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The Wise Fool

@tom sheepandgoats
First, let me thank you for calling me the "Blogmaster!" That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Next, I've got a couple of questions:

1) Shall I thoroughly thrash your analysis on this blog or back on mine?
2) Would you mind elaborating on how seeing a shiny Jesus and a talking cloud constitutes seeing the Kingdom of God?

Thanks,
-TWF

tom sheepandgoats

We all get to be “masters” on our own blog, if not in the overall world. Perhaps that is the appeal of blogging.

On question 1, I didn't think it through that far. Let's just see how it plays out and if it plays out.

On question 2, Jesus reign was to take place from heaven, though the disciples did not recognize such at the time. Thus any vision with heavenly trappings would be, in hindsight, a fairly clear tell on 'coming into his kingdom.' A preview. A planning session. Take your pick. But none of these three men shone like the sun when they were walking about in their daily lives....so this must be a heavenly scene. Placement of the verses plus the transitional phrase linking them to Jesus' words also helps. The vision even serves to alleviate Peter's prior concern that Jesus death was something to be avoided.

The Wise Fool

@tom sheepandgoats
I must apologize for many things, but specifically a couple things here.

First, this is going to be a multi-part response, mainly because I will begin by liberally copying the text of the classic commentaries for all to see. So, I'm sorry if this gets a little lengthy.

Second, I apologize because the words I had used in my post and its comment string regarding the Transfiguration interpretation were not wisely chosen or entirely accurate. When you asked about the classic scholar objections, I should have looked before I wrote. I have put a comment up on my post noting this issue.

OK, now with that said, let us set things right here. I'd like to begin with a quote from Jesus, if you don't mind: Matthew 7:2
"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." NIV

You've clearly got an ax to grind for modern scholars, and such pent-up spite blinds your better thinking.

You have rightfully blasted the JW detractors for not digging in to find the accuracy of the quote from Gregory of Nyssa, yet you did not even bother to pick the low-hanging fruit I offered when I provided the link to the classical Christian commentaries. Had you done that you could have found a supporter of the JW view among those commentaries which I missed, due to my tendency to start at Gill and work my way over, often neglecting about John Darby. (I just realized my mistake when I took a second look today.) Also, you would have seen that my wording of some of the scholars simply dismissing the Transfiguration in passing was not quite the whole picture. (I was going off of memory in my response, which was not a smart thing to do!)

Here, in their full glory, are the excerpts from the Christian commentary of the parallel to Luke 9:27, Matthew 16:28 (most commentaries started with Matthew, and then referred back to it when discussing the parallel passages):

John Darby

"In each Gospel that speaks of it, the transfiguration immediately follows the promise of not tasting death before seeing the kingdom of the Son of man. And not only so, but Peter (in his second Epistle, 1: 16), when speaking of this scene, declares that it was a manifestation of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says that the word of prophecy was confirmed to them by the view of His majesty; so that they knew that whereof they spoke, in making known to them the power and the coming of Christ, having beheld His majesty. In fact it is precisely in this sense that the Lord speaks of it here, as we have seen. It was a sample of the glory in which He would hereafter come, given to confirm the faith of His disciples in the prospect of His death which He had just announced to them."

The Geneva Study Bible

"By his kingdom is understood the glory of his ascension, and what follows after that, (Ephesians 4:10), or the preaching of the gospel, (Mark 9:1)."

John Gill

"nor of the glorious transfiguration of Christ, the account of which immediately follows; when he was seen by Peter, James, and John, persons now present; for that, at most, was but an emblem and a pledge of his future glory: rather, of the appearance of his kingdom, in greater glory and power, upon his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven; when the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, and the Gospel was preached all over the world; was confirmed by signs and wonders, and made effectual to the conversion and salvation of many souls; which many then present lived to see, and were concerned in: though it seems chiefly to have regard to his coming, to show his regal power and authority in the destruction of the Jews"

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

"The reference, beyond doubt, is to the firm establishment and victorious progress, in the lifetime of some then present, of that new kingdom of Christ, which was destined to work the greatest of all changes on this earth, and be the grand pledge of His final coming in glory."

Barton W. Johnson

"This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Mark (9:1) shows the meaning by substituting, "Till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." The "coming of the Son of man in his kingdom" means, therefore, the same as "the kingdom of God come with power." Compare Acts 1:8, and Luke 24:49. The kingdom came with power on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1)."

Matthew Henry

"At the end of time, he shall come in his Father's glory; but now, in the fulness of time, he was to come in his own kingdom, his mediatorial kingdom. Some little specimen was given of his glory a few days after this, in his transfiguration (ch. 17:1); then he tried his robes. But [Matthew 16:28] points at Christ's coming by the pouring out of his Spirit, the planting of the gospel church, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the taking away of the place and nation of the Jews, who were the most bitter enemies to Christianity."

McGarvey and Pendleton (From Mark 9:1)

"The mention of his final coming suggested one nearer at hand which was to be accomplished during the life of most of those present, since none but Jesus himself and Judas were to die previous to that time. The kingdom was to come and likewise the King. The former coming was literal, the latter spiritual. Those who refer this expression to the transfiguration certainly err, for no visible kingdom was established at that time. The expression refers to the kingdom which was organized and set in motion on the Pentecost which followed the resurrection of Jesus. It was set up with power, because three thousand souls were converted the first day, Acts 2:41, and many other gospel triumphs speedily followed."

John Wesley

"And as an emblem of this, there are some here who shall live to see tho Messiah coming to set up his mediatorial kingdom, with great power and glory, by the increase of his Church, and the destruction of the temple, city, and polity of the Jews."

The Wise Fool

Part 2 of my reply, the final part for now:

Just so we are all on the same page here, the question I raised was actually how do you interpret the Transfiguration as what was meant by the parallel passages of Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 within their preceding context of Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9:23-26? At least some scholars, and even some laymen, are in agreement that context matters. ;-)

Next, the options I presented for the verse interpretation were not of my own invention, but rather those of Christian scholars. By my own analysis, it seemed pretty clear to me that the context, in fact, mattered in this case, making the meaning fairly incontrovertible, unless you do not like the meaning for your own reasons. The context is made most clear in the immediately preceding verse (Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26), and the full content of these verses, as well as a timeline of when it would happen (within a lifespan), is echoed later in Matthew 24:30-35, Mark 13:26-31, and Luke 21:27-33.

Obviously, I have no need or desire to suck up to modern Christian scholars, so I do call a spade a spade. That's why I can wholeheartedly agree with you that the concept of the Trinity is not Biblical.

Next, how about that transitional phrase? What does it mean, exactly? Well, perhaps you would do good to study the Scriptures in a little more detail, because it is most frequently used in both the OT and the NT as nothing more than a sequential transitional phrase, like "later" or "next" or "then," not the specific fulfillment of some prophesied event coming into fruition. For example, check out Matthew 13:53, Mark 2:23, and Luke 1:8, just some of the 452 times that expression is used. (By the way, Luke was particularly fond of that expression, using it 40 times, versus six times by Matthew, four times by Mark, and zero times by John.) So your point is pretty weak there.

Now, specifically regarding your take on the Transfiguration, that "none of these three men shone like the sun when they were walking about in their daily lives....so this must be a heavenly scene." Not so fast there. You are forgetting that Moses had a Transfiguration of his own, shining so much that he scared everyone else around him, as described in Exodus 34:29-35. Furthermore, coming as a talking cloud was just one of the many ways in which God communicated to those on earth (such as in Exodus 19:9 and Exodus 34:5).

Nick

"The Wise Fool" seems a bit full of himself, imo. Made me think of Jesus' words at Matthew 11:25.

Tom, is your wife aware of your "pent-up spite" problem?

tom sheepandgoats

Alas, Nick, I think he pretty well nailed it. Still, I'll try to think of something with which to reply

tom sheepandgoats

Wise Fool:

The examples you give all have to do with close proximity to God, who resides you-know-where, the same place from which kingdom rule emanates. I don't think we have to split hairs here. The point is, you don't get to shine brightly hanging out in the coffee shop.

Nor do I think use of the transitional phrase is the stake through the vampire's heart, killing off once and for all other interpretations,but neither is it nothing. It establishes a relationship between two events. The fact that a writer uses it a lot means little. I use “thus” a lot. The word doesn't wear out for that reason. Even the “about eight days later” implies a relationship, since NT writers don't generally state how many days separate succeeding events.

Did you really apply Matt 7:2 to me? Isn't that a bit harsh? After all, I didn't condemn these guys to hell. All I did was make light of their views. (okay...and maybe their motives) If I am to have the same measure measured out to me, all that means is that mainstream religious scholarship will make light of my views, my motives, and those of Jehovah's Witnesses....which they already do, so I am not as chastened by your words as you might imagine.

If I am to research something scriptural, I start (and often end) with a perusal of what has been built up over the decades through the JW organization. Is that wrong? Consider how you agreed with me that the concept of trinity is not biblical. Yet those experts you quote likely believe the trinity, since the teaching is well nigh universal. The same might be said of immortality of the soul. They most likely believe it. We have seen it has no basis in scripture. They think everyone good is going to heaven. We realize living forever on earth is God's purpose for humankind, and only a tiny minority go to heaven for a special purpose. Same with the identity of the kingdom; our views differ dramatically.

The point is, if you're building on a crumbling or faulty foundation, surely that might compromise whatever conclusions you come to. It doesn't mean necessarily that their views are rubbish, but why not consider first someone building on a firm foundation? Why drive a car with four flat tires, when you can drive one with four good tires?

So I disagree with your characterization that I have an ax to grind with regard to modern scholarship. I simply appreciate the difficulty of building on sand, and so I consult these guys last, if at all. I don't dislike them. It's just that I don't trust them. As time permits, I'll consider what they have said....it's not that I consider their views uninteresting....but often time doesn't permit. It's not unlimited, you know.

I also admit to a bias to those who are following God's commands versus those who just talk about scripture. The JW organization, even detractors will acknowledge, is all about following God's commands. This, in harmony with verses like Acts 5:32, which puts God's favor upon those obeying him as ruler. I don't approach this field as though it were a think tank subject. I don't think the scriptures were written for that purpose.

The Wise Fool

@Nick
I could very well be the most full-of-myself person you have ever encountered, but that would not discredit my argument. Debates are better made with facts than with labels. Check out Matthew 5:22.

@tom sheepandgoats
I was not suggesting that the transitional phrase was worn out, just that it did not necessarily mean what you were so confident to believe that it did mean. It, indeed, does imply a relationship, but little more than a sequential one. Given the timeline which the Gospels covered (about two to three years, if we believe John) compared to their length, I am not surprised that there are scant few references to the number of days between events, but there are some, and they have nothing more than a relationship of time; like Mark 2:1, Luke 2:46, and John 4:43, as well as the many references to the same day or the next day.

Did I apply Matthew 7:2 to you? No, you didn't condemn them to hell, you just said that:

"These guys are spineless. And faithless. They ought not label themselves Christian experts, but something more along the lines of “deistic-flavored philosophers.”"

So, is God allowing spineless, faithless, "deistic-flavored philosophers" into heaven nowadays?

The point of the Matthew 7:2 reference was about the double standard you have applied. You blasted the JW detractors for simply ridiculing the quote instead of verifying it for themselves. With our debate, you ridiculed my summary of the scholars (presumably because it fit everything you have come to despise about modern Christian scholars) instead of verifying their words for yourself to see if you were justified in such a condemnation. The great thing about Matthew 7:2 is that it is only as harsh as you make it to be. ;-)

Since I have virtually bumped into you, I have done a (very) little bit of research on JW beliefs. Comparing them with what I know of the Bible does not show JW beliefs to have a supreme soundness in their foundation. Some viewpoints are more accurate, while others are more questionable to me. But then, you do have to realize that in my study of Biblical OT prophesy, it is clear that all of Christianity is "building on a crumbling or faulty foundation." For example, it is difficult to reconcile the Ezekiel 40+ temple, complete with animal sacrifices, if Jesus took care of all sacrifices for all time.

So the foundation is critically important, and I couldn't agree with you more on that. The foundation of the NT is the OT. If you haven't already done so, I would at least recommend that the times when you come across a reference to the OT scripture in the NT, such as about John the Baptist leading the way and making paths straight, that you flip back and read the entirety of the chapter from where the references verses are taken from. That, and read the entire short book of Malachi, where the reference to Elijah returning comes from.

Cheers! :-)

tom sheepandgoats

Nick: I knew you might get in trouble with your Matt 11:25 characterization. Perhaps I should have warned you. WF has written on that verse at great length.

WF: As to your reply, I'll let it stand. It's well worded. And since you've allowed that Matt 7:2 comes in many doses, I'll even let that stand, so long as my required dose is not too high.

Though I'm not entirely clear on what is meant by this question: "So, is God allowing spineless, faithless, "deistic-flavored philosophers" into heaven nowadays?"

As to OT being shown to be the basis for NT, that may be another area in which we differ from the modern critics. Not that we would differ that it is, mind you, but just in the justifications used to establish it.

But....call me a coward if you like, I'm just not up to a debate with you OT verse by OT verse, knowing your astounding capacity to argue at length each and every point, no matter how small. I'm just not.

This is one reason why I sometimes avoid major statements on your blog....I fear getting into a discussion that will never end, since even on minor topics, discussion runs lengthy, and....well....time is not unlimited, and insofar as blogging time goes, it's the posts themselves I like to focus on. Different views exist on different topics, I can live with that.

Therefore, better I confine myself to the comments I do make on your blog topics, and please feel free to do the same yourself

Xibons

The transfiguration has been widely refuted by scholars? LOL. You must mean widely disbelieved. You are lost man.

The Wise Fool

@tom sheepandgoats
I'm sorry, I wasn't clear about the "deistic-flavored philosophers." That was a playful, satirical response to your "...I didn't condemn these guys to hell." It had just seemed that you condemned them somewhere based on that comment, but maybe just to earth in the afterlife, right? ;-)

You know, and I know, I could be wrong about all of this, and you are wagering that I am. I feel that you would benefit from more OT reading, but I can certainly appreciate your position of not having strong knowledge in the OT. It took me to come to the threshold point of losing my faith altogether before I finally committed to reading the entire Bible. Ironically, reading it was the end for me, but I know a couple of people who read the entire Bible yearly and don't lack any faith. So go figure. ;-)

But I don't think that you are a coward at all. Certainly no more than I am, as I post and comment under a pseudonym!

I'm sorry about the length too. Sometimes it's hard to know when to stop typing. I'll try to be a little more concise. Plus, I can completely understand being selective in argument, and just letting things drop if necessary. This isn't your day job, nor is it mine. So don't worry about that.

You debate quite well for the limited time you have, so it's been a pleasure.

@Xibons
This discussion was not referring to the Transfiguration itself being refuted by scholars, but rather if it applied to the above mentioned translation. You seem to be a little "lost" here yourself. Let me know if you need help.

tom sheepandgoats

WM:

If I must condemn them to somewhere, perhaps I'll choose something modern. Say an eternity on phone hold, listening to "your call is very important to us."

Not to worry about the length of your comments. I rather admire your tenacity, if not necessarily your methods of analysis. I wish I could keep up. As it is, Mrs. Sheepandgoats begins to look askance at the amount of time I spend blogging. Why am I not fixing that faucet instead?

Dave

Unfortunately, as is often the case, such lengthy debates only serve to distract attention from the original point being made. We often find this in the ministry and when we do, we're best to just move on rather than waste time on superfluous arguments. However, I have to take issue with one of the quotes made by WF regarding the coming of God's kingdom at Pentecost:

Barton W. Johnson

"This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Mark (9:1) shows the meaning by substituting, "Till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." The "coming of the Son of man in his kingdom" means, therefore, the same as "the kingdom of God come with power." Compare Acts 1:8, and Luke 24:49. The kingdom came with power on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1)."

This is a rather vain and dogmatic attempt to explain the scriptures while at the same time totally disregarding other connected prophecies that shed light on the subject. Barton Johnson needs to understand the prophecy regarding the "appointed times of the nations" alluded to by Jesus at Luke 21:24. Jesus was referring to the prophecy in Daniel chapter 4 that when understood correctly indicates the time for the arrival of God' kingdom, with Jesus as king, as described in Dan 7:13,14.

God's kingdom could not come to power until these 'Gentile times' were fulfilled, which happened in 1914.

The transfiguration vision gave his closest apostles a glimpse of Jesus in kingdom power. Memory of this vision no doubt served to strengthen them after Jesus death.

The Wise Fool

@Dave
Several brief points:

1) Yes, Biblical debates do get lengthy, but I don't think that calling them "superfluous arguments" is quite accurate, at least not in what is presented here. Details should matter, if you want to know the truth.

2) I'm afraid that Barton Johnson will never understand what you propose, because he's been dead since 1894.

3) I happen to agree with you that the Pentecost is not the sign of the Kingdom. In fact, I disagree with all of the historical scholars which I pasted into the reply. That was just done for convenience for tom, and anyone else who wanted to know which ones we had been discussing.

4) In case you missed it, the prophesy in Daniel 4 was both revealed in its meaning, and fulfilled, all within Daniel 4. It's not a good practice to go around redefining prophesies for your own purposes.

5) 1914. I am going to let that go for now, because I know it is a core JW belief, and this is tom's blog. I respect tom, so I am not going to debate that particular matter here any more than the comments I have already provided to him. Suffice it to say that I have considerable objections to that interpretation as well.

Nikki

Great article is there any chance I can take it and copy it onto my own blog

tom sheepandgoats

Sure, Nikki, it's all yours. Just be sure to link back to this blog, if you will be so kind.

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