Re: Johnson's assumptions

Jan de Koning (75674.3121@CompuServe.COM)
03 Feb 97 22:08:23 EST

Re: Greek and Hebrew thinking.

I will try to give an indication, of what I meant when I said that,
often, really most of the time, we use a concept of truth which comes from
philosophy. Something is "true" or "not true." Except for the Polish school
(which talks about multivalued truth etc.) we are used to that kind of thinking.
That philosophical thinking goes back via Enlightenment, Medieval philosophy
(which has many shades as it is) to Greek philosophy. That is what I meant by
Greek thinking. The New Testament (NT) is indeed completely written in Greek,
but not in philosophical Greek. It was written in the language, which was at
that time the world language, like English is now. The NT is written by Hebrews
who grew up with the Old Testament (OT). Thus a good understanding of the NT
requires a thorough knowledge of the OT. I don't mean to say, that all of us
should study these languages. Far from it. Still, as scientists who pride
themselves of having the ability to get a thorough understanding we should
realize those things, and act accordingly.

Often we act as if our scientific studies have no relation with our
faith. Nothing is further from the truth. We start studying with certain
biases in our understanding of the world. That means that we base our studies
on possibly un-biblical ideas. I'll give some examples, but I do not want them
to be taken as my final thinking, nor as grounds for accusations of heresy.

The bible talks to all people, not just to scientists. So scientific
language is not biblical when talking about scientific concepts, nor is biblical
language scientific.. That goes much further then Galileo's thinking. God
created, and one of the laws science found is: E=mc^2, tieing matter very
closely to energy, which itself is defined as working in time. Thus when God
created matter, God created time. That means, however, that God is outside
time. For God yesterday, today and tomorrow are all the same. (Notice I use
the text of Hebrews 13:8, without talking about the meaning of that text.) In
my opinion that gives a "solution" to the difficulties about "free will" and
"foreknowledge" between Arminians and Calvinists. It does mean as well, that
dying means leaving this world now and being resurrected at the coming again of
our Lord. The moment of our death is, as we (will) feel it, the moment of our
resurrection on the New Earth, when heaven will come to earth, see Rev.21.
This, too, is exegesis by men. For me that means that talking about " before
the Big Bang", "foreknowledge of God", "before creation", "eternity" etc. are
concepts about which we cannot talk. They become meaningless.

My philosophy prof. (at the Free University, Amsterdam, a reformed,
calvinist University) told us in 1942, that we cannot trust translations, where
the words "soul", " spirit" etc. are used, because they are based on that Greek
(philosophical) understanding of Scriptures. Quotations I remember at the
moment, are Gen1 and 2, where "nephesh" is once translated as living being and
another time as living soul. Similarly "ruach" is sometimes translated as
"breath", sometimes as "spirit." In the NT we even have a text where "pneuma"
is translated as "wind" and a few words later as "spirit" (John3:8.) That
indicates, that translating is interpreting. That interpreting was obviously
done with as background the ruling Greek, philosophical understanding of what
man is, namely a duality of body and spirit. That is a ruling idea in Greek
philosophy, and it became a ruling idea in western thinking. Is it biblical?
Ever since that time I translated in my mind the word "soul' when I met it as
"living being" or "man in its totality."

Coming to the word "truth" again, studying the word is more than I can do
now. Just a few remarks. In the OT the word we read as truth is the
translation of several different words, many starting with "eem" =mother. I am
not qualified to say much about etymology or translation, only to say, let's be
careful not to take the uniform idea of "truth" which we use. It appears to me
that the derivation would indicate, that we have to be careful when using it in
the abstract Greek sense. Even in the Greek NT (not philosophical Greek, but a
kind of generally accepted street language) different words are used. One
meaning "without measure," most of the time "aletheia" (spelling?) is used,
which means: "it is not a lie." Are we correct in replacing it with a positive
word and then stretching it to mean something absolute?

I said more then I intended, but the subject is more than can be shown in
a letter, without doing deeper studies. After all this is only a conversation.
The only books dealing extensively are written in Dutch, as far as I know.

Jan de Koning
Willowdale, Ont.