Saturday, 17 February 2018

Centering Prayer, with Cynthia Bourgeault 1

IT WAS LIBERATING to me to read this book. I am usually very critical in all I read but I find so little to fault here in the deep, practical pages of Cynthia.

A few things that may alarm conservative evangelicals: this book will not be judgemental toward other faiths but will attempt (in my view, successfully) situate contemplative prayer firmly within the Christian tradition. Secondly, Cynthia manages to anticipate worries about this alternative approach without a defensive time and without portraying centering prayer as the be all and end all of prayer. And she will certainly not advocate a babbling word-loaded time of prayer (pummel my spirit with Truth).

I will shortly provide a summary of her book, itself a summary of her own message summary that she provides at the end of her book. But first, it's really worth pointing out the necessity of this summary. You know how some books basically divulge their message in a nutshell and slowly unpack that nutshell for the rest of the book? I don't know about you, but I don't always feel very motivated to finish that kind of book. Every single chapter of Cynthia's book brings something fresh and is loaded with humorous stories and is instilled via a non-professional and accessible style and vocabulary. The irony is that some of her own summary points at the end do overlap, which gives me a small sense of purpose for my following post on this book: provide an even more condensed summary. Coming Soon, as they say!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Ultimate Purpose and reflections from Genesis 1-3

Justin Brierley's brilliant Unbelievable show resumes its traditional format of atheist versus Christian format after a more in-house discussion on the tricky genocidal aspects of Yahweh's instructions to his invading people to violently invade and dominate the Promised Land (I have blogged a little about the Old Testament violence issue already here).

What do you think about the argument of our life's purpose? Do we even ask these questions correctly? Without going into the Unbelievable debate in any detail (you can check it out Can we find God in a suffering world?), I was once again left to ponder, unsatisfied, on our definitions of such a fundamental issue as "purpose", but also strangely drawn to the apparent inevitability of the connection to suffering. But let's leave suffering for a moment.

My Christian heritage is founded on the biblical idea that originally, we could have inhabited a world without any suffering whatsoever. No death - except maybe that of vegetation. Yet, despite that eventuality of pain, there was a purpose.

Genesis 1

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.

On this basis, Jews, Christians and Muslims share that there is a purpose that supercedes that of the animal kingdom. Vegetation exists in order to be eaten. Animals exist in order to eat and be eaten. Humans, however are to thrive and rule. Eating is clearly pretty important - it comes up quite a bit, but it is never provided as the reason or purpose. The mandate for humans is to share in a divine mandate, to share in the gods' work of order and rule, all of which ultimately comes under the presidency of Yahweh himself. The delegation is so great that humankind get to name the animals. That's huge and weird if you think about it, not naming what you created, maybe a bit like asking your kid to name their younger sibling. Maybe. 

So what this story has taught us is that there are layers of meaning. We all have "purpose". The question really is just how up the ladder do we want to climb? Do we just want to be physically fulfilled? Do we desire that deeply for our family and close friends too (layer 2)? Or do we feel empathy and a call to act to right wrongs in our society that may not even affect us directly (layer 3?)

One of the problems with the Genesis 1-2 scenario (there are quite a few actually, depending on how you read the text) is the notion of order. The jurisdiction and domination over creation without suffering often overlooks a lurking clue to the source of evil. There was still chaos. Where there is no order, there is not a vacuum, and the Old Testament language continues to revisit and enrich the Israelite understanding of order and disorder. I guess that's even why naming comes in. Give something nameless a name, you reduce its uncertainty, you provide it with blissful parameters.

So our purpose is to rule over our God-appointed spheres of influence. Before "the Fall", this was not to eat, but to weigh in on ruleless "chaos" and provide order. I think that is really where I want to leave it today, so here's a quick summary and then a quick idea about the serpent of Genesis 3:

  • "Purpose" is not about ground-level existence, it's minimum one rung up from that since this is essentially the plant and animal level.
  • An orderlessness, or a need-to-be-ordered, pre-existed any bad human choices.
  • Naming carries big responsibility.

The exchange with the serpent

So what about that crafty serpent of Genesis 3? Was it the one Jesus referred to as Satan? Who knows, but one thing that today's reflection has clarified for me is that both Adam and Even shirked their responsibility, climbed down their ladder of purpose, and allowed the creation to dictate ideas and mandates of its own. The serpent is a created beast here, albeit an admittedly developed one endowed with the faculties of speech. But there has been no mention of it having received any other special privilege such as giving orders or holding responsibility on God's behalf. The great fall merits its capitalised "The Fall" when we realise that mankind has abandoned its remit of good order and been dictated to by the very creature over which rule was supposed to be exercised. This was the greater "sin" in my view - as bad as the fruit-eating episode was. So how should Adam and Eve have responded to the crafty serpent? "No, I won't eat the fruit" - is that really all that they were being tested here? Most certainly not - the serpent was "a beast" and needed severe punishment for threatening the rule. A simple refusal could still be a recognition of upset lines of authority and order.


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Racines Judéo-Chrétiennes de la Trinité

Traduction réalisée à l’aide de Shaad Rangila, avec mes remerciements. Cette traduction éclaircie quelques phrases dans la version originale publiée en anglais le 8 mai 2017 que vous pouvez toujours consulter ici.

Comme les lecteurs de mon blog peuvent l'avoir remarqué, je sais que je peux paraître difficile à cerner exactement sur mes avis sur “la Trinité”. Ce n’est pas parce que j’aime l'ambiguïté - la raison en est que mon avis ne se conforme pas aux simples catégories que je connais actuellement, et je continue à l’affiner.

Mon avis consiste à distinguer deux composantes ou phases distinctes : une « mutation » Judéo-Chrétienne pendant la première siècle, suivi, vers la fin du quatrième siècle, d’une préservation Hellénistique de cette mutation (cette préservation pouvant être désigné “mutation” aussi). Tous les deux sont des effets herméneutiques, mais fonctionnent différemment.
Dans le Nouveau Testament, Le Père, Le Fils et Le Saint Esprit dominent. La réflexion religieuse dans la pensée Juive n’a jamais été exprimée d'une telle façon ou force, mais c’est la réalité ordinaire et évidente que nous trouvons dans ces premiers textes Chrétiens (y compris les premiers textes non-canoniques, tel que la Didaché).
Le titre de cet article mérite un mot d’explication. Ce que je suis sur le point de trop simplifier est l’arrivée d’un « Moyeux Trinitaire » Juive dans leur univers et discours religieux. Il n’est pas un produit purement Hellénistique (même si Tuggy est correct d’affirmer une influence des Triades Divines sur le développement du Trinitarisme chrétienne par la suite). Toutefois, il est faux aussi d’affirmer que la seconde phase, plus hellénistique, est arrivée aussi tôt, à savoir que Dieu même est Trinitaire. Non, tout d’abord, la foi se transforme, en prenant une structure organiquement trinitaire. Deuxièmement, le concept de Dieu s’y conforme en adoptant une structure Trinitaire interne à l'être qu’on peut appeler “Dieu”.
Qu’est-ce qui se passe dans la première phase ? L’espace religieux généralement accordé par les Juifs à Yahweh seul, ce « moyeux », ce centre, le cœur, le noyau ou tout autre synonyme que vous pourrez préférer, est venu à partager avec les Deux autres (mon expression favorisée de « moyeux » permet en plus l'idée de mouvement d'éléments dépendants autour de ce centre, voire d'une interaction avec ceux-ci).

La mutation du premier siècle, Le Moyeux Trinitaire, fait sens de :
● L’occurrence imprévisible de l’événement eschatologique de la résurrection, la résurrection du Messie et le fils de Dieu.
L’absence physique du Messie élevé peut seulement signifier qu’il est exalté, régnant à la Main Droite de Dieu
L’effusion eschatologique du Saint Esprit habilitant Le Peuple de Dieu d’avancer l’inévitable Royaume victorieux anticipé par la victoire du Christ sur la mort et le mal pendant le week-end de Pâque.
Entre les deux mutations trinitaires, il y a beaucoup de débats houleux dans l'église, particulièrement sur le statut exalté du Christ lorsque le mouvement dépasse rapidement ses racines Juives et investit définitivement l’empire Romain. Ce dépassement est aussi inconsciemment une herméneutique car tout en débattant la subordinationisme, par exemple, et en essayant de comprendre ce que Le Christ signifiait lorsqu’il a dit « le Père est plus grand que Moi » (Jean 14 :28), une autre menace se cachait dans les ombres. En affirmant une interprétation des paroles du Seigneur sans la nuance nécessaire à sa déclaration, l'idée de racine judéo-chrétienne initiale (exprimée en discours religieux tri-central) est menacée, à l’intérieur de la nouvelle religion qui organise le débat. Cette institution cherche naturellement en parallèle une stabilité. Si l’Eglise devait admettre que l’Un était supérieur qu’un Autre, alors celui qui est inférieur va aussi glisser de plus en plus loin de l’espace du Centre Divin. Cela rendrait la mutation délicatement équilibrée en déséquilibre. À un certain point, les mots Trias et plus tard Trinitas émergent afin d'établir le Centre avec un terme de référence, même si Dieu lui-même reste initialement Un de ces Trois.
Lorsque les événements nécessitent une sorte de résolution à cette crise au quatrième siècle, c'est la réponse aux subordinationists qui prévaloit. L’Orthodoxie - si nous pouvons la personnifier - a dû faire face au paradoxe inhérent du Consile de Sirmium. Ce concile affirme explicitement le paradoxe sans résolution : la tâche centrale de l’église de toujours préserver la Trinité et que le Fils est inférieur au Père (c’est lui qui l’a dit !). Ces deux points de vue ne sont pas compatibles. Puisqu’il était en effet essentiel que la Trinité doit être « préservée » pour toujours (ou peut-être « pratiquée » aurait été plus fidèle encore aux textes du Nouveau Testament), il était impossible qu’un membre de la Trinité soit supérieur à un autre, là où “la grandeur” porte un symbolisme non seulement de grandeur ou de gloire en soi, mais de positionnement central.
Ce serait donc une simplification excessive par le Rapport Minoritaire des Unitariens d’insister que Dieu est Un, Dieu est Un, Dieu est Un, jusqu'à ce qu'une permutation théologique séismique bouleverse le concept de Dieu en Trois vers la fin du quatrième siècle. Ce serait une image impossible et beaucoup trop déstabilisante pour l’église. Non, nous devons commencer plus tôt que le Nouveau Testament et d’abord affirmer que le Dieu "monothéiste" des juifs était identique à l'espace qu'il a occupé au Centre de leur religion, et tout ce que cela leur aurait évoqué sur le plan identitaire, coutumes et rhythmes réligieux de ce peuple éparpillé. Deuxièmement, la foi s’évolue imprévisiblement pour représenter Père, Fils et Saint Esprit au centre actif de la foi, le moyeux. Troisièmement, l’espace central du moyeux est de nouveau réconcilié avec l’être de Dieu, comprenant maintenant trois "hypostases".
Les Unitariens chercheront à montrer l’erreur drastique de dire Dieu n’était qu’un puis est devenu trois beaucoup plus tard. En adoptant ce raisonnement inabouti, ils manqueront, selon moi, la nature organique du développement. C’est justement par mettre la lumière de l’herméneutique sur le développement que j’essaie d’éviter ce piège. Le chiffre « Trois » peut être vu comme une menace aux Unitariens, donc ils n'ont pas tendance à se focaliser sur la possibilité d’un Centre Tripartite si précoce. Peut-être eux aussi, ceci est en réaction aux pratiques de certains Trinitariens qui aiment confondent la foi trinitaire avec le Dieu trinitaire. Mais finalement c'est les deux camps qui courent ce risque, ce risque donc d’ignorer que les églises du premier et du quatrième-siècles partagent un centre trinitaire.
Les crédos du quatrième et du cinquième siècle, aussi ontologiques qu'ils puissent paraître, devraient être considérés comme porteurs d’objectif, d'un à défendre - avec acharnement - le Centre Trinitaire enraciné dans l'église juive du premier siècle, au moyen des outils philosophiques disponibles à l'époque. Ces outils s'avèrent métaphysiques et semble être des constats simples, alors que dans la réalité, ils sont chargés d'objectifs bien plus profonds, comme ceux donnés à Sirmium, par ses interlocuteurs proto-orthodoxes.

John Bainbridge - Merci de votre intérêt ! Toute remarque ou question sont les bien venues. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

"The Kingdom of Heaven"

The Gospel of Matthew is fairly well known for its particularity of speaking of "the Kingdom of Heaven" as opposed to the more classic expression found elsewhere in the New Testament of the kingdom of God. A common reason that is given concerns the Jewish nature of Matthew and his purposes for ensuring there is a special respect reserved for the name of God implied by the writer. Have you heard that theory? Or do you simply think that these gospel accounts vary in ways similar to different people describing different perspectives, like blind-folded people describing an elephant by its various parts? Sorry, both of these views are very unlikely in this case.

I have been studying now the characteristics of Yahweh, the name of the Israelite deity, for some time now. I have also had a special interest in the Gospel of Matthew. Something needs to be clarified in these vexplanations (I am focussing on the first one here) which really do not satisfy, in my view, in any way the actual biblical actually data available to us. Here's why.

First, although Matthew doesn't use the expression Kingdom of God very much, he still does do so, five times in fact! Secondly, he uses the word "God" just as much as any other gospel writer. Compare Matthew's usage with that of Mark for example. Matthew uses the word
God 56 times, including the 5 occurrences I just mentioned of the Kingdom of God. Mark mentions the word god 52 times. So that is, for instance, less than the author who supposedly has drawn a ring of fire around the name of God. Thirdly, the issue of pronouncement of God's name is not about saying or not saying G-O-D (or T-H-E-O-S), but rather the name of Yahweh.

So why did Matthew substitute quite often the words kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Heaven? I believe an alternative explanation can be grounded on Ephesians 5:5 in the context of what we know of Matthew more generally. Let's read this remarkable passage now, then return to it after looking at some of that "first-gospel"-context:

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
As we have seen before, "the Gospel of Matthew", or whatever it was originally known as, is most likely a late first century text that is deeply reverent and devoted to a hellenised Jewish proclamation, confirmation and clarification of the Good News concerning God's sent, annointed, crucified, resurrected and exalted Messiah-Son. The author is careful to clarify and develop a number of things, such as "the fulfilment" of the stories already circulating about Jesus as fulfilment of Jewish Scripture (sometimes to the extreme), the certainty that Jesus outlived John the Baptist, the truth contained in Mark and Luke's accounts, and most significantly for my own journey over the last three years, quite what being baptised meant over and above John's baptism (in the name of the trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit), all of which is set in ordered teaching blocks more accessible to excommunicated Jewish-Christian groups with a desire to learn and share. That sentence was getting a bit long, but on this understanding, let us stress there is also the Matthean desire to not forget the Jewish homeland in which the Christ story took place. Just because Paul's (and others) efforts to retake the nations for God and Christ has had a very outward focus these last few decades, those Judean and Samaritan (=northern Israelite tribes) lands and inhabitants mustn't be forgotten in the missional endeavour.

This endeavour has always been, despite Paul's general reluctance on its usage, about the Kingdom of God. However, the authority of the one in charge of said kingdom is understood to have been entrusted in its entirety to the exalted Messiah, God's very own Son and Heir. Thus Paul describes the Kingdom as in joint ownership in the above passage. It's not like God has washed his hands of this great work of his - he nearly did this in Noah's day! - rather the Project is shared perfectly, and still extended further to the saints through their annointing and baptism in the Holy Spirit. But like everyone else writing and teaching (and thinking and praying and....) in the first century, no-one had yet devised this trinitarian action in terms of a "Triune God" - that was a later "clarification". Hence, for me, it is very plausible that "the Kingdom of Heaven" is a widening of the viewpoint about whose Kingdom this is - thus imputing still more divine status to Jesus via this incredible kingship appointment and sonship.

Matthew's contribution to the eventual development of the doctrine of the Triune God never ceases to amaze me and should be considered a huge stepping stone.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Is Jesus' Other Name "Yahweh" for the first century church? Part 1: The Data

FOREWORD

No, we can't affirm that. The grammar doesn't stretch that far, sorry. Today, I'd like to show you the constraints given by the biblical texts in Greek. That is the primary task for Part 1. This sounds like a crushing concession from a Protestant trinitarian standpoint, but it needn't be at all. In fact, taken in perspective, it strengthens the Triune Hub Hypothesis, which I will develop more fully in Part 2. For now, let us be assured that those committed to a form of trinitarianism are just as committed to engaging the biblical data honestly and accurately.

Intro

THIS IS A fascinating question and not the easiest to ask. We remain on a primarily historical quest, which is my burden, which is why I worded with some care. Christian apologetics is keen to stress that Yahweh just is Jesus, all part of a task (frequently non-trinitarian) to recognise Jesus as eternally God. There are some problems with approaching Jesus' identity this way, not least that it is driving an eternal perspective, which is all that a lot of people are interested in, bracketing the historical first-century Christian perspective.

Some of my work has been to investigate an apparently overlooked avenue into this question, boringly perhaps, to do with grammar. BUT, if you care about what you mean by saying “Jesus is/is not God”, you might be concerned to know if the grammar around Jesus' Lordship demonstrates deliberate or even programmatic allusion by the New Testament writers to Yahweh, the Israelite “God of gods” and creator of the cosmos.

Anyone new to this issue, let's super-quick recap: the New Testament authors along with at least a good chunk of the first century Church, relied heavily not on the Hebrew versions of the Old Testament scriptures, but rather their Greek translation. Rewind the clock 250 years.

There was a problem in that translation project facing the first Alexandrian translator team with regard to the Hebrew Name of God: Yahweh. Forget about transliterating it, this Name was problematic anyway. The Name had become so holy that it was considered unpronounceable. There is some strong evidence readily available from the team's translation of Leviticus, manifested here in the NETS literal English translation (plus article bracketing):

Whoever names the name of [the] Lord - by death let him be put to death; let the whole congregation of Israel stone him with stones. Whether a guest or a native, when he names the name, let him die.

That is not what the Hebrew says. Here's a translation of the Hebrew (NIV, with transliteration of Yahweh):

[A]nyone who blasphemes the name of Yahweh is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

Lined up like that can you sense the huge sense of awe, and maybe even some superstition, around this naming problem? The translation matches perfectly the information we have about the ultra-sanctification of the Name. This solution, found by the first team of Alexandrian translators, was to use a title associated already with Yahweh, “Lord”. Back in March 2017, I wrote an article on the blog entitled The name of [the] LORD, in which I concluded:

Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel.

[anarthrous] Kyrios is the name of the God of Israel.

Anarthrous means without the article. Kyrios means Lord.

Of the two obvious English matches for Greek anarthrous-ness (an English anarthrous scenario, such as “in the case of Michael”, and an English indefinite article, such as “in the event of a drought”), “in the name of a Lord” is clearly never in mind when both the Jewish translators and the later Christians wrote in Greek “ἐν ὀνόματι [τοῦ] κυρίου”.

As I have mentioned over and again, the evidence for an intentional omission of the article before Kyrios when translating the Hebrew Yahweh, especially for the Pentateuch, is overwhelming. Grammatically, this practice brings what would normally appear as a title to be in line with the grammar we would expect for a proper name.

Annoyingly, yet sometimes traceably, there are other instances where the article is dropped in Greek while the meaning of an article is retained. My research into the Greek expression for “in the beginning”, for instance, actually sheds light on a broader practice with the preposition “in”, ἐν. Does that mean that that ἐν is never followed by an article Greek? No, but the interesting point of the “in-the-beginning” work is that some scenarios do provide good consistency. “In the name of” seems to be another good example of consistent article-dropping around ἐν. That means that in koine Greek, people literally went around saying and writing “in beginning”, “in name of” and other similar “in” (ἐν) clauses.

Ok, it is time to return to the question of today's post, Is Jesus' Other Name “Yahweh” for the first-century church? To answer this question, we can compare article usage for potentially different referents (albeit intimately connected, related, bound together, etc.): Jesus and Yahweh.

THE DATA: OT (LXX)

There are different degrees of consistency to be identified in the Greek translation of Yahweh*.

1. Within the Pentateuch, approximately 93% percent of the time, Kyrios as a translation for Yahweh is anarthrous, akin to any other personal name.
2. The rest of the Old Testament, varying but less consistent application of the grammatical “signature”**.
3. Transversal Greek lexical units, often with near perfect or actual 100% consistency. This is where our Old Testament survey of translation of in [the] name of [the] Lord leads. In other words, there is not a single trace of ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου, i.e. zero occurrences of “in [the] name of THE Lord”, with seventeen occurrences across the Old Testament of ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου. The distribution of the Hebrew lexical unit, “in Yahweh's Name”, is not particularly even. It first crops up in Joshua, then we have 11 hits in the Israel history books from Samuel through Chronicles, 4 in the Psalms and an occurrence in the prophetic book of Micah. Here is the first one:

Jos 9:9

They answered: ‘Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God.
καὶ εἶπαν ἐκ γῆς μακρόθεν σφόδρα ἥκασιν οἱ παῖδές σου ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ σου ἀκηκόαμεν γὰρ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ ὅσα ἐποίησεν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ

The remaining 16 can be found at the end of this post along with some additional references from the Septuagint that tie this grammatical structure to a divine reference.
The message should be clear and unanimous. Since every single Greek Old Testament instance expressing “in Yahweh's name”, is translated ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου, we should expect any deliberate or programmatic Jewish-Christian allusion to Christ’s “Yahweh Name” to be formed in the same way. This is another way of saying that for Jesus's lordship to have instant or natural full divine connotations, we could reasonably expect instances of this Greek idea to follow suit when appropriate.

THE DATA: NT

As it turns out there are 9 New Testament occurrences of in the name of the Lord (ἐν ὀνόματι [τοῦ] κυρίου). Of these 9, 6 form a special indirect group that we will look at separately under the title Mark’s Precedent-setting Usage. Thus only three occurrences of “In the name of the Lord” are directly applied to the Lord Jesus, and all are from within the disputed Pauline corpus. Two of the three are conspicuous in their departure from the firm form we have seen with the “in the name of Yahweh” tradition, by appending the article to κυρίου. Let's start with those, before examining the sole direct NT anarthrous occurrence of Colossians 3:17.

Ephesians 5:20


[B]e filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Jesus-God distinctions and unity in the epistle to the Ephesians are among the strongest of the New Testament, containing some striking phraseology rarely repeated in church contexts today (such as “The God of our Lord Jesus” in 1:3 and 1:17 or “the kingdom of Christ and of God” in 5:5). For our purposes, it is important to note that the distinction between God and Lord is placed right at the offset of the epistle:
1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is an obvious point but it is worth remembering here: from a Jewish perspective, including the hellenized viewpoint represented in the Septuagint, God had in no way a monopoly over the title “Lord”. A less obvious point but one that I have laboured to make clear is that Yahweh is never, ever described as “our Yahweh” or “our Lord” in its translated Greek form. So it is in this wonderfully trinitarian context of 5:19-20 that we neither expect nor find an unusually anarthrous kyrios, it naturally reads: ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν.

2 Thessalonians 3:6


In the name of the Lord [ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου] Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

As with the previous passage examined in Ephesians, and indeed it could be described as the classic Pauline-style opener, 2 Thessalonians opens with the traditional God/Lord distinctions and unity: Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:17, The Single Allusion?


And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of [the] Lord Jesus [ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου Ἰησοῦ], giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (NIVUK)

For Christian apologetics wanting to build a case around Jesus' divine lordship (and also quite what they mean by “divine lordship”), this is surely the place to start. At least here, from a grammatical and textual critical perspective we are looking at an impressive state of overlap between Yahweh and Jesus. As we saw repeatedly, even insistently, this is exactly how you would want to express “in Yahweh's Name”. However, without wanting to put a dampener on Christ exaltation strategies, we have some important constraints then need to be laid out.

We are asking the question what did the first century church believe about the relationship between Yahweh and Jesus via this question of the name. The nuance often subtly glossed via the expression “the Pauline author”, should not been neglected here because even a very Pauline text that has been re edited recomposed recompiled re whatever soon after Paul's time could push the perspective into the 2nd century.

Secondly, we need to be aware that during the second and third centuries scribal changes were at work in this text as copies and copies of copies were transcribed for the flourishing church. For an English reader, the textual issue I'm referring to here becomes quickly apparent simply by comparing, for example, a King James Version to a more modern critical version, such as the NET or the NIV translations. Scribal changes between “God” and “Lord” within this chapter alone were multiple. Why that might have occurred is a subject for another day, although I have no doubts whatsoever that the first-century Christian mutations of Jewish belief lie at the heart of such corruptions. The point is though that for one generation to leave matters unresolved for a second generation does not for a second mean that the original author found himself randomly wavering between “God” and “Lord”.

Thirdly, even if we granted that the “ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου Ἰησοῦ” of Colossians 3:17 was written by a first-century author, it is difficult for me at least to build too much off from a single occurrence, hardly representing a significant stage of development for the first-century church. For them, it would seem sufficiently extraordinary to so programmatically include Christ alongside God in theological discourse and devotion. Ephesians 5:20 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 are indeed active witnesses of texts from a similar period that actually had not yet alined Christ’s Lordship language with the Septuagint’s established grammar for Yahweh.

And that’s almost it for the New Testament’s reluctance to make this significant grammatical step. Before wrapping up, however, we need to trace Mark’s precedent-setting citation of Ps. 118:26.

Mark's Precedent-setting Usage

The six remaining occurrences we need to account for trace their ancestry from Mark 11:9 and its derivatives, where Mark cites Psalm 118 v26 to frame Jesus' triumphal entry:

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the Lord we bless you. (NIVUK)

Due to established literary dependence between at least the synoptic gospels, and a remarkable recollection also from John, we can place GMark’s citation in its full citation “family”:



Since I am a strong adherent to the “Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis”, my summary of this family ancestry can be summarised briefly as follows.

       Mark wrote the triumphal entry scene (featuring a single donkey, by the way!), citing the Psalm.
       Luke follows suit in 19:38, including the firm union of the distinct entities Yahweh and “the king”.
       Luke innovates in 13:35 to anticipate the later scene with this same popular citation, where he has the threatening situation presented to Jesus, tying together Herod, Jerusalem and Jesus’ own death.
       Matthew follows both Mark and Luke in 21:9 and 23:39.
       As per Mark Goodacre’s nuanced description of the Mark-John relationship, John also recalls the perfect aptness of the Psalm precedented by Mark’s usage in his account.

Put simply, the reason this group is bracketed is that on face value it simply explicitly refers to two individuals: the authoriser and the authorised***.

CONCLUSION

From a majority of the first-century proto-orthodox Christian perspective, Yahweh is God is the Father, with a rather stunning inclusion within most of the theological discourse of Jesus Christ as “our Kyrios”, through whom God’s lordship is mediated. Typical anarthrous Kyrios usage for Yahweh translations are not in force.

* Within the scope of relevant Greek cases, which as far as I can tell are the nominative and the genitive.
** There is a serious dearth of work in this area. A rigorous study of the entire Septuagint Canon needs to be undertaken and checked. I myself have attempted Psalms and Ezekiel including some comparative analysis of article behaviour around Adonai.
*** That is not to say that I think that Mark has not powerfully innovated a divine lordship entrusting/transferral right back in Mk 1:3 via his citation of Isaiah.

For other relevant posts, please see:

·
       Why this research matters
     My six-part series on the Greek wording for “in the beginning

The remaining 16 occurrences within the Septuagint of ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

1Sa 17:45

David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

καὶ εἰπεν Δαυιδ πρὸς τὸν ἀλλόφυλον σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ἐν δόρατι καὶ ἐν ἀσπίδι κἀγὼ πορεύομαι πρὸς σὲ ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου σαβαωθ θεοῦ παρατάξεως Ισραηλ ἣν ὠνείδισας σήμερον

1Sa 20:42

Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants for ever.” ’

καὶ εἶπεν Ιωναθαν πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην καὶ ὡς ὀμωμόκαμεν ἡμεῖς ἀμφότεροι ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου λέγοντες κύριος ἔσται μάρτυς ἀνὰ μέσον ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός μου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου ἕως αἰῶνος καὶ ἀνέστη Δαυιδ καὶ ἀπῆλθεν καὶ Ιωναθαν εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν πόλιν

2Sa 6:18

After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty.



καὶ συνετέλεσεν Δαυιδ συναναφέρων τὰς ὁλοκαυτώσεις καὶ τὰς εἰρηνικὰς καὶ εὐλόγησεν τὸν λαὸν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου τῶν δυνάμεων

1Ki 8:44??

When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the Lord towards the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name

NETS:
Nets translation of 1 Kings 8:44
For your people will go out to Battle against their enemies, by a way that you shall turn them, and they will pray in the name of the Lord by Way of the city, which you have chosen to be in it, and the house that I have built for your name

ὅτι ἐξελεύσεται ὁ λαός σου εἰς πόλεμον ἐπὶ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς αὐτοῦ ἐν ὁδῷ ᾗ ἐπιστρέψεις αὐτούς καὶ προσεύξονται ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου ὁδὸν τῆς πόλεως ἧς ἐξελέξω ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ τοῦ οἴκου οὗ ᾠκοδόμησα τῷ ὀνόματί σου

1Ki 18:24

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire – he is God.’

καὶ βοᾶτε ἐν ὀνόματι θεῶν ὑμῶν καὶ ἐγὼ ἐπικαλέσομαι ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ ἔσται ὁ θεός ὃς ἐὰν ἐπακούσῃ ἐν πυρί οὗτος θεός καὶ ἀπεκρίθησαν πᾶς ὁ λαὸς καὶ εἶπον καλὸν τὸ ῥῆμα ὃ ἐλάλησας


1Ki 18:32

With the stones he built an altar in the name of theLord, and he dug a trench round it large enough to hold two seahs18:32 That is, probably about 11 kilograms of seed.

καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν τοὺς λίθους ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου καὶ ἰάσατο τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ κατεσκαμμένον καὶ ἐποίησεν θααλα χωροῦσαν δύο μετρητὰς σπέρματος κυκλόθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου

1Ki 22:16

The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ βασιλεύς ποσάκις ἐγὼ ὁρκίζω σε ὅπως λαλήσῃς πρός με ἀλήθειαν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

2Ki 2:24!

He turned round, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

καὶ ἐξένευσεν ὀπίσω αὐτῶν καὶ εἶδεν αὐτὰ καὶ κατηράσατο αὐτοῖς ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθον δύο ἄρκοι ἐκ τοῦ δρυμοῦ καὶ ἀνέρρηξαν ἐξ αὐτῶν τεσσαράκοντα καὶ δύο παῖδας

1Ch 16:2

After David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.

καὶ συνετέλεσεν Δαυιδ ἀναφέρων ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ σωτηρίου καὶ εὐλόγησεν τὸν λαὸν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

1Ch 21:19

So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the Lord.

καὶ ἀνέβη Δαυιδ κατὰ τὸν λόγον Γαδ ὃν ἐλάλησεν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

2Ch 18:15

The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ βασιλεύς ποσάκις ὁρκίζω σε ἵνα μὴ λαλήσῃς πρός με πλὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

Psa 20:7

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

οὗτοι ἐν ἅρμασιν καὶ οὗτοι ἐν ἵπποις ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου θεοῦ ἡμῶν μεγαλυνθησόμεθα

Psa 118:26

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.

εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου εὐλογήκαμεν ὑμᾶς ἐξ οἴκου κυρίου

Psa 124:8

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

ἡ βοήθεια ἡμῶν ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου τοῦ ποιήσαντος τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

Psa 129:8

May those who pass by not say to them,
‘The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.’

καὶ οὐκ εἶπαν οἱ παράγοντες εὐλογία κυρίου ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς εὐλογήκαμεν ὑμᾶς ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

Mic 4:5

All the nations may walk
in the name of their gods,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord
our God for ever and ever.

ὅτι πάντες οἱ λαοὶ πορεύσονται ἕκαστος τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς δὲ πορευσόμεθα ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου θεοῦ ἡμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ἐπέκεινα

The following references do not contain the exact same expression but rather affirm the divine status of such a grammatical structure.

Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’

καὶ εἶπεν Ηλιου τοῖς προφήταις τῆς αἰσχύνης ἐκλέξασθε ἑαυτοῖς τὸν μόσχον τὸν ἕνα καὶ ποιήσατε πρῶτοι ὅτι πολλοὶ ὑμεῖς καὶ ἐπικαλέσασθε ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ ὑμῶν καὶ πῦρ μὴ ἐπιθῆτε

1Ki 18:26

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no-one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

καὶ ἔλαβον τὸν μόσχον καὶ ἐποίησαν καὶ ἐπεκαλοῦντο ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Βααλ ἐκ πρωίθεν ἕως μεσημβρίας καὶ εἶπον ἐπάκουσον ἡμῶν ὁ Βααλ ἐπάκουσον ἡμῶν καὶ οὐκ ἦν φωνὴ καὶ οὐκ ἦν ἀκρόασις καὶ διέτρεχον ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου οὗ ἐποίησαν

This is a rather curious occurrence that includes the definite article before Baal.

2Ki 5:11

But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.

καὶ ἐθυμώθη Ναιμαν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν καὶ εἶπεν ἰδοὺ δὴ ἔλεγον ὅτι ἐξελεύσεται πρός με καὶ στήσεται καὶ ἐπικαλέσεται ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπιθήσει τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον καὶ ἀποσυνάξει τὸ λεπρόν

 Note how in this reference the translator dispensed with the repetition of the Lord his God; Call on the name of his God was sufficient.

Ezr 5:1

Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.
καὶ ἐπροφήτευσεν Αγγαιος ὁ προφήτης καὶ Ζαχαριας ὁ τοῦ Αδδω προφητείαν ἐπὶ τοὺς Ιουδαίους τοὺς ἐν Ιουδα καὶ Ιερουσαλημ ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ Ισραηλ ἐπ᾽ αὐτούς

May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.

ἀγαλλιασόμεθα ἐν τῷ σωτηρίῳ σου καὶ ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ ἡμῶν μεγαλυνθησόμεθα πληρώσαι κύριος πάντα τὰ αἰτήματά σου

They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan


καὶ ἐκάλεσαν τὸ ὄνομα τῆς πόλεως Δαν ἐν ὀνόματι Δαν πατρὸς αὐτῶν ὃς ἐτέχθη τῷ Ισραηλ καὶ Ουλαμαις τὸ ὄνομα τῆς πόλεως τὸ πρότερον