Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One man's piety is another man's impiety

Poor ol’ Dave needs a crash course on lexical semantics. Let’s give him a few pointers:

1) On the one hand, the same concept can be represented by different words. On the other hand, the same word can represent different concepts.

2) Concepts aren’t necessarily reducible to dictionary definitions. For instance, looking up “Calvinism” in Webster’s is no substitute for the Westminster Confession of Faith.

3) In Biblical usage, “blasphemy” has a secular meaning, viz.  slander, calumny, defamation.

4) In Biblical usage, “blasphemy” also as a religious meaning, viz. impiety, sacrilege.

To illustrate the difference, Jesus’ Jewish opponents accuse him of blasphemy (e.g. Mk 2:7; 14:64; Jn 10:33,36). But they don’t do so because he was slandering God. Rather, they do so because he was saying things about himself which are only true of God.

Conversely, John designates the imperial cult as “blasphemous” (Rev 13:1; 17:3). That’s because Caesar demands divine veneration (i.e. veneration proper to God alone).

So the secular sense of “blasphemy” isn’t synonymous with the religious sense of “blasphemy.”

5) We need to distinguish between normative and descriptive usage. Scripture often quotes speakers who don’t represent the editorial viewpoint of the inspired narrator.

Reverting to my earlier example, Jesus’ Jewish opponents accuse him of blasphemy. So that illustrates historical usage. Biblical usage.

But it’s obviously not normative usage. It’s not blasphemous for Christians to affirm the deity of Christ. In fact, it’s impious not to affirm his deity.

Likewise, Stephen is accused of “blasphemy” (Acts 6:11). But that reflects the outlook of his accusers rather than the narrator.

Likewise, Acts 19:37 uses “blasphemy” in a heathen context. But that doesn’t reflect the viewpoint of the Lukan narrator.

6) We need to distinguish between ordinary and technical usage. For instance, the old Catholic Encyclopedia has an entry on “blasphemy,” with a very specialized, Thomistic definition. But it would be anachronistic to read that technical, sectarian definition back into Biblical usage.

7) What’s blasphemous or not depends on your religious outlook. Devout Muslims think it’s sacrilegious to sleep with your feet pointing to Mecca. But that’s not a taboo from a Christian viewpoint.

Likewise, Catholics deem it impious to reject various Marian dogmas. But that’s not sacrilegious from a Protestant perspective.

Gideon desecrates the alter of Baal (Judges 6:28-32). If you’re Jewish, that’s a pious deed–but if you’re a Baal-worshiper, that’s an impious deed. 


  1. For someone who doesn't debate you, Steve, Dave sure posts a lot of words.

  2. Yes, he has a remarkably elastic interpretation of his vow.

  3. And a remarkably elastic interpretation of "blasphemy".

    Did Dave throw Paul Hoffer under the bus here or what?

    Dave said,

    The term is also used, in a weaker sense, of slanderous language addressed to men (e.g. Mk. 3:28; 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Tit. 3:2). Here the best translation is 'slander, abuse'.

    Funny that Dave might think that Mk. 3:28 is a "weak sense"-
    "I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter" (NET)

    Almost makes John's comments seem rather innocuous, doesn't it?

    Yet us Prot's are far more concerned with the subsequent verse of Mark. A stronger sense. A verse not mentioned by Dave-
    "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (NET)

    Hardly as innocuous, huh?

    Seems far better to base an interpretation on this stronger sense.
    A sense that Dave strangely neglected.

    But let Dave have his dill and cummin...

  4. And you can have your incessant incomplete sentences, your vulgar sex site, and your bizarre view that one shouldn't pray for certain people they deem to be (contra Calvin) beyond all hope).

  5. Notice that dear ol' Dave hasn't disproven any of the points I make in my post.

  6. And Dave with his malformed parenthetical statements.

    "Steve's mom dresses him funny!"

  7. . . . and Fosi denied twice that Bugay drew a Hitler mustache, even after Bugay stated that he did, and was merely talking tongue-in-cheek about not having done so (and has now removed it). That was fun; thanks!

    Notice that dear ol' Dave hasn't disproven any of the points I make in my post.

    LOL There is nothing there to disprove in the first place, since it is a running non sequitur in relation to the argument I actually made. But that is par for the course around here.

  8. It's always fun reminiscing with you Dave, though I haven't much had the pleasure.

    Keep keepin' it real.