What is Brotherly Love? (1 Thessalonians 4:9–10)

Reblogging for future reference.

Reading Acts

In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–10 Paul encourages the church at Thessalonica to pursue “brotherly love.” What is brotherly love? The noun used here (φιλαδελφία) was only used for literal family relationships before the Christian community began to use it as a metaphor for members of their community (EDNT, 4:434). The only exception appears to be 2 Macc 15:14, the word appears to refer to a fraternal relationship of all Israel. In 4 Maccabees 13:23, 26, 14:1 the word refers to the mutual love between seven brothers who all suffer instead of reject their Jewish traditions.

The Greeks considered the relationship between brothers to be of primary importance, Plutarch used the term “brotherly love” to describe the proper relationship between brothers.

Plutarch, De fraterno amore 2 …where there is an unanimous accordance amongst brothers, the family thrives and flourishes, and friends and acquaintance, like a well furnished choir, in all…

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Forgiveness…Once Again, by Paul D. Adams

I’m repeatedly reminded (and deeply saddened by) how little some people understand about forgiveness. Despite the need to grasp, receive, and extend this vital virtue into our lives, the human capacity to withhold it and the seemingly vigorous need to maintain a grudge is beyond tenacious. At almost every turn and certainly every day I……

via Forgiveness …. Once Again — ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

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Murphy-O’Connor-Colossians: authentic and early


In Paul: a Critical Life, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor defended the authenticity of Colossians and set its time during the Ephesian imprisonment in the summer of 53.

Paul wrote Colossians and sent it at the same time as the note to Philemon. Compare Philemon 23 to Colossians 4:10 ff.  I don’t know of any scholar who questions that Paul wrote Philemon.

However Colossians is odd compared to other authentic letters of Paul. It has a style and a doctrine that come closer to Ephesians than other letters–and there are numerous reasons to think Ephesians does not fit with Paul’s missionary letters.

Most of those who have defended the authenticity of Colossians have put it late in Paul’s ministry to allow time for his style and theology to have evolved.

Murphy-O’Connor, however, adopted an alternative defense.

First, since Paul did not personally found the Colossian church (it was 120 miles from Ephesus…

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Murphy-O’Connor-jail time in Ephesus


For readers of Acts there are three imprisonments of Paul, a brief one at Philippi before the earthquake, a two year imprisonment awaiting trial in Caesarea, and another two- year imprisonment in Rome after he appealed his case to Caesar.

But before either Caesarea or Rome, Paul “boasts” in 2 Corinthians 11:23 of “imprisonments”.  So he must have spent jail time when Acts does not mention it.  The letters to Philippi and Colosse and the personal note to Philemon mention that Paul was in prison when he wrote.  Many have tried to fit them into one of the Acts imprisonments, especially the Roman one.

But Jerome Murphy-O’Connor in Paul: a Critical Life was among those who argue that Paul’s two-year-and-some-months ministry at Ephesus included an imprisonment and that from that imprisonment he wrote Colossians and Philemon and part of Philippians.

Specifically, he believed that Paul spent the summer of 53…

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Book Write-Up: Between One Faith and Another

Peter Kreeft.  Between One Faith and Another: Engaging Conversations on the World’s Great Religions.  IVP Books, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Peter Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College and is the author of over fifty books.  Because Kreeft has written about Christian apologetics and uses rigorous logic in his presentations that I have heard, I was expecting this book to be a critique of non-Christian religions and an argument that Christianity is superior.  I was wrong, and pleasantly surprised.

The book is a fictional dialogue among three people, all of whom participate in a religion class.  First, there is Thomas Keptic, a student.  Thomas is an exclusivist.  What that often means in this book is that Thomas believes that the truth claims of the religions are mutually irreconcilable: they cannot all be true.  Thomas is not a conservative Christian claiming that Christianity is true, however, but rather is a skeptic (get it, Thomas Ceptic) and an agnostic about religious truth claims.  He relies heavily on logic, particularly the law of non-contradiction.

Second, there is Bea Lever, another student.  She is an inclusivist, which means that she maintains that the different religions share commonalities in their practices and even, on some level, in their truth claims, and thus they are accessing a common reality.  She considers herself a Christian (her name is Bea Lever, as in “believer”), and Thomas often nitpicks her about how she can be a Christian while rejecting the exclusivism (in this case, the claim that one religion is true while others are false) that is promoted in the Bible.  Whereas Thomas relies on logic, Bea values intuition.

Third, there is Professor Fesser, who teaches the religion class.  He is somewhat of a mediator in the discussions between Thomas and Bea.  He points out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and he often encourages both to consider the aspects of the religions themselves, rather than continually falling back on the exclusivism-inclusivism debate.  He is called a pluralist.

The book explores the question of the definition of religion and the religious sense, and it also discusses specific religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  The final chapter is about the question of whether contradictory religions can simultaneously be true.  This question recurs throughout the book, but it is the focus of the final chapter.

All three perspectives get their licks in.  That does not mean that the book is a long, acrimonious debate (though it occasionally does become heated), but rather that each side boldly defends its beliefs.  Conservative Christianity does not mercilessly mow down the other sides, in short.  Near the end, I thought that the book would go in that direction, when Professor Fesser encouraged Thomas to seriously consider Pascal’s Wager and the Lord-Liar-Lunatic argument in light of his (Thomas’) logical “either-or” perspective.  But Professor Fesser does not dwell on that, and the book ends on an inconclusive note, as if the journey, not the destination, is what is important.  In addition, while each side holds its beliefs, they also modify them, on some level: Thomas eventually sees some value in inclusivism, and Bea admits that she is not an absolute inclusivist but draws the line somewhere.

The book does not just dwell on the exclusivism-inclusivism debate, but it also delves into the peculiarities of different religions, and the diversity within them.  For example, an intriguing part of the book is when Professor Fesser explains that the co-existence of contradictions, in which prominent aspects of Hinduism believe, makes sense in light of Hindu principles about theology and cosmology.

Although the debate itself does not go in an explicitly conservative Christian direction, Kreeft, in a thoughtful introduction, explains how the three approaches fit into his own understanding of Christianity.  Kreeft is an exclusivist in that he believes that Christ is God incarnate, yet he also holds that the Logos/light enlightens everyone who comes into the world (a la John 1:9, though the meaning of that verse has been debated), meaning that non-Christian religions have at least some access to truth.  Kreeft also shares where he identifies with the three schools of thought that he addresses, and where he has reservations.

The book is worth reading, particularly on account of its rounded exploration of issues.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest!

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Book Review: The Cause Of All Nations

Edge Induced Cohesion

The Cause Of All Nations:  An International History Of The American Civil War, by Don H. Doyle

Every once in a while a fond reader of diplomatic history such as myself will find a good book that takes a familiar subject and looks at it through the generally unfamiliar perspective of diplomacy.  Although the Civil War is a subject that is familiar to many readers and well represented by a large and diverse body of literature, at times it is important to recognize the connection between the Civil War and the larger world, where the repercussions had serious consequences on politics.  Close to home, the Civil War encouraged the French invasion of Mexico to set up a puppet regime [1] as well as encouraging a brief imperial resurgence in Spain [2].  In Europe, there was a close connection between the United States and the various Italian states desiring their own…

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R.I.P., Figabuddy

His name was Figaro.  I called him my “Figabuddy.”  He passed on this morning.  He was a sweet, lovey kitty.  We miss him.  P1020063.JPG

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