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  • Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

    This is a thread strictly focusing on an exegesis of a certain Biblical passage. I made this thread separately because I don't want to derail the focus of percho's own thread, which has a premise that I agree with (that Jesus' death was part of God's 'plan' before he even created the world, as made evident in a variety of NT texts). This thread instead focuses on the particular wording percho used, drawing from Revelation 13.8, which I think is being misinterpreted. Here is the traditional understanding of the verse:
    any whose name is not written in the scroll of life of the Lamb slaughtered before the foundation of the world

    Here we read that 'the Lamb [was] slain before the foundation of the world', thus implying that Jesus' death was not merely foreordained, but took place 'in eternity past', so that what happened on earth was the enactment of what had effectively already been determined. This is somewhat similar to the idea found in other NT texts, but that's not what I'm getting into. Notice how I said the above is the traditional understanding of the verse. It is not, however, a common translation. The few versions of the Bible that use the wording 'before the foundation of the world' (or similar) have that phrase applied to the names written in the book, not the Lamb being slain, which instead implies that the fate of the wicked was predestined 'in eternity past'. Neither of these interpretations is correct, as can be demonstrated from just the text of the Revelation (meaning, we don't have to first disagree with the above in order to make a third conclusion work).

    Here is the relevant part of Revelation 13.8 in Greek:
    Revelation 13.8: [1] ων ου γεγραπται το ονομα εν τω βιβλιω της ζωης [2] του αρνιου του εσφαγμενου [3] απο καταβολης κοσμου

    Here is a translation of the text:
    Revelation 13.8: [1] any whose name is not written in the scroll of life [2] of the Lamb slaughtered [3] before the foundation of the world

    First, notice that the second clause ('of the slaughtered Lamb') is being used to qualify the scroll of life; the scroll belongs to the slaughtered Lamb, so the only way to be written in the scroll is to have faith in the Lamb. Hence John earlier specified (Revelation 3.5) that Christians who are not faithful and obedient to Jesus will have their names blotted out from the scroll of life (which strikes out the predestination interpretation). As a result, this means that it is technically possible to remove this second clause without losing the primary meaning of the text. And wouldn't you know, we find exactly this phrasing in a later verse of the book, where the slaughtered Lamb (του αρνιου του εσφαγμενου) is not mentioned at all:
    Revelation 17.8: το θηριον ο ειδες ην και ουκ εστιν και μελλει αναβαινειν εκ της αβυσσου και εις απωλειαν υπαγειν και θαυμασονται οι κατοικουντες επι της γης [1] ων ου γεγραπται το ονομα επι τω βιβλιον της ζωης [3] απο καταβολης κοσμου βλεποντες το θηριον ο τι ην και ουκ εστιν καιπερ εστιν
    Revelation 17.8: the beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the abyss and depart into destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth will marvel, [1] any whose name is not written upon the scroll of life [3] before the foundation of the world, beholding the beast who was and is not, and yet is.

    This means the third clause is not modifying the second clause, it is modifying the first clause. Revelation 13.8 is not a statement that the Lamb was slaughtered before the world was created, it is a statement about a book that belongs to the slaughtered Lamb.

    But going further, we need to account for the word απο in the third clause. I left it translated as 'before' so far, but this word is rarely translated as 'before' anywhere else in the New Testament. In the KJV, for example, απο is translated only once as 'before' (Acts 7.45), and its traditional meaning would actually work better. The word απο most commonly means 'from', in the sense of going outward. So when John says απο καταβολης κοσμου (the third clause), 'before the foundation of the world' is the exact opposite meaning of the phrase. It should literally be translated as 'from the foundation of the world', with the word 'from' meaning 'from that time onward'.

    The whole phrase of Revelation 13.8 is awkward to find a perfect translation in English, but I think the following captures John's intended meaning the most accurately:
    any whose name has not been written in the scroll of life (which belongs to the slaughtered Lamb) since the foundation of the world

    So John is not referring to predestination of the wicked, nor is he referring to Jesus having been killed (or ordained to be killed) before the world was even created. What is being described is a scroll that contains the name of every person who has lived since the beginning of creation, and that their names are stricken out (or rather, not written in at all) when they live a life of active rebellion against Jesus.
    To This Day

  • #2
    Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

    I think it's a possibility that phrase 3 can be applied to either 2 or 1, but I lean towards 1 as you do and I think Revelation 17 is the strongest reason to hold that idea.

    I leave the other option open because versions such as the NIV and NASB have both options with one option in the text and the other in the margin (though the two versions are opposite in what they have in the text v. what they have in the margin). If the Greek was clear that it must be one or the other, I can't fathom either set of those translating teams to leave the other option open.

    A.T. Robertson is an example of a person, who being expert in the language, that while saying either is an option, he thinks it should go with slain rather than written. Wuest translates it that way too. So there are a few too many heavy hitters for me to make an overly strong stance for one or the other.

    In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. - Rupertus Meldenius

    Read your Bible and pray every single day. - Pastor Jon Courson

    If your grace ain't greasier than a bucket full of chitlin's and gravy, you might be a legalist - an internet friend.

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    • #3
      Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

      Originally posted by markedward View Post
      This means the third clause is not modifying the second clause, it is modifying the first clause. Revelation 13.8 is not a statement that the Lamb was slaughtered before the world was created, it is a statement about a book that belongs to the slaughtered Lamb.
      Quite keen. Haven't looked at it that way although I have presented, in the past, a similar situation in Romans 5:14...if you wouldn't mind looking and applying the same logic.
      James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

        KJV
        Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life ..............
        of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

        Lamb slain from the foundation, not names not written from the foundation

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

          Originally posted by ewq1938
          Quite keen. Haven't looked at it that way although I have presented, in the past, a similar situation in Romans 5:14...if you wouldn't mind looking and applying the same logic.
          That's a new way of reading Romans 5.14 for me as well. My immediate reaction there is that Paul's point from 5.12-21 is typology between Adam and Jesus, so I'm still inclined to think Paul intends for Adam to be identified as the one who 'was a type of the one who was to come. I'll have to come back to that to explore if / how Paul intends Moses instead, though.
          To This Day

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          • #6
            Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

            Originally posted by Noeb
            Lamb slain from the foundation, not names not written from the foundation
            I know what the KJV says, but you didn't address anything from the OP. Even the way the KJV reads can be understood according to the conclusion I came to above.
            To This Day

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

              Originally posted by Noeb View Post
              KJV
              Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life ..............
              of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

              Lamb slain from the foundation, not names not written from the foundation
              And this could be countered with the NASB . . .

              Revelation 13:8 (NASB95)
              8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
              written from the foundation of the world, not slain . . .

              Now what?

              In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. - Rupertus Meldenius

              Read your Bible and pray every single day. - Pastor Jon Courson

              If your grace ain't greasier than a bucket full of chitlin's and gravy, you might be a legalist - an internet friend.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                I think the NASB is closer to the Greek than the KJV in this passage.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                  Originally posted by RabbiKnife View Post
                  I think the NASB is closer to the Greek than the KJV in this passage.
                  Rabbi, can you give an further info as to why you think that? I ask because as I pointed out, none of my commentaries that I've checked have an appeal to arguments from the Greek for one or the other. If the Greek were clear, I would think someone would give it and Bibles wouldn't have footnotes offering the other option. And also, as I said, A.T. Robertson leans the other way and I have a friend who teaches Greek in college and Robertson is my friends home boy.

                  Thanks.

                  In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. - Rupertus Meldenius

                  Read your Bible and pray every single day. - Pastor Jon Courson

                  If your grace ain't greasier than a bucket full of chitlin's and gravy, you might be a legalist - an internet friend.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                    I think Markedward hit it...

                    First, the positioning of the phrase in question looks like a modifier or descriptor of the scroll, and the exact parallel in Rev 17 seems key to me.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                      Originally posted by Noeb View Post
                      KJV
                      Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life ..............
                      of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

                      Lamb slain from the foundation, not names not written from the foundation
                      Simple and very compelling logic. How can something be refered to as from a "time onward" if it did NOT occur? "Not written from the foundation" makes no sense, so I tend to agree that it is not saying that the wicked were preordained (although I do believe all of us are pre ordained wicked, and some are then saved).

                      In any regard, markedward's conclusion makes a giant leap right here:
                      Originally posted by markedward
                      So John is not referring to predestination of the wicked, nor is he referring to Jesus having been killed (or ordained to be killed) before the world was even created.
                      He must be rerring to one of the two. How could it be otherwise? Someone, "has been" something since sometime (the time of the foundation).

                      But is Since-before the intention? Or since-after? markedward has parsed the text as "since-after". Before, or after? Which one? Surely this cannot be that ambiguous?

                      The answer is, it is not ambiguous, because the entire point of mentioning the "foundation of the world" puts a beginning point in mind which confronts the reader with a very certain point of planning. Why is the foundation mentioned at all? What is the foundation? The foundation is the the design of the world. The foundation does not mean only "the beginning of history". It means "from the time God planned his creation". This is critically important to keep in view, and markedward has completely overlooked this.

                      Whatever it was that was planned, it was planned even prior to the completion of creation. If the point is to only convey that names were written in the book since-after creation, then there is no need to mention the foundation. The foundation of something is that wwhich is even before the structure. The foundation is a plan.
                      The world = creation -or- the result of the work of creation.

                      The Foundation = before creation -or- that which allowed the work of creation to begin.


                      The "foundation of the world" is not "creation"
                      Originally posted by markedward
                      What is being described is a scroll that contains the name of every person who has lived since the beginning of creation, and that their names are stricken out (or rather, not written in at all) when they live a life of active rebellion against Jesus.
                      The scroll you describe is not described by this verse. As I pointed out, "since the beginning of creation" is not what you suggest it is. You have made it out to be "since the completion of creation", which is the wrongheaded view. The proper view is, "since before the initiation of creation"

                      So the meaning of the verse is correct by either the NIV or NASB, one of the two is right. (markedward's version is the same as the JB Phillips translation)

                      I will suggest a more clear reading of it.

                      Revelation 13.8: [1] ων ου γεγραπται το ονομα εν τω βιβλιω της ζωης [2] του αρνιου του εσφαγμενου [3] απο καταβολης κοσμου

                      Here is a translation of the text:

                      Revelation 13.8: [1] any whose name has not been written in the scroll of life [2] belonging to the Lamb slaughtered [3] since the plan which preceded the creation of the world

                      (For "preceded" there may be a few other fitting words, like: enabled, caused, brought about.... But a very neat rendering for [3] could be thus: "since the plan of creation" )

                      The use of from might be "since" or it might be "before". Either is sufficient. THe meaning is that the slaughtering was intricately connected to the foundation of the world, they are together. The plainest sense is that the slaughter occured in eternity past, which is uncomfortable for markedward's one-sided theology. The slaughter was during, was with or before that which was foundational to creation.
                      Last edited by Aijalon; Apr 26th 2013, 06:49 PM. Reason: improving word choices
                      As the "thief" in the night, Christ is going to suddenly appear on the throne of Israel - not the antichrist.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                        For what it is worth, I would concur with ideas already expressed, namely that the passage in Revelation 17:8 offers ample clarity that "Those who live on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will be astonished." (HCSB) I don't think you can argue that Revelation 13:8 should be translated one way because of Revelation 17:8, but I think it's safe to say that the idea that names have been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world is safe enough either way. The translation of Revelation 13:8 remains ambiguous in my mind either way.
                        Who have I in heaven but You oh God? Besides You, I desire nothing here on earth. My heart and my flesh may fail me, but God will be the strength of my heart and my portion forever...as for me, the nearness of God is my good - Psalm 73:25-26, 28a

                        Check out my new blog at pilgrimtozion.blogspot.com

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                        • #13
                          Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                          Jesus said "the kingdom of Heaven belongs to children". (Matt19:14)
                          Arguably, everyone begins written in the "Book of Life".

                          ...and each only gets blotted when he disbelieves... (Rev3:5, Ex32:32)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                            Originally posted by Pilgrimtozion View Post
                            For what it is worth, I would concur with ideas already expressed, namely that the passage in Revelation 17:8 offers ample clarity that "Those who live on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will be astonished." (HCSB) I don't think you can argue that Revelation 13:8 should be translated one way because of Revelation 17:8, but I think it's safe to say that the idea that names have been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world is safe enough either way. The translation of Revelation 13:8 remains ambiguous in my mind either way.
                            Pilgrimtozion quotes the HCSB from John 17:8. At 13:8 they go with markedwards idea that phrase 3 modifies phrase 1 by flip-flopping the order of the phrases 2 & 3 just like the NASB did. However, just like the NASB did in the footnote, so too the HCSB offers the alternate in the footnote of the phrase being in order of 1, 2 then 3 making it look like 3 affects 2 rather than 1.

                            Again, to me (who is not a Greek expert), this implies that the Greek doesn't mandate one over the other. I'm guessing the NASB & HCSB put in the text what they think it should be (based on Revelation 17:8 or whatever other argument[s] they might have) whereas I'm guessing the NIV committee chose to just put it word order (more or less) and put a footnote to let the reader know an alternate interpretive option.

                            This is an interesting verse. I don't see anything terribly wrong with going either way. The only thing that would be terribly wrong would to be dogmatically divisive over it and no one here is doing that.

                            In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. - Rupertus Meldenius

                            Read your Bible and pray every single day. - Pastor Jon Courson

                            If your grace ain't greasier than a bucket full of chitlin's and gravy, you might be a legalist - an internet friend.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Before the foundation of the world [spin-off]

                              Great post, Mark (the original post in this thread). I agree completely. Jesus was not slain before the foundation of the world. He was slain about 2,000 years ago. And the book of life was not complete before the foundation of the world. It continues to have names added to it and blotted out of it (Rev 3:5) as time goes on.

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