Re: Context In Interpretation: was Sharp's Rule

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Sat Jun 29 1996 - 12:31:18 EDT

Wes Williams wrote:
> Dear David:
> << The use, by Roman emperors, of deifying names is a well documented
> phenomenon. >>
> Yes, and interestingly this custom even infiltrated the early church after the
> death of the apostles when they started the deification of "saints," as well as
> later when imperial figures rose to tremendous power, having the "authority of
> God."
> <<If you were looking for an expression similar to what we find in 2Pet. 1:1, go
> to
> Moulton & Milligan, _The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament_, s.v. SWTHR.
> They cite
> an inscription of 48 A.D. in the city of Ephesus in which the Ephesian officials
> and
> those of other cities acclaim Julius Caesar as QEON EPIFANH KAI KOINON TOU
> BIOU SWTHRA which I translate as, "God made manifest and providing saviour for
> all the
> necessities of human life.">>
> Thank you for providing the reference. If I understand you correctly, your
> inference is that modern translator should consider that both Peter and Paul
> might have adopted a similar appeal to this Roman custom to persuade fellow
> believers to think of Jesus in similar terms, since this was the Roman cultural
> "context."

        I think you understand my position better than your summation reflects. Try
something like the following: It is quite plausible that certain of the apostolic
writers of the NT took titles of deity, that the rulers of their present age usurped for
themselves, and showed how these titles could be used legitimately in referring to
Christ. The NT writers' use of such titles constitutes a statement, not only about the
deity of Christ, but about His superiority to all principalities and powers since these
titles may refer legitimately to Him, but not so to the latter.

>I agree all such context be considered. And taking 2 Pet 1:1 or
> Titus 2:13 ALONE BY ITSELF, I see how this might be persuasive. When we weigh
> this on the scales with the context of Paul's habitual use of similar terms,
> which way do the context scales tip?
> Professor Abbot commented on context of these verses (in answer to Middleton's
> arguments), from JBL and Exegesis, first number, 1882, pp. 11,12 [the very first
> JBL article];
> "To sum up: the reasons which makes 'the great God' a designation of Christ, are
> seen, when examined, to have little or no weight; on the other hand, the
> construction adopted in the common English Version [KJV] and preferred by the
> American Revisers [ASV], is favored, if not required, by the [scriptural]
> context; and it is imperatively demanded by a regard to Paul's use of language,
> unless we arbitrarily assume here a single exception to a usage of which we have
> more than 500 examples."

        How about a quote from the Prolegomena of Moulton's four-volume Grammar?

We cannot discuss here the problem of Tit 2:13, for we must, as grammarians, leave the
matter open.... But we might cite, for what they are worth, the papyri BU 366, 367,
368, 371, 395 (all vii/A.D), which attest the translation "our great God and Saviour" as
current among Greek-speaking Christians. The formula runs EN ONOMATI TOU KURIOU KAI
QEOTOKOU, K[.]T[.]L. A curious echo is found in the Ptolemaic formula applied to the
EUXARISTOU. The phrase here is, of course applied to one person. One is not surprised
to find that P. Wendland, at the end of his suggestive paper on SWTHR in ZNTW v. 335
ff., treats the rival rendering in Tit _l.c._ summarily as "an exegetical mistake," like
the severance of TOU QEOU hHMWN and SWTHROS I[HSOU] X[RISTOU] in 2 pet 1:1. Familiarity
with the everlasting apotheosis that flaunts itself in the papyri and inscriptions of
Ptolemaic and Imperial times, lends strong support to Wendland's contention that
Christians, from the latter part of i/A.D. onward, deliberately annexed for their Divine
Master the phraseology that was impiously arrogated to themselves by some of the worst
of men (Moulton I:84).

All the best,

David L. Moore                             Director
Miami, Florida, USA                        Department of Education                     Southeastern Spanish District            of the Assemblies of God

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:45 EDT