Author Topic: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV  (Read 1128 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« on: November 23, 2020, 07:27:10 PM »
Robert Bertram wrote an article on The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV. It is attached.


The Crossings Community, which he helped start, is planning to discuss this on a zoom meeting in December. I thought it could be fruitful to present it here for our discussion.


One thought I had while reading this: promises can be conditional or unconditional. In an essay by Carolyn Sharp, "Demand and Deliverance: Brueggemann on the Torah," in Disruptive Grace: Reflection on God, Scripture, and the Church, she writes: "… these two traditions of Abraham and Moses. They are there together as the beginning point of covenant. here is God's covenant to Abraham that is unconditional and unilateral. Here is God's covenant with Moses and Israel that is bilateral and conditional. They are there together, and that interface of contradiction may offer us the most work to do but also the most honest disclosure of the truth of our life. The full tradition asserts that all of our relationships, including that with the Holy One, are an unsettled mix of unilateral and bilateral, of conditional and unconditional, …." (p. 21)


For the unconditional covenant with Abram she quotes Genesis 15:18. "That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates." There is a covenant with no conditions.


For the conditional covenant with Moses she quotes Exodus 19:5: "So now, if you faithfully obey me and stay true to my covenant, you will be my most precious possession out of all the peoples, since the whole earth belongs to me." There is a conditional, "if."


As much as Bertram and Luther and Melanchthon may talk about unconditional grace. That has never been our practice. We have ifs. God is gracious to you, if you believe. If you are baptized, you are saved. If you are unwilling to receive communion, you shouldn't consider yourself a Christian (Luther in the Large Catechism.)
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2020, 09:41:58 PM »
Galatians 3 presents a different and I believe a more exact reading of scripture:  "15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

God's unilateral covenant comes prior to both circumcision and the law to Moses on Sinai.  It is the over-arching promise that the law cannot annul.

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2020, 09:51:52 PM »
Paul in Galatians discovers that the basic narrative in scripture is that God's intent is to over-ride any human attempt to reconcile with God  and with the neighbor.  God takes the initiative and brings reconciliation about outside of any human merit.  This is God's mystery and from my perspective a joyful and holy one.  It is not 2 covenants (Abrahamic and then Moses).  God's concern for people is wrapped up in Genesis 12-15.  Exodus is a side-matter primarily wrapped up in those circumcised and called Israelites (the ethnic group).   The promsing tradition is for everybody including the ethnic Jews.  Goodness it is already embedded into their tradition.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 09:53:57 PM by George Rahn »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2020, 02:13:28 AM »
Galatians 3 presents a different and I believe a more exact reading of scripture:  "15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

God's unilateral covenant comes prior to both circumcision and the law to Moses on Sinai.  It is the over-arching promise that the law cannot annul.


A problem with Paul's logic is that זֶרַע and σπέρμα are collective nouns. Paul uses the singular later in Gal 3:29: "And if you [plural] are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." "Offspring" (singular σπέρμα) refers to all people who are Christ's. Often the singular, σπέρμα, refers to and is translated with plural nouns, the singular "seed" refers to "sons" or "children" of the kingdom in Matthew 13:38. In John 8:33, the Jews state that they are offspring (singular) of Abraham. Jesus agrees with them in verse 37.


While Acts 7:5 σπέρμα could be understood as referring to the singular Jesus; but Acts 7:6 it is clear that it refers to the nation of Israel who were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. Romans 4:16 and 9:8 the singular is used of all people who have the faith of Abraham.


I also note that "if" is part of Gal 3:29. It is a conditional word. See also Galatians 4:7; 5:18. Does this indicate a conditional promise?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2020, 09:21:08 AM »
If you don’t desire communion you ought not consider yourself a Christian, not because taking communion is a condition for being a Christian but because it is a description of what a Christian desires to do. A condition would be something like, “if you did not turn in your permission slip, you should not expect to go on the field trip.” A description/definition usage would be more like, “If you do not like baseball you should not consider yourself a baseball fan.” It is just a statement of fact.

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2020, 12:15:16 PM »
Galatians 3 presents a different and I believe a more exact reading of scripture:  "15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

God's unilateral covenant comes prior to both circumcision and the law to Moses on Sinai.  It is the over-arching promise that the law cannot annul.


A problem with Paul's logic is that זֶרַע and σπέρμα are collective nouns. Paul uses the singular later in Gal 3:29: "And if you [plural] are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." "Offspring" (singular σπέρμα) refers to all people who are Christ's. Often the singular, σπέρμα, refers to and is translated with plural nouns, the singular "seed" refers to "sons" or "children" of the kingdom in Matthew 13:38. In John 8:33, the Jews state that they are offspring (singular) of Abraham. Jesus agrees with them in verse 37.


While Acts 7:5 σπέρμα could be understood as referring to the singular Jesus; but Acts 7:6 it is clear that it refers to the nation of Israel who were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. Romans 4:16 and 9:8 the singular is used of all people who have the faith of Abraham.


I also note that "if" is part of Gal 3:29. It is a conditional word. See also Galatians 4:7; 5:18. Does this indicate a conditional promise?

"Sperma" plural refers to the people God calls into fellowship with Him prior to circumcision (Genesis 12ff, Abraham and his progeny).  So ethnic Jew(s) identified in their ethnicity, are not the issue here but what is the issue are the people God calls into fellowship with himself neither Jew nor Gentile yet all Jews and all Gentiles.  God makes no distinction regarding ethnicity.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 12:19:48 PM by George Rahn »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2020, 12:23:40 PM »
If you don’t desire communion you ought not consider yourself a Christian, not because taking communion is a condition for being a Christian but because it is a description of what a Christian desires to do. A condition would be something like, “if you did not turn in your permission slip, you should not expect to go on the field trip.” A description/definition usage would be more like, “If you do not like baseball you should not consider yourself a baseball fan.” It is just a statement of fact.


But we tend not to apply the same rules to Judaism as we do to Christianity. When Jews obey the Torah, such as refraining from unclean foods, circumcision, and offering the proper sacrifices; we claim that they are seeking righteousness by works. (They claim that they are signs that they are God's people.) When we obey Jesus' commands and baptize and "do this" and gather in his name and love our neighbors, we claim that these are signs that we are God's people; and they are not works that make us righteous.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2020, 12:25:05 PM »
Galatians 3:29 is not a promissory statement.  It is a conclusion to the argument he (Paul) is making about who Christ and Abraham's progeny are.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2020, 12:57:01 PM »
"Sperma" plural refers to the people God calls into fellowship with Him prior to circumcision (Genesis 12ff, Abraham and his progeny).  So ethnic Jew(s) identified in their ethnicity, are not the issue here but what is the issue are the people God calls into fellowship with himself neither Jew nor Gentile yet all Jews and all Gentiles.  God makes no distinction regarding ethnicity.


"Sperma" (σπέρμα) is the singular, nominative form. Spermata (σπέρματα) is the plural, nominative form. It doesn't occur in the NT. (Although a plural dative and plural genitive do occur when talking about "seeds.")


My point, contrary to Paul, is that the singular σπέρμα can refer to a multitude of offspring; like talking about Abraham and his family. While family is singular, we know that it likely refers to a number of different people.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2020, 01:10:30 PM »
"Sperma" plural refers to the people God calls into fellowship with Him prior to circumcision (Genesis 12ff, Abraham and his progeny).  So ethnic Jew(s) identified in their ethnicity, are not the issue here but what is the issue are the people God calls into fellowship with himself neither Jew nor Gentile yet all Jews and all Gentiles.  God makes no distinction regarding ethnicity.


"Sperma" (σπέρμα) is the singular, nominative form. Spermata (σπέρματα) is the plural, nominative form. It doesn't occur in the NT. (Although a plural dative and plural genitive do occur when talking about "seeds.")


My point, contrary to Paul, is that the singular σπέρμα can refer to a multitude of offspring; like talking about Abraham and his family. While family is singular, we know that it likely refers to a number of different people.

Despite my confusion in grammar I think we agree in terms of who is being referenced in Galatians 3.  My point is that from the very beginning in Genesis historically prior to circumcision, God's promises are addressed to people and the person of Abram is called prior to any ehtnic demarcation issues.  God's promise of faithfulness comes to individuals apart from any class or ethnic distinction.  This is quite a statement to be made in scripture, whether it was called Torah at that point.  Paul picks up this wonder and mystery of God's promise for all in Galatians and we Christians technically interpret scripture through the lens of the promises of God unconditionally offered to any one (each and every one).

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2020, 01:14:48 PM »
Galatians 3 presents a different and I believe a more exact reading of scripture:  "15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

God's unilateral covenant comes prior to both circumcision and the law to Moses on Sinai.  It is the over-arching promise that the law cannot annul.


Why should we use Paul's illustration of Abraham rather than James's? Both quote Genesis 15:6 (from LXX): "Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness."


Paul concludes that it was Abraham's faith without works that was counted a righteousness (Rom 4:3-5).


James concludes that it was Abraham was "justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar" (James 2:21) and "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works" (James 2:22) and "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

A related question: why should Paul, who never met the incarnated Jesus, and his writings be elevated above the letter from James? There are three likely candidates for the person of James: (1) the apostle James the brother of John and sons of Zebedee (Mark 1:19). (2) The apostle, James, son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18). Or (3) James, the Lord's brother (Gal 1:19) and leader of the church in Jerusalem. All three of these James spent more time with the incarnated Jesus, hearing his words, seeing his miracles, witnessing his behavior, than Paul did.


Related to the Bertram article: we have to admit that "not by faith alone" is found in Scriptures.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2020, 01:17:42 PM »
I believe Bertram's article is trying to say that the Lutheran reformers had regained a sense of this reading of scripture and were attempting to make answer to the Roman Catholic confutatores pleading that the Church turn to this sense of reading scripture.  To do so however, would take centuries and call into question how the Papacy should be viewed ( whether as human agency or divine agency).

I believe Bertram's article, like Elert, focus on the important steps needed to be taken for the church to renew itself whether in the 1970s or today even.  Some segments of the church are doing this however.  I am very fortunate to participate in a congregation which does, imo.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2020, 01:18:06 PM »
"Sperma" plural refers to the people God calls into fellowship with Him prior to circumcision (Genesis 12ff, Abraham and his progeny).  So ethnic Jew(s) identified in their ethnicity, are not the issue here but what is the issue are the people God calls into fellowship with himself neither Jew nor Gentile yet all Jews and all Gentiles.  God makes no distinction regarding ethnicity.


"Sperma" (σπέρμα) is the singular, nominative form. Spermata (σπέρματα) is the plural, nominative form. It doesn't occur in the NT. (Although a plural dative and plural genitive do occur when talking about "seeds.")


My point, contrary to Paul, is that the singular σπέρμα can refer to a multitude of offspring; like talking about Abraham and his family. While family is singular, we know that it likely refers to a number of different people.

Despite my confusion in grammar I think we agree in terms of who is being referenced in Galatians 3.  My point is that from the very beginning in Genesis historically prior to circumcision, God's promises are addressed to people and the person of Abram is called prior to any ehtnic demarcation issues.  God's promise of faithfulness comes to individuals apart from any class or ethnic distinction.  This is quite a statement to be made in scripture, whether it was called Torah at that point.  Paul picks up this wonder and mystery of God's promise for all in Galatians and we Christians technically interpret scripture through the lens of the promises of God unconditionally offered to any one (each and every one).


Unconditional promises naturally lead to universal salvation. It's like a fetus being born. Nothing the fetus may think or do has any effect on its birth. It happens whether it wants it or not; and whether or not it believes there is life outside the womb.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2020, 01:20:35 PM »
I believe Bertram's article is trying to say that the Lutheran reformers had regained a sense of this reading of scripture and were attempting to make answer to the Roman Catholic confutatores pleading that the Church turn to this sense of reading scripture.  To do so however, would take centuries and call into question how the Papacy should be viewed ( whether as human agency or divine agency).

I believe Bertram's article, like Elert, focus on the important steps needed to be taken for the church to renew itself whether in the 1970s or today even.  Some segments of the church are doing this however.  I am very fortunate to participate in a congregation which does, imo.


Both the Lutherans and Romans used Scriptures to support their arguments.


I have found that Roman Catholics of today tend to elevate Matthew as their go to scripture while Lutherans look to Romans and Galatians. Justification by faith is not a phrase found in Matthew. In fact, the word "grace," never occurs in that writing.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: The Hermeneutical Significance of Apology IV
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2020, 01:24:50 PM »
Galatians 3 presents a different and I believe a more exact reading of scripture:  "15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

God's unilateral covenant comes prior to both circumcision and the law to Moses on Sinai.  It is the over-arching promise that the law cannot annul.


Why should we use Paul's illustration of Abraham rather than James's? Both quote Genesis 15:6 (from LXX): "Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness."


Paul concludes that it was Abraham's faith without works that was counted a righteousness (Rom 4:3-5).


James concludes that it was Abraham was "justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar" (James 2:21) and "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works" (James 2:22) and "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

A related question: why should Paul, who never met the incarnated Jesus, and his writings be elevated above the letter from James? There are three likely candidates for the person of James: (1) the apostle James the brother of John and sons of Zebedee (Mark 1:19). (2) The apostle, James, son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18). Or (3) James, the Lord's brother (Gal 1:19) and leader of the church in Jerusalem. All three of these James spent more time with the incarnated Jesus, hearing his words, seeing his miracles, witnessing his behavior, than Paul did.


Related to the Bertram article: we have to admit that "not by faith alone" is found in Scriptures.

I think (imo) your understanding of faith is too narrow.  Faith is the relationship that God has established with us according to His promises to Abram and his progeny.  Faith cannot be separated from works because who can believe without doing anything?  A good tree bears good fruit.  It is not the fruit (works) that makes the tree good.  The tree is the primary subject here.  Make the tree (person) good and its fruit will be.  God does this in his promise.  When we believe it we receive it.  Unaltered Augsburg Confession 4 and its corresponding reflection in the Apology are correct, imo.