Posted by: reformedmusings | October 8, 2007

Federal Vision Lingnastics

I think that I may have just invented a new word: linguistics + gymnastics = lingnastics. Pretty cool, eh? It came to me as I read this post, which in turn links to this paedocommunionist post, that turns Scripture into a wax nose that Federal Visionists mold to suit their doctrine of the moment–paedocommunion in this case. We’ll set aside for the moment that paedocommunion has been dealt with and ruled against by the PCA because I’ve already posted on that here. I just want to deal with the Federal Vision’s tortured exegesis here.

The posts in question posit that 1 Cor 11:28 is not about self-examination. That’s the biggest (though certainly not only) Achilles Heal to Federal Visionists on paedocommunion. The verse, in the context of the Lord’s Supper, says:

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (NKJV)

The meaning of “examine himself” is apparently on the table here. Federal Visionists want to say that this examination is not internal or introspective, but external. The Christian church for the last 2000 years has said just the opposite. The phrase in Greek is δοκιμαζετω δε ανθρωπος εαυτον, meaning literally “But let prove a man himself” (Newberry, T., & Berry, G. R. (2004). The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.). FV would like to redefine δοκιμαζετω. Here’s how a few standard Greek references handle the word:

1381. δοκιμάζω dokimázō; fut. dokimásō, from dókimos (1384), tested, approved. To try, prove, discern, distinguish, approve. It has the notion of proving a thing whether it is worthy or not.
(I) Metaphorically, to make trial of, put to the proof, examine, e.g., by fire (1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:7; Sept.: Prov. 17:3; Zech. 13:9); other things, by use (Luke 14:19); generally, by any method (Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 8:8, 22; 13:5; Gal. 6:4; Eph. 5:10; 1 Thess. 2:4, “our hearts”; 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:10; 1 John 4:1; Sept.: Ps. 17:3; 139:1, 23; Jer. 11:20). By implication, to examine and judge, i.e., to estimate, distinguish (Luke 12:56; see Matt. 16:3; Rom. 2:18; Phil. 1:10; Sept.: Zech. 11:13). (Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

1507 δοκιμάζω (dokimazō): vb.; ≡ DBLHebr 1043; Str 1381; TDNT 2.255—1. LN 27.45 examine, try to out, test (Lk 14:19; 1Co 3:13; 11:28; 2Co 8:8; Gal 6:4; 1Ti 3:10); 2. LN 30.98 regard as worthwhile (Ro 1:28), for another interp, see next; 3. LN 30.114 judge as good, regard something as genuine or worthy (Ro 1:28; 14:22) (Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc. )

δοκιμάζω test, examine; interpret, discern, discover; approve; prove, demonstrate (Newman, B. M. (1993). Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies.)

δοκιμάζω fut. δοκιμάσω; 1 aor. ἐδοκίμασα; pf. pass. δεδοκίμασμαι (Hdt., Thu.+; inscr., pap., LXX).
1. put to the test, examine (so mostly LXX.—Ep. Arist. 276; Jos., Ant. 1, 233; 3, 15; Test. Ash.5:4) w. acc., test oxen for their usefulness Lk 14:19 (Hdt. 2, 38 of the Apis bulls). ἑαυτόν examine oneself 1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5; one’s own work Gal 6:4; the works of God Hb 3:9 t.r. (Ps 94:9); everything 1 Th 5:21; spirits 1J 4:1; cf. D 12:1; Hm 11:7; 1 Cl 42:4; heaven and earth Lk 12:56; be convinced of someone’s faithfulness 1 Cl 1:2; try to learn τί ἐστιν εὐάρεστον τῷ κυρίῳ what is pleasing to the Lord Eph 5:10. Of the examination of candidates for the diaconate (acc. to Attic usage: Lysias 16, 3; Pla., Leg. 6, 765c; Attic inscr.) 1 Ti 3:10. Of God 1 Th 2:4b (Jer 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Jos., Ant. 1, 233) (Newman, B. M. (1993). Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies.)

27.45 δοκιμάζωa; δοκιμήa, ῆς f; δοκίμιονa, ου n; δοκιμασία, ας f: to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use—‘to test, to examine, to try to determine the genuineness of, testing.’
δοκιμάζωa : ζεύγη βοῶν ἠγόρασα πέντε καὶ πορεύομαι δοκιμάσαι αὐτά ‘I bought five pairs of oxen and am on my way to test them out’ Lk 14.19; δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω ‘everyone should examine himself, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup’ 1 Cor 11.28.
δοκιμήa : ἐν πολλῇ δοκιμῇ θλίψεως ‘being tested severely by the troubles’ 2 Cor 8.2.
δοκίμιονa : τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν ‘the testing of your faith produces endurance’ Jas 1.3.
δοκιμασία: οὗ ἐπείρασαν οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἐν δοκιμασίᾳ ‘when your fathers tested and tried (me)’ He 3.9. (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:331). New York: United Bible societies.)

OK, I’ll stop now. I just wanted to show the variety of linguistic witnesses and their uniformity in handling the word. As you can see, the core word in isolation isn’t inherently intro- or extrospective (another new word!), it can be both, but takes it sense from its immediate context. In 1 Cor 11:28, it is followed by δε ανθρωπος εαυτον, “a man himself”. Clearly, if a man is examining himself, unless he’s looking for paint spots or extra appendages, he’s examining himself introspectively. That’s the plain meaning and it matches the context.

Notice that the Federal Vision exegesis again creates a strawman to attack. They say that:

First, lexicography. “Dokimazo” does not mean “to look into one’s own being”. I can turn up no such usage in either the LSJ nor the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.


But I cannot find a single occurrence of the word where it might mean “look into a man’s being.”

No kidding. The intro- or extrospective nature of the test or examination is taken from its immediate grammatical context. In this case, it the entire phrase δοκιμαζετω δε ανθρωπος εαυτον that provides the context: “But let a man examine himself.” I don’t believe that Paul’s plain language is talking about a man’s toes here. But by taking δοκιμαζετω out of the phrase, the Federal Visionists set up a cute but transparent slight of hand. When he quotes Gallant that the test is “whether one is living in love and unity with one’s fellow believers”, that’s certainly an important part of the introspection, but not the whole. There’s just barely enough truth in the slight of hand to make it sound credible, yet if falls quickly upon closer examination of the immediate grammatical context.

Am I making this up? Here’s what Calvin says on 1 Cor 11:28:

You see here a method that is most easily apprehended. If you would wish to use aright the benefit afforded by Christ, bring faith and repentance. As to these two things, therefore, the trial must be made, if you would come duly prepared. Under repentance I include love; for the man who has learned to renounce himself, that he may give himself up wholly to Christ and his service, will also, without doubt, carefully maintain that unity which Christ has enjoined. At the same time, it is not a perfect faith or repentance that is required, as some, by urging beyond due bounds, a perfection that can nowhere be found, would shut out for ever from the Supper every individual of mankind. If, however, thou aspirest after the righteousness of God with the earnest desire of thy mind, and, trembled under a view of thy misery, dost wholly lean upon Christ’s grace, and rest upon it, know that thou art a worthy guest to approach the table — worthy I mean in this respect, that the Lord does not exclude thee, though in another point of view there is something in thee that is not as it ought to be. For faith, when it is but begun, makes those worthy who were unworthy. [my bold emphasis, italics original]

Note that Christian love is part of the equation, but far from the whole enchilada. We see the same exegesis in the Westminster Annotations:

examine himself] Both concerning his spiritual state in general; whether he be a true member of Christ’s mystical body. For none but such may eat his body, and drink his blood. And in special, whether he be a fit guest for so holy and heavenly a Table, whether he truly repent him of his sins, have a lively faith in Christ, be in charity with his neighbours, and is endued with a competent measure of knowledge to discern this heavenly food from other meat. This examination of a man’s self, is of necessity required in all that intend to receive the communion, and therefore they ought not to be admitted to it, which cannot examine themselves as children, idiots, and mad-men, and all such as either have no knowledge of Christ, or no competent measure thereof, though they profess the Christian Religion.

That’s the historic Reformed view, the one that the 16th General Assembly of the PCA accepted as policy. This post simply tortures the text to produce a completely foreign result favoring his position. As if that weren’t enough, he goes on to maul 2 Cor 13:5 which contains similar language:

5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. (NKJV)

Again the poster goes far afield from the clear meaning of the text in order to make a point that isn’t there to be made. There are actually two phrases in play in this verse. First the Greek phrase for “examine yourselves” is εαυτους πειραζετε with literally means “yourselves try ye” (Newberry). I’ll spare you the torture trip through lexicons and just use the Louw-Nida, though they all show substantially the same meaning again:

27.46 πειράζωa; πειρασμόςa, οῦ m; ἐκπειράζωa: to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing—‘to test, to examine, to put to the test, examination, testing.’
πειράζωa : ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε εἰ ἐστὲ ἐν τῇ πίστει ‘put yourselves to the test as to whether you are in the faith (or not)’ 2 Cor 13.5; προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς ‘the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked if he would show them a sign from heaven’ Mt 16.1. (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:331). New York: United Bible societies.)

The second phrase “Test yourselves” is εαυτους δοκιμαζετε which literally means “yourselves prove” (Newberry). The context is similar to the previous passage, so I won’t go over all that again. Both phrases have the reader examining or testing themselves, not some external thing. That’s the immediate context that Federal Visionists go to great lengths to deny. Calvin takes us to the bottom line:

Try yourselves. He confirms, what he had stated previously — that Christ’s power showed itself openly in his ministry. For he makes them the judges of this matter, provided they descend, as it were, into themselves, and acknowledge what they had received from him. In the first place, as there is but one Christ, it must be of necessity, that the same Christ must dwell alike in minister and people. Now, dwelling in the people, how will he deny himself in the minister. Farther, he had shown his power in Paul’s preaching, in such a manner that it could be no longer doubtful or obscure to the Corinthians, if they were not altogether stupid. For, whence had they faith? whence had they Christ? whence, in fine, had they every thing? It is with good reason, therefore, that they are called to look into themselves, that they may discover there, what they despise as a thing unknown. Then only has a minister a true and well grounded assurance for the approbation of his doctrine, when he can appeal to the consciences of those whom he has taught, that, if they have any thing of Christ, and of sincere piety, they may be constrained to acknowledge his fidelity. We are now in possession of Paul’s object. [my emphasis]

The Westminster Annotations say in part about this examination:

Whether ye are in the faith, that is, in the state of faithful Christians; and whether Christ live in you by his Spirit which you received by my Gospel.

So there’s just a quick refutation of Federal Vision’s paedocommunion views from both the underlying Greek and the overall context of both passages. Again, if you have any doubts, read the PCA’s paedocommunion report. Don’t believe everything you read on the web, not even my post. I challenge every reader to pull out your lexicons and orthodox references and check it out for themselves.



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