Saturday, July 1, 2017

Interesting Quotes

All of the following are quotes from The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Craig Bloomberg:

“George Houston has studied the evidence from ancient public libraries as well. Documents did circulate among the general populace but nowhere nearly as commonly as with modern libraries. Far more important was the library’s function as a place to preserve documents intact. When an important book was still in reasonably good condition, except that the ink of the letters was starting to fade, it was often reinked. Scribes carefully traced the letters with new ink on top of the original, rather than making a completely new book on costly new parchment or papyrus. Houston demonstrates that the average time of circulation for most handwritten or hand-copied library books in the ancient Mediterranean world was 150– 200 years! Sometimes manuscripts remained available to be copied for up to 500 years! The existing complete New Testament from the fourth century known as Codex Vaticanus was even reinked after 600 years so that it could continue to be used.

“All this means is that we should not envision the autograph of a biblical book being recopied by dozens of independent scribes and then discarded. Nor would those copies of the autographs have remained in use just for a few decades. When Ehrman (or anyone else) says that what we have in even our oldest New Testament manuscripts are not even “copies of the copies of the copies of the original,” he is going far beyond what the actual evidence allows anyone to demonstrate. Any second-century and most third-century manuscripts of books and collections of books could well have been copied directly from the autographs that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of Hebrews themselves penned or dictated. Of course, perhaps none of them was. Their appearance at diverse locations throughout the ancient Roman Empire means it may not have been possible for their scribes to have accessed the originals at all. But somebody at some point had to have transported a copy of the originals to a different portion of the empire, so it is entirely reasonable to imagine any or all of those documents being copies of copies of the originals. In a context in which this literature was increasingly being viewed as sacred and where we can see for ourselves the care with which all the letters were formed, we should not imagine many errors creeping in after only two rounds of copying.”

 (Kindle Locations 8840-8862)

“We can see glimpses of this “canon consciousness,” not at all formally delimited, beginning to emerge even within the first century, within what would come to be called the New Testament documents themselves. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, promises that the Spirit would enable his disciples to remember his teaching (John 14: 26) and would testify about him (15: 26), and would lead them into all truth (16: 13). None of these passages clearly promises new Scripture; and none of them delimits what it would be, were it to appear; but the three texts are at least consistent with the later conviction that some had appeared. First Timothy 5: 18 cites Deuteronomy 25: 4 as Scripture and then goes on to add a quotation from Luke 10: 7. Of course, it is possible that Paul is referring only to the text of Deuteronomy as Scripture, but the more natural way of understanding the grammar is to take the two quotations as parallel references to Scripture. It is also possible that the Greek word graphÄ“ here simply means a “writing”; but because Paul, like almost all the New Testament authors, uses this term to mean the Hebrew Bible, it would appear that he intends to refer at the very least to some kind of uniquely authoritative document. For those who find it impossible to believe that Paul in the mid-60s could have viewed the works of his beloved physician and travel companion written just a few years earlier as inspired, this interpretation of 1 Timothy 5: 18 becomes a major reason for their dating this book much later and seeing it as pseudonymous (recall above). But if Paul could recognize that the Thessalonians’ maturity derived from recognizing the spoken gospel message as the word of God (1 Thess 2: 13), it seems hard to imagine him unable to recognize the God-breathed nature of a work of his close colleague almost at once.

“More unambiguously, 2 Peter 3: 16 refers to at least some of what appears in Paul’s letters as “other Scriptures.” For many this is a key reason for dating 2 Peter to the second century and not finding it Petrine (again, see above). But if one refuses to argue in a circle and countenances the possibility of Peter in the mid-60s recognizing even just the earliest of Paul’s letters from ten or more years previous as uniquely inspired, then we have even clearer early evidence for a kind of canon consciousness. Whether any of these passages are admitted as evidence, we have a plethora of quotations of and allusions to many of the New Testament documents in that largely early second-century body of literature known as the apostolic fathers. There is regularly a sense that they are cited as authoritative, sometimes uniquely so (e.g., Ign. Trall. 3: 3; 2 Clem. 2: 4), occasionally called Scripture, and once in a while put on a par with the Old Testament works.”

(Kindle Locations 9231-9255)

“Remarkably the Gnostics themselves did not, to our knowledge, put forward any of their literature as on a par with emerging New Testament Scripture, merely as worthy within their own communities to articulate their beliefs and practices.[ 1642] Their debates with orthodoxy were not over canon but over hermeneutics.”

(Kindle Locations 9264-9268)

“Even more importantly, there is no significant dispute from the early centuries of Christianity over the unique value and origin of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, over the book of Acts, over the thirteen letters attributed to Paul, or over the epistles of 1 Peter and 1 John. Yet these works are most often challenged by today’s revisionist historians. Radical scholars today wish to discredit or at least supplement the Gospels, the Acts, and the major epistles of the New Testament, as we saw with A New New Testament (chap. 12). In the ancient world the seven books that eventually were accepted in the New Testament, which at times received serious questioning, were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. The issues then were issues that are still sometimes raised— the lack of any confidence of knowing who the author of Hebrews was, apparent theological tensions between Paul and James, the strikingly different style and contents of 2 Peter compared with 1 Peter, the brief and personal nature of 2– 3 John, the brevity along with the quotation of pseudepigraphical literature in Jude, and the puzzling genre and interpretation of Revelation as an apocalypse.”

(Kindle Locations 9276-9286)

“The early church also made good choices in what it canonized. It might be better to speak of it as receiving or ratifying documents which from their composition were recognized as unique. Yes, there were some rough edges, including a minority of the texts, particularly some of the shortest, where debate continued for three centuries or so. Also a handful of texts supported by a multiplicity of sources for inclusion in the canon failed to make it. But a substantial gap remained in the amount of support that existed between the most poorly supported texts that made it into the canon and the most frequently supported ones that were rejected. As far as we can tell, the theologically most central texts of the New Testament were all acknowledged, virtually without question, from their inception. Meanwhile, the most intriguing documents propounding an alternate and heterodox form of Christianity were rarely if ever put forward for inclusion at all, even by their own adherents.”

(Kindle Locations 9371-9378)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Abijah - Wicked or Righteous?

“The righteous one has perished, but no one takes it to heart. Loyal men are taken away, with no one discerning that the righteous one has been taken away because of the calamity. He enters into peace. They rest on their beds [that is, the Grave], all who walk uprightly.” – Isaiah 57:1,2

“When your [the wife of Jeroboam’s] feet come into the city the child [Abijah] will certainly die. And all Israel will indeed bewail him and bury him, because this one alone of Jeroboam’s will come into a burial place; for the reason that something good toward Jehovah the God of Israel has been found in him in the house of Jeroboam.” – 1 Kings 14:12,13

I have long assumed that Abijah was a wicked person, though, one’s whose wickedness wasn’t great enough to warrant the dishonor of not being mourned for or buried. Now, though, I’m inclined to think that he was righteous, after having recently reading that passage in Isaiah.
A Watchtower comments: “Did this [that he was buried and mourned] mean that Abijah was a faithful worshiper of Jehovah? Not necessarily, since he died, as did the rest of his wicked household.” This observation is correct. However, it seems more likely than not that he was righteous. True, he died, but it was before the others in Jeroboam’s house on the apostate household, which happened in the second year of the reign of Jeroboam’s other son, Nadab. He wasn’t killed when Baasha brought the calamity on Jeroboam’s house, because he was already dead.  This fits Isaiah’s description of the righteous who are spared the calamity of the wicked by death.
It is also worth noting that his death, having occurred before the execution of Jeroboam’s house by Baasha, allowed him to be buried for with honor and mourned. If he died later (by Baasha’s hand), when Baasha revolted, it is not likely that Baasha would have let him been buried; the lack of a burial and mourning was part of the calamity Ahijah spoke against Jeroboam’s house.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Father

My father died today. He will be sorely missed. While in no joyous spirit (in fact, it seems surreal), this I recall: that he is entrusted to the same One as who was entrusted with the spirit of Christ. Now, Christ has been raised up to glory and will himself raise back the dead, since he has life in himself, given to him by the Father. God, do not delay, but 'yearn for the work of your hands.'

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter: August 16th, 2016

August 15th, 2016

Dear ,
Recently, I was considering what the most important thing that can be known is, and I arrived at one of two options: (1) that God exists, or (2) God himself. That is, a fact about a person, or the person himself. One is a means to and end, the other is an end in itself. Given that, I asked a question that yields an obvious answer: Which is preferable in the sight of God, that we merely add another proposition about reality to our set of beliefs, or that we form a relationship with Him, as his graciously offers?

Of course, the latter. For, when the Scriptures speak of the restoration of all things, it does not merely say, 'And all will believe that God exists,' or, 'And God will dwell with men in order to make them know that he exists.' Rather it says that, 'God will be all things to everyone,' and, 'God will dwell with men, and he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, pain or mourning; the former things have passed away.'

Mere factual knowledge does not bring such joy. It is the fullness of joy that we await, being described as that which 'eye has not seen, nor ear heard,' and which 'God has prepare for those who love him.' The former knowledge is easily to imagine; even atheists know what that kind of propositional knowledge would look like. But we can only get a meager glimpse at the coming glorious age, toward which Scriptures have just directed our hope.

And what will it mean to know God, and to thus be known by him? Truly, it is the fulfillment of our lives and the greatest state of affairs. It is not merely going to be subjectively great (as even delusions can feel), but it is going to be objectively great, for we will live forever and enjoy many goods, and, above all else, a relationship with God, the greatest good forever. Our (very good and objective) purpose will satisfied as we perfectly mirror the One in whose image we are created, expressing wondrously creativity, goodness and rationality. Forever we will love Jehovah, the only true God who is love.

Is this not the oneness with him, his Christ and all worshippers that which we hope for? (For what else could possibly be worthwhile if we miss out on it?) Or do we keep ignoring it and becoming distracted by trivial concerns which are of no benefit? I fear that in my own case the latter.

That is why it is good to realize that all else that are goods are inferior goods which cannot stand up on their own as places to lay our heart. Take for instance what is perhaps the second greatest relationship one can have apart from God, namely, marriage, a complete bodily, mental and emotional union. It cannot fill the void left by not having that which we can jointly have with the Most High. For no spouse can replace Jehovah and be a God surrogate. And in the end, marriage is a symbol of the union that Christ has with the Congregation; that is, a still higher union, which is what we yearn for, being as it is the unity between ourselves, all other believers, the Son and Jehovah the Father.

Is any token worth as much as that which it typifies or signifies? Or would you trade something of infinite worth for something of merely finite worth? The sensible answer is plain, yet in practice we might act contrary to it. (I know that I have.) In that case, we would be like a parched man, reading the word "water" written on a piece of paper and thinking that his thirst is now quenched; surely, however, he will perish without water. Likewise, anything other than God, who is revealed to us by Christ, in whom all are being built up as one, is not enough to quench our need for spiritual fellowship; only that which Christ, who said, 'I have true drink, and the one drinking will never get thirsty again,' and, 'Come take life's water free,' has can, for he reveals to us the Father, who blessed forever. Amen.

Beyond full comprehension, Jehovah sits enthroned in glory; above the highest heights and lofty angels, he reigns as the Creator Almighty, enduring forever. Yet from long ago he has said, 'I dwell with the lowly.' Yes, most amazingly, he is interested in us; he cares for us. We can know Jehovah. How awe-inspiring! Let this realization never become mundane or worn out. In stead it must be an exalted lodestar, more sure to us than the north star, more radiant than the sun, and more wondrous that the star-lit heavens. God says, 'Seek my face,' let us respond, 'Seek you face, I will' and praise his holy name, for we are assured that 'the pure in heart will see God's face.' And we can trust him, for there is no one else like him, 'not forsaking those trusting in him.'

Sean Killackey

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Letter: April 16th, 2016

Bellow is a letter I wrote back in April to some of my friends. I figured that I'd post it here for you all.

April 16th, 2016

Dear Friends,
            I was considering the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ recently, and this moved me to write this letter. I hope that you are doing well and enjoy it. There is nothing I want more than this, that your joy might be full on account of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, and that your confidence in God might keep growing. If I could impart anything toward this end, then I shall be satisfied.
This good news of Christ, his coming, dying and being raised up to the right hand of Majesty, comforts me greatly. It is well attested, as I will go on to relate soon, and it alone is worthwhile. In it my heart rejoices, for I am compelled by the love of God, who, through Christ, reconciles me to himself, though, I was his enemy. Of what virtue shall I speak that Christ lacked? Or of what authority that Jesus did not have as God’s own Son? As a son of Korah said, “O you are the most beautiful of the sons of men and graciousness is upon your lips, and in your splendor and dignity abound!” Yes! he who was so rich became poor so that we who are poor might call on God in spirit and truth.
This good news is vivid in my mind, and its meaning deepens upon reflection; it excels me so much so at this time that I just have to write you, my friends. I must say, as did that son of Korah, “My heart is astir by a goodly matter, my words are about the King, so let my tongue be a skillful scribes stylus.”
Yes, he whose fondness was for the sons of men, he who always rejoices before Jehovah since before the world was, this is he who came for us. God sent his glorious Son to die a death of exceeding shame so that, by that death, we who were clothed in shame and apart from God, might come before the God and see his favor. Who can know this, yet remain silent; who dwells upon it, yet remains unmoved? Truly none, for ‘into all the earth the word has gone out,’ and my heart burns because of this, as did the hearts of those who talked to Christ on the road to Emmaus. Upon that road, Christ explained what the Scriptures said about him, which, if possible, I will try to note in passing in this letter.
Yes, put up with me a little while longer while I go on to express that which exhilarates me so much more than anything else. If only I could move your heart just as mine has been moved then I should be content. And if you find all the more pleasure in Jehovah, what more do I need? Now, let me go on to relate in brief some of the chief facts of the matter that give me the confidence in which I rejoice.
The Scriptures are right to speak of God’s great loyal love, which endures forever. For, in all things God reveals his love, but especially does Jah recommend his love to us in that he sent his Son to die. Even the righteous patriarchs had their errors, as did all of the righteous kings: David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. So how should we fare any better than them who were not saved by their works were it not for the death and resurrection of Christ? Paul informs us that if Christ had not been raised up, then we are still in our sins and have no hope, but if he was raised up, we are saved. How, then, can we know that Christ was raised up?
Because the tomb was empty, even as the Jews conceded when they said, ‘they came and stole his body.’ And we know that the Apostles were not deceivers; even if they were inclined to be, they wouldn’t risk death and great shame by proclaiming that “for a fact the Lord has been raised up.” However, this very end befell many of them. Additionally, the disciples had appearances of the risen Christ. These were too numerous, occurred to too many people (including non-believers and opposers) at such different times for them to be mere hallucinations; they must have been actual appearances of the resurrected Christ.
However, some try to explain the empty tomb by saying that the body was stolen, not by the disciples, but by thieves. However, this is unlikely on its face, since there were guards there, just as the Jews admitted. Additionally, if the body was stolen, the Jewish leaders would have found this out in order to discredit the followers of Jesus; this they did not do. Others suppose that tomb’s location was lost and the empty tomb was not really Jesus’, but this is not likely, since the women followed to see where Joseph of Arimathea buried him (in one of his own tombs). Further, if the Jews did not know the location of the tomb, they would have said, ‘The empty tomb is not Jesus’ real tomb.’ However, what they said was that ‘his disciples came and stole the body while the guards were sleeping.’ Similarly, while some have supposed that the tomb was not empty, if this was so, the Jews would have said, ‘His tomb is not empty,’ and the Christian response would have been, ‘That is another body.’ But this is not what happened. By these things (and more) we know that that the God of Israel did just as he foretold he would do.
He kept foretelling these things from Eden to Simeon of Jerusalem, who, was told that he would see the Christ of Jehovah before he died. Yes, he spoke in Eden and to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about a promised offspring. Jacob foretold that Shiloh (he whose right it is) would come through Judah; and Nathan foretold that he’d come through David. Ezekiel and Amos affirmed that, despite the destruction of David’s dynasty, God would fulfill this promise and give the throne to ‘he whose legal right it is.’
As it turned out this is David’s Lord, to whom Jehovah promised great things: that he’d be king-priest like Melchizedek forever, and that all things would be made subject to him. Moses similarly prophecies that a prophet like himself would arise. Daniel also speaks of this great King, who is the “Son of man,” who comes before God to receive a kingdom. This is the one, Gabriel says, who was born to Mary; in Bethlehem, Micah says.
Isaiah, David, Daniel and Jehovah all show that the Messiah would suffer and be crushed for the sins of other, just as Jeremiah affirms when he mentions a new covenant in connection with the doing away of sin, and then he would be raised up to glory. Which is what Jehovah showed would happen to his own Son, when he told Abraham, ‘please offer up Isaac your only son, whom you love so much,’ and Abraham reckoned that God could raise up from the dead.
Yes, this matter is attested to by many witnesses, so that we might be led to Christ. Therefore, we can hold with all confidence to that which was proclaimed since the beginning of the good news, that which Paul believed and which was spoken by the Apostles: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelves, then to James, and then to all of the apostles, then he appeared to upwards of five hundred brothers at one time.”
Additionally, though we see only a hazy reflection upon a metal mirror, we know that, whatever the meaning of God’s promises which have yet to take place, they are yes by means of Christ. This all was done by God, “so that those who live might live no more for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” And how readily we want to do this!

Sean Killackey

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Was the Fall Good? – Part One

Was the Fall Good? – Part One
By Sean Killackey
March 22nd, 2016
[Updated: April 23rd, 2016]

“Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection [all creation].” – Genesis 1:28 NWT

The scriptures say that “[t]he true God made mankind upright.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) When Adam was made in the image of God, Eve too was made perfect. They were given one command, to procreate and to subdue the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Further, they were given one prohibition, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Genesis 2:17) They transgressed this single prohibition, which brought sin and death into the world – the Fall. Mormons affirm this, however, instead of regarding this as a negative event, they say that the Fall was a fall upwards toward the goal of eternal progression. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says, “The Fall was not an accident, not an obstruction to God’s plan, and not a wrong turn in the course of humanity.” Is this teaching biblical?
This positive view depends largely on the plan of salvation, which was authored by God and agreed to by us in our pre-physical existence, and the supposed goal of exaltation, which necessitates the existence of a mortal and sinful world (to test us). The aforementioned work argues that “the Fall was a benefit to mankind. It was part of the Father’s plan, being both foreknown to him and essential to the human family,” and, “[t]he Fall was a necessary step in the eternal progress of mankind.” The purpose the Fall served was two-fold, to bring about a mortal state marred by sin, during which all mankind could come into physical existence and be tested, by enabling Adam and Eve to conceive to procreate, which they supposedly could not do in their pre-Fall state. We will refute these ideas.
Since the doctrines of premortal (or pre-physical) existence and eternal progression are wrong, the positive view lacks a strong foundation and telos. (See here, here and here for information on those teachings.) Because these needs no further elaboration here, we will begin by examining the absurdity of the command to procreate as it exists in the Mormon framework.[1] If I can prove that this command is absurd when viewed in the Mormon frame work, I can show the framework to be false, since Jehovah does not issue absurd commands. This is what we’ll do in this essay. In the second essay, we’ll examine why, despite the good that came about as result of the Fall, the Fall itself was still a wrong turn for humanity, so those who committed that evil act are not worth of the honor Mormons give them. In the third essay, examine what God’s purpose for the earth is, why the Fall was allowed to happen, and why the Fall was not necessary to achieve this purpose. Thus we’ll remove any remaining potential purpose for the Fall. Let’s begin.
Has God ever commanded an intrinsically unkeepable command? No. The idea, then, that he would command Adam and Eve to procreate in a state in which they could not procreate is absurd. When God commanded Israel to enter into Canaan, they were able to do so, which is why, when they did not, God punished them for their revolt. (Numbers 14:20-38) Further proof of God’s reasonableness can be seen in that he allowed the poor to give offerings of less worth that those of the rich; to demand otherwise would be to order something they couldn’t do. And, we recognize, the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad was likewise keepable. We also know that the command to subdue the earth, which was not meant solely for Adam and Eve, was startable by them, because they began to do their share of the work.[2] So why shouldn’t the command to procreate be anything but startable? Yes, all of these commands were intrinsically keepable; so it makes sense that the command to procreate also have been keepable. If it was, the Mormon theory fails. Let us consider some possible objections to this argument.
God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, which is unkeepable. So, what is so incoherent about him commanding the intrinsically unkeepable command to procreate? Nothing was intrinsically unkeepable about the Mosaic Law. Rather, every single command was keepable, but Israel as a people and as individuals chose to disobey it. For example, the command not to commit idolatry was keepable, which is why, when Israel repeatedly disobeyed it, God punished them.[3] (Would God have ever done so if Adam and Eve never procreated?) Thus a disqualifying difference exists between the Law and the procreation command which invalidates it as a counterexample to the notion that God does not command intrinsically unkeepable commands.
What of the commands for offering up sin offerings or to avoid ritual impurity? In the former case, one who didn’t sin would not be able to keep those laws, and in the latter one would undoubtedly transgress even if unintentionally, it simply would not be able to avoid getting ritually impure. Since God them commands things which were not keepable, there is no problem in him commanding an unkeepable command to procreate.[4] This fails, since the commands to offer up sin offerings were not incumbent on a person unless they first committed a sin that required that offering. They can be viewed as contingent commands, commands that are perfectly keepable. Ritual impurity is not sin. And we note that there is no unkeepable command to avoid impurity. If there was, we’d expect to see God command ‘you must not menstruate,’ but all he says is, ‘if you do, you must ritually cleanse yourself, if you don’t you will have sinned.’ Therefore, my argument holds.
What of the command to love Jehovah our God wholly? Or the command to be perfect since Jehovah is. They’re given to imperfect people and are therefore intrinsically unkeepable, so what is unthinkable that God would issue an unkeepable command to procreate? It is worth considering what Jehovah expected when he issued this command. Did he expect it to be fulfilled literally or absolutely? Take the example of David (before he sinned). Jehovah called him “a man agreeable to [my] heart,” but are we to conclude that David never sinned at all, never disobeyed his father or mother at all? (1 Samuel 13:14) Of course not. Yet Jehovah viewed him kindly nonetheless. Similarly, Jesus did not expect the Ephesians to be literally perfect in love or deed. He told them, “[Y]ou have left the love you had at first. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4,5) They simply were expected to have the zeal and love that they as imperfect people once obtained to. This was acceptable to God and Christ. We can still accurately call ourselves ‘those who love Jehovah,’ even if we fail him. (Psalm 97:10) Therefore this counterargument fails, but my point stands.
Perhaps the command was not meant to be obeyed until after the Fall; the prerequisite of a mortal state was not in place, so it was not yet applicable to, or incumbent upon Adam and Eve, so not absurd. This counterargument affirms that if it was obligatory when it was issued, it would be absurd and not keepable, and affirms the necessity and goodness of the Fall. The problem with this argument is that, as shown above, the command to subdue the earth was keepable was already incumbent on Adam and Eve, as was the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, so it seems most reasonable to say that this command was already in effect when issued. Consider the commission that Jesus gave his followers in Acts 1:8, where he said, “But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” The conditional aspect that is found in this command is exactly what is missing from the command to procreate. We ought to conclude that the command to procreate was incumbent upon them when it was given, to do otherwise would be ad hoc.
I think the point that the command to procreate is intrinsically unkeepable in the Mormon framework stands. Therefore, given that God doesn’t command the intrinsically unkeepable, yet commanded Adam and Eve to procreate, we must concluded that, any framework which makes this command intrinsically unkeepable is false; this means the unscriptural Mormon position.

[1] By “framework” I mean the teaching that Adam and Eve were unable to procreate in a premortal or Edenic state.

[2] Which, given the fact that Adam is shown naming the animals, we can presume he began. (Genesis 2:19,20) He and his wife probably did many other things in this regard that the Bible passes over.
[3] It was their choice that made the command unkeepable.

[4] I am unsure as to whether any Mormon would bring up this argument, since it seems very weak, but it is worth mentioning in case they do.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14th, 2016

Blog Posts
I've been busy in the last three months, partly because of a new job, partly because I'm learning Russian, so I've had to let the blog take a back seat. I hope to start posting again in August or September, however. In the meantime, I'll repost some old posts, which you might not have seen. I hope that when I come back, you'll come back as well. Thanks.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence (Part Two)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part Two
By Sean Killackey
February 6th, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26
As shown in the previous essay (here), the Mormon doctrine of premortal existence is seriously challenged by some of the specific cases that supposedly demonstrate it (for example, Cyrus, Jeremiah and Jesus). In fact, Cyrus’ example, specifically that he did not know God when he was anointed as opposed to the idea that God selects, or foreordains some for special missions on earth, when they exist in heaven, where they all know God, seems to implies that premortality is a false doctrine. Now, we will examine a few supposed general descriptions of premortal existence from which Mormons assert their doctrine is implied. We will examine Genesis 2:4,5, Numbers 16:22, and Ecclesiastes 12:7. Our primary source for Mormon beliefs will be the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Genesis 2:4,5 is used to support the notion that “all things, even the earth itself, had a spirit existence before the physical creation,” how? Because that passage (KJV) “says that the Jehovah God made “every plant of the field before it was in this earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.”” The “mystery” that the Book of Mormon elaborates upon and “solves” is: how can God create something before it is on the earth? Moses 3:5 answers, “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”
This would be a useful interpretation, perhaps even one that opens up a hidden secret, were it not for the fact that the supposed implication of pre-physical creation arises from a now awkward construction in a translation last revised in 1769. The New International Version, last revised in 2011, renders Genesis 2:4,5 as, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” And the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, last revised in 2013, says, “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. No bush of the field was yet on the earth and no vegetation of the field had begun sprouting, because Jehovah God had no made it rain on the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”
These two translations and along with the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NET Bible and the International Standard Version among others, give no indication that God made something before it was on the earth. Rather, they all bring out the point that before God made plants on the earth, he made man on that earth;[1] there are not two acts of creation for plant life, one spiritual and the other physical. Just as Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth and had his absolute origin on that physical earth, plants likewise have their absolute origin in the physical realm, the only place where they were created.
Supposedly the doctrine that “[God] made the world, and all men before they were in the flesh,” as found at Moses 6:51 is an implication of Moses calling Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all people [lit. “all flesh”].” (Numbers 16:22) It is not, however, for Jehovah gives to all men their spirit, or the breath of life and has power over our lives; nothing more is implied by calling Jah “the God of the spirit of all people.” Since this is the case, just as there is no explicit support for premortality in Numbers 16:22, there is no implicit support for this verse – none that necessitates the doctrine at the very least.[2] If it did, would it not also imply that he procreated the spirits of animals? (If not, is he the God of their spirits in a different sense?[3] If so, then the Mormon interpretative framework admits that being “the God of the spirit . . .” does not require God to procreate the spirits that he is the God of.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says, “The dust returns to the earth, just as it was, and the spirit returns to the true God who gave it,” is also marshalled for proof that we existed in heaven. God is in heaven, where our spirit, which is supposed to contain our mind, [4]  returns, so it would make sense that, because our spirit was given to our physical body, it must have predated it, and would, therefore, constitute a pre-physical man existing in heaven. This latter statement matches with the Mormon pre-physical premortal life,[5] so that doctrine must be true, right? No, for, as we have already seen, our absolute origin is traced to the earth, so even if the spirit is the location of the mind, it does not prove that we existed pre-physically. If the spirit is the location of our mind, it is never said to contain our mind before its joining with our physical bodies.
We can conclude confidently that the Mormon doctrine of premortality, with its implications that we existed pre-physically, and were literally procreated and can become like God, since he was like us, are all wrong. If they were right, we would be tasked with the impossible task of harmonizing why Christ is from heaven, yet we are not and explaining how a temporal infinite regress is possible.[6] But since such tasks are not possible, we must discount Mormon doctrine, preferring to stick to a biblically harmonious teaching, one that does not imply pre-physical and pre-mortal existence.[7]

[1] Some suppose that the two descriptions of creation contradict each other. They do not, as has been shown elsewhere, so this essay will not address that claim.

[2] Job 12:10 states, “In [Jehovah’s] hand is the life of every living thing [a]nd the spirit of every human.”

[3] True, the scriptures do not explicitly call Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all animals,” but they too are said to have the breath of life, or a spirit in them, and they are created by the same one who made mankind, so are we to say that he is not God over them?
[4] Psalm 146:4 shows that the mind is not in the spirit, for the thoughts perish when the spirit goes out.

[5] Though, even if this was true, it would not imply that God procreated us, or that he existed as we do, or that we can become gods.

[6] Since we were are said to have existed eternally in Mormon thought, this denotes that there has been an infinite number of instants prior to now. However, this is not logically possible (for example, you cannot build an infinite from a finite amount by adding a finite amount, or by multiplying it by a finite amount). That is why it is said that God was atemporal (without time and changeless) “prior to” (or sans) creation, yet temporal (inside of time) subsequent creation.

[7] Some may describe Adam and Eve before they sinned as immortal, but this would be using the weaker definition of immortal (never going to die) vs. the stronger definition of immortal (unable to die). Adam and Eve were already mortal before they sinned in the sense they could have died if they did not eat or breath; they were not self-sustaining beings.