A Weird Feature of Romans 12:3

For those who do not know Greek, simply skip to the end.

Here’s the Greek (with what interests me most in bold):

Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ᾽ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν ἀλλὰ φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως. (Rom 12:3 BGT)

Upon first glance the obvious translation/meaning is, “For I am telling all of you, through the grace which was given to me, do not be thinking, with reference to yourselves, more highly than it is necessary to think, but rather think [with reference to yourselves] in order to be of sound mind; each one as God has given a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3 Geoff Translation)

Here are come common translations of this verse:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3 KJV)

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  (Rom 12:3 ESV)

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone who is among you not to think more highly of yourself than what one ought to think, but to think [sensibly], as God has apportioned a measure of faith to each one. (Rom 12:3 Lexham English Bible)

For by the grace given to me I ask every one of you not to think of yourself more highly than you should think, rather to think of yourself with sober judgment on the measure of faith that God has assigned each of you. (Rom 12:3 International Standard Version)

For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.
(Rom 12:3 NET)

Every translation takes the Greek preposition εις to mean “with” and they do not note the force of the stative (verb about a state of being), instead they make it purely adverbial with the preposition (translated, it seems in a bizarre way). It would seem that Paul is actually contrasting two different ways of showing self-regard in relationship to the gifts God has given an individual. You can think of yourself too highly or you can think of yourself specifically for the purpose of having a sound mind about your abilities (upon which Paul is about to elaborate). This idea not only makes the most rhetorical sense: Do not be puffed up about yourselves, instead think about yourselves in a realistic way to determine how God has best gifted each of you to serve in the church. This idea also makes the most syntactical sense. 

Now, I’m going against a giant trend in translations here, but εις rarely means ‘with’ and not ever that I can think of with an infinitive. But εις το + [infinitive] often connotes purpose.  

In Conclusion

Paul wants Christians to think about themselves so that they can judge their own capacities soundly. In this way the next five verses of Romans can be obeyed. 

Letty Russell and Joachim Jeremias on God as Father

“The title Father for God is placed in the mouth of Jesus in three other passages of Mark (8:38; 11:25; 13:32) and in six passages from Q, including the model *prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9 // Luke 11:2). It is much more frequent in the letters and in Matthew, John, and Luke. It also occurs in rabbinic literature and the Jewish *liturgy. Jesus and/or his companions may have used the title Father for God in some form, but it cannot be shown with certainty that they did so. If they did, it was because the title resonated deeply with their Jewish hearers, perhaps to express resistance to the imperial title pater patriae: “God’s reign (not the emperor’s) is near”; “God (not the emperor) is our father.”- Letty Russel, Dictionary of Feminist Theologies (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 1.

Russell’s article on the word αββα (Father) is instructive. My first thought when reading it is that she would immediately claim that Jesus almost certainly never used the term Father and that if he did it was not important. It turns out that she kinda claims the opposite: he may actually have said it, but if he did it was very important. I want to say three things.

  1. Jesus definitely used Father language to address God.
  2. Father language most likely had very little to do with emotional intimacy but rather with patriarchal reverence which indicated that Jesus saw himself as the go-between for God and his people (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus is the broker between the ultimate Patron and his loyal clients. Calling God, “Father” or “Abba” was Jesus’ way of saying that God is supreme to other patrons and apparently Jesus’ way of showing that this apparently distant figure was accessible in Jesus’ own historical activity. (see William Herzog, Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2005), 12, 22-24.
  3. In the early parts of the entry she deals with Joachim Jeremias’ alleged view that αββα (Father) was a term of childlike intimacy. She notes, concerning Jeremias’ claims,

    “This idea is based primarily on analyses of *gospel materials by Joachim Jeremias (1967, 11–65). It has been used to privilege Father as a divine title and to reject feminist critiques of exclusively masculine language and imagery for God and of the problematic character of parental language for God. Jeremias’s case, which has been modified very little by his followers, relies on a series of interrelated claims: (1) that the word abba represents a special use by Jesus that was central to his teaching; (2) that for Jesus it expressed a special kind of intimacy and tenderness, deriving from its supposed origin in baby talk; (3) that Jesus’ practice was distinct from the practices of both the early church and Judaism. These claims were formulated under the influence of the patently anti-Jewish article in the TDNT by the Nazi scholar Gerhard Kittel.”

    I will address her three points:

    1. It does represent a special intimacy, but the intimacy of patron-client relationships. (See Jerome H. Neyrey,“God, Benefactor and Patron: The Major Cultural Model for Interpreting the Deity in Greco-Roman Antiquity” S.J. University of Notre Dame)
    2. It definitely did not mean intimacy and tenderness. Jeremias did not stick to his claims about the intimacy of the word nor make them central to his arguments. He changed his mind by the time he published his New Testament Theology, (see page 62-67)He noted that “It is necessary to issue a warning…the fact that abba was initially a child’s exclamatory word has led to the mistaken assumption that Jesus adopted the language of a tiny child when he addressed God as ‘Father’; even I myself believed this earlier (pp 67).”
    3. Jesus’ practice was distinct from early Judaism, he simply called God, “Father” more often and claimed the right to bestow that option upon others. Incidentally, Jesus’ practice was not distinct from early Christianity because they imitated him in this (see Romans 8:14-17).


I met a guy who wanted to deny that the law of non-contradiction holds. He’s a logic professor. He suggested the possibility of building a logic without it. 
‘A’ and ‘not A’ are true. 
Also, either ‘A’ or ‘B’ is true. 
Therefore ‘Not A’ or ‘B’ is true (because A and not A are both true at once).
Corollary: If ‘Not A’ is true in the conclusion, then ‘B’ must be true. If ‘not A’ is false, then ‘B’ must be true. 

With propositions:
Premise 1: All ducks can fly and not all ducks cannot fly are both true.
Premise 2: Either all ducks can fly or Geoff has a million dollars (literally any other statement works here).
Conclusion: But since not all ducks can fly is equally true then Geoff, by necessity, has a million dollars. [Here I replaced the statement “all ducks can fly” with the equally true contradiction, “not all ducks can fly.”]

The problem with this form of logic is that it makes disjunctive syllogisms capable of proving anything because either statement could be replaced by its contradiction because true/false do not have to be contradictory about the same proposition. This is bad news. 

I looked into it more. He apparently wanted me to consider the possibility of para-consistent logics, trans-consistent logics, and dialtehism. Not sure if I’m willing to read a bunch of books by Graham Priest so that I can spend my time disagreeing with a symbolic construction based on something so self-evidently false that science could no longer function were it accepted. 

Example of reductio ad absurdum:
If a philosophical position implies that physical conditions could contradict themselves then it erodes the possibility of accurately reporting cause and effect (and thus makes science impossible).
Denying the truth of the law of non-contradiction implies that physical conditions could be contradictory.
Therefore denying the truth of the law of non-contradiction makes science impossible. 

Science is not impossible. So the premises are false. 

Arthur Whimbey on Intelligence as a skill


Arthur Whimbey’s definition of intelligence:

“Intelligence in an attentional/processing skill used in analyzing and mentally reconstructing relations. The distinguishing feature of this skill is breaking down complex relations (or problems) into small steps that can be dealt with fully. The major components of the skill are extensive search and careful apprehension of all details relevant to the relation; thorough utilization of all available information including prior knowledge; accurate comparisons; and sequential, step-by-step analysis and construction.” – Arthur Whimbey, Intelligence can be Taught (New York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co, 1975), 120.

Whimbey saw intelligence as a skill, a generalized skill. This is a notion I used to be thoroughly in disagreement with. Particularly after reading books by Howard Gardener, Geoff Colvin, and Eric Jensen. But, the more I think about it and the more of the data I review, it seems that intelligence is actually a generalized skill, but one which can be aimed at different perfecting multiple domains of knowledge and skill. Nevertheless, the process of learning intelligence or the genetics to start with it, must be there for various domains to be perfected.

Anyhow, Whimbey makes several recommendations for helping train people in the skill of intelligence or general reasoning. In no particular order here are some gems from his book:

  1. Low-aptitude students have a tendency to approach problems passively. This is a habit, not a permanent state of their brain. He notes two problems: they use “one-shot thinking rather than extended, sequential construction of understanding; and second, there is a willingness to allow gaps of knowledge to exist…” (pp 55).
    This attitude leads to more frustration when they see other students “get it” and they don’t. The problem is that these students do not have a habit of thinking about problems. The solution is, apparently, to give them examples of thinking through problems out loud then ask them to imitate with the same problem and then with similar ones.

  2. Many students who cannot read well (this is back in 1975) simply were not taught using a phonics based approach (73-74). They cannot “decode” symbols into sounds. This is bad. They assume that since they have not seen the word (a sight-words approach) that they do not know how it sounds. This too, is a problem that can be fixed. I have heard otherwise intelligent adults with no reading disabilities struggle to read words with three or four syllables. This, in my estimation, can be traced to either a lack of phonics training or poor enforcement of phonics skills over time. If a young person gets away with parroting and faking at reading for just one year (which is easy to do in a class full of kids) then they could be perpetually behind.

  3. It is actually important to vocalize when you read.

  4. Though teachers are responsible to aim to engender an active approach to the external and internal world in their students it seems that book implies that students have to take up the challenge. 

If I were twelve feet tall

This post is really off topic, but I’ve been reflecting upon this issue for a while.

If I were twelve feet tall I would do a few things differently in my life:

1. I would punt a bowling ball into outer space.

2. I would swim to the bottom of the ocean and eat at a buffet every Tuesday.

3. I would take over my neighborhood and build a reputation as a benevolent despot.

7. I would change the order of numbers.

4. I would then rally my neighbors and take over the world one city-state at a time.

5 a. Finally, I would find an arch nemesis and dare him to stop me on youtube.

5 b. I would use my time off to amass medical equipment and invent cures for common      diseases.