Tag Archives: Bible

Paul and Pericles

I have read that the Apostle Paul was well educated in classical literature, and it is fun to find indications of that fact. In 2 Corinthians 3:3 he wrote, “you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God,

not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

This is an apparent allusion to Pericles’ Funeral Oration (431 BC), when that great statesman told the Athenians,

in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.

The Apostle Paul knew his Pericles, just as he elsewhere echoed Aristotle. 

Knowing the Truth of Statements

Mr. Nance,

Introductory Logic Exercise 8, Question # 9 asks what type of statement this is:

“Jesus is God, and He is man.”

The answer key says “supported, by authority.” Could definition also be a possible answer?

I see what you are thinking. Jesus is both God and man by nature, and definitions are (to a certain extent) trying to get at the nature of the term. But the question is basically asking, “How would you know that this statement is true?” Ask anyone how they know that Jesus is both God and man, and they will point to some authority: the Bible, or a creed, or their pastor tells them, etc. Besides, we don’t really define people.


Synonyms, Antonyms & Scripture

While studying analogies and relationships between terms, I have been considering synonyms and antonyms, and I have come to some surprising realizations.

Defining Synonym and Antonym

A synonym is a word that has the same meaning as another word in the same language. If you were asked to think of several words and their synonyms, you would probably not have too much difficulty: rope & cord, huge & enormous, stone & rock, sleep & doze, etc. English has such an extensive vocabulary that most words have a synonym or near synonym. But if I asked you to think of words that have no synonym, that’s harder. Some possibilities are pencil, helmet, and elbow. But it takes some careful thought. In fact, can you think of a verb or adjective that has no synonym?

An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning as another word in the same language. By its definition, it appears that antonym is the antonym of synonym. You can probably think up several antonym pairs without too much effort: freedom & slavery, large & small, clean & dirty, father & mother. But if you look around, you will see many things that have no antonym: bottle, brick, book, cabinet, keyboard. It seems about as difficult to think of things that have no synonym as it is to think of things that do have an antonym. Why is this?

Antonym Profundities

Synonyms say something about language and its development. But antonyms say something about the nature of the thing itself, that in someway it has a counterpart. If you develop a list of antonym pairs, they will likely be words that represent fundamental concepts. They seem to reflect something about how God made the world (light & darkness, evening & morning, male & female), or about the fallen nature (sin & righteousness, good & evil, freedom & slavery), or about kinds of separation or direction (present & absent, in & out, left & right).

There are also different species of antonyms. Some are complementary or binary, A and non-A, such as true & false, motion & rest, whole & part. In these cases there are only two options: if a statement is not true then it is false; if an object is moving then it is not at rest; the whole of something is not just a part; and vice versa for each of these.

Relational antonyms lie on a continuum, such as large & small, full & empty, rich & poor. These antonym pairs tend to be adjectives, and there are intermediate states. A house that is not large is not necessarily small; a pitcher can be neither full nor empty; if your uncle is not rich, it doesn’t mean he is poor.

Then there are opposites that are a compromise of these first two types: antonyms that have not a continual but a single intermediate state: positive, negative, & zero; above, below, & level.

Some antonym pairs exist in a relationship with a reversed direction or focus, such as husband & wife, lend & borrow, employer & employee. In such pairs, one can usually not exist without the other: if there is a husband there is a wife; if one lends another borrows; a person with no employees is not an employer. These are called converse antonyms.

Some words have more than one antonym, depending on how you think about them. What is the antonym of father? Is it mother? Or is it son? The definition of father is ‘male parent.’ The opposite of male is female, and a female parent is a mother. On the other hand, the opposite of parent is child, and a male child is a son.  Other examples are possible.

Synonyms and Antonyms in Scripture

Biblical authors make regular use of synonyms and antonyms. A quick glance through Proverbs will reveal this. Consider all the antonyms in this passage:

For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools. (Prov. 3:32-35)

Proverbs also include synonym pairs for poetic purposes:

Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors: “To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart.” (Prov. 8:1-5)

Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 has a poetic list of fourteen verbal antonyms:

A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to throw away; A time to tear, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.

Can you identify the synonyms and antonyms in Matthew 7:13-14?

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

How many examples of synonyms and antonyms in the Bible can you find?

Christian Logic

I was recently asked the question, is there a distinctly Christian view of logic? I offer here the beginning of an answer to that question. (I am not trying to be original here. These thoughts are from many sources. Just trying to be faithful.)

Laws of Logic

The laws of logic are universal (applicable everywhere), abstract (immaterial, grasped by thought), invariant (not changing), and authoritative (they must be accepted). A non-Christian worldview has a difficult time accounting for such laws. The laws of logic cannot be denied with any kind of consistency, since a denial of logic is tantamount to a denial of truth and reason. But if it is affirmed that the laws of logic are universal, abstract, invariant, and authoritative, yet not “from God,” how can they be justified? Where do such laws come from? They are not invented by men, because they would not then be universal, invariant, or authoritative. They are not material, because they would not then be abstract.

Rather, logic is an expression of God’s unchanging, orderly, truthful, authoritative character.

The Character of God

God Himself is logical; He is a reasoning being: “Come, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18).  As the ultimate lawgiver He orders His cosmos in a logical way. “God is not a God of disorder” (1 Cor. 14:33). God is orderly, and order implies reason. Where there is no reason, there is only chaos. God’s word is truth (Jn. 17:17), and He would have us be truth tellers (Eph. 4:15). God Himself is non-contradictory. He is truthful (Jn. 3:33), He cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). He does not deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, identifies these attributes of God, and then adds: “Does God, then, observe the law of noncontradiction? Not in the sense that the law is somehow higher than God Himself. Rather, God is Himself noncontradictory and is therefore Himself the criterion of logical consistency and implication. Logic is an attribute of God, as are justice, mercy, wisdom, and knowledge.”

The Christian worldview does account for the properties of logical laws. The laws are universal because God is omnipresent; His character is expressed throughout His creation. The laws are abstract, needing no created, material foundation, because they existed before the creation, being attributes within God. The laws are invariant, because God does not change, and neither do His attributes. If the laws of what is true and rational could change, then how could God be trustworthy? How could He keep His covenant promises if truth could be non-truth? He can and does keep His promises, because Christ, the logos, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The laws are authoritative, because God is the ultimate authority.

A Tool and Gift

God has communicated logic to man as a tool by which we can come to truth. God made us in His image with the ability to reason. We are created as rational beings, and God uses our reasoning ability to speak to us. For example, the giving of law presupposes an ability to reason. Laws are given in the form of universal propositions. “God has commanded all men everywhere to repent.” To obey this, we finish the syllogism: I am a man, therefore I must repent. Without logic, the command could not be applied to particulars. A denial of logic opens the door for disobedience, for without it we cannot obey.

Logic is presupposed, not only in law, but in all revelations of God to men. God gives us minds that reason just as He has given us eyes that see, in order that we may receive His revelation to us. Cornelius Van Til said, “The gift of logical reason was given by God to man in order that he might order the revelation of God for himself.” In order to comprehend any doctrine, we must use logic. The truth that there is one God, eternally existent in three Persons, though clearly contained in the Bible, is not found in any one place in scripture. To see the truth of the Trinity requires a godly, submissive use of logic. If a truth is truly and logically derived from the scripture, we have a divine obligation to believe whatever it is. This is what the Westminster Confession is referring to where it says, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture.” Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer and logician, said it this way in his book on logic: “It was a saying among the ancients, Veritas in puteo, Truth lies in a well; and, to carry on this metaphor, we may very justly say, that logic does, as it were, supply us with steps whereby we may go down to reach the water…. The power of reasoning was given us by our Maker, for this very end, to pursue truth.”

Logic is thus a tool which God has given us in order to understand and obey Him. Like other tools, our grasp of it as humans is no doubt incomplete and imperfect, but it is sufficient for the task for which it is given. And like any other tool, we need to be careful how we use it.

Analogies of Jesus

A parable is a type of analogy. Consequently, most of the recorded words of Christ are teachings by means of analogy. Many of the parables take the form of short stories, such as the story of the Prodigal Son, the Unforgiving Servant, or the Workers in the Vineyard. Some of the analogies used by Jesus, however, are not in story form, but simply use comparison (ordered-pairs and illustrative parallels) to illuminate or emphasize the point. Several of these appear in the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7.

Ordered-Pair Analogies

Ordered-pair analogies, which take the form A is to B as C is to D, or simply A : B :: C : D, often appear in standardized tests.  But as we saw in my earlier post, Analogy in Proverbs, they often appear in the Bible as well in slightly more ordinary language. Here are two examples from the Sermon on the Mount.

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)

We can simplify this analogy in standard form: ‘making the sun rise’ is to ‘sending rain’ as ‘evil and good’ is to ‘just and unjust.’ The first pair are similar, the second synonymous.

“But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

These three ordered pairs are applications of the general principle, “Do not resist an evil person. If he forces you to do something painful but otherwise not sinful, do even more.” This is such a familiar analogy that the phrase go the second mile has become a cliché.

Synonymous Pairs

Some ordered-pair analogies use terms that are basically synonyms. Here Jesus uses synonymous repetition to emphasize His point:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7)

Antithetical Pairs

Other ordered pairs set up an antithesis using antonyms, as in these examples from the Sermon:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19)

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

Illustrative parallels

Jesus also persuades by means of illustrative parallels, which were explained in detail in my earlier post, Constructing Illustrative Parallels. Here are three examples, one from each chapter of the Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

The intermediate conclusion is that light is not meant to be hidden, nor to illuminate itself, but to shed light on something else. Thus we should neither hide our good works, nor use them to glorify ourselves, but to glorify our Father.

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:28-30)

Here the intermediate conclusion is, of course, that God clothes all of His creatures. Thus he will clothe you, His child.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15)

The intermediate conclusion here is that some creatures who look harmless on the outside are concealing their true, dangerous nature. So be wary!

Analogy in Proverbs

In my first post of this series on analogies, I explained that one typical analogy form is the ordered-pairA is to B as C is to D, or more briefly A : B :: C : D. This is how most people think about analogies, having seen them in the vocabulary or reasoning sections of standardized tests. But in reading through Proverbs recently, I uncovered about fifty analogies, most of which can be reduced to ordered-pair form.

One Ordered Pair Illuminates the Other

For example, Proverbs 3:12 says,

“For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

This analogy can be reduced to an ordered pair:

The Lord : His beloved :: a father : his delighted son

The common concept between these analogous pairs is that the first corrects or disciplines the second. The comparison is helpful because the familiar, concrete image of a father correcting the son in whom he delights illuminates the less familiar, more abstract idea of the Lord correcting His beloved.

Here are two more examples:

“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11)

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Prov. 26:20)

In those examples, the first analogous pair illuminates the second.

Synonymous Pairs

Rather than using an analogy to illuminate the less familiar by means of the more, many proverbs simply restate the main point using synonymous pairs. Here are several examples in which the ordered pairs are synonyms:

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.” (Prov. 1:28, cf. Mt. 7:7)

“I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!” (Prov. 5:13)

“Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice?” (Prov. 8:1)

“For a harlot is a deep pit, and a seductress is a narrow well.” (Prov. 23:27)

Antithetical Pairs

Many other proverbs set up an antithesis, using antonyms in ordered pairs:

“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just.” (Prov. 3:33)

“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.” (Prov. 10:1)

“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.” (Prov. 12:24)

Analogies by means of Hebrew parallelism are employed throughout Scripture. In my next post, we will consider analogies in the New Testament.

Rhetoric Interview

The following is a slightly edited version of a survey given me by Joshua Butcher – rhetoric instructor at Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Florida – regarding the teaching of rhetoric in a classical, Christian setting.

Josh:  How long have you taught rhetoric in a classical education setting?
Jim:  I taught Classical Rhetoric for 18 years at Logos School to 11th graders. I have also written a rhetoric text – Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student – and lectured through it.

Josh:  What are the essentials of rhetoric that every classically educated student should have?
Jim:  Do you mean, “What are the essential rhetorical skills that every classically educated student should seek to master?” Continue reading Rhetoric Interview

Logic with James B Nance

What will I learn in Intermediate Logic?

intermediate-logic-complete-program-dvd-course[1]Logic gives us standards and methods by which valid reasoning can be distinguished from invalid reasoning. It teaches students to think in a straight line, and to justify each step of their thought. Intermediate Logic does this using a symbolic language to represent the reasoning inherent in the language of argument. It is more flexible than syllogistic logic, and can thus apply to more real-life arguments.

Intermediate Logic Unit One teaches the powerful method of truth tables to determine the validity of propositional arguments. Unit Two takes these methods and teaches students how to deduce a conclusion from a set of premises, so they are able not only to show that an argument is valid, but also prove why it is valid. Unit Three teaches these same concepts using the modern method of truth trees. Unit Four applies these methods to the analysis of real-life arguments from 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 2, Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy,  Augustine’s City of God, and more (including a scene from the movie “Get Smart”). Unit Five teaches the fascinating application of these methods to the logic of digital electronics.

Gospel Enthymemes

Arguments in which one statement is left assumed are called enthymemes. Most logical arguments encountered in daily life are enthymemes. We can use the tools of logic to determine the assumption being made in an enthymeme.

Let’s examine three enthymemes in the Bible, all on the topic of Gospel salvation. Continue reading Gospel Enthymemes

Some Uses of Immediate Inference in Scripture

Logic students sometimes struggle with understanding and remembering immediate inferences. The more opportunities they have to see them used, the more likely they are to grasp them. Consequently, I want to give some examples of immediate inferences used in the Bible. Two equivalent immediate inferences for categorical statements are obverse and contrapositive. Continue reading Some Uses of Immediate Inference in Scripture