Question & Answer with Yoel Natan
2005 to 2008
Question: Did Martin Luther believe that Abraham talked to the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
On 15 June 2005, a reader wrote:
Dear Mr. Natan,
Did Martin Luther believe that Abraham talked to the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
A Reader from Minnesota
P.S. The book "The Jewish Trinity" is very interesting. I finished it last week.
Explanation: When I wrote The Jewish Trinity I did not include any information on what other commentators, the Reformers or the church fathers said about Gen 18--19 because it seemed they did not consider all the points I was raising. Regardless, readers still want to know what the Reformers and church fathers thought, so I added this paragraph with sub-points and footnote to the bottom of p. 84, at the start of the " Encounters with Elyon's Presences" section:
Gen 18—19 comprise the longest Trinitarian proof text in the Bible, though this has not been consistently recognized:
 Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 55-57 (~160 CE); Augustine's De Trinitate, ii.19-22 (~420 CE); Martin Luther's "Lectures on Genesis 15—20," Muhlenberg-Concordia Press "American" edition, 3:193, 195, 219, 220, 232; and Calvin's Genesis, 1.469-471, 510.
The above paragraph and footnote will be in edition 2, though I don't know how soon that will be published.
Explanation: A reader, a Christodelphian, in fact, commented at a forum at Carm.org that Jdg 19:26-27 has two majestic plurals because in both cases the word “master” is the Hebrew plural adonai. All the Christodelphian would have had to do was refer to the Masters as Adonai section in The Jewish Trinity. There I spell out how Adonai is collective plural because the master has a servant who is delegated the master’s authority. Thus, adonai here is a plural of delegation, a type of collective noun. Together they were called “masters,” and individually they were called “masters” in recognition of the chain-of-command, and delegation of authority. For example, Abraham was called Adonai because Isaac his son was a master to everyone whom Abraham employed, or owned as slaves. In the case of Jdg 19, the master of the concubine had a servant traveling with him, and their conversation is recorded (Jdg 19:03, 11). That servant must have had the master’s authority delegated to him, so together and individually they were called “masters.”
29 May 2007
Question: Is it proper to elevate the Masoretic Text (MT) over the Septuagint (LXX)?
Answer: The NT writers used the LXX and the Hebrew family of texts that the LXX translators relied on. The Bible of the early NT Church was largely the LXX, and not so much the Hebrew, i.e., some church fathers like Jerome used Hebrew texts. In the Eastern Orthodox Church still today, the LXX is the canonical Scripture for the OT. By contrast, certain modern anti-Trinitarian sects like to elevate the MT over the LXX such as Disciples of Yeshuwa’ (yéshûa') the Messiah (see also here and here).
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are a witness to the Hebrew family that the LXX relied on, often confirming the LXX reading rather than the MT reading, especially in several key places that Christians and Jews have long argued over (e.g., Psa 022). (For more on the DSS, MT and the LXX on the “I AM” statements, see below.) The LXX is an authoritative witness to the original Hebrew. So when arguing doctrine and translating Scripture, the LXX must be considered.
The anti-Trinitarian sects like to hone in on differences between the MT and LXX in their effort to undermine Christian doctrine, especially Trinitarianism. They go as far as saying that Trinitarianism is a Pauline error since Paul relied on the LXX which had corrupted the original Hebrew text (they say).
Often the anti-Trinitarian sects do not even mention the LXX--upon which translators of the Bible rely to establish the original, inspired text. They try to unnerve Christians by saying that the Church purposely mistranslated the Bible since the English Bible does not exactly follow the MT to the letter in every OT verse.
One passage where the LXX differs from the Hebrew is Exo 03:14. That verse in the BHS MT has the imperfect "I will be," but the LXX has the present "I Am" in Exo 03:14. Bible translators look at the Hebrew MT and the LXX and they have generally decided to go with the LXX in Exo 03:14. By the way, the Keil-Delitzch commentary didn't touch on this issue, and also the BHS Hebrew MT does not have any variants for “I will be,” but the BHS does mention the Septuagint has “I am” (ego eimi).
Interestingly, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (1999) (Abegg, Flint & Ulrich, translators) has Exo 03:14 as follows: “And God said to [Moses, ‘I] AM THAT I AM.’ And he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (pp. 28-29). That reads just like the LXX and modern translations, i.e., a present “I am” rather than an imperfect “I will be.” Perhaps the Hebrew of the DSS does not have the Aleph and the vowel pointing for the imperfect form, meaning it is a present form as in the LXX. That would explain why the translators of the DSS Bible felt free to translate YHVH as “I AM” rather than as the “I will be” as found in the BHS MT.
It was in the news that in the near future a digital reproduction of all the Dead Sea Scrolls will be available to the public. However, the scholar Harold Scanlin’s book The Dead Sea Scrolls & Modern Translations of the Old Testament (1993) has helpful information. A chart on p. 88 shows only a few scrolls might have information on Exo 03:14. The table on p. 143 narrows it down and says only 4Qa might have Exo 03:14 since it has unspecified passages of Exo 03. Scanlin wrote that 4Qa is a witness to the Hebrew that the LXX translators used, and that is superior to the Hebrew the MT translators used. Scanlin wrote:
Significance: This small fragment contains a number of textual variants which, according to Cross, places it in the Egyptian textual tradition, whose primary witness is the LXX. This manuscript may point to an Egyptian text type superior to the Hebrew text used by the Septuagint translators. Cross considers ‘Egyptian’ one of the three recensions of the period, with a geographic orientation (p. 56).
The 3rd C BC LXX is a more ancient attestation (by 13th centuries) to the original inspired Hebrew than the 10th C AD Masoretic Text (MT). The MT was edited and redacted by anti-Trinitarian
Jews for thirteen centuries. The aleph and the vowel pointings that apparently changed “I AM” to “I will be” were added in by anti-Trinitarian Masoretes in the 10C AD. They may have favored the tense change even though there were no textual grounds for it. Thus, it would seem that the MT of Exo 03:14 might well have been purposely edited to be anti-Trinitarian, and the original read “I AM” rather than “I will be.” However, if one disagrees, Exo 03:14 still is not the linchpin of the Trinitarian argument since there is so much more Biblical evidence for the Trinity.
The Greek of Joh 08:24, 28 and 58 has "ego eimi,” the same as in the LXX for Exo 03:14. In the KJV in verse 24 and 28 it has "I am he" with the "he" in italics, meaning the pronoun he is not explicit in the Greek, but the translators added it in to help make better sense of the verse in English. In verse 58 the KJV translators understood Jesus to be equating himself with the "I am" of Exo 03:14, so they translated it "I AM" without adding any "he." I think that Christ was claiming to be the I AM in all three verses (24, 28 and 58) and should be translated “I AM” in all three verses. The anti-Trinitarian Jews in John 08 seem to agree since they were about to stone Yeshua for claiming to be the I AM.
21 November 2008
Question: Is it plausible that Septuagint (LXX) was created by the NT Church?
Why is this even being asked?:
Answer: Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D. wrote (in Question #9 in The Answer Book (1989) posted on Jack Chick’s website) wrote that the LXX was written by Origen (~185–~254 AD). Gipps wrote: “Thus we see that the second column of the Hexapla is Origen's personal, unveilable [sic] translation of the Old Testament into Greek and nothing more.”
The reason that Jack Chick posted Gipp’s article is because he wants to discount the LXX because Protestants don’t accept the apocryphal books as being inspired, and they are found in the LXX. The Catholic Church does accept the apocryphal books as canonical, and the Eastern Orthodox Church views the Greek LXX as its official scripture.
Chick tracts are notorious for their misinformation, conspiracy thinking, and anti-Catholicism. Jack Chick's dislike of Catholics and the papacy have even led him to believe that the rise of Islam was a Catholic plot from the very start, even though Mecca is a long ways away from Rome, and even though the papacy wasn't anywhere near as corrupt at that early date as it came to be leading up to the Reformation. I'm not Catholic, of course, but some of Chick's attacks are nonsense. Here are some related pages:
Alberto Rivera (source of many of Jack Chick's wild theories)
One of Jack Chick's tract on the Catholic-Islam connection
Another of Jack Chick's tract on the Catholic-Islam connection
Jack T. Chick's Gallery of Anti-Catholic Tract
A secular site discusses the cultural phenomenon of Chick tracts
The year of Gipp’s tract, 1989, shows it has dated and inaccurate information. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DDS) were discovered in 1948, but they were not released (except to a handful of scholars) until 1991. Only now in 2008 are the DSSs being digitized so the public can see what the entire corpus looks like. Before 1991, relatively little was widely known about the DSS. Greek fragments were found among the DSS, but more importantly, enough of the Hebrew DSS align with the LXX rather than the MT. This shows that the MT is not necessarily the verbatim inspired text, but the MT and the LXX and other translations can help scholars better establish the inspired Hebrew text.
Gipp wrote: “Is there ANY Greek manuscript of the Old Testament written BEFORE the time of Christ? Yes. There is one minute scrap dated at 150 BC, the Ryland's Papyrus, #458. It contains Deuteronomy chapters 23-28.” Gipp is wrong according to this site:
But older than any of these are 2 fragments of Deut: Papyrus Fouad 266 from the 2nd or 1st cent. b.c., containing parts of Deut 18, 20, 24–27, 31, and the John Rylands Library Papyrus Greek 458, containing portions of Deut 23–27, 28 and dated to the 2nd cent. b.c. The caves of Qumran yielded papyrus or leather fragments of Ex (7QLXX), Lev (4QLXX), and Num (4QLXX), dating either to the 1st cent. b.c. or the 1st cent. a.d. A fragmentary copy of the Minor Prophets in Greek, assigned to the end of the 1st cent. a.d., came to light in a cave of the WaÆdéµ Murabbaat in 1952.
Even the Jewish Virtual Library relates that the LXX was found at Qumran caves.
Gipp wrote: “This so called "Letter of Aristeas" is the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document….Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work [the LXX] being contemplated or performed.” These statements are absurd. In 93-94 AD, the Jewish historian Josephus paraphrased two-fifths of The Letter of Aristeas (~200 BC) which relates to the origin of the LXX, albeit in an embellished and legendary manner (Jewish Antiquities, Book 12, Chapter 2). If Josephus did not think the story was factual, and if he was unfamiliar with the LXX, and if he did not consider the translation of the LXX a significant development in Jewish history, he would not have passed along this information! Josephus believed that the LXX was completed under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 281-246 BCE).
Gipp wrote: “There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it.” While there might not be any fragments nearly that old, scholars can tell roughly when each book of the LXX was translated into Greek. That’s because the LXX was quoted and alluded to by Intertestimental writers, so one just need know when those writers flourished. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states that Philo (20 BC - 50 AD) “seems to have known the Greek version of most of the Old Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticles and Daniel.” Moreover, each LXX bears witness to the date it was written. Greek vocabulary, style and grammar changed over time, so documents translated or written in one century would have a different character than those translated or written in another century. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states:
The vocabulary and accidence of the Greek of the Septuagint are substantially those of the Koine or Hellenistic Greek spoken throughout the empire of Alexander. The language of the Pentateuch attains the higher level shown by the papyri of the early Ptolemaic age, that of the prophets reflects the less literary style of the papyri of c. 130-100 B.C. In the latest parts of the translation Mr St John Thackeray notes two opposing influences, (a) the growing reverence for the letter of Scripture, tending to a pedantic literalism, (b) the influence of the Atticistic school, strongest in free writings like 4 Maccabees but leaving its mark also on 4 Kings. But if in some respects the Septuagint is the great monument of the Koine. It is quite likely that they worked on rolls newly brought from Jerusalem. There was no desire to found an Alexandrian canon or type of text.
24 November 2008
Question: What are the best books on the Angel of Yahveh?
Short Answer: There are none that I know of, besides the Bible and The Jewish Trinity (2003), of course.
Long Answer: Because Christian theologians have said that the Trinity was hidden in the OT, they have approached the Angel of Yahveh data as not being Trinitarian proof at all, or as being ambiguous evidence. Examples of the “no” and “maybe” views are:
· The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1908) says that the Angel of Yahveh was a created being.
· Oehler and Day, however, said that the jury is out as to whether the Angel of the Lord was created or was divine (Oehler, Gustav Friedrich & George Edward Day. Theology of the Old Testament (1883), pp. 129-131 see the concluding paragraph of section 59).
How this situation arose is the earliest Christian theologians mostly used the Greek LXX or the Latin Vulgate, and were largely unaware of the proofs that the Hebrew could yield. Thus, they interpreted the Angel of Yahveh passages in context, they thought, meaning that if the Trinity is subdued in the OT, than the Angel of Yahveh accounts must only hint at the Trinity also. This mentality held sway from early Church Fathers until the present. However, in The Jewish Trinity I point out so many proofs for the Trinity in the OT, that arguments against the Angel of Yahveh being Yahveh the Son are at once tortured and silly. The Angel of Yahveh accounts present further blatant proofs of the Trinity just like the rest of the OT does. Because this is the situation we live with, there are no good books on the Angel of Yahveh I could recommend as yet.
3 December 2008
Question: Doesn’t the “all” in K 006:078 show that the traditional interpretation of Ibrahim and the star, moon and sun is correct?
Answer: (I use Ibrahim for the Koranic Abraham, and use Abraham for the Biblical Abraham). At first glance the pious interpretation of K 006:75ff seems more plausible than the moon-god interpretation, but that's because the translators have translated the Arabic in such a way, and inserted words that aren't there, so that one naturally comes to the orthodox interpretation. For instance, you said that the "all" in verse 78 implies that Ibrahim concluded that the star, moon and sun are "all" idols commonly associated with Allah, but most translations of verse 78 don't have the word "all," for instance: “Shakir: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah).” Without the word "all," Ibrahim could have meant the stars and sun that the pre-Islamic pagans set up with the moon-god Allah.
Translators also insert the conjunction "but" in verse 77 so people come to the pious conclusion. Yusuf Ali wrote for verse 77:
When he saw the moon rising in splendour, he said:
"This is my Lord." But when the moon set, He said:
"unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among
those who go astray."
Shakir, however, translated it as:
Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord?
So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should
certainly be of the erring people.
"But" indicates that something incongruous follows, but so indicates something congruous. The moon-god interpretation fairs better with the word "so" than with the "but."
The "setting ones" refers to how all stars not near the poles are seasonal due to the earth's constant spin and orbit around the sun. Ibraham reasoned that stars could not be Allah or gods associated with Allah since they were not swift and they were seasonal.
The other times the word "set" is mentioned in the story is to show that Ibrahim contemplated the heavenly objects as long as possible and didn't jump to conclusions. In other words, Muhammad was calling on Ibrahim as an expert witness when drawing theological conclusions from the sky.
The pious interpretation treats Ibrahim as though he were a moron and didn't know that the stars, sun and moon set before Allah showed him. It is more plausible that Allah wanted to show Ibrahim how slow the stars and sun move compared to the moon, with the assumption that the swiftest and most glorious object in the sky, the moon, must be Allah's symbol, if not residence.
The story is not what Muslims claim it is, namely, proof that Allah is not a moon-god. Since the point of the story is debatable, I included many other proofs of Allah's being a moon-god. In edition 2 of Moon-o-theism, I'll have to augment my case concerning this story in K 006, I think, along with other additions and improvements.
25 May 2009