Friday, December 21, 2007

The Grammarian, XIII

Since the time approaches when many preachers will be turning their attention to the Lucan account of the angel message to the shepherds, it seems an appropriate time to consider it carefully from a grammatical point of view. There are two possible renderings, according to the data given by the ancient manuscripts.

The earlier manuscripts, of which there are fewer (on which, e.g., the RSV is based), which would render the English thus:

Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased.

But the received text, and the great majority of mss (the basis for the KJV) gives the following:

Peace on earth, good will toward men.

The difference has to do with the word given by the earlier texts as "eudokias" (goodwill or well-pleasing-ness) but which the received text renders without the sigma (Greek s): "eudokia." The former reading has it modifying "men" while the latter has it in the nominative, as the subject: Good will toward . . ."

The trouble with the former reading is that there are quite a few folks who misunderstand it to be a qualifier, saying in effect that there are only some among all men--very few, actually--with whom God is pleased. Some translations have even gone so far as to render it "Peace on earth among those who have His favor" or "Peace on earth among men of goodwill."

Incorrect, boys and girls.

The proper way to interpret the "eudokias" readings is essentially the same as one would interpret the "eudokia" readings, thus:

Peace on earth among men, with whom (i.e., all of whom) now have His good pleasure.

Or, to go back to the RSV rendering, to make careful emphases in reading, thus:

Peace on earth among men! with whom He is pleased.

Take a look at the context: it says peace on earth, i.e., there is now peace on earth, because the Savior of the earth has arrived. What would be the point of saying this first, only to qualify it by saying, "oh, by the way, that peace is only intended for those who please God"?

Secondly, the Greek construction puts the word order this way:

Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace among men pleasing.

That makes the "and" epexegetical, i.e., to be interpreted as "namely," or "that is to say." Glory to God is found not in the nature of men, but in the Savior of men, i.e., of all the human race.

Third, the Greek adjective eudokias, while modifying "men" is nevertheless meant imply the pronoun "His" making the subject of goodwill God, and not men, which is in fact that way the RSV translaters rightly put it: "with whom He is pleased." "Men of goodwill" is right out.

Finally, the fact that the word comes last in this proclamation tends to puts the greatest emphasis on it, as the capstone of the entire proclamation, viz.,

"The greatest glory given to God is accomplished in His incarnation, which brings peace to earth, dear shepherds, because the warfare between heaven and earth is now ended, the case of God against the human race is set aside, and the heavenly demeanor of God toward the human race is now revealed! Behold, He loves the world! And let the hearts of all men, who so furiously rage against the Lord and against His anointed, instead take note of this astounding truth: their sins are put away, atoned, and covered. Their flesh has been joined to God; heaven and earth are slammed together; humanity is taken up into divinity; He is well pleased."

In short, if you're going to go with the RSV, be sure you don't misunderstand it. Or, to make things simple, just go with the KJV, which, while containing the translation of a slightly different word, actually comes out with the right interpretetion no matter which word you use:

Peace on earth, good will toward men.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Bravo, Grammarian! Just about any native Greek speaker will agree with you.

Er, uh, except for one oddity:

"The proper way to interpret the "eudokias" readings is essentially the same as one would interpret the "eudokia" readings, thus:

Peace on earth among men, with whom (i.e., all of whom) now have His good pleasure."

Who put the "now" in?


Father Eckardt said...

I did, as you surely know.

Actually I noticed a typo here; it should read "among men, who (i.e. all of whom) now have His good pleasure."

The editorial insertion of "now" is a concise way of implying that the multitude of the heavenly host are in full agreement with the first angel who announced the Savior's birth; hence it might also be rendered: "Peace on earth among men, because now that their Savior is born, it has become clear that He is pleased with them, on account of Him."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thus, subtly, is ones own theology slipped into biblical interpretation.

"Now" is not there. "Now" is a lutheranism.

God is unchanging.


Father Eckardt said...

A Lutheranism, eh?

So you mean to say that the announcement by the multitude of angels has nothing to do with the announcement of the herald? I'd say it appears your own Biblicism is what's showing here. You don't see the word "now" so you assume I have added an element not in the text; yet in fact it is prudent to make the connection clearly implied by the fact that the two angelic messages come one right after the other. Do you really mean to say that the multitude of angels just happened to say something at this point which has absolutely nothing to do with the nativity of our Lord?

I find it curious that you find this a Lutheranism when evidently it is you who cannot seem to see the link between the goodwill of God and the birth of the Savior.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

No, that's of course ridiculous.

What I mean is what I said: God is unchanging. If He has goodwill for us now, He always has had it.

"For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6)

The angels were announcing what had always been the case.

But perhaps that is what you meant.


Father Eckardt said...

Althought it is certainly true that God has always had love for His creation; this is an announcement of something new; yes, there's more, and this is something I would expect you to agree with:

There is in fact one way in which a change did come upon the Almighty: the Word was made flesh.

See, whereas before He was only divine, now He is also man.

Or, to put the matter another way, He was always the Beloved of the Father as the Son, but now, since He is become man, the love of the Father toward Him is, in this same way, the love of the Father toward man, since "now" the Son is become man.

Hence the angels cry out at the birth of the Son of Man that God is pleased with men.

And, by the way, this love between Father and Son is also God; that is, is the Holy Ghost.

Now, the Holy Ghost is the bond between God and man, in the Beloved.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Actually, I rather expect you'll agree with Chalcedon, that God became incarnate *without change* to either divine or human nature. Every Sunday we sing of this great mystery to Christ in the words of an ancient creed: "atreptos enanthropesas."

God doesn't change. It is not as if He could be said to have goodwill toward men at some point ("now")without always having had that very same goodwill toward men.


P.S.) And the Holy Spirit, just like the Father and the Son, is a Person in His own right -- not a function of two other Persons.

Father Eckardt said...

Perhaps I'm going too fast for you? Either that or you are so eager to enter an argument that you choose to make inferences which you have no right to make.

When have I ever said that there was a change to the divine nature? Or to the human? Such was the error of Eutyches, of course. Yet you must now consider also the error of Nestorius, who refused to see that the Holy Incarnation means that the Second Person of the Trinity is both God and Man, yet is and remains one Person, not two.

Therefore, while you may rightly say that God does not change, you must say what is meant by this: Neither His divine will is altered nor is His divinity altered, yet there is at the same time a change of a kind that may rightly be said to occur in the Godhead, namely that the Second Person adopts a human nature.

So, whereas before the incarnation He was God only, after the incarnation He is God and man. See? A change! But of course, neither to "the divine nature" nor to "the human nature" as you are so quick to reply. Good for you! But now will you also admit that God and man is one Christ. Before, this was not so, but now it is so; and thanks be to God, for in this wondrous mystery is our salvation.

Might I recommend that you go and read the Tome of Leo the Great, who was honored at the Council of Chalcedon to which you refer. He explains this all quite well, I assure you.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, way too fast for me. I cannot understand how God's adopting human *nature* is not a change to His *nature*. But if it isn't, then where in God IS the change? I made the unpermitted assumption on the basis that I never heard of Lutheranism accepting a distinction between God as His nature and God as Uncreated Energies.

But those are really moot questions, aren't they? Because Scripture repeatedly says God does not change at all, whether in His nature or in His purpose or in His mercies or in anything at all.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.
Psalm 102:25-27; Hebrews 1:10-12)

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Mal. 3:6)

[It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (Lam. 3:22)

“His mercy endureth for ever” occurs in 48 different verses.

Therefore, while certainly taking care to avoid Nestorianism, we must not interpret the Incarnation in such a way as to contradict these flat-out, clear Scriptural assertions.

My point, from the beginning, is that the message of "Goodwill to men," (goodwill, not pleasure, if we are going to be grammarians) announces a pre-existing reality. God never changed in His goodwill toward men.


Father Eckardt said...

Now you have me really scratching my head.

Indeed this started as a conversation over God's favor with respect to humanity, which, in case you missed it, I believe never to have changed. As you put it, God never chnages.

However, if you want to say that there is no way at all in which a changed occured in God, and include among the Scriptural passages by which you mean to prove this the Hebrews passage (Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever), then I have to ask you:

Do you believe that Jesus was always incarnate?


Do you know what docetism is?

How do you understand the incarnation?

In other words, I think you might want to rephrase your argument.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

From the very beginning, I have made it clear that my intent in this thread was to clarify whether the "now" you slipped into the biblical text (I still say without warrant), meant God NOW had goodwill toward men, whereas at some earlier time, His attitude had been something else.

As it now appears, I *think*, that you agree He always had goodwill toward men, was never lacking therein, I am content to let the matter rest there and not wander down sidetracks such as Nestorianism or Docetism.

Your own way of squaring the Incarnation (or the creation, or anything else) with the revealed fact that God never changes, I leave to you.

Goodwill toward men!

seeking now your goodwill

Father Eckardt said...

Dear lady, you have my goodwill, as I hope and expect I have yours.

To return, then, to he original intent of the "now" in my post, which, admittedly, I did not choose to articulate in great depth, I do believe there is something to be said for the implications I intended for it, if not for the inferences you have drawn, for which I will gladly take the blame.

Rest assured, I am not meaning to say there that God's intentions with respect to the human race have ever changed. Let's lay that aside.

I believe, however, that this angelic chorus may have been uttering something more profound, that they were not merely stating a universal truth that might as well have been proclaimed at any time in the history of the world.

Rather, I believe that they were declaring that the human race was being here welcomed into the eternal bond of the Triune God.

To put the matter other words, I believe this has something to do with theosis, though not exactly in the way in which that term is normally used.

To paraphrase: the eternal love between the Father and the Son is now become the eternal love between the Father and Man, since the Son is Man.

Or to paraphrase again, "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotton Son": this does not mean "God loved the world so much . . " but rather "God loved the world in this way . . ."

Again, that is not to say God's attitude has changed; it is simply to say this:

the Son has become Man, and so has brought humanity into the Godhead.

Here's why: First, this proclamation is uttered at the birth of Jesus.

Second, the term "eudokia" is the same term used at the Baptism of Jesus: This is my beloved Son.

Third, and most importantly: This binds the incarnation to the love of God.

I suspect that if you think you do not yet agree with this, it is likely because there is somehow a wall of misunderstanding between us.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I don't disgree with what you are saying so much as with the way you way it.

"Now" refers to a point in time, whereas "eternal" means outside of time.

So you cannot have eternal love NOW becoming anything.

Anastasia, with goodwill

Father Eckardt said...

Can you have eternal love now becoming manifest?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I don't know whether Lutherans can or or -- and square it with God's changelessness. How do Lutherans assert that God has done *anything* He didn't do eternally, even creating the universe?

All I know, in answer to your question, is the Orthodox can. We can certainly have the love of God become *relative to our perception* something it wasn't before, namely, manifest. Can't have it *in itself* changing. though.

What for sure you can't have, therefore, is "the eternal love between the Father and the Son is now become the eternal love between the Father and Man, since the Son is Man."

This is not only because God's love is unchanging in itself, but also because man isn't eternal, having come into existence at a particular point within time.