Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Jacob’s Ladder and the Locomotion Entelechy (Gospels 10)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

(John 1:51 NKJV)



While most other interpreters (including visual artists of the last few thousand years) depict Jacob’s Ladder as angels climbing up and down on a ladder, the Gospel of John cites Jesus as saying that the angels would be ascending and descending on a person, instead of a ladder (specifically, on Jesus Himself).  At first glance, one might think that John and Jesus must be making a very loose application of the Jacob’s Ladder incident in Genesis 28:12 by having the angels ascend and descend on a person.  Hugo Odeberg (p. 35), however, instructs that “there is the record of the two variant interpretations put upon the [Hebrew word commonly translated ‘on it’] of Gen. 28:12, one taking it in the sense of ‘on the ladder,’ the other in the sense of ‘on [a person].’”  Specifically, this second variant would be literally translated “on him.”  If one looks only at the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), the translation must be “on it.”  Nevertheless, the Hebrew word is בו.”  Writes Odeberg: “Burney has pointed out that the [Johanine] interpretation presupposes a direct reference to the Hebrew original, and cannot be derived from the LXX [Septuagint].”  Like the interpretation in the rabbinic text, Genesis Rabbah, John and Jesus are translating the Hebrew word as “on him.”  Jesus is the ladder (or train track, a slightly updated metaphor) to and from Heaven on whom angels are ascending and descending (in a locomotion sense).  Train tracks have the railroad ties that cross the tracks at intervals, resembling the rungs of

a ladder, so the updated metaphor may be easily visualized.

The clearest Aristotelian entelechial language in Jesus’ John 1:51 comment to is Aristotle’s description of the fourth type of  kinēsis/κίνησις: “in respect of locomotion, upwards and downwards” (Physics 201a5ff.).  Hugo Odeberg (p. 38) observes that the Johannine interpretation of Jacob’s ladder “is necessarily and essentially bound up with the Son of Man . . . there is no ascent and descent of the angels, no ‘heaven opened,’ no union of the celestial man with the terrestrial without the Son of Man.”  Jesus is, most likely, understood to be the “gate of heaven” referred to by Jacob in Genesis 28:17.  Odeberg (p. 36) quotes Bauer who says, “the from heaven descended one (3:13) . . . will also be elevated thither again (3:14, 6:62, 8:28, 12:34) in order to receive the glorification (12:23, 13:31).” There is a “locomotion” entelechy when one “descends” from heaven (to earth) and another “locomotion” entelechy when one is “elevated thither [to heaven] again.” 

The angelic descending and ascending, however, is different from that of Jesus’ descending and ascending.  My uncle Beauford H. Bryant, in his commentary on John (p. 68), draws my attention to the extraordinary (opposite) directional sequence of the ascent and descent of the angels.  One might typically think of angels, first, descending to Earth from Heaven PRIOR TO their ascending back to Heaven from Earth, but the Genesis 28:12 and John 1:51 accounts both have the angels “ascending,” first, and then, “descending,” second.  The order of Jesus’ own (circular?) locomotion entelechy appears to be a “descending” to Earth, first, followed later by His “ascending” back into Heaven.  

·         In John 3:13 (NKJV), Jesus says: No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” 

·         In John 6:32-33 (NKJV), Jesus says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

·         In John 6:38 (NKJV), Jesus says: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” 

·         In John 6:42 (NKJV), the Jewish skeptics ask concerning Jesus: “How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 

·         In John 6:50-51 (NKJV), Jesus says: “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” 

·         John 6:60-62 (NKJV) reports: “[M]any of His disciples . . . said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’  . . . Jesus knew . . . that His disciples complained . . . He said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?’”


Angels, God’s Word, and God’s Work


John’s record of Jesus’ descent to Earth uses telos/τέλος-related entelechial language as Jesus views his being sent (down to earth) to achieve an end/telos/τέλος for God’s “work.”

·         In John 4:34 (NKJV), Jesus says: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish [teleiōsō/τελειώσω from the root telos/τέλος] His work.” 

·         In John 5:36 (NKJV), Jesus says: “[T]he works which the Father has given Me to finish [teleiōsō/τελειώσω from the root telos/τέλος]—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” 

·         In John 17:3-4 (NKJV), Jesus says: “[T]hat they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent . . . I have finished [teleiōsas/τελειώσας from the root telos/τέλος] the work which You have given Me to do.”

In the previous blogpost, I note that John 19:30 (NKJV) indicates the precise end/telos/τέλος of Jesus’ race (or course) to Earth, when Jesus, on the cross, declares “It is finished [tetelestai/τετέλεσται from the root telos/τέλος]!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”  In answer to the question posed at the end of the previous blogpost, Jesus begins His Race when He comes down from Heaven.

What is the Father’s work that Jesus is finishing?  Odeberg (pp. 191) is certainly cognizant of the fact that, according to John, “the Son does the Father’s ‘works’” which Odeberg identifies: “he gives life, ‘makes living’ the dead’ . . . executes judgement [sic], is the judge of the world,” based on John 5:22-29.  If giving life to the dead is one of the works of God, then Jesus accomplishes this same work.  He raises the widow’s son in the town of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the daughter of Jairus (8:40-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44), not to mention himself.  If executing judgment is one of the works of God, not only will Jesus execute judgment in the future (John 5:27-29), but He also “forgives sins” (and, thus, executes judgment) while He is on Earth for the woman who anoints His feet (Luke 7:48) and the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12).  Note that the scribes remark, in Mark 2:7 (NKJV): “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

The Rabbis could agree with Jesus that God’s work of judgment “is continually active from the beginning of time unto eternity,” according to Odeberg (p. 202).  The Rabbis, however, think God’s works of “creative fiats” are no longer in progress.  They think God has “rested” on the seventh day (Sabbath) from those works.  Therefore, God would not allow any “work” to be done (such as healing) on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, claims in John 5:17 (NKJV): “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” The work of “executing judgment,” which Jesus (and God) do, involve Him making “pronouncements” or using “words,” such as “your sins are forgiven you.”  Giving life to the dead typically involves Jesus making “pronouncements” or using “words,” such as “Lazarus, come forth!”  The biblical understanding of God’s creative and life-giving work is that it was accomplished by making pronouncements, using creative fiats or “words.”  In my book, Angels and Demons:  The Personification of Communication—Logology (p. 153) I cite Kenneth Burke regarding “Words” used by God.  Burke calls the type of words God uses in creating the world (capitalized) “Word”: 


If God speaks a “Word,” that Word has “omnipotence” (or, at least, the total power necessary to complete its task).  In Genesis 1:3, God speaks a Word (“And God said, ‘Let there be light’”).  The very Word he speaks has the “omnipotence” to produce light.  Psalms 33:9 confirms the power of this (capitalized) Word: “He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and [the universe] stood fast.”  The Word of God has tremendous power.  Isaiah 55:11 goes so far as to suggest that God’s Word is infallible--it cannot fail: “So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”


Furthermore, these creative fiats/Words are understood by the Rabbis to generate angels who accomplish the works demanded by the fiats.  On pages 155-156 of Angels and Demons, I connect the Rabbinic teaching on angels with God’s spoken Words:

[A]ngels were considered by Jewish teachers to be . . . generated by God’s use of “Word” (capitalized).  When [Louis] Ginzberg [vol. V, p. 21] states, "Out of every word uttered by God angels are created," he is picturing angels as the personification of God’s creative fiats.  He presents these angels, not as the free moral agents humans are, but as the commissioned forces that are charged with making certain that God’s Words are infallibly fulfilled.  . . .  When God says, “Let there be light,” an Angel of Light (Gabriel?) is created who infallibly produces light.

In his Dictionary of Angels (p. 25), Gustav Davidson describes angels, in the rabbinic fashion, as nothing more than personified spirit forces that are charged with carrying out the terms of God’s creative fiats.  Hence, whenever Jesus pronounces creative fiats, He also generates angels who would, then, ascend to Heaven (after accomplishing their explicit tasks).

Consider the “creative fiats” of Jesus on Earth.  From the time of Jesus, and down to the present day, the blessing Jews recite at their meals make two basic acknowledgements: (1) It is God who “brings forth bread from the earth” and (2) It is God who “creates” the “fruit of the vine.”  (Compare these two creations—bread and wine—with the Lord’s Supper.)  Note that, in the very first “sign” that John lists in his gospel, Jesus changes water into wine at Cana of Galilee.  This is evidence that, like God, Jesus creates the fruit of the vine.  In another sign, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus creates enough bread to feed the multitude and, then, take up twelve baskets of left-overs.  This is evidence that Jesus, like God, brings forth bread from the earth.  Jesus accomplishes this sign by a pronouncement (blessing) over the five loaves belonging to a boy in the crowd.  A Christian Rabbi might say that by speaking “Words,” Jesus generates angels who fulfill the works of the Words He has spoken.

Furthermore (illustrating another approach to “words” as “angels”), Odeberg (p. 217) credits J. Lindblom with pointing out how important for John was the “conception of ‘the testimony’” (martyria/μαρτυρία), which would also be “words.”  According to Odeberg, Lindblom “lays stress on [Jesus’] function as bearer of the testimony from the celestial to the terrestrial world.”  Odeberg also connects the testimony/martyria/μαρτυρία with “the believer’s testimony” and classifies it with descending and ascending (κατάβασις and ἀναβασις).  Odeberg juxtaposes: “[T]he Divine μαρτυρία . . . the Divine-spiritual reality, brought down to earthly men (κατάβασις) . . . [with] the self-expression of that reality in man (ascending ever upwards in his experience of Jesus (ἀναβασις).”  As Odeberg notes in his comments on Lazarus’s resurrection (pp. 120-121), those who witness the resurrection supply “testimony [martyria/μαρτυρία] concerning the Divine power of [Jesus], emanating from a personal experience of that power.”  Testimony (especially Divine testimony), whether it emanates from God (and descends to man) via Jesus or whether it emanates from the believers who have witnessed the Divine power of Jesus, exists as words (that are, effectively, personified as angels).  Odeberg (p. 218) writes, further: “The Son gives μαρτυρία (to the world), he receives μαρτυρία (from the Father on one side, and from the believer . . . on the other).”

Why, then, do angels “ascend” first and “descend” second?  Angels are God’s Words personified.  If God the Father were the only one whose Words become personified, then the angels would naturally “descend” first.  But, Jesus, who is already on Earth when he meets Nathaniel generates His own angels of communication with God (thus, His angels ascend).  This ascent is followed by God’s communication back with Jesus (thus, descending), and so on, back and forth.  Jesus’ identity as God is indicated by the “ascending” of angels.  Jesus and his Father are communicating back and forth with each other (their Words personified as angels).  As Odeberg’s comments (in the previous paragraph) seem to suggest, Jesus can be both the creator of angels (the Word/Logos) and the Way by which His angels “ascend” to God.  This is a Locomotion entelechy.  Since I use the word “connectivity” to describe Jesus as He relates to humans and God, we might even attempt even more modern metaphors, however reductionist, of a spiritual telephone wire (or internet cable) to describe Jesus as Jacob’s Ladder.  Messages (Word/Logos) are sent both ways, using the same telephone line/internet cable.  As Odeberg’s comments suggest, Jesus may be understood as both the creator of the messages He sends to God and the metaphorical-phone-line-connection that delivers that message.  The point is: Jesus is “connected” to both God and man.  Jesus, both “delivers Words” to God and “receives Words” from Him, delivering them on to man.  Put more plainly, the words Jesus teaches on Earth are the angels that Jesus receives from above and His words to God on behalf of His believers are the angels Jesus sends back to God.  What kinds of messages (angels) does Jesus communicate from God to us and from us back to God (on our behalf)?  Most importantly, Jesus communicates to us God’s love for us and He communicates back to God that we believe in Him. 

The locomotion entelechy of angels, however, is not the primary interest of John’s Gospel.  The back-and-

forth locomotion of angels is designed to communicate between God and man.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” not to save angels. Rather, angels ascend and descend on the Word-become-flesh in order to connect God with man, to communicate God’s “love” for the world and to allow mankind’s “faith” to be communicated back to God, in order to “save” mankind:

·         In John 3:13-17 (NKJV), Jesus says: No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven . . . that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

·         In John 3:35-36 (NKJV), John the Baptist testifies: The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.”

·         John 20:31 (NKJV) states: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Can you personally see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man?  Can you see the love of God being sent to you via Jesus?  Are you sending back your faith testimony through Jesus?  Jesus assured Nathaniel that he would see the angels.  We need to see them, as well.  Jesus and God are both working identical works for an identical outcome.  As Jesus said: 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.  For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:19-24 NKJV).

Jesus, in John 5:36 (NKJV), pulls it all together, entelechially: “But I have a greater witness (martyrian/μαρτυρίαν) than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish (teleiōsō/τελειώσω from the root telos/τέλος)—the very works that I do—bear witness (martyrei/μαρτυρεῖ) of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Locomotion Entelechy and Jesus’ “Race” (Gospels 9)


Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author [
archēgon/ἀρχηγόν from the root archē/ἀρχή] and finisher [teleiōtēn/τελειωτὴν from the root telos/τέλος] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)



Coming to Aristotle’s fourth and final type of entelechy or kinēsis, we encounter it as a metaphor, as it pertains to Jesus, such as in the “race” referred to in the Hebrews 12:1-2 passage (above).  Paul is also fond of the “race” metaphor for his own life, and sees his life as having been a race, in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NKJV):

[T]he time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

A race is an example of Locomotion Entelechy.

In addition to the “race” metaphor, the book of Hebrews uses entelechial terminology (cognates of of archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος) in describing the beginning and end of the work Jesus came for:

·         Hebrews 2:10 (NKJV) says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain [archēgon/ἀρχηγόν from the root archē/ἀρχή] of their salvation perfect [teleiōsai/τελειώσαι from the root telos/τέλος] through sufferings.”


·         Hebrews 5:9 (NKJV) says: “And having been perfected [teleiōtheis/τελειωθεὶς from the root telos/τέλος], He became the author [i.e., cause/aitios/αἴτιος—indicative of Aristotle’s four “causes” of kinēsis or entelechy (of which one is archē/ἀρχή)] of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”


Loco-Motion and Kinēsis



Kinēsis generally means motion or movement.  And, in order for entelechy to exist, there must be some type of motion/kinēsis.  In English-speaking countries, we know the word kinēsis from such phrases as “kinetic energy,” the energy that exists when something, such as a train, is in “motion.”  An advertising slogan for Trane HVAC Heating and Cooling uses the play on words: “It’s hard to stop a Trane.”  Of course, they want you to picture in your mind a “train” in motion.  The kinetic energy of such motion is so great that, even if the fuel is removed, the engine stopped, and the brakes applied, the train will continue to move forward, due to kinetic energy.  This is why one would not be wise to remain in a vehicle that is stalled on a railroad track with a train approaching.  It’s hard to stop a train!  However, the motion described in the train example is only one of Aristotle’s four types of kinēsis.  This type is appropriately entitled “locomotion.”  I point out on page 43 of Implicit Rhetoric that the four types of kinēsis are:


(1) substance--the one is positive form [morphê], the other privation [sterêsis]; (2) in quality, white and black; (3) in quantity, complete [teleion] and incomplete [atelês]; (4) in respect of locomotion, upwards and downwards or light and heavy. (Physics 201a5ff.)


Types #1, #2, and #3.  We have already encountered the first three types of kinēsis (or entelechy).  Type #1 was involved in the “growth” of Jesus’ human body. His body increased in physical substance.  Type #2 was involved in the qualitative change of Jesus’ form from the human form to the form of God (at his transfiguration) to the form of a servant (again) to the resurrected form to the ascended form.  His form changed in quality.  Type #3 was involved in Jesus’ filling his mind with knowledge/wisdom and filling up his authority until “all authority” had “been given to” him.  There was an increase in the quantity of knowledge and authority Jesus possessed.

Type #4.  Since trains are often called “locomotives,” I used the train example for type #4.  Notice that the word “loco-motion” includes both the term “motion” and the root of the term “location.”  This type of change or kinēsis involves a change of location, moving upwards or downwards, or (as a train does) moving from place (location) to place (location). 

One may observe that in the “locomotion” entelechy, there is no need for the concepts of form/eidos/εἶδος or material/hulē/ὕλη.  There is a need for both of these terms in a “substance” entelechy, because the form/eidos/εἶδος is either “growing” (as in the seed example or as Jesus’ material/hulē/ὕλη “substance” began to grow in form/morphē/μορφή in Mary’s womb) or it is withering/decaying/diminishing.  There may sometimes be a need for both terms in a quality entelechy, but if the quality of Jesus’ body changed again, at the ascension, to a purely spiritual essence, the terms would be unnecessary, there.  There is sometimes a need for both of these terms (form/eidos/εἶδος and material/hulē/ὕλη) in a “quantity” entelechy, because the form/eidos/εἶδος is either a complete “filling” (“full” form as in the grain tank example and the material/hulē/ὕλη “substance” with which it is filled is grain).  However, when it comes to Jesus’ “filling” his head with knowledge or filling his authority, it is hard to see that knowledge or authority acquisition has an actual form/morphē/μορφή or material/hulē/ὕλη.  We return, therefore, full circle to an observation I made in my earlier blogpost The Logos and Entelechy (Gospels 3): “The Book of Revelation employs the same important terminology that is fundamental to Aristotle's concept of entelechy.  I note, especially, the language of archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος, usually translated ‘the beginning archē/ἀρχή and the end telos/τέλος’ with which Revelation refers to God and Jesus.”  These two terms, archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος, are required and fundamental to all four types of entelechy, including (4) locomotion.  Whereas, the terms “form/eidos/εἶδος” and “material/hulē/ὕλη” are important or required only in the entelechies of (1) substance, (2) quality, and (3) quantity.  I conclude that, wherever there is discussion of the two primary terms (causes), archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος, in the New Testament, an entelechial interpretive perspective is appropriate.


Other Biblical Examples of Locomotion Entelechy


One can easily recall numerous locomotion entelechies in the Bible.  The heavenly bodies God created usually travel on circular routes (around other heavenly bodies).  The Earth (to put things simply) completes a circular entelechy of locomotion around the sun, once annually, just as the moon orbits the Earth each month (or 28 days).  These circular motions starting from one relative location and ending at the same relative location comprise entelechies of locomotion.  Not all entelechies of locomotion are circular, however, and not all are matters of “nature.”  When God told Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees in order to go to the promised land, Abraham began an entelechy of locomotion—motion from one location to another.  Likewise, in Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land, they traveled from an Egyptian location to the land of Canaan location, with various important (middle) stops in the wilderness, in between (such as the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai). 


Jesus’ Locomotion Entelechy


The Gospel of John 19:30 (NKJV) indicates the precise end/telos/τέλος of Jesus’ race when Jesus, on the cross, declares “It is finished [tetelestai/τετέλεσται from the root telos/τέλος]!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.  John 19:28 (NKJV) had prepared us for this final declaration by Jesus with the observation: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished [tetelestai/τετέλεσται from the root telos/τέλος], that the Scripture might be fulfilled [teleiōthei/τελειωθῇ from the root telos/τέλος], said, “I thirst!” 

When Jesus left Samaria, writes Luke, “it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 NKJV).  This was “purposeful” motion on Jesus’ part.  Jesus knew that a telos/τέλος awaited him at the Jerusalem location.  So, when Hebrews 12:2 uses a “race” analogy for Jesus, it is not far removed from the actual, literal locomotion entelechy of Jesus going to Jerusalem: “Jesus [was] the author [archēgon/ἀρχηγόν from the root archē/ἀρχή] and finisher [teleiōtēn/τελειωτὴν from the root telos/τέλος] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (NKJV).  Jesus’ “race,” like all races had a starting line (archē/ἀρχή) and a goal line (telos/τέλος).  We’ll consider his starting line in the next blogpost.  Jesus (as he was both archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος in Revelation) serves as our paradigmatic example of author (archēgon/ἀρχηγόν from the root archē/ἀρχή) and finisher (teleiōtēn/τελειωτὴν from the root telos/τέλος) of our faith.  Paul, who wrote to Timothy that he had “finished [teteleka/τετέλεκα from the root telos/τέλος] the race [and] . . . kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), understood who defined the race for the faith by his own example.  Jesus defined the starting line (archē/ἀρχή) and goal line (telos/τέλος) for each Christian.  Jesus’ race, therefore, serves as what Kenneth Burke would call our ”representative anecdote.”  His “race” entelechy “represents” ours.


In terms of Jesus’ and Paul’s respective races, as well as our own by extension in Hebrews 12:1-2, our “finish line/end/telos” (enduring the cross and sitting down at the throne of God) is implicit at our “starting line/archē.  Hebrews 12:1-2 spells out the entelechy: “[L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author [archēgon/ἀρχηγόν from the root archē/ἀρχή] and finisher [teleiōtēn/τελειωτὴν from the root telos/τέλος] of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”).  Jesus is the archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος of our own individual “races.”  Paul may well have died a martyr’s death, but (despite church legends from the second century) we do not know for certain when or where that may have occurred.  Clearly, not every Christian dies a martyr’s death.  Not even will every

Christian “die.”  As Paul observes, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed . . . the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed(1 Corinthians 15:51 NKJV).  Nevertheless, as Mark sets out the entelechy (See my blogpost The Four Extremist Gospels (Gospels 2), every Christian must be prepared to die a martyr’s death.  Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35 NKJV).  This is the entelechy of locomotion.  The life of Jesus represents the starting line and the finish line.  When one becomes a Christian, one begins the “race.”  The point at which Jesus began his “race,” as I mentioned, is grist for the next blogpost.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Your Own Resurrected “Form” and Entelechy (Gospels 8)


But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”

. . . So also is the resurrection of the dead

. . . It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body

. . . flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;

nor does corruption inherit incorruption

. . . We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

. . . the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

(1 Corinthians 15:35-53 NKJV)



To what form will resurrected Christians be changed?  As mentioned in the previous blogpost, Paul, in Romans 12:2, uses the verb metamorphoō/μεταμορφόω (the verb of metamorphosis) to indicate the “transformation” that comes about by the renewing of your mind when you are not conformed/συσχηματίζω to this world.  Thus, he hints at a “transfiguration”-experience-of-sorts that is available to Christians, not just Christ.  In addition to the Romans 12 passage, Paul supplies a seemingly-related Philippians passage: “[W]e also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform/μετασχηματίζω our lowly body that it may be conformed/σύμμορφος to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV).  In these two passages, Paul uses the roots of the words μορφή/form/morph and σχῆμα/shape/scheme interchangeably.  In the Philippian passage, Paul flip-flops the roots μορφή/form/morph and σχῆμα/shape/scheme, in such a way as to result in a combination of μετα- and μορφ pertaining to “our” resurrected body/sōma/σῶμα that appears to indicate that Christians will experience a metamorphosis similar to that of Jesus’ glorious body/sōma/σῶμα.  Paul confirms this doctrine in the 1 Corinthians 15:35-53 passage (printed above).  He twice asserts “we shall (all) be changed”—into a spiritual, non-flesh-and-blood, incorruptible, immortal body. 


But Jesus Still Had a Physical “Form” After his Resurrection


The many post-resurrection appearances of Jesus demonstrate that he (unlike God?) still had a μορφή/form after he was resurrected.  Two times, this μορφή/form was not recognized immediately (with Mary, in the garden, and on the road to Emmaus); at other times, it was completely recognized (as with Thomas, in the upper room).  The only instance in which we are told Jesus’ form went unrecognized for an extended period of time was while he was on the road to Emmaus.  There, his “other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera form/μορφῇ” (from Mark 16:12 and Luke 24:13-31) was certainly different from his pre-crucifixion “form/ μορφή” and it was also different from his upper room post-resurrection appearances.  Hugo Odeberg (p.68) quotes E. F. Scott: “John involves himself in a view which may fairly be described as semi-physical.”  There were indicators (such as the women on his day of resurrection grabbing hold of his feet and worshiping him [Matthew 28:9]) that indicate that he had a definite physical form.  This incident appears to me to be the same incident described in John 20:17, where “touching/ἅπτω” Jesus was strangely forbidden to Mary Magdalene because he had not yet ascended to his Father.  Since touching his body was not forbidden (and was even encouraged by Jesus) to the eleven, especially Thomas, and since the Matthew 28:9 uses a term for the women who “grabbed hold” of his feet that almost means “to seize forcefully,” we must assume that simple “touching” was not what Jesus was refusing for Mary Magdalene in John 20:17.  Although the KJV and ASV translate the term ἅπτω as “touch,” the CEB, NIV, NRSV, and CEV versions translate it as “hold on to.”  The NKJV, NASB2020, ESV, and CSB translate the term as “cling to.”  One of the latter two translations is preferable, in light of the Matthew 28:9 description.

It is possible that Jesus’ post-resurrection form was very-similar-to-but-not-quite-the-same-as the forms of Adam and Eve before the Fall—not “mortal” (because Adam and Eve had not yet sinned) but still flesh.  Apparently, the wild beasts that Adam “named” in Genesis 2:19-20 represented no physical threat to Adam, just as Jesus’ severe wounds in his hands, feet, and side represented no physical threat to Jesus.  Perhaps, that is what Paul meant by "incorruptible."  Just as Jesus “ate” in the presence of his disciples, Adam and Eve were given every tree in the Garden (except one) as food.  It was important to Jesus that he demonstrate by empirical proofs that his resurrected body was still fleshly, not a “spirit” form.  Luke 24:36-43 (NKJV) reports:


 Jesus Himself stood in the midst of [the twelve minus Judas], and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were . . . frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why . . . do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet . . . He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.

While Jesus’ post-resurrection/pre-ascension form, however, changed in its perceptibility from time to time and appeared and disappeared at will, we find no evidence that Adam and Eve experienced similar phenomena.  Nevertheless, Adam and Eve, in their pre-Fall naked existence were just exactly as God had created them (seemingly in the prime of life) with no “growth” or other kinds of form changes, such as Jesus experienced, to account for.  That might explain some of Jesus’ and Adam’s differences, but not all.  Yet, when Paul says that we will be transformed into the likeness of “His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV), this Adam-esque type of body (immortal, but semi-physical) may be what Paul promised—but with a difference?

On the other hand, all of these pre- and post-resurrection/pre-ascension forms (μορφή) seem to be different from his transfiguration form/μορφή.  Nowhere, among the post-resurrection/pre-ascension appearances, do we see Jesus’ form as being shining and white.  Nevertheless, at the transfiguration, the form/eidos/εἶδος (Luke 9:29) or morphē/μορφή of Jesus’ face/πρόσωπον was shining like the sun (Matthew 17:2) and his clothes were glisteningly white (Mark 9:2 and Luke 9:29).  This same picture of Jesus’ face and clothing being bright and white is found in John’s Revelation (1:12-16 NKJV), describing the “ascended” Jesus: “I saw . . . One like the Son of Man . . . His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow . . . and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  This post-ascension picture of Jesus that matches his transfiguration picture even smacks of a description of God Almighty.  These descriptions in Revelation may have been simply borrowed from Daniel, however.  The question remains: Was there a further transformation of Jesus following his ascension that would have been equivalent to his transfiguration appearance?  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:50 (NKJV), “[F]lesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”  If there was a further transformation of Jesus following his ascension that would have been equivalent to his transfiguration appearance, would that transfiguration and post-ascension appearance be similar to the picture of Jesus in the loins of his Father before Logos became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us?  As I comment in my blogpost Apocalyptic?  #14:  Morphing Jesus—Which Jesus do YOU see?  (Rev. 1:9-20):

To Daniel’s description of the Son of Man, John in Revelation borrows the following element from (Daniel 7:9 NIV): “the Ancient of Days [i.e., God Almighty] took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.”  John, however, in Revelation 1:14, says concerning the Son of man: “The hair on his head was white like wool.”  Thus, John describes Jesus after his ascension in language that Daniel had formerly used to describe God Himself (the Ancient of Days).


Viewing Jesus and Our Resurrected Forms Entelechially


Is there a concept that accommodates all of these various “forms” of Jesus?  Yes.  In a word, it is “entelechy.”  Even though Odeberg is unaware of Aristotle’s concept of entelechy, Odeberg (p. 68) recognizes the same phenomenon: “In [John’s] complex of ideas, the dominating notions of the present, preceding, and following contexts are recognizable.”  Shall we add to Odeberg’s comment the words “simultaneously and instantly”?  Is this not another way of saying that the end and the middle are implicit in the beginning (Entelechy)?  As I ask in the afore-mentioned “Morphing Jesus” blogpost,

[W]hen you “see” Jesus, what Jesus do YOU see?  . . . a baby in a manger, a carpenter’s assistant, a twelve-year-old boy questioning the Jewish scholars in the Temple, a young man whose mother asked him (before his time) to solve a problem with the lack of wine at a wedding feast in Cana, a man coming to John the Baptist to be baptized, a healer of diseases, a preacher to 5000 on the side of a mountain, a form walking on water at night, an individual being transfigured into a brilliant image, a shamed convict being crucified, a corpse being wrapped in a shroud and laid in a tomb, a resurrected man whose hands, feet, and sides show the crucifixion wounds?  Or do you see the “lion from the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:3) or the “lamb that had been slain” (Revelation 5:6)?  Now, morph your picture of Jesus into what John, in chapter 1 of Revelation, is “seeing.”

Perhaps, the best answer to the question just asked is “Yes!”  Looking at all of these descriptions of the “form” of Jesus, we might be able to recognize him instantly and simultaneously in many different forms, just as we are able to recognize our middle-age children in the photos of their childhood.  That is the genius of viewing matters entelechially.  The final=telos/τέλος form/eidos/εἶδος (along with all middle forms) is implicit in the beginning=archē/ἀρχή form/eidos/εἶδος and vice versa.  Aristotle proves that the logic of entelechy is operative in the cosmos by looking at the seed (earthly thing) and understanding that every future “form’ the plant will assume is already implicitly present in the seed.   In this way, Jesus’ followers would be able to “see” Jesus, as a baby, a lad of twelve, a form walking on water, a brilliantly transfigured individual, a voice talking to Mary, an ascended Son of Man, or a friend of Thomas with nail and sword wounds, instantly and simultaneously. 


The Third Type of Entelechy:  Quality


With the possibility that Jesus’ post-ascension existence, like his transfiguration existence, might be on a still-different level, we consider our own resurrected bodies.  If our bodies will be changed to be like his glorious body, which Paul says will not be flesh and blood, Jesus’ existence at the right hand of God may, again, be “qualitatively” different from his post-resurrection/pre-ascension existence, which was, itself, “qualitatively” different from his earthly/fleshly/servant form   For now, we simply observe that the transformations of Jesus from the Logos (en archē/ἐν ἀρχῇ) to the Logos-become-flesh to the transfiguration form to the servant form to the resurrected form to the ascended form are neither of the two types of entelechy we have considered, thus far—neither substance (growth) nor quantity (filling).  Rather, these transformations are a third type of entelechy—quality.  Aristotle’s Physics lists the four types of entelechy as: (1) in substance [such as the “growth” examples]; (2) in quality, white and black; (3) in quantity [such as the “filling” examples], (4) in respect of locomotion [which we will consider in the next blogpost]. (Physics 201a5ff.).  The change of quality (as in white to black) occurs whenever a Caucasian gets a suntan.  There is neither “growth” nor “filling” involved in the “process.”  Yet there IS change/kinēsis/κίνησις.  A Caucasian’s tanned legs are “qualitatively” different from his/her pasty white legs.  (Trust me, I live in Florida and am an eye witness of such qualitative phenomena.)  Nevertheless, the legs are neither larger nor smaller when they are tanned, so there is no change/kinēsis/κίνησις in substance.  Furthermore, there are no additional legs or reduced number of legs when they are tanned, so there is no change/kinēsis/κίνησις in quantity.  Instead, the legs have simply changed in quality (from lighter to darker).  Similarly, when Jesus’ form changed from the Logos-become-flesh form to the transfiguration form to the servant form to the resurrected form to the ascended form, his form/morphē/μορφή changed in “quality.”


When Christians are resurrected, their bodily forms (morphē/μορφή) will also be changed (kinēsis/κίνησις) in “quality.”  It is possible that, in the world to come, we will recognize (know) each other “entelechially.”  That is to say, we might be able to see in a split second, so to speak, any or all the variations of form of anyone, just as we recognize all the snapshot variations of form for each of our children, regardless of their current ages.  Past, present, and future forms converge, in entelechy, into a single essence that might well be fully comprehensible to us in the world to come.  For the time being, as Paul comments in I Corinthians 13:9-12 (NKJV): “For we know in part . . . But when that which is perfect (τέλειον, from the same root as τέλος) has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” In their mortal bodies, Jesus’ followers were not always capable of seeing the full entelechial picture of Jesus’ form (perhaps, only various synecdochic parts at different times).  Hence, the two on the road to Emmaus and Mary in the Garden did not, at first, know Jesus, but at a later point, they did, even as his “twelve” (sans Judas) disciples did.  When the final τέλος arrives in the world to come, entelechial knowledge will be perfected.  Whatever “form/s” our resurrected bodies assume, we will know fully, even as we also are known.