Saturday, December 13, 2008

Becoming vs. Existing: Examples from the Greek and Hebrew

Joseph Smith taught that we should believe that Bible as far as it is translated or interpreted correctly. What does Joseph Smith mean by this statement. Is he trying to destroy faith in the Bible? No, he is reminding us that that are many Bible translations and even many versions in the original languages. So, we have to study the scriptures out carefully to understand the original intent of the authors. And in case you think there are no significant differences in Bible translations or version; the following is a brief example of how a few words can change a whole theology, understanding of God, and how man fits into it.

As I stated in my last post, there exists a major theological difference between LDS and Evangelicals with regards to the eternal nature of the spirit of man, and with regards to the process of creation. Evangelicals believe that God creates from nothing. Or in other words He brings things in to existence from nothing. LDS believe that God made everything "that was made" (John 1:3), which suggests there are some things in this universe that are co-eternal and self-existent as God is.

In my last post, I pointed out how John 1:3 talks about God bringing things into being as opposed to bringing things into existence. A friend of mine brought to my attention two additional scriptures that in recent Bible versions support creation "ex nihlo" by saying that God brought things into existence." However, the KJV and older Bible versions do not use this language or convey this idea. In this post I will look at the original Greek using the online resource and to see if these modern translations are justified in their alterations to the Bible.

John 1:3 (GWT) Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him.
John 1:3 (WNT) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him
nothing that exists came into being.
John 1:3 (KJV) All things were made by him; and without him was
not any thing made that was made.
Greek (WH / NA27 / UBS4) πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν

kai -
kai and, also, even, so then, too
choris - choris beside, by itself, without.
autau - autos him
egeneto - ginomai to cause to be, to become, come into being (aorist tense)
oude - oude not however, neither, nor, not even, never, no
en - heis one, only, other, some.
0 - hos who, which, what, that, other, some, that, what, which
gegonen - ginomai happen, to cause to be, to become, come into being (perfect active indicative)

John, in this verse, sounds very redundant. John uses the verb "ginomai," which means "come into being," "happen," or "made" 3 times. Here John says that God brought into being all things. And that without God nothing was brought into being, that was brought into being. What this suggests is that not all things needed to be made or brought into being. Some things already existed or are self-existent and eternal.

Evangelicals interpret this to say this should read "and without him was not anything made that exists." Meaning, if it exists at all, that God brought it into existence. But there are 2 big problems with this. First, "ginomai" or "gegonen" does not mean "come into existence". "ginomai" means "come into being" or "happened." "being" has an entirely different connotation than "existing." I might become something, while still existing before becoming what I became. But if you came into existence, there was nothing before that.

Second, the tense is all wrong. The verb in the Greek is in the 3rd person perfect tense. The word "egeneto" is the Greek word for "made" in the 1st and 2nd use which is in the Aorist tense which suggests a simple occurance (ntgreek). But the last use of the verb "gimomai" or "gegonen" is in the perfect tense which suggests the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on (ntgreek). "exists" is infinitive tense (non-finite) and is considered a verbal noun. Therefore, the Evangelical interpretation is contrary to the Biblical Greek.

Col. 1: 16-17 (ISV) For by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, . . . All things have been created through him and for him. He himself existed before anything else did, and he holds all things together.
Col. 1: 16-17 (KJV) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Greek (WH / NA27 / UBS4) καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,

kai - kai and, also, even, so then, too
autos - autos him
estin - esti he, she, it, is; also, they are (present indicative)

pro - pro prior to, above, ago, before, or ever.
panton - pas all, any, every, the whole
kai - kai and, also, even, so then, too
ta - ho the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
panta - pas all, any, every, the whole
en - en in, at, (up-)on, by
autos - autos him
sunesteken - sunistao to set together, to put together, to constitute (perfect active indicative)

Here in 1 Col 1:16 the Greek verb for create is "ektisthe" or root "ktizo" means to fabricate, form, or make. Again this is the same as the Hebrew word "bara." And yes, God did arrange all things visible and invisible for operation in this universe. But this does not exclude that other things are eternal and self-existent as God is

In 1 Col 1:17 The verb for "consist" is "sunesteken" or root "sunistao" again in the Perfect tense which means "are set together" or "were put together." Consist is again the infinitive tense or a verbal noun. The proper tense would say [And he is before all things, and by him all things were put together]. Again, applying the appropriate Perfect tense to the translation suggest that creating involved forming, arranging, organizing and shaping and not bringing somthing into existence from nothing.

Rom 4:17 (SIV) As it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations." Abraham acted in faith when he stood in the presence of God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that don't yet exist.
Rom 4:17 (KJV) As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Greek (WH / NA27 / UBS4) καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν τέθεικά σε, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσε Θεοῦ τοῦ ζωοποιοῦντος τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα·

kai - kai and, also, even, so then, too
kalountos - kaleo to call, call (forth) (present active)
ta - ho the, this, one, things
me - me neither, never, no wise, none, nor, nothing, that not,without.
onta - on being, be, come, have. (present active).
os - hos though, which how, in that manner
onta - on being, be, come, have.(present active)

My translation is [and calls those things which are not as though they are]. This speaks of the Justification of Christ and not creation out of nothing. I'm not sure how you "and calls into existence things that don't yet exist." from the text. Also, you cannot get "and calls the nonexistent into existence" because nonexistent would be the infinitive tense or a noun verb.

Rev 4:11 (NASB) Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
Rev 4:11 (KJV) Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Greek (WH / NA27 / UBS4) Ἄξιος εἶ, ὁ Κύριος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, λαβεῖν τὴν δόξαν καὶ τὴν τιμὴν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν, ὅτι σὺ ἔκτισας τὰ πάντα, καὶ διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου ἦσαν καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν.
Greek (Tischendorf 8th Ed.) εἰσιν καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν
Greek (Byzantine / Majority Text) εἰμί καί κτίζω

kia - kai and, also, even, so then, too
dia - dia through, for, because
to - ho the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
thelema - thelema a determination, choice, desire, pleasure, will.
sou - sou of thee, thy, thee, thine (own), thou, thy.
esan - eisi were, they are, are, be, is (imperfect indicative)
kia - kai and, also, even, so then, too, etc.
ektisthesan - ktizo to fabricate, found, create, make (aorist passive indicative)

My translation is [and because of thy will, they were and are created]. This cannot read "they existed and were created" because the tense is messed up. "existed" would be the infinitive tense again. However, "esan" is in the imperfect past tense and the "ektisthesan" is in the aorist tense which is a past tense giving no indication of duration. It is also often referred to as the 'punctiliar' tense. 'Punctiliar' in this sense means 'viewed as a single, collective whole,' a "one-point-in-time" action (ntgreek).

Zech 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

God formed or brought into being the sprit of man. We are the spiritual offspring of god. But this doesnt mean it was formed from nothing. In fact the word used for create is "yatsar" yatsar (yaw-tsar') to mould into a form; especially as a potter; figuratively, to determine (i.e. form a resolution) -- earthen, fashion, form, frame, make(-r), potter, purpose.

Exodus 3:14 (KJV) And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Exodus 3:14 (NASB) God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Greek OT: Septuagint καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

Hebrew Bible ויאמר אלהים אל משה אהיה אשר אהיה ויאמר כה תאמר לבני ישראל אהיה שלחני אליכם׃

ehyeh - hayah
to be or become, come to pass, self-existent one

asher - asher A relativizer, used to introduce a relative clause used as a conjunction rather than a pronoun; that, which, who, whom
ehyeh - hayah to be or become, come to pass, to happen, self-existent

There has been a lot of speculation about just what the name "I AM THAT I AM" is supposed to mean. Many see this as a declaration of God's self-existent and eternal nature. It is interesting that the verb used in the title for God is the same verb used in the beginning of many verses in the Bible and the Book of Mormon which translates to "It came to pass" or "It happened that" and which is the same kind of verb the New Testament Apostles used to describe the creative process of God.

Additionally, the parallel structure in the title reminds me of other titles for God such as "God of gods, Lord of lords, and King of kings." I wonder if this name for God isn't also a title like these other names for God. Could "I AM THAT I AM" be translated the "Self Existent of self existent?" It maybe, that this sacred name for God could coinside with several scriptures in the New and Old Testaments that also refer to God as the God of gods, Judge of judges, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Most High God and the Most High Priest. If this were the case, the name would reveal a great deal about the eternal nature of man as well as our relationship with God as spirit children of Our Heavenly Father.

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