Thursday, September 29, 2022

Jesus, Entelechy, and the “Form” of God (Gospels 7)


“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in the form (morphē/μορφή) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form (morphē/μορφή) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

(Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)



Does God Have a “Form”?


If God has no “form/eidos/εἶδος” (or, at least, no one has seen His form/eidos/εἶδος, as confirmed by John 5:37), how can Paul say that that Jesus was “in the form/morphē/μορφή of God” in Philippians 2:6-7?  First, one easily notes that John and Paul use two different words for “form” (eidos/εἶδος and morphē/μορφή), which Aristotle’s "entelechy" vocabulary, at times, uses interchangeably (as synonyms).  For example, in the previous blogpost, I commented that change/kinēsis/κίνησις or entelechy/entelecheia/ἐντέλεχεια is effected by four potential causes:

(1) archē/ἀρχή or “efficient cause,”

(2) telos/τέλος or “final cause,”

(3) eidos/εἶδος (aka, morphē/μορφή) or “formal cause,” and

(4) hulē/ὕλη or “material cause.”

With respect to the use of eidos/εἶδος in John 5:37 and the use of morphē/μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7, I believe that the two terms are fundamentally interchangeable (synonyms), with only a slight differentiation by Aristotle: When Aristotle discusses the change/kinēsis/κίνησις or entelechy/entelecheia/ἐντέλεχεια of substance (i.e., usually “growth”) he makes this distinction: “substance--the one is positive form (morphê), the other privation (sterêsis)” (Physics 201a5ff.).  In other words, when a plant is changing its substance by “growing” (positive), morphê is involved; when the plant is changing its substance by “withering away” (privation), sterêsis is involved.  Another example of sterêsis (besides a plant withering) would be a body decaying; whereas, when it was alive and growing, it was in the process of positively increasing in morphê.  Since, in addition to discussing Jesus being in (“the form/morphē/μορφή of God) in Philippians 2:6-7, Paul also discusses Jesus taking on him “the form/morphē/μορφή of a servant” (susceptible to death), we begin discussing this issue in terms of Jesus’ human body, his physical/fleshly form/morphē/μορφή.


Embryology:  How Was Jesus’ Human “Form” Generated?


We, here, face a difficulty with the Athanasian Creed.  It states that Jesus (while he is “God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time”) is “human from the essence of his mother.”  R. C. Sproul, a Reformed leader who embraces this creed, states that his co-religionists are willing to allow for errors in creeds.  He writes in The Last Days According to Jesus (p. 168): “[S]trong advocates of [the Reformation principle of] sola Scriptura historically have had great respect for the historic creeds.  These advocates have not considered the creeds infallible, but . . . held in . . . high esteem.”  This may be one situation in which the Athanasian Creed was fallible.  The phrase “begotten before time” can be easily dealt with, using an entelechial perspective (since the beginning, middle, and end are all implicit in each other), but the “human” part is problematic.  No one in the first century AD, when the gospels were written (or even in the fourth century AD, when the Athanasian Creed was formed) knew anything about X and Y chromosomes and, therefore, no explanation is offered in the Bible concerning the chromosomal issue.  We now know that a Y chromosome is required in order for the child to be born a male, as Jesus was, and the female Mary could have only (due to the laws of nature/phusis) contributed an X chromosome to the embryo.  Furthermore, there is the complication that Jesus is frequently called the son of David.  Luke 1:32 says that David is Jesus’ father and Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies trace Jesus’ lineage back to David and beyond. Since Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies trace, respectively, Joseph’s and Mary’s lineage, the point at which the two genealogies diverge is at David himself.  Matthew follows the lineage of David’s son Solomon; Luke follows the lineage of David’s son Nathan.  Therefore, somehow the addition of a sperm from David himself (or, at least, a Y chromosome from David, created by the Logos) would appear to have been necessary.  Possibly countering this conclusion, it is noted that Jesus, in Matthew 22:42-45, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 20:41-44, questions the idea of calling the Christ the “son of David” and John (7:42) is the only gospel that specifically mentions the Messiah as being of the “seed/sperm/σπέρματος” of David.  Even at that point in John’s gospel, the issue is presented as a question asked by participants in an argument, suggesting that Jesus might not qualify as Messiah, if he were not of the “seed/sperm/σπέρματος” of David.  Nevertheless, Acts 13:22-23, Romans 1:3, and 2 Timothy 2:8 all affirm that Jesus was of David’s “seed/sperm/σπέρματος.” 

Michael Pope, in a 2019 article in the Journal of Biblical Literature, explores “Luke’s Seminal Annunciation:  An Embryological Reading of Mary’s Conception.”  While not seeming to be aware that he is dealing with entelechial terminology (even though his article is, certainly, replete with entelechial terminology), Pope discusses dynamis/δύναμις (also transliterated dunamis) in connection with sperma/σπέρμα and pneuma/πνεῦμα (spirit). The two terms dynamis/δύναμις and pneuma/πνεῦμα, he points out, are “the named agents of conception in Luke 1:35” (p. 791).  I can definitely see that pneuma (spirit) is an “agent” of conception/change in Luke, and therefore, it would be classified as a dynamis/δύναμις.  I would classify it as the dunamis/δύναμις archē/ἀρχή.  In other words, the Holy Spirit (pneuma/πνεῦμα) was the “agent” or “efficient cause” of the conception.  In the previous blogpost, I identified dunamis as the entelechial term describing any one of the four causes of change: “Change/kinēsis/κίνησις, is effected by four potential (dunamis/dunamai) causes: archē/ἀρχή . . . telos/τέλος . . . eidos/εἶδος (aka, morphē/μορφή) . . . hulē/ὕλη.” While, Pope attempts to pull the term sperma/σπέρμα into the Luke account (suggesting that Jesus’ conception was, somehow, a normal human conception), he is ultimately unsuccessful.  The term sperma/σπέρμα is simply not there.  He states: “In the end, we cannot know whether Luke’s inclusion of the impregnating agents πνεῦμα and δύναμις is meant to induce his audience to consider σπέρμα as well” (p. 805).  We could, however, speculate that the Logos either specially created the material/hulē/ὕλη of a complete biological embryo (combining both Mary’s ovum and a sperm from David) or just a sperm/sperma/σπέρμα[τος] from David (or, at least, the Y chromosome to be added to Mary’s genetic makeup in the ovum).  If the Logos supplied the entire biological embryo, we have a scenario similar to what is produced in in vitro fertilization.  This problem is certainly not insurmountable from Matthew’s, Luke’s, and John the Baptist’s perspectives.  In Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8, the Baptist informs those (Pharisees and Sadducees) who come out to his baptism and are proud to be children of Abraham that God is able to raise up children to Abraham out of stones.  It is possible that this comment of the Baptist is a play on words in the Hebrew, since the Hebrew words for “stones” and “sons” very closely resemble each other, but the point regarding God’s ability is a valid one, nevertheless, reported by both Matthew and Luke.  Whether God used “stones” or gold coins or thin air, it is definitely within the capability of God to raise up children to Abraham long after the death of Abraham.  So, what would be the problem with the Holy Spirit/πνεῦμα raising up a Davidic sperm, if that is indeed what He did?


Metamorphosis:  When Was Jesus in the “Form” of God?


Although it is commonplace for Christian exegetes to assume that the scene in which Jesus was “in the form (morphē/μορφή) of God,” in Philippians 2:5-8, was “the (pre-creation) beginning,” before Jesus came to Earth, the possibility of that being the case seems to fly in the face of logic, if God has no form/eidos/εἶδος or morphē/μορφή.  As mentioned in the previous blogpost, the term eidos/εἶδος is missing from

Revelation—but present in Luke’s (3:22) description of the “form” of the Spirit at Jesus baptism and Luke’s (9:29) description of the transfigured Jesus’ form/eidos/εἶδος, as well as in John’s (5:37) discussion of the form/eidos/εἶδος of God.  Of those mentions of the term eidos/εἶδος, the John 5:37 mention establishes that no one has seen God’s form/eidos/εἶδος.  This is due to the fact that God cannot be limited to a form/eidos/εἶδος.  Luke’s (3:22) description of the “form” of the Spirit at Jesus baptism refers to a visible form (the form/eidos/εἶδος of a “dove”), not actually the form/eidos/εἶδος of “God,” since no one has seen God’s form/eidos/εἶδος.  In Luke’s (9:29) description of the transfiguration, Jesus’ face is called a form/eidos/εἶδος: the form/eidos/εἶδος “of his face was altered” (NKJV) and “his robe became white and glistening.”  Compare Matthew’s (17:2) and Mark’s (9:2) discussion of the transfiguration.  They both use the other term for “form” (μεταμορφόω from the root μορφή/form) when referring to Jesus’ “form” being changed.  They say his face shone like the sun (in Matthew); his clothing became exceedingly white (in Mark).  The word metamorphosis IS the noun translated “transfiguration,” corresponding to the verb metamorphoō/μεταμορφόω.  

A final mention of μορφή/form occurs in Mark 16:12 (NKJV), pertaining to the form of Christ in a post-resurrection appearance: “After that, He appeared in another form [μορφῇ] to two of them as they walked and went into the country.”  What did Mark mean by “other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera form/μορφῇ”?  The word “other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera”appears in the English word “hetero-sexual.” As opposed to a “homo-sexual,” who is attracted to the “same” sex, a “hetero-sexual” is attracted to the “different/other” sex.  Likewise, Jesus’ μορφή/form was not the same μορφή/form he had been in; it was a different/other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera form/μορφῇ (but not a different sex, lest the reader become confused by my illustration of the meaning of the term other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera).  Luke describes the post-resurrection appearance in more detail.  While not using the term μορφή/form, Luke 24:13-31 (NKJV) supplies elaboration of the very same incident, which helps to explain the resurrected “form” of Jesus:

[T]wo of them were traveling . . . to a village called Emmaus . . . And they talked together of all these things which had happened . . . while they conversed . . . Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.   And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk” . . . Cleopas answered and said to Him . . . “have You not known the things which happened . . . in these days?  . . . The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth . . . and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be . . . crucified . . . today is the third day since these things happened . . . and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  When they did not find His body

, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”  Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.  Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and . . . they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.  Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

From Mark’s and Luke’s account of the Road to Emmaus incident, we see that Jesus’ resurrected μορφή/form was, at first, unrecognizable to his disciples (as it was when Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus after his resurrection in the garden, John 20:14-15).  Incidentally, we recognize individuals not only by “sight,” but by all five sense perceptions.  We, like the blind, recognize individuals by the sound of their voices.  Dogs recognize individuals by their smell and taste.  Isaac attempted to recognize Jacob and Esau by touch.  So it was with Jesus.  Jesus spoke to the two in Emmaus in such a way that he was recognized (as he was when he addressed Mary Magdalene by name in the garden, John 20:16).  Then Jesus disappeared completely.  Just as Jesus disappeared at Emmaus, Jesus suddenly appeared in the upper room on Easter evening, even though the door was closed (John 20:19).  At that time, he also ate food (Luke 24:41-43)—whereas, he had blessed the food for the Emmaus travelers and cooked the food for his disciples, later, at the Sea of Galilee—and, in the upper room, he had a body that was completely recognizable to his closest disciples, even down to the nail holes in his hands and the sword wound in his side.  Even Thomas, who at first doubted, could not resist this demonstrable evidence, addressing Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  Strangely, Jesus had forbidden Mary Magdalene to touch him in the garden, because he had not yet ascended to his Father (John 20:17), even though he permitted his eleven disciples to touch him (John 20:27, Luke 24:38).  Had these individuals encountered Jesus “in the μορφή/form of God”?  The μορφή/form of Jesus following his resurrection was certainly different (other/ἑτέρᾳ/hetera) from the earthly μορφή/form into which he was born.  Nevertheless, these post-resurrection appearances cannot account for Paul’s comment about Jesus being in the μορφή/form of God in Philippians 2:6-7, because Paul says that Jesus exchanged that μορφή/form of God for the μορφή/form of a servant, and was obedient to death on the cross.  The preponderance of textual evidence favors neither a pre-creation form nor a post-resurrection form, but an understanding that the point at which Jesus was in the μορφή/form of God was at his transfiguration.  I explain on pages 75-76 of my book The Logic of Christianity: A Syllogistic Chain:

The Greek word . . . translated “form” . . . is . . . [μορφή], as in the word METAMORPHOSIS . . . translated TRANSFIGURED in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2.  Reading the Philippians Hymn from this interpretive perspective, we are encouraged to be SELFLESS, as Jesus was when he found himself transfigured into an immortal form.  But, unlike Moses and Elijah, Jesus did not consider this immortal form something to be grasped, but returned to his earlier [μορφή] (that of a servant, a mortal), thus humbling himself and becoming obedient to death—EVEN THOUGH HE HAD PERSONALLY ACHIEVED IMMORTALITY!  Furthermore, his death was not an ordinary death . . . His death was the long, painful, excruciating death on a cross—the sentence of the very worst of criminals.  And, therefore, because Jesus had paid the death penalty of even the worst criminals known to man, since he himself was worthy of immortality, the payment was not needed for his own account.  It was applied to the account of EVERY SINGLE SINNING HUMAN FROM THE TIME OF ADAM TO THE END OF THE WORLD.  That’s why God exalted him. That’s why every knee bows.  That’s why every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

Notice that in the passage just cited, I used the following terminology: “Jesus did not consider this immortal form (i.e., equality with God) something to be grasped,” rather than the NKJV translation cited above: “thought it not robbery.  The Greek word translated “robbery” in the NKJV is the word ἁρπαγμόν.  This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament.  Foerster, writing in Volume I, pages 473-474 of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament offers the translation “to grasp eagerly.”  He adds: “[W]e are not to link ἁρπαγμός with any thought of robbery or seizure by force.  Against all expectation, Jesus did not regard equality with God as a gain to be utilised.”

   As an aside, Paul, in Romans 12:2, uses the verb metamorphoō/μεταμορφόω to indicate the “transformation” that comes about by the renewing of your mind when you are not conformed to this world.  Thus, he hints at a “transfiguration”-experience-of-sorts that is available to Christians, not just Christ, but this use may be metaphorical.  More about that and our own resurrected μορφή/form next time.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The “Form” of God and Entelechy (Gospels 6)

“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

\(John 5:37 NKJV)




The Importance of “Form” in Entelechy


When John calls Jesus and/or God the ἀρχή/”beginning” and the τέλος/”end” (Revelation 21:6, 22:13), he

appears to be tapping into Aristotle’s four causes of entelechy.  The Greek word εἶδος/eidos (translated “form” in the John 5:37 passage, just cited) is one of the four causes of change/kinēsis/κίνησις and of entelechy/entelecheia/ἐντέλεχεια according to Aristotle.  Change/kinēsis/κίνησις, is effected by four potential (dunamis/dunamai) causes:

(1) archē/ἀρχή or “efficient cause,” translated “beginning” in Revelation,

(2) telos/τέλος or “final cause,” translated “end” in Revelation,

(3) eidos/εἶδος (aka, morphē/μορφή) or “formal cause,” and

(4) hulē/ὕλη or “material cause.”

While archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος feature prominently in the Book of Revelation (usually translated “the beginning and the end”), the term form/eidos/εἶδος is completely missing from Revelation.  Nevertheless, it is present in Luke’s description of the “form” of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism (3:22) and in Luke’s description of the transfigured Jesus (9:29) in addition to the John 5:37 discussion of the “form” of God, cited above.  The term material/hulē/ὕλη is also missing from Revelation.  This term only occurs once in the New Testament, in James 3:5, where it refers to the amount of “material/wood/timber” that is kindled by a small fire (in a metaphor of the power of the tongue).  It is never used to refer to the “material” of God.  For the New Testament use of μορφή/form, see μεταμορφόω (metamorphosis/transfiguration) in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2, and Romans 12:2, plus μορφή/form  in Mark 16:12 (of Jesus) and Philippians 2:6-7.  Henry A. Fischel frequently asserted that New Testament writers knew Rabbinic teachings, Rabbinic writers knew Christian teachings, and they all knew Greek teachings.  Fischel states: “It is fortunate that at this stage of scholarship no further defense has to be made for the assumption that Greco-Roman situations were well-known.”


Why Do “Form” and “Material” Get Overlooked in Revelation?



the terms “form/eidos/εἶδος” and “material/hulē/ὕληshould be missing from any discussion of God's characteristics.  The writer of Revelation appears to be aware of that fact.  Even though Jesus as God’s Son (in the flesh) on Earth experienced physical entelechies, God Almighty did not experience a physical entelechy.  It might be useful to point out, here, that Aristotle used the terms “physical” and “physics/φυσική” to refer to any “natural” object or occurrence.  Nature includes not only biology, but also geology, and astrology.  The Logos of God was NOT “natural” or “physical” (yet, Jesus on Earth WAS physical).  The Logos “created” the natural/physical world.  John 1:2-3 (NKJV) says the Logos “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Hence, all (natural) material/hulē/ὕλη (including “flesh”) was “made” by (or through) the Logos.  At this point, then we are presented with three logical absurdities: (1) If God were composed of material/hulē/ὕλη, God would have been “made” by the Logos.  (2)  Likewise, if the “Logos-become-flesh” were solely composed of material/hulē/ὕλη, the “Logos-become-flesh” would have been “made” by the Logos.  (3)  Furthermore, if we treat the earliest mentions of Logos in John as indicating “Jesus,” we have the strange situation of Jesus creating his own “flesh.”  Now, let’s try to dig our way out of this quandary. 

Absurdity #1 is easily resolved: God is not an entelechy, since God does not consist of material/hulē/ὕλη. Nor has anyone seen His form/eidos/εἶδος, as confirmed by John 5:37.  This is one reason the second Commandment says: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5 NKJV).  God is incorporeal.  When the Jews were commanded to build the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Ten Commandments), they made images of Cherubim to place on top of the Ark.  In the “invisible” area just above where the wings of the Cherubim touch each other was what was known as the “mercy seat.”  This invisible area symbolically identified the location of God.  I state on page 64 of my book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World:

Logically speaking, a God who created nature cannot be restricted to the laws of nature . . . Judaism adds to the description of God . . . “invisible.”  The Ark of the Covenant (as presented visually in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark) was designed to symbolically make this point.  All other gods presented at WDW are visible.  The Hebrew God is invisible. 

            Absurdities #2 and #3 are more difficult, but might be resolved by understanding that God is spirit, not flesh.  I had mentioned in my blogpost The Logos and Entelechy (Gospels 3):

On page 150 of my book Angels and Demons:  The Personification of Communication, I write: 


Jewish scholar G. F. Moore links . . . three terms . . . together quite easily.  In his chapter entitled, "The Word of God:  The Spirit," Moore states, "God's will is made known or effectuated in the world not only through personal agents (ANGELS), but directly by his WORD or by his SPIRIT" (emphases mine).


Since John himself (quoting Jesus) emphasizes that God IS spirit (John 4:24) and the facts that the “Spirit of God” is hovering over the face of the waters and God is speaking “words” are all found in Genesis 1:1-3, the possibility of the Logos being identified as the Spirit of God is a very definite possibility.  Identifying the Logos-become-flesh as Jesus may be a later development in the entelechy [of creation].

Identifying the Logos as the Spirit of God seems to have some corroboration in Matthew’s description of the virgin birth.  Matthew 1:18 (NKJV) states: “His mother Mary . . . was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20 (NKJV) has the angel saying: “Joseph . . . do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:35 agrees: “And the angel . . . said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  If the Logos is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, then the statement that the Logos/Spirit of God/Holy Spirit “became flesh and dwelt among us” would be very consistent.  The logic would look like this:

Premise 1: The Logos discussed by John in 1:1-5 is the incorporeal Word or Spirit of God that existed simultaneously with God.   

Premise 2: The Logos was God and the Logos (God’s Word) created all matter (=material), including “flesh.”  

Premise 3: “Flesh” was what the Logos, in the fullness of time, “became” (an entelechial action) during the time God’s Son dwelt on Earth. 

Deduction: In contrast to the absurdity #2 listed above, the “Logos-become-flesh” would NOT entirely have been “made”

by the Logos; only his “flesh” would have been made by the Logos.  The Logos, then, would only have “dwelt” (an entelechial action) in the fleshly (material) tabernacle, which he had created (just as humans dwell in houses those humans have made).  The only part of Jesus that was corporeal was the “flesh” (material/hulē/ὕλη) that he acquired from his mother, Mary, while he was growing in her womb and up until the time he was resurrected.  In contrast to the absurdity #3 listed above, we would NOT have the strange situation of Jesus creating his own “flesh.”  This view is entirely “monotheistic” in the sense that God and His Word are a unity (just as my words that come out of my mouth are a part of me); whatever Word/Logos God speaks is very much a part of Him.  For example, my words have a power of their own.  If I severely criticize someone, but not to his/her face, my words might still be very damaging to that person when someone else conveys my words to that person.  Just so, God’s Words (Logos), once they leave His mouth have tremendous power, in themselves, to create light, firmament, seas, vegetation, etc.  Now, we find God’s Word (Logos) has the power to not only create “flesh” but also to “become (or put on) flesh.” In view of the use of the “tabernacle” metaphor, it might be preferable to translate the words “became flesh” as “put on flesh” (i.e., in the sense of becoming one who came to exist in a fleshly tabernacle).


The Tabernacle of Flesh/Material/Hulē/ὕλη


John 1:14 says that God’s Word/Logos (having become or put on flesh) “dwelt among us.”  Picture this:  God’s Word (Logos) dwelling in a fleshly “tabernacle.”  That is how John describes Jesus.  The Greek word translated “dwelt” actually means “tabernacled” (σκηνόω).  Jesus “dwelt” in a tabernacle, just as God “dwelt” in a tabernacle, following the Exodus.  It does not diminish the divinity of either God or Jesus to say that they “dwelt” in “tabernacles.”  Yet, the tabernacles of both God and Jesus

were constructed of physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη.  One difference between God’s tabernacle and Jesus’ tabernacle is that, despite both of them being composed primarily of organic matter/material/hulē/ὕλη. Jesus’ tabernacle was living (his flesh), while God’s tabernacle was built of no-longer-living timbers, flax fibers/linen, etc. and also included such non-living geological materials as gold overlays.  Another difference is that, God’s tabernacle was made “with human hands” in the wilderness, whereas Jesus’ tabernacle was not made with human hands.  It was made by the Logos. 

In a possibly-related passage, Hebrews 9:11 (NKJV) reports: “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.”  Even so, Stephen, in Acts 7:48-50 (NKJV), says:

The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.  What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?’

            Paul and Peter both understood their own bodies to be “tabernacles.”  Peter, in 2 Peter 1:13-14 (NKJV), anticipating his own death, described his impending death as a putting off of his tabernacle: “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent [tabernacle], to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent [tabernacle], just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.”  Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NKJV) are further instructive. Although Paul is speaking of his own body (=tabernacle), which he predicts will be “destroyed” and in which he now “groan[s],” he looks forward to having God’s new kind of tabernacle—one not made with human hands, in which mortality is swallowed up by life (i.e., immortality/“eternal in the heavens”).

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent [tabernacle], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent [tabernacle] groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

Surely, in the heavens, Jesus is no longer living in a fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη tabernacle.  How his new body (and/or form/eidos/εἶδος”) is apprehended and experienced will be grist for the next blogpost.  Rather, as Paul suggests for himself, Jesus is now clothed with a habitation immortal, “eternal in the heavens.”  Having undergone the earthly entelechies of growth, learning, and authority (and even birth and death), the Son has reverted to the heavenly majesty he experienced as part of God and His Word/Logos (in the beginning) “en archē/ἐν ἀρχῇ.”

This entelechial understanding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as all one person “en archē/ἐν ἀρχῇ” in John 1—illustrates how there can be one monotheistic God whose Son pre-existed with him (and “acted” with Him) in His loins and whose Word/Logos/Spirit created all things.  His Word/Logos/Spirit, then “tabernacled” with us in a fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη body made by the Logos.  The Logos, while dwelling in that tabernacle, took on Earthly “entelechies” in his “flesh.”  As I mentioned in the previous post, “‘Sonship’ is Not an Entelechy . . . one does not gradually ‘become’ a son; one ‘is’ a son.  The son even has a pre-existence in the loins of his father . . . Sonship . . . is a state of being (not a ‘process,’ with a beginning, middle, and end).  One NEVER STOPS being a son.”  Therefore, Jesus’ “entelechies” were limited to the time when he was on Earth in his fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη tabernacle.  There remain undiscussed, so far, some embryological issues in Jesus’ “male” existence that should be considered.  For example, Mary could not have contributed a Y chromosome to Jesus’ flesh, thus, making him a male embryo.  Such entelechial matters pertaining to Jesus’ earthly form/morphē/μορφή will be addressed in the next blogpost.  Also, next time, we will consider what Paul means when he says that Jesus was found “in the form/morphē/μορφή of God” in Philippians 2:6-7.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Sonship and “Learning” and “Authority” Entelechies (Gospels 5)

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

(Luke 2:52 NKJV)




The Learning Entelechy


Did Jesus (on Earth) have less knowledge than God?  I have never yet met a person who argues that Jesus understood and spoke perfect Aramaic on the day he was born—the day when the Logos “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14 NKJV).  Not only did Jesus not know Aramaic at birth, neither did he know and speak every other language and dialect ever spoken in the world.  Nevertheless, there is no evangelical Christian alive who would suggest that the Father THEN and Jesus NOW do not understand and communicate in every language and dialect ever spoken in the world, since they hear and answer the prayers of all. Why did Jesus say, in Mark 13:32 (NKJV): “But of that day and hour [of his Second Coming] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”?  There was, therefore, something that Jesus did NOT know concerning his Coming; yet, Jesus DID know that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mark 13:30 NKJV). Was Jesus’ knowledge “partial” at this point in his life?  Hebrew 5:8 (NKJV) states: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Jesus’ “suffering” was at the end of his earthly life.  Was he still “learning” at that point? 

Needless to say, Jesus apparently experienced a “learning” entelechy while on Earth.  Learning is an entelechy of

the same variety as filling the grain tank at the top of the combine and filling time, described in the previous post.  Learning involves “filling” something up to completeness—namely, the mind.  I observe on page 31 of my book Implicit Rhetoric:  Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy: 

Aristotle offers examples of entelecheia:  "When the buildable [oikodomêton] . . . is fully real [entelecheia], it is being built [oikodomeitai], and this is building [oikodomêsis]" (201a16-18).  Likewise, he offers the terms learning (mathêsis), doctoring (iatreusis), rolling (kulisis), leaping (alsis), ripening (andrunsis), and aging (gêransis) (cf. also Metaphysics 1065b20).  All of these examples of entelecheia end in -sis as does the term kinêsis, itself.  The Greek term kinêsis (which Hardie and Gaye have translated "motion") is Aristotle's key term for describing something that is in a continuous process of change.

When Luke 2:52 states that “Jesus increased in wisdom,” Luke indicates that Jesus was in a continuous process of changing (kinêsis) from less wisdom to more wisdom—filling up his mind with wisdom and knowledge.  Luke makes the just-mentioned observation following Jesus’ trip to the temple, as a twelve-year-old, where Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV) reports: “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”  This point in time, recorded by Luke, is somewhere in the “middle” of the learning entelechy for Jesus—with the Logos becoming flesh at the archē/ἀρχή and Jesus’ resurrection and/or ascension to Heaven at the telos/τέλος.  Once Jesus was resurrected and ascended, he is presented by John in Revelation as knowing all truth.  (See my blogpost Apocalyptic?  #19:  Does Absolute Truth Exist?)

“Sonship” is Not an Entelechy


In the Jewish mind, one does not gradually “become” a son; one “is” a son.  The son even has a pre-existence in the loins of his father.  Refer back to my previous blogposts, Amoeba/Protozoa Theology (Gospels 1) and Genealogies and Entelechy (Gospels 4).  Sonship, on the other hand, is a state of being (not a “process,” with a beginning, middle, and end).  One NEVER STOPS being a son, for example.  Therefore, sonship is not an entelechy, yet, all “sons” go through entelechial processes.  Human sons go, of course, through the growth entelechy, just the same as grains of wheat do, when planted.  You will recall that growth is an entelechy of substance (morphê), and, once Mary became pregnant, Jesus’earthly body morphed in utero, until he became an infant at Bethlehem.  Then, just as Luke reports, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NKJV).  Therefore, the

entelechy of substance (morphê) was a first type of entelechy that Jesus experienced on Earth.  Physical growth is almost entirely devoid of “free will,” except for such matters as intentionally getting proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep.  Kenneth Burke would call growth an entelechy of “motion,” as opposed to “action.”  No thought process is necessary in “motion”; whereas, “action” requires thought and conscious purpose.  One can “grow” while one is asleep or unconscious.  Jesus begins “growing” from the point of his conception in Mary’s womb.  As an aside, this discussion of the growth entelechy is also an argument that Aristotle’s entelechy supplies for the pro-life position.  As I discuss on page 67 (and elsewhere) in my book Implicit Rhetoric: “Once kinêsis [growth] begins (at conception), I believe that Aristotle would classify the entity as entelecheia.”  In other words, life begins at conception, according to Aristotle.  Remember, however, that Jesus, in the Jewish mind, existed in the (metaphorical) loins of his father.  It was only his earthly, human, body that experienced growth.


The Authority Entelechy

As discussed in the first section of this post, a second type of entelechy that Jesus experienced on Earth was the entelechy of “learning”—something that definitely involves “action.”  One “chooses” to learn.  Learning is one example of an entelechy of quantity (completeness or filling), as was the grain tank “filling” on the combine.  Another example of an entelechy of quantity experienced by sons, to which we now turn, is the entelechy of “authority.”  Did Jesus exercise control over his own bodily functions as a baby?  Did Jesus exercise authority over Mary and Joseph from the point of his birth?  No.  Did he exercise authority over them from the time he was twelve years old?  No.  Luke 2:48-51 (NKJV) reports on the situation:

His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”  And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. 

When Mary stated to Jesus, “your father and I have sought you,” Jesus discreetly corrected his mother’s explicit mis-identification of his father as Joseph: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  Jesus knew who his Father was by age twelve.  Nevertheless, Jesus “actively chose” to be subject to his mother and her husband, Joseph.  At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was still demonstrating submission to his mother.  John 2:3-7 (NKJV) records the account of the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee:   

[W]hen they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.  Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.

Though Jesus (remaining totally in character with his twelve-year-old incident) is still gently resisting his mother’s implicit commands, he complies.  Why does an earthly mother appear to be exercising authority over her thirty-year-old son, who is the Son of God?  It probably has something to do with the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Matthew 15:4 and 19:19, Luke 18:20, and Ephesians 6:1) even if your father and mother are not completely wise in certain matters.  Jesus is voluntarily “choosing” to submit.  Does it not, then, make sense that, as a Son, Jesus would also voluntarily “choose” to submit to his true Father?  Therefore, Jesus defers to his Father’s authority in the matter of who would sit on his right and left hands, in Matthew 20:23 (ESV): “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.  He also, in John 12:49 (ESV) asserts: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  Of course, since Jesus IS God’s Word/Logos-become-flesh, his “words” ARE God’s Words.  Even though Jesus chose to submit to his mother and to his Father, his own personal “authority,” by the time he began his ministry, was very much in evidence. 

Jesus had power over the winds and waves; “even the wind and the sea obey[ed] him” (Matthew 28:27).  He had the power to “bring forth bread from the earth” (feeding of 5000) and he “created the fruit

of the vine” (at the wedding feast in Cana).  These two feats (creating bread and wine) are the basis of the Jewish prayer at meals in the Mishnah—capabilities that are attributed only to God, whom the Jews bless.  He had the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, curse the fig tree, walk on water, etc.

Matthew 7:29 (NKJV, also Mark 1:22 and Luke 4:32) observes: “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Jesus, in Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, and Luke 5:24 (NKJV) asserts: “the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sins.”  In Mark 1:27 (NKJV, also Luke 4:36) bystanders observed, “For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.  Then, in Matthew 10:1 (NKJV, also Mark 3:15 and 6:7 and Luke 9:1 and 10:19), Jesus gave his twelve apostles “power [authorityover unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.  John 5:27 (NKJV) reports that God “has given Him authority to execute judgment.”  Jesus even has the authority/power over his own life, according to John 10:17-18 (NKJV): “I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power [authority] to lay it down, and I have power [authority] to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”  These actions are matters of “choice” and “free will” for Jesus.  He is not the passive victim of someone else’s will.  He is “voluntarily” submitting to death, even though Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39 (NKJV): “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.  Jesus had the authority and free will to forego the crucifixion, but he executed the plan as the Father designed it.  It clearly was a very gut-wrenching choice. 

Certainly, by the end of his ministry, Jesus was claiming complete authority.  In John 17:2, towards the end of his life, Jesus prayed to God: “You have given Him [God’s Son] authority over all flesh.”  In Matthew 28:18, Jesus asserts: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  The telos/τέλος of the entelechy of quantity (the filling up of Jesus’ authority) had now been reached.

“Sonship” is the Key to Understanding these “Filling” Entelechies

            Paul’s comment in Galatians 4:1-2 (NKJV) is very helpful in understanding these entelechies: “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.  When the Logos “became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory . . . as of the only-begotten of the Father,” he voluntarily entered into some earthly entelechies.  Among those entelechies were the “growth” entelechy, what Aristotle called a change of “substance” or “form,” as he “grew” in stature.  The second kind of entelechy, what Aristotle called a change of “quantity, complete and incomplete,” was the “filling”

entelechy.  Jesus’ mind “filled” with knowledge, as he “grew” in wisdom.  Meanwhile, his power/authority was also increasing until, ultimately, he claimed that “all authority” had been given to him.  As Paul observes, when Jesus was “a child, [he did] not differ at all from a slave, though he [was] master of all, but [was] under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the Father.”  Indeed, Jesus saw his role on earth as that of a servant.  Entelechially speaking, the “essence” of his Sonship –being master of all (based on his preexistence “in” the Father)—was “spread out” over time.  Kenneth Burke refers to such a factor in entelechy as the “temporizing [the process of spreading out over time] of essence” (See Philosophy of Literary Form, 19).    While the growth (in stature) entelechy and the filling entelechy (learning wisdom and gaining authority) occur gradually over time, entelechially, one sees them as a time-condensed snapshot of sorts, all existing “en archē” (ἐν ἀρχῇ).  Refer back to the first post in this series.  Hence, entelechially-speaking (since the end/telos/τέλος is implicit in the beginning/ἐν ἀρχῇ), Jesus has always possessed (entelechially) all wisdom, knowledge, and power/authority.  The “earthly” concept of entelechy helps us to understand the “heavenly” concepts of theology, just as Jesus was teaching Nicodemus (John 3:12).