that "source" is a perfectly legitimate word to use now, but I'd have to check. Anyhow, we know it is right there in the lexical field of the word.


Two points here.

First, I think you somehow continue to miss Rotherham's point. The immediate question he is posing in relation to these titles is not whether or not "source" can possibly be within the lexical range of arche. His question is, How can "source" be the intended meaning of arche in this title when the three titles are parallels (as acknowledged in numerous commentaries) and the corresponding words in the other two titles do not have "source" within their lexical range?

You see, in order to attempt a support of your position, you are unnecessarily complicating things. Alpha, protos and arche can all mean first in a sequence/series. Likewise, Omega, eschatos and telos can all mean last in a sequence/series. These are the basic meanings of these words. No hermeneutical gymnastics are required.

You, on the other hand, are trying to make arche correspond to the not particularly common meaning of "source" found nowhere else in the 50+ Biblical occurrences outside Revelation and then proceeding to force that meaning back upon alpha and protos even though it's not in their lexical range at all. And then you try to justify this approach by pointing to Burney's theory that Paul is performing a midrash on Gen 1:1 in Col 1:15ff, in which Burney assigns non-lexical meanings to words. You try to claim that the context forces him to do this when it is actually his theory itself that forces him to do it. But even at that you're failing to recognize that, unlike you, Burney is at least transporting the meaning from the roots of the words actually used - however much of a fallacy that is generally recognized to be now. And at the end of all this you claim it is our approach that is silly and wrong-headed and that we should know better. William of Occam is rolling in his grave (though I believe Aquinas expressed the concept behind Occam's Razor first).

The second point is that, as I recall, Rotherham had simply said, originally, that arche never meant source in scripture and that he had not actually come across it in secular literature either. I don't object to the general claim that arche can mean "source" in some settings, but it is a less common and more specialized meaning that is not found anywhere in scripture. I do object, so far, that it can be used to mean a totally unrelated and non-partitive source or cause, because we haven't actually seen any totally clear examples so far, and those from Josephus and Philo definitely don't qualify. Even if we could find one, the usage would seem to be so exceptionally rare that it would be unbelievable that it was the intended meaning at Rev 3:14 or in these titles, or that anyone in the intended audience should have been expected to grasp it.

Sulla wrote:So, no.

Actually, your question isn't as dense at it appears at first. You know, when it comes to establishing word meaning, the way you go about doing that is by establishing the way the word is actually used in language. That is, lexicons aren't the determiners of meaning, they are really just reporting on the meaning that the users have established. That's how a word like arche collects meanings and nuances that are reported.

So, alpha merely is the name of that letter, and it is through usage that it collects a meaning like "first." Alpha dog, alpha male, etc. Also, depending on context, the word actually means, "A." That is the meaning associated with pilots, the military, coast guard, whoever. Interesting.


I'm not sure what exactly you are trying to say in that last bit. The "context" in which Alpha means "A" is the Greek alphabet, or the phonetic alphabet which has simply swiped it from the Greek alphabet along with Delta. This is not a different meaning. I also think you've got the other part backwards. Alpha dog and Alpha male do not add the meaning of "first" to "Alpha". They flow out of the fact that Alpha stands in first position in the series of the Greek alphabet.

Now, while it is true that lexicons record meanings in usage rather than determining usage, new usage tends to flow out of existing usage, applying the word to a situation that is related to a situation for which the word is already used. That is why words across a lexical range tend to all relate in some way to a common phenomenon even though they aren't synonyms. And the fact is that the lexicons do not record any usage of Alpha or protos to mean "source". In this case, the usage that you want to give rise to a meaning of "source" for Alpha and protos is merely your own usage, unique to the instances of this title and tailored to your position.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:42 am

You seem to have forgotten to include the possibility that I have understood Beduhn correctly and that he is correct, and that you are simply failing to see the distinction between the type of usage you are arguing for and the usage in the sources you are citing.


That's a funny thing for me to forget when I am reporting what "I think." No, actually, I'm quite certain I don't think that and was right to leave it off my list.

This clearly seems to be the case with your use of both Philo and Josephus (via Bauckham).


OK. Bauckham and the rest of the universe get it wrong.

Further on this point, you don't seem to get that arche can be a partitive source in a continuous sense, which basically maps to the concept of metaphysical immanence, as well as in a contiguous sense, which basically maps to the concept of metaphysical non-immanence.


What? Look, I think that Philo used the word to describe God as the arche of all things. If you figure that's the sense you are talking about, fine. Is that "partitive contiguous mapping to metaphysical non-immanence"?

Also, did I miss the paragraph where this sort of thing was brought up in Rotherham's paper?


You seem to think the latter is actually a non-partitive sense, but it's not. A continuous, metaphysically immanent sense for arche as "source" is like the heart or brain in an animal, or the foundation within the larger individual unit of the house. A contiguous, metaphysically non-immanent sense for arche as "source" could be like the first element in a contextual series that gives rise to or produces subsequent discrete elements in the series or that can fall under the same classification. Both these senses are partitive in one way or another. In the latter sense, the arche is not of an entirely different class than that of which it is the arche; it is not an unrelated cause of some sort. And you must recognize the difference between the partitive connection explicitly stated in a partitive genitive and the type of contiguously partitive connection that is implicitly intended between things that fall within one or more larger, unstated (though easily identifiable) classifications, like a father who is called the arche of his son.


I don't know... is any of this in the Bible?

Well, HeKS, you seem to think that the word "partitive" is infinitely plastic. But terms like "contiguous, metaphysically non-immanent sense," are not your normal mode of expression. Would you mind sharing what it is you are reading? And just how hard do you think you need to work to preserve the naive argument that arche is always partitive?


contiguously partitive


It's no polite to throw out this kind of term without some explanation, HeKS. Do you think "contiguously partitive" explains itself? If I was Rotherham, I'd point out that these words seem to be mutually exclusive and then say I have won the debate. I'm content to ask for clarification -- and source.

On those occasions where arche is used to mean source, the intent is not in any case we've considered so far to separate it from classification and connection with that which it produces. Just the opposite really. And the philosophical viewpoint of the writer often seems to determine how they feel they can use the word, and slight differences in wording, context and intent can make all the difference in whether arche works or not.


I hear you. Philo said God was the arche of all things. Maybe you can explain to me the way in which Philo intended not to spearate God from all things. From my perspective, I am content to suppose either that you are simply mistaken and that arche really does serve sometimes to denote things with entirely different classifications (created and uncreated), or else to suppose that Philo is making use of the Jewish understanding of God as not being entirely outside creation, after all, and in contrast with the Platonic / Aristotlean concept of God.

However, it should be noted that Beduhn's comment about audience - a comment I made myself earlier in this thread - stands. The NT writers were not writing to philosophers and theologians by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, this type of usage I was just discussing is part of a fairly specialized philosophical and metaphysical vocabulary. There were much more common meanings to which a late 1st century and early 2nd century audience would have defaulted. "Source" is a less common meaning used nowhere in scripture and relegated primarily to philosophical works or theological works by writers influenced by philosophy and metaphysics.


Not compelling. There is plenty of sophistication in the NT, if you know where to look. Not every Christian was an illiterate.

First, I think you somehow continue to miss Rotherham's point. The immediate question he is posing in relation to these titles is not whether or not "source" can possibly be within the lexical range of arche. His question is, How can "source" be the intended meaning of arche in this title when the three titles are parallels (as acknowledged in numerous commentaries) and the corresponding words in the other two titles do not have "source" within their lexical range?


Yes, and I have grown tired of answering the same question so many times. Seriously, don't we all know the answer here? And, if not, can't we read what I posted about this question?

I don't object to the general claim that arche can mean "source" in some settings, but it is a less common and more specialized meaning that is not found anywhere in scripture. I do object, so far, that it can be used to mean a totally unrelated and non-partitive source or cause, because we haven't actually seen any totally clear examples so far, and those from Josephus and Philo definitely don't qualify. Even if we could find one, the usage would seem to be so exceptionally rare that it would be unbelievable that it was the intended meaning at Rev 3:14 or in these titles, or that anyone in the intended audience should have been expected to grasp it.


The word is used three times in Revelation. Let's start there. As for Philo, I guess we will have to see your full argument before we make a determination. Again, if Philo is not intending to convey a non-partitive sense, then I'm willing to take whatever sense he means to describe God as arche of all.

As for anybody in the intended audience grasping the point, I've already addressed that prejudice.


Now, while it is true that lexicons record meanings in usage rather than determining usage, new usage tends to flow out of existing usage, applying the word to a situation that is related to a situation for which the word is already used. That is why words across a lexical range tend to all relate in some way to a common phenomenon even though they aren't synonyms. And the fact is that the lexicons do not record any usage of Alpha or protos to mean "source". In this case, the usage that you want to give rise to a meaning of "source" for Alpha and protos is merely your own usage, unique to the instances of this title and tailored to your position.


Oh my. Is it too much to ask that anybody engage my argument on this question?
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:18 am

Sulla wrote:Long-awaited and preposterously long.

Hyper-literal

If you stopped trying to take our references to a series or category or partitive in such a hyper literal fashion that requires there to literally be other members (which has been a consistent problem throughout this discussion), you would see that the point we are making about this title is not controversial and could hardly be more common in languages extending from Hebrew right through Greek to English. It's similar to the English saying, "the be-all and end-all", which is a reference to the quintessential element of something; one need consider nothing beyond it. Other related sayings: the A-Z; the one and only. I don't see any need to continue.


Well, if you go back and look at the examples in the original paper, what you will find is a sequence examples for which the paper makes the hyper-literal claim that each has a literal group of which the arche is literally the part of. If I am being hyper-literal, I think I am merely responding to the paper itself.

Here is the entire discussion of the word arche within the book under consideration:

(Revelation 21:6) 6 And he said to me: “They have come to pass! I am the Al´pha and the O•me´ga, the beginning (arche) and the end. To anyone thirsting I will give from the fountain of the water of life free.

Note: (God is the first and last member of the class of Almighty-in a class of his own)

(Revelation 22:13) 13 I am the Al´pha and the O•me´ga, the first and the last, the beginning (arche) and the end.

Note: (God is the first and last member of the class of Almighty-in a class of his own)


So, if I am acting as if your point is the hyper-literal application of the partitive, it is because of this sort of statement in the paper. These statements are hyper-literal claims that arche denotes a part of a hyper-literal group having only one member.
This is a paper that insists from beginning to end that arches are literally partitive.


You have once again misunderstood my point and taken it out of context. The result is a response that doesn’t actually address my point. When arche is used in relation to some group in the scriptures, it is partitive in that group. When it is used in relation to time, it is partitive in that time period, the first part of it. Everywhere in scripture that arche is used, it is partitive. It means “beginning” in relation to time or to the first in a series, or on very rare occasion, an extremity of something, like the corners of a sail. The word arche, in every single case in scripture, signals membership in some kind of series, whether a series of things or of time, in which other parts are to be found. I have elsewhere here described it as speaking to a relation to contextual contemporaries, whether explicit or implied.

Now, to this claim you have tried to object on the grounds that God himself is called arche in the book of Revelation a few times, and he is not a member in a larger series and he has no contextual contemporaries. The problem with this argument, as I have already pointed out several times now, is that God is not just called arche … he is called both arche and telos. What you seem to be missing is that while the use of arche opens the door to contextual contemporaries as with every other case in scripture, the use of telos firmly closes that door, telling us there are none. Likewise, God is not just the Alpha, but also the Omega. Not just the First, but also the Last. In each case, the door to contextual contemporaries of some sort is opened, but then slammed shut.

So, contrary to your argument, the application of arche to God doesn’t change the meaning or implication of arche in this instance or set it apart from all the other scriptural examples. It is just that in these cases where arche is applied to God, the co-text, telos, impacts the purpose and significance of arche. This is where the problem of your hyper-literalism misguides both your argument and your reading. You demand that the application to God means that arche does not here have the partitive sense found everywhere else in scripture because there aren’t actually any other members in the series, but the fact is that it still means ‘first in relation to time or a series’, but the telos tells us He is also ‘last in relation to time or a series.’ He is a closed set. He is the One and Only. He has no contemporaries. These titles are about exclusivity. While arche naturally implies contextual contemporaries, telos addresses that implication, telling us there are, in fact, no others beyond Him.

These uses of arche are perfectly in line with all others in scripture.

Sulla wrote:Source and goal, or partitive meaning

Now, I take your point to be that the partitive nature of this word is not so literal. Here is what you have said in this regard,


In this, you would be incorrect. My point is that your argument demanding a hyper-literal understanding of the partitive nature of arche – such that a word like telos is not allowed to impact the overall significance of the title without changing the actual meaning of the word arche – is entirely without basis. The use of arche does literally imply a partitive connection in some series of persons, things, or of time. However, having a word like telos paired with it, while not changing the partitive meaning of the word arche itself, presents a larger thought that mitigates the implications of arche on its own, such that the meaning of the word arche remains the same without there actually having to be other members or parts. But it is the pairing with telos that allows for this lack of other actual members or parts, not some essential change to the consistent meaning of arche in scripture. Your argument that an arche must, without exception, have other actual members or else be considered not to have a ‘partitive’ meaning like it does everywhere else is what I’m saying is hyper-literal, because it ignores the unique impact that telos has in these instances. In these titles, telos doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche, but it impacts the implications of the use of arche in the overall title. This is a mitigating factor not to be found in Rev. 3:14, where the co-text actually strengthens the partitive sense (over a meaning of non-partitive source) rather than mitigating it.

Consider two sample statements…

1) My ability to charm a crowd was the beginning of my success.
2) My ability to charm a crowd is the beginning and end of my success.

In the first statement, my ability to charm a crowd is said to be the first of the things upon which my success is based, with the implication that there are also other things upon which it is based. My success consists partially of charming crowds, but that is not all it consists of.

In the second statement, my ability to charm a crowd is said to be the only thing upon which my success is based. My success consists entirely of charming crowds. If I cease charming crowds my success will end because that is what my success is.

In these two statements, the meaning of “beginning” doesn’t change. In both cases, that which is the “beginning” of my success is of, or partitive in, my success; it is part of what my success consists of and is based on. The only difference is that in the second statement it is the ONLY thing that my success consists of and is based on. It is the inclusion of “end” that conveys this significance, offsetting the implication of other things that is naturally suggested by “beginning”.

Two other sample statements…

1) Johnny is the beginning of my offspring.
2) Johnny is the beginning and end of my offspring.

The first statement implies that I either currently have other offspring that were born after Johnny or that I intend to have other offspring in the future. The second statement implies that Johnny is my only offspring and that I have no expectation of any others. However, in both cases, the ”beginning” has membership in “offspring”. The difference is that in the second statement the membership in “offspring” is exclusive.

Sulla wrote:
This point from the Coffman Commentary, about the Hebrew version of this saying being applied to Abraham shows up often. In fact, it seems examples of commentaries that draw out this significance could be multiplied quite easily. In other cases, such as the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament that I referenced earlier, they think it is a statement about the relative time of God’s existence in relation to all his creations, that he is eternal and exists in perpetuity and both predates and exceeds the existence of creation. This would be a case of being first and last in relation to time. The two examples I pasted are cases of first in a series, a series of one, exhausting a category of Almighty God, and this is the sense that seems to appear most commonly in the commentaries I’ve looked at.


Fine. But how is this supposed to convey the partitive sense you want? If God precedes all creation as arche, is this a claim he is part of creation? Clearly not, yet you seem to want to make this idea of first in time correlate to some partitive meaning.


What’s going on here? I quote two examples that have precisely the “uniquely partitive” meaning I’m talking about and you snip them out to focus on the one paraphrased reference that you think doesn’t?

Roller’s commentary described this title as “an idiom which amounts to a claim to be “everything.” God is really saying, “I am the only Being that actually exists, always has existed and always will exist. Everything else that exists is only temporary – merely something that I created and that I can just as easily destroy.”

The Coffman commentaries say it is “used figuratively to stand for the entirety of anything.”

Rotherham also pointed to Thayer’s and Vine’s.

As for the interpretation in the Theological Dictionary of the NT, no, God is not a part of his creation, but like the entirety of his creation, both physical and spiritual, he exists. Of all things in existence, he holds temporal priority, because he existed eternally before all other things in existence. He precedes all things in existence, and according to the interpretation of the TDotNT, he will succeed all things in existence. Alternatively, in considering the time period in which all creation exists, God existed first, in and before the beginning of that period and will continue to exist in and after the end of that period.

This is not actually a different meaning for arche than found anywhere else in scripture, which is why I won’t claim that the interpretation is entirely unprecedented in scripture from a grammatical or semantic perspective, but I do think it’s a wrong interpretation, or at least not a literally correct interpretation, since there is no cause for suggesting that all creation will cease to exist at some future point, and because it suggests a meaning that can be likened to bookends, whereas this type of statement, across multiple languages, has traditionally been about exclusivity and/completeness rather than about bookending.

Sulla wrote:Actually, Coffman should raise the same sort of question for your reading. If you look at his comments on the use of the term in Rev. 22, you find similar, but expanded, remarks. In general, what we find in these commentaries is the reinforcement of the idea of completeness, not parts, which, not to be too literal here, seems to be more like the opposite of what you are thinking. Nowhere do we find anybody speaking of some “class of Almighty beings,” of which God is the first in rank.


Again, see all of my comments so far. This doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche. It’s just that the inclusion of telos tells us that God exhausts the category. It’s not that God is first in rank among a class of Almighty beings. It’s that he is the ONLY one in the class or category of Almighty beings. This is what we have been saying all along. But again, this doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche. It’s just that the natural implications of arche are swallowed up by the inclusion of telos. God is the first and last (i.e. only) person / member / part in the category of Almighty beings.

Sulla wrote:
That makes sense considering the relation to Isaiah 44 that Rotherham has pointed out. These two interpretations of the title fit with the Biblical precedent for the usage of arche. Your interpretation of “source and goal” is the one that stands out as unprecedented. Where I've come across commentaries that mention the idea of "source and goal" being represented here, it is as an implication of one of the other two primary senses I've just mentioned. It is not we who are merely asserting a meaning for the title. We are using an interpretation that enjoys Biblical precedent both in terms of the usage of arche and in the meaning assigned to the related title in Isaiah, as well as such precedent as the saying applied to Abraham, which was merely one use of a common idiom that crosses many languages.


Well, let’s talk about that.

Bauckham, in his The Theology of the Book of Revelation, makes precisely my point in chapter two. If we go back and review the sections of Deutero-Isaiah where the First and Last titles appear (44, 48, 41), we see the recurring theme of God’s power over all history as history’s Lord as well as an emphasis on his creative acts. God’s distinction from all other claimants of divinity is based on his identity of Creator and Lord of History. Quoting from Bauckham,

Hence the unique importance of the designation: ‘the Alpha and Omega’. God precedes all things, as their Creator, and he will bring all things to eschatological fulfilment. He is the origin and goal of all history. He has the first word, in creation, and the last word, in new creation. Therefore, within John’s literary structure, he speaks twice, declaring himself Alpha and Omega first, before the outset of John’s vision (1:8) and last, in declaring the eschatological accomplishment of his purpose for his whole creation: ‘it is done!’ (21:6)

The form, ‘the beginning and the end’, has been used in the Greek philosophical tradition to indicate the eternity of the supreme God, and was taken over by Jewish writers, such as Josephus, who calls God, ‘the beginning and the end of all things’ (Ant. 8.280; cf. Philo, Plant. 93).


This seems to fit with my earlier comment that a description of God as source and goal is derivative of or an implication of a more direct meaning, namely God’s eternal existence or his unique Almightiness, by which he precedes and succeeds all creation, and by which he had the ability to bring all creation into existence and, as Roller’s commentary puts it, “can just as easily destroy.”

Bauckham says that, as their Creator, “God precedes all things.” It is in this preceding that arche finds valid, scripturally precedented use. Of all things in existence, God is the first to exist. But what is in focus with the use of this title is God’s unique Almightiness, by means of which he has the ability to bring to completion and fruition all his work and promises.

People seem to have a habit of trying to shorten God’s description of himself in Isaiah 44:6. He does not just say, “I am the first and the last.” What he says is, “I am the first and the last, and besides me there is no God.” That is the full title/description he gives to himself. This explicitly shows the exact meaning for this title here that we say it holds in Revelation: exclusivity and totality, an exhausting of the identity of Almighty God.

Likewise, in Rev 1:8, when God first uses the title he says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” That is the full title/description the first time it is used in Revelation. Afterward, the “Almighty” is dropped out and replaced with the expansion of “first and last” and “beginning and end,” but the essential meaning of the title is established in the first instance, in harmony with the similar title at Isaiah 44:6.

Again, a primary meaning of “source and goal” for “arche and telos” is entirely unprecedented in scripture, both in terms of the meaning of arche and the explicitly stated significance of the titles earlier in Revelation and in Isaiah. On the flip side, while it’s quite easy to see how God is, himself, literally the source of all things, one is hard pressed to imagine how God is, himself, literally the goal of all things. To explain it as God bringing all things to eschatological fulfillment is not the same thing as saying that God is somehow literally the goal of all things. One must reason, in some way, that God is the goal of all things in a different sense than he is the source of all things. But this is all unnecessary, because the consistent meaning of arche in scripture as well as the explicitly stated meaning of the first occurrence of the title in Rev 1:8 and the earlier use of the nearly identical title in Isaiah clearly point to the conclusion that this title is a reference to the exclusivity of God’s Almightiness. Yes, by means of this Almightiness he was able to create all things and be their source and is also able to bring all things to eschatological fulfillment, but that is not the primary meaning of the title. Rather it is an implication and by-product of the fact that he holds Almightiness as the One and Only Almighty God.

As for Josephus calling God ‘the beginning and the end of all things’ … if he had called him ‘the beginning and end [arche and telos] of all creation,’ then we would need to examine if Josephus believed in creation ex nihilo or held a view closer to Anaximander’s first material principle, with creation being made out of the substance of God, or even just intending to convey God’s overarching eternal existence in comparison to creation. But as it is, Josephus called him the arche (and telos) of all things (in existence). This usage is unproblematic for our position. God is the arche of all things in existence. It is also possible that Josephus means He is the only Being that has true existence in the fullest sense. It is also possible that Josephus is making the same type of comment as Roller’s commentary, that God is the only Being that actually exists, always has existed and always will exist. That everything else that exists is only temporary – merely something that He created and that He can just as easily destroy, which fits very well with the context. The Josephus quote doesn’t show a different meaning for arche. This fits just fine with what I’ve been saying. But it should also be noted that the title in Revelation is not the “Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End, of all things.” It is just “Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End”, after first appearing in the form, “Alpha and the Omega … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Moving on…

Sulla wrote:Philo said this in the citation by Bauckham

What, therefore, we originally undertook we have now nearly fulfilled, namely, to demonstrate that the fact spoken of must be taken to mean the principle which declares God to be the most glorious of all things. The portion of the subject which follows next is the demonstration that perfection is found in no created thing, but that it does appear in them at times owing to the grace of the great Cause of all things.


The point being that Philo uses arche in a non-partitive manner: Cause.


Did you notice that Philo includes God in “all things” (“God … the most glorious of all things”) in the previous sentence, right before identifying him as, I assume, the arche of all things (‘Cause’ is a translation). “All things” here, as in Josephus, does not directly correspond to “all creation” but to all things in existence. Further, Philo at times expresses himself in a fashion that demonstrates a belief in creation ex materia or ex deo, while at other times in something that might be approaching ex nihilo, but even then he speaks of God as the ‘begetter’ of all things. The statement you quote could fit in quite well with the ex materia position, which often philosophically ends in the ex deo position, which itself fits with the idea of God as the ‘begetter’ of all things.

It would seem imprudent to try to establish any different meaning for arche based on Philo. There is no indication that he means a non-partitive cause/source or that he means to grammatically separate God from being part of ‘all things’ immediately after identifying him as the most glorious of all things. Philo doesn't really even seem to mean "cause" specifically. This seems like one of those occasions where the author's intent is better served by leaving the word untranslated.

Sulla wrote:As for Josephus

Or is it the exceeding multitude of your army which gives you such good hopes? Yet certainly there is no strength at all in an army of many ten thousands, when the war is unjust; for we ought to place our surest hopes of success against our enemies in righteousness alone, and in piety towards God; which hope we justly have, since we have kept the laws from the beginning, and have worshipped our own God, who was not made by hands out of corruptible matter; nor was he formed by a wicked king, in order to deceive the multitude; but who is his own workmanship, and the beginning and end of all things. I therefore give you counsel even now to repent, and to take better advice, and to leave off the prosecution of the war; to call to mind the laws of your country, and to reflect what it hath been that hath advanced you to so happy a state as you are now in."


Josephus here means the phrase as I have said and not in reference to a sequence of Almighty Beings. There is no partitive implied at all, instead, this is clearly a case where the source/goal concept is utilized.


No, it isn’t. See all my comments above.

Sulla wrote:Moreover, your own source, Coffman, cites a source for my position. In his comments about chapter 3 of Revelation, he observes that

Plummer pointed out that the words here bear two possible interpretations:
The two meanings are: (1) that which would make Christ the first created thing of all things God created, and (2) that which would understand Christ as the Source of all the things God created.

Plummer and many other able scholars declare the second meaning to be the one intended here. "The words mean, the one from whom creation took its beginning." The agreement with Col. 1:16 is probably intended, for the church in Laodicea received Colossians.


And again, the idea of a non-partitive source, or really source of any kind, has zero precedent in scripture. The possibility of a meaning of non-partitive source even outside of scripture is nearly capable of being elevated to the status of some mythical relic, because there are, as yet, no clearly incontestable examples. Josephus and Philo are not exceptions. Further, I always find it funny how people try to connect Rev 3:14 to Col 1:16 rather than 1:15, which, as another reference to Prov 8:22, is clearly the more natural choice. Of course, that connection would be inconvenient.

It also seems you need to be reminded that I quoted the Coffman commentary on the subject of the “Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning (arche) and End” titles. It’s hardly shocking for you to find a Trinitarian-produced commentary (which is precisely what the Coffman commentary is) that claims a meaning of “source” at Rev. 3:14. When has that ever been a question? Our whole point all along has been that this Trinitarian claim is biased and incorrect, with no basis or precedent in scripture and no clear basis even in extra-Biblical literature of the time for a non-partitive source, regardless of how many Trinitarian commentaries claim it. It was you who raised the use of arche in this title as an attempt to show arche being used as “source”, claiming that our explanation of the meaning of the title was silly and didn’t make any sense. I showed you that the Coffman commentary explains the title the same way we do. It does not cite this title as an example where arche means “source”. So the fact that it claims a meaning of “source” at Rev 3:14 really doesn’t help you at all, because we were talking about the meaning of this title and the use of arche in it.

It seems you further need to be reminded that while Plummer points out the two possible meanings of arche at Rev 3:14 as “first-created” and “source”, Barnes, who is also a Trinitarian, claims the two possible meanings are “first-created” and “ruler”, specifically ruling out “source” as having no basis in the entirety of scripture and ruling out any attempt to limit the meaning to the ‘new creation’ as being so foreign to the context that it requires no special argument. Barnes chooses “ruler” because it allows him to avoid choosing “first-created”. But Plummer doesn’t allow for that possibility and, as we’ve already come to see, “ruler” is not a viable option because arche simply doesn’t mean “ruler” in a personal sense. That leaves Barnes with “first-created” as the only possible meaning. And Barnes leaves Plummer with “first-created” as the only possible meaning.

“First-created” is the obvious and straightforward choice here, and the only one that is not extremely problematic and lacking in any clear precedent. Meanwhile, Trinitarian scholars are eliminating from possible consideration the other meanings for arche that their doctrinal comrades are grasping at in an attempt to avoid “first-created”, which, in every case that it is dismissed as the wrong meaning, is so dismissed for predetermined theological reasons. It’s almost funny to read the comment, “Plummer and many other able scholars declare the second meaning to be the one intended here.” We might, without losing any of its value, paraphrase this comment as, “Plummer and many other able scholars declare this verse does not mean the opposite of what they believe to be true.” Or, “Plummer and many other able scholars declare their beliefs are correct and interpret this verse accordingly.”

Sulla wrote:Plummer is the widely-cited author of a book on Revelation in 1919. And, in Coffman’s comments on the appearance of the title for Christ in 22:13

He is the Alpha and the Omega in the final judgment. The eternal judgment shall begin with the body of Christ (the church), as indicated by 1 Pet. 4:17; and the final word of it shall be pronounced by the Son of God because the father hath committed judgment to the Son (John 5:27). Christ will be the Alpha and the Omega in the eternal judgment.


I disagree with the attempt to apply this title to Christ in chapter 22. I think it is demonstrably false. But that’s a lengthy issue that I don’t think is really necessary to address here. Nonetheless, Coffman’s comments on 22:13 do not support your argument that arche is used to mean “source” in this title. And it most certainly is not the primary meaning of this title, which Coffman recognizes as “the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet used idiomatically to express comprehensive completeness,” which is precisely what I described further above. The primary ideas they think to be expressed by Alpha and Omega – which they take to be parallel to the other two titles so that the others aren’t even dealt with directly – are the ideas “of completeness, of eternity and of authority.”

Sulla wrote:So, my interpretation is consistent with old and respected analysis (Coffman), new and respected analysis (Bauckham), and very ancient and respected analysis (Philo and Josephus).


Huh? You have somehow conflated the issues and passages in this claim of yours and I don’t agree with it at all. See all my comments above as to why.

Sulla wrote:Now, you mentioned the way the titles are used in Isaiah. Let me respond by getting into a discussion of the titles used in Revelation, which is really where this sort of analysis should have begun (as I claimed months ago).

Titles with arche in Revelation

Bauckham is the major source for this argumentation. The Theology of the Book of Revelation, especially chapters two and three.

We consider the three cases where arche is used in Revelation. They are 3:14, 21:6, and 22:13. I suggest that their uses in chapters 21 and 22 will help us think about what the meaning is in chapter 3.


What arche means in those titles is what it means everywhere else. It means first in a series or in time. In the context of the title, combined with telos, it is the first half of a phrase that conveys comprehensive completeness. Again, this doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche. The meaning of the word arche is combined with the meaning of the word telos to make a phrase about comprehensive completeness, uniqueness, exclusivity … a closed set.

Sulla wrote:We first note that there are a couple terms that seem joined in Revelation. Thus we have

1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty."
1:17 When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives.
21:6 He said to me, "They are accomplished. I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.
22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."


Let’s take a bit of a closer look at Rev 1:17, 18:

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

Christ is not just called “the first and the last,” but “the first and the last and the living one.” Why this title includes “the living one” is seen in the next part of the sentence, where he says, “I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.” Why is he the first and the last and the living one? Because at the time of his speaking he was the ONLY person ever to have been resurrected to eternal life; never to die again. Further, he will always be the only person to be resurrected to eternal life directly by God, because subsequent to his resurrection God gave him the keys of death and Hades so that he would be the one to resurrect all future persons to eternal life. This, again, is a contextual title about exclusive distinction, not an identification of Christ as being Almighty God. One can hardly imagine this is an attempt on Christ’s part to identify himself as God with the use of “first and last” when it relates to the fact that he was dead but has now been made alive. When God described himself as “first and last” in Isaiah, He was making a contextual statement about himself too, saying not simply that He is “first and last,” but “I am the first and the last, and besides me there is no God.” The meaning of the designation “first and last” as variously applied to both God and Christ can be taken from the immediate context where they are found.

Sulla wrote:The first thing to say is that we readily observe the chiastic structure of these statements. Note:

Verse || Speaker || Title || Location
A || 1:8 || God || Alpha and Omega || Prologue
B || 1:17 || Christ || First and Last || Beginning of vision
A’ || 21:6 || God || Alpha and Omega,Beginning and End || End of vision
B’ || 22:13 || Christ || Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End || Epilogue


Well, first of all, I would adjust your chart as follows:
Verse || Speaker || Title || Location
A || 1:8 || God || Alpha and Omega … The Almighty || Prologue
A’ || 1:17 || Christ || the first and the last and the living one || Beginning of vision
B || 21:6 || God || Alpha and Omega,Beginning and End || End of vision
C || 22:13 || God || Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End || Epilogue

And, to be honest, I don’t see how these have a chiastic structure at all, but I don’t really think it matters.

Sulla wrote:What can we say about these self-declarations? Well, first, their usage and surface meaning suggests they are attempting to get across the same or similar ideas. Your source, HeKS, Coffman, is right to point out the sense of comprehensive completeness, the “all in all” of faith, etc. (http://www.searchgodsword.org/com/bcc/v ... hapter=022).

We also know that the “First and Last” claims come from Isaiah 44, within the most stridently monotheistic claims within the OT. Thus we connect the claims of YHWH that there are no gods except him with the title / claim that he is first and last. Within the Jewish understanding, God’s existence before all things is also related to both his identity as the one who created all things and who will bring creation to eschatological completeness. I made this argument in the last section, and you could review Isaiah 44 to see the eschatological theme of that chapter, indeed of the entire section of Isaiah.

So, in the two other cases where arche is used in Revelation, we see its meaning associated with the completeness, eternity, and creation/eschatological fulfillment of all things. It does not have a partitive sense.


You have a very bizarre way of trying to change the lexical meaning of a word to suit what you believe is the implication of the entire phrase in which it happens to be found. This claim is pure nonsense. In the title, “Beginning and End,” arche means ‘first in the series’ and telos means ‘last in the series’ and together they form a phrase that means ‘the only one,’ ‘the whole thing,’ ‘the entirety’. Where you wish to take your interpretation from there doesn’t matter to me. The actual meaning of the word arche here is no less partitive than it is everywhere else in scripture. If it weren’t partitive then the combination with telos would have nothing to do with completeness in any sense and, in fact, would have no coherent relation to telos at all. Arche does not mean ‘source’ here, and certainly not ‘non-partitive source’.

Sulla wrote: God, as beginning and end (21:6), which is the creator/ source of creation as well as the end/ goal of all creation is not here claiming himself be a creation.


Of course he’s not claiming himself to be a creation. He is claiming himself to be the Almighty One, and as such possessing the power and ability to bring all his promises to fruition. He is not calling himself ‘the source and goal’ … arche does not mean “source” here.

Sulla wrote: Specifically, we must reject Rotherham’s contentions that, “ In each and every case [arche is used by John] we can see that John uses the word arche as meaning the beginning of something, either in relation to time or to a series or class of things.”


You can reject that contention all you like, but it is absolutely correct and you have not made a dent in it. More than anything, it seems you’ve just shown you don’t actually even understand the argument and that you are either unable or unwilling to make the distinction between the lexical meaning of a word and the interpretive connotations of a phrase in which that word happens to be found.

Sulla wrote: Instead, the meaning is clearly associated with the creative and eschatological identity of the one God. Its application in the book of Revelation, with the books themes, is clear.


See directly above. You’ve just proved my point.

Sulla wrote:So, the self-identification of Christ, first and last (1:18) and Alpha and Omega, beginning and end (22:13) are clearly parallel with God’s self-identification of Alpha and Omega (1:8), and beginning and end (21:6). Moreover, Christ’s title of first and last is taken directly from Isaiah 44, where that is the self-identification of YHWH is relation to the creative, redemptive, and eschatological activities exclusive to him. The entire point is not that god and Christ are here claimed to be partitive with contextual contemporaries (hyper-literally imagined or not), it is specifically that they are the completeness, fullness, sum-total in relation to all creation, having preceeded and caused it as well as redeeming and bringing it to eschatological completeness.


I don’t really see anything worth responding to here. Not only are many of the statements inaccurate and already addressed, but you entirely miss the point, not even seeing that your summary isn’t even properly related to your claim about the meaning of the word arche in these titles not being partitve.

Sulla wrote:And that is the meaning of those titles. We can also make the point at length by looking at the uses of the “is, was, and is to come” titles. But that’s another million words.

So, in the other uses of the word arche within Revelation, we have a set of titles shared by Christ and God, used to relate God to the creation he both precedes and redeems, and echoes the similar use of title by God in the OT to indicate the same idea. That is the context that matters.

And it brings us to Revelation 3. Again, quoting Bauckham, chapter 3,

The derivation of the title, ‘the first and the ;ast’, from Deutero-Isaiah, and the way it is used in 22:13, make this interpretation of 1:17-18 [that Christ participates in divine lordship of all things] the preferable on [over against the idea that he is the first new creation]. That a reference to Christ’s participation in God’s creation of all things is not out of place in the context of his address to the churches is clear from 3:14, whre the beginning of the message to the church at Laodicea calls him: ‘the origin (arche) of God’s creation’. This does not mean that he was the first created being or that in his resurrection he was the beginning of God’s new creation. It must have the same sense as the first part of the title, ‘the beginning (arche) and the end’, as used of both God (21:6) and Christ (22:13). Christ preceded all things as their source. In this belief in Chirst’s role in creation, Revelation is at one with the Pauline literature (1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-17), Hebrews (1:2) and the Fourth Gospel (1:1-3). The belief came about through an identification of Christ with the Word of the Wisdom of God through which God created the world, and this identification can be clearly seen in the way Christ’s role in creation is expressed in the references outside Revelation just given. In Revelation it has been brought together with another, probably even earlier, Christological development of the early church: the identification of God’s eschatological coming with the expected parousia of Jesus Christ. These two developments have the effect, then, of including Christ as divine agent both in God’s creation of all things and in God’s eschatological fulfilment of all things. Thus Christ is ‘the Alpha nad Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’. As a way of stating unambiguously that Jesus Christ belongs to the fullness of the eternal being of God, this surpasses anything in the New Testament.


And that is the context that matters.


Again, there is nothing new here that I can see, and nothing that hasn’t been addressed elsewhere. I disagree with Bauckham’s opinions on numerous counts and it is those very counts that precipitate his reasoning on the whole matter.

Sulla wrote: We might further reflect on Burney’s observation that Revelation 3 represents a midrash on Genesis 1:1 to see the depth of the point John is attempting to express. Against all this, it is fine to point out that the word ordinarily has some sort of partitive meaning. We might even observe that the additional meanings of these phrases we see attested to are implications of the primary meaning of the word. And that’s fine, too.

But reading scripture requires humility and real work. And it is precisely these virtues that are mocked by Rotherham’s paper. That’s my problem with Rotherham. That’s my problem with his paper.


And my problem is how much time I’ve just had to spend responding to your conflating of issues and lengthy arguments that actually have nothing to do with what you’re trying to prove about the word arche. Most of the arguments you’ve presented here miss the point entirely. Your appeals to the use of arche in these other titles are utterly useless to you. It should be obvious that they are useless to you. If you don’t get that they are useless to you now, I have no intention of trying to help you get the point any further.

In your most recent post you said:

Sulla wrote: It's no polite to throw out this kind of term without some explanation, HeKS. Do you think "contiguously partitive" explains itself? If I was Rotherham, I'd point out that these words seem to be mutually exclusive and then say I have won the debate. I'm content to ask for clarification -- and source.


First of all I will point out that I actually did include an explanation of what I meant if you look at my post again. Nonetheless …

Contiguous
1. touching; in contact.
2. in close proximity without actually touching; near.
3. adjacent in time: contiguous events.

Now, clearly I don’t mean that a source which is partitive in a contiguous (metaphysically non-immanent) sense is partitive in the very thing to which it is contiguous. What I mean is that the source produces discrete units that share the same classification as the source itself. The source is partitive in the same class as the units it produces, the source and its produce existing contiguously as parts of the same class of things.

For example, a widget that produces other widgets is the ‘partitive source’ of those widgets it produces, in that it is a source that is partitive in the same class or order as that which it produces. It can rightly be called the arche of those subsequent widgets, but as the source widget cannot be said to be ‘indwelling’ in those widgets it produces we would say the source widget is a metaphysically non-immanent source. Conversely, a factory that makes widgets is not the arche of the widgets.

Another example - one between what I’m calling a contiguously partitive source and a continuously partitive source - is that of father and son. In the context of an immediate family of humans, the human father can rightly be called the arche of his son. As discrete humans we can identify the human father as the metaphysically non-immanent (contiguous as above) source of his human son. However, from the perspective of the father’s DNA forming part of the son’s and the son originally being made partly out of material from his father, the father could in that sense be viewed as the metaphysically immanent source of his son. I’ve been referring to this as “continuous” in the sense that part of the father’s material and make-up is to be found ‘indwelling’ in his son, so there is a material continuity there even if they aren’t physically attached.

Finally, as examples of a continuous, metaphysically immanent arche, we can cite the heart or brain of an animal, the foundation of a building, and the source of a river. In all cases, the arche is to be found in ongoing continuity with the larger unit as a part of that larger unit.

I must be clear that the Bible never uses arche to mean source, but these are the senses to which all the uses of arche in extra-Biblical literature considered so far have conformed, noting that such literature has been of a philosophical and metaphysical nature, or of a theological nature that has been heavily influenced by same.

Now, coming up on the 4 month mark for this discussion, I don’t see it being any more productive than it has been of late, and I have nothing else that I feel I really have to say on the matter … at least in the context of discussing this particular article. Those things that could still be said I plan to say in other articles that I’m trying to sort out in my head at the moment and I’d like to start focusing on that task with my limited time rather than going endlessly in circles with this discussion. I know Rotherham feels the same.

That said, it’s time to wrap up this discussion. Please prepare a closing post if you would like, then we’ll do the same.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:17 pm

OK, let me know when you have your summary ready. I would expect I'll need at least a couple days before I am prepared. We can post & close the topic.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:08 pm

Sulla wrote:OK, let me know when you have your summary ready. I would expect I'll need at least a couple days before I am prepared. We can post & close the topic.


I'm not sure exactly when we'll be able to have that. I'm totally swamped right now and I'm not sure of Rotherham's schedule. So feel free to take as much time as you need.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:26 pm

While it may be obvious, I just want to point out that the closing summary from each side shouldn't be used as an opportunity to present brand new arguments and lines of reasoning. The intent is to sum up one's position and to note where that position has been adjusted over the course of the discussion (if at all) and where it remains unchanged. If either side wants to draw attention to points they feel have not been addressed by the opposing side, that's fine. Let's just keep in mind that we're summarizing our impressions of the issues that have been discussed, not trying to offer new argumentation that the other side won't have an opportunity to address.

Also, as much as possible, let's try to be respectful of each other in the process, however much we may frustrate each other at times.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:22 pm

It is indeed obvious, but thanks for pointing it out. It is why I was trying to determine when we could post at the same time. Will you and Rotherham post independently or jointly?
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:34 pm

Sulla wrote:It is indeed obvious, but thanks for pointing it out. It is why I was trying to determine when we could post at the same time. Will you and Rotherham post independently or jointly?


Hi Sulla,

We'll be posting independently. If you want to wait for us, I guess you can do that. But again, with no new lines of argumentation allowed, I don't know if it much matters. My guess is that Rotherham's summary will be ready sooner than mine, but I could be wrong. If you're both waiting for me, it could be a while.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:51 pm

Yes, no new lines of argumentation. Still obvious, but thanks for pointing it out again.

I'd like to take a minute to make sure that we all agree that no new lines of argumentation should be presented in the summaries. Even though you made sure you had the last word and then closed the debate. No new lines. None. Of argumentation.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:19 pm

Sulla wrote:Yes, no new lines of argumentation. Still obvious, but thanks for pointing it out again.

I'd like to take a minute to make sure that we all agree that no new lines of argumentation should be presented in the summaries. Even though you made sure you had the last word and then closed the debate. No new lines. None. Of argumentation.


Sulla,

I was not trying to remind you that they weren't allowed. I was simply saying that because they are not allowed, I don't know if it matters when each of us posts our summary, in case you were worried you would make some comment that we would provide a new response to without allowing you a counter-response. Nonetheless, as I said, if that's how you want to do it that's fine by me.

On the other point, I was not intentionally trying to get the last word by ending the discussion when I did. As I said at the end of that last post, I was ending the discussion because we were simply going in circles over the same issue and it didn't seem likely the discussion would prove any more productive for either side ... just longer. In that last response to your long post, I'm not sure I really covered any more ground than had been covered previously by our side. I might have expressed some ideas a bit differently, but it was essentially the very same thing I've been saying for a very long time now. It seemed unlikely you would start responding to the same points differently.

The problems I have with your argumentation and you with mine are the very same ones we've been batting back and forth for at least a month. Was there some new point in particular in my post that your felt you were unfairly denied opportunity to respond to?

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:58 am

Hello Heks and Sulla,

I would suggest that the final summations be prepared and simultaneously posted which will prevent any edits after the fact. Then the thread should be locked. We can synchronize our postings and they will appear at the same time and the discussion will be over. One should not be posted before the other so that another one's summary does not play off the other. They should be base solely on what has transpired within the discussion, not upon what is stated in the summaries.

Regards,
Rotherham

HeKS wrote:
Sulla wrote:Yes, no new lines of argumentation. Still obvious, but thanks for pointing it out again.

I'd like to take a minute to make sure that we all agree that no new lines of argumentation should be presented in the summaries. Even though you made sure you had the last word and then closed the debate. No new lines. None. Of argumentation.


Sulla,

I was not trying to remind you that they weren't allowed. I was simply saying that because they are not allowed, I don't know if it matters when each of us posts our summary, in case you were worried you would make some comment that we would provide a new response to without allowing you a counter-response. Nonetheless, as I said, if that's how you want to do it that's fine by me.

On the other point, I was not intentionally trying to get the last word by ending the discussion when I did. As I said at the end of that last post, I was ending the discussion because we were simply going in circles over the same issue and it didn't seem likely the discussion would prove any more productive for either side ... just longer. In that last response to your long post, I'm not sure I really covered any more ground than had been covered previously by our side. I might have expressed some ideas a bit differently, but it was essentially the very same thing I've been saying for a very long time now. It seemed unlikely you would start responding to the same points differently.

The problems I have with your argumentation and you with mine are the very same ones we've been batting back and forth for at least a month. Was there some new point in particular in my post that your felt you were unfairly denied opportunity to respond to?

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:17 am

I agree with Rotherham.

I agree that your response to my long post did not cover new ground and that any response I made to it would not have covered any new ground. The long post was probably the last thing that needed tot be said on the topic, since Rotherham had been calling for an alternative model for some weeks and since it is important to see how others have done the analysis.

Obviously, in a thread this long, we were often sidetracked, but I suspect the main criticisms of Rotehrham's paper have been addressed, usually more than once. Anyway, I will e-mail or post when I am ready.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:17 pm

Hi Sulla,

In a discussion that has spanned 18 pages now, you and Rotherham were bound to agree on something :)

So, just to be clear then, you do not feel you have been strategically denied an opportunity to respond to some line of reasoning? (As a coincidental side point, as I was typing that question I was listening to a song in the background in which the words "an opportunity" were sung at the precise moment I finished typing them in the question.)

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:59 pm

I am prepared for my summary. Let me know when you are ready.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:23 pm

I've made a fair bit of progress with mine but I still have a way to go ... not much time lately, I'm afraid.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Rotherham » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:45 am

Unfortunately, I haven't even started, but i'll get on it now that I know you're ready.

Hopefully by the end of the week.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Sat Jan 09, 2010 10:54 pm

I've had a bit of a water catastrophe at home this past week. The property mgmt company failed to remove snow and ice from the roof and it worked its way inside and leaked into our unit. The carpet in our 2nd bedroom got soaked through and now needs to be replaced. Been dealing with that all week so not much time to work on the summary. I'll finish it as soon as I have time.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:53 am

If you think it would help pass the time, Rotherham and I can spend a few days insulting each other.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:03 pm

Sulla wrote:If you think it would help pass the time, Rotherham and I can spend a few days insulting each other.


You mean you haven't been doing that off-board while waiting for me? You two must be getting soft ;)

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:27 am

Well, I hear Rotherham has been busy hanging out with the only JW who has a greater pretentiousness-to-knowledge ratio than he.

On the other hand, I doubt even the One Who Dialogues With Theologues would swallow Rotherham's "explicit teaching" schtick. "Whilst our brother Rotherham, he of the appellation of that eminent scholar -- most fitting, indeed, draws the most intriguing argument for the explicitness of Holy Writ vis-a-vis the ontology of Our Brother, Christ, as revealed by the author of Apocalypse, and while such can hardly be considered adiaphora to those who follow the Lord, and while the passage certainly underlines the apophatic nature of YHWH as opposed to the creatura of Christ, a long list of Reformation theologians I got in class probably said other things." Etc.

Man, it's like riding a bike. Felt good.

Anyhow. Did you get my other challenge? Is this site still operational? Shold I just go ahead and post my summation? Did you fix your pipes?

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:52 pm

Hey Sulla,

I haven't had much time to check challenges lately. Not much time for anything, really. But Rotherham and others are free to check the challenges and start addressing them.

My leaking wasn't from pipes, it was from an ice dam that built up on the roof and pushed in behind the siding. It was a maintenance issue that the property management company didn't take care of and now I'm waiting on them to fix it.

My summary is coming along, but it's not done yet and I can't say exactly when it will be. I'm working on it whenever I have time.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:05 pm

Leaking behind the siding! That could get in to the insulation, the drywall, the electrical... Ugh.

Not trying to rush you -- things just seemed a little quiet around here.

Is there anybody ... out there?
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:50 pm

Sulla wrote:Leaking behind the siding! That could get in to the insulation, the drywall, the electrical... Ugh.

Not trying to rush you -- things just seemed a little quiet around here.

Is there anybody ... out there?


I suspect the quietus is the result of everyone having to wait on me to finish my summary. Of course, I'm not sure where Rotherham is on his.

By the way, where were you quoting that bit about him from, that was in the post of yours above?

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:54 pm

I made it up. It seemed like something the guy who runs that "Theologues" site might say. Start with some terms from a theological dictionary, add essence of thesaurus, deglaze with some completely idiosyncratic terminology, and voici, an exotic, fluffy statement with zero calories.

I always thought he was a little heavy-handed with the theological dictionary, but people say the same thing about me and basil, so I guess it's a matter of taste.

But, you know I sent my challenge in three days ago. And, you know, like ... nothing. So, like, what's up with that?
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:05 pm

You did a pretty good job making that up. It actually does sound quite a bit like the way he wrote. :)

I've posted to the challenge to the our review area for Rotherham to take a look at. I'll let him follow up with you on that. Not sure yet whether or not I'll be actively involved as the discussion side here is preventing me from spending any time on other things I'd like to get done.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:53 pm

Sulla,

I've removed your last post. This isn't the place to post comments about a pending challenge to a different article. Your comments on that article can be made if and when the two of you choose to start a discussion on it.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:20 pm

My bad. Where, exactly is the place to post comments about a pending challenge?

-- And this just in: Rotherham has done exactly as I predicted (but as readers will never know I predicted).
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby Sulla » Tue Jan 26, 2010 8:52 am

OK, this delay is stupid. Here is my summary.

Four months is a very long time to discuss one little paper. Five, if you count the last month of silent, exhausted gaping at all those pages of argument. So, we want to summarize the arguments and move on to the next thing.

Really, I’ve been thinking about the discussion for a while, and I don’t see any point in rehashing the main elements of the conversation. Frankly, the point is quite simple.

Rotherham’s position is that the explicit meaning of Rev. 3:14 is that Jesus belongs only to the created order, that this explicit meaning controls the reading of the rest of the Bible, and that a church that does not teach Jesus belongs only to the created order is therefore false.

I suggested at the beginning of this discussion that the claim was preposterous enough that it shouldn’t be published on a site that takes itself seriously and I’m afraid nothing has been said that moves me from this position. Readers, of course, will have to make up their own minds on the question, but here is a sketch of the process.

The question must ultimately be, simply: whether anyone can seriously believe that there is really only one legitimate meaning to this passage and that one meaning is Rotherham’s.

As it happens, every person who has written anything in one of those peer-reviewed journals, or written even a commentary that is in general use, has failed to support Rotherham’s position. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that they assert more nearly the opposite position: that Rev. 3:14 cannot possibly be read to mean that Jesus belongs only to the created order. And the reason for this universal conclusion is pretty simple: while arche usually has a partitive meaning, it is also used in a non-partitive way; and it is used in a non-partitive way when contemporaneous Jews and Christians speak about God. Since this is the case, and since the book of Revelation cannot be read as if the author held Christ to be merely a creature, and since the other uses of the term arche use a chiastic structure to compare Jesus to God, we can’t read the passage the way Rotherham wants.

Not only that, but we have a very interesting and much-cited paper by C. F. Burney (“Christ as the Arche of Creation, JTS, 1926) that argues persuasively that the Revelation 3 passage is making use of a midrash that St. Paul applied in Colossians – that of re-interpreting the arche of Genesis 1:1 to apply to Christ. Thus, “In Jesus Christ, God created the heavens and the earth.” Moreover, the passge in Colossians 1 plays on this theme in several different ways:

 In him were created all things
 By him were created all things
 Into him were created all things (meaning with Christ as the goal of all things)
 Before all things
 All things are summed up in him
 He is the head of the Church
 He is first-fruit from the dead

So, here we have St. Paul working the idea of “beginning” for all it is worth. And, indeed, expanding the strict set of lexical meanings associated with the word. Indeed, this idea of Christ as the source and goal of creation is a persistent Pauline (and, therefore, NT) theme (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Eph. 2:10). It is this same broad meaning that is applied to the “beginning” in Revelation 3.

As a side note, one reason readers should discount the seriousness of the JW position is due to the selective quoting of sources like Burney. So we find the JWs quoting from the last paragraph of the paper that the arche as a title for Christ has “not a shadow of authority for limiting in meaning to ‘the Source of God’s creation.’” The implication supposedly being that “Source” is wrong and the JW position has academic support.

Of course, this is another example of JWs attempting to tell readers that sources say something that is nearly the opposite of what they intend. Because, if we read the paper, we know that Burney intends that the meaning of Rev. 3 should be expanded to include the additional meanings suggested by St. Paul. Indeed, there is no reason to limit the meaning to “source,” and there is every reason to expand the meaning to include those additional meanings.

So, there it is. Readers may decide for themselves whether the unanimous conclusions of many extensive analyses of the theology of the book of Revelation, serious reviews of the meaning of this particular passage, and the constant witness of the church are overturned by some anonymous and entirely unqualified fellow on the internet. And not merely overturned, but are explicit in the text and are therefore control the reading of the entire NT.

As a final note, we know that Rotherham is the kind of writer who will openly admit that historical context is meaningless when determining the right way to read a biblical text and who has also demonstrated a remarkable ability to simply and plainly misunderstand simple concepts such as numerical identity. Readers will also have to decide for themselves whether this is the kind of writer who can be counted on to deliver a coherent account of any subject.
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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:15 pm

I just wanted to make the comment to anyone who has followed this discussion that the reason I have not posted our summary yet is because my schedule has been such that it has been literally impossible for me to complete it.

I've already had this discussion with Sulla privately. I'm 17 pages into the summary but I haven't had a chance to work on it at all in the past month or two. My hope is that I'll get a chance to finish it over the last two weeks of April and be able to post it some time during the first week of May.

Thanks to all for their patience ... especially Sulla.

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Re: Challenged by Sulla

Postby HeKS » Fri May 14, 2010 2:57 pm

Summary of ARCHE discussion.

Well, it has been a long haul. 18 forum pages and nearly 4 months of discussion, not to mention the delay in finishing and posting this summary caused by own circumstances.

I’d like to begin by thanking Sulla for his participation in this discussion. The hope in a discussion like this is always that participants and readers alike will be sharpened in some way by it (Prov 27:17), though it must be acknowledged that, because of the almost unavoidably adversarial positions, sometimes sparks will fly.

I think it must be acknowledged that Sulla has been helpful in pointing out areas where the article can and should clarify certain points. There were places in this thread where much time was spent defending against what amounted to a misunderstanding of the article’s intent. It’s difficult to preempt all possible misunderstandings, but where possible, it should be done.

When we come to the core of the discussion and the arguments on both sides, I have no doubt that Rotherham and I see it quite differently than Sulla. It is also possible that Rotherham and I differ ourselves on certain points, though I don’t recall any major divergence between our perspectives over the course of the thread. Still, this summary will be written from my perspective and primarily using the content of my own posts.

My intent with this summary is, well, to summarize. I intend to walk through the entire discussion and draw attention to the key points that have been raised throughout. I hope to make concessions and acknowledgments where I can, while remaining resolute and unambiguous where it seems appropriate.

To the casual or faint-hearted reader, here is fair warning: This is going to be long.

Let’s begin.

Sulla’s Initial Challenge

In Sulla’s initial challenge he opposes the position in Rotherham’s paper that Christ, in his preexistent state, was the first temporal creation of God. More specifically, he opposes the paper’s position that Rev 3:14 states this explicitly (no mention is made of Col 1:15, which the paper also cites in support of this position). Sulla objects on the grounds, generally, that the set of comparison texts the article uses in support of its position is flawed, that it ignores basic hermeneutical principles, and that it incorrectly changes the evidentiary rules based on the point it wishes to support.

Sulla goes on in his challenge to elaborate on each of these points, which roughly determined the structure of the ensuing discussion as the details of each point were initially addressed and then discussed. In this summary, I will follow roughly the same pattern, though perfect chronological accuracy won't be possible if I want to keep this coherent.

Point 1: Comparison Texts

In order to understand the reasoning behind Sulla’s first argument, it must be noted that the article is quite up-front about its conclusions being predicated on the premise that the best interpreter we have of scripture is scripture itself. As such, it argues that if we find some word or grammatical structure to be used both frequently and consistently in scripture, then it would be wise to give the utmost weight to that scriptural pattern when that word or grammatical structure is found in some disputed passage; indeed, it advances the point that to search outside of scripture for some Biblically unprecedented or otherwise rare and specialized use of the term to support a favored theological position would simply be setting oneself up for error.

Working from this premise, Sulla identified what he believed to be a ‘catastrophic error.’ After quoting a section from the paper dealing with this point, Sulla argued:

Sulla wrote:Rotherham … offers his comparison texts where a construction similar to that in Rev 3:14 (the word arche followed by a genitive phrase) is found. Given this statement, one might be puzzled by the fact that Rotherham supplies nearly half his comparison texts from the LXX. As everybody knows, the LXX is – how to put this? – itself a translation into Greek. You simply can’t use a translation from Hebrew into Greek and claim that you are letting scripture interpret scripture.

Yet, eight of twenty examples in the paper are from the LXX.

…. He wants to use these passages from the LXX and claim that he is letting scriptures "reveal the meaning" of NT grammar. That’s not remotely what is happening in his paper, contrary to his claim.


Based on Sulla’s understanding of the article’s intent in using the LXX, this argument is logical. The problem is that it is based on a misunderstanding. Sulla was under the impression that the paper was intending to make its point exclusively from inspired Greek vocabulary and grammar, which it wasn’t. The misunderstanding can certainly be forgiven because the paper could have been clearer; a point that Rotherham has acknowledged and promised to address.

After much back and forth on this point between Rotherham and Sulla, I offered Sulla a clarification of the article’s intent by way of the following:

HeKS wrote:I understand [Rotherham] to be asserting the following (though this list may not be exhaustive):

  • In Greek, when arche is used in a genitive statement, the arche is always a part of the group identified by the genitive noun. This is so regardless of how we may ultimately translate arche. We see this uniformly in the Greek NT, and uniformly in the LXX with which the NT usage agrees perfectly. Whether one wishes to translate arche as "ruler" or "beginning", that partitive relationship stands in all cases.

    This is a matter of Greek grammar. In the case of the NT, it is an inspired choice of Greek grammar. In the LXX it is a demonstration of the common use of Greek grammar even before NT times, which can be compared to the original Hebrew from which it was translated to get an understanding of what types of statements and ideas the Greek arche genitive statements were naturally used to express even apart from directly inspired grammar choices.

    Additionally, as the NT writers both used and quoted from the LXX liberally, these LXX examples show us their frame of reference (as well as the frame of reference of their contemporary readers) for how such arche genitive statements were used to convey certain ideas in their common scriptural point of reference. In other words, in the version of the OT that they commonly used (and quoted as the word of God), they saw arche used in genitive statements where, in each case, the arche was always part of the group signified by the genitive noun. In their experience of scripture in the Greek language, this was the unanimous meaning of using arche in a genitive statement; that is, that arche was always considered partitive in such a case. And I repeat, this is so whether arche was considered to mean "beginning" or "ruler".

  • The Bible is the Bible, regardless of the language in which it is rendered, provided the translation accurately reflects the original language. Thus, when the Bible unanimously demonstrates in no uncertain terms, whether in Hebrew, Greek or English, that the "beginning of" something is part of that something, we ought not ignore that fact in favor of special pleading when we come across theologically significant passages.

    Since the NT writers seemed to have no qualms about directly quoting from the LXX as the word of God, we see no reason not to do the same, as we would do even when quoting an English Bible. To say that quoting from the LXX is not allowing scripture to interpret scripture would be the same as saying any translation into any language is not scripture, so that using the consistent internal meaning of any translation to interpret more difficult passages is a futile exercise since it's not in the original language. Following this line of reasoning, nothing prevents one from claiming that any and all translations are wholly unreliable for teaching, reproving or setting anything straight.

    But the point to be made here is that this argument doesn't specifically relate to divinely inspired grammar choices, but to divinely inspired methods of expressing ideas or concepts. That is why Rotherham said he could just as easily reference the Hebrew equivalent of arche. The point, in this case, is that in whatever original language the Bible identifies someone or something as the beginning of a group, the meaning is that it is part of the group ... the first part of the group. This is a consistent, divinely inspired method of expressing a type of relationship.

    If a person were to write a few dozen books in a few different languages and in each and every case used the target language equivalent of "beginning of" to identify something as the first member or part of some group, those various instances, regardless of the specific language in which they appear, would count as evidence toward the author's intended meaning in that type of statement. They would go towards demonstrating what type of relationship the author meant to convey between the 'beginning of something' and the 'something'.

    In this sense, the LXX serves perfectly well as scripture to be used in interpreting scripture. It has the added benefit of being in the same language as the passage in question, but as this point relates to scriptural methods and patterns of expressing concepts and relationships rather than the specific grammar of a particular language, the Hebrew would serve as well in its place.


After some discussion, Sulla ultimately accepted the validity of this reasoning, though he thought "[o]ne would have to be squinting pretty hard to think the point was something broader than the Greek grammar" when reading the article as it was originally written. He also said that "the argument to include patterns of meaning in Hebrew as well as Greek, and including these examples from 1,000 years or more removed from the immediate context of the verse in question does seem to make the curious absence of any investigation of the immediate context all the more curiouser," though he recognized this as pertaining more to his second point of contention.

Still, to this point I responded as follows:

HeKS wrote:I would say that Rotherham focused on the LXX examples because:

1) They accurately convey the analogous Hebrew grammatical patterns in the same language as the case text of Rev 3:14

2) They provide a relatively contemporary example of the common Greek usage of arche in genitive statements in instances where we can establish the meaning from a different language (Hebrew), and are yet sufficiently removed in time to provide a broad perspective of such continued common usage over a few centuries from the time of the LXX to the close of the NT canon.

3) They show the scriptural frame of reference for the use of arche in genitive statements in the version/translation of the scriptures that was used and quoted from by the NT writers and with which their own usage is acknowledged to match in all cases other than, it is claimed, Rev 3:14.


Having come to the end of this discussion on Point 1, it should be recognized that Rotherham’s use of the LXX examples in his paper was not, in fact, a ‘catastrophic error.’ It was quite justified and in harmony with the stated premise of the paper. Point 1 was simply a misunderstanding of Rotherham’s intent, but it has made Rotherham aware of the need for some clarification in his paper.

Point 2: Basic Principles

Under his second point of contention, Sulla expands on his more general complaint that Rotherham’s "analysis of the text itself ignores basic hermeneutical principles." After drawing attention to a quote in the paper from Daniel Wallace "on the subject of obtaining sufficient data base to make statistical arguments about a particular grammatical construct," Sulla says that the paper "then makes the completely unsupported statement that, if a large number of examples exist, it would be wrong to use other evidence."

Sulla proceeds to point to two other quotes from Wallace’s Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament:

When we read the NT letters, it is as if we are tourists eavesdropping on a conversation between two locals. We are at a communications disadvantage that can only be overcome as we immerse ourselves in the customs, culture, history, and language of the first century, not to mention the specific interaction between Paul, say, and his churches. – p.8, note 35


And:

2. Humility needs to be exercised where the data are insufficient or where the language is capable of man interpretations...

3. Much in language that is easily misunderstood is outside the scope of syntax, even broadly defined. Although a decent grasp on syntax is the sine qua non for sound exegesis, it is not a panacea for all one’s exegetical woes. Only rarely does the grammar hand the exegete his or her interpretations on a silver platter. In most cases, the better we understand the syntax of the NT, the shorter our list of viable interpretive options. – p.9


On this basis, Sulla claims that "Wallace – whom Rotherham clearly recognizes as an authority, flatly rejects Rotherham’s assertion that a sizeable database is the end of the matter," and that Rotherham ought to have included in his paper a consideration of the following list of factors, which Sulla considers to be "keys to the meaning of the titles listed in the first part of Revelation":

  • The historical context of the late first century persecutions
  • The genre of Revelation
  • The definition and etymology of the word in question
  • The philosophical relationship between the logos in the Gospel of St. John with the arche, alpha, and omega of Revelation
  • The general meaning of the book of Revelation

Sulla then comes to the following conclusion:

Sulla wrote:So, given that Rotherham fails his own hermeneutical test for relying only on scripture and that he fails the requirements as outlined by his own expert, we have no reason to suppose the analysis is reliable at all.


Based on our consideration of Point 1, we’ve seen that Rotherham actually did not fail his own hermeneutical test for relying only on scripture (by using examples from the LXX). So what remains to be determined in this section is whether Rotherham "fails the requirements as outlined by his own expert," Wallace, whether Rotherham ought to have included an analysis of the further factors Sulla has listed, and whether Sulla has accurately understood or conveyed the comments from the paper that he characterizes as making "the completely unsupported statement that, if a large number of examples exist, it would be wrong to use other evidence."

First, it should be noted that both Rotherham and I immediately pointed out that, on this last point, Sulla had misquoted – or, perhaps more accurately, had misstated or mischaracterized – the point in the paper to which he was referring, by claiming the paper said it was wrong to refer to other evidence beyond the statistical analysis of Biblical usage. It further took some discussion to realize that this claim from Sulla was linked to the list of other factors he thought ought to have been considered in the paper. It might seem that it should have been obvious that such a link was intended by him, but it was a characterization so foreign to the genuine context of Rotherham’s paper that the link was not obvious to us at all.

Sulla understood the paper to be asserting that one ought to consider only the statistical analysis of Biblical usage and prohibit as impious the consideration of the further factors Sulla mentioned, such as historical context, genre, etc. In reality, the point the paper was making was that one ought to give primary weight and consideration to the Biblical usage of the words in question, rather than seeking to overturn the trend of the scriptural evidence by appealing to some uncommon or specialized usage of the words in extra-Biblical literature. To do so, could, in fact, be considered impious, but it should be obvious to any reader that Sulla’s characterization and interpretation of this point in the paper was, again, wholly mistaken.

So, to the question of whether Sulla has accurately understood or conveyed the comments from the paper on this point, we can say, categorically, no, he has not. What remains of Point 2, then, is to determine whether Rotherham’s paper ought to have covered all those points listed by Sulla and whether Wallace can be appealed to in this case to so argue.

It may be noted that I continue to approach the matter of Sulla’s list by asking if Rotherham’s paper ought to have covered the items therein. I use "ought" because the issue is not whether it would be impious or improper to consider them, or even whether or not a consideration of them might be useful to discussion, but whether or not the nature of Rotherham’s paper is such that the absence of their consideration is so conspicuous as to render the analysis that does appear in the paper valueless on its own. Again, I think the answer to this question is, no.

When presented with this list, Rotherham responded as follows:

Rotherham wrote:I have a feeling this isn’t Sulla’s list but someone else’s, but regardless it completely misses the mark. Nothing above was ignored because nothing above has any bearing or presents any pressure to overturn what has been presented. Sulla has to do better than this. One just can’t lay out a list and claim it was overlooked as if it actually had anything to do with the problem at hand when it doesn’t. Nothing in that list would affect the manner in which "arche" or "archon" was used by the Apostle John or "arche" with a genitive. If Sulla thinks it does, then that surely has to be presented because it appears to be completed disjointed from the topic at hand.


I’m inclined to agree. The paper argues that, in the case of the Greek word arche, its usage in scripture is entirely consistent. It always refers to the outermost point or extremity of something, whether a beginning in relation to some time period, the first in some series, the principalities of rulership within some community (but not a reference to a personal ruler, which is signified by the Greek archon), and, rarely, as the corners or extremities of a sail. Every single instance to be found in scripture falls into one of these categories, all of which describe the general phenomenon of being the extreme or outermost part of something. Thus, the paper argues, when arche is used at Rev 3:14, designating Christ as the arche of the creation by God, every ounce of scriptural precedent points to a partitive meaning for arche; that is, a meaning that places Christ within the group "the creation by God."

This is an argument about the natural meaning of language. The word carries a limited and consistent range of meaning in scripture. The word is applied to Christ. If we allow scriptural precedent to be our guide, the word ought naturally to be understood in line with its consistent range of meaning.

Outside of Scripture and generally limited to philosophical and metaphysical literature, arche was sometimes used to refer to a "source", which meaning was later adopted by certain theological writers who were heavily influenced by this literature and/or the concepts therein. However, even when arche was used to mean "source" in these instances, it was used to mean a partitive source of some sort; the extreme or outermost point of something that gave rise to the rest. Over the course of this discussion, not a single clear exception was found where arche was used to identify a source that was a different class of thing than that of which it was the source; a point to which we will later return.

With this in mind, let’s consider each of the items on the list:

  • The historical context of the late first century persecutions

I think it fair to point out that this seems to be a non-sequitur when viewed in light of the paper’s argument. Faced with "the historical context of the late first century persecutions," the question is, How would this particular context change the plain and consistent meaning of this word in this one instance? We might equally ask, If it would change such a meaning here, why nowhere else in the other books of the NT written in the late first century, and by the very same author if one accepts the traditional view that the author of John’s gospel and letters is also the author of Revelation? But the answer is that this historical context wouldn’t change the meaning of the word. And, in reality, an appeal to this context is not actually even designed to suggest that it would change the natural meaning of a word. Not directly. Generally, the idea behind this sort of appeal is to suggest that this particular historical context shaped belief about Christ himself, and that belief, in turn, changed the meaning of the word.

I pointed to this when I said in the thread:

HeKS wrote:It comes across as a roundabout way of saying, "Look, Jesus is God so he can't be part of creation, so the examples everywhere else in the Bible ought to be thrown out the window so we can find some other meaning that fits with Jesus being God."


And:

HeKS wrote:The only arguments I've personally come across for the necessity of a different reading based on historical context have essentially boiled down to the assertion that the early Christians believed Jesus was uncreated and was Almighty God. Arguments from textual context have boiled down to essentially the same assertion, reading the text of Revelation with the Trinity in view and then arguing for the necessity of the Trinity to explain a reading that is based on a Trinitarian presumption in the first place. That is to say, I've yet to come across a historical or textual argument for a Trinitarian reading or interpretation that did not rely on the already existing assumption that the Trinity is a correct doctrine. I don't say a different kind of argument may not exist, but I've never seen it. If you have one, I'd be happy to look. But surely you see that raising the issue only to combat such a broad argument as the assertion of early belief in the Trinity is something that would be better suited to a book, or several books, rather than in a paper that considers the natural reading suggested by the use of the term and grammatical construct everywhere else in the Bible and the usage of the specific author himself, and that considers all the other factors you mention to fit in perfectly well with that suggested interpretation.


Let’s set aside the matter of whether one or another reader of this discussion would be willing to accept the notion that Scripture was shaped by the ebb and flow of fortunes within the Christian congregation as much as or more than it was by direct inspiration. Even if one were to accept that this historical context shaped belief about Christ at this time, it does not follow logically that this belief would cause the author of Revelation to use arche with a new, uncommon, or specialized meaning found nowhere else in Scripture (and even a meaning of "source" is not helpful to escape the partitive implications of arche, as mentioned above). The more logical course of action would simply be to use words already commonly used to convey the intended point without confusion.

Of course, this is not to say that the meanings of words never change over time or that there isn't a narrowing or expanding of lexical fields. In fact, such things are normal for living languages. What I'm addressing is the notion of some particular historical context altering or shaping a belief, and that belief subsequently causing the meaning of some commonly-used word to take on a meaning that runs contrary to the rest of its lexical field in just this one instance within the Scriptural corpus - an instance where it's normal meaning just happens to be detrimental to the theological perspective of those championing this argument in the first place.

When people's beliefs change significantly and they want to tell others about it and have them understand the new thinking, they choose words that can be used to describe those beliefs accurately; words that they expect their listeners to grasp correctly. They do not attempt to convey important ideas by secretly adapting words they've consistently used to mean something else and leaving their audience with no indication that a significant shift in meaning has occurred.

Certainly, much more of interest could be said on the persecution and martyrdom of Christians in the first few centuries, but they have no clear impact on the argument presented in Rotherham’s paper.

  • The genre of Revelation

Similar comments could be made as above. There is no obvious reason why the apocalyptic genre of Revelation should lead to a new, unprecedented or specialized meaning of the word arche rather than to the use of an existing word commonly used to carry an intended meaning outside the Scripturally-precedented lexical range of arche.

  • The definition and etymology of the word in question

While etymological analysis was prevalent in times past for determining the meaning of a word, it has for quite some time been recognized as a fallacy: the root fallacy, or etymological fallacy. While the etymology of a word is useful in analyzing its historical development, one cannot presume to import meanings for a word that lie outside its lexical range and common usage based on its etymology. As for the definition of the word in question … that is the point of the argument in Rotherham’s paper.

  • The philosophical relationship between the logos in the Gospel of St. John with the arche, alpha, and omega of Revelation

This item is problematic on a number of points. First, one cannot, on the one hand, assume or assert a link between titles in different books based, it would seem, on common authorship, but, on the other hand, deny such common authorship exists in order to avoid explaining why the author would use arche in Rev 3:14 in a way that is entirely inconsistent with his own usage everywhere else in over 20 instances. Whether Sulla has actually done so is unclear, since he seemed to suggest near the end of the discussion that he believed Revelation was written by a different author than John’s gospel but had never questioned it before that time. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to make the point.

Second, it implicitly asserts that the title of "arche and telos" and "alpha and omega" is applied to Christ in Revelation, which point is hardly undisputed. In the thread, I said on this issue:

HeKS wrote:[O]ne of the factors Sulla says Rotherham is supposed to take into account is the philosophical relationship between the Logos and the Alpha and Omega of Revelation. The problem here is that the application to Christ of the title, Alpha and Omega, is a Trinitarian claim that is hotly contested as demonstrably false from, in some cases, a very simple consideration of context, and, in other cases, a more detailed consideration of same. That Rotherham ought to allow this assertion to inform and mold his understanding of the natural meaning of consistently used language into something unprecedented seems rather silly.


Third, it seems intended to assert a different meaning for arche in these titles than is found everywhere else in scripture (confirmed by Sulla’s comments later in the discussion), which, as will be discussed in more depth later, is incorrect.

  • The general meaning of the book of Revelation

It is unclear how this is intended to be distinct from its genre and historical context. I’m sure there’s an intended distinction, but the statement is so vague it is difficult to identify the distinction specifically intended. But as far as it goes, the same comment could be made here as for both those points above.

During the discussion in the thread on this point, Sulla said:

Sulla wrote:Now, HeKS does address the questions I raised, namely: why is all the other stuff that might help expalain the meaning of the passage in question ignored? As I read the response the reason is simple: We have twenty examples (this hodgepodge of evidence from both the NT and the OT; from the Bronze-age, tribal, Hebrew usages of similar constructs to the Classical, Hellenist, Greek usage; from historical works to apocalyptic literature; from an audience of ancient Jews to Classical Christians -- and, by jingo, none of those difference could possibly have the slightest effect on the meaning of any phrase) and so the case is closed.


And as I said at the time:

HeKS wrote:I'm … at a loss to explain how you think a uniform use in analogous grammatical patterns across multiple languages over a number of centuries weakens the likeliness of the grammatical pattern meaning the same thing in Rev 3:14 as it does in every single other case.


See, in Scripture, the usage of arche remained utterly consistent across all those times, settings and genres Sulla listed, right up to the exact period of time and historical setting in which Revelation was written. What Sulla doesn’t seem to realize for some reason is that this actually weakens his claim that, in this one case, the genre or historical context of Revelation should lead us to an unprecedented intended meaning for arche.

It seems that Sulla has, in making this claim about the necessity of treating these issues, misconstrued where the burden of proof lies in this matter. Considering the nature of the argument in Rotherham’s paper, it is not obvious how or why any of these listed factors should lead one to believe that John used the word arche with the intent of meaning something wholly unprecedented in Scripture or in his own writings. Certainly there is nothing inherent in these listed factors, generally, that would lead to such a conclusion. If someone holds that there is something specific that should lead to such a conclusion, it is to them to call it into attention.

But Sulla has stated that he does not actually even assert that any of these issues definitely do have an impact on the meaning of arche here; and he most certainly has not offered any evidence or even any argument in favor of such a conclusion. He has merely asserted that any analysis that does not address these matters is really no analysis at all. Rotherham and I hold that, if these issues bear no obvious impact on the argumentation presented in the paper and do not, in our estimation, lead to any different conclusion whatsoever, their consideration is not necessary to the particular analysis and argumentation of the paper, regardless of whether they might be interesting or useful.

And what of Wallace? Does he say that in each and every case the presentation of a statistical analysis must be accompanied by a treatment of these factors?

Sulla relies primarily on these quotes from Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament:

2. Humility needs to be exercised where the data are insufficient or where the language is capable of man[y] interpretations...

3. Much in language that is easily misunderstood is outside the scope of syntax, even broadly defined. Although a decent grasp on syntax is the sine qua non [i.e. the essential element] for sound exegesis, it is not a panacea for all one’s exegetical woes. Only rarely does the grammar hand the exegete his or her interpretations on a silver platter. In most cases, the better we understand the syntax of the NT, the shorter our list of viable interpretive options. – p.9


The flaw in Sulla’s argument should be obvious. Sulla attempts to use Wallace’s statement, "[o]nly rarely does the grammar hand the exegete his or her interpretations on a silver platter," to suggest that this never happens. In reality, Wallace’s words necessarily mean that sometimes this is exactly what happens.

Sulla also points to Wallace’s statement that "[h]umility needs to be exercised where the data are insufficient or where the language is capable of man[y] interpretations." However, Rotherham chose this example specifically because there is sufficient data and because, from the perspective of Scriptural usage, the language is not capable of many interpretations. The word arche is used nearly 60 times in the NT and in every single instance it falls into one of the four uses mentioned earlier, all of which carry a partitive sense, relating to the outermost point of something. However, of those 4 types of usage, 3 don’t fit the context or structure of the statement in Rev 3:14. The one that fits is ‘first in a series.’ A meaning of "source" is found nowhere in the scriptures and even an appeal to such a usage in extra-Biblical literature finds only a sense of a partitive source, with no clear exceptions anywhere.

Further, wherever arche appears as the head noun in a genitive phrase, such as is found at Rev 3:14, the arche is partitive in the genitive substantive. Sulla, for a while, seized upon Gen. 49:3 ("Reuben, you are my firstborn … and the beginning of my strength") as an exception to this claim. He argued that this was a genitive of production. I argued that "strength" was being used metonymically to mean "children" and that this was a partitive genitive. After some great amount of discussion, and after I asked for the input of Dr. Jason Beduhn on the matter, we came to realize that Rotherham’s paper, while intending to reference Gen 49:3 in the LXX, had actually quoted an English translation of the Hebrew text in his paper. Foolishly, none of us had thought to double check. As it turned out, the LXX actually read, "the beginning (arche) of my children," being a clear case of a partitive genitive, and showing that the LXX translators also read the Hebrew of Gen 49:3 to be using "strength" metonymically. In spite of the fact that Sulla’s argument from this verse turned out to be moot, it provided an opportunity to draw attention to the metonymic use of language and how this can and should impact our analysis of syntax in such cases. While "beginning of my strength" might, read literally, suggest the possibility of a genitive of production, recognizing that "strength" is being used metonymically shows it to actually be a partitive genitive. This issue comes into play again at Hebrews 6:1, where some translations use the phrase, "the first principles (arche) of Christ," but which is properly understood as the "the first principles (arche) of the doctrine of Christ."

Sulla also tried to appeal to Hebrews 3:14 ("hold fast the beginning of our confidence"), arguing that this could not be a partitive genitive because abstract nouns, like "confidence," do not literally have parts. In response, I pointed out the following:

HeKS wrote: Even if abstract things can't literally be broken into separate visible parts, it is entirely common for people to refer to abstract nouns using partitive expressions without confusing anyone.

For example...

"When they started laughing at me I lost SOME OF MY CONFIDENCE."

"I felt I couldn't give her ALL OF MY LOVE until I trusted her completely. I felt like I had to hold back SOME OF MY LOVE and SOME OF MY TRUST along with it until I knew her better."

"When I saw what had happened, I felt SOME OF MY STRENGTH leave me."

….

In the case of Hebrews 3:14, in the ASV we have: "for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end:"

In the RSV we have: "For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end,"

Here, arche is partitive in the confidence. It is the first confidence, the initial confidence, the first bit of confidence we developed when we first heard the gospel and which formed the basis or foundation of the further or additional confidence that we developed over time based on additional factors. After all, we are being told to hold fast this arche. Surely it doesn't mean hold fast a piece of time from a long time ago. What we are holding fast in the confidence ... the first part of the confidence that we developed.

….

If I were to say, "Some of my confidence is based on X, and some is based on Y," nobody would be confused by my statement and say, "Hold on, your confidence doesn't have parts like leaves."


Afterwards, Sulla made this acknowledment:

Sulla wrote: Yes, HeKS, it would seem that it really is possible to speak of abstract things as if they actually had parts. Phrases like, "I lost some of my confidence" are precisely partitive uses of the genitive with respect to abstract things. So, no, we can't say that the terms in Genesis and Hebrews cannot be partitive for this reason.


He seems to have made this concession almost casually, as though it was of little import. The problem, of course, is that Sulla was arguing against the necessity of arche being understood as partitive in Rev 3:14 based on it not being partitive in these cases, and his main argument against these particular examples being partitive genitives was that it is simply impossible for a genitive to be partitive if the genitive substantive is an abstract noun. The context and surrounding structure and grammar of the statements pointed to the conclusion that they were partitive genitives, so it was only the impossibility of the whole thing that prevented that conclusion. However, he has here admitted that it isn’t impossible at all, and is actually quite common, which is precisely what Rotherham and I had been arguing all along. This being the case, nothing prevents the obvious conclusion that Hebrews 3:14 and other examples like it are, in fact, partitive genitives. It also means that we have no instance in the Greek NT where arche is used as the head noun in a genitive statement without being partitive in the genitive substantive, except, it is claimed, in Rev 3:14, the passage under dispute.

Sulla tried to salvage this by appealing to the then remaining case of Gen 49:3, but that was before we had bothered to double-check the text of the LXX and discover that it was very obviously a partitive genitive in the Greek - "arche of my children."

He also appealed to Deut 21:17, but that was pretty much identical to the case at Gen 49:3: "For he should recognize as the firstborn the hated one’s son by giving him two parts in everything he is found to have, because that one is the beginning of his generative power. The right of the firstborn’s position belongs to him." The term "generative power" or "strength" is again being used metonymically in the Hebrew as a direct reference to his children, being rendered as "children" in the LXX, making this an undeniable example of a partitive genitive.

He also appeals to our statement that arche might be used in a genitive of production based on our admission that the case in Genesis 49:3 might be a genitive of this form. However, again, this was before we all noticed that there was no possibility of the case in Genesis being a genitive of production, so there was actually no basis for thinking arche might be used in such a way.

A last ditch effort was made to salvage Heb 3:14 by appealing to Philip Hughes’ commentary on Hebrews, for a reading of, "the confidence we had at the first part of our Christian lives," but Rotherham pointed out the following:

Rotherham wrote:Good grief, Sulla, pay attention to the Greek, not some paraphrase in English. There is no denying that the word "confidence" is IN a Genitive phrase. Every translation that pays any attention to the gentitive construct renders it in such a way that the confidence … they had at FIRST is part of the confidence they need to HOLD ON TO to the end.


And it needs to be pointed out that in spite of Sulla’s efforts to cling to these cases as supposed counter-examples where there might be other viable readings besides partitive genitives because of the use of abstract nouns, they are not even truly parallels to Rev 3:14, as "creation" is not an abstract noun.

After more back and forth between Sulla and Rotherham, Sulla summed up the discussion to this point as follows:

Sulla wrote:The basic thrust of … [Rotherham’s argument] is this: since we have the universal observance of a partitive genitive in all Biblical phrases where we find the term "arche of _____," then we are not at liberty to read the similar phrase in Rev. 3 in any way except a partitive genitive.

As it happens, though, we really are at liberty to read the phrase in a way that is not partitive genitive, since at least two (and maybe more) of the examples Rotherham presents have valid readings where the genitive is not partitive. So, there can't be any valid claim that we must read Rev. 3 as a partitive statement. Pretty simple, really.


But again, he had, in the final analysis, actually found no such examples, meaning he was wholly incapable of invalidating the claim that we must read Rev. 3 as a partitive statement. Pretty simple, really.

Yet another line of argumentation comes to nothing.

From here, we move on to Point 3, a.k.a. "the meandering mess that we all slogged through in the second half of the thread".

Point 3: Changing Rules

I had originally planned on providing a point-by-point summary of this section, but looking at it now, there is so much here – and so much of it ultimately irrelevant or pointless – that it hardly seems worthwhile. Instead, I will try to give a more broad summary covering the main issues, which I’m guessing will still be long enough all on its own.

First, here is Point 3 of Sulla’s challenge:

Sulla wrote:When Rotherham is making his points, he feels justified in citing evidence from the LXX version of Genesis, various historical books, other gospels, whatever. But when defending against the idea that arche means something like "ruler," suddenly the test that matters is whether St. John uses the word in this particular way. Of course, there is not enough evidence is the writings of John to make any kind of case regarding the use of arche with a genitive phrase, so Rotherham appeals to whatever places he finds such a construct, but relying on that observation would have made a much shorter paper.

In any case, the idea that John’s usage of the word eleven times in one way precludes a different use on the twelfth is facile. Look, I might write a thousand times about my local bank, the banking system, my trip to the bank to get some cash, the bank that sold my mortgage, the teller at the bank… But when I say I will go down to the river and fish in the shade on the bank, it is obvious that I am simply using another of the common definitions of the word. Yet it is precisely the entire of context that Rotherham has excluded from his analysis – indeed, that he has de-legitimized in his polemic.


First of all, as for this idea of changing rules, it is nonsense. Rotherham used two sets of information to establish two separate things.

First, Rotherham used the entirety of the Greek NT, and, secondarily, the Greek OT of the LXX, to demonstrate how arche relates grammatically to a genitive substantive when used as the head noun in a genitive statement. In every single case, arche is partitive and the genitive statement is to be classified as a partitive genitive. This held true regardless of the particular meaning of arche in any given instance.

Second, he drew attention to the fact that every single time John uses arche, outside of Rev. 3:14, he uses it to mean "beginning." This is not about grammatical structure, but about what the particular author uses the word to mean. John is entirely consistent in his usage. There are no counter examples.

Now, Sulla seemed to think that either Rotherham should entirely limit his argumentation to John’s writings or else should give equal weight to all of the scriptural data on all points. He seemed to think that either course would be advantageous to him, since limiting the evidence to John’s writings would not give sufficient examples of arche being used in a genitive construct to draw any conclusions, while giving equal weight to the meaning of all uses of arche in the Bible would open up additional interpretive options for its use at Rev. 3:14.

In reality, neither position is practical or helpful to Sulla’s case. The absence of numerous instances of John using arche in a genitive statement is irrelevant. We have a wealth of data from many other Bible writers using arche in a genitive construct throughout the entire NT, which, along with the consistent use in the LXX, would have formed John’s frame of reference and that of his audience and shows the common and consistent use of this particular grammatical structure by John's contemporaries who were also writing in a scriptural/theological context. And where John does use this construct, he is consistent with them in using arche in a partitive relationship to the genitive substantive. If John had used arche in a genitive statement that was not a partitive genitive, that would have been relevant, but that isn’t the case.

Likewise, attempting to give equal weight to all meanings of arche in scripture would not have been any more helpful. At this point, Sulla was under the impression that arche could be used to mean "ruler" and that it was used in such a way elsewhere in scripture. Thus, he believed that giving equal weight to all Biblical meanings of arche would open up the meaning of "ruler" at Rev. 3:14. However, the reality is that arche does not mean "ruler" in a personal sense. It can be used to represent authorities or, more specifically, "principalities" of power within communities in a general sense, but it is not used to identify a particular person as a ruler. The preferred term for this was archon, which is the term John uses consistently to identify a ruler.

Obviously, the general sense of principalities doesn’t fit the context of Rev 3:14 at all, nor do meanings such as the extremities or corners of a sail. So even if all meanings throughout scripture were given equal weight, it wouldn't change anything, since no alternate Biblical meanings can fit the context of the passage in question.

Still, the approach hardly seems sound in and of itself. Even if there were other viable meanings for arche attested to in scripture, the usage of the specific author should hold primary weight when there is sufficient data to draw a conclusion, which there is in this case. If there were not sufficient data for the specific author then analysis could extend to the rest of the corpus, but as we've just seen, that wouldn't change anything.

So, we are left here with the following observations:

  • All instances in scripture outside of John’s works consistently show that when arche is used as the head noun in a genitive statement, it is partitive in the genitive substantive, and where John does use this construct himself he follows suit, providing no contradictory examples.

  • Apart from Rev 3:14, John uses arche numerous times, using it to mean "beginning" in every single instance, and there is no alternate meaning used in scripture that would fit the context of Rev 3:14 (but all those alternate meanings are partitive anyway)

However, even if equal weight was given to all meanings of arche found in scripture, which does not include a meaning of a personal "ruler", it wouldn't change anything because no other viable scriptural meaning can fit the context.

As a side point, even if "ruler" was a possible meaning of arche and used elsewhere in scripture (neither of which is the case), any attempt to attribute this meaning to the usage at Rev. 3:14 would need to explain not only why John would switch from his otherwise consistent meaning of arche to something else without warning, but also why he would choose to use it to mean something ("ruler") that he consistently conveyed with another word ("archon"). Sulla repeatedly acknowledged that a reasonable explanation would be needed to explain this anomaly if one wanted to attempt to apply this meaning at Rev 3:14, but never attempted to offer one … even before it became apparent that arche was not used to mean a personal ruler.

Sulla attempted to circumvent the problem of John’s consistent usage of arche in every other instance by first claiming that it wasn’t that big of a deal and that we were making too much of it and then trying to back up that claim with the use of an entirely irrelevant illustration intended to make a sudden and unexpected meaning of "source" seem entirely reasonable:

Sulla wrote:Look, I might write a thousand times about my local bank, the banking system, my trip to the bank to get some cash, the bank that sold my mortgage, the teller at the bank… But when I say I will go down to the river and fish in the shade on the bank, it is obvious that I am simply using another of the common definitions of the word. Yet it is precisely the entire of context that Rotherham has excluded from his analysis


Actually, it is Sulla’s illustration that utterly ignores the issue of context. Here is how I addressed this illustration in the thread:

HeKS wrote:If you say a word over and over and over again with a particular meaning, then you train people to understand you a certain way. Every time you use that word, they are going to default to understanding you that way, unless it is used in a context where you obviously CAN'T mean it that way.

In Sulla's challenge, … he tried to argue that he could write a book and use the word "bank" a thousand times to refer to his local banking establishment, but that wouldn't prevent him from one time saying that he was going to go fish in the shade on the bank. But this is clearly an example of what I said right above would be required to have the audience understand he intended to use the word in a different way. In fact, … he even said it was obvious that he was using the word with a different definition in mind. And that's precisely the point. The statement itself makes it obvious that he intends to use the word with a different meaning. The semantic change is clearly and unmistakably signaled in the statement itself. This is precisely what good authors do so that their audience can understand them. It's a matter of simple communicative logic.

But consider the mistake that an extremely poor author might make in failing to apply this simple communicative logic. Let's say the author wrote a book in which he used the word "bank" a thousand times. 999 of those times, he used it to mean his local banking establishment, but in its 987th occurrence in the book he said that he went for a walk and decided to sit down and "read a newspaper in the shade of the bank," after which he decided to get some lunch. 100% of readers would assume he meant that he sat down and read a newspaper in the shade of his local banking establishment and that he had used "bank" with the same meaning all 1,000 times, assuming there was a nice bench out front of the bank, or maybe a nice little cafe that happened to be positioned in the shade of the bank during the late morning hours. Readers would assume this because it is the only reasonable way to interpret the statement within the context of the book. Every other time it is used it means his banking establishment, and in this instance there is nothing that shows the author obviously means something else, like the river bank. And heaven help this author if the fact that the newspaper was read on the river bank rather than in front of his banking establishment is in any way important to the story, because nobody is going to have any clue. Trying to convey this event as happening on the river bank in this way, using "bank" in this kind of sentence after its consistent use to refer to a local banking establishment, would be communicatively nonsensical. This type of incompetent writing would make for a very short career.

Likewise, it would be communicatively nonsensical for John to attempt to convey the idea that Jesus is the source of the creation by God rather than the first part of it by using a word that he uses everywhere else to mean a partitive beginning; unless he used it in a sentence where it obviously could not hold its usual meaning. But just the opposite is the case. He used it in a sentence that actually strengthens the likeliness of it holding its usual meaning. As such, nobody could reasonably be expected to take such a different meaning from his words. That Trinitarians do take a different meaning is not a counter-argument, because they do not take a different meaning as a natural function of the language. They just don't. The meaning that they take is specifically intended as a preferred alternative to the obvious reading. It might be technically possible if you just grab those words and randomly put them on a blank page, but it is not a reasonable reading of John's words at all, unless we take John himself to be a most incompetent author who does not communicate with his audience in a reasonable manner, in which case it's not the reading that's made reasonable but the author who is made unreasonable. There is a certain gnostic quality to this kind of reading.

If John wanted to convey the message they would like, it is only reasonable to expect that he would have either used the word in such a way that it was obvious that he intended a different meaning than 1) his usual meaning and 2) the default or unmarked meaning. Preferably (from a communicative perspective), he would have used a word that more directly carried his intended meaning in common usage and was unlikely to be misunderstood in the context of his writings. He did neither. As a result, there is precisely one reasonable interpretation of his words.


This was Sulla’s attempt to validate his setting aside of the evidence of John’s consistent usage of arche in 23 places - approximately 40% of the total instances of arche in the NT – and to inexplicably insert the novel meaning of "source" - found nowhere else in scripture - contrary to all communicative logic … but he didn’t even make any attempt to address my rebuttal of his ineffective illustration.

As it turns out, his own illustration draws attention to what we would need to see in Rev. 3:14 to interpret arche contrary to John’s otherwise entirely consistent usage: the content and context would need to clearly indicate that John did not intend his normal meaning for arche and would need to clearly point to some other meaning for the word.

This is what happens in Sulla’s illustration … he uses the word "bank" to refer to his local banking establishment numerous times, but on one occasion uses it to mean the river bank when he says, "I will go down to the river and fish in the shade on the bank." In this statement, there is no question whatsoever that he intends to reference the river bank rather than his local banking establishment.

However, when John consistently uses arche to mean "first in relation to time or sequence" and then identifies Christ as the "arche of the creation by God," there is nothing in the statement to suggest a new or different meaning from his otherwise consistent usage, and thus no reason for him to expect his audience to take a different meaning than usual. To suggest otherwise is to fly in the face of basic communicative logic. The natural meaning of the statement, based on John’s consistent usage of the word arche and the consistent significance of this grammatical pattern in all of Greek scripture is that Christ is the first part of the creation by God.

And so this is one more aspect of Sulla’s challenge that is rendered moot.

From here, the rest of Sulla’s position essentially hung on his claim that arche could legitimately mean "source," and thus "source" was a viable option at Rev. 3:14, making Christ the source of the creation by God. Debate over this claim of his basically took up the rest of the discussion.

Now, debate over this issue meandered all over the map and trying to recount what took place, blow-by-blow, would be no more helpful at this point than just asking a reader to go work their way through the whole discussion again. What will be more helpful is to boil this aspect of the discussion down to the basic issue, so that’s what we’ll do.

Sulla seemed to be under the impression that all he needed to do to establish the viability of his position was demonstrate that "source" fell within the lexical field of arche. This was not so; for a number of reasons.

First, even if "source" fell within arche’s lexical field, that would not establish any pattern of its use with such a meaning within the context of scripture. And the fact is that no such pattern existed.

Second, it would not establish any pattern of use with such a meaning within this type of grammatical structure … that is, when it is used as the head noun in a genitive statement where the genitive substantive is capable of being viewed as divisible into parts, which we’ve seen is possible even when the genitive substantive happens to be an abstract noun.

Third, it would not establish any pattern of use with such a meaning by the particular author in question. No such pattern exists with John.

Fourth, it would leave Sulla to explain why John would switch meaning from his otherwise unanimous usage of arche without any indication that he was doing so, and how it could be expected that his readers would guess this intended change in meaning.

But there is an even more significant problem. Sulla’s argument assumes that there is a one-to-one correlation between the lexical fields of words in different languages. In other words, it assumes that if a word in language A is translated by a word in language B, the full range of possible meanings for the word in language B can rightly be attributed to the word in language A.

This simply isn’t so. Even if arche can be translated, in some circumstances, by the English word, "source," that does not mean that the entire lexical field of "source" can be read back into arche.

In order to see an example of this, we need look no further than the relationship between arche and the Hebrew word, reshith. In the LXX, arche is used to translate the Hebrew reshith, but reshith has a different range of meaning than arche.

Reshith means "first, beginning, best/chief/choice part." It is not used to make any references to general rulership or leadership, as is arche, and it certainly never means anything like "source" or "origin". And yet, arche is used to translate reshith. Why? Because the lexical range of arche does, in fact, overlap part of the lexical range of reshith, however, the lexical range of arche also extends beyond it. This example demonstrates that even if the English word, "source," might be used to translate arche under certain circumstances, that does not mean that the full lexical range of "source" can be read back into some instance where arche is used. As I explained in the thread:

HeKS wrote:When you say in English that a thing is the source or origin of something, it is possible that you mean it partitively and it is possible that you mean it non-partitively. The lexical field of "source" in English covers both partitive and non-partitive senses. When you identify a thing as the arche of something in the sense of it being its source, you don't have that option. You must necessarily mean it partitively. Arche only covers the partitive aspect of the lexical field of the English word "source". This is plain to see if you take a look at the examples that are cited by the lexicons for the meaning of source/origin and only makes sense when you consider the rest of the lexical field of arche and how lexical fields are formed.


This point is extremely important, because Sulla does not just need it to be possible for arche to mean "source" or "origin" in some sense … he needs it to be possible for arche to mean "source" or "origin" in some very specific sense. He needs arche to be capable of meaning source or origin in the sense of an "unrelated cause," a "disconnected origin," a source that is of an entirely different sort or category than that which it is produces.

Why does Sulla need arche to be capable of meaning this specific sort of "source"? Because anything less would fail to remove the devastating implications of arche's consistently partitive nature as pointed to in Rotherham’s article. If Sulla is only capable of demonstrating that, in some particular circumstances, arche might be used to identify a related cause, a connected origin, a source that is of the same sort or category as that which it produces, he has not helped himself one bit. Arguing for the identification of Christ as this kind of source at Rev. 3:14 would not remove Christ from the class of created things … it would identify him as the first creation, who, in turn, gave rise to all other creations, which is, in fact, a Biblical teaching. The Trinity doctrine is still undone.

And therein lies Sulla’s problem. Through the remainder of the discussion, try as he did to establish the possibility for arche to mean "unrelated cause" or "disconnected origin," he was unable to find a single clear or even likely example of this from any writer, Biblical or secular.

Instead, what we found was that using arche to mean something like "source" or "origin" was primarily restricted to speculative philosophical writings and, later than John’s time, was used by some Theological writers who were highly influenced by philosophy and who are credited with being largely responsible for melding Christianity with secular philosophies, which calls to mind Paul's caution at Col. 2:8. However, even in these cases, all of these writers used arche to refer to an organic, connected, related source, wholly unlike the usage Sulla was attempting to find. This held true from Aniximander (who was first credited with such a use of arche), through Aristotle, Philo, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Josephus. It also held true for the lexicons Sulla cited in an attempt to support his point.

Some of the examples Sulla thought supported his position most strongly actually directly contradicted his argument.

Philo is a prime example. Sulla found a place where Philo is quoted as calling God "the great Cause (arche) of all things," and reasoned:

Sulla wrote:Philo uses arche in a non-partitive manner: Cause.


But is this really so?

First, it should be noted that "Cause" is a translation. Philo says God is the "arche of all things," and the specific meaning of "Cause" is applied in translation. But if Philo calls God the "arche of all things," doesn't that demonstrate a non-partitive use as Sulla claims? The answer is no, as Philo clearly shows us. Philo included God in the class of "all things" in the immediately preceding sentence, where he called Him "the most glorious of all things." In this instance, "all things" does not directly correspond to “all creation,” of which God is not a part, but to all things in existence. Since God is in existence along with all other things that exist, he is, by Philo's explicit identification, partitive in that classification of "all things." Because of this, Philo can refer to him as the arche of all things, which can either be an identification of God as the first thing in existence, or else, as the first thing to be in existence and subsequently cause all other things to exist.

The closest Sulla came to finding the type of meaning he was looking for was a single dictionary definition of arche by Aristotle, who spoke of it being used to denote both an immanent and non-immanent source. However, Aristotle’s definition must be taken in the context in which it was offered, namely, metaphysics.

In metaphysics, being immanent literally refers to being "indwelling." It refers to being merely an aspect inside of a larger single unit. We see this from Aristotle’s own examples, where he identifies an immanent arche as being the heart or brain of an animal, the foundation of a building, or the keel of a ship. In providing examples where arche could be used to identify a non-immanent source, he cites the example of a father as the arche of his children, or the first harsh words leading into an argument. Every one of the examples Sulla pointed to in this discussion easily fits into one category or the other.

Within the context of metaphysics, using arche to refer to a non-immanent source does not mean that the arche can or should be placed into a separate category than that which it produces. It simply means that, in this case, the arche has personal or individual existence rather than only being an element of a single, larger whole. It does not remove the arche from being partitive in that which it produces.

We can illustrate the distinction using metal widgets. We might say that the metal is the immanent arche of the widgets. It is what comes first and makes up the primary element of the widgets. Now, if the first widget produced was designed to replicate other widgets, we could identify this first widget as the non-immanent arche of the widgets it went on to produce.

However, what we could not do is say that the warehouse or factory used to produce the widgets, which falls into an entirely different category than the widgets themselves, was the arche of the widgets.

There is no example anywhere to support such a usage, and that is not surprising for a very simple reason. While the meanings within the lexical range of a word are not generally synonymous, what they DO have in common is that they relate to a particular phenomenon. In the case of arche, the phenomenon to which its lexical field relates is that of being the furthest or extreme point of something … NOT the unrelated point lying outside of something. Thus, it is perfectly understandable why arche’s lexical field expanded to include a meaning of a related or connected source in philsophical discussions. Such a source would be the furthest or extreme point of something that gives rise to the rest of that something. However, it would not make anywhere near as much sense to use arche to refer to a source that lay outside the boundary of that which it produces, because such a usage would utterly negate the phenomenon described by the entire lexical field of arche in the first place. And, even if, in spite of our inability to find it, an example of such a usage really does exist somewhere, from some time, it would seem to be so exceedingly rare that it could not be taken seriously as the meaning John actually intended.

In line with all this, speaking to the meaning of arche at Rev. 3:14, Dr. Jason Beduhn said in my discussion with him that arche must be understood as being...

Beduhn wrote:...IN CONTINUITY AND ONGOING CONNECTION WITH that which is derived or dependent or subordinate to it


And that, regardless of how arche might be translated here, it must be understood that it is...

Beduhn wrote:...in every case inclusive within the genitive "of creation," not separate.


Sulla attempted to address this whole problem by suggesting that Christ was part of creation because he joined it when he took on a human body, but was also the uncreated source of God’s creation. This is a cheat, though a common one to Trinitarians. The language of the statement necessitates that it is in his role as the arche of the creation by God that Christ is a part of that creation. It simply will not do to claim that Christ is the uncreated, unrelated source of creation but that arche can be used because he later took on a human body. It just doesn’t work that way.

Sulla then attempted to argue that we didn't even really believe the claim Rotherham's article makes that Rev. 3:14 explicitly identifies Jesus as the first creation. Why? Because the article predicates this claim upon Biblical precedent and John's usage. Sulla claimed that a conditional conclusion such as this meant we didn't even really think it was explicit at all. He seemed to think that if we agreed it was at all possible for a random translator to translate the statement differently if it were presented to them on a blank piece of paper, that meant the statement wasn't explicit at all. But this view totally ignores the way that people use and understand language. I explained in the thread as follows:

HeKS wrote:[A] person might try to supply all manner of alternate meanings based on different definitions of a word (with or without precedent) and supported by the "authority" of all manner of theological commitments and appealing to all manner of varied sources and the meanings they subsequently propose out of this process might not be impossible in the strictest sense. That, however, does not make those alternate meanings reasonable.

….

[T]he trend of the evidence all points to a specific meaning for arche at Rev 3:14. That is, it points to the default, normal, or "unmarked" meaning of arche at that location: beginning, in relation to time or as the first in a series. Accepting this, Rev 3:14 really does explicitly tell us that Jesus is the first member of the created order. This is the meaning that is naturally indicated by John's usage and by NT usage in general.

….

The article argues that a consideration of the scriptural usage of arche available to us, which is rather plentiful, all points in one direction …. The conclusion is that … Rev 3:14 has one reasonable possibility, and that one reasonable possibility can rightly be considered as an explicit claim that Christ is the first part of creation.


And:

HeKS wrote:It seems Sulla's position is that, in saying the person explicitly told you x, you must mean the person made a statement containing a series of words that each have only one possible meaning, and their organization in the actual statement can, in an absolute sense, literally have only one meaning.

….

[However,] you could say to a person "You explicitly told me ... x," and what you mean is that in the context of your discussion with that person, and based on the language that person was using throughout that discussion, there was simply no other reasonable way to interpret their statement. If you went through that discussion 10 times, you would interpret the statement exactly that way every time, even if technically the words could mean something else when transposed into a different context or setting. This is so because all those things upon which sensible, intentional communication from one person to another is built would, in that context, be pointing towards one particular meaning.

These are the types of statements that if you were to call someone on them and they would try to say that they meant something else you would insist that they were being disingenuous and equivocating, either when they said it initially or when trying to apply a different meaning to it now. You would insist this, because there was no reason for you to understand it in any other way than you did, and there could be no reasonable expectation on their part for you to understand it any differently.


There was no basis for Sulla's claim that we didn't even agree with the article's claim that this statement was explicit. The problem was that Sulla was taking an unrealistically narrow and hyper-literal view of what it means for a statement to be explicit, which seemed to be a common problem with his position and arguments during the discussion. This whole issue just ended up being a distraction.

Of course, there are still more problems for Sulla’s assertion that John here meant to identify Christ as the source of creation who is not himself a creature. As I said to Sulla in the thread:

HeKS wrote:[W]hen something is intended to be identified as the source of something else, the whole structure of the statement is different, making use of an adverb like "pothen" or a preposition like "ek". This appears to be the consistent pattern of the entire NT and of John himself, who does so around a dozen times.


Sulla took exception to this, thinking it was silly to suggest that John might identify Christ as the source of all using something like an adverb or preposition rather than a noun, and offered this:

Sulla wrote:"He is the source-ly of creation"?


To which I responded with the following:

HeKS wrote:Sulla, surely you know better than this. I didn't say it would be reasonable to expect John would slap an adverb into the existing sentence in place of the noun. I said it would be reasonable to expect John would convey the thought using the structure he uses to convey this kind of thought everywhere else. Don't confuse the original Greek with the English translation. Where an English translation has a statement in which "source" is used as a noun, like "What is the source of your teachings?" the original Greek reads something closer to "whence come your teachings?" This is simply how the idea of some separate source or origin of a thing was expressed by the writers of the Greek scriptures, John included ... at least in every instance I've been able to find so far for both the NT as a whole and in John's writings specifically.

So if John was going to express the idea that we could translate into English as saying that Jesus is the source of creation, his consistent style would suggest that he would do so with something more akin to identifying him as the one from whom, or out of whom, or whence creation came to exist. Nothing would prevent an English translation from rendering the statement as saying Christ is "the source of creation," and it would actually be in line with the scriptural pattern.


I also pointed out that Paul uses the preposition, ek, to identify the Father as the source of all creation at 1 Cor. 8:6, the one out of whom all creation proceeds, so it is unclear why only a noun would be dignified enough to identify the Son as the source of creation.

Sulla really offered no counter-argument to this line of reasoning. He merely said:

Sulla wrote:I think I am out of the business of debating how St. John would have expressed this idea of source.


I summarized the problem for him as follows:

HeKS wrote:Well, you know, I'm running out of ways to word this in the hopes of eliciting a response. John had a consistent way of expressing himself. You claim he broke out of that pattern in this one spot, not only abandoning the way he elsewhere conveyed the thought you want him to have conveyed here, but supposedly doing it using an expression he consistently used everywhere else to mean something different. And why, according to you, might he have done this? Reason: unknown. Or maybe, Reason: 'cause.


The importance of this point should not be underestimated. Essentially, Sulla’s position is that, in Rev. 3:14, John intended to break from the consistent patterns of not only his own writings, but the patterns of the entire NT, and use a hypothetical extension (unrelated cause/source) to the lexical field of arche to identify Jesus as the uncreated and unrelated source of God’s creation, without providing any clue in the language of the statement that he intended this new meaning or any way for his readers to grasp this intended shift. And, as strange and utterly contrary to communicative logic as this whole scenario would be, Sulla doesn’t even attempt to offer any possible reason for it. Apparently, the only reason to be offered is the implicit and unspoken one: Because John was definitely a Trinitarian who must have been writing in a way consistent with the doctrine rather than in conflict with it?

I don't mean to suggest that this, on its own, is absolutely decisive - that John would necessarily have used specifically pothen or ek to convey the idea Sulla wants - but to use another comment from Dr. Beduhn:

Beduhn wrote:Greek was quite capable of referring to a cause or an external creator without muddling it with an organic source or root of something.


So this is yet another glaring issue with the construct of the communicative logic Sulla seeks to impose on this passage that is in need of explanation but never receives any.

What Sulla does try to do is claim that our use of a statistical analysis of John’s writings and the NT as a whole is "nutty" and that our method and conclusions have no scholarly support. He also argued that John actually did use arche to mean "unrelated source."

Let’s deal with the first one first.

There was much discussion over who we might find or where we might look in the academic community to find someone Sulla would accept who both used our methods of argumentation on this very verse, AND came to the same conclusions we did. I said to Sulla:

HeKS wrote:Idealism aside, there is simply a very small segment of the academic community whom we might even hope to find using this type of argument on this particular verse and subsequently agreeing with us. It is not particularly difficult, however, to find academics who make use of the same method of argumentation in other instances in order to establish the same type of thing. The real question before us is this: When a thorough analysis of this sort is conducted in this case, what does it point to?


However, we drew his attention to Albert Barnes, who is a Trinitarian scholar.

HeKS wrote:As it happens, … a somewhat incomplete analysis of this sort is conducted on this very verse by Trinitarian Albert Barnes in his commentary. As a Trinitarian, we might guess from the outset what he will NOT conclude, and we'd be right, so all that remains is to find out what he does conclude:

The beginning of the creation of God - This expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him, its meaning has been much controverted. Compare the notes on Colossians 1:15. The phrase used here is susceptible, properly, of only one of the following significations, namely, either:

(a)That he was the beginning of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to exist - that is, that he was the author of all things; or.

(b)That he was the first created being; or.

(c)That he holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe.

It is not necessary to examine any other proposed interpretations, for the only other senses supposed to be conveyed by the words, that he is the beginning of the creation in the sense I that he rose from the dead as the first-fruits of them that sleep, or that he is the head of the spiritual creation of God, axe so foreign to the natural meaning of the words as to need no special refutation. As to the three significations suggested above, it may be observed, that the first one - that he is the author of the creation, and in that sense the beginning - though expressing a scriptural doctrine John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16, is not in accordance with the proper meaning of the word used here - ̓̀ archē . The word properly refers to the "commencement" of a thing, not its "authorship," and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist. The two ideas which run through the word as it is used in the New Testament are those just suggested. ... The word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence.


Barnes concludes that the intended meaning is that Christ is the head/ruler of creation. He denies the first-created meaning based on the fact that he believes the Bible elsewhere teaches Christ was uncreated and that arche is used some few times in the scriptures to refer to rulership and thus provides a possible alternative to the meaning of first-created. However, he fails to explain or even interact with the fact that none of those instances where it is used of rulership are to be found in John's writings, that it is never used to mean rulership when found in the singular but is always either plural or with "all/every" and along with other words related to rulership, or that in these instances it is best translated as "principalities" because it is used to denote those within communities holding the first place of rank and inherently carried that partitive significance throughout NT usage.

Still, it's certainly worthy to note that he bases his argument on a statistical analysis of NT usage and considers that powerful enough to eliminate from consideration the meaning of "source" and he also recognizes that attempts to limit the context to the new or spiritual creation "axe so foreign to the natural meaning of the words as to need no special refutation."

It's unclear how much support you expect us to find from academic sources. If Barnes agreed with our method of analysis (and in fact the analysis itself) any more he'd have to stop being a Trinitarian. If he had been more thorough in his consideration of the details of his statistical analysis and weighted John's works as having primary relevance he would have scarcely been left with any other choice. But in any case, it should be clear that the method of our analysis is hardly viewed as 'nutty' within the scholarly community. It is commonly used and respected enough to establish or eliminate a range of meaning for a disputed word in any given instance of scripture, at least when the database is sufficient.


Interestingly, Sulla drew attention to Plummer, who claimed that the words at Rev 3:14 bear two possible interpretations: 1) that Christ was the first created thing of all things God created, or 2) that Christ is the source of all the things God created.

As I pointed out to Sulla in the thread:

HeKS wrote:…while Plummer points out the two possible meanings of arche at Rev 3:14 as "first-created" and "source", Barnes, who is also a Trinitarian, claims the two possible meanings are "first-created" and "ruler", specifically ruling out "source" as having no basis in the entirety of scripture and ruling out any attempt to limit the meaning to the ‘new creation’ as being so foreign to the context that it requires no special argument. Barnes chooses "ruler" because it allows him to avoid choosing "first-created". But Plummer doesn’t allow for that possibility and, as we’ve already come to see, "ruler" is not a viable option because arche simply doesn’t mean "ruler" in a personal sense. That leaves Barnes with "first-created" as the only possible meaning. And Barnes leaves Plummer with "first-created" as the only possible meaning.

"First-created" is the obvious and straightforward choice here, and the only one that is not extremely problematic and lacking in any clear precedent. Meanwhile, Trinitarian scholars are eliminating from possible consideration the other meanings for arche that their doctrinal comrades are grasping at in an attempt to avoid "first-created", which, in every case that it is dismissed as the wrong meaning, is so dismissed for predetermined theological reasons. It’s almost funny to read the comment, "Plummer and many other able scholars declare the second meaning to be the one intended here." We might, without losing any of its value, paraphrase this comment as, "Plummer and many other able scholars declare this verse does not mean the opposite of what they believe to be true." Or, "Plummer and many other able scholars declare their beliefs are correct and interpret this verse accordingly."


It should also be noted that Plummer's second option, that Christ is the source of all the things God created, essentially reverses the order explicitly laid out in 1 Cor. 8:6. If we take the words, "the source of the creation by God," for what they logically mean, it makes Christ the origin of the creative works and God the intermediate agent. This is especially so if arche is applied to Christ in the same context as God is mentioned (i.e. Christ being on the creator side of the equation rather than the created side), since that would directly identify Christ as the first and outermost point of the creative process. Rather than the sequence of God > Christ > creation shown in I Cor 8:6, it would now be Christ > God > creation. This should be reason enough to reject this reading of John's words, since even Trinitarianism cannot accept this order, yet it is the preferred interpretation of Sulla and many other Trinitarians.

Sulla never addressed any of this.

Moving on to the second line of argumentation, Sulla contended that John used arche to mean "unrelated source" by calling God "the Beginning (arche) and the End (telos)," which Sulla claimed should be interpreted as "the source and the goal." And, since God isn’t part of creation, it must mean "unrelated source." Sulla asserts:

Sulla wrote:"God calling himself the Beginning and End is not a partitive statement."


He also asserts that there is no support to be found for viewing this title as carrying any kind of partitive sense.

This was actually one of the most ill-conceived arguments he offered and defended throughout the whole discussion, but it still, inexplicably, managed to eat up a few pages of the thread, leading right down to the end of the discussion.

First, he is wrong that there is no support or precedent for our interpretation of these titles in Revelation, which is that they identify the Father as the one and only Eternal, Almighty God using an idiomatic title that refers to a categorical "comprehensive completeness." I will simply paste in a few portions of the discussion here:

HeKS wrote:The interpretation of these titles that we are offering is extremely common and there is, in fact, support for it. Rotherham has mentioned Thayer’s and Vine’s. To these we could add the following…

From Dr. John H. Roller’s commentary on Revelation
Rev 1:8 – "I AM THE ALPHA (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) AND THE OMEGA (the last letter of the Greek alphabet)," SAYS THE LORD (Yahweh) GOD, "WHO IS AND WHO WAS AND WHO IS TO COME, THE ALMIGHTY (El Shaddai)." (This statement, which might be paraphrased as, "I am the beginning and the end," is an idiom which amounts to a claim to be "everything." God is really saying, "I am the only Being that actually exists, always has existed and always will exist. Everything else that exists is only temporary – merely something that I created and that I can just as easily destroy.")


From the Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament
Alpha and the Omega ...
These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and are here used figuratively to stand for the entirety of anything. Such a comparison seems to have existed for ages. The Hebrews said of Abraham that, "he kept the law from Aleph to Tav (first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet). "From A to Izzard" was a colonial proverb in America with the same meaning. ("Izzard" was an early American name for the letter Z).


This point from the Coffman Commentary, about the Hebrew version of this saying being applied to Abraham shows up often. In fact, it seems examples of commentaries that draw out this significance could be multiplied quite easily.... The two examples I pasted are cases of first in a series, a series of one, exhausting a category of Almighty God, and this is the sense that seems to appear most commonly in the commentaries I’ve looked at. That makes sense considering the relation to Isaiah 44 that Rotherham has pointed out. These two interpretations of the title fit with the Biblical precedent for the usage of arche. Your interpretation of "source and goal" is the one that stands out as unprecedented. Where I've come across commentaries that mention the idea of "source and goal" being represented here, it is as an implication of one of the other two primary senses I've just mentioned. It is not we who are merely asserting a meaning for the title. We are using an interpretation that enjoys Biblical precedent both in terms of the usage of arche and in the meaning assigned to the related title in Isaiah, as well as such precedent as the saying applied to Abraham, which was merely one use of a common idiom that crosses many languages.


Sulla attempted to counter the references from these commentaries but was entirely unsuccessful, conflating the issues and the references and not recognizing that the very points he was drawing out were detrimental to his argument.

I continued by drawing in a previous portion of our discussion:

HeKS wrote:
Sulla wrote:
HeKS wrote:…When arche was used to denote primacy in time, it was in relation to contextual contemporaries, over which a primacy in rank was also implied. When it was used on occasion (in plural or with "all/every" and along with other words of rulership and authority) to refer to primacy of rank, it was still intended to be understood in relation to contextual contemporaries, explicit or implied….

Absolutely not. God calls himself arche in Revelation, yet he has no "contextual contemporaries."


What you are failing to grasp is that God does not just call himself arche. He calls himself the arche and the telos, which addresses this issue of "contextual contemporaries" by specifying that he doesn't have any; he is in a category all his own, a category consisting of one member. If you stopped trying to take our references to a series or category or partitive in such a hyper literal fashion that requires there to literally be other members (which has been a consistent problem throughout this discussion), you would see that the point we are making about this title is not controversial and could hardly be more common in languages extending from Hebrew right through Greek to English. It's similar to the English saying, "the be-all and end-all", which is a reference to the quintessential element of something; one need consider nothing beyond it. Other related sayings: the A-Z; the one and only.


And…

HeKS wrote:Sulla, titles are made up of words that have meanings. John uses arche several times in each of his writings and always with the sense of first in a series or first in relation to time. You don't discern the meaning of a title an author uses by ignoring the meaning the author consistently gives to the words in the title.


Rotherham made the following comments on this issue:

Rotherham wrote:There can really be no question as to how arche in the phrase "beginning and end" is meant to be understood when you compare the lexical meanings of the words it is paralleled with, protos and alpha. Whatever arche is supposed to mean must be found within the overlap of meanings assigned to both protos and alpha. Sulla has agreed that they are parallels and he has agree that the meanings assigned to the words would not be outside their lexical range. What does that cause us to find?

Arche has been defined as source(?), ruler or beginning. Protos is defined as first in time, number or rank. Since source is not within the lexical range of protos, then it rules that out as the meaning of arche. Alpha of course is just the first letter of the alphabet. Ruler and source are not within the lexical range of alpha. Alpha is certainly not the ruler of the alphabet, nor the source, but the first member of the class. Therefore, when we see what protos and alpha MUST refer to, there is but only one meaning that is lexically shared by all three, and that is beginning in relation to a series.

To take any other meaning than that is to assign meanings to both protos and alpha which are outside of their lexical range of meanings. This proves that arche in this phrase means "beginning", not ruler and not source.


I further stated:

HeKS wrote:How can "source" be the intended meaning of arche in this title when the three titles are parallels (as acknowledged in numerous commentaries) and the corresponding words in the other two titles do not have "source" within their lexical range?

You see, in order to attempt a support of your position, you are unnecessarily complicating things. Alpha, protos and arche can all mean first in a sequence/series. Likewise, Omega, eschatos and telos can all mean last in a sequence/series. These are the basic meanings of these words. No hermeneutical gymnastics are required.

You, on the other hand, are trying to make arche correspond to the not particularly common meaning of "source" found nowhere else in the 50+ Biblical occurrences outside Revelation and then proceeding to force that meaning back upon alpha and protos even though it's not in their lexical range at all.


In order to support the reasonableness of the words making up these titles carrying some novel meaning outside their lexical range to fit his preferred interpretation, Sulla said:

Sulla wrote:alpha merely is the name of that letter, and it is through usage that it collects a meaning like "first." Alpha dog, alpha male, etc.


To which I responded:

HeKS wrote:Alpha dog and Alpha male do not add the meaning of "first" to "Alpha". They flow out of the fact that Alpha stands in first position in the series of the Greek alphabet.


He also said:

Sulla wrote:lexicons aren't the determiners of meaning, they are really just reporting on the meaning that the users have established. That's how a word like arche collects meanings and nuances that are reported.


To which I responded:

HeKS wrote:while it is true that lexicons record meanings in usage rather than determining usage, … the fact is that the lexicons do not record any usage of Alpha or protos to mean "source". In this case, the usage that you want to give rise to a meaning of "source" for Alpha and protos is merely your own usage, unique to the instances of this title and tailored to your position.


And in even further depth:

HeKS wrote:as I have already pointed out several times now, is that God is not just called arche … he is called both arche and telos. What you seem to be missing is that while the use of arche opens the door to contextual contemporaries as with every other case in scripture, the use of telos firmly closes that door, telling us there are none. Likewise, God is not just the Alpha, but also the Omega. Not just the First, but also the Last. In each case, the door to contextual contemporaries of some sort is opened, but then slammed shut.

So, contrary to your argument, the application of arche to God doesn’t change the meaning or implication of arche in this instance or set it apart from all the other scriptural examples. It is just that in these cases where arche is applied to God, the co-text, telos, impacts the purpose and significance of arche. This is where the problem of your hyper-literalism misguides both your argument and your reading. You demand that the application to God means that arche does not here have the partitive sense found everywhere else in scripture because there aren’t actually any other members in the series, but the fact is that it still means ‘first in relation to time or a series’, but the telos tells us He is also ‘last in relation to time or a series.’ He is a closed set. He is the One and Only. He has no contemporaries. These titles are about exclusivity. While arche naturally implies contextual contemporaries, telos addresses that implication, telling us there are, in fact, no others beyond Him.

These uses of arche are perfectly in line with all others in scripture.

….

…your argument demanding a hyper-literal understanding of the partitive nature of arche – such that a word like telos is not allowed to impact the overall significance of the title without changing the actual meaning of the word arche – is entirely without basis. The use of arche does literally imply a partitive connection in some series of persons, things, or of time. However, having a word like telos paired with it, while not changing the partitive meaning of the word arche itself, presents a larger thought that mitigates the implications of arche on its own, such that the meaning of the word arche remains the same without there actually having to be other members or parts. But it is the pairing with telos that allows for this lack of other actual members or parts, not some essential change to the consistent meaning of arche in scripture. Your argument that an arche must, without exception, have other actual members or else be considered not to have a ‘partitive’ meaning like it does everywhere else is what I’m saying is hyper-literal, because it ignores the unique impact that telos has in these instances. In these titles, telos doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche, but it impacts the implications of the use of arche in the overall title. This is a mitigating factor not to be found in Rev. 3:14, where the co-text actually strengthens the partitive sense (over a meaning of non-partitive source) rather than mitigating it.

Consider two sample statements…

….

1) Johnny is the beginning of my offspring.
2) Johnny is the beginning and end of my offspring.

The first statement implies that I either currently have other offspring that were born after Johnny or that I intend to have other offspring in the future. The second statement implies that Johnny is my only offspring and that I have no expectation of any others. However, in both cases, the "beginning" has membership in "offspring". The difference is that in the second statement the membership in "offspring" is exclusive.

….

Again, a primary meaning of "source and goal" for "arche and telos" is entirely unprecedented in scripture, both in terms of the meaning of arche and the explicitly stated significance of the titles earlier in Revelation and in Isaiah. On the flip side, while it’s quite easy to see how God is, himself, literally the source of all things, one is hard pressed to imagine how God is, himself, literally the goal of all things. To explain it as God bringing all things to eschatological fulfillment is not the same thing as saying that God is somehow literally the goal of all things. One must reason, in some way, that God is the goal of all things in a different sense than he is the source of all things. But this is all unnecessary, because the consistent meaning of arche in scripture as well as the explicitly stated meaning of the first occurrence of the title in Rev 1:8 and the earlier use of the nearly identical title in Isaiah clearly point to the conclusion that this title is a reference to the exclusivity of God’s Almightiness. Yes, by means of this Almightiness he was able to create all things and be their source and is also able to bring all things to eschatological fulfillment, but that is not the primary meaning of the title. Rather it is an implication and by-product of the fact that he holds Almightiness as the One and Only Almighty God.

….

What arche means in those titles is what it means everywhere else. It means first in a series or in time. In the context of the title, combined with telos, it is the first half of a phrase that conveys comprehensive completeness. Again, this doesn’t change the meaning of the word arche. The meaning of the word arche is combined with the meaning of the word telos to make a phrase about comprehensive completeness, uniqueness, exclusivity … a closed set.


If it seems like I was repeating myself a lot, I was; because I had to. It seemed Sulla was neither getting the point nor interacting with it at all.

Sulla attempted to argue:

Sulla wrote:So, in the two other cases where arche is used in Revelation, we see its meaning associated with the completeness, eternity, and creation/eschatological fulfillment of all things. It does not have a partitive sense.


And I responded:

HeKS wrote:You have a very bizarre way of trying to change the lexical meaning of a word to suit what you believe is the implication of the entire phrase in which it happens to be found. This claim is pure nonsense. In the title, "Beginning and End," arche means ‘first in the series’ and [/i]telos[/i] means ‘last in the series’ and together they form a phrase that means ‘the only one,’ ‘the whole thing,’ ‘the entirety’. Where you wish to take your interpretation from there doesn’t matter to me. The actual meaning of the word arche here is no less partitive than it is everywhere else in scripture. If it weren’t partitive then the combination with telos would have nothing to do with completeness in any sense and, in fact, would have no coherent relation to telos at all. Arche does not mean ‘source’ here, and certainly not ‘non-partitive source’.


Sulla said:

Sulla wrote:we must reject Rotherham’s contentions that, " In each and every case [arche is used by John] we can see that John uses the word arche as meaning the beginning of something, either in relation to time or to a series or class of things."


To which I replied:

HeKS wrote:You can reject that contention all you like, but it is absolutely correct and you have not made a dent in it. More than anything, it seems you’ve just shown you don’t actually even understand the argument and that you are either unable or unwilling to make the distinction between the lexical meaning of a word and the interpretive connotations of a phrase in which that word happens to be found.


And this is really what this whole line of argumentation from Sulla comes down to. He agreed that these titles spoke to "comprehensive completeness" but was under the mistaken impression that the overall meaning of an expression somehow altered the lexical meaning of the words in it, and so the completeness signified by the overall statement, "beginning and end," somehow removed the partitive sense from the instance of the word arche (and telos for that matter) in that title. This is utterly nonsensical. It is actually the reverse that is true: It is the interaction of the lexical meanings of the words in an expression like this that gives the expression meaning. This may be less evident in idiomatic expressions like, "kick the can," but the idiomatic meaning of that expression does not alter the lexical meaning of any of the individual words in the statement.

This is yet another line of argumentation that comes to nothing when one recognizes the simple error that informs it.

In the final analysis, Sulla’s initial challenge and his additional arguments establish nothing for his position or against the conclusion of the article. The various and glaringly obvious problems with his position simply went unanswered:

If every other case in scripture where arche is used in a genitive phrase shows the arche to be partitive in the genitive substantive, what is the basis for reading the arche to be non-partitive here, and only here, in Rev. 3:14?

No answer, other than to unsuccessfully claim it wasn't partitve in the genitive substantive everywhere else.

If every single one of the other 22 times John used arche he did so with the meaning of "first in relation to time or a series," what is the basis for reading it to have a different meaning here, and only here, in Rev. 3:14?

No answer, other than to unsuccessfully claim the John didn't use arche with that meaning everywhere else.

What reason do we have for thinking that John's original audience would suddenly read his meaning to be different in this one spot?

No answer, other than to say that there is no difficulty in someone consistently using a word one way and then suddenly switching to a different meaning in one place, which he unsuccessfully attempted to support using an illustration that actually showcased precisely what must be present in order for an author to make such a change in meaning but which is not present in Rev. 3:14, nullifying his argument.

If all of the writers of the Greek NT, including John, commonly and consistently expressed the idea of an unrelated cause by way of an adverb, like pothen (whence), or a preposition, like ek (out of), and were capable of expressing the idea Sulla wants without confusion, and if that was the idea John wanted to express in Rev. 3:14 as Sulla maintains, why would John have chosen to forego that clear method of expressing the idea and, instead, chosen to use a word he used elsewhere to express essentially the opposite idea?

No answer, other than to say he would not discuss it.

If a number of scholars have used a statistical analysis of a particular word to determine the intended meaning in other passages, why is it either irreligious or "nutty" for us to use such an analysis at Rev. 3:14?

No answer, other than to initially make the mistaken claim that such an analysis must also include an etymological analysis of the word and a consideration of cognates in different languages, the first of which, though common in the past, is now recognized as a fallacy when used in an attempt to establish meanings for a word that lie outside its lexical range, and the second of which is useful primarily in suggesting a possible meaning for a word in cases when only very few examples of the word are available in the primary language under consideration, which was not the case here at all.

Sulla made this mistaken assertion based on a paper by C.F. Burney (Christ as the Arche of Creation), who does attempt to bring the issues of etymology and cognates to bear on the meaning of arche in Rev. 3:14 and other passages. However there are a few things that should be noted about Burney's paper. First, it was written in 1926, before the practice of using etymology to establish meanings for a word outside its lexical range was recognized as fallacious. Second, it was written with the express purpose of arguing that, in Col. 1, Paul was performing a midrash on Gen. 1, and, tangentially, that Rev. 3:14 is referencing back to this, either directly or indirectly, with both passages referencing Prov 8:22. The problem was that Burney couldn't substantiate this argument using only the lexical meanings of either the Hebrew reshith or the Greek arche, or even when restricting his argument to those two languages. It is for this reason that Burney draws the issue of both etymology and cognates into his earlier analysis of qanah: to lend legitimacy to his later use of etymology and cognates to import meanings into reshith and arche when he needs them to complete his argument. Burney's methodology in no way establishes the necessity for a consideration of etymology and cognates whenever one conducts a statistical analysis of the use of a word to determine its most-likely meaning in some disputed instance. In fact, their use simply delegitimizes his argumentation in those areas where he relies on meanings outside the lexical range of the words under consideration, which is precisely the part of Burney's paper that Sulla wanted to make use of and which is a sure sign of a major issue with Sulla's position. Further, while Burney's midrashic theory must be considered speculative and hardly seems to be widely accepted, there is at least some raw material for him to work with in Col. 1 if he wishes to assert a midrashic interpretation of bereshith in Gen. 1 on Paul's part, having Paul highlight multiple meanings of that word. However, the circumstances of Rev 3:14 are quite different and Burney's attempt to saddle the use of arche there with multiple meanings (including those outside its lexical range), as though that was actually John's intent, must be considered to be wishful thinking and somethin akin to a case of Illegitimate Totality Transfer.

Coming back to the issue of academic support, everyone, including Trinitarian scholars, agrees that "first-created" is a possible meaning here (BDAG actually says this meaning in "linguistically probable"), but there is disagreement even among these Trinitarians over which of the supposed alternatives might be permissible, such that all alternatives are ruled out by one Trinitarian scholar or another (eg. Barnes and Plummer agree that "first-created" is possible, but Barnes opts for "ruler" to avoid it and says that "source" is not allowable, while Plummer opts for "source" and does not allow for "ruler"). This being the case, what is the basis for maintaining, as Sulla does, that "first-created" is clearly not the right choice here? That is, what is the reason beyond the consensus of people whose central belief precludes that possibility?

No answer.

There was a whole lot of talking going on in this thread, but the vast majority of key issues and questions - if not all of them - went totally unanswered by Sulla. Did this summary include every single argument, good and bad, clever or silly, careful or clumsy, from either side? No. It didn’t seem necessary, because it wouldn’t change anything. The apparent strength or weakness of both positions seemed to sway slightly back and forth at times, but in the cases where Sulla seemed to have a good argument or some kind of evidence that might require a concession on our part, like the question over the proper classification of the genitive in Gen 49:3, it eventually came to nothing.

I’m sure Sulla won’t like this summary, but such is the way these things sometimes go. In either case, I thank him for his participation in the discussion.

HeKS
Last edited by HeKS on Fri Jul 03, 2015 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed typo
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