Regarding the contemporary use of the word "person" I have learned much from others and appreciate all the warnings and cautions they have issued. May everyone be advised that in the legal arena, it is a dangerous and, to the uninformed, a deceptive word, if not a trap. I try to remind myself that if I speak at all regarding legal matters, I am legally non-existent. I suppose it could be said that I am a non-person. But I am not sure. More on that a little later. So far I am only making it clear that I am not defending the common contemporary use of the word "person".
At the same time, I have not seen evidence that the basis for this
conclusion is found in the use of "person" in the Bible. Whether we look to the use of the English word, or to the words it is used to translate, my best evidence at this time is to the contrary.
Appeal has been made to Acts l0:34,35; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; I Peter l:l7.
In all four of these references the phrase "respect of
persons"(or similar) is used to translate a compound Greek word which has its origins in the Septuagint and a Hebrew phrase which means, literally, "lift up the face". It is related to the ancient customs of showing "respect of persons" by bowing down or falling to the ground and "lifting up the face". One who did so would be showing or practicing "respect of persons". When it is said that God is not a respecter of persons, the implication is that God does not bow down before anyone as an indication of his respect for the person. It does not mean that there is disrespect, as we commonly speak of it. It simply means that he is impartial and does not show favoritism to anyone. One could as well say that he shows no respect of people, respect of anyone, or (special) regard for some. He is impartial to all.
In my understanding, these verses say no more about God's respect of "persons" than about his respect of people, ones, beings, faces, entities, characters, roles, men, women, or any other word one might choose to use in translation. The word "person(s)" is not a separate word in the Greek in these references.
Where "person" translates the Greek "prosopon", the basic meaning is "face", the front of the head.
It is easy for me to understand how this came to mean the one having the face when I recall that our local paper includes pictures of faces identified by names of individuals (e.g. "Joe") but never identifies a picture of a foot or a hand as "Joe". We still identify in our language the face which one presents with one's self.
As legal enthusiasts have reminded us so often, the word "person"(face) came to mean mask, because a mask looked like a face. Then it came to mean the character or role with which an actor identified, and, as we learn too late, an artificially created legal entity.
Yet I see no evidence that the word "person" in the English Bible(KJV), nor "prosopon" in the Greek, carries any negative connotation. Rather, it is simply a neutral term such as "one" or "entity" or "item" which can refer to the good and the bad. Scanning a concordance reveals references to devout and just "persons". IICorinthians 2:10 refers to the "person"(prosopon) of Christ. Sometime "person" is an editorial addition to complete the sense, as in IIPeter 2:5, which refers to "Noah the eighth (person)".
Considering all this, do I want to be a person, or a non-person? I'm not sure I can answer that question. I'm not sure I understand the question.
If I were conversing with brothers in the faith and one referred to me as a good person, I would take no offense. But if asked in any legal environment whether I was a person or a non-person, I'm not sure that I would respond at all. The questioner may be in a court, system, environment, kingdom, or establishment that is foreign to me. I may not understand his language. We may be as foreign to each other as light and darkness, as Christ and Belial, as believers and infidels. If I am asked such a question by a man on the street, I will seek the wisdom from above to know how to respond. I will consider and appreciate much of the frank advice I have been reading recently.
An analogy came to mind while composing this. In my house at the moment I am a man, husband, and many other "ones". In my neighbors house at the moment, I am none of these. If I knew that he were a Pharisaical lawyer trying to ensnare me, and he called me on the telephone to ask what I now am in his house, it would be difficult to respond. I would not acknowledge being a "non-man" in his house. He might have rules and definitions about "non-men" that make no sense to me. At this point it seems to me that the best response might be to simply hang up, or perhaps to gently remind him that I am in my house and he is in his, that I have no desire to be in his house, and that while I remain in my house he has no business asking me such
questions. If I were so moved, I might say something about how much I enjoyed life in my house, and ask him to come visit in my house sometime.
May the Spirit of the living God richly bless with wisdom all the ones who have been interested enough to read this far, and make them living witnesses in the world of darkness of the light which is found in Jesus Christ.
Committed to Him, John
It is now 3:00 a.m. A few minutes ago, our telephone rang, as sometimes happens at this time of night, because our number is similar to that of a local motel. Irritating. But when I awoke the following was in the front of my consciousness. You may attribute it to revelation or to my subconscious at work while I slept, as you prefer. It was not clear to me when i wrote earlier, even though it was "in the face".
In the four listed references, showing "respect of persons" is "lifting up the face", as I noted earlier.
But, the face which is lifted up is the face which means "person", not the face of the one bowing. To lift up a face(person) is to elevate a person and thus show respect to the person. It is so obvious now. A reminder that the obvious is not always obvious, to me and perhaps to others in the conversation.
At this stage of slumber it seems to me that the conclusions of my "dreams" remains the same. Now back to sleep.
Further morning reflections--
"Person" is a word which traces its meaning to "face", and subsequently came to mean the one owning the face, a mask, the role of the actor behind the mask, a legally created entity, and the one speaking for the artificial entity.
If my memory is correct, Gregory has reminded us that the important question is not whether each of us is a person, but whose person are we?
Joshua summarized the only real choice each of us has:
Choose whom you will serve.
You can't choose whether you will be a sheep and have a shepherd. Choose your shepherd.
You can't choose whether you will be a sovereign or a subject.
Choose your sovereign.
You can't choose whether or not you will live under law.
Choose your lawgiver.
You can't choose whether or not you will have a face.
Choose which face you will recognize as yours.
Most people are at a perpetual Halloween festival. They are living behind masks given them by hidden and unknown designers.
Choose the face given to you by your Creator.
The choice is yours.
You will have a face.