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Arguing for the Infallibility of Scripture

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 • 2:13 pm

New Testament skeptics generally rely upon a “guilty until proven innocent” approach with regard to the New Testament. The present apologetic forces them to reverse that and deal with the texts as basically “innocent” documents that they must prove “guilty.” You will have shifted the burden of proof onto the shoulders of those challenging the veracity of the Gospels rather than bearing that burden yourself.


I had a conversation recently with someone who does not believe that the scriptures are without error. This person asked me why I believed they were so and, out of habit, I directed her to the relevant passages, Psalm 119; John 17:17; 2nd Timothy 3:16 etc..

“But isn’t that circular reasoning?” she asked.

And, of course, she was correct.

Her original question was not whether the scriptures themselves testify to their own perfection. They do. Rather she asked how that perfection might be established. To provide a good answer I could certainly use the scriptures but I would need to respond without grounding my argument in the bible’s own testimony about itself.

This is a different matter altogether.

It is important to remember when sharing the gospel with those who are skeptical that there are many gateways to faith and that the Holy Spirit can enter through any one of them.

It is common in evangelical circles to hear that it is impossible to “argue anyone into the Kingdom”. Simply share your own experience with Jesus Christ. This is said to be the best approach because people relate best to personal stories. If your story does not move them or God does not move them through it, then they are simply not “ready to hear”. In any case it really doesn’t pay to argue with a skeptic because, once more, no one was ever debated into the Kingdom.

Perhaps.

Only God can germinate and give growth to the seed of the gospel in the human heart. That is true. But often, I fear, this is used as an excuse to rationalize or justify not reasoning with those who have very serious intellectual reservations.

There have, in fact, been many Christians moved to faith not through the sharing of personal experiences with Jesus Christ, but through intellectual argument that leads, ultimately, to repentance and a true conversion of the heart.

For that reason I believe that it is important to have a basic familiarity with some standard apologetic approaches to common questions.

The following line of argument for the truth of the biblical texts is far more an evangelical than catholic one but I do not believe catholics would object to the essential truth of the propositions themselves. They would, perhaps, think the whole argument unnecessary since Mother Church has both declared the infallibility of the bible and defined the scope of the canon.

To establish the perfection of scripture it is important to step away from the concept of infallibility and regard the Gospel accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from a purely historical standpoint.

A good question to ask someone is whether they believe that the New Testament conveys basically reliable historical information.

What I mean by that is that when compared to, say, the Book of Mormon, does your interlocutor believe the Gospel narratives provide plausible accounts with regard to geography, place names, historical personages and events.

The answer to this question is unavoidably yes. There are minor debates of course with regard to things like the census recorded in Luke’s birth narrative but even the wildest skeptic will have to admit that the historical narratives are essentially consistent with what is known about first century Palestine. 

The next move is to establish the resurrection as a well attested historical event.

The primary point you will want to make here is that the New Testament provides both valid contemporary accounts of those who personally profess to have seen Jesus Christ alive and embodied subsequent to his death and burial in the stone tomb (Peter, Paul, John etc…)  and contemporary second hand but specific accounts of others who profess to be eyewitnesses of the same (James, the 12, Luke, Mark, the “over 500” 1st Corinthians 15). There are many ways of establishing this that I do not have the time and space to explore in this short essay.

If someone objects that in the discussion of bodily resurrection you have stepped beyond the realm of history and into the realm of “myth” or “faith”, simply ask them whether they consider a public event to which hundreds testify as witness to be within the realm of historical inquiry.

If they say “no” then they have delegitimized and discounted whole swathes of human history.

If they say “yes” then you simply suggest that given the multiple attestation and primary source documents available then it is certainly legitimate to recognize the resurrection as an event within the realm of public history.

Another objection may come from those who do not believe in “miracles”. This is an easy objection to overcome so long as the person making it believes in a creator God. It is difficult to maintain both the possibility of an intervening exercise of divine power in creation and the impossibility of the very same exercise of the very same power at another point in history. The person who holds this position sets arbitrary and superficial boundaries around the exercise of God’s dominion. A good way to undermine this is to simply ask why your interlocutor believes that it is possible for God to create time, space, and matter, and yet impossible for him to effect or intervene within the sphere of those things he has created.

If this person does not believe in a creator God, then you will need to back up and argue for God’s existence. The present apologetic for the perfection of scripture, hinges on an already established theism.

In any case once you have established the resurrection as a well attested historical event you can begin to ask what that means with regard to the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

If Jesus truly died, as the New Testament documents attest, then God alone would have had the power to raise him from the dead.

If Jesus has truly been raised from the dead, then the historical fact of the resurrection provides divine validation or verification of his words.

To deny that the resurrection constitutes divine validation is a difficult denial to maintain. This is seen by thinking through the alternatives. If, for example, Jesus was false and his claims about himself and God were untrue then his resurrection, which could only occur by God’s power and under his authority, served to primarily facilitate and spread a lie. If only some of the things Jesus said and claimed were true then God is implicated in facilitating and spreading a half-truth.

Few would be willing suggest such a thing.

What remains is to determine what, in fact, Jesus said and believed first with regard to his own identity and second with regard to the Old Testament and New Testament.

It is important to begin by showing that Jesus claimed to be God. You should be able to point to a number of gospel texts to demonstrate this fact.

Expect an objection at this point centered upon the reliability of the Gospel records of Jesus’ words.

One of the best aspects of this argument is that you have already established the basic or essential historical validity of the New Testament. All you have to do now is ask the person to show you evidence that the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels are, in fact, not his words.

There is no such evidence.

New Testament skeptics generally rely upon a “guilty until proven innocent” approach with regard to the New Testament. The present apologetic forces them to reverse that and deal with the texts as basically “innocent” documents that they must prove “guilty.” You will have shifted the burden of proof onto the shoulders of those challenging the veracity of the Gospels rather than bearing that burden yourself.

Since there is no counter evidence, only suspicion dressed in academic garb, you should be able to easily parry objections at this point.

Once you have established that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, remind your interlocutor that he has already agreed that the resurrection stands as a divine validation of Jesus’ claims.

Next move to an investigation of Jesus handling of the Old Testament. Your aim here will be to show that Jesus’ attitude toward the Law, Prophets, and Writings, what we have received as the Old Testament canon, was consistent with that of an orthodox Jewish teacher of the law; that Jesus believed that the Tanach is the infallible and authoritative Word of God. To do this, find those texts in which Jesus, when quoting from the Old Testament, uses the names of prophets and human authors interchangeably with the name of God. For example he might say, “And God said….” when quoting from the Pentateuch or the prophets. Also find those texts in which Jesus appeals to and argues from the Old Testament as a means of settling disputes with those who argue from tradition. A great place to go for this is Mark 7 or Matthew 15 where Jesus berates the Pharisees for establishing traditions that are not only inconsistent with but actually lead people to disobey God’s word.

Having established that Jesus believed the Old Testament to be the Word of God, the next task will be to show that Jesus promised to provide his disciples with the same sort of inspiration for the writing of the New Testament.

John 14:25-26 and 16:13-15 are crucial to this task. 

Here is John 14:25-26

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

It is important to remember that Jesus spoke these words specifically to the twelve, not to the whole church. Jesus addresses the future Church in his prayer recorded in John 17. John 14-16, however, represent a discourse specifically addressed to the 12. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come to the twelve to remind the twelve of Jesus’ life and words and teach them all things.

This is not to say that these words do not at all apply to the Church today. They do. They were spoken for us, but they were not spoken to us. They were addressed specifically to the twelve and therefore apply in their fullest sense to them.

This is especially important with regard to the promises contained in John 16:13-15

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Here the Holy Spirit is promised as both revealer of new truth and as the superintendent or guide into the right understanding and articulation of the truth he will reveal. He will not speak on his own authority but only what he hears. The disciples will be the receivers and heralds of this new revealed truth.

This is, again, not a promise to the whole church, but rather it is a promise to the disciples for the building up of the whole church. It was fulfilled in the production of the books of the New Testament which represent the inspired remembrances of what Jesus did and said, new truths from Christ to his Church, and declarations of what is to come. Every book in our New Testament can be traced back either to one of the twelve or to someone whose work and/or apostleship was affirmed by one of the twelve and/or produced during their lifetime. Each book, therefore, carries apostolic weight and warrant and as such carries the inspired infallibility promised by Jesus in John 14 and 16. 

The criterion of apostolicity, based in large part on the promises of Christ quoted above, was the primary criterion by which the Church received the books of the New Testament as God’s Word along with those of the Old Testament.

There are a few objections that will likely be raised at this point. Some may wonder why we accept the Pauline corpus since Paul was not one of the twelve and his apostleship was something that he claims was conferred to him personally by the risen Christ. A ready answer can be given by quoting from 2nd Peter 3:15-16,

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.


Here Peter, the chief apostle, himself writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares Paul’s letters on par with scripture.

Others might ask about the gospels of Luke and Mark since neither evangelist was among the twelve. But Luke was, according to Acts, a close friend and follower of the apostle Paul and was under his oversight. And Mark, according to the second century writings of Papias (d.155AD) Bishop of Hierapolis as quoted by Sts. Irenaeus and Eusebius, accompanied Peter. His gospel reflects Peter’s preaching and records Peter’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, though Papias notes that Mark arranged the material himself.

Finally, many will point to the book of Hebrews as an example of a New Testament book without apostolic attestation. And it is true that Hebrews was received into the canon because it was believed to have been written by Paul. Since Pauline authorship is now disputed some will question the legitimacy of the Nicene decision. There are two points in response.

First, few doubt that the book of Hebrews was written within the first century and therefore within the lifetime and ecclesial context of the twelve. Whether it was written by Apollos or Barnabas or another first century teacher, given its intended Jewish Christian audience, it was almost certainly known to and accepted by the disciples themselves. Second, the book is wholly consistent with the known apostolic books. There is no contradiction or tension between its content and that of the Pauline or Catholic epistles, Revelation, or the Gospels. Its complimentary nature points to an author who both knows apostolic teaching well and is probably well known by the apostles.

It is most reasonable then to defer to the Nicene decision with regard to the book of Hebrews even if one objects to the reasoning behind it.

At this point you will have established on the basis of Jesus’ own words and promises the inspiration and perfection of both the Old and the New Testament books. That your interlocutor may quibble with you about the inclusion of various texts is of little concern. If he has come to this point, you have essentially won the argument. He has already conceded that the apostolic books are subject to the promise of God in Jesus Christ. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit and their content is divinely superintended. 


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Comments:

It is said of St. Ignatius Loyola that he once almost killed a Moslem in an argument in a tavern over the virginity of Mary.  (This would of course be before he started acting like a saint. smile ) His friends had to pull him away.  Later he was horrified to think that he had almost committed murder to defend a Catholic doctrine.  It occurred to him that if what he believed was actually true, then he should be able to prove that it was true without resorting to violence to make his point.  This is essentially the basis of the Jesuit emphasis on education and teaching—know (learn) the truth, and the truth will set you free.

[1] Posted by Catholic Mom on 03-05-2008 at 07:08 PM • top

One of the best essays on Biblical Criticism is C.S. Lewis’ (unfortuately not very well-known) essays, Modern Theology and Biblical Critiscm.

[2] Posted by The Common Anglican on 03-05-2008 at 09:06 PM • top

An argument that I often find effective is that the behavior of the early Church and the Apostles makes no sense unless they absolutely believed the Resurrection to be true. 

Let’s assume the Gospels were, arguendo, a novel along the lines of Tolkien, or Harry Potter.  I love Tolkien as much as anyone, but would I be willing to endure, on five separate occassions, forty lashes less one to argue that Tolkien is true, as St. Paul did for the gospel?  Would I go crucifixion, martyrdom and death like all the Apostles did, except John (whose life was hardly without suffering)?  Would I carry the Gospel into the heart of pagan Rome and for three centuries see my people periodically rounded up and murdered for sport?  Wouldn’t I instead come to some sort of agreement with the authorities and agree to worship the emperor, if only to save my friends, family, wife, and children from suffering? 

The behavior of the early Christians makes absolutely no sense unless they are witnesses to something that makes death itself seem irrelevant.

[3] Posted by The Abbot on 03-05-2008 at 09:22 PM • top

Matt - good article.

But, if as you say “It is most reasonable then to defer to the Nicene decision with regard to the book of Hebrews even if one objects to the reasoning behind it” you are essentially agreeing that the Church DEFINES scripture.  But surely a defining authority exceeds that which is defined by it.

Would this then not give Luther the right to delete James (“an epistle of straw”) and define a Lutheran Bible.  This also would give the Thomas Jefferson Memorial UU Church (in Charlottesville VA) to define and use Thomas Jefferson’s New Testament (they do - a collection of Our Lord’s sayings from the Gospels).  This also gives the LDS the right to Cannonize the Book of Mormon for use in their Church.

Summary:  The Bible is a collection of Books - all are inspired but some are more inspired than others (according to Luther and others).  This collection was gathered together by The Church “Assembed in Council” and Cannonized for use by the Church.  The Bible does not define the Bible - the Church does.

(You mention Nicea.  The final Connonization was done by the Council of Trent).

I will be more than happy to stand corrected - - -

[4] Posted by star-ace on 03-05-2008 at 09:58 PM • top

Well, while I generally agree with Matt+ on most things, and certainly on things like the objective, factual nature of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that is an absolutely non-negotiable core doctrine of the Christian faith, I’m afraid that this kind of attempt to defend the “infallibility” of Holy Scripture is completely misguided.

I’m not interested in rehashing the whole notion of biblical inerrancy or inafallibility here.  Instead, let me venture a personal testimony and some pastoral and theological observations that I hope will shed more light than heat on this vexed issue that divides the orthodox wing of Anglicanism.

Briefly put, I believed in biblical inerrancy when I was a Bible major at my beloved evangelical alma mater, Wheaton College (class of 1977).  Then I went to seminary at Yale Divinity School…  The crashing sound you just heard was the collapse of my belief in biblical infallibility during the very first semester of my time at Yale, when it became abundantly clear to me that the empirical data simply disproved inerrancy, conclusively and beyond any reasonable doubt. 

But fortunately, my confidence in the Bible as the Word of God written survived this crisis, largely because I had some wonderful teachers who modeled for me a serene and robust faith in the unique authority of Holy Scripture as God’s definite self-revelation while being world-class biblical scholars (men like Brevard Childs in OT and Luke T. Johnson in NT, although I disagree with both of these giants in various details of biblical interpretation).

But during that first year of seminary I discovered a crucial thing that helped me navigate my way through that spiritual crisis.  Back when I was a Wheaton student, I assumed that the inerrancy debate was a matter of faith versus unbelief, or theological conservatism and faithfulness versus liberalism.  What I discovered is that it is at least as much a Protestant versus Catholic issue, in terms of your assumptions about the role of the Bible in the life of the Church.  Simply put, I believe the whole idea of biblical inerrancy or infallibility is a mistaken Protestant way of defending the notion of “sola scriptura,” i.e., the Bible as our only authority. 

It is highly significant that the first great creed to mention the idea of biblical infallibility is the famous Westminster Confession of 1646, which ringingly declares the Bible to be “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”  That may be good Calvinism, but it’s NOT good Anglicanism. 

Instead, we Anglican have modestly but confidently asserted all along that the Bible “contains all things necessary FOR SALVATION.”  That’s it.  It does not necessarily contain all things necessary for the right ordering of church life or living the Christian life as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  But it does contain all the truths we need to know in order to be saved and receive eternal life.

Or to put it another way, while I do of course strongly affirm the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture (ala 2 Tim. 3:16 and 1 Pet. 1:21), and while infallibility would seem to be a logical deduction from the fact of such inspiration, it is highly significant that the Bible itself nowhere makes that deduction, and implicitly undercuts it.  That is, the modest statement that follows the firm assertion that “ALL Scripture is inspired by God,” is merely the humble claim that it is therefore “useful” or “profitable” for such practical things as teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that we might be equipped for every good work.  Not inerrant or infallible, simply useful.  That’s all the Bible claims for itself, with a winsome humility similar to that of Christ himself.

Certainly some of the champions on our side, like Professor Christopher Seitz in OT and Bishop Tom Wright in NT are world-class biblical scholars who fully defend the unique authority of the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word, but who are miles away from affirming biblical infallibility.  The simple fact is that this old-fashioned notion of infallibility was disproven long ago.

It is precisely the fact that I was and am not merely a one-dimensional evangelical, but a three-dimensional evangelical, charismatic, CATHOLIC kind of Christian that allows me to not be unduly disturbed by the manifold errors that there undeniably are in the Bible.  For my catholic side means that where the Bible is weak, the consensual Tradition of the Church is more than able to compensate for that.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here, Matt+.  You are entitled to your opinion, and of course it has a venerable line of defenders in low church Anglicanism, including men like James Packer and John Stott among others, men whom I greatly admire.  Sydney represents that potent Reformed type tradition in Anglicanism to this very day.

I’m just trying to help readers know that being an orthodox Anglican does NOT by any means commit someone to the mistaken notion of biblical inerrancy or infallibility. 

My pastoral concern is that far too often, the usual line that I was taught back at Wheaton has turned out to be a needlessly self-fulfilling prophecy.  That is, the typical very conservative argument is that once you start acknowledging any errors in Scripture at all (even in the areas of historical or sceintific fact, much less matters of faith and practice), then you’ve started down the slippery slope that inevitably tends to end in the complete loss of biblically-based faith.  Alas, all too often I’ve seen that happen.  But only because people were unintentionally SET UP for the fall.  And so once it became clear to them that the Bible did contain some manifest errors, they jumped to the false conclusion that they could no longer trust the Bible at all.  That is why I myself don’t hesitate t say that the whole idea of biblical infallibility is not only wrong, but pastorally dangerous.

But at the same time, I wholeheartedly and fervently defend the supreme and unique authority of the Bible as God’s Word written.  But I also remain committed to the practice of MODERATE biblical scholarship, as practiced by such men of faith as Dr. Seitz, Dr. Wright, or my personal hero, Dr. Raymond Brown, the orthodox Roman Catholic whom many of us would say was the pre-eminent NT scholar of the last generation.

Again, I’m not trying to pick a fight here.  Just trying to make clear that there are many of us in the orthodox wing of Anglicanism who have decisively rejected the whole notion of biblical infallibility and the strongly Reformed notion of the role of the Bible in the life of the Church (sola scriptura) that lies behind it.

David Handy+, Ph.D. (Union in Richmond)

[5] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-05-2008 at 10:35 PM • top

I’m neither priest or theologian and I am RC so I’m not sure how much Matt+ will appreciate the help but I would say for me the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture is assured. For me it would start with a belief that there is a God who creates. Creation in any form has some preconceived purpose. The purpose of creating man to produce a being that could choose to love God. God seeking our love would of course have to offer his own and his Law is that love. I don’t think a God who creates and then just leaves us to our own devices is logical so some form of scripture is inevitable. God’s law was evident in creation itself but as Paul states man was simply too obstinate to recognize it and God made his Law known by word. The question then becomes what scripture is from God and is it inerrant? I have read a lot of religious books, from the Koran to the Book of Mormon and on through Scientology and even the Urantia book and Eastern traditions. The Bible is the only scripture that even approaches a coherent and consistent whole to me.
Is it inerrant? How can it not be if it is from God?
It would be a very cruel God indeed, crueler even then not caring, who gave us his Law, his Love, and allowed it to become flawed IMHO. Would God give us the bread of life and then allow it to mold?
Are we supposed to pick the weevils out? Avoid the bad parts in the bowl when it’s served? That isn’t love to me.

Is that pastorally dangerous? You bet. But I don’t think God would make it easy on his Pastors, especially if they are supposed to be representing Him.

[6] Posted by Rocks on 03-06-2008 at 01:21 AM • top

star-ace, not at all. If I believed the Church had the authority to define scripture I would not have bothered to make the argument. I can defer to Nicea because I believe they rightly recieved the books that are indeed apostolic in nature. Also, Star-ace, your argument about Luther is something of a canard since he readily admitted his error with regard to James, as you know.

[7] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 05:05 AM • top

NRA+,

Thank you for sharing your experience.

1. That the WCF was the first to mention infallibility does not mean that Calvinists were the first to hold to it. I think it has been the clear teaching of the Church from the beginning and the obvious teaching of scripture about itself. So your point is somewhat irrelevant to the question.

2. I recognise that catholics and evangelicals often differ on this. I reject any attempt to separate authority and infallibility. Why argue from flawed texts? What authority does error hold? How do you distinguish human error and God’s truth in scripture without becoming something of a marcionite?

3. I understand many have rejected the notion of infallibility. I think that is a major problem.

[8] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 05:11 AM • top

Rocks,

Yes, I agree. You’ve got it correct I believe.

[9] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 06:10 AM • top

Also NRA, though my argument was an evangelical one, the conclusion, that the bible is infallible is not exclusively evangelical. Rome teaches the very same thing.

“105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.“69

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.“70

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.“71

107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

[10] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 06:17 AM • top

Matt+

I think you are correct, even if more indirect, in pointing out the foolishness both Protestant and Catholics over the commonality of the infallibility of Scripture (which ironically Catholics apologist will violate the law of non-contradiction to make their point). Whatever motivation (the crux of the actual debate) the Spirit had in final assembly of the canon, He did so by use of the Church.

One minor criticism, you use the word infallible in the context of inerrant. While it’s not much of a stretch to say that without error will also not fail, going back to the Catholic concept of infallible is not to say it is without error—folks can agree that the Borgia popes were filled with error, but that does not effect the RC understanding of the papacy (more of like those inflatable punching bag toys with the weighted rounded bottom that will bounce back, thus an evil pope is corrected for in time [by the Lord]).

I think that distinction is important because I believe many in PECUSA twenty and thirty years ago held an infallible but not inerrant view of Scripture and that does come through in some folks logic today when they scoff at folks like you but quickly defensive that they do believe in the Scriptures.

[11] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 07:33 AM • top

Matt,

With regard to Rome, much depends on how one defines the term “infallible” or “inerrant.”  Rome definitely teaches the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, and one will occasoinally find Roman Catholic theologians who use the word “inerrancy.”  But “inerrancy,” in the sense in which the word was used by the old Princeton school (Warfield and Hodge) or by J. I. Packer in his book Fundamentalism and the Word of God, or as it was defended by such Evangelical theologians as Carl F. H. Henry or John Warwick Montgomery or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy of the 1970s has not been Catholic dogma since Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). Leo gave Catholic biblical scholars permission to use historical-critical method, and they have done so ever since.  A perusal of Catholic biblical scholars of the last fifty years (Raymond Brown, John Meier, etc.) shows that they use the historical-critical method in such a way that they cannot in any meaningful sense be called “inerrantists.”

Among Anglicans, the shift came in the nineteenth century, probably first with the appearance of Lux Mundi among Anglo-Catholics, but developed carefully by Evangelical scholars like B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort.  The combination of critical biblical scholarship with orthodox Anglicanism continued in the twentieth century with Edwyn Hoskyns and Noel Davey’s The Riddle of the New Testament, who argue persuasively that the embracing of historical-critical method still leaves one with the theological question of the identity of Jesus Christ.  Historical-critical scholarship can never recover a Jesus who is not presented in the texts as the Son of God.  Later scholars like C. F. D. Moule followed in the same paths as Hoskyns and Davey with his The Phenomenon of the New Testament, The Birth of the New Testament and The Origin of Christology.  Contemporary Evangelical scholars like N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, I. H. Marshall, and Craig Evans all presuppose some version of the historical-critical approach to Scripture.

[12] Posted by William Witt on 03-06-2008 at 07:40 AM • top

NRA+

The distinction you make is not quite so profound. When Rome speaks of infallibility it means, essentially, without error (as the catechism says quite clearly). The Chicago Statement on infallibility is perhaps the most contemporary evangelical articulation of the concept of innerancy. You can find that here.

http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html

If you read that statement you will see that the Roman concept of infallibility and the evangelical concept of inerrancy are quite similar. In fact, I can hardly ferret out the differences.

Your appeal to the Borgia popes is somewhat strange. No Roman would say that the “pope” is infallible. They would say that when the pope speaks “ex cathedra” or from the chair, his words are infallible, despite his personal foibles. The Catholic doctrine of scripture is that the entirety of it is infallible in the same way. It is God’s Word, his speaking from his own throne.

I did not, by the way, point out the “foolishness” of this teaching with regard to infallibility because I do not think it is foolish. I think there is a great deal of Anglican presumption in rejecting what the Church, Protestant and Catholic, clearly teach and, as I have said, I think it is both scripture’s own testimony about itself and the Church’s testimony for 2000 years.

Moreover, you did not answer the questions I posed above:
“I recognise that catholic (Anglicans) and evangelicals often differ on this. I reject any attempt to separate authority and infallibility. Why argue from flawed texts? What authority does error hold? How do you distinguish human error and God’s truth in scripture without becoming something of a marcionite?

[13] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 07:48 AM • top

Hosea,

sorry, i thought your post was from NRA. So, I was in debate mode.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 07:49 AM • top

It’s okay, Matt+, much of what I was trying to say was also stated by Dr. Witt, so I have good with some pretty serious backing smile

[15] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 07:52 AM • top

Bill,

How would you define the critical method…are you thinking Norman Perrin?

I do not think the use of the tools of biblical criticism necessitate a departure from inerrancy. I think the Chicago statement is rather clear on that. I do think, however, that the acceptance of inerrancy does require the relinquishment of the suspicion and a priori skepticism with which many revisionist scholars approach their studies.

[16] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 07:55 AM • top

Also, Bill,

Which parts of scripture might be considered in error? How do we know? And if certain parts are errant, how can we be sure that others are not? And if we cannot be certain, how do we maintain the primacy and authority of scripture if it errs? Are the parts that err also God’s Word or are they man’s word?

How do we insist on scriptural authority in light of the conclusion these Anglican scholars have reached. Why should the bible hold supreme authority when it errs so?

By the way, if you read the Pope’s book on Jesus and history, you will see a critical method that is employed while preserving the sense of inerrancy (though the Pope may not call it that).

[17] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 08:17 AM • top

Is it possible that an Almighty God could have given man the Truth, but that when man tried to write it all down, he made errors in the writings and the copyings?  But the Truth that goodness is better than evil is still True.  And that Truth is still in the Bible.

And what does the atheist offer - inerrancy???

[18] Posted by MasterServer on 03-06-2008 at 08:45 AM • top

#18

So you have a God Almighty enough to give man the truth but not Almighty enough to ensure that it is written down inerrantly (or at least those parts of his revelation necessary for us to know are written down inerrantly). Despite when giving man the Truth he said that He would and could do so (John 16 etc., see Matt’s essay above)?

[19] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-06-2008 at 09:10 AM • top

Masterserver

If you say this:

“Is it possible that an Almighty God could have given man the Truth, but that when man tried to write it all down, he made errors in the writing…”

you give away the entire ballgame. If, in fact, the scriptures are full of errors there is absolutely no basis to say this behavior is against God’s will and this behavior is in accordance with it because, in fact, we do not know.

When scripture was written it was done under the infallible superintending inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There were no errors becuase the Spirit guided the writers into all truth and spoke only what he was given to speak.

Now, it is certainly true that there have since been “copyist errors” which is a different matter altogether. Infallibility and inerrancy hang on the original texts or the autographa, not the copies or translations. Fortunately we have so many thousands of manuscripts that the copyist errors are generally easy to spot and the autographa is about 95% reconstructable. With regard to the 5 percent that is in dispute, no doctrine hinges on them and they are mostly minor grammatical errors.

[20] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 09:22 AM • top

I’ll have to take issue with NRA’s statement about

“the mistaken notion of biblical inerrancy or infallibility.”

As Dr. Witt points out, it is important to specify the purview of both “inerrancy” and “infallibility”. As a proud graduate (twice) of the Assembly of God’s western academic outpost, Vanguard University of Southern California, I would like to submit and commend to your consideration the final two points of their statement on scripture:

INFALLIBLE: By this we mean that Holy Scripture as the standard for faith and practice is completely trustworthy.  INERRANT: By this we mean that Holy Scripture speaks the truth and is therefore free from error, falsehood and deceit in all it affirms and teaches.

The Rabbit.

[21] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-06-2008 at 10:11 AM • top

Thanks Bre-er,

It is interesting to compare that definition of inerrancy with the teaching of Rome on the same matter:

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.“71

107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

I would argue that there is very little difference between the two definitions.

[22] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 10:24 AM • top

“I would argue that there is very little difference between the two definitions.”

Probably one reason your faith is not easily shaken! grin

I do think the differences are important. To say the Bible is both without error and can not fail is very different than saying it can not fail but leaving open the possibility of error. Note: Completely separate from saying the Bible is infallible and inerrant, but I’m both fallible and pron to error.

I don’t think people folks realize that Rome actually does uphold a high view of Scripture as both infallible and inerrant. Rome hold the authority of the papacy as infallible. (Rabbit trail for Br-er - apparently Scripture & Tradition was almost only Scripture in the council of Trent, source was a lecture by RC Sproul on website, which is now gone, but I’d love any historians to fill in). What I’ve seen in main line Protestantism is apply papacy understanding (able to be in error but overall will preserver by grace) to Scripture. That is were the “seriously, not literally” junk tends to enter. Often, these folks are sincere and very committed in the one way, so it’s not quite like dealing with the Unitarians currently leading TEc, yet they’e so easily lead around by the unitarian-leadership without the solid grounding of both infallible and inerrant.

[23] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 10:43 AM • top

Matt+,

I meant it earlier when I said I wasn’t really interested in rehasing the old debates about biblical inerrancy, but I will try to respond in as non-polemical fashion as possible to your #8.  But before doing so, let me once again reaffirm that my primary concern is pastoral here.  I’m trying to offer reassurance to any readers of this thread who have already begun to question or already abandoned the old-fashioned notion of biblical infallibility that there is plenty of room in orthodox Anglicanism for them and for staying in the mainstream of modern biblical and theological scholarship.

So back to your initial response to my #5 in your #8.  You assert that biblical infallibility has been the basic teaching of the Church from the start.  But you cite no evidence in your brief post.  That is a historical issue, and historically I think the evidence is mixed.  Certainly you can find statements in the Fathers that wax eloquent in extolling the glories of the Sacred Page in language that resembles the latter half of Psalm 19, which poetically speaks of God’s Word as “perfect.” 

But there is also plenty of historical evidence to the contrary.  An obvious example is Origen, whose whole allegorical approach is based in part on recognizing the imperfections and problems within Holy Writ and seeking a way to deal with them.  And if you dismiss Origen as a heretic, well the whole Alexandrian tradition of biblical interpretation basically makes the same move.  I won’t belabor the point here. 

Suffice to say that the kind of vehement insistence on biblical inerrancy or infallibility that is characteristic of so much of fundamentalist and very conservative evangelicalism is a post-Reformation phenomenon and is much more characteristic of the Reformed tradition than the Lutheran or Anglican ones.  In particular, the strong stress on biblical infallibility emerges in the second and third generations of the Reformation (Theodore Beza is much more emphatic about it than Calvin, who is much more nuanced).  It really took root during the period of so-called “Protestant Scholasticism” in the 17th century, but it got an even bigger boost from the controversies surrounding the rise of modern biblical criticism in the 1800s, and not least in reaction to the RC determination to make the dogma of Papal “Infallibility” binding on all the faithful in 1870 at Vatican I.  Charles Hodge and especially B. B. Warfield became the classic exponents of this highly Protestant emphasis in the late 1800s, as William Witt has rightly noted earlier in his post #12 (which I welcome; thanks William for chiming in).

Second, and more important is your set of questions in #8 about how the Bible can be supremely authoritative if it’s not inerrant, and how someone like me who is not an inerrantist can avoid falling into the trap of Marcionism (and presumably other heresies as well).  And though that is a complex issue, all I’ll try to say for now is to repeat what I tried to explain briefly in my first post.  Namely, it all depends on your ASSUMPTIONS about the role of the Bible in the life of the Church.  The Bible itself does not settle that crucial issue, as I’m sure you will acknowledge.

To put it somewhat provocatively, I’ll simply call attention to an idea that has been around in high church Anglicanism for a long time.  It usually goes something like this:  “It is the role of the Church to teach; it’s the role of the Bible to prove.”  That is, the Bible is the final court of appeals in all matters of controversy.  But the Church is not limited to teaching only what the Bible explicitly approves or happens to mention.  This again is getting back to the notion of “sola scriptura” or the general Reformed approach to Scripture as opposed to the classical Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican approaches.

At this point, let me illustrate this by suggesting that you have misread the RC position on biblical infallibility that you cite from Vatican II in your #10.  If you read paragraph 107 more carefully, I think you’ll see that the modern RC position is more nuanced than you suppose.  First, note that it doesn’t simply state that the Scriptures are without error, stop.  What it says is that the Scriptures “without error teach that truth which God…wished to be confided” to them.  That leaves it quite open to interpretation as to how much of what’s in the Bible really reflects what God so intended.  Obviously, that’s opening a whole Pandora’s Box of potential problems, but my modest point here is that this is a more modest and nuanced claim than you appear to recognize. 

But more importantly, notice how this Vatican II statement implicitly makes the same point that we Anglicans always have, in stressing that the truths that are taught “without error” are those which God wanted conveyed to us “for the sake of our SALVATION.”  This is essentially the same claim as we Anglicans make in our ordination vow that we believe the Bible contains all things “necessary FOR SALVATION.”

To put it as clearly as possible, hopefully without giving undue offense, I think the reason that the idea of errors in the Bible bothers you so much more than it bothers me is that you want the Bible to function in a much more Reformed or Protestant way than I do.  I repeat, where the Bible is weak or silent, Sacred Tradition can fill in the gaps or compensate for those weaknesses (as I tried to say in #5).  That does NOT put Tradition on an equal level with Scripture.  I would never say that.  I fully affirm the primacy and supremacy of the Bible.  But I do question the typically Protestant notions of 1. the clarity or “perspicuity” of Scripture once you move beyond the realm of those truths on which our salvation depends (which is typically Reformed emphasis), and especially and most emphatically 2. the so-called “sufficiency” of Holy Scripture (which is an even more typically Reformed or Calvinist emphasis.  The crucial question there is:  Sufficient FOR WHAT?  And that brings us full circle back to the issue of what role you believe the Sacred Page is meant to play in the life of the Church and the individual believer.

Finally, you pose the question of how Marcionism (and other heresies) can be avoided once errors in the Bible are recognized.  That is certainly a complex and important topic, but all I’ll say for now is that this seems to be just another form of that “slippery slope” argument that I mentioned in my #5.  Suffice to say, that there are many, many of us who have admitted the presence of numerous errors in the Bible without sliding to the bottom.  Willaim Witt has pointed that out already in #12 (albeit briefly).

I hope this doesn’t seem antagonistic or condescending.  I respect you, Matt+, and I’m not trying to talk anyone out of being a biblical inerrantist here.  Far from it.  Rather, I’m just trying to make it clear that orthodoxy does NOT depend on upholding the common Protestant belief in biblical infallibility and to assure those who already have rejected that notion that there is a place for them (or us) in this New Reformation.

I hope that helps clarify things.

David Handy+

[24] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 11:20 AM • top

Br_er Rabbit (#21),

This is just to reassure you that someone’s beliefs about biblical inerrancy or infallibility (or the doubting or rejection of them) are NOT a litmus test for membership in the NRAFC.  I fully expect there to be differences of opinion on that score among us, as they most definitely exist within the orthodox wing of Anglicanism as a whole.  In other words, if you still uphold the notion of biblical infallibility, even though I have rather provocatively labelled it as a “mistaken” notion, that by no means brings into question your position as V-P of the elite NRAFC.

David Handy+

[25] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 11:34 AM • top

NRA+, I don’t think you are condescending. I just think you are wrong.

: - )

It is, indeed, interesting that you reach back to Origen who was also a Universalist and ultimately condemned as a heretic to support your contention that the Church has not always held the bible to be infallible. I do not think the evidence as mixed as you suggest and neither do. As for the Alexandrian school it is interesting to note that the “move” to which you allude is never so pronounced as it is in Origen and that, as may be seen in the present Roman formulations, it has been rejected in favor of the classic view.

As for evidence, if you would like to go the evidenciary level, that is fine, I would ask you to produce 1. Evidence that the scripture writers themselves reject the notion of infallibility/inerrancy or 2. Evidence that the Church as a body, not the odd heretic or off handed comment of a father, has ever held any other view.

Obviously (see para 105 below) you are not only arguing against a company of Calvinists in making your argument, but against the Roman church as well. Producing out of context quotes from a heretic father will not do.

Thank you for your helpful but somewhat irrelevant presentation of evangelical history with regard to the role of the scriptures. It is quite nice but your apparent intention in employing it comes close to genetic fallacy. The question is not whether this view experienced a resurgence in Reformed circles, the question is whether this view is correct and, secondly, whether it is consistent with the view of the bible itself and the fathers.

As for your suggestion that I have misread the catechism. First the catechism is not a VatII document. It was written and published after Vat II to combat percieved liberalism that resulted from the council. The most recent version published I believe in 1995 is partly the work of the present pope. In any case, yours is a familiar liberal Catholic move that seeks to isolate para 107 from para 106.

Notice that the text from 107,

“we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

must be read in context with para’s 105 and 106:
““For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.“70

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”

Yours is a move I sought to cut off at the pass by presenting the whole section rather than simply para 107. Read in context it is impossible to suggest that Rome would agree that ANY part is in error as the Holy Spirit inspired all of it and those who wrote, wrote only what the HS inspired and no more.

Also, your suggestion that Anglicans simply believe that the bible contains all things necessary for Salvation is based on a half-quote, the first part of which is that Anglican clergy declare that the books of the Old and New Testament constitute the Word of God AND contains all things necessary for salvation.

I’ll come back for the rest, but I do notice you have not answered the questions with regard to authority and error. How do you ferret out the errors without lapsing into Marcionism? And if it is flawed how is it, then, to be considered the Word of God?

Oh, also, would you mind pointing out some of the errors for us?

[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 12:10 PM • top

David,
It is interesting that you introduce Origen into the mix. I certainly do not dismiss him as a heretic. However, that does not mean that he could not have been quite mistaken about some of his positions.

It was Origen himself, who (according to an unpublished paper I have written), actually created one of the wrong textual variants in the ancient texts that made it into the KJV (Matthew 8:28). Specifically, Origen used (misused, actually) the Gospels as a kind of travelogue to retrace Jesus’ steps around the Holy Land. He said it was outrageous that the text claims Jesus lands his boat at Gerasa (Mark) or Gadara (Matthew), because these two cities are 6 and 20 miles, respectively away from the Sea of Galilee. It was Origen who, in my opinion, introduced the town of Gergesa as the landing place.

In so doing, he missed what both Mark and Matthew were trying to teach. In Mark’s case, his point was that these people were loyal to Rome, because Gerasa was the most loyal of all the towns of the Decapolis, and eventually the choice for the site of Hadrian’s arch. In Matthew’s case, his point was that this territory had originally been assigned and rightfully belonged to the tribe of Gad.

The Bible is inerrant in what it seeks to teach. The Gospels are neither travelogue nor biography. They seek to teach the lordship of Jesus as the Messiah, come to save the world from its sins.

The Rabbit.

[27] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-06-2008 at 12:18 PM • top

I hope that helps clarify things.

I think so. 

It’s a complex issue so I’m not going to go into detail, in lieu of detail here’s my testimony, it’s a complex issue, inerrancy is fundamentalism, I’m not trying to pick a fight, it’s a complex issue, again I’m not trying to pick a fight, it’s a complex issue, inerrancy is fundamentalism, the Reformed are mistaken, again I’m really not trying to pick a fight.  Hope that clears things up.

[28] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-06-2008 at 12:18 PM • top

NRA +

Methinks you’re playing word games as much as some of my liberal RC theologian professors, however, they’ll knock the Scriptures up-down-and-sideways, they don’t go as far as you present the topic.

The actual source that will cause them to loose their license is:

Can. 750 Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherence of Christ’s faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.

I don’t think you reading Can. 749 §3 properly in context of the full canon or others.

I think the Catholic Encyclopedia gives a better understanding of the cannon in question:

The inerrancy of the Bible follows as a consequence of this Divine authorship. Wherever the sacred writer makes a statement as his own, that statement is the word of God and infallibly true, whatever be the subject-matter of the statement.

I’ve found your #24 to be a gross misrepresention of even liberal Catholic stated understanding (they my have the same disbelief as you, but desiring to remain employed, they do not attack the Bible as “admitted the presence of numerous errors” rather to it’s interpretation, thus things like Jacob dreamt he wrestled with an angel (subtle difference, but it is very different from what you wrote).

[29] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 12:38 PM • top

The following line of argument for the truth of the biblical texts is far more an evangelical than catholic one but I do not believe catholics would object to the essential truth of the propositions themselves. They would, perhaps, think the whole argument unnecessary since Mother Church has both declared the infallibility of the bible and defined the scope of the canon.

Whoa, I feel the need to correct here!

Actually, on the contrary, the Catholic Church would regard the queston of the TRUTH of the Bible as very much an apoligetics question without a recourse to an infalliable statement.  Why?  Because the Catholic Church recognises (in principle at least) the need for clear foundational principles in it’s beliefs.  That’s one reason by the Catholic Church holds to Scripture AND Tradition - both being authoritive - with one referencing the other as authorititive and, thus, allowing a case of the Bible outside by the Bible. 

Yes, the question of the canon is of interest and, frankly, I think that’s where the catholic Church has it up on the Protestants in that the Catholic Church CAN claim the canon of the Bible is truly sealed and infallible due to it’s somewhat different definition of church over Protestantism.  But there’s a difference between an appeal to authority and an argument for establishing truth, plus a difference between establishing truth in the case of the Biblical contents and for it’s limits (the canon.)  Methinks these distinctions have been blurred here!

As it is, well, the Catholic apologists I have read have been able to give most excellent reasoning for the truth of the Bible aided by an appeal to history that, frankly, Evangelicals have a nervousness about.  All without requiring infallible statements, just arguments from history. Of course, that history includes the witness of the Church bit not just in terms of ‘Yeah, well I say it’s infallible so there!’

I have this very point write now with my ex-athiest, now theist, wondering about Christianity friend, who is trying to be persauded by evangelicals that the Bible is true by an appeal to the _textual_ accuracy and veracity of the Bible (which my friend sees as circular reasoning.)  I am able to argue for the veracity of the Bible and it’s canon by appeal to the consensus of the Church across history (without needing infallibility.)  So far he’s more persuaded by me.  Trouble is, I have to fend off the evangelistic Athist who is feeding him Dawkins as well!  Sheesh!

Anyway, this is not to say that Evangelicals cannot make a case for the truth of the Bible without circular reasoning and Matt has done just that - so Kudos to him!  He has registered the need for some kind of HISTORICAL case beyond a textual one.  Bravo!  Evangelicals do not need to be ‘reason shy’ and I applaud him for a strong and well argued case that does mirror much of what I have read by Catholic apologists. 

I’m just saying it ain’t a case of Pope Pius MMCXXXXXXXVIII saying, “Yeah, well I say so an I’m infallible, right?  You wanna papal ring in your face mate?”  Really.

Overall, well played!  Christians in this dark age in which all that was once known to be true is not just doubted but sneered at (in an age that worships ‘reason’ while not using it!) need more and more of this!  On basics like this we can learn from each other who to argue well against common enemies - and, God willing, friends who need to hear!

[30] Posted by jedinovice on 03-06-2008 at 02:10 PM • top

Well, I seem to have provoked the kind of tempest that I was hoping to avoid.  Now that others have joined in the fray and taken up Matt’s side, let me try to respond to some of the posts above since my last one.

First, I will acknowledge a mistake on my part.  Matt+ was indeed quoting the marvelous new RC Catechism in his post #10.  But the position taken there repeats, sometimes verbatim, the position laid out at Vatican II in the crucial document on Divine Revelation.  I shouldn’t however have conflated the two.

Second, since I’m not a Roman Catholic, I don’t fell compelled to try to exegete the official RC position in answer to the claims put forward by Matt+, Hosea 6:6 and others that it affirms biblical inerrancy of the usual conservative Protestant sort.  I’ll just repeat the point made by William Witt above in his #12 that there are many, MANY outstanding RC biblical scholars who can’t by any stretch of the imagination be considered inerrantists, and yet who have in some cases (most notably that of Raymond Brown or Joseph Fitzmyer) been praised by Rome for their orthodoxy and faithfulness to the teachings of the Church.  Just to mention a few, such moderate RC biblical scholars would include John Collins (OT) and Harold Attridge (NT), both of whom teach at my seminary alma mater, Yale Div. School.  Also the incredible OT scholar Joseph Blenkinsopp (a favorite of mine), the fine Luke-Acts scholar William Kurz, and not least my beloved mentor back at Yale, Luke Timothy Johnson (though I of course lament LTJ’s lapse in buying into the “gay is OK” delusion; he has a lesbian daughter, which I think has clouded his judgment on the issue).  All of these, and many more, are fully at home in modern biblical scholarship.

As for the historical issue of whether or not inerrancy has always been the teaching of the Church as a whole, I may have inadvertently thrown out a red herring by prominently mentioning Origen.  I am well aware that he was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in AD 553 for some of his idiosyncratic speculations (such as that even the Devil will be reconciled to God in the end or his affirmation of the Platonic belief in the eternal pre-existence of souls before birth etc).  But his use of the allegorical method was NOT idiosyncratic.  Not at all.

Now as for some of the pointed questions that Matt+ raises in his latest post, #26, let me make a very brief and therefore probably inadequate response.

Let me try to introduce a little more light than heat here.  When it comes to errors, could we agree that there are at least four (or more) different KINDS of possible errors that we could discuss?  What I have in mind are the following rather simplistic categories:
1. errors of scientific fact; 
2. errors of historical fact;
3. theological errors or errors in matters of faith;
4. moral or ethical errors; or errors in matters of Christian practice.

Now, clearly, these aren’t all of equal weight or importance.  So let’s start with the lesser matters. 

First, about science and the Bible.  There are a few notorious problems that have caused many to think the Bible is indeed in conflict with the best scientific knowledge we currently have.  The prime example, of course, is the presentation of a seven-day creation in Genesis 1.  Back when I was at Wheaton taking Biology 101, I was taught that this famous passage shouldn’t be taken literally, since the geological and fossel evidence is plainly inconsistent with a 144 hour (six day) creation, and since the Hebrew term “yom” can indeed mean an indefinite period of time (just as “day” can in English in some contexts).  But while I found that liberating at the time as an undergraduate, I eventually realized that such an interpretation failed to take Genesis 1 seriously.  Plainly, when the Priestly writer speaks over and over in terms of “and there was evening and there was morning” and there are seven of them leading up to the Sabbath, then we are indeed meant to see this as a seven day creation.  There is no getting around it.  And there is no denying that this just isn’t scientifically true.  But personally, I don’t see that as a problem myself.  I don’t go to the
Bible to find out HOW the world was made, but WHY and BY WHOM. 

A similar argument can be made about things like the historicity of the Flood described in the story of Noah in Genesis 6-9, or the sun standing still in Joshua 10 etc.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I an NOT saying these things didn’t happen because I have some kind of bias against supernatural events.  I’m a charismatic; I believe in the supernatural, and fervently so.  But what I am saying is that it’s not necessary to read these kind of things and take them as literal history.  I think that is a basic mistake that assumes that everything in the Bible that looks history-like actually happened.  To me, that’s a naive approach that fails to understand the wide diversity of literary genres in the Bible.

OK, moving on to my second category, historical errors.  This is a highly controversial area, where there is a great deal of room for scholars to weigh the evidence differently, especially when we are faced with the almost insurmountable problem that we usually have too little extant evidence that’s survived from the ancient world to settle questions about the historicity of many events.

But since you asked, Matt+, let me give a few illustrations.  But I repeat, I’m really NOT trying to pick a fight here, or to talk anyone out of believing in biblical inerrancy, just trying to clarify the nature of the massive problems here.  Let me pick one of the classic major cases, the “conquest” of Canaan.  And to give it focus, let’s pick the destruction of Jericho as a concrete example.  Suffice to say here, that according to the best archaeological evidence that we have today (though someone may dig up something in the future that could change everything; only a small percentage of ancient Jericho has been excavated), there is no evidence that Jericho was even inhabited during the 1200s BC, the most likely time for the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.  Alas, despite what a wonderful story it makes, it appears to me, as to almost all scholars these days (except inerrantists of course), that the fabulous story of the walls falling down etc. is much more a matter of folklore than history.  Now this raises a profound question, that I’ll pose rather provocatively (in my usual fashion).  Recalling the famous words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15 that if Christ be not raised, our faith is in vain and we are still dead in our sins and without hope.  But, to put it sharply, is it also true that “if Jericho be not RAZED,” our faith is likewise overthrown?  Obviously, I think not.  You may disagree.

But leaving aside that particular instance for the moment, just compare the radically different and totally inconsistent portrayals of the “conquest” of the Promised Land in the book of Joshua and the much more modest description of affairs in Judges 1, which concedes that many places said to be conquered in Joshua in fact remained in Canaanite hands.  This is a different kind of historical problem, and a very, very common one in the Bible.  Namely, the problem isn’t a conflict between the biblical record and the archaeological record, but between various conflicting biblical accounts themselves.  And there are literally HUNDREDS of examples of such inner biblical conflicts, most of which are minor and only of concern if you are an inerrantist.

Well, maybe that’s enough.  I can guess that some readers are going into apoplexy now and wondering how I can consider myself orthodox at all.  So let me try to win back a respectful hearing by relying on an analogy that has helped many of my listeners in the past (though not all find it convincing, to be sure).  We would all agree, I’m sure, that the truth of the parables of Jesus doesn’t depend on whether or not there was a historical Good Samaritan who literally rescued a wounded Jew along the roadside, or there actually was a Prodigal Son who squandered his fortune and yet was gladly welcomed back home by the Waiting Father as Jesus depicts in Luke 15.  We’d all recognize that we are dealing with the genre of fiction here, not history.  Jesus is telling an imaginative story.  It doesn’t have to be historically true in order to be theologically true.

Now my basic claim would be that there is a LOT of the Bible that is like that, only more history-like in many cases.  But “history-like” doesn’t equal an actual historical account.  Take the famous case of the OT book of Jonah.  I regard it as patently obvious that this is not historical.  It’s not just the matter of being swallowed by the whale and emerging alive three days later.  It’s the even more unbelievable matter of the whole city of wicked Nineveh repenting and turning to the LORD etc.  Once again, I stress that my interpretation of Jonah as having the nature of folklore and a parable instead of sober history in no way reflects some kind of anti-supernaturalistic bias.  Quite the contrary.  It’s rather a matter of discerning the type of genre that the author has used.

All right.  I think you get the idea.  Once again, I hope that sheds more light than heat.  My intention is not to introduce divisions among us.  Instead, it’s my pastoral concern to show that there is a genuine place for non-inerrantists in the orthodox wing of Anglicanism.  But in firmly claiming that, I’m not intending to deny a place to inerrantists as also having a valid and honorable place in our fight for the soul of Anglicanism.

Irenically, I hope,

David Handy+

[31] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 02:18 PM • top


And to give it focus, let’s pick the destruction of Jericho as a concrete example.  Suffice to say here, that according to the best archaeological evidence that we have today (though someone may dig up something in the future that could change everything; only a small percentage of ancient Jericho has been excavated), there is no evidence that Jericho was even inhabited during the 1200s BC, the most likely time for the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.  Alas, despite what a wonderful story it makes, it appears to me, as to almost all scholars these days (except inerrantists of course), that the fabulous story of the walls falling down etc. is much more a matter of folklore than history.

David, you really, REALLY need to catch up with the work of David Rphl, a secular eygptologist. I won’t say anymore now except he makes a COMPELLING case that the whole chronology we have of the ancient East (mapped against eygptian records) is completely out.  When you apply his own chronology… well a lot of Bible fables suddenly look *very* real indeed.

Masses of evidence he found for the Old Testament.

Seriously, he has a compelling case.  Of course, the establishment resist but then, we know our generation has it’s biases.  Check out “A test of time” at least.  Channel four (in the days when they weren’t the median wing of the National Secular society) did a brilliant program on this called “Pharoahs and Kings.”  Sadly, we never got it taped and C4 will never, ever show it again - ‘God’ forbid! But my entire family were blown away.  The evidence he found for the OT was stunning, even down to the tomb and staue of Joseph in Eygpt.

[32] Posted by jedinovice on 03-06-2008 at 02:30 PM • top

Suffice to say here, that according to the best archaeological evidence that we have today (though someone may dig up something in the future that could change everything; only a small percentage of ancient Jericho has been excavated), there is no evidence that Jericho was even inhabited during the 1200s BC, the most likely time for the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Just an idle question:

Given that Jericho, as you say, was only sparsely inhabited during the latter stages of the Late Bronze Age (baring a new discovery), and given that Jericho was not only inhabited, but a thriving city which was subsequently attacked, destroyed and abandoned at other times, for example the Early Bronze or end of the Middle bronze age, (and that other sites in Canaan can tell a similar tale) why do you say that the end of the late bronze age is the most likely period for the exodus/conquest?

[33] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-06-2008 at 02:35 PM • top

jedinovice, are there any vowels in the last name of the source you reference: David Rphl?

[34] Posted by Deja Vu on 03-06-2008 at 02:37 PM • top

Soryy Deja Vu!

It’s late and I’m a crud typist and worse proof reader.

It’s David Rohl.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Rohl

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Test-Time-Bible-Myth-History/dp/0099416565

[35] Posted by jedinovice on 03-06-2008 at 02:42 PM • top

>Soryy Deja Vu!

Proof!  The irony is… I like writing!

[36] Posted by jedinovice on 03-06-2008 at 02:54 PM • top

I’m sorry, but appealing to the old Catholic Encyclopedia on the issue of inerrancy is simply to reproduce the position that has been firmly rejected among Roman Catholics, beginning with Divino Afflante Spiritu.  If one doubts that this encyclical changed Roman Catholic Biblical scholarship, I would suggest reading any of the standard histories of biblical scholarship (most of which mention this) or read the texts by Catholic biblical scholars themselves, or Catholic commentaries, such as the original or New Jerome Biblical Commentary, both of which received the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.  The chapter on “Inspiration and Inerrancy” in the original Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “The allegedly inerrant Bible contains statements that in any other document would be regarded as erroneous.”  The chapter on “Inspiration” in the updated New version states: “[T]he antithesis is not simple error, but deception or infidelity. The truth of the Scriptures lies not so much in that its passages are without error, but in that through them God manifests his fidelity to his people, bringing them into loving union with himself.”

But, again, the best way to find out what actual practicing Roman Catholic biblical scholars believe is to read what they have written.  If the kind of historical-critical approach used in either version of the Jerome Biblical Commentary is inerrancy, then, of course, I also subscribe to inerrancy.  However, I lived through the inerrancy fights among evangelicals in the 1970’s when I was an undergraduate, and this is not what they meant by “inerrancy.”  The defenders of the term at that time made it quite clear that the new Roman Catholic approach was not considered permissible.  John Warwick Montgomery had a chapter in his book God’s Inerrant Word (1974) in which he rejected what he called the “Approach of New Shape Roman Catholicism to Inerrancy” as playing with words.  Ironically, in the same book, Clark Pinnock wrote a chapter in which he designated such an approach as “Limited Inerrancy”—ironic because Pinnock later endorsed just such an approach.

On whether there are historic Catholic scholars (besides Origen) who advocate a similar approach to Scripture, one need go no farther than Augustine.  Augustine in his Confessions speaks of how he was finally able to convert to Christianity after hearing Ambrose explain passages in Scripture that on a literal reading were unacceptable in an allegorical manner.  In his “On Christian Doctrine,” he suggests as a matter of interpretive principle that, if anything in Scripture cannot, if taken literally, lead to purity of life or sound doctrine, it must be read allegorically.

As, for Origen himself, while Origen’s views on apokastasis were rejected as heretical, his method of Scriptural interpretation became standard practice in the Alexandrian Church—from whom sprang figures like Athanasius!

[37] Posted by William Witt on 03-06-2008 at 03:17 PM • top

Actually, NRA+ (just learned that one from you yesterday, I like the short hand so adopting it). I’d challenge you on every example.

First your evidence theory for “Jericho was even inhabited during the 1200s BC.” This proves nothing other than something does not have evidence yet, the field of archeology is very young, often thought to disprove the Bible to only confirm it. Not always in the way we understand, in fact David Rohl, has done some work in this area (which is interesting because he an Egyptologist with the theory that Shishak is Ramses II which I think is inverse Albright’s passions but connected his efforts to Egypt on the same reference). I could expound more but I’ll say your examples prove nothing other than your biases of authors. Biblical archeology is best summed up as science mets religion mets politics, it’s a dynamic field! (So was the Cave of Letter inhabited once or twice? [throwing in a good Jewish debate to prove a point]).

Per Genesis, you are actually about fifty years behind the time. Something happened that shook the foundations of science as they understood it. Hubble made a discovery that all the galaxies (which is also a new classification) have a red shift in their spectrum, then AT&T;engineers where working on the problem of this static to their communications, slowly the whole field of cosmology is basically about my age. In the mean time we discovered “dark matter” which almost sounds as if “meta-matter” discourse is not that esoteric after all, I bet you were taught how silly folks in the middle ages were to ponder meta-matter, but hold onto your horses, in that last few years the most dominate form was been discovered in the universe ... dark energy! All this in a time less that the Episcopal church has had to rip itself apart. So who to say your theories on Genesis 1 are about as old as yesterday’s science, worse last century’s science?

So in two examples, it may just be you who is full of errors and inconsistencies. I heard it said that one generations Biblical criticisms is solved in the next. Not to say folks don’t mis-read the Bible, one of the most famous would be Sir Issac Newton, who believed everything from antiquity to be an historical account and one had to strip away the “poetry” form it to get to the truth. So the one who stood on the shoulder of giants actually would challenge every point of your post in an odd way. Your non-inerrantists theory is an odd one, for the given is that modern man has the superior knowledge thus can decide what is divine and what is not. I think this is the very new reformation the TEc is trying to bring about.

[38] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 03:26 PM • top

David+,

I think you demonstrate something of the hermeneutic of suspicion here. For centuries revisionists have argued that an absence of archaeological verification constitutes an archaeological refutation of the biblical record. And for hundreds of years they have been embarrassed with every turn of the spade.

One of the more recent examples of this is the denial by many in BAR community of the historical existence of King David. No material evidence of his reign had been recovered. But then, as is always the case, the cackling and condescension were quieted when an inscription bearing the title “House of David” was found in Tel Dan in 1994 overturning decades of established archaeological opinion.

That archaeological evidence for the biblical Jericho has not been found does not constitute a demonstration of the errors of scripture.  There are a myriad of other explanations including those suggested above by other commenters. The question is, and it is the same question with which we must confront revisionist scholars, since we have a written ancient source suggesting the existence of Jericho why not direct some of the skepticism toward archaeological models? Why does your skepticism go in one direction? Is this a faithful way to read the scriptures when there is no logical necessity to doubt the history presented?

Second, with regard to the inner “conflicts”. I am glad that you used that word because while I will certainly recognize that there are inner tensions that have yet to be resolved, I do not at all believe that these rise to the level of contradiction. And, again, since there is no logical necessity to read contradiction into these difficulties, as they are not bona fide contradictions, the question must be asked, Why do you choose to do so?

As for the territorial problem, again, there is a fairly easy resolution and it is not even necessary to consult Christian apologetics, simply look to what we know of war. Territory is gained and lost. Taken and given away. Any Vietnam veteran could easily explain the differences between the account of the conquest and the territories held in the book of Judges.

It seems again, NRA, that you go out of your way to exacerbate problems that are generally not difficult to resolve or that do not logically necessitate a relinquishment of the biblical account.

[39] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 03:31 PM • top

#32 & 35 & 36—Wow, I took a while to write my reply!! Good to see two independent citations Rohl. smile

[40] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 03:31 PM • top

I’ll just repeat the point made by William Witt above in his #12 that there are many, MANY outstanding RC biblical scholars who can’t by any stretch of the imagination be considered inerrantists, and yet who have in some cases (most notably that of Raymond Brown or Joseph Fitzmyer) been praised by Rome for their orthodoxy and faithfulness to the teachings of the Church.

I didn’t say anything before because being RC I thought it was obvious but this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans really. The allowing of a certain method doesn’t suggest it’s conclusions are accurate. An Imprimatur says “let it be printed”, not let it be accepted or let it believed. Doing no harm does not mean you are doing good and certainly doesn’t mean it’s true. Biblical Scholars do not speak FOR the RC church, they speak with her. The church speaks for itself. The church has always taught that the bible is the truth, unfailingly, and without error.  Nothing released before during or after Vatican II states otherwise, no matter how badly some want to nuance it.

“the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.”

....from Dei Verbum

It is illogical to suggest something can teach without error and yet have errors. The presence of errors precludes the possibility of insuring that no error is ever being taught.

[41] Posted by Rocks on 03-06-2008 at 03:39 PM • top

Yeah, I guess I’m having a difficult time with archeology being used as the Rosetta Stone for Scriptural historicity, too.  Frankly, I have my doubts about some Lower Critic’s rejection of the account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), as evidence for its absence from the Autographa.  And no, these doubts aren’t just my fundamentalist “feelings” taking over. 

RE:  Creation day length.  I do not believe that the Church should bind consciences in this matter, nor do I believe that chronology is the point of Genesis 1 and 2.  However, I do not believe that Science has disproven the possibility of 144-Hour Creation.  I refer you to the account of the Miracle at Cana, where Christ created wine that, though not aged, was not different than wine that had been aged. 

Yup, familiar with the rejection of that by some Theistic Evolutionists (like Howard Van Til) who assert that this would constitute a failure by God to tell the truth.  I just don’t buy it.

[42] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-06-2008 at 03:46 PM • top

Bill, two things

1. having read some Athanasius and Origen but admittedly not as much as you, would you agree that they handle scripture quite differently? And would it also be true that the Alexandrian school is

2. I was a fan of Raymond Brown and Luke Timothy Johnson during seminary. LTJ has since gone off the deep end with regard to homosexuality and while I still have respect for the late RB, I think his methodology was unnecessarily harmful to the text of scripture in many places. In any case, I noticed that since my seminary days several liberal Catholic scholars used at the time have since been found wanting by the vatican. I think most recently Edward Schillebex has been excommunicated for his views of Christology and the Eucharist. When you say, the best way to understand Roman thinking on innerancy is to read Roman NT scholars, I would have to disagree. Rome is not omniscient. Here is a list of Roman scholars who have been subject to discipline. Note that many of them were writing and preaching for years before the Vatican took notice:

http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005a/022505/022505h.php

I do not think you can say that since someone is Roman and adopts a certain method that the Vatican necessarily supports that method. 

3. The type of innerancy I suggest is consistent with the Chicago Statement above and I think that is quite consistent with the tools of modern criticism but not the intent of modern critics.

Here is, for those interested, a great article by RC Sproul on innerancy:

http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_sola_sproul.html

[43] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 03:52 PM • top

we must believe that the Bible is the true word of God…or we are to become as our presiding bishop who picks and chooses what to believe day by day..adding and subtracting…either it is Holy or it as any other piece of literature

[44] Posted by ewart-touzot on 03-06-2008 at 04:03 PM • top

How would you define the critical method…are you thinking Norman Perrin?

Actually, Matt when I used the term “critical method,” I referred specifically to the people I was thinking of—Westcott and Hort, Hoskyns and Davey, C.F.D. Moule, N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, I. H. Marshall, Raymond Brown, John Meier.  The list could, of course, expand to include those mentioned by NRA, and scholars whom I have found most helpful—like Richard Hays or Brevard Childs. 

I would also recommend Craig Evans, whose Fabricating Jesus I am using with my Apologetics course this term.  Evans notes that one of the characteristics of many of the most radical biblical sceptics these days, e.g., the Jesus Seminar, is that they are products of conservative Evangelical educations at such places as Gordon-Conwell (Robert Price), Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton (Bart Ehrman), or other Fundamentalist or Evangelical Schools (Robert Funk, James Robinson).  When these scholars went to graduate school and began careful study of the biblical texts using historical critical method, they followed the logical conclusions of the all-or-nothing methodology they had learned from their Evangelical upbringing to conclude that if Scripture was not pristinely inerrant in every detail, it could not be trusted at all.

I would say that Norman Perrin—whose approach to Scripture amounts to an almost total scepticism—actually represents a rather uncritical approach to Scripture.  Perrin was one of the early advocates of the principle of dissimilarity—that only those things can be trusted to go back to the historical Jesus for which there are no parallels in either Judaism or the early church.  On the face of it, such a principle is absurd.  How plausible is it to imagine that a Jesus who was a first century Jew, and the founder of a new religious movement that changed the entire world would have broken completely from the environment from which he sprang, and would have had absolutely no influence on his disciples?

As a theologian, I find three problems with the doctrine of inerrancy.  First, inerrancy is an a priori dogmatic imposition on the text rather than an actual investigation of the text to discover what kind of text God has actually given us in Scripture.  What inspiration tells us is that God has acted and spoken in the history of Israel, Jesus, and the Church to bring us salvation, and that in Scripture he has provided faithful human witnesses to that revelation.  Inspiration does not tell us anything about how God works through those witnesses.  It is only by examining the actual texts that we can discover something about how God has given us his word.

Second, inerrancy demands an all-or-nothing methodology.  If Scripture is not absolutely reliable in every detail, then Scripture cannot be trusted at all.  Theologians must then spend countless hours explaining how what appear to be errors or contradictions in the text are not really errors or contradictions.

Third, the text is no longer read carefully as text in all of its concreteness.  Diverse voices in the canon are ironed out so that all say the same thing;  harmonization becomes standard operating procedure rather than hearing the distinct voices in Scripture. Any problems or rough edges in the text are addressed by the principle of “maximal conservativism.” So the distinct voices of the Jesus of the synoptics (who speaks in parables of the coming Kingdom and who teases his disciples to acknowledge his identity with the Messianic secret) is conflated with the Jesus of John (who never uses parables and speaks of his identity boldly in terms of “I am” statements.)  It is not (and cannot) be noticed that Job provides an intentional challenge to the message of Proverbs, or that Jonah and Ruth challenge the ethnic purity of Ezra and Nehemiah, that the message of Deutero-Isaiah is addressed to an Israel returning from exile while the first part of Isaiah is addressed to an Israel threatened with exile.  Instead, what becomes important is that the Jesus of the synoptics and John are both equally historical and have to be harmonized; Job and Jonah are real people, and Jonah really was swallowed by a great fish; all of Isaiah was written by the same person, and the second half of Isaiah is predictive prophecy, etc., etc. 

This results in rather uninteresting and tedious biblical scholarship. Biblical scholarship loses its actual subject matter, and is reduced to defensive apologetics, and an ineffective apologetics at that. There is a reason that the most interesting biblical scholarship in the last century has come from those who have engaged critical methodology without flinching—and not from traditionalist Evangelicals.  It was people like Westcott and Hort, Hoskyns and Davey, C. F. D. Moule, John Bright, James Smart, Joachim Jeremias, Oscar Cullmann, and Brevard Childs who provided the definitive challenges to Liberal Protestant biblical scholarship, not those Evangelicals who were producing tomes on inerrancy.  The reason why the critically orthodox scholars were so effective was that they focused on the actual theological subject matter of Scripture.  While traditionalist Evangelicals were writing at length about inerrancy of Scripture in the 1970’s, they produced nothing of enduring theological value in terms of actual biblical studies.  In the following generation, as evangelical scholars have actually embraced the critical methodology that so spooked the 70’s generation, they have actually produced substantive biblical scholarship.  Liberals may not agree with Brevard Childs, Richard Hays, Ben Witherington, or N. T. Wright, but they have to take them seriously.  They did not feel any need to engage with the evangelicals of the Chicago Declaration.

[45] Posted by William Witt on 03-06-2008 at 04:25 PM • top

In any case, I noticed that since my seminary days several liberal Catholic scholars used at the time have since been found wanting by the vatican. I think most recently Edward Schillebex has been excommunicated for his views of Christology and the Eucharist.

Indeed, and rightly so.  I would include Hans Kung as another example. 
But Kung and Schillebeeckx were not disciplined because of their use of historical-critical methodology.  They were disciplined for denying essentials of Christan faith, or for embracing views contrary to offical Catholic dogma.  And Brown was never disciplined, but held in high esteem!  Other scholars, like Hans urs von Balthasar or Avery Dulles, whose works clearly embrace the kind of historical-critical methodology that would have been rejected by Evangelicals like John Warwick Montgomery as “limited inerrancy,” were made cardinals.  (At least Balthasar would have been a cardinal if he had not died first.)  Whatever Vatican II meant by “inerrancy,” it did not mean what the Chicago Declaration means.  That much is clear.

[46] Posted by William Witt on 03-06-2008 at 04:36 PM • top

A few months ago, I was reading Hooker’s Book V of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.  This is the section in which he speaks of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason (hierarchically, although many wish to ignore his ranking).  Hooker’s style is pretty dense, so I did not read more than about 30 pages. However, a little later on in this Book, Hooker takes on quite a few pages to do a “harmony of the Gospels,” showing that apparent errors or contradictions were not so, but that the Bible does present a unified and reliable message.  Hooker would not have spent that kind of time and work if he did not believe the Bible to be free of error in what it teaches.

When I was at Gordon-Conwell, my OT prof, Meredith Kline spoke to Gen. 1—and made a convincing case that it is poetic, speaking truly of a sequence of creative events that did not require one to take a 144 hour period of creation as the only possible understanding.  Indeed, that, “and there was morning and there was evening,” is part of the indication that Gen 1 is speaking poetically, not with the precision of a scientific paper.

Another GCTS prof, Roger Nicole, head of the Theology Department, had his PhD from Harvard—and he was staunchly supportive of inerrancy.  He said that it was certainly possible to believe that there were errors in Scripture and still be a Christian—but such a view certainly put one’s students or parishioners at spiritual risk.

[47] Posted by AnglicanXn on 03-06-2008 at 04:46 PM • top

“Whatever Vatican II meant by “inerrancy,” it did not mean what the Chicago Declaration means.  That much is clear.”

I’d concur with that, but VC II statements are important, there is a charicature of Roman Catholics, which in many ways they earned in the past, in which Scripture was not valued, rather all emphasis on Tradition. I’ve witness a dramatic change over the last thirty years where there is an elevated view of Scripture, I think brought on by the scandals and crisis as well as the last two popes.

[48] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 05:21 PM • top

AnglicanXn, yes, good point about Hooker. Calvin does the same thing in his Institutes and even Chrysostom does the same in (I think) the first sermon in his Homilies on Matthew.

Bill, I think you may be missing the point. 1. To point to any contemporary Catholic scholar, biblical or otherwise, and suggest that the absence of censure represents vatican approval is a strain. Rome’s doctrine of scripture has been articulated and individual scholars may or may not be working within it.

I think that while Raymond Brown was rightly celebrated, he came to some conclusions about authorship and date of various NT books and letters for example that would not be embraced formally by Rome.

Also, as I’ve been stressing throughout, the use of the historical critical method is not necessarily antithetical to the doctrine of innerancy in the evangelical sense of the Word. I think the same is true for Rome. This is why I asked what, precisely you meant by the historical critical method.

There are some methods that are indeed incompatible with inerrancy…the application of Norman Perrin’s three criteria for determining whether a saying of Jesus is really historical, for example, is questionable…not only on historical grounds but also with regard to the a priori assumption that at least some of the words of Jesus have been fabricated. 

But in general it is not the methodology itself but the way that these tools have been and are used that is objectionable, not the tools themselves.

[49] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 05:25 PM • top

Ah, Bill, I did not see your previous post, let me read it and get back to you….

[50] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 05:44 PM • top

Well, I’ve just enjoyed a long lunch and talk with my daughter and find after finally getting back to check the progress of this thread that quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge since my last post.  I won’t try to interact with all of it, even all of it addressed to me. 

But I’ll start by again welcoming the active participation of William Witt.  We obviously have a lot in common, William, and I appreciate your comments in #37, 45, & 46, with which I am in full agreement.

So a few quickies.  Boring Bloke in #33 asked why I think the mid to latter1200s BC are the most likely time for the Exodus, and the short answer to that is because of the reference to the building of the cities of Pithom and Rameses in Exodus 1, and the date of the long reign of Rameses II (who built them), which occupies much of that particular century.  I am well aware that this conflicts with the chronology of 1 Kings 6:1, which dates the construction of Solomon’s Temple to the 430th year after the Exodus, which would put it two centuries earlier (in the mid 1400s BC, which is the usual conservative dating).

I confess that I don’t understand what Hosea 6:6 is getting at in his post #38, where he accuses me of being “50 years behind the times,” apparently with regard to understanding the date of creation.  So all I’ll say is that I do believe (of course!) that God indeed “created the heavens and the earth, and all things visible and invisible,” and I further assume that the theory of the Big Bang about 10 billion years ago is correct.  But hey, I’m not a scientist. 

My real concern was simply to illustrate that inerrantist attempts to reconcile Genesis 1 and its seven day creation scheme with the scientific evidence fail to take the literary structure and character of the biblical text seriously.  If I misunderstood you, Hosea 6:6, please restate your objection or question, if you wish.

But mostly I’d like to keep the focus on the objections of Matt+, since he started this thread and has posted several responses to my earlier comments (see his #39, 43, and 49).  And here I must admit that I feel unfairly judged and lumped together with scholars who are much more liberal theologically than I am.  For instance, I would not agree that I operate with the notorious “hermeneutic of suspicion.”  I totally agree with you that the Bible should always be presumed innocent of error until proven guilty, not vice versa. 

Where we differ is that (alas), I think it has been proven wrong over and over on many points, though these are generally minor matters and only upsetting if you are an inerrantist.  But part of the problem (and I think we should be able to agree on this at least) is that modern biblical scholarship (i.e., since the Enlightenment) has been dominated by HISTORICAL CRITICISM for about 200 years.  And due to the scarcity of evidence from the ancient world that has survived the ravages of time, one of the tragic consequences of that obsession with historical accuracy is that historical research is able to raise many more questions than it is able to answer.  The upshot of this is that the historical-critical method has raised many serious (and legitimate) questions about the historicity of various events, but then has left us unable to resolve those complex and speculative matters, which only plants seeds of doubt in people’s minds.  That is one of the main reasons why my own research as an aspiring biblical scholar has been concentrated in the area of LITERARY analysis, and largely bracketed out historical issues. 

And I will readily admit that I’m a New Testament guy, not an OT expert, so matters like the highly controversial question of the occupation of the Promised Land and the emergence of Israel there are not in my realm of specialization.

Lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify that I do NOT by any means adopt the ultra-skeptical views of the currently popular “minimalist” school of OT scholars (often connected with Copenhagen in Denmark or Sheffield in England).  That is, for example, I never have doubted the existence of David and Solomon or Moses for that matter.  I am certainly well to the right of William Dever, but well to the left of W. F. Albright or John Bright (for those of you familiar with those prominent scholars).

And returning to the question of Rome’s implicit and often explicit commendation of some of its outstanding biblical scholars who are cetainly NOT inerrantists (which Matt+ returned to again in #43), just consider the significance of the standard scholarly journal, the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and the professional organization that publishes it, the Catholic Biblical Association.  Virtually no one who writes for CBQ could be considered an inerrantist, as even a cursory reading of the journal makes clear.  Now the same couldn’t be said about the Eastern Orthodox churches, which are FAR more conservative about these things than Rome, but that’s another matter completely.

There is a HUGE difference betwen biblical scholars like Norman Perrin (an ultra-liberal Protestant) and Edward Schillebeex (an ultra-liberal RC who effectively denied the reality of a bodily resurrection) and such mainstream biblical scholars as my teachers in the Ph.D. program at Union in Richmond: Paul Achtemeier and Jack Dean Kingsbury.  Having studied under both of these NT giants, I can happily testify that these world-class scholars were both men of ardent and orthodox faith.  But neither was close to being an inerrantist.

Let me again try to strike an irenic note.  I’m not trying to talk anyone out of being convinced that the Bible in infallible.  All my energies are focused on the opposite front, fighting against our liberal foes who don’t acknowledge the authority of the Bible at all. 

Perhaps one of the best and most balanced treaments of the issues we’ve been discussing (from my perspective of course!) is represented by the evangelical English Methodist scholar James Dunn.  He once wrote a marvelous long essay called, “The Authority of Scripture according to Scripture,” or something like that.  In it he demolishes the idea of inerrancy as an unbiblical imposition of conservative assumptions upon a text that never claims to be inerrant, while continuing to affirm a lofty and ringing endorsement of the Bible’s authority.  Need I add that I don’t always agree with Dunn?  In particular, I think he has uncritically accepted too many of the assumptions of Oxford’s E. P. Sanders and his famous or infamous “New Perspective” on Paul (and I regret to say that I feel the same way about +Tom Wright as well), but that particular essay of Dunn’s is very well done and is addressed precisely to people from a conservative evangelical background.  I commend it highly.

Once again, I hope that sheds more light than heat.

David Handy+

[51] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 08:12 PM • top

NRA+,

Not time to respond in full, but this tells me that you have not quite understood the innerantist position as articulated in the Chicago statement:

“My real concern was simply to illustrate that inerrantist attempts to reconcile Genesis 1 and its seven day creation scheme with the scientific evidence fail to take the literary structure and character of the biblical text seriously.”

The reason I say the above is because many if not most inerrantists, including me, would agree with you.

[52] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 08:31 PM • top

jedinovice (#32 etc.),

Since I’m a NT guy, not an OT expert, I will readily confess that I had never even heard of David Rohl, so I thank you for calling attention to his work and providing links to it.  I won’t try to comment on it.

Just for the sake of illustration, let me add a similar case to that of the famous but probably folkloric tale of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6.  A similar case of archaeology raising very damaging and serious questions about the historicity of a major biblical event (or series of connected events like the whole conquest of Canaan) is the complete lack of evidence for any large scale occupation of the desert oasis of Kadesh Barnea, where the Israelites spent most of the 40 long years in the wilderness. 

This is even harder to explain than the lack of evidence for the inhabitation of Jericho at the likely time of the Exodus.  That is, if anything like hundreds of thousands of Israelites had EVER lived in the vicinity of that spring, there would certainly be lots of evidence left behind in the sands around it.  And in this case, there is no “tell” or mound of multiple layers of remains from the occupation of the site at different periods that could hide that evidence.  Nor is there any real doubt about the location of Kadesh Barnea; there aren’t many options out in the Sinai desert for it.  So this strongly suggests to most informed scholars that the size of the group that escaped out of Egypt under Moses was FAR smaller than the census in Numbers claims or the book of Exodus suggests. 

Now mind you, I’m NOT saying that the Exodus never happened.  Alas, many liberals do go that far, but I am not one of them.  I’m just suggesting that the huge numbers claimed in the Book of Numbers (the “600,000” men, not counting women and children, see Num. 1) are vastly exaggerated.  But there is no doubt in my mind that a real Exodus did occur.  After all, inventing a story about your national origins as slaves in a foreign land is totally unreasonable.  No one would make up such an embarrassing story out of whole cloth.  Something like it had to have happened.  But if you ask me, what REALLY happened?  As is so often the case, as an aspiring biblical scholar I’d have to answer honestly, “I don’t know.”

But I don’t mean to suggest that the main historical problems with either the OT or the NT involve a conflict between external sources of historical data (like archaeology) and the biblical accounts.  Much more common are the INTERNAL conflicts between the various biblical writers. 

To switch to the NT, which I know much better, one of the classic and most obvious examples is the radically different placement of the familiar story of the “cleansing” of the Temple by Jesus.  As most readers of this thread will already know, but perhaps not take seriously enough, the Synoptic Gospels place this crucial incident at the very end of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 11 and parallels).  Indeed, it appears to be the thing that triggers his death, since it infuriates the Jewish leaders so much as a direct challenge to their authority.  But in the Gospel of John, it occurs very early on, in chapter 2.  Earlier generations of interpreters often resolved this glaring conflict by the hypothesis that Jesus must have cleansed the Temple TWICE, once at the beginning of his ministry and again at the end.  Needless to say, this is extremely unlikely.  And there are MANY, many such cases in the Bible, though the internal discrepancies are usually not quite so blatantly obvious.

Let me try to inject an irenic, conciliatory note by closing with a humorous favorite story of mine regarding two men of God that I greatly admire.  One was the late, great Anglican missionary and historian, +Stephen Neill, whom I was privileged to serve as a chaffeur and general errand boy for two semesters at Yale while he was doing research there in the early 1980s.  The other was one of my esteemed mentors during my doctoral program in Richmond, the late, great NT scholar Reginald Fuller, arguably the greatest NT scholar in the whole Anglican Communion during his generation (as +N. T. Wright is today in ours).  Fuller served on my dissertation committee after his retirement from VTS and his move to Richmond, and he tutored me in advanced Greek and elementary German.

The delightful story I have in mind occurred when Bp. Neill once visited a priest in NJ who was one of his former students.  He saw a copy of Dr. Fuller’s latest book at the time (on the Resurrection narratives) lying on the kitchen table, and asked if he might take it to his room and browse in it, as he hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.  Now comes the fun part.  +Neill paused, and remarked thoughtfully, “You know, Prof. Fuller is one of the few people I know who can beat a biblical text black and blue and still retain a childlike faith in Jesus Christ.  Come to think of it, the only things we have in common are the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship…of Cambridge University!”  (Oh, how proud they both were to be graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge).

I hope that Matt+ and others may be able to say the same perhaps about people like me or William Witt.  We are all on the same team.

David Handy+

[53] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 09:12 PM • top

Matt+ (#52),

You may be right that I don’t yet understand your type of view of inerrancy.  If so, I’m glad to find that we may have more in common than appears at first sight. I was admittedly going by the sort of claims about inerrancy that I was taught at Wheaton (which after all is pretty moderate compared with many lesser schools), and that I’ve encountered in so many conservative evangelical writers over the years.  Perhaps you are closer to the quite nuanced views of biblical accuracy on historical matters associated with Fuller Seminary these days, e.g., Ralph Martin in NT or especially John Goldingay (an Anglican!) in OT.  Or maybe you value, as I do, the many excellent volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary series, which rightly claims to be BROADLY evangelical (and includes fine commentaries by F. F. Bruce and Gerald Hawthorne as well as significantly more liberal scholars).

Anyway, I’m not sure how helpful it will be to continue this discussion a whole lot longer on this thread.  I’d certainly be happy to continue it with you privately, if you so desire.  But I suspect that you have better things to do with your time.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already made my basic point, which is that you don’t have to be an inerrantist to be an orthodox Anglican and a passionate advocate of the New Reformation (the CCP etc.).

Respectfully yours,
David Handy+

[54] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-06-2008 at 09:28 PM • top

Bill,

you said:

“Actually, Matt when I used the term “critical method,” I referred specifically to the people I was thinking of—Westcott and Hort, Hoskyns and Davey, C.F.D. Moule, N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, I. H. Marshall, Raymond Brown, John Meier.  The list could, of course, expand to include those mentioned by NRA, and scholars whom I have found most helpful—like Richard Hays or Brevard Childs.”

Thank you for the clarification. Here is where I think there is something of a disconnect in our discussion. I’ve poured over each of +Wright’s magnificent studies on Jesus and history in the NT beginning with the New Testament and the People of God and ending, for now, with The Resurrection of the Son of God find very little in his work and even methodology that conflicts with the Chicago Statement. Nor is there much with which a thoroughgoing inerrantist would disagree. Those sections I found objectionable were those in which I think Wright may be assuming conflict or making too much of a difference between gospel accounts…suggesting contradiction rather than tension. But in general I agree with both his method and his findings. The same can be said for most o the authors you name accept for perhaps Meier who I found far too skeptical and Marshall whom I have never read.
If you read the Chicago Statement you will, I hope, note the pains the authors take to distinguish their position from that of the sort of flat irrational hermenutics employed by true fundamentalists that does not care to investigate context, setting, genre, etc…
In other words, though some of the minor conclusions of the gentlemen named above I find unnecessarily skeptical, there is nothing inherently contradictory to the method they employ and the inerrantist position as articulated in the Chicago statement.
“I would also recommend Craig Evans, whose Fabricating Jesus I am using with my Apologetics course this term.  Evans notes that one of the characteristics of many of the most radical biblical sceptics these days, e.g., the Jesus Seminar, is that they are products of conservative Evangelical educations at such places as Gordon-Conwell (Robert Price), Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton (Bart Ehrman), or other Fundamentalist or Evangelical Schools (Robert Funk, James Robinson).  When these scholars went to graduate school and began careful study of the biblical texts using historical critical method, they followed the logical conclusions of the all-or-nothing methodology they had learned from their Evangelical upbringing to conclude that if Scripture was not pristinely inerrant in every detail, it could not be trusted at all.”

Indeed, but I hope you are not suggesting that there are more atheists and revisionists graduating from institutions that embrace the Chicago position than the sheer legions of enemies of the cross and of God’s Word who are trained and issue forth from those institutions that eschew it.

“I would say that Norman Perrin—whose approach to Scripture amounts to an almost total scepticism—actually represents a rather uncritical approach to Scripture.  Perrin was one of the early advocates of the principle of dissimilarity—that only those things can be trusted to go back to the historical Jesus for which there are no parallels in either Judaism or the early church.  On the face of it, such a principle is absurd.  How plausible is it to imagine that a Jesus who was a first century Jew, and the founder of a new religious movement that changed the entire world would have broken completely from the environment from which he sprang, and would have had absolutely no influence on his disciples?”

Amen

“As a theologian, I find three problems with the doctrine of inerrancy.  First, inerrancy is an a priori dogmatic imposition on the text rather than an actual investigation of the text to discover what kind of text God has actually given us in Scripture.”

It is, I think, more a deduction than an a priori position. If indeed Jesus understood the OT to be God’s Word, what would that have meant? What did it mean for Paul, as a former Pharisee, to speak of Scripture as the Word of God. What does it mean for Peter, in the context of first century Judaism, to suggest that Paul’s writings are “scripture”.

I think the answers to these questions put Jesus, Paul, and Peter far closer to the innerantist position. While I agree that the text must speak for itself, I think the text has said very specific things about its own nature.

“What inspiration tells us is that God has acted and spoken in the history of Israel, Jesus, and the Church to bring us salvation, and that in Scripture he has provided faithful human witnesses to that revelation.  Inspiration does not tell us anything about how God works through those witnesses.  It is only by examining the actual texts that we can discover something about how God has given us his word.”

This would be true if there were no indication in scripture itself indicating the nature and ramifications of inspiration. But since there is not simply the raw material of the text but also certain claims the text itself made, in order to take your position articulated above you must first negate the claims of scripture about itself in order to redefine it.

In other words, there is a sort of a priori decision to discount or disregard the bible’s own testimony regarding its nature.

I do not deny that there is an element of deductive reasoning in the innerantist approach, but the a priori decisions, I think, are quite evident in the position articulated above.

“Second, inerrancy demands an all-or-nothing methodology.  If Scripture is not absolutely reliable in every detail, then Scripture cannot be trusted at all.  Theologians must then spend countless hours explaining how what appear to be errors or contradictions in the text are not really errors or contradictions.”

I do agree that this is a problem. But consider the problem that arises if we jettison innerancy. If we admit that the bible is riddled with error in one category (say historicity) and yet insist that it’s moral commands are binding and authoritative and true, we must then defend this seemingly arbitrary decision to readily accept error in one part while, without reason or foundation, denying error in another.

[55] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 09:48 PM • top

It is a far far easier task to defeat claims of contradiction and historical inaccuracy than to have to make the argument that the bible is “true” in one category and false in another simply because we say so.

“Third, the text is no longer read carefully as text in all of its concreteness.  Diverse voices in the canon are ironed out so that all say the same thing; harmonization becomes standard operating procedure rather than hearing the distinct voices in Scripture.”
I think this is something of a mischaracterization. Yes, harmonization is something an innerantist would strive to do. But there is no reason to flatten the text or the different voices of scripture. Again, the Chicago Statement was clear in this regard.

“Any problems or rough edges in the text are addressed by the principle of “maximal conservativism.” So the distinct voices of the Jesus of the synoptics (who speaks in parables of the coming Kingdom and who teases his disciples to acknowledge his identity with the Messianic secret) is conflated with the Jesus of John (who never uses parables and speaks of his identity boldly in terms of “I am” statements.)”

Not at all. Both can be harmonized without losing the distinct portraits in each. There is no necessary reason to lose either or to suggest that one negates the other because the differences have a great deal to do with Genre. Mark was doing something quite different than John. Comparing them then, without recognizing the difference in intent and the subtle difference in genre, is something like comparing apples and oranges. For example an innerantist would readily recognize that the sort of Gospel John writes, the theological point he wants to make, means that he will necessarily change sequence and order to make his Christological point. This is not an inaccuracy because his intent is not to write a sequential account of Jesus’ life. Nothing he writes is historically incorrect nor is his testimony to historical events invalid because the genre in which he writes permits this reordering of sequence. Nor does the Jesus of John and the Jesus of Mark contradict because we do not know the precise historical sequence of Jesus’ ministry. First century evangelists were not concerned with the same things 21st century reporters are. Both evangelists had an intent and purpose in their narratives that provided the shape and helped construct the framework for the recorded events.

None of this contradicts the Chicago Statement. I have heard RC Sproul, a theologian who signed the Chicago Statement, preach wonderfully on this very tension before. In fact, he spends a good deal of time explaining and embracing the concepts to which you refer in “Knowing Scripture”

“It is not (and cannot) be noticed that Job provides an intentional challenge to the message of Proverbs, or that Jonah and Ruth challenge the ethnic purity of Ezra and Nehemiah, that the message of Deutero-Isaiah is addressed to an Israel returning from exile while the first part of Isaiah is addressed to an Israel threatened with exile.”

I have no idea why this is so. I do reject the concept of deutero-Isaiah, but not because I am an inerrantist, but because I think the distinction is arbitrarily imposed on the text through the application of certain anti-supernaturalist presuppositions.

In any case, all of these tensions are regularly discussed and recognized. These are tensions indeed and challenges indeed. Again, I have read commentaries by known inerrantist that embrace the very things you discuss. What an inerrantist would deny and reject is the idea that these are contradictory.

“Instead, what becomes important is that the Jesus of the synoptics and John are both equally historical and have to be harmonized;”

They are and they can be, but this does not overshadow or negate a recognition of the tension in the text. I get the sense that you are conflating fundamentalist hermeneutics with the exegetical work of evangelical innerantists like FF Bruce or and/or John Stott.
“Job and Jonah are real people, and Jonah really was swallowed by a great fish;”

Yes, I do believe this is so. But there are inerrantists who do not. This is possible because the Chicago Statement was clear that it is the intent of the author and therefore the genre of the text that determines the interpretation. So, in other words, if it is shown that a biblical author truly intended the story of Jonah as a poem and literary device, then an inerrantist would necessarily embrace it as such.  Sproul taught this very clearly in his most recent series on the book. The truth of the text or the proper interpretation of any text is the interpretation which comes closest to the intent of the author.

“all of Isaiah was written by the same person, and the second half of Isaiah is predictive prophecy, etc., etc.”

Again, I believe this is so as I explained above, but if it can be shown that it is not, it does nothing to the doctrine of inerrancy.
“This results in rather uninteresting and tedious biblical scholarship.”
Not sure who you have been reading.

“Biblical scholarship loses its actual subject matter, and is reduced to defensive apologetics, and an ineffective apologetics at that.”
Again, who are you referring too?

There is a reason that the most interesting biblical scholarship in the last century has come from those who have engaged critical methodology without flinching—and not from traditionalist Evangelicals.”

It is also interesting that some of the most effective apologists and the most prominent on a popular level are the theologians who signed the Chicago Statement…Sproul, Packer etc…

Also, I would note that most of the signatories of the Chicago statement were theologians not bible scholars so, you may be comparing apples and oranges here:

“It was people like Westcott and Hort, Hoskyns and Davey, C. F. D. Moule, John Bright, James Smart, Joachim Jeremias, Oscar Cullmann, and Brevard Childs who provided the definitive challenges to Liberal Protestant biblical scholarship, not those Evangelicals who were producing tomes on inerrancy.”

Right, not sure I would denigrate the work of men like Packer and Sproul as ineffectual.

They were defending the Chistian faith against popular level skeptics and inoculating the body of Christ against the liberal onslaught. Again, you are comparing apples to oranges.

[56] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-06-2008 at 09:48 PM • top

#51 NRA+

The area you cited with surety of Scripture is in error and an explanation given on Genesis 1 is a fun one these days, who to say it’s no seven days? Or in day age, it’s a pretty good metaphor. Remember the secular scientist last century though it was an eternal universe, the Big Band theory is very new, yet it’s odd that one can apply Scripture to it. Now you proven yourself less a scientist in your doubt and unbelief because saying something is in error is very different than saying I may be in error. The cosmologist didn’t doubt their data, they doubted their understanding thus reworked their understanding.

Yet as Matt+ pointed out, there are several understandings of Gen 1, just as there are several understandings of Gen 6 “sons of God and daughters of men.” Just because there is logically mutual exclusivity to each understanding does not effect the infallibility/fallibility or the possibility of error of the source as you present your argument. The arrogant way you set your self as judge to “Let me try to introduce a little more light than heat here” then pronounce your judgments on the document. I’ll concede all of us will be in error in all sorts of way as to what a text means - maybe millions of application but one meaning, yet our failings do not indicate anything about the source as you infer in your critic.

Yours are basically the tired revisionist arguments of “science & history” which I’ve not seen hold up. I’ll let Matt+ duel with you on the some, but science is an area I follow so I’ll play with you about your claim to scientific errors. Okay, why not seven days? What is a day? If space and time converge at a point of singularity to be so distorted to merge into infinity does it not make sense that from a point of singularity the inverse would happen? Then others a day is like a thousand years. How has your little diatribe proven your point of an error of Scripture? How does the acceleration of the universe due to dark energy effect things, could that effect your timescales of when things occurred?

Science is often cited as the ultimate authority, never understanding that science by definition is man’s exegesis of natural revelation, also using a double standard for when in error in science one does not doubt the natural world but states the understanding was in error. It is odd your trust in yourself to declare yourself judge over what we are told will be the measure that will judge us. I think you’re in as much error here as you were in your claims about the Roman Catholics.

Concluding with the previously held ‘scientific view’ of the universe, before Edwin Hubble, Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson gave us proof that Scripture is not that far off and created a huge paradigm change in understanding is a quote from Albert Einstein, ” Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe” (I’m glad he wasn’t sure about the universe smile )

[57] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 09:50 PM • top

Since I’m a NT guy, not an OT expert, I will readily confess that I had never even heard of David Rohl, so I thank you for calling attention to his work and providing links to it.  I won’t try to comment on it.

Then in teh VERY next paragraph

Just for the sake of illustration, let me add a similar case to that of the famous but probably folkloric tale of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6.

NRA+ could you at least try to be internally consistent? If you confess to know nothing about a scholar who disproves you, so not going to comment then turn around and make a comment in the EXACT area.

[58] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 09:57 PM • top

On reread of #57, the Einstein quote comes off different than I intend, especially next to #58. I’m thinking “human stupidity” in the fool errand we all face when we judge Scripture on our authority.

[59] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 10:19 PM • top

First I want to thank everyone on this thread.  It is a great privilege to listen to such a wide-ranging Biblical discussion by so many clergy representing many theological positions, each giving and receiving respect for their stated position.  When and where, if not in a blog sphere, would such a thing be possible to even happen, let alone allow someone outside of the clergy listen in and even ask questions.  Sincerely- to all- THANKS.

It is fascinating to think of the scriptures, once the property only of a few, now laid open with so many translations and study tools that people can study and explore more of this treasure in leisure hours than cloistered monks could do in a lifetime.  Even I have been able to follow some of the discussion and form opinions of where I might stand on an issue.  What a blessing.

But I do not worship scripture, but the One who gave it to me. Intellect will not take me home, only Jesus and He who took home all the faithful, and often illiterate, will also take me.  I seek your prayers for those the world considers “less fortunate” who will never understand any of what you are discussing but whom Jesus loves and will carry home on His shoulders.  May you all have a most Holy Lent.

[60] Posted by Elizabeth on 03-06-2008 at 10:26 PM • top

Elizabeth—You’re welcome. Actually few of us on this thread are clergy, I’m certainly not one of them. Never be afraid to ask questions or make a statement which is wrong, knowledge of God is certainly for everyone and everyone should be able to struggle with these things. Amen to worship of the one who gave us the Scriptures!

[61] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-06-2008 at 10:55 PM • top

When I was at Gordon-Conwell, my OT prof, Meredith Kline spoke

I envy you, sitting under as fine a pedagogue as Dr. Kline.  I’m told that his classroom prayers were rich and powerful. 

I’ve also been told the story of one WTS-CA seminarian (probably, a theonomist) who openly challenged him during class time with the preamble, “Well Dr. Kline, now that you’ve corrected God…”

Kline interrupted the fellow:  “Young man, I AM NOT correcting God.  You and I disagree on some things, as are our prerogatives, but I have not taught that Scripture is in error.”  (paraphrase)

Kline was as controversial an exegete as they come.  I suspect that he would still manage to raise eyebrows amongst even the likes of us;  but he outright rejected that Scripture was ever in error.

[62] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-07-2008 at 12:51 AM • top

Elizabeth (#60) and Hosea 6:6 (#61),

I appreciate your comments, which help to remind us all of what really matters.  And this seems like a good chance to make clear one of the biggest problems with modern biblical scholarship, whether conservative or liberal or somewhere in the middle.  And that is the sheer COMPLEXITY of the field of professional biblical scholarship these days. 

Alas, like most scholarly fields, professional biblical studies has become hyper-specialized and highly compartmentalized in a way that presents a formidable barrier to those outside the scholarly guild.  It often seems as if you have to have four Ph.D.s in order to dare to interpret the Bible, except in a devotional way. 

Sadly, even many clergy are intimidated by what they learn in seminary about the complexity of interpreting the Bible, at least as it has been presented to them.  For all too often they get the impression that before you can preach from the Bible responsibly, you need to do source analysis (“literary criticism”), textual criticism (to ascertain the best or original text), genre analysis (“form criticism”), historical recontruction (including study of parallels in ancient literature), and other such arcane methods of technical research in order to know what the original meaning of the text was.  Needless to say, that is just overwhelming and discouraging to most clergy and laity alike.

And this undermines, if not thwarts, the whole thrust of the Reformation emphasis on making the Bible accessible to everyone.  Today, the real threat to the Protestant emphasis on the right or duty of every believer to read and interpret the Scrptures for themselves is this common perception that it’s all far too complicated for the average person to hope to do it “right.” 

The Protestant doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers” has always been taken to imply that each Christian is capable of feeding themselves from the rich diet of the Scriptures, without having to be fed by any priest or pastor, and that the official church leadership has no monopoly on being able to understand God’s Word.  But today, the real threat to the regular, disciplined study of the Bible on the part of ordinary believers comes not from a Catholic insistence on obedience to the teaching of the Church leadership, but from an undue sense of deference to the “professional experts” in academia.

And so, I welcome the active participation of lay leaders and non-academic clergy on this thread who bravely challenge the people like me with the advanced degrees in the subject.  This is healthy and good.  We certainly don’t want as Anglicans to have overthrown a servile submission to the claims that only bishops and the Pope can rightly interpret Scripture only to end up in an even worse state, cowering timidly in front of agnostic “experts” in biblical scholarship who may know a lot of ancient languages and a great deal about ancient history and literature, but are deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I sincerely hope that nothing I’ve said above in my previous posts has contributed to that crippling sense that the Bible is just too hard or complicated for normal people to hope to understand it well.  I worry about that as an aspiring biblical scholar, for I retain a very strong pastoral concern to equip the saints for their work of ministry, which requires being well grounded in God’s holy Word, as 2 Tim. 3:17 says.

So let me return to the style of personal testimony with which I began back in my initial post here, #5.  I have theological degrees from three (very) different schools: a B.A. from Wheaton as a Bible major; my M.Div. from Yale, and my Ph.D. from Union in Richmond, and I gained valuable things from all three places.  But they were by no means all of equal value.

I like to put it this way.  “Wheaton taught me to LOVE the Bible, but Yale and Union taught me how to really STUDY it.”  That is, the latter two taught me the art of “exegesis,” or discerning the “original meaning” of the text, as best as we can decipher it many centuries later.  But even though I’m no longer a Wheaton-style inerrantist, I still feel much closer to the evangelical kind of Christianity that Wheaton represents so well than I do the compromised kind of “mainline” religion that Yale and Union stand for.  As an alumnus, I give regularly to Wheaton, but I haven’t given a penny to Yale or Union in years.

But there is something else that Wheaton taught me that is absolutely crucial, and which I wish to emphasize here, lest my earlier statements seem to imply the contrary.  The most important thing Wheaton taught me about the Bible is this: that to under-stand the Bible fully or properly, you must be willing to “stand UNDER” it and submit to it, and especially the parts you don’t like or can’t make sense out of very well.  And I was taught this mostly by the EXAMPLE of my fellow students, as well as the professors, who showed a real determination to try to live by the Scriptures as best they could.

In the end, that is where I think all of us in orthodox Anglicanism can find common ground.  I hope that nothing I’ve said above is taken to mean that I presume to elevate myself above God’s Word.  Rather it is my earnest desire to humble myself and pay careful attention to the often challenging and sometimes puzzling text of Holy Scripture in all its marvelous unity and yet bewildering diversity, without imposing some artificial harmony on it (as I think inerrantists do), that keeps bringing me back to draw the water of life from the deep well that is the Bible.  For it reveals Christ to us, as nothing else can.  And through it we hear the voice of God Himself speaking with a unique and unrivalled power and authority.

David Handy+

[63] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 01:10 AM • top

After reading through Prof. Witt’s posts and Fr. Kennedy’s rejoinders, I am impressed with Witt’s incisiveness.

BTW,

I get the sense that you are conflating fundamentalist hermeneutics with the exegetical work of evangelical innerantists like FF Bruce

Though a conservative NT scholar who devoted much of his attention to demonstrating the historicity of the NT text (not least Acts), Bruce did not accept the label “inerrantist.”

[64] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-07-2008 at 01:11 AM • top

Boring Bloke in #33 asked why I think the mid to latter1200s BC are the most likely time for the Exodus, and the short answer to that is because of the reference to the building of the cities of Pithom and Rameses in Exodus 1, and the date of the long reign of Rameses II (who built them), which occupies much of that particular century.  I am well aware that this conflicts with the chronology of 1 Kings 6:1, which dates the construction of Solomon’s Temple to the 430th year after the Exodus, which would put it two centuries earlier (in the mid 1400s BC, which is the usual conservative dating).

Rameses II built his capital on the site of an older city, called, in Greek, Avaris, which dates back to the end of the middle Kingdom in Egypt, around 1700BC I think; which also happens to be the period where the archaeological evidence best fits the biblical accounts of the Patriarchs. (Pithom to my knowledge, which is admittedly pretty limited, has not been excavated in anything like as much detail so can’t really contribute anything useful to the discussion). The reference in Exodus 1 could therefore refer to the New Kingdom Pi-Ramesse or the Middle Kingdom/Second Intermediate period Avaris. The former might be the more natural reading of the text, but the latter is still legitimate and makes a far better fit with the archaeological evidence. For example, Avaris was founded and inhabited by a small community of Asiatic shepherds, who quickly grew in number. Pi-Ramesse was inhabited solely by native Egyptians. If we assume that the city built by the Israelites was the Middle Kingdom/Second Intermediate period one, then it is natural to associate the destruction layer in Canaan at the end of the Middle Bronze age with Joshua’s conquest; particularly since there is an almost perfect match between the archaeological record and the biblical account regarding which cities were attacked and which were not.

Of course, I’m no expert on any of this, and it’s been several years since I last studied it. I don’t believe that the raw evidence is in dispute, although the interpretation I’ve just given certainly is. So I could well be mistaken; I make no claims to inerrancy myself. My point, as Matt+ already made, is that it is wrong to assume that one particular interpretation (though admittedly by far the most widely held) of the archaeological data is inerrant and proceed to suggest that the biblical record is fallible based on that assumption, when there are other possibilities where the Bible record is far more consistent with what has been dug out of the ground.

[65] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-07-2008 at 04:35 AM • top

It is interesting, I think, that when revisionists turn to the scriptures they want to blur categories and press the genre’s together in a wooden way in order to discredit the scriptures.

This is quite pronounced when it comes to the various observations of nature in scripture. They will refuse to acknowledge anthropomorphic language or recognize that the bible is not intended to explain the complex workings of the universe with scientific precision.

Jesus, in other words, was not going to explain to his disciples that, in fact, the Universe is not three-teired and earth centered, he was not going to give an astronomy lesson, prior to going to be with his Father in the clouds. He ascended as he did because only an ascension would communicate to first century palestinian Jews that Jesus was fulfulling Psalm 110 and foreshadowing the fulfillment of Daniel 7.

The same revisionists who critique the language of scripture with regard to the cosmos will readily accept as accurate the weatherman’s anthropomorphic prediction that the “sun will rise” at a certain point in time. This use of an anthropomorphism will pass muster without a problem…no calls to the weather station to complain that in fact the sun does not rise but the earth simply rotates on its axis.

But when it comes to scripture they press the language beyond its genre and intent in order to create the appearance of error where none exists.

This is the sort of suspicious reading that I sense in some of what you have written above NRA and I think it is why some have responded as they have.

[66] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 06:03 AM • top

Also, before dismissing the scholars who signed the Chicago statement too readily, be sure to read the list of signitories:

http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1_typed.pdf

There are some heavy hitters.

[67] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 06:13 AM • top

Elizabeth and all, do not be dismayed by the supposed mountain of learning required to read the bible properly; an advanced degree is simply not required.

There is a simple and wildly popular book, now in the seventh reprinting of it third edition that can give everyone with determination and faith a leg up on interpreting the seven different genre’s of literature in the Bible. The book is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. It has recently been joined by a very readable companion book, How to Read the Bible, Book by Book. The first will provide all the fundamentals you need to begin exegesis of the Bible, and the second will provide a starting point for each of the books in the Bible and answer some of your questions.

I teach a class based on the first book (the second is new to me) that will take any layperson, from beginner to longtime Bible reader, up to his or her next level of understanding of the Bible. NRA’s point above is well taken, but you need not fear to begin your own exploration of the Bible with the addition of these simple tools. They will also help you evaluate the various and conflicting commentaries on Scripture and decide for yourself which understanding of the text seems to make the most sense.

Don’t be taken aback by the “experts”, including myself. Start Today!

The Rabbit.

[68] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-07-2008 at 06:28 AM • top

Boring Bloke has obviously kept up with some of the neat theories being argued with historians and not thinking it’s static, set in stone understanding as other errantly have set themselves up. cool hmm

[69] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-07-2008 at 07:20 AM • top

It is interesting, I think, that when revisionists turn to the scriptures they want to blur categories and press the genre’s together in a wooden way in order to discredit the scriptures.

I’ll also note that it is interesting that only trained theologians tend to treat Scripture with such contempt and vandalism. In the free education I’m getting from MIT (OpenCourseWare,    my major is “undeclared” ;-p )—I’m noticing Scripture is referenced frequently and with respect in many classes, granted it’s placed as ancient literature along with other works from antiquity. It may take a slight beating in liberal arts philosophy lecture, but that guy was a pluralist who also attempted to uphold Plato and Aristotle but didn’t see any contradiction. In the Engineering Ethics lecture, the professor went very much the opposite of NRA+ and approach the Biblical history, as other works handed down, historical fact with mythical overlays.

What is striking to me is how those in a secular state institution, in which there are various types of restrictions on any declaration for Scripture being THE Divine Word is shown more respect and given more creditability than it has from some clergy.

[70] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-07-2008 at 08:12 AM • top

Hosea, I’m afraid for some people the surest way to lose your faith is to go to seminary.
The Rabbit.

[71] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-07-2008 at 08:51 AM • top

It seems to me Witt’s got it right on both counts, on what liberals think about the Bible by and large, and what a tenable conception of inerrancy must come to. That conception of inerrancy is surely a historical development in terms of its precise articulation, but it is a sure case of what Newman meant by “development”: it was already in the block, so to speak, just waiting to be carved out.

Theological liberals it turns out too impressed by the case of historical criticism and Humean-style skepticism, and likely did grow suspicious about whether even a unique testimony to God’s fidelity can be found in the Bible without needing essential, non-scriptural supplements. They gave up too much territory in their retreat.

[72] Posted by The Anglican Scotist on 03-07-2008 at 10:27 AM • top

Also, before dismissing the scholars who signed the Chicago statement too readily, be sure to read the list of signitories:

http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1_typed.pdf

There are some heavy hitters.

Yes, some is the right word—in many respects an evangelical who’s who from that era but the lion’s share not scholars at all or of any distinction (with notable exceptions, to be sure), and the list as a whole represents a narrower swath of evangelicalism.  I was actually more struck in reviewing the list by the point made by someone above:  the relative paucity of distinguished biblical scholars on the list.  Yes, yes, I know there are some, but when one considers that the document dates from the front edge of what has become three decades of evangelical biblical scholarship coming of age, it is notable who are not signatories or who would not be today if given a chance.

[73] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-07-2008 at 10:58 AM • top

Br_er Rabbit (#68),

I welcome your very practical suggestion of two very useful introductory books about the Bible for laypeople that have proven their worth over the years.  I too strongly recommend them as a great place to start.  And as you know in the Rabbit Patch, I’m also very fond of the more in-depth Bible Study program produced by the Methodists (Abingdon Press), known as DISCIPLE, which has a very evangelical flavor and concentrates on teaching the CONTENT of the Bible, not the methods of modern biblical study (unlike say EFM or some of the other rival programs on the market that are significantly more liberal, such as Kerygma).

So taking my cue from the pragmatic V-P of my Fan Club, let me venture a few other practical suggestions for those whose appetite to explore the Bible more fully has been whetted by the discussion on this thread.  I always encourage people to start building their library of basic Bible Study tools with the following:

First, get yourself a good study Bible in the translation of your choice.  I prefer the NRSV, and so the Study Bible that I myself use and recommend is the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, published by Abingdon.  A good alternative is the marvelous combination study Bible and devotional Bible called The Spiritual Formation Bible, edited by Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline etc.).  I always encourage people to buy the version that includes the Deutero-Canonical books or Apocrypha, but it’s also available without them.

Inerrantists won’t be happy with those two, and will probably prefer the good old standard NIV Study Bible, which has proven its value over many years of widespread use.  Needless to say, for Anglicans this has the serious drawback of not including the Deutero-Canonical books that we read in Anglicanism (though not for the establishment of doctrine).  I don’t want to start a whole new controvery going here, but I’ll just admit that personally, my OT canon includes the 46 books of the RC canon, not the 39 traditional Protestant ones.  Anyway, a fine alternative is the Quest Bible (NIV), with notes designed for beginning Bible readers and the unchurched.  And of course, there are many other good alternatives out there.

Secondly, after a good Study Bible, the next most essential tools are a concordance based on the translation you use, and a good Bible Dictionary.  For those not familiar with concordances, they list all the biblical passages that use each word in the Bible, listed alphabetically.  This provides not only the essential service of helping you locate where a passage you’re trying to find is located, it is absolutely indispensable for doing word studies, i.e., looking at the range of meanings a word can have and the quite distinctive ways that words are often used by different biblical writers (word distribution patterns).  They are generally available at any decent Christian book store or at a substantial discount from the premier mail order company, Christian Book Distributors (in Massachusetts, or try Amazon etc).  Regular use of a concordance will revolutionize Bible study for you and open up whole new worlds for you.

As for Bible Dictionaries, there are plenty of them on the market too.  My personal recommendation is the Harper’s Bible Dictionary, which was edited by my mentor at Union in Richmond, Paul Achtemeier, which represents the moderate mainstream views of most biblical scholars today.  Inerrantists won’t be happy with it, however (since they aren’t in that mainstream), and they may prefer something like the New Bible Dictionary by Inter-Varsity Press or one of the other standard evangelical reference works.

Finally, after acquiring those essential tools that cover the whole Bible, I’d highly recommend getting a copy of a Gospel Parallels book, that puts parallel passages in the gospels side by side with each other in columns for easier comparison.  These are readily available in both a 3 gospel format (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the “Synoptic” gospels), and a 4 gospel format (which is what I recommend, the best is put out by the United Bible Societies).  As Anglicans, we place special importance, of course, on the four Gospels as the most important part of Holy Scripture, and so this extremely valuable tool will likewise open up whole new perspectives on the heart of Scripture for those who use it regularly.

Thanks again, Br_er Rabbit, for turning this thread in a more positive and practical direction.  I trust others may have similar recommendations that they may wish to add, and I can’t speak for Matt+, but I’d welcome that.

David Handy+

[74] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 10:58 AM • top

“Inerrantists won’t be happy with those two”

Methinks you speak too much for other people when the individual has not actually spoken. An excellent example is declaring William Witt in alliance with yourself, when WW has used very narrow and specific arguments and you make wide arguments on many topics. Dr Witt is fully capable to speak if he is alliance or not. I think you should not speak for others when they are able for speaking for themselves. It happens yet again, your in grave error, I actually have no problem with the example you used but have major issue with you declaring my likes or dislikes, it’s actually the root of where you made many grave errors on this thread. You might want to consider that you are not as smart as you think you in the whole spectrium of opinions.

Thus yet again your post is internally inconsistent, saying you want to encourage lay study but acting in the very way that crushes it and lead to clericalism.

[75] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-07-2008 at 11:21 AM • top

Matt+ (#66),

Perhaps this is a good chance to emphasize that we seem to share more common ground that may appear at first sight, as you yourself noted in an earlier post (#52) about the interpretation of Genesis 1.  That is, I am heartily in agreement with you that God’s way of communicating with us in the Scriptures is to “accommodate” himself to our human limiitations. 

John Calvin was especially clear and emphatic about that point.  That is a key concept tt allowed his followers to accept the Copernican Revolution of a heliocentric solar system, when much in the Bible does indeed presuppose an earth-centered perspective.  Such “accommodation” to our limited human understanding now seems perfectly reasonable to us today, but it was perhaps less obvious when the Polist astronomer’s theory first came to light in the mid 1500s (Calvin died in 1564 without ever taking a stand on the issue as far as I know).

The same goes for the anthropomorphic use of language about God, which is so common especially in the Psalms and in the “J” or Yahwistic strand of the Pentateuch.  But your argument, Matt+, it seems to me can also be turned on its head.  To me it seems that the people who REALLY tend to flatten and homogenize the different styles of language used by the various biblical writers aren’t revisionists, but fundamentalists and extremely conservative evangelicals who are always so eager to harmonize the striking diversity found in Holy Scripture. 

But I freely concede that all too often skeptics and critics of orthodox Christianity indulge in making fun of how “primitive” and “ignorant” are the biblical writers, since they presume such things as the existence of “the three-story universe” that Rudolf Bultmann and J.A.T. (“Honest to God”) Robinson and other extreme liberals loved to ridicule as impossible for any modern person to believe.  I find that very offensive too, just as you do.

Anyway, I intend this post as something of an olive branch or peace offering.  I trust that if we kept up this discussion long enough, we’d find more and more that we share in common.  The difference is that I’ve lived in the mental or theological world you live in (i.e., back when I was an inerrantist too during my Wheaton undergraduate days).  As far as I can tell, you’ve never really lived in my theological world as a moderate biblical scholar.  So that puts the whole burden of translating things on me, since I know your theological language and conceptual world but you don’t seem to know mine. 

That’s OK.  I’m used to doing that, but it does tend to breed misunderstanding.  Still, for the sake of building a unified orthodox front against out liberal foes, I’m willing to keep trying to build bridges of mutual understanding, instead of erecting higher walls of suspicion and mistrust.  We are on the sam team.

David Handy+

[76] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 11:32 AM • top

Inerrantists won’t be happy with those two, and will probably prefer the good old standard NIV Study Bible

Personally, I prefer the New American Standard to the NIV, which one friend of mine has termed “the Nearly Inspired Version,” due to the controversy over dynamic equivelence. 

NAS+, I mean this respectfully, but when I’ve had as bad a couple of days as you have, I know it’s time for a beer and a good nap.

[77] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-07-2008 at 12:07 PM • top

Oops!  Acronym overload.

I meant NRA+, not NAS+. 

Time for that beer, myself.

[78] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-07-2008 at 12:41 PM • top

NRA+

1. I was not always as conservative as I am now. I have been on a journey so to speak. So, I am not unaccustomed to the sort of currents of which you speak. I was far more willing to except Bill’s position five years ago than I am now because, as I noted above, I think it undermines the very authority it seeks to establish by creating somewhat arbitrary distinctions between truth and error. I do not see why I should take as authoritative any book that claims to be the Word of God and yet contains contradiction, error and misleading accounts. Why should I accept what scripture says about sexuality, for example, as authoritative if the book has already been shown to be errant in so many other ways. What is to say that it is not errant here? Because we say so? Because the Church says so? Where on earth did we get the idea that the Church had any such authority but from the flawed book in the first case.

2. I think both you and to some extent Bill (as evidenced by his last post) have a charicatured picture of inerrancy rather that a true one. Granted, those who adhere to the doctrine include KJV only fundementalists. But those who read the bible in the wooden literal sense you charicature above are not themselves adhering to the Chicago statement which is very careful to note that the key to any interpretive exercise is a fundemental grasp of the setting, genre, language and style employed by the author and an educated estimation of his intent in writing.

Therefore an inerrantist position does NOT at all necessitate a 6-day creationism or the manufacture of dinosaur bones by Satan. If it the author intends metaphor, then we must read it as metaphor, etc…it seems that both you and Bill believe that an adoption of the inerrantist position implies a relinquishing of Luther’s literal (as in literature) principle which is not at all the case.

While there is certainly a duty to recognise the unity and inner harmony of the Word of God, as our own 39 Articles declare, this does not necessitate a flattening of differences and distinctions. I am hard pressed to understand why you think that it does except that you lump all those who agree with the doctrine in one single category. So you have RC Sproul, John Piper, Sinclair Fergeson, and John Wehnam together with Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones University. That is ludicrous and I think you must admit that.

[79] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 01:14 PM • top

Hmmm.  It may indeed be time for me to bow out of this thread.  It appears that I’ve exhausted the patience of Hosea 6:6 (#75), Moot (#77 & 78), and perhaps even Matt+, not to mention who knows how many readers who don’t actually post comments on this thread.  And it certainly wasn’t my intention to irritate or annoy anyone, nor did I seek to lower anyone’s opinion of God’s holy Word. 

Rather, as I’ve said more than once above, my modest aim was to assure orthodox readers that you don’t have to be an inerrantist to be an ardent and committed participant in the growing movement to restore and reform orthodox Anglicanism in North America.  I expected other moderate commenters to jump in on this thread, but almost none have (with the notable exception of William Witt), so there seems little point in continuing when I’m only stirring up a lot of resistance and suspicion (at least judging from the responses above).  I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone.  It was unintentional.

So perhaps I’ll take Moot’s advice, have a beer and a nice nap.

David Handy+

[80] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 03:01 PM • top

I stand firm with Fr David Handy.

His defense that the Holy Scriptures contains all things necessary for Salvation, and that the Word of God is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit is the wise course pastorally; it has intellectual integrity.

The Inerrancy of Scripture proposition is an argument that is not inherent to Anglicanism, and is even destructive pastorally. It is counter-productive to the proclamation of the Old and New Testament as the authentic Record of the Salvatic acts of God in human history, and of the response of God’s People to the encounters with the Living God.

IMHO I find this distressing that to be a pure orthodox this is the litmus test for some.  For me it is a grave distraction from living the Faith and Order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the early and Undivided Church, which orthodoxy we testify and live today.

Thank you David+ for tenaciously defending what is necessary, and for a moderate approach to biblical scholarship.. I did not come to this post till now. My apology for not writing sooner. Know you do not stand alone. I for one appreciate your insights.

Forever Anglican

[81] Posted by Forever Anglican on 03-07-2008 at 04:41 PM • top

NRA+,

I wasn’t suggesting that you bow out; only that you’ve had a rough couple of days, so take a siesta so you can come back refreshed.  I do apologize for my initial post (#28) which was over the top in its criticism.  The remainder of my posts however, I stand by, in addition to Matt+‘s remarks, especially in the latter part of [#79]. 

Yes, what has been distressing on this thread is the characature of Inerrantism, as well as the characaturish false choice between the affirmation of Biblical “errors” vs the affirmation of woodenly literal exegesis.  I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from liberals and theonomists, but I confess that I was completely blindsided to hear it coming from two fine soldiers of the Gospel like yourself and Dr. Witt, under the guise of “moderatism,” no less.

[82] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-07-2008 at 05:15 PM • top

Thanks, Forever Anglican (#81).  I appreciate your kind words and encouragement.  I’ll just add that I’ve also begun to receive some private emails of a similarly encouraging nature from individuals who don’t wish to post a public comment here at SF.  I was beginning to feel a little isolated and outnumbered.  It’s interesting to speculate about how differently this thread might have evolved if it had been conducted on T19 instead.  My hunch is that I wouldn’t have felt quite so much like a Lone Ranger defending the legitimacy of a moderate approach to biblical scholarship.

But that said, I’ll refrain from re-entering the fray.  Others can have a turn, if they wish.  I think I’ve said plenty already.  Maybe too much.  But I thank all those who interacted with me.

David Handy+

[83] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 05:17 PM • top

Well, thanks Moot (#82).  I certainly took no offense, from you or anyone else.  I know these are important and sensitive matters, and a great deal indeed is at stake, so naturally passions run high.

FWIW, the irony is that I also felt unfairly lumped together with liberals that I would see as enemies by some of the commenters above.  That is, I also felt my nuanced views were caricatured in some of the previous posts.  That’s unfortunate, as I’m sure none of us intended to caricature anyone else.

But now I REALLY, really intend to bow out…

David Handy+

[84] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-07-2008 at 05:23 PM • top

Hmmm NRA+, I’m not sure I agree that you have been persecuted at SF, simply opposed.

[85] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 06:06 PM • top

This thread is on a foundational matter.  We claim SS to only be the “presenting issue” but often fail to bring out the core issues.  I hope for more articles like this, and for more participation from the peanut gallery.

[86] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-07-2008 at 06:21 PM • top

I’ve followed the learned discussion here with interest, as it ranged into some quite deep water. It highlights a real personal issue for me. (Please bear in mind that I am a thoroughgoing revisionist etc etc. But please hear me out.)

I am afraid that rather than finding Matt+‘s argument convincing, I find it falls to pieces entirely at the first step. It seems absurd to me to jump from the proposition that the gospels are more-or-less accurate in broad outline and in many of their circumstantial geographical or historical details (all things that their writers would certainly be expected to know) to the idea that the resurrection is a “well-attested event”. The flimsiest historical novel gets circumstantial details right, and (from a skeptical point of view) the resurrection accounts in the gospels are odd and highly unsatisfactory. The most they attest is a rather unfixed and obscure tradition existing some decades after the event in question is supposed to have occurred.

So, to be blunt, I simply cannot follow Matt+ where he wants to go, and find the argument bafflingly obtuse given what I know about his considerable intelligence. Far more critical acumen seems to me to be brought to bear on parsing the latest piece of Anglican gossip (Where does it come from? What ax does HE have to grind? Who wrote the email? And where did SHE get her information from?) than is brought to bear on the gospels.

Now I don’t want to start a fight about this, because frankly it’s not worth it, and I don’t have any wish to visit my skepticism on those of robuster faith. But the point I do want to make is this.

The “revisionists”, “liberals”, “critics” etc are often charged here with, as it were, undermining faith. It is as if we have willfully abandoned a faithful orthodoxy for some sort of heresy. And the call is in effect for us to recant and return to orthodoxy.

But from my own point of view, I fear, the choice is not between “orthodoxy” and “revisionist faith”, but between “revisionist faith” and unbelief. The proposition that the scriptures are infallible or inerrant (in anything other than some metaphorical sense, i.e. that they tell us “something true” in some sense, even where it is quite different from what they seem to say) is, to me, utterly absurd. If you really make me this a “sticking point”, then for me it is a stumbling block, a scandal that rational people should be required to believe anything so silly and so manifestly false. For me, therefore, a “liberal” view offers some small foothold for faith against outright unbelief. In attacking that view, you actually push me—whether this is what you intend or not—towards (as it were) de-conversion.

I am sorry to put it so bluntly. I think, however, that my position is really not unique at all, and that it is worth pondering on how far liberal theology (including extremely liberal theology) may be an attempt to salvage faith whose alternative, for some of us, is frank unbelief.

[87] Posted by Paul Stanley on 03-07-2008 at 06:44 PM • top

Paul Stanley:

you said:

“to the idea that the resurrection is a “well-attested event”. The flimsiest historical novel gets circumstantial details right, and (from a skeptical point of view) the resurrection accounts in the gospels are odd and highly unsatisfactory.”

I think you may have misunderstood the point of the article. It was not to argue through all of the steps, but to explain the method.

So, no, you did not get a reasoned argument defending the bodily resurrection.

The arguments for the Resurrection are well known and I assumed a basic knowledge of them and that those to whom I was writing would be familiar enough with them to employ them at that point. If you are wondering what sort of thing I recommend NT Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God”

But Paul, you have not picked a fight at all because you are asserting that i have not made a point that I was not trying to make.

So, I agree. I did not make it.

[88] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 06:53 PM • top

Matt,

Sorry. My point was not that you had not (in your piece) adequately explained why the resurrection is well-attested. You simply gesture at the arguments. My point was that your apologetic strategy will fall over if you can’t get over this hump ... and for many skeptics you will find it quite a hump. (And other miracles, I suspect, humpier still.)

My bigger point, which really arose out of discussions following your comment, was that while I appreciate that apologetic lines such as you sketch are intended to bring the doubting to orthodoxy, their practical effect (along with attacks on revisionist theology etc) is sometimes to tip those of us who are skeptical into downright unbelief.

I suppose we will burn no better and no worse as atheists than as heretics!

[89] Posted by Paul Stanley on 03-07-2008 at 07:04 PM • top

BTW, I did not make this method up. It is fairly standard and may be found among other places in Classical Apologetics by RC Sproul, John Gerstner, and Authur Lindsey

[90] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 07:14 PM • top

Paul,

You are absolutely right that the whole argument falls without the bodily resurrection. But then again, so does Christianity

[91] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-07-2008 at 07:30 PM • top

NRA+ & Rabbit+
Thanks for the kind words and suggestions.  I really do like be the “fly on the wall” and hearing so many voices and positions.  I will get some books and get going.  I read how today’s scientific knowledge about the heavens and how the universe is not centered around planet earth.  Are we to the position yet that we can consider the idea that all creation may not be centered around humanity and our relationship to the Creator?  Maybe we are a only part of a whole?

[92] Posted by Elizabeth on 03-07-2008 at 08:47 PM • top

the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it.    G.K. Chesterton

Paul,
I seem to recall it’s better to be either cold or hot than lukewarm.
Are we to stop being hot because some may become cold?
I would agree with Chesterton that you can only really appreciate how warm it is unless you are standing very near or very far from the source. If the point of Biblical Scholarship is that it need be not tedious, interesting and lead to acknowledgment of your peers to be worth doing then it ceases being biblical and is merely scientific. Science is a wonderful thing but it will never answer religious questions any more than “errors” in the bible proving it’s false. It wasn’t meant to be scientific.  For me biblical scholarship has become much too scholarly and not nearly biblical enough. Is the point of studying to to be biblical or scholarly? Is the bible to be studied because it’s true or to determine if it is true? I don’t see much point, other than historical and sociological, to studying the bible if your convinced it isn’t true. I have read Dianetics and found it lacking so I don’t see much point in studying it. If something has been “proved” to be silly and manifestly false what exactly is the point of having faith in it?

[93] Posted by Rocks on 03-08-2008 at 01:34 AM • top

Interesting thread, all.  Thanks. 

Re: Revisionist faith better than no faith? The key here is whether a “revisionist faith” is saving faith, or not.  If so, then sure, being saved is infinitely better than not being saved.  But if not, such a house-trained faith is a wonderful insulation against true saving faith—as Lewis says in The Great Divorce, concerning people who hate God: “‘I have seen that kind converted’, said he, ‘when those ye would think less deeply damned have gone back.  Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing about it and think they have it already.’”

I wouldn’t presume to pronounce whose faith is and whose is not saving…but to depart from the teaching of the Church in increasingly radical (and now violent) ways, as the Episcopal Church has done, certainly risks the damnation of very many.  Where is the compelling necessity for this?  Eternity is a long time.

Re: Historical criticism.  I recommend another essay of Lewis’s, entitled “Fern Seed and Elephants”, in which he demonstrates that the historical-critical method, as applied by book reviewers in his own day produced results that were plausible, illuminating, and 100% incorrect.  The reviewers were were arguably less brilliant than contemporary biblical scholars, but who had the far greater advantage of sharing a time and a culture with the authors they were reviewing.  The idea of relying uncritically on untested methods, when a test was easily available, rather dents the higher critics’ pretensions of scientific impartiality.


Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[94] Posted by gone on 03-08-2008 at 02:18 AM • top

I see that #2 posted a link to Fern Seed and Elephants under its other title.  It’s really worth a look.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[95] Posted by gone on 03-08-2008 at 03:04 AM • top

Re: Historical criticism.  I recommend another essay of Lewis’s, entitled “Fern Seed and Elephants”, in which he demonstrates that the historical-critical method, as applied by book reviewers in his own day produced results that were plausible, illuminating, and 100% incorrect. The reviewers were were arguably less brilliant than contemporary biblical scholars, but who had the far greater advantage of sharing a time and a culture with the authors they were reviewing.  The idea of relying uncritically on untested methods, when a test was easily available, rather dents the higher critics’ pretensions of scientific impartiality.

No argument here with that charming essay of Lewis’s.  I wonder, though, if we of high confidence in the Bible can afford to be so dismissive of “higher criticism” or the “historical-critical method.”  There seems to be a working assumption by many on this thread that “historical-critical methods” yield only one sort of result, but in fact that is not so, by any means.  E.g., Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is nothing if not a massive exercise in historical-critical method, as is N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (to cite but two examples), even though in both cases the result of the work, among other things, is to affirm the historicity of the gospels in at least general terms.  To the extent that Scripture is regarded as truly human in its origins (not only human, of course, but at least human), as the phenomena of Scripture attest and a doctrine of incarnation leads us to expect, it only follows that historical-critical investigations of the text are an entirely appropriate manner of engagement, if incomplete in themselves.  Bible scholars of all stripes would do well not to overstate the certainty of their conclusions, especially those that are intrinsically more speculative, but historical-critical methods are still apropos to the character of Scripture, lest in our biblicism we be docetists.

[96] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-08-2008 at 08:09 AM • top

Re #96:

There seems to be a working assumption by many on this thread that “historical-critical methods” yield only one sort of result, but in fact that is not so, by any means.

The congeniality or otherwise of the conclusions has nothing to do with it—it’s a matter of honesty.  If the higher critics’ conclusions were really required by their evidence,  then any honest person would have to accept them, however unpalatable they might be.

To the extent that Scripture is regarded as truly human in its origins (not only human, of course, but at least human), as the phenomena of Scripture attest and a doctrine of incarnation leads us to expect, it only follows that historical-critical investigations of the text are an entirely appropriate manner of engagement, if incomplete in themselves.

I simply don’t see why applying a discredited method (quellenforschung, i.e. source criticism, in particular) should be an ‘appropriate manner of engagement’ with any text whatsoever.  Discounting most ‘higher criticism’ doesn’t mean that I am an ignorant Scripture-worshipper, any more than my being dubious about all the ‘new Shakespeares cropping up in every publisher’s autumn list’ (Lewis) means that I burn incense to Hamlet.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[97] Posted by gone on 03-08-2008 at 11:46 AM • top

I suggest that the entire New Testament warns us of the danger of holding to the ‘inerrancy’ of Scripture.

The New Testament writers claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the man chosen from among the people and appointed by God to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. They claimed that he represented the true values of God and that his opponents had judged him by their own false standards. They also claimed that he had fulfilled the ‘scriptures’ predicting his death.

Yet the opponents of Jesus searched these same ‘scriptures’ but could not relate the writings to the man. On the surface, this seems understandable - there were particular and exact statements by the prophets that when the ‘anointed’ of God appeared, the fortunes of Israel, then at their lowest ebb, would be restored.

But therein lay the basic error. The opponents were relying first on words and events to lead them to their ‘messiah’. Jesus’ supporters relied first upon fundamental values, then adduced words in their support. For them, he was the ‘spiritual’ fulfilment of the Israelite hope.

We must not forget that the Jerusalem priests thought that their scriptures were ‘inerrant.’ By concentrating on words, personality and events and ignoring basic values, they demonstrated their flawed thinking and inadvertently crucified their messiah.

Unfortunately, the doctrines built up around the personality of Jesus of Nazareth reflect the same attitudes and display the same flawed thinking. The challenge to ‘inerrantists’ is to explain how their thinking differs from that of the Jerusalem priests.

[98] Posted by vynette on 03-10-2008 at 09:38 PM • top

Um, #98?  I don’t know who this guy is that you think reasoned from principles and overrode Scripture was, but it isn’t the Christ of the Gospels.

Jesus taught that the OT Scriptures were inerrant, too:  see Matthew 5:17-19 and Matthew 23:1-3.  He also routinely used Scripture citations to settle arguments with a definiteness that would make a revisionist cringe, if the revisionist were to read the Bible.  Christ’s view of the OT is one of the basic data that go into the case for inerrancy.  The messianic prophecies are another.

So how do you know about this guy you’re talking about?  He isn’t the one in the book.

(I belong to the school that thinks Job and Jonah are parables, and that dinosaur bones are really millions of years old, fwiw.)

Cheers,
Phil Hobbs

[99] Posted by gone on 03-11-2008 at 12:06 AM • top

Yeah… vv 46 & 47 of Matt 5 are particularly damaging to the idea that our Lord’s critics erred in their high view of Scripture.

Frankly, it wasn’t high enough.

[100] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-11-2008 at 05:57 AM • top

Phil Hobbs,

I never claimed that Jesus ‘overrode’ scripture. What I said was that the Jesus party and the priestly party both adduced words from scripture to support their arguments, yet came to very different conclusions.

Jesus preached fundamental values. It was only when his opponents quoted scripture at him that he countered their arguments with a fresh interpretation of those same scriptures.

Words can be twisted and made to serve many purposes. To ascribe to the ‘inerrancy’ of words instead of the ‘inerrancy’ of the fundamental values and principles underlying the words is to ignore Jesus’ warning that ‘eternal life’ is not to be found through searching the scriptures. (John 5:39)

[101] Posted by vynette on 03-11-2008 at 07:11 AM • top

Words can be twisted and made to serve many purposes. To ascribe to the ‘inerrancy’ of words instead of the ‘inerrancy’ of the fundamental values and principles underlying the words

M’kay.  So, the Scriptures are perfect, whereas humans (being the fallen creatures we are and all), are not perfect. 

How is this different than the Inerrantist position, exactly?

[102] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-11-2008 at 11:01 AM • top

To ascribe to the ‘inerrancy’ of words instead of the ‘inerrancy’ of the fundamental values and principles underlying the words is to ignore Jesus’ warning that ‘eternal life’ is not to be found through searching the scriptures. (John 5:39)

That’s not what John 5:39 says.  It says that they completely missed the point - indeed, the living point - indeed, the Son of God spoken of in the Scriptures, and with -Him- missed, they missed eternal life. 

Eternal life is indeed to be found in the Scriptures.  Values and principals in and of themselves, phooie.

[103] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-11-2008 at 11:47 AM • top

Words can be twisted and made to serve many purposes. To ascribe to the ‘inerrancy’ of words instead of the ‘inerrancy’ of the fundamental values and principles underlying the words is to ignore Jesus’ warning that ‘eternal life’ is not to be found through searching the scriptures. (John 5:39)

  37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,
  38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
  39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
  40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

This is part of Jesus’s discourse starting from the statement

  18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus is here listing the witnesses that show that he is right to call God his father and make himself equal to God.
He does not say, in John 5:39-40, that the Jews are wrong to think that by searching through scriptures they will find the pathway to eternal life; it is one possible interpretation of the first half of the sentance, but ruled out by the second half of the sentance. He is saying that the scriptures bear witness to him, and that coming to him gives life. So in a sense you are correct: searching the scriptures does not of itself give eternal life: Jesus gives eternal life and the scriptures bear witness to him; but it is through searching the scriptures that we come to him. The Jew’s thinking is on the right lines, but missing an important ingredient: Jesus himself. Thus reading and correctly understanding scripture does not in itself save, but it is a necessary step on the path to being saved, and I doubt that any of us who agree with Matt’s article will dispute this. What this passage shows is that it is possible to search through the scriptures and not see the obvious news of Christ; but also that it is possible to search the scriptures and come to Christ. It does not imply that the scriptures are errant; instead it surely provides evidence that Christ himself holds a high view of scripture; although fallible men can interpret it badly. There is one correct (inerrant) interpretation of scripture (though an individual passage can have several non-contradictory meanings, i.e. the literal, allegorical, poetical etc.), and Jesus is here saying that that interpretation leads to him. To find that interpretation (or come close to finding it), we need to have the word abiding in us by believing in the one that the Father has sent.

Also this passage mentions nothing about a supposed dichotomy between “words” and “fundamental values.”

The opponents were relying first on words and events to lead them to their ‘messiah’. Jesus’ supporters relied first upon fundamental values, then adduced words in their support.

This is a false dichotomy. One can have both fundamental values and words at the same time; and I believe that this is what Christ taught his supporters. In fact, since values are expressed in words, and words express values, it is impossible to have one without the other. How are we supposed to find the “basic values” except by studying “words, personality and events?”

[104] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-11-2008 at 11:59 AM • top

Moot & Boring Bloke—you’re my new heroes! grin

[105] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-11-2008 at 12:18 PM • top

Let me put it this way - the disciples had to choose between the teachings, authority and weight of tradition represented by the priestly establishment, and the weight of moral authority represented by the values and principles espoused by Jesus.

They chose Jesus and what he represented over the priestly establishment and what it represented. How did they make their choice?

When the bible talks in terms of hearing, seeing or speaking face to face with God, it is meant to be understood figuratively. Thus it is possible to ‘see’ God by doing good (3 John 1:11), or by being pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). It would not be apparent to the eye that God had “spoken to” or “taught” Jesus or any of the prophets.

If we were faced with the same choice as the disciples, how would we respond? Logically, only by applying the same methods as did they. They chose Jesus because their own fundamental set of values were in accord with his and because the witness of scripture supported their views. But the witness of scripture also supported the opposition. Therefore, it’s all down to interpretation - and we have only our own set of values to guide us when interpreting.

[106] Posted by vynette on 03-11-2008 at 03:15 PM • top

and the weight of moral authority represented by the values and principles espoused by Jesus.

Jesus not only espouses good - He is The Good:

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Mark 10:17,18

So, God is not ‘good’, by virtue of the fact that God is -the- good.  When Christ espouses good therefore, He espouses the Triune God. 

RE:  “They chose Jesus and what he represented over the priestly establishment and what it represented. How did they make their choice? “

Very clumsily.  In Matt 16, Peter calls Him the Son of God, then turns around a few verses later, and rebukes Him over the need for Him to go to the Cross.  Peter understood “Jesus=God,” but did not understand much else.  He was still pining for the same “messiah,” earthly kingdom and all, that the Pharisees had been pining for. 

The Emmaus Discourse (Luke 24) also reveals a confusion in the apostles regarding the relationship between Scripture and Christ. 

No, I’d really have to say that Christ choose the disciples, not the other way around.  The latter group “got it,” finally, only through Divine Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

Therefore, it’s all down to interpretation - and we have only our own set of values to guide us when interpreting.

Hmm… Where does it say that, in Scripture?  You cite an example of Christ interpreting Scriptures, then turn around and claim that this is an example of humans choosing an interpretation.  I can cite several examples of Christ interpreting the Scriptures (then later, the apostles interpreting it with the benefit of Divine Inspiration), yet categorize all of these examples as Scripture interpreting itself.

[107] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-11-2008 at 04:17 PM • top

Query to Occasional, vynette, Phil, et al:

One of my substantial reservations about the “historical-critical” method is its object.  Such an approach seems to aim at recovering “Q,” and the underlying premise is that some proto-text or archaeological find would re-image our theology.  But discoveries would more likely add yet more layers of ambiguity and conjecture. 

Indeed, the usual effect of such literary criticism is to make the critic—or the critic’s methodology - the ultimate arbiter.  “Darbyites” start off with their dispensations and find them, too.  “Queer theory” and feminist approaches find exactly what they set out to find.  Yet Christ calls us His friends because “we are not worthwhile as servants”—and the Spirit helps us even though “we do not know how to pray.”  We need the Scriptures to change us.  That does not happen when we imagine ourselves to be their judge.

I would also add that it is hard to appreciate the traditions and readings of other religions, much less other times.  For example, the priestly “establishment” interpretation of Torah in the 1st century was quite at odds with the Pharisees’ view of G-d.  (Your summary of the conflict between Jesus and these disparate groups is not accurate).  Indeed, an alien anthropologist would probably assume from the written record that Jesus was from the party of the Pharisees!—a conclusion rejected prohibited by Our Lord Himself!

Likewise, the Orthodox Church thinks that actual theology is “done” by the saints.  It is my understanding that their Church is willing to listen to professional work in some areas, but such work is valued for doctrine.  (Of course, an Orthodox reader can clarify or correct this last statement as appropriate).

My personal observation is that the Scriptures - and the life of the Church - is an overwhelming store of wealth.  None of us gets to see the whole.  Most of us touch just a tiny fraction.  We each only “know in part”—and this causes friction.  One person sees or values a different nugget.  Indeed, the source of most heresy is an exaggeration of one aspect of the Truth.

But some approaches to the deposit of faith are more “sure and steady” than others.  The historical-critical method can be like mining diamonds as a source of carbon.  It can be done - but why? 

Therefore, it’s all down to interpretation - and we have only our own set of values to guide us when interpreting.

This is, I think, the heart of the problem.  We are the ones who read—that is true.  But we should not be solipsists.  The thing that we read—that we interpret—that is what must have the power and license to read and control us.

[108] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-11-2008 at 04:25 PM • top

Well, having dropped out after my post #84, let me briefly re-enter the fray.  I’ve reread the whole thread and would like to make a few general comments of a summary sort, and then, if space permits, respond to a few of the recent posts.

First, I note that those of us representing a “moderate” (if you will) position that is comfortable with mainstream biblical critical methods (without by any means endorsing all the conclusions various scholars reach, which is another matter entirely, as I’m sure Matt+ would agree) represent less than 20% of the comments on this thread.  FWIW, I put together a list of those posts.  I submitted 12 posts earlier, some of them quite long and detailed.  They are numbers 5, 24, 25, 31, 53, 54, 63, 74, 76, 80, 83, and 84.  Dr. William Witt submitted four excellent comments: #12, 37, 45 (my favorite), and 46.  And if he’s willing to be considered one of the moderates, Occasional Reader posted three others: #64, 73, and 96.  Finally, Forever Anglican chimed in strongly with his single post, “standing firm” with me in his memorable #81.  Put them together, and it’s still only a total of 20 comments out of a current total of 108 so far on this thread.

By way of contrast, Matt+ alone has 24 comments here to his credit, and for those interested, they are numbers 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20, 22, 26, 39, 43, 49, 50, 52, 55, 56, 66, 67, 79, 85, 88, 90, and 91.  That’s more than all of us “moderates” put together.  I must say, I’m disappointed more non-inerrantists didn’t join in the fun, but that’s OK.

That’s the dry, statistical part.  I bother to list them, because I think many of those comments are worth rereading.  Now for a few responses to recent comments since my last one four days ago.

I think moderate, mainstream biblical scholarship is not well understood by some of those commenting on it above.  In particular, it seems to be equated all too much with historical skepticism and baseless speculation.  I think that’s an unfair caricature.  Certainly there is a lot of undue skepticism and pointless speculation that has characterized much historical criticism that was done over the last 200 years.  I’d be the first to agree with that assessment myself, but that doesn’t mean that the historical method itself was to blame; it was just poorly done.  But the best way to refute the abuse of any method is to counter it by the proper use of that method.

Let me try to illustrate my point.  One of the classics of 20th century biblical scholarship was a little gem of a book done back in the 1930s by two leading Anglo-Cathoic scholars in England, the Cambridge NT expert, E. C. (Edward) Hoskyns, and his sidekick, Noel Davies.  The book, “The Riddle of the New Testament,” is one of the few NT works that has been translated into German (because its inherent worth was recognized on the Continent).  In that marvelous introduction to the NT, Hoskyns begins by noting the very significant fact that Christianity is uniquely a historically-based religion (along with Judaism, only more so) and that therefore, historical analysis of its historical claims is not only entirely appropriate, it’s practically mandated.  Unlike Eastern religions which are essentially philosophical and therefore timeless, the Judeo-Christian faith is firmly anchored in historical events through which God chose to rveal himself.  However, Hoskyns immediately goes on to say that a botched historical analysis will therefore be extremely destructive, and such incorrect historical reconstructions will distort and tear the guts out of authentic Christianity.  And “the Riddle of the NT” that the title of the books alludes to is this: Is the Christ of the Creeds identical to the Jesus portrayed in the pages of the NT and substantially the same as the actual Jesus of history?  Hoskyns and Davies have no hesitation in boldly answering that crucial question with an unequivocal and resounding, “Yes!”  (And I wholeheartedly agree).

This is where I think Phil Hobbs and others have mistakenly thrown out the baby along with the bathwater (and sadly this includes the great C. S. Lewis himself, who was a layman and apparently never read much actual NT scholarship, although he was a voracious reader of other theological literature).  To repeat, the problem is not the historical critical method itself, but the improper use of that method. 

But there is more to biblical scholarship than that historical method, much more.  Here is how I like to put it.  Just as I call myself a “3-D” Christian (evangelical, catholic, and charismatic), so also I claim that there are three main dimensions to interpreting the Bible: the historical dimension, the literary dimension, and the theological or spiritual dimension.

Alas, for about 200 years, biblical scholarship has been obsessed with historical issues and questions (the origins and evolving transmission of biblical traditions into the text that we have, as well as putting those texts into their proper historical contexts and assessing their historical accuracy).  But before the Enlightenment (arising say about 1775), it was the theological or spiritual dimension that was clearly dominant.  And now, since about 1975, there has been a significant shift away from historical types of biblical research in favor of looking at the literary dimension of the Bible.  I am a particular fan of this latter tendency, not least because so much historical analysis does amount to mere educated guesswork due to lack of sufficient empirical data surviving from the ancient world. 

Or to put it another way, I have been profoundly shaped by a couple of my teachers.  First, I was heavily influenced by my beloved mentor at Yale, the Neo-Orthodox OT scholar Brevard Childs, to pay less attention to the DIACHRNIC aspect of Scripture (how it has changed through the editing process over time) and to concentrate instead on the SYNCHRONIC aspect of God’s Word, i.e., its fnal, canonical form, which is the only one we have sure access to anyway, and which alone is authoritative.  In other words, he taught me to concentrate on the theological dimension of the Sacred Page, especially using the new discipline usually called “canonical criticism.”  That is, instead of focusing so much on trying to put the Bible back into its proper historical context, and in the process having to rely on quite incomplete and always somewhat questionable historical data (data external to the Bible), the most important context for biblical intepretation is the full canonical context of the Bible as a coherent whole (the internal data, from Genesis to Revelation), taking the final form as it is and thus being freed from the need to depend so heavily on speculative historical reconstructions.

Secondly, I was also profoundly influenced by two of my other great teachers, Luke Timothy Johnson at Yale and especially my doctoral supervisor, Jack Dean Kingsbury at Union in Richmond, who were and are enthusiastic advocates of the turn toward appreciating the literary artistry of the biblical text. 

For example, my dissertation on the famous story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10-11 takes a long, detailed look at the many biblical echoes and allusions that Luke uses to enhance his story so richly and which turn out to carry tremendous theological significance.  In it I also propose a novel view of the literary genre of that particular episode of Acts, in which I argue that Luke tells the tale of the conversion of Cornelius in the style of a simplified detective story, in which the mystery that the reader or hearer is invited to solve is why God is bringing the leading apostle together with this upright Gentile soldier.  I argue that the writer carefully does out clues along the way, but carefully reserves until the end the crucial fact that when the angel first appeared to Cornelius, he promised that if the centurion obeyed, he and his whole household would be saved (Acts 11:14, only four verses before the end of the unit at 11:18).  Both of these kinds of analysis, the use of “intertextuality” (or inner biblical references) and genre analysis are part of the growing trend toward concentrating on the literary dimension of the Bible and trying to discover how that literary art works and what effects it produces on the reader.

My primary point here is that biblical scholarship is no longer in bondage to the historical critical method as if it were the only game in town.  These days, the theological and literary dimensions of Holy Scripture are beginning to get their due and proper attention.

There is much more that could be said, but I’ve probably said enough for one post.  But just to re-emphasize what I’ve tried to say in my various posts on thsi thread all along, adopting the methods of moderate, mainstream biblical scholarship does not in any way commit someone to reaching liberal, skeptical conclusions.  There are plenty of examples of moderate scholars who remain committed, orthodox, practicing Christians.  And we on the orthodox side of this fight for the soul of Anglicanism are incredibly blessed that the two greatest living biblical scholars in the whole Anglican Communion today, Dr. Christopher Seitz in OT, and +Tom Wright in NT, are firmly on our side, fighting with us.  Thanks be to God!

David Handy+

[109] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-11-2008 at 06:37 PM • top

Fr. Handy—

I hold no portfolio for Biblical studies (i.e., I’m a layman well conscious of my limitations).  Lewis scholarship, however, is another matter.

This is where I think Phil Hobbs and others have mistakenly thrown out the baby along with the bathwater (and sadly this includes the great C. S. Lewis himself, who was a layman and apparently never read much actual NT scholarship, although he was a voracious reader of other theological literature). 

Those impressions are not accurate.  Lewis’ letters show an engagement with contemporary theology, as well as developments in ancient Greek scholarship.  Indeed, he had to keep track of some of that material for professional reasons.  He largely re-made the literary criticism of his day (pulling it out of a “PC” rut) and even made remarkably shrewd estimates (based on his Greek studies) of Mycaenean civilization.

Lewis was quite hesitant to inject himself into the partisan tussles of his day.  He claimed to speak for “mere Christianity” and thought his bona fides would be damaged by entering into the fray.  For example, he declined to review Honest to God, saying that he had consciously kept away from denominational and confessional divides and had based his apologetics on what we share rather than what we differ on.  (Lewis also hated the neo-Classical rule against ending English sentences with prepositions).  His private correspondence, of course, does show his attitude towards the Bishop of Woolwich.

Still, you are right about his vast areas of ignorance.  He paid little attention to most (non-University) politics, and famously proved unfamiliar with (and uninterested in) the fact that Greece was no longer a monarchy . . .

[110] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-11-2008 at 07:45 PM • top

Matt et al,

I’ve had to step away from this discussion for awhile.  I do teach at a seminary after all.  I would certainly recommend to you the book mentioned by NRA above, E. C. Hoskyns’ The Riddle of the New Testament.  This book knocked the wind out of the liberal movement in the Church of England for a generation.  The major premise of the book is that not only is historical-critical method consistent with orthodoxy, but that an honest application of the critical method leads to orthodoxy.  I would also recommend (as does NRA) the writings of Brevard Childs.

I do hope to get back to this discussion in more detail later.  However, I do want to correct a misunderstanding on Matt Kennedy’s part, and that has to do with the purpose of the original Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.  Matt insists that there is no incompatibility between historical-critical method and the understanding of inerrancy in the Chicago Statement.  To the contrary, the target of the Chicago Statement was precisely the kind of use of historical-critical method that Matt insists is permissible. Matt suggests that accepting the possibility of Deutero-Isaiah or the fictional nature of Jonah would be quite compatible with the Chicago Statement.  Phil Hobbes says he belongs to the school that thinks that Job and Jonah are parables, and that dinosaur bones are millions of years old.

But these are precisely the issues that led to the Chicago Statement.  Evangelical scholars who were saying precisely these kinds of things were considered to have betrayed the gospel.  Some examples from some of the polemical literature of the time:

In Harold Lindsell’s book, The Bible in the Balance (Zondervan, 1979), which includes the Chicago Statement as an appendix, he states that “the historical-critical method is the Bible’s greatest enemy.” (p. 275).

In Norman Geisler’s Inerrancy, (Zondervan, 1979), which also includes the Chicago Statement as an appendix, the chapter on historical-critical method by J. Barton Payne regularly preceeds the word “higher criticism” with the adjective “negative.” (There seems to be no other kind.) Both Lindsell and Payne claim that Isaiah 40-66 must be assigned to the prophet Isaiah, period.  To suggest otherwise is to cast doubts on the inerrancy of Scripture.  It is impermissible to doubt the historicity of books like Jonah or Job.  To question whether Genesis 1 and 2 provide strict scientific descriptions of the origin of the universe is to make God a liar.  Lindsell stated that the only alternative to special creation is evolution, and that “[t]here is no way the evolutionary hypothesis can be developed from the phenomena of Scripture without doing violence to the data.”  Source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism are condemned out-of-hand by these authors.  Evangelical scholars who use historical-critical method are compared to Bultmann, Tillich, and Hans Kung.

Lindsell condemned scholars like G. E. Ladd, T. F. Torrance,  F. F. Bruce and G. C. Berkouwer as apostates from Evangelicalism with whom he could not be in communion.  Fuller Seminary was accused of being a group of pseudo-Evangelicals who were on their way to Liberal Protestantism.  Lindsell stated that Fuller needed to fire most of its faculty.

There is no question in my mind that if N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, or the biblical scholars who teach at most conservative seminaries these days had been doing the kind of biblical scholarship they do on a day-to-day basis today, the authors of the Chicago Statement would have condemned them, just as they did Ladd, Torrance and Bruce. 

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the 1970’s.  Tom Oden, the current editor of Christianity Today, would have been considered beyond the pale by Lindsell et al.  Thank goodness those days are over.  It was an ugly period in the history of Evangelical theology.

[111] Posted by William Witt on 03-11-2008 at 08:46 PM • top

Well, Paladin1789 (#110),

We appear to claim opposite areas of knowing whereof we speak.  I claim no special expertise about C. S. Lewis, although I have read most of his works and enjoy them immensely (The Great Divorce and Perelandra are my personal favorites, along with the Screwtape Letters and the Narnia books of course).  I admit that I haven’t read much of his voluminous correspondence, but it’s not clear to me that you have evidence tha Lewis read much NEW TESTAMENT (or OT) SCHOLARSHIP, which is quite a different matter than theological works in general or ancient Greek literature.  For example, J.A.T. Robinson’s scandalous book, Honest to God, is most definitely NOT a work of NT scholarship, although +Robinson was a NT scholar (and he was wise enough to leave the episcopate and return to academia where he belonged; I earnestly wish ++Rowan Williams would do the same).  On the contrary, I think it is one of Lewis’ virtues and strengths that he was largely innocent of any such exposure, for it helped him to continue to think very much like a layman and thus to communicate so well with so many laity (and clergy too).

But I don’t wish to get distracted over such minor points that are tangential to my real argument.  I only mentioned C.S. Lewis because Phil Hobbs had earlier injected him into the discussion.  However, now that you both have made an issue out of it, let me pick a well-known illustration that I think proves my point about Lewis and his seemingly blissful ignorance of NT scholarship. 

As any lover of Lewis knows, one of his powerful apologetic arguments, especially developed in “Mere Christianity,” is his argument for the divinity of Christ that says that in light of the Master’s explicit claims to be divine in the Gospel of John, Jesus either had to be “a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.”  Those are the only logical options.  Or as some paraphrase it, in the light of those Johannine claims like “I and the Father are one,” he had to be either “mad, bad, or God.” 

Now I used to find that mode of reasoning very helpful.  It’s a great way to counter the typical unbeliever’s assumption that Jesus was just a remarkably holy man and a great relgious and moral teacher.  And Nicky Gumbel still uses that same argument in his Alpha tapes, especially the talk on “Who is Jesus?”  Unfortunately, however, the initial premise on which it’s based is badly misleading, and this undercuts the whole argument for anyone familiar with NT scholarship.  And that initial premiss on which it all depends is that the historical Jesus did in fact explicitly and openly claim to be divine. 

Alas, I regret to say that practically no one who is well versed in NT scholarship would make such a bald, unnuanced claim.  That is, from a historical (as opposed to theological) standpoint, it’s highly unlikely that Jesus made such open claims to divinity during his earthly ministry.  There is virtually NOTHING in the Synoptic Gospels that supports such an idea.  And this was already known and a staple of New Testament scholarship back in the 1940s when Lewis gave the radio talks during WWII from which Mere Christianity is compiled.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not denying the Lord’s deity for one moment.  And I think there are many things he said and did that IMPLY his divinity.  Oh, yes, certainly the implication is there.  But that he made such an explicit claim to it in his pre-Easter life and ministry is highly unlikely.  For one thing, it would probably have provoked his execution much earlier.  And it completely contradicts the pattern in the Synoptics (especially clearly in Mark) where Jesus forbids people to tell others who he is and that he is the Messiah.

Now the whole issue of how the Fourth Gospel relates to the other three is one of the classic problems in New Testament scholarship and it’s quite complex, much more so than most laity realize.  Again, I hope readers won’t jump to false conclusions here.  I am NOT denying the historical value of John’s Gospel.  But my point here is the modest one that anyone who was very familiar at all with biblical scholarship just wouldn’t make the kind of simplistic claim that C. S. Lewis did when he made that “liar, lunatic, or Lord” argument. 

But I hasten to add that this does NOT mean that I go so far as the infamous agnostic NT scholar Bart Ehrmann (who teaches at the U. of North Carolina) who says that Lewis overlooked a fourth option, i.e., besides being a liar, lunatic, or the Lord, the whole idea that Jesus claimed to be God is a “legend.”  Nice alliteration, Bart, but this is also an exaggerated and misleading way of putting it, precisely because Jesus did do and say things that IMPLIED he was much more than human.  And what are some of those things?  Well for instance, presuming to forgive sins that only God can forgive (as in Mark 2), praying to God as “Abba” and publicly speaking of God as “MY Father” (implying a unique relationship but not necessarily divinity, cf. the ancient kings of Israel who were also called God’s son, as in Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7 etc.), and daring to re-interpret the Mosaic Law in quite radical ways (“he speaks WITH AUTHORITY and not as the scribes”) and so on. 

The trick is to maintain the right balance here.  The first three gospels are indeed very different from the fourth one, but the gap between them shouldn’t be widened into a chasm and exaggerated either.  Unfortunately, the whole sbject is too complicated for me to do justice to it here in a short post.

I know I may have just opened up another controversial topic, perhaps a whole Pandora’s Box by bringing up the contrast between John and the other gospels, and so I hasten to add that my aim is NOT to undermine anyone’s faith.  And I’m sorry if anyone takes offense that I’ve just called into doubt one of their favorite arguments for persuading unbelievers that Jesus is truly God as well as truly human.  I think the familiar argument of C. S. Lewis (and Nicky Gumble etc.) can be restated more accurately, and then it still holds up.  But to simply read John and take its statements at face value as HISTORICALLY true is to make a false and simplistic (though natural) assumption about the KIND of book the Gospel of John is. In other words, it’s to make a mistake in assuming what sort of genre it fits in. 

So, lest I be misunderstood, let me again affirm that all those “I am” statements in John and the other passages that clearly assert his divinity (which is clear from John 1:1 on all the way to Thomas’ declaration after the resurrection: “My lord and my God”) are THEOLOGICALLY true.  Of course, they are.  But as I said repeatedly in my posts above, not everything in the Bible that appears “history-like” on the surface is to be taken literally as sober historical reporting (especially in the modern sense of the attempt to do objective journalism).  And if that seems uncomfortably unsettling and to make things unnecessarily complicated, I can only say in reply, “Well, yes, I admit it makes me uncomfortable too, but that is the kind of book God has chosen to give us.”  Take up the matter with Him.  Please don’t shoot the messenger.

David Handy+
Advocate of MODERATE biblical scholarship, as well as the radical New Reformation

[112] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-11-2008 at 09:48 PM • top

Prof Witt’s comments continue to shed much helpful light in this discussion, and in general I concur with this most recent contribution.  I think, however, that H. Lindsell is not rightfully to be regarded as a proponent of the Chicago Statement (he was not a signatory—although Hal Lindsey was wink ), the general tenor of which was considerably more moderate than his Battle for the Bible, a book many of the signatories felt was deeply regrettable.  Likewise, in addition to the official ICBI publications, one might also reference the D. A. Carson & J. Woodbridge (eds.) volumes, which were written under the inerrancy banner, but held a somewhat more moderate views toward biblical criticism—still quite conservative, but not as polemical as the materials to which Witt refers.  So I don’t think I can quite concur that the views of the ICBI were as uniformly opposed to biblical criticism as Witt implies.

[113] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-11-2008 at 09:48 PM • top

Dr. William Witt (#111),

Well, I’m glad you have returned to this thread again too.  Once again, I find myself in complete agreement with you.  I would just hate to see that kind of “ugly” period return to haunt us in our own day.  Thanks for your very articulate and succinct way of putting things.  I’m afraid I’ve been far more verbose, and probably lost people in the process.  We really need to have a good, long talk privately some time.  I sense we are kindred spirits.

David Handy+

[114] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-11-2008 at 09:56 PM • top

I vehemently disagree with Hoskyns and Davis when they pose the question “Is the Christ of the Creeds identical to the Jesus portrayed in the pages of the NT…?” and come to an affirmative conclusion.

If we were to approach the entire biblical corpus using Fr. Handy’s method (with which I totally agree) - “... the most important context for biblical intepretation is the full canonical context of the Bible as a coherent whole (the internal data, from Genesis to Revelation)...” then I suggest we would come to an entirely different conclusion to that reached by Hoskyns and Davis.

This is where the issue of personal value systems comes into play. We would find ourselves in a similar predicament to that of the disciples if, for instance, we were to cast aside all creedal assertions and discover by rigorous internal biblical research that neither Jesus, nor the NT authors, claimed ‘deity’, and that the entire doctrinal apparatus of ‘orthodox’ Christianity is spurious. How would we respond to that revelation? Would we retreat into the creedal comfort zone of establishment authority and tradition…or…?

[115] Posted by vynette on 03-12-2008 at 01:21 AM • top

Can I also add my thanks thanks to Dr Witt and NRA for their contributions.

When the bible talks in terms of hearing, seeing or speaking face to face with God, it is meant to be understood figuratively. Thus it is possible to ‘see’ God by doing good (3 John 1:11), or by being pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). It would not be apparent to the eye that God had “spoken to” or “taught” Jesus or any of the prophets.

Yes, we can see God in that sense. But it is not the only way. And certainly that it was very apparent to the eye that God spoke through Jesus, Moses etc. because of the numerous miracles; not mention the test in Deuteronomy 18:22. A few texts, and I could add many more:

  7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
  8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
  9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
  10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
  11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
  17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

  27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
  28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
  29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
  30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.

  31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?

  36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

  22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
  23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
  24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
  32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
  33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

</blockquote>
  5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
  6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

<blockquote>
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

[116] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-12-2008 at 04:30 AM • top

I vehemently disagree with Hoskyns and Davis when they pose the question “Is the Christ of the Creeds identical to the Jesus portrayed in the pages of the NT…?” and come to an affirmative conclusion.

I do want to thank Yvette for so clearly recognizing what is the real issue in this discussion. All of those scholars whom I mentioned—N. T. Wright, Raymond Brown, John Meier, Ben Witherington, Brevard Childs—would in fact agree with Hoskyns and Davey (it is Davey!) that the Christ of the Creeds is identical to the Jesus portrayed in the pages of the NT, and that the earthly Jesus who really lived was identical to both.

Yvette speaks of “discover[ing] by rigorous internal biblical research that neither Jesus, nor the NT authors, claimed ‘deity’, and that the entire doctrinal apparatus of ‘orthodox’ Christianity is spurious.”  What Hoskyns and Davey demonstrate irrefutably is that if we use “rigorous internal biblical research” honestly, we will never get back to a historical Jesus who was not the crucified and resurrected Son of God who is proclaimed and worshiped in the Creeds.  Of course, we can simply assume that the consistent witness of the documents has to be wrong—that Jesus could not have been and could not have done what all the documents consistently say that he is and that he did, but this is a merely arbitrary choice.  We may conclude that orthodox Christianity is “spurious,”  but this will be because we have rejected the clear and consistent testimony of the documents themselves—not because of our superior historical-critical methodology.  We will in fact have engaged in a completely arbitrary leap of (un)faith.

[117] Posted by William Witt on 03-12-2008 at 10:23 AM • top

NRA+ and Professor Witt, thank you for your clarrifications.  I will look into the literature you both suggested. 

Through a friend of mine, a former student of Christ Seitz, I am a little familiar with Seitz’s work.  From my limited understanding, he tackles the issue of multiple writers for a book, but ascribes Divine Inspiration to this process.  I’ve no problem with that. 

I think I’ve also pointed out that I have no problem with views on the length of Creation days that are other than 144-hour views.  I do not even, fwiw, have reservations about the 144-hour view itself, so long as its importance is not equivelenced (e.g.,) with the doctrine of the Virgin Conception. 

What I do have problems with, as I and others have stated earlier, are:

i)  the assertion that the Bible (or more aptly, the Autographa) has errors, and

ii)  The application of scientific / archeological evidence (in its present form) to criticism.  Again, if we recognize the fallacy of bringing wrong questions to Scripture, I think we at least need to recognize the fallacy of bringing wrong questions to Science. 

No amount of personal testimonies, or appeals to irenic discourse, or self-congradulatory embracing of “moderate criticism,” is apt to change my mind on these matters.  If that makes me a fundamentalist, then so be it.  Though perhaps I will have to ask other fundamentalists (strict 144-hour types, e.g.,) to move over.  I think though that they would ask me to sit with the liberals.

[118] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-12-2008 at 11:13 AM • top

vynette (#115),

Although Dr. Witt (#117) has just given a marvelous and clear reply to this most recent comment of yours (and, as usual, I am 100% in agreement with Bill), I’m going to try to draw you out a bit more.  For I must admit that I simply can’t understand your reasoning here, or track it in your earlier posts either (#98, 101, and 106).  Maybe I’m dense or something, but you seem to make some assumptions that you don’t make explicit, and thus I can’t follow your train of thought without getting derailed.

What is clear to me is that the common theme that seems to run through all your posts is the importance of the “fundamental values” or “personal values” we choose to live by, and that we all interpret everything in the light of those “personal value systems.”  Thus, it looks as if, correct me if I’m wrong, you have bought into the usual post-modern way of looking at things. 

By that I mean, postmodernism assumes that there is no such thing as objective, universal truth, or at least that we as humans in our finiteness have no sure access to such universal truth.  As a result, the Bible, instead of being a reliable source of divine revelation, becomes virtually a series of ink blots on the page, and people can read into it any meaning they like, and who is to say who is right and who is wrong? (i.e., according to the post-modern outlook).  It’s almost like looking up at the clouds and seeing the shape of different things up there (so what looks like a horse to you may look like a lion to me, and so on).

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, vynette, but that seems to be what you are implying with the end of your comment #106 (which I find the most revealing and significant you’ve made so far).  You said,

“(The disciples) chose Jesus because their own fundamental values were in accord with his and because the witness of scripture supported their views.  But the witness of scipture also supported the opposition.  Therefore, it’s all down to interpretation—and we have only our own set of values to guide us when interpreting.”

Frankly, if I may say it without giving offense, to me that sounds like the very epitome of postmodern nonsense.  It is a counsel of despair, conceding defeat to the prevailing worldview these days and accepting that such interpretive choices are purely subjective.  Perhaps you won’t be surprised if I say, I couldn’t disagree more.

So let me poses a question or two to you, vynette.  I hope it comes across respectfully.  First of all, just HOW DO YOU KNOW it’s true that, as you put it, “we have only our own set of values to guide us when interpreting?”  That is a very important assumption or claim you are making, and while it’s a very popular assumption these days, I submit that it’s merely an assumption (or prior commitment) on your part.  So, I repeat, how do you know this, and why do you believe it’s true?

Second, how do you tell the difference between “facts” and what you call “values?”  Here’s what I’m getting at.  Our postmodern culture in the western world assumes there is a great divide between the realm of public facts and private values or personal preferences, and it relegates religious convictions and practices entirely to the latter category, the private realm of personal preferences.  Your post #106 seems to imply the same thing.  That is, you said the disciples interpreted Scripture one way (based on their prior commitment to their “fundamental values”), and the Jewish leaders interpreted the Bible another way (based on their values, or perhaps their vested interests).  And if there is no objective way to tell who was right and who was wrong, well, it all comes down to “might makes right” and who has the most power doesn’t it?

You see, I refuse to buy the notion that religious convictions are purely subjective and that we have no sure access to divinely revealed truth.  But just to try to clarify what I’m saying, consider this.  No one would say something like this:  “Hey, you think 2+2 = 4; but to me, 2+2 = 5.  Let’s agree to disagree, shall we?”  Or, “Well, you may think that water is made up of two molecules of hudrogen and one of oxygen, but I say it’s vice versa.  Let’s not fight about it, OK?”  Or, “You think George Washington was our first President, but I say it was Thomas Jefferson.”  In all these cases, we’d say that this was silly.  Everyone knows and agrees that 2+2 = 4 etc., and that’s because it is objectively, universally true.  But religious doctrines are completely different, perhaps you’ll say.  Oh really?, I’d respond.  How do you KNOW this?

Third question for you, vynette.  Was the tomb really empty on Easter morning?  In other words, is it really true that Jesus literally rose from the dead (even if his new body was a transformed, “spiritual body” as Paul calls it)?

Here’s the reason why it’s so important.  You see, IF (and I agree that it’s a big IF) it’s an actual FACT that the tomb was empty that first Easter morn, and that God really did raise Jesus from the dead with an immortal body that could eat fish and yet still bore the glorious scars on his hands and feet, as Holy Scripture testifies, then I submit to you that the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important fact in all human history.  Why?  Because it provides objective, universal, undeniable evidence that God Himself has given his stamp of approval to Jesus like no other person in all of history.  The empty tomb and resurrection appearances of Jesus thus provide compelling PROOF that Jesus was right, and the scribes and Pharisees and the Sanhedrin that opposed him were wrong.  And this is NOT a matter of mere personal preferences, but of objective reality, confirmed by God himself.
If God has truly raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead forevermore, then God himself has taken sides and favored Jesus over Mohammed, or Buddha, and all other religious leaders.  And this takes religion out of the realm of my private values versus yours or anyone else’s and shows us clearly what God himself values most.

So as Bill O’Reilly would put it, “vynette, what say you?”

David Handy+
Staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy, as well as moderate biblical and theological scholarship.

[119] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 11:41 AM • top

NRA,

I wonder (though diffidently) whether you are confusing two things.

On the one hand, one might make a very strong claim that there is no such thing as objective truth. That seems to me to be a strong (perhaps, if you must, a “postmodern” claim).

On the other hand, one might accept that there is such a thing as objective truth, but also consider that in interpreting evidence (and in particular, though not only, evidence mediated through texts) it is in practical terms very difficult, even impossible, to exclude presuppositions and “values” from the equation.

Take your empty tomb example. If I approach the evidence for the resurrection with the strong conviction that God exists, and certain ideas about how He might operate in the world, then I may be inclined to conclude that it is not improbable that the description in the Gospels of the empty tomb is quite possibly true.

Conversely, if I approach that same text with the strong conviction that God does not exist, then I will almost certainly find the “evidence” of the Gospels distinctly unconvincing, and amenable to any number of non-supernatural explanations, any one of which I may regard as more likely to be true than that Jesus rose.

Neither of these approaches is irrational. It is perfectly rational to ask for stronger and more convincing evidence of something that seems to me to be very unlikely to happen than of something that seems to me to be not unlikely to happen.

Where, arguably, an element of “irrationality” comes into play is in a secondary observation: quite apart from interpreting evidence against a backdrop of other things we believe to be true, it is a common observation that human beings often interpret evidence against the backdrop of what we wish was true. We resist unwelcome conclusions. In other words, we are biased.

This is a real problem, not unique to religious speculation. (For instance, it is a reason for double-blinding drug trials.) But it is a profound problem in that sphere in particular, since a great deal of religious scholarly work is done by people who do have strong personal commitments (a profound desire to establish such-and-such a fact as true) and professional entanglements (a profound personal interest in such-and-such a fact being true). I think we can take it, for instance, that it would have been grievously unpleasant personally and quite damaging professionally for an ordained theologian with episcopal ambitions to conclude that the resurrection was false. This is not to charge +Wright with bad faith. A professional will be aware of the problem, and will do his very best no doubt to maintain “objectivity”. But it’s always going to be hard to be sure that he has succeeded. (And, of course, this does not only work one way: it would be quite a tough thing for Dawkins to conclude that the resurrection did happen!)

This is not to say that there is not an objectively true answer to the question: Did Jesus rise? Either he did, or he didn’t. There is an objectively true answer to the question, and an objectively false one. It is not true “for +Wright” that Jesus rose but true “for Dawkins” that he did not.

But in terms of how we, as thinking people, approach that question—how we interpret the evidence—one may still believe that in practical terms much depends on preconceptions, and that bias is an insidious and largely ineradicable factor in this. Given the nature of the question and of the evidence, these are bound to play a large and perhaps a decisive part in the conclusions we draw from the same evidence. I don’t see this as necessarily a postmodern idea at all.

[120] Posted by Paul Stanley on 03-12-2008 at 12:22 PM • top

Fr. Handy (112)—

I had forgotten how familar is the “liar, lunatic, Lord” argument to contemporary ears.  Your reactions are echoed by Rowan Williams (sorry, I don’t remember which work), who regards at least that portion of the BBC lecture series as a “period piece.”  I think it’s far more accurate to regard it as an issue of intended audience.

Some may not appreciate the popular nature—and the popularity - of Lewis’ work.  He had been a junior officer in WWI, which gave him street cred for addressing the troops in WWII.  His BBC lectures were an (unexpected) rating hit, and it took him some time to convince the broadcasters that his “no” meant “no more.”  His argument does assume a certain view of the Scriptures - a view his audience shared then, and which many believers share now.  Indeed, the set of people challenged by current scholarship is rather small, though many are “innoculated” by just a brush with current thought.  (on a related note, Lewis noted that most of us talk about, “Science has discovered so-and-so” when we really should say, “As I remember reading in the newspaper last week”).  Lewis’ “moral argument” for the existence of G-d in Mere Christianity and in Miracles similarly suffers from either a self-referential definition or a logical leap.  But then, most such projects have limited staying power.

As for the particular question of whether Lewis was familiar with the Synoptic/Johannine conflicts.  There is no doubt that he was.  (Imagine a new convert showing up at your Bible study with a Greek NT and a Koine dictionary).  He does address such issues in a few papers or lectures to his inner circle and to a gathering of priests.  (William Witt did a takeoff on this at his blog recently).  But Lewis did not regard those issues of criticism as central to the shared deposit of (popular) faith. 

Two concluding notes.  First, you might greatly enjoy one of his last works, Reflections on the Psalms.  His appreciation for the literary and moral environment of those texts is on fine display.  Second, his early observations on the two streams of our faith seem appropriate to our time:

No Christian doubts that those who have offered themselves to God are cut off as if by a Wall from the World, are placed under a regula vitae, and ‘laid in easy bed’ by ‘meek Obedience’; but when the wall becomes one of real brick and mortar and the Rule in real ink, superintended by officials and reinforced (at times) by the power of the State, then we have reached the sort of actuality which Catholics aim at and Protestants deliberately avoid.  Indeed, this difference is the root out of which all other differences between the two religions grow.  The one suspects that all spiritual gifts are falsely claimed if they cannot be embodied in bricks and mortar, or official positions, or institutions; the other, that nothing retains its spirituality if incarnation is pushed to that degree and in that way.  The difference about Papal infallibility is simply a form of this.  The proper corruptions of each Church tells the same tale.  When Catholicism goes bad it becomes the world-old, world-wide religio of amulets and holy places and priestcraft: Protestantism, in its corresponding decay, becomes a vague mist of ethical platitudes.  Catholicism is accused of being to much like other religions; Protestantism of being insufficiently like a religion at all. Hence Plato, with his transcendent Forms, is the doctor of Protestants; Aristotle, with his immanent Forms, the doctor of Catholics.  . . . Here, as in more important matters, frontier courtesies do not help; it is at their fiery cores that the two faiths are most nearly in sympathy.

Perhaps this observation about corruption speaks to our current plight? —or about a new Reformation?

[121] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-12-2008 at 12:25 PM • top

Well, I seem to be fighting on two fronts here, aginst liberal skeptics like Paul Stanely (#120), and implicitly against more conservative allies such as Moot (#118).  Since this thread is supposedly about the “infallible” nature of Holy Scripture (Matt’s original theme), let me start with Moot’s last challenge (which preceeded Paul Stanley’s anyway).

So you aren’t convinced yet, Moot, that the Bible can be God’s Holy Word and yet contain errors?  All right, fair enough.  You have plenty of company, as this thread demonstrates.

Let me try once again to explain how someone like me, or Dr. William Witt, can be simultaneously an ardent advocate of Christian orthodoxy and yet quite at home in the world of contemporary mainstream biblical scholarship, which takes the fallibility of Holy Scripture for granted as a proven fact.

First, let me propose an analogy that has been helpful for many people I’ve discussed these matters with in the past.  I suggest that the Bible functions as the theological equivalent to the U.S. Constitution for the Christian Church.  It is the supreme authority.  And just as any law that Congress may pass (and the President may sign) that the Supreme Court finds “unconstitutional” is automatically null and void, so likewise I contend that Anglican legislative bodies like TEC may pass whatever canons or resolutions they please, but if they are incompatible with God’s Word, they are automatically null and void too because they are similarly “unconstitutional.”  But just as no one would claim that the Constitution is infallible (the possibility of amendments is explicitly allowed), so likewise I’m suggesting that the Bible doesn’t have to be infallible or inerrant to be supremely authoritative.

Second, let me try to reframe the issue once again.  What I’ve said all along is that many things that appear to be historical “errors” in Scripture are actually a result of improper interpretation because “history-like” portions of the Bible are mistakenly assumed to be actual history.  I think this is a natural and common mistake, but it’s still a mistake in interpretation, a misjudging of the genre of much of its narrative sections.  That is, I take much of what appears like history in the Bible to be more like historical fiction.

Since Phil Hobbs (CryptoCatholic) has invoked C. S. Lewis, and we’ve just had a discussion about him above, let me use him as an example.  Many of us have found the fiction of Lewis to be at least as helpful as his nonfiction works (e.g., The Great Divorce versus The Abolition of Man, or The Screwtape Letters versus Mere Christianity).  And since Jesus himself chose to use fiction as his main teaching vehicle (the parables), I often wonder why conservative evangelicals are so fiercely resistant to the idea that God may have included fiction as well as nonfiction in the Bible.  I admit, I just don’t get that.

OK.  So here are some further examples of what I would consider fiction in God’s Word (along with the vast majority of mainstream biblical scholars today).  I can’t give all the reasons why here, so I’ll just provide evidence for the last one as a representative sample.  Together with most scholars, I consider the following as basically fictional: Job, Jonah, Esther, Ruth, and especially the so-called “Court Tales” in Daniel, chapters 1-6.  BTW, I’d also regard the Apocryphal books of Tobit and Judith as obviously fictional too.

So let’s take Daniel 1-6 and look at the evidence.  That is, instead of using a DEDUCTIVE approach that logically concludes that since the Bible is God’s inspired Word (which it is, 2 Tim. 3:16 etc), therefore it MUST be inerrant or God is a liar, let’s take a more INDUCTIVE approach and try to review the empirical data as objectively as we can.  And I think the evidence is just overwhelming in the case of Daniel.

The historical problems start with the very first verse.  Daniel 1:1 says that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid seige to Jerusalem (i.e., for the first time) during “the third year of King Jehoiakim” (=606 BC).  This conflicts with both the biblical record in 2 Kings and the royal archives in Babylon, which put the seige later, in the winter of 598-597 BC, after Jehoiakim had died.  It was actually his son Jehoiachin who had to contend with the seige, and who surrendered to the invincible army of Babylon and was deported there.  OK, that’s a very minor point, unless of course you are committed to inerrancy, which allows no room for the slightest mistake of this kind.

Or take the incredible story in Daniel 4 about God punishing King Nebuchadnezzzar for his arrogance and teaching him humility by afflicting him with something like mental illness so that he ate grass like a beast and lived like an insane hermit before God restored him to power.  Alas for inerrantists, thanks to archaeology, we now have quite good and fairly complete records of that mighty ruler’s reign, and there are no gaps in his rule.  This simply didn’t happen.  It is blatant fiction.

Finally, though there are other significant problems with Daniel 1-6 too, just consider the mention of the conqueror of Babylon, described as “Darius the MEDE” (Daniel 5:31).  Well, there certainly were some important rulers named Darius, but alas, they were all PERSIANS.  Scholars agree that this mistake seems to be based on the vision of the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s strange dream in Daniel 2, where the kingdom of Babylon gives way to that of the Medes, followed by the Persians, followed by the Greeks (all seen as being in descending value, going downhill from gold to silver to bronze to iron).  Instead, historically, the fact is that the control of Mesopotamia and the East passed directly from the Babylonians to the Persians; there never was a kingdom of the Medes or a “Darius the Mede.”

But more importantly, this glaring “errors” (if you will) only confirm what you’d think from reading these entertaining stories that feature such amazing divine deliverances (the three young men saved from the fiery furnace in chapter 3, the mysterious disembodied hand writing the prophecy of doom on the wall in chapter 5, Daniel saved from the lion’s den in chapter 6).  This isn’t sober history; this is folklore.  In other words, this is MEANT to be taken as fiction.

But that doesn’t make it any less worthy to be included in the canon of Holy Scripture.  There is no intention to deceive here, any more than Jesus “deceived” his hearers by telling imaginative parables.  But if you, Moot, or Hosea 6:6, or Matt+ himself, still find this whole idea preposterous or unacceptable, I hope that at least it now is clearer why someone like me could honestly believe that parts of the Bible like Job, Jonah, Esther, or Daniel 1-6 could be reasonably construed as fictional in nature, without intending any disparagment or criticism of the Sacred Page.  I love and enjoy thee stories.  I just don’t take them as literal history.  And I see no clear sign that we were ever intended to take them as historical.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not accusing more conservative interpreters of being “stupid” or anything of the sort.  Alas, a lot of our liberal foes do indulge in that kind of contemptuous dismissal of all orthodox Christians as “literalists.”  I’m not finding fault with anyone else here.  I’m just trying to defend the legitimate place of moderates like myself or William Witt (i.e., non-inerrantists) within the orthodox camp.  We are already outnumbered as it is in western Anglicanism.  We don’t need to criticize each other or be suspicious and mistrustful of each other.  In the end, we are all on the same team.

And once again, I sincerely hope that generates more light than heat, more understanding than anger and confusion.

David Handy+

[122] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 03:07 PM • top

Paladin1789 (#121),

Thank you for your thoughtful post.  I found it helpful, especially the idea that the familiar argument of C. S. Lewis for the deity of Christ based on there only being three options: “liar, lunatic, and Lord,” must be understood in terms of the limitations imposed by his desire to reach his intended audience (the masses).  Now that I think of it, perhaps I’d add that another such conditioning factor might have been the limitations of his medium (i.e., not written, but spoken communication over the radio).

Maybe that does explain how Lewis could resort to the drastic oversimplification of matters in taking Jesus’ explicit self-claims to divinity in John’s Gospel at face value.  It does still leave me wondering how Nicky Gumble could do the same thing in his Alpha teachings several decades later, but that’s another matter.  But I still tend to think that it nevetheless reflects a sort of layman’s perspective on the part of Lewis himself, and not just accommodation to a lay listener’s perspective.  However, you appear to know more about Lewis than I do.

I’m not surprised that there is evidence in his letters that Lewis was aware of the sharp difference between the Synoptic presentation of Jesus and that in John.  But that need not actually indicate any real awareness of modern scholarship’s take on that; it may just represent the fact that Lewis was a devout, regular reader of Scripture.  In any case, I see no evidence that Lewis really cared about such things or took them with the seriousness that we scholars do (again, that is perhaps one of the “gifts” inherent in being a layperson, not being burdened with such knowledge).

But I particularly enjoyed the long quotation you provided where C. S. Lewis spells out a core difference between Catholicism (i.e., suspicious of anti-institutionalism) and Protestantism (suspicious of over-institutionalization), and then suggests that the two are most similar in their fiery cores than further out toward the edges.  I hadn’t run across that quote before, but I really like it.  And it’s quite compatible with my own way of approaching the relation of the catholic and evangelical elements in our Anglican heritage.  Unlike the usual notion that we Anglicans represent a reasonable middle way between the two, I favor a totally different approach, holding them in paradoxical tension as polar opposites (along with the charismatic element as a third essential dimension) and maintaining all three in full strength as counterbalancing, complementary forces.  Being half-Protestant and half-Catholic has no appeal for me whatsoever (as the via media is usually understood anyway).  I see this ecclesiological issue as parallel to the Christological issue of the two natures of Christ.  Jesus was not half-divine and half-human as a reasonable compromise between the two, but he was paradoxically both fully divine and fully human at once.  So likewise, my heart’s desire is for a new kind of Anglicanism that is fully and authentically catholic, fully and genuinely evangelical, and unashamedly and fully charimatic, all at once, letting the “fiery core” of each burn with undiminished intensity.

BTW, I long ago read the “Reflections on the Psalms” book by C. S. Lewis, but I haven’t reread it in years.  I’m glad you reminded me of it.  It does fit in with my special interest in the literary dimension of God’s Word.

I hope you’ll post here at SF more often.

David Handy+

[123] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 04:12 PM • top

First, let me propose an analogy that has been helpful for many people I’ve discussed these matters with in the past.  I suggest that the Bible functions as the theological equivalent to the U.S. Constitution for the Christian Church.  It is the supreme authority.

Difficult as it may be to believe, there are actually non-academic laity out there, who deal with issues of truth, doubt, and supremacy on a daily basis.  I am one of them.  It is my job to analyze mechanical parts for critical stresses, in order to prove their worthiness (or unworthiness) in service. 

The mathematics behind the software tools I use is not infallible.  Typically therefore, I see portions of my models that are in error.  The good news is that the physics involved is very forgiving.  So, if I see an error (most often, a stress singularity, like what happens at a crack tip under tension), I can quickly point out to an engineer that the error exists locally, so the magnitude should be discounted.  But further away from such errors, the stresses converge to what would be observed in a real-world environment.  I take my work very seriously, as I take matters of truth-value in my models seriously.  Professional ethics as well as public safety is involved, with what I do. 

There are other instances where I “shake doubt” on my model results for my engineers, but I think you get the point - I actually do understand the principal that errors in one part of a source, do not negate the truth conveyed by the rest of the same source. 

With that said, I understand the claims to truth-value made in 2 Tim 3:16 to be far, far more radical than the claims to truth-value I make of my own engineering models.  Let me rephrase:  The truth value I generate with my engineering models (99% accuracy within 2% margin of error, with sanity-checks to verify my solutions) is completely pathetic against the truth-value that Scripture ascribes to itself.

Or again, 100% accuracy within 0% margin of error, 100% of the time, to 100% of the things that it speaks to, is waaaaaaaay more than I could ever hope to do. 

You believe that portions of the OT are parable?  Okay.  Assuming that is indeed the case, then approaching those portions of Scripture with historical questions is erroneous, while the parable itself would not be erroneous.  Moreover, by approaching the parable with historical questions, we might be missing the more important aspects of the message (I think you’d agree with this). 

So, if a historical reading is in error, it is not the fault of Scripture.  Errancy, schmerrancy. 

FWIW, I really don’t know if Job or Jonah are strictly parables.  My personal suspicion is that they are both history and parable.  With that said, I simply will not categorize these texts according to archeological evidence.  OTOH if Scripture itself treats these texts as parable, and the archeological evidence concurs, then that’s a different story. 

Blessings, Father Handy   smile
- Moot

[124] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-12-2008 at 04:41 PM • top

A few more thoughts on truth-value…

When I “exegete” stresses, displacements, and reactions on a mechanical part with my software, I start with the assumption that doubt has warrant.  I establish truth-value by eliminating doubt.  When it has been sufficiently eliminated, then we assume that my model and the results generated from it, are true. 

This is not the case with Biblical exegesis, where warrant for truth-value has been established before a Christian cracks open a Bible. 

That’s radical to us, outrageous to the Unbeliever. 

As it should be.

[125] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-12-2008 at 05:13 PM • top

Fr. Handy

I am certainly no post-modernist inasmuch as there are ‘truths’ that exist independent of our perceptions.

Arriving at these ‘truths,’ however, is possible only if a hungering for ‘truth’ is already present in the searcher. For instance, Jesus’ words awakened the hearts of those hungering for righteousness (Matt 5:8) and his voice was heard by those in whom the truth was present (John 18:37)

Thus, these fundamental values already present in the disciples led them to identify with Jesus, just as the non-presence of these values led others to oppose him.

Similarly, we see in Romans 8:28 that the ‘called’ are those who already ‘love’ God, those who already obey the first and greatest commandment. Since God is a ‘God of truth’ we must also love truth.

For the study of the bible, the love of truth is a prerequisite, resident value that allows us to probe our biases, consider and justly weigh the evidence, and use our god-given reasoning powers to arrive at logical conclusions - arrive at a reasonable objective truth.

[126] Posted by vynette on 03-12-2008 at 06:04 PM • top

Moot (#124),

Thank you for your frank but respectful post.  I think we may at least be achieving some more clarity on where each other stands and have cleared up some misconceptions abpit each other’s views along the way.  And clarity is always good.

I do agree with you that when we make a mistake in interpreting some biblical passage as if it were prose instead of poetry, or history instead of “history-like” and so on, the “error” does not lie with Holy Scripture but with ourselves.  We are definitely on common ground there. 

Though I suspect you may still be having difficulty getting used to the rather provocative idea that parts of God’s Word might be “fictional” or “folkloristic,” and not just “parables.”  I understand, my use of those non-biblical terms may indeed seem more threatening or offensive or just inappropirate than the biblical term “parable.”  But you’ve grasped the main point of my last post about Daniel (and other similar parts of the Bible).

But let me turn things around and let me challenge you for a change (I hope respectfully and irenically).  You clearly think that 2 Tim. 3:16-17 implies 100% accuracy, an accuracy that exceeds your 99% accurate engineering models.  May I ask why you think so?  I just don’t see it IN THE TEXT. 

Rather, as I’ve said above (all the way back in my first post here, #5), what I find in that famous classical text is a robust affirmation of divine inspiration all right, but the conclusion drawn from the fact of inspiration there is NOT anything like inerrancy (though theoretically that would indeed be a logical deduction).  Rather what the text itself affirms is that because ALL Scripture is inspired (yes, “God-breathed”), it is “useful” or “profitable” for such eminently practical things as teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the servants of God might be properly equipped for every good work. 

To me, that sounds like a very modest claim actually: not inerrancy, just “usefulness.”  And I do take the “ALL” there literally.  Even the so-called “errors” I see as part of the inspired text.

Let me try to expand on that a bit, as I haven’t done that yet.  Just because “ALL Scripture is inspired by God,” that doesn’t make it all equally important or equally useful or equally revealing.  I think you’d probably agree with me there (though some people do resist the notion, fearing that it leads to undue devaluing the parts of the Bible deemed to be of lesser value).  For example, I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that Leviticus is as important as Romans, or that Ezekiel is as central as the Gospel of John, or that James is on an equal par with Galatians, or that the Song of Songs is as beneficial to us as the Psalms, and so on.  And yet, they are ALL inspired.  Yes, even the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles, which are almost purely a very long genealogy, with a few occasional tangential comments made in passing (like the famous Prayer of Jabez passage in 1 Chron. 4:10).  Everything is there for a purpose, but it doesn’t mean that they are all to be given equal attention.

So where am I going with this?  Let me try to explain.  As is well known, Luther detested the book of James and called it “an epistle of straw” and he relegated it originally to the appendix of his masterful German translation of the New Testament (done in a matter of 3 months of intense effort in 1522, amazing!).  He also had some harsh things to say about Revelation (the gist of it being, “it doesn’t reveal anything”).  Later Protestants (including Lutherans) toned down such critical treatment of those books. 

But the fact is that we all operate with an implicit “canon within the canon” that privileges some parts of the Bible and treats them as the most important, and we all downplay other parts, at least through benign neglect.  All of us do this, without exception.

And yet, even the parts we don’t tend to value much can suddenly, under the right circumstances, become extremely important after all.  Back at Yale, Prof. Childs used a marvelous example to drive that point home.  He noted that the little Book of Esther is not central to anyone’s canon.  It doesn’t even mention the name of God (at least in the Hebrew text, the Greek version that is part of the Roman Catholic canon makes amends for that apparently perceived deficiency).  Esther herself appears as a thoroughly assimilated Jew, who seems to make no effort to keep the Jewish ethnic boundary markers of Sabbath observance and the dietary laws, as Daniel does in Daniel 1.  She never prays (at least no prayer is mentioned in the text) when the pressure is on.  It’s no wonder the king has no idea she is a Jew.  In other words, she is far from an ideal role model. 

So it’s not surprising that there are records of rabbinic discussions about whether Esther “defiles the hands” or is sacred Scripture.  It’s a rather peripheral book in both the Jewish and especially the Christian canon.  And yet…

Yet during the Nazi era, suddenly and unexpectedly Esther became one of the most crucial books in the Bible.  Those who opposed the wicked Nazi regime (like Barth and Bonhoeffer) courageously preached from it, which was rightly taken as a very political thing to do.  For a few years, it exerted a remarkable influence, and then, when WWII was over, it went back to the margins and it slumbers there still.

I bring that up as a way of illustrating the fact that you can NEVER write off any part of the Bible as useless.  Some parts of Holy Writ may not be very useful to very many people very often, but it’s never safe to write off the Holy Spirit’s ability to bring even the least attractive or least promising parts of the ancient text to life in a powerful way.

And that includes the parts that I consider fictional (including Esther), and even the parts that I take to contain actual errors (I haven’t gotten to some of those).  Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, was free from sin.  Hebrews explicitly says so (Heb. 4:15).  He was fully divine and fully human, as Chalcedon rigtly recognized and roundly declared to be binding Christian dogma for all time.  But even though the Bible is also both human and divine (in some mysterious way that is never addressed in Scripture itself nor in the creeds), that doesn’t mean that God’s Word Written has to be free from all errors.

So thanks again, Moot.  Maybe if we keep discussing this long enough, we’ll discover even more common ground.  And even where we finally agree to disagree, I hope we can do it agreeably, with the kind of increasing respect you’ve shown Dr. Witt and me.

God bless you too, brother!

David Handy+

[127] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 06:05 PM • top

vynette (#126),

I’m glad you haven’t gone away and I thank you for responding to my post directed toward you above (my #119).  However, you evaded the specific questions I asked you there. 

That is, I asked:
1. How do you know that all we have is our own “personal values” to guide us in interpreting Scripture?  That seems to leave out any role for interpretive communities to shape our interpretations, and it likewise seems to leave us unable to rule out any interpretation as not valid.  You can be totally sincere, and totally wrong.  So how do you KNOW this?

2. How do you distinugish between public “FACTS” (that everyone must agree with) and “personal VALUES” that are essentially a matter of private preference?  And why do you think religious convictions fall in the latter category??  Or are at least some religious doctrines or interpretations fact-based and universal in nature?

Finally, and most of all, do you believe the tomb was empty on Easter morning, and what significance does that have for the universal truth claims of biblical Christianity?

I’m grateful for your partial response above, but I’m still curious how you’d answer the questions I’ve posed.  I think they take us into the heart of the dispute here.

David Handy+

[128] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 06:53 PM • top

You clearly think that 2 Tim. 3:16-17 implies 100% accuracy, an accuracy that exceeds your 99% accurate engineering models.  May I ask why you think so?  I just don’t see it IN THE TEXT. 

Let me go back to the example from ordinary experience.  I would never make the claim that “All Finite Element Analysis results are given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for our business, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in good engineering practices:
That our department may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good product.” 

Indeed, I have to constantly tell some of my engineers that what I do is not “the Gospel”  (Aside - it’s interesting that this cliche’ reveals that our culture understands Scripture’s claim to infallibility and inerrancy).  Then, I show them what they -can- trust. 

Again, it goes back to where I start from.  I start from the supposition that error exists within my model.  When I chase the errors down, and find no more errors, then I assume that I have sufficient truth to meet the needs of the day.  I simply do not find that kind of method (chasing down errors to find the truth) warranted in 2 Timothy.  It lends warrant with simply starting from truth. 

So I do understand the 2 Tim text to be far from modest.  That’s probably where we would part company. 

RE:  Leviticus vs Romans.  I’m chuckling.  There are indeed Christians out there that place more exegetical weight on the former book than the latter.  They are a real pain in the ass too, if you ask me. 

(Change of subject) Frankly, I don’t understand why other books like Eshter and Song of Songs are so often kept on the far back-burner.  Christ is there clearly, yet more wonder-fully than in the texts concerning Ishmael, Abigail, and Absalem, to name but a few.  Jim Dennison, president of the new seminary in Seattle, frequently speaks on the Biblical Theology within the Song of Songs.  It’s breathtaking, and it applies to absolutely everyone.

And Luther was wrong,
about the Book of James.  wink

[129] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-12-2008 at 08:49 PM • top

Moot (#129),

Thank you for another thoughtful and irenic reply.  The longer this discussion goes on, the better I think we understand each other, and I hope it’s helpful for other readers of this thread too.  And I’m glad if my last post generated a laugh instead of anger and confusion. 

And lest anyone think otherwise, I hasten to add that I agree with you that Luther was wrong about James.  I’m very glad that the Book of James was rehabilitated to a certain degree in Lutheranism and brought back out from the appendix and put back in its traditional place in Luther’s classic German translation of the NT (which even to this day has a revered place in German literature and church life similar to the King James Version in English).

And as for the Song of Songs, well, suffice to say that the great Rabbit Akiba (early 2nd century AD) called it “the Holy of Holies” in the Bible.  And many Catholic interpreters and mystics in the Middle Ages viewed it similarly.  Of course, that’s only because they treated it primarily as an allegory of the relationship of God and Israel (Akiba), or Christ and the individual Christian soul (or the Church).  In fact, it’s quite ironic in a way that so many great mystics, mostly monks and nuns, were so powerfully drawn to that most erotic of books in the Bible, when they were committed to celibacy themselves. 

But there are LOTS of ironies and unexpected surprises in the history of biblical interpretation.  For example, having just mentioned the importance of allegorical interpretation in both the Jewish and the Christian tradition (e.g., just think of Philo of Alexandria on the Jewish side, or Origen, also from Alexandria originally, on the Christian side), I think it’s highly ironic that of the two great major schools of thought about biblical interpretation in the patristic period (100-600 AD), the Alexandrian school and the school of Antioch, it was the highly allegorical Alexandrian school that also produced by far the best textual critics who helped to preserve the most faithful form of the literal text of the NT.  Paradoxically, the Alexandrians combined a passionate and scrupulous concern for preserving the most accurate form of the literal text with a love of engaging in sometimes fanciful flights of imaginative symbolic interpretation of the NT that treated the literal meaning as quite secondary to the “deeper” meaning of the sacred text (the “Sensus Plenior,” or “the fuller meaning” in the classic Latin phrase).

But I want to sugest that one of the key dfferences between the “inerrantist” position and the “mainstream” position (if I may so label them just for convenience) on biblical interpretation within orthodox Christianity is that the former is based on a DEDUCTIVE approach (if it’s divinely inspired, it MUST be inerrant) and the latter is based on an INDUCTIVE approach (what does the actual biblical data tell us about the kind of inspired book the Bible is).

I hope that if this thread goes on, more of the actual data can be brought forward and discussed, for our mutual profit.

David Handy+

[130] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-12-2008 at 11:37 PM • top

But I want to sugest that one of the key dfferences between the “inerrantist” position and the “mainstream” position (if I may so label them just for convenience) on biblical interpretation within orthodox Christianity is that the former is based on a DEDUCTIVE approach (if it’s divinely inspired, it MUST be inerrant) and the latter is based on an INDUCTIVE approach (what does the actual biblical data tell us about the kind of inspired book the Bible is).

And I would point out that using the logic of inference itself, the Inductive approach lends credibility to Inerrancy.  The genre question frequently cited addresses the heart of the problem - fallible interpretation of an infallible source.  Will correctly identifying the genre of Job make us infallible in our interpretation?  Probably not.  Frankly, it probably wouldn’t even give us an infallible understanding of the genre itself.  But it would allow us to pick out the correct set of tools out of our toolbox. 

I think though that all orthodox would really have to say at the end of the day, that correct interpretaton and application of Blblical texts would never result in error;  moreover, that error would be an impossibility. 

Perhaps that’s the difference between the methods - the supposition of one is identical to the presupposition of the other?

[131] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-13-2008 at 03:50 AM • top

But just as no one would claim that the Constitution is infallible (the possibility of amendments is explicitly allowed), so likewise I’m suggesting that the Bible doesn’t have to be infallible or inerrant to be supremely authoritative.

I assume that you are not trying to claim that amendments can be made to the Bible.

Scholars agree that this mistake seems to be based on the vision of the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s strange dream in Daniel 2, where the kingdom of Babylon gives way to that of the Medes, followed by the Persians, followed by the Greeks (all seen as being in descending value, going downhill from gold to silver to bronze to iron).

It always puzzles me when I come across this interpretation of Daniel 2. I’ve always read it, together with most of my commentries (though admittedly none of them are recent), as Babylon, Media/Persia combined as the second Kingdom (with Persia the more dominant), Greece, Rome. This both makes better sense of history (as you point out), and is also in accordance with God establishing his reign which will last for ever during the fourth Kingdom. I’m pretty certain that Jesus came under the Greeks rather than the Romans. Daniel 5 also supports this, saying “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians,” as though the Medes and Persians were united or allied; which of course they were, the Median empire conquered by it’s former vassal Persia a few years earlier.

[132] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-13-2008 at 04:28 AM • top

NRA+,

Just a question. Have you actually read the Chicago Statement? Many of your criticisms of inerrancy above betray a confusion between wooden fundamentalist hermeneutics and inerrancy. They are not the same.

[133] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-13-2008 at 06:49 AM • top

Fr. Handy

The time has come to be frank…I hope you will forgive my bluntness. I aspire to identify with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and hope I qualify as one of his followers. I regard the New Testament writings as a reliable record of his words and deeds and an authoritative guide to personal conduct.

The New Testament also records that false teachings about the nascent Christianity were already being spread abroad. In my view, and I believe I can demonstrate this from scripture, the creeds of ‘orthodox’ Christianity represent the full flowering of these initial false teachings.

When the New Testament writings fell into the hands of the Hellenist and, subseqently, Latin ‘fathers,’ the teachings underwent a change in accordance with the predilections of those particular peoples.

Because their minds were set in the key of a different structure, they retrojected onto the NT scriptures their own prevailing religions and created the doctrinal “Jesus Christ,” a being fashioned in their image, according to their values, and their delusions of grandeur.

Doctrines such as the ‘Miraculous Incarnation,’ the ‘Trinity’ and the various ‘Divinity’ teachings were crystallised by the disputes among
the early Gentile fathers who then thrust the “Jesus Christ” creation of their own imagination upon the world through the medium of
ecclesiastical councils called by Roman Emperors from 325AD onwards.

What is really necessary is a new, new reformation, where all these pagan accretions can be cast off.

As for the resurrection, there can be no reasonable doubt that the disciples witnessed events so profound that their lives were
permanently altered. I am currently working on an analysis of the resurrection stories so will say no more on that subject for now.

[134] Posted by vynette on 03-13-2008 at 07:47 AM • top

There’s an excellent book review by R R Reno in the April issue of First Things about scriptural inerrancy and the fundamental incompatibility between the characteristic stance of modern historical criticism, which is examining Scripture from outside, with the aim of learning about it, and that of faithful communities, which is sitting under and being formed by Scripture, with the aim of approaching God. 

My beef with the historical critics is not that they say things I don’t like, but that they rear up this huge edifice of inference upon inference, with no apparent sensitivity to the fact that in the absence of truly independent lines of evidence, the whole structure gets less and less reliable as the layers are piled on.  I would claim that there is no other discipline with any pretension to objectivity in which such a method would be acceptable—even the anthropologists and sociologists show are more self-critical than that.

Has any higher critic ever responded adequately to Lewis’s thrown gauntlet?  In more than fifty years, has anyone actually attempted to test any of these methods in any sort of externally-verifiable way?

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[135] Posted by gone on 03-13-2008 at 11:32 AM • top

Well, several people have now asked me questions since last night, and I think I’ll try to reply to them separately: Boring Bloke first (#132), then Matt+ (#133), and finally vynette (#134).

Boring Bloke,

Thank you for your respectful way of asking why I, like most scholars, interpret Daniel 2 the way we do, identifying the four kingdoms in the king’s dream as Babylon (gold), the Medes (silver), the Persians (bronze), and the Greeks (iron).  Unfortunately, that raises some difficult and complicated issues, and so I’m sorry but I’ll give you a long, complex answer to a short and simple question.

First, however, an answer to your prior question about my analogy between biblical authority and the authority of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.  You asked if I was implying that the Bible, like the Constitution, could be amended.  And the obvious answer is “No.”  Of course not.  I admit that the analogy breaks down there.  No analogy is perfect.  That’s why Jesus uses so many parables to describe the Kingdom of God.

OK.  I’ll try to explain how mainstream scholar approach Daniel.  But brace yourself, because what I’m about to say may come as a shock.  Basically, I accept the standard scholarly view that Daniel 2 is not prophecy at all, but is a sort of commentary on the time in which the author lived, during the Maccaean Revolt in the 160s BC, when the Jews were being savaged persecuted by the Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV “Epiphanes.”  In other words, I see its literary form as a literary device common to “apocalyptic” writers, not normal prophecy.  This is the same vexed problem of genre analysis that I’ve dealt with in earlier posts above, where I argued that there are parts of the OT that are “history-like” but are actually fictional, including Daniel 1-6.

In other words, Daniel 2 is not really about the distant future, as it seems on the surface (i.e., where Daniel, living in Babylon in the 500s BC is predicting the distant future, with three future kingdoms coming after his time).  Instead, like other apocalyptic works, the Book of Daniel is actually addressed to the people of the anonymous author’s own time several hundred years later.  And he lived in the Greek period (2nd century BC), therefore the last kingdom has to be the Greek one, not the Romans, who came later.

Please bear with me, as I try to explain why any conservative Christian would accept such a seemingly skeptical view.  First of all, the key to the modern approach to interpreting Daniel, like Revelaiton in the NT, is the whole new light shed on the nature of “apocalyptic” writings since we’ve discovered literaly DOZENS of Jewish apocalypses in the last 150 years or so.  Prominent examples would include 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  These have revolutionized our understanding of the apocalyptic genre.  For one thing, all the known Jewish apocalypses are “pseudonymous,” or put in the mouth of a Jewish hero in the distant past (like Enoch, Ezra, and Baruch above).  And although these venerable ancient heroes are said to prophesy about the distant future, the authors are really commenting on their own time.  And NONE of them were written as early as the Babhylonian era (although Ezekiel 38-39 and Isaiah 24-27 are “proto-apocalyptic” and anticipate some of the themes and features of the later full-blown genre).

All right.  The key to the mainstream dating and interpretation of Daniel as a whole is Daniel 11, a dry chapter that most of us skim through quickly.  Oversimplifying a complex matter, let me summarize it by saying that it may appear as a prophecy about the distant future, but it is actually a rather detailed history of the events that led up to the severe persecution of the Jews in the author’s time.  That is, “the warrior king” in Daniel 11:2-4 is Alexander the Great (who died in 323 BC).  “The king of the south” is actually a whole series of Greek rulers based in Egypt, the Ptolemies, who ruled much of Palestine, including Judah, until about 200 BC (=Daniel 11:5-14).  Then there is “the king of the north,” the opposing set of Greek rulers based in Antioch, Syria, who took control of Judah (Daniel 11:14-45), with the bulk of space being given to Antiochus IV, the evil persecutor who tried to forcibly Hellenize the Jews (11:21-45).  This wicked and ruthless dictator forbid the Jews to practice their faith, e.g., no Sabbath observance, no circumcision, he burned all the copies of the Torah he could find, and he even turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a shrine to Zeus.  He even had the gall to burn PIGS on the Temple altar as a sign of his contempt for Judaism (the famous “abomination that causes desolation,” Dan. 11:31).

With me, so far?  Now comes the most important part.  All that dry as dust history in the guise of prophecy in Daniel 11 is accurate, up to the point where the author describes the death of the despised Antiochus IV, the tormentor of the Jews.  In Daniel 11:45, it’s said that the dictator will die mysteriously, perhaps by the hand of the LOrd, “between the Sea [=the Mediterranean] and the beautiful holy mountain [=Zion].”  Alas, for inerrantists, this simply didn’t happen.  The Syrian tyrant died a normal death in battle, IN PERSIA (see 1 Maccabees 3:31-37).  A disappointingly banal ending.

What I’m getting at is that modern scholars assume that we can date Daniel by when he starts to go wrong in Daniel 11.  In fact, there is probably no other biblical book we can date so precisely and confidently.  We think Daniel had to be written between the time of that awful desolating sacrifice of pigs on the Jeruslame altar (167 BC) and the death of Antiochus IV in 165 BC.

Now I’m sure that raises all kinds of questions in your mind, Boring Blokie (and other readers of this post).  You may well wonder how I can still think of myself as a theological conservative at all.  So let me re-emphasize that I think the crucial issue here is to determine properly the literary genre of Daniel.  And alas, in order to understand either Daniel or Revelation, you really need to become familiar with the other Jewish apocalyptic works (1 Enoch, 4 Ezra etc.) that have disclosed so clearly how very different apocalyptic is from prophecy.  In other words, in this unusual case, the Bible does NOT really adequately interpret itself.  You are BOUND to misinterpret Daniel and Revelation if you haven’t studied 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra, because you will naturally tend to see them as prophetic when they really aren’t.  Note that Daniel is NOT considered a part of the collection of the prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible, but is part of the Writings (the final catch-all third group) in the Jewish canon.

I’m sorry if that’s not really helpful, Boring Bloke.  You don’t have to agree with this outloook on Daniel.  Many good Christians don’t.  But the overwhelming majority of modern scholars do.  A great evangelical example is the outstanding OT scholar at Fuller Seminary, John Goldingay (an Anglican from England!).  He wrote a MARVELOUS commentary on Daniel in the evangelical series, the Word Biblical Commentary.  Check it out if I haven’t scared you off and you want a much fuller coverage of these complex and controversial issues.

David Handy+
Boy, am I glad I chose the NT, not the OT, to specialize in!

[136] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-13-2008 at 02:28 PM • top

NRA+,

That’s interesting about Daniel 11, thanks for taking the trouble to lay it out for us.  Is there a translation difficulty with Daniel 11:45?  My translation reads,

Daniel 11:45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

which doesn’t seem to connect the place where he pitched his tents with the place of his death at all; and then it immediately continues with something rather less like recorded history:

Daniel 12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book.
Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

I’m probably missing something ultra-important, but it doesn’t seem to me that this seemingly very weak to nonexistent connection between the pitching of the king’s tents and the place of his death will really bear the weight that’s being put on it.  And it doesn’t seem that at that point Daniel started down a trajectory of erroneous predictions—there’s no further narration of kings and emperors and so on after that point, just a brief bit of conversation between Daniel and the ‘man clothed in linen’ that’s full of numerological stuff, and then the end of the book.

So absent this apparently very thin bit of evidence, Daniel’s history is correct?  Because without that anchor point, the interpretation of Daniel 2 seems to come adrift, and the identification of the fourth kingdom with Rome becomes natural again, and it seems reasonable to see it as a messianic prophecy once more.  The only thing that then seems to anchor the date of Daniel is the a priori assumption that there are no true prophecies, and we’ve seen that one before.

Is that really the most secure date that the OT critics have come up with?  Or perhaps the RSV translators got 11:45 wrong?

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[137] Posted by gone on 03-13-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Two general observations on #137:

First, how does modern scholarship—and modern scholars—square with the principles of double prophetic application in general and with the Church’s reading of Messianic prophecy and fulfillment in particular?  After all, we know that Isaiah had a son named Emmanuel; yet we—and Handel—apply that name to another Child as well.  The rabbis explain the suffering servant as a type of Israel—but, reading the Tenach in light of the New Covenant, we see another as Servant.  (Indeed, that whole chapter is no longer read in synagogue).  So, we need not dispute the historical origin of Daniel and the like, but, given that the Church has generally thought those works have a broader application, how should we receive and apply them now?  (I had not heard Luther’s precis of the Revelation, but it sounds on target to me!)

Second, we lay non-biblical scholars are generally an easy lot to deal with.  If “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” had made it into the canon, I would (hopefully) have to recognize it as a nursery rhyme.  But I would also accord it a place of honor, realizing that such a text was inspired in a way that has a power for good and authority over me.  In like manner, I understand that some passages (Matt. 1 [“Nazarene”], or Philemon [useless/Onesimus]) include jokes based on Greek puns.  And that the writer of 2 Peter was stumped by Paul’s writings.  This doesn’t offend me.  But neither does it excuse me from applying those puns as an inspired Word.

I suppose my summary is as follows:  We hear the Church has, throughout time, treated the New Testament as the Old revealed and vice versa.  Indeed, the supernova of the life of Jesus and His Resurrection is so blinding that we need a “lesser light by night” to see it.  (“These things testify to me” etc.).  Are these accurate as principles for reading Scripture—and applying it to our lives?

[138] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-13-2008 at 05:49 PM • top

I don’t think there is necessarily any problem with Daniel 11:45; it is quite possible that Daniel 11:40-45 deals not with Antiochus Epiphanes but with the end of the present world.  In other words I think Phil Hobbs is very much correct and in my opinion the only real revelation we have seen in this exchange is that NRA is no theological conservative.  Too bad, I guess; I had hoped for better.

[139] Posted by Will on 03-13-2008 at 06:41 PM • top

The New Testament also records that false teachings about the nascent Christianity were already being spread abroad. In my view, and I believe I can demonstrate this from scripture, the creeds of ‘orthodox’ Christianity represent the full flowering of these initial false teachings.

When the New Testament writings fell into the hands of the Hellenist and, subseqently, Latin ‘fathers,’ the teachings underwent a change in accordance with the predilections of those particular peoples.

Because their minds were set in the key of a different structure, they retrojected onto the NT scriptures their own prevailing religions and created the doctrinal “Jesus Christ,” a being fashioned in their image, according to their values, and their delusions of grandeur.

Doctrines such as the ‘Miraculous Incarnation,’ the ‘Trinity’ and the various ‘Divinity’ teachings were crystallised by the disputes among
the early Gentile fathers who then thrust the “Jesus Christ” creation of their own imagination upon the world through the medium of
ecclesiastical councils called by Roman Emperors from 325AD onwards.

What is really necessary is a new, new reformation, where all these pagan accretions can be cast off.

This is a rather bold thesis and I think demonstrably false, given that the raw materials for the incarnation, Trinity, and divinity of Jesus are already present in NT documents dating from the early- to mid-50s of the First Century(!), sometimes drawing on traditions that pre-date the earliest writings.  If the poster wants to say that categories of Greco-Roman philosophy and culture had a role in the church’s subsequent articulation of those realities, there is no argument.  But that these were centuries-later creations is a dubious thesis, actually patently false. For example, the earliest Christian “heresy” was docetism, the rejection of the full humanity of Jesus, a heresy that can only be birthed in the context of an extraordinarily high Christology. 

Though it is heavy going, I commend Charles Cochrane’s Christianity and Classical Culture.

[140] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-13-2008 at 07:06 PM • top

Matt+ (back to #133),

Twice now I’ve tried to post a reply, but it may have been too long, and it appears to have disappeared into cyberspace.  Too bad, as I spent a couple hours on it.  So I’ll break this comment up in pieces, and hope it goes through.

I’m glad that having started this thread and then dropped out for a while, you’ve jumjped back in, at least for a time..  The answer to you question in #133 is this:  I did read the Chicago Declaration on Biblical Inerrancy when it first came out years ago, but I admit that I haven’t bothered to reread it since.  For perhaps obvious reasons, it’s not my cup of tea.  But since you seem to think it’s so important, I’ll go back and have another look at it.

But let me ask you a pointed question in return.  Have you noticed the important comment submitted by Dr. William Witt on that document (as #111)?  If you haven’t, I respecfully suggest that you take a look.  Personally, I think Bill pretty well refutes your claim.  That is, unfortunately, I’m afraid I’d have to agree with him that most (not all) of those who signed the Chicago Declaration do practice, alas, a quite “wooden fundamentalist hermeneutic,” to use your phrase.  For instance, Norman Geisler’s book on inerrancy that came out around the same time, does seem to me to fall into that same trap (as Bill also noted).

Now I don’t mean to be nasty here, or to pick on ou personally (because you are just representative of many who share the same view), but I think you seriously underestimate the grave difficulties with the old-fashioned approach to the Bible that you are championing.  Let me illustrate that, if I may do so respectuflly, by calling attention to some of your own words in the intial feature post that launched this thread.

First, early on, you mention in passing the importance of “claims about himself” that Jesus made.  You didn’t develop that point, but I think it’s all too easy to talk about Jesus’ supposed claims to be divine in a very oversimplified and thus misleading way.  However, I note that you’re in very good company.  C. S. Lewis and Nicky Gumble do the same thing.

That is, the claims to deity that are put in the mouth of Jesus in John’s Gospel, while theologically true (he is indeed divine), are almost certainly NOT claims historically made by the earthly Jesus.  The sharp tensions and even conflicts hee between John and the Synoptic Gospels are too important to sweep under the rug.  For example, Mark is especially emphatic that Jesus often commanded demons and people not to disclose his identity as the Messiah (much as as the Son of God or God in the flesh).  The Synoptic presentation is far more modest, and likely much more historical.  The kind of outright claims to divinity found in John (e.g., “I and the Father are one”) would probably have led to his crucifixion even earlier.

Now I do think that Jesus said and did things during his public ministry that IMPLIED his divine status and authority.  Oh yes, the implications are there.  But I very much doubt that he made any explicit claims to be God incarnate (before Easter).  For more on this, see my earlier post #112.

More to follow…

David Handy+

[141] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-13-2008 at 08:01 PM • top

NRA+

I read Dr. Witt’s comments and responded in detail above. It amazes me that you have made such grand and sweeping pronouncements about a doctrine about which you apparently know next to nothing.

As for the rest of your post you write:

“That is, the claims to deity that are put in the mouth of Jesus in John’s Gospel, while theologically true (he is indeed divine), are almost certainly NOT claims historically made by the earthly Jesus.”

Let’s hear some evidence. It might suprise you to know that one of the modern champions of the historicity of John is NT Wright who basis quite a bit of his argument in Jesus and the Victory of God on it and the claims therin.

I need you to provide some sufficient evidence, rather than grand assertions, for concluding that what is recorded was not said by Jesus.

“The sharp tensions and even conflicts hee between John and the Synoptic Gospels are too important to sweep under the rug.”

Name some of the tensions and conflicts please.

I am willing to wager that since you do not know the doctrine of inerrancy and what the doctrine holds with regard to genre and narrative sequence in the first century gospels that you will point to sequence and order differences which will demonstrate, yet again, you are criticising and arguing against a position about which you remain utterly uninformed.

[142] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-13-2008 at 08:28 PM • top

Continuation of #141, addressed to Matt+.

My second point is this.  You seem to repeat the same old worn-out claim that Jesus treated the OT as not only authoritative, but as infallible or inerrant (a venerable tradition going back to B. B. Warfield) in a way that takes the truth of this claim for granted.  Once again, I think this is a gross oversimplification, and a very misleading one.  To me, the actual biblical data in the gospels is quite mixed and a much more nuanced view seems called for.

For example, you yourself cite Mark 7 and Matthew 15 in support of this familiar old claim.  But you appear to have overlooked, or to gloss over the fact that these very passages undercut your argument.  That is, they overturn a basic OT principle that was foundational to the Old Covenant with the Jewish People, namely the food lws in Lev. 11 and Deut. 14

This is especially clear in Mark 7, where we find the revolutionary conclusion drawn, “Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19).  Now not surprisingly, Matthew drops that line, in accord with his basic principle that Christ came “not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17-18).  But even without that radical editorail line in Mark 7:19, the whole story does indeed imply the abolition of the food laws, which is no mere “jot or tittle” of the Law.

But this is indeed a complicated issue, becaue there is so much data to be considered.  But I hope that much more attention will be given on this thread to this crucial issue of how the NT writers, as well as Jesus in the gospels, actually use the OT.  It provides a very good example of the importance of approaching the issue of biblical inerrancy in an INDUCTIVE way, carefully examining the actual data found in Holy Scripture in order to see what KIND of inspired book God has chosen to give us.

Let me provide a few illustrations just to prime the pump and suggest the complexity of the issue.  There are many, many problematic uses of the OT in the NT for inerrantists.  And these are of diifferent types.

For instance, there are inaccurate citations of various sorts.  To give but a few examples:
1.  Mark 1 begins with a composite quotation of Malchi and Isaiah that is simply attributed to the latter.  “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ (from Mal. 3:1); ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…’ (from Isa. 40:3).”  Significantly, when Matthew and Luke rework Mark here, they drop the line from Malachi, making the attribution of the reduced quote to Isaiah accurate.  There are several cases in the NT of mistaken attributions like this.  I doubt that they bother anyone except inerrantists, because the whole iddea of inerrancy precludes admitting the slightest mistake to the inspired biblical writers.

2.  Unidentifiable quotations.  These are more surpirsing.  Thus, we have things like the puzzling saying at the end of Matthew’s birth narative. There, after the exile in Egypt, the Holy Family settles in Naraeth “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’ (Matt. 2:23).”  But no one knows what OT text the author has in mind here.  More significant is the famous passage about a promised spring of living water in John 7:37-38.  “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me; and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  A marvelus promise indeed.  But there is no one OT passage that is being quoted here.  Personally, I think the imagery of Ezek. 47, with its growing river of life-giving water flowing from the restored Temple, is probably the primary text in the background, but there is certainly no exact citation here.

3.  Places where the Greek OT is quoted instead of the Hebrew text, where this makes all the difference since the Hebrew makes a very different point.  Prime examples include the famous citation of Amos 9:11-12 in the speech of James before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:16-18, “...so that all other peoples MAY SEEK THE LORD, even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.”  Curiously, the Hebrew text of Amos 9:12 is dramatically different, “in order that they may POSSESS THE REMNANT OF EDOM and all the nations who are called by my name…” Wht’s so significant here, is that in the context of the Council, James is trying to persuade skeptical Jewish beleivers that the acceptance of the Gentiles as equals in the New Covenant is something prophesied long ago.  The Septuagint (or Greek OT, which is presumably all that Luke as a Gentile knew) indeed supports this cloaim, but the Hebrew text would not, and it’s hard to imagine some of the Jewish believers who were demanding that Gentiles be circumcized not objecting to this.  Similarly, in Heberews 10:5-7 cites Psalm 40:6-8 according to the LXX (or Greek text), where the Hebrew original wouldn’t allow the same point, or at least not nearly so clearly.  The Hebrews text goes:  “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME… (10:5).  On the other hand, the Hebrew text goes, “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me ears to hear you.”  LIterally, the Hebrew says, “...but EARS YOU HAVE DUG FOR ME.”  It seems that the Greek OT translators took the mysterious idea of God DIGGING up ears as evoking the picture of God forming Adam out of the mud in Genesis 2, but in any case the Hebrew text just wouldn’t have worked to make the same point that the writer of Hebrews wants to make.

4.  Besides inaccurate NT citations of references, there are inaccuate uses of the actual content of the OT text.  A good example is Mark 2:26, where Jesus justifies his disciples’ action in picking a little grain on the Sabbath by citing the precedent of David, fleeing from Saul, taking some of the holy bread from the altar with the permission of the high priest, even though it wasn’t lawful for any butg priests to eat that consecrated bread.  The problem, Mark 2:26 identifies that high priest as “Abiathar,” when according to the actual OT text in 1 Samuel 211-6, it was actually the lesser known Ahimelech.  Significantly, in the parallel passages to Mark 2:26 in Matt. 12:12 and Luke 6:4, this inaccurate reference to Abiathar is discretely dropped.

All right, enough of that.  The point is that the whole matter of how the NT writers draw on and make use of the OT is far more complex than is usually realized.  Certainly, the OT is seen as authoritative, but it is used in a very free and sometimes inaccuate way.  And this just doesn’t support the sort of simple, clear, and dogmatic claim that I think you are trying to make, Matt+.

But I guess what I’m calling for is a considerable nuancing of the claim to inerrancy.  I just don’t see an inductive study of the biblical text supporting that notion.

David Handy+

[143] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-13-2008 at 09:33 PM • top

Occasional Reader,

Many claim that Docetism is addressed in the NT texts. Whether this is indeed true, or whether it is a case of reading back into the texts from an already established Trinitarian standpoint, can be determined by studying the doctrine of the Miraculous Incarnation. This Ignatian idea was an attempt to explain away what the infancy narratives clearly reveal - that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of man other than Joseph.

The doctrinal structure of orthodox Christianity rests on this one obviously non-Israelite idea. I suggest that a new study of all the evidence for and against the ‘virgin birth/conception’ will leave no room for doubt that it is nothing more than a reflection of Roman Empire religious syncretism.

[144] Posted by vynette on 03-14-2008 at 01:04 AM • top

Matt+ (#142),

I must admit that I’m taken aback by the stinging tone of your last comment addressed to me.  I’m not sure what’s behind it, but it did come across as rude and disrespectful.  I’m sorry if I’ve offended you in any way.

You accuse me of just not understanding the sophisticated view of inerrancy that you claim is held by some or many signers of the Chicago Declaration on Biblical Inerrancy.  That may be true.  Frankly, those folks aren’t my cup of tea, as the mainstream scholars I prefer don’t appear to be yours.  Fine.

But alas, that kind of argument can cut both ways.  That is, you puzzle me with your reference in #142 to +Tom Wright’s great book, “Jesus and the Victory of God.”  Yes, it’s true that he defends the historical value of certain aspects of John that others dismiss.  But you are kidding yourself if you think he is anthing remotely approaching an inerrantist.

And +Wright isn’t the only one rising to defend John on various points.  C. H. Dodd led the way in recovering a more balanced perspective on the historical value of John back in the 1930s and 40s. when many liberals had dismkissed John completely on that score.  And Raymond Brown has helped along those lines in many respects too.  But none of them, not +Wright, not Dodd, and certainly not Brown, could be fairly described as anything remotely resembling an inerrantist.  I freely admit it, I just don’t get where you’re coming from.

It didn’t help that you seem to have misread my appeal for you to look at William Witt’s comment #111 that dealt with the Chicago Declaration.  Yes, I know you read and responded to his earlier posts (i.e., #12, 37, 45 [my favorite], and 46).  But I specifically asked you to look at #111, which he submitted while you were apparently taking a break from this thread.  I still think that particular post by Bill says what needs to be said.  I agree with him 100%.

As for providing some evidence of the “sharp tensions and even conflicts” between the Gospel of John and the other three gospels, I’ll wait to give a fuller and more thoughtful response at a later time.  But meanwhile, let me give just a few representative samples of those tensions, if not conflicts (which are literary, historical, and especially theological).

As is obvious to any regular Bible reader, John is remarkably different from the Synoptics.  That’s been abundantly clear to many since Clement of Alexandria (around 190 AD) called John “the spiritual gospel.”  Robert Kysar (a specialist in John) calls it “the maverick gospel,” and it is.  Raymond Brown calls it “the most adventuresome” of the four gospels, and that’s right too.

For instance, John has no parables, which is Jesus standard teaching device in the Synoptics.  He doesn’t talk about the corporate Kingdom of God, but about eternal life, often with a remarkably individualistic emphasis (the vine and the individual branches in John 15, the inidividual sheep who hear the Master’s voice in John 10 etc.).  John has those seven distinctive “I am” sayings, unlike anything in the Synoptics.  And not least, John has those marvelous extended, unified discourses far longer and more tightly interwoven than anything in the first three gospels.  Those are samples of the literary differences, or tensions if you will.

With regard to the historical dimension, John is remarkably different too.  He portrays a public ministry that seems to last about three years (there are three Passovers mentioned), whereas all that happens in the Synoptics could be taken as happening in just one year (though it’s unclear).  In John, Jesus goes to Jerusalem or Judea several times, versus just once, at the end of his life in the Synoptics.  Jesus cleanses the Temple toward the start of his ministry in John (chap. 2), but at the very end in the Synoptics (Mark 11 etc.).  And not least, in John the Last Supper is not the Passover since Jesus dies on the Day of Preparation for Passover (see John 18:28 and 19:31), unlike the Synoptics.  I’d call this latter case not just a matter of tension, but of outright conflict or even contradiction.

Theologically, the differences are equally striking.  Many unique themes appear in John, beginning with the Incarnation (1:14), but also including such things as Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29), the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (mentioned six times in John 14-16), and not least, Jesus as the REVEALER of the Father.  Whereas the Synoptics work with a dualistic temporal framework (this age versus the age to come), John works with a dualistic spatial framework (he comes down from the world above and returns to it).  And then there is the notorious absence of prominent Synoptic themes in John (no exorcisms for instance; no Instituting of the Eucharist, instead a Footwashing seems to take its place at the Last Supper etc).

Such differences could easily be multiplied.  The question is how to evaluate them, without either exaggerating or downplaying their significance.  Anyway, I hope that partial list suffices for now to illustrate the sort of evidence I had in mind, Matt+.

In closing, let me repeat that I’m not primarily trying to persuade anyone to adopt the kind of moderate, mainstream views that I favor.  Of course, I would be happy if some are convinced in the process of this discussion.  But my real aim is not to convert, but to EXPLAIN.  I’m trying to explain the rationale of contemporary biblical scholars, including a growing number of evangelicals who have adopted mainstream methods and some mainstream conclusions, without ceasing to be passionately committed to classic Christian orthodoxy. 

It’s time to build more bridges of mutual understanding and respect within the orthodox movement in North American Anglicanism, and to tear down some of the long-standing walls of suspicion and mistrust.  As I keep saying, we are all on the same team, the orthodox team.

David Handy+

[145] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-14-2008 at 01:33 AM • top

Matt+,

This is the third installment of a series (following #141 & 143) in which I try to respond to some of the specific problems I see in your initial feature post that launched this thread on biblical infallibility.  I do not intend this in any way as a personal attack.  The views you set forth there are very commonly held among conservative evangelicals.

This is an exercise in trying to EXPLAIN the contrasts between those old-fashioned views and those held by the vast majority of mainstream biblical scholars, Catholic and Protestant alike, including a growing number of evangelicals.  In the third and final part of this interconnected series of comments I want to venture out onto some thin ice and tackle the vexed and complex issue of the authority and dating of the NT writings. 

You took a very emphatic stand upholding the familiar traditional views on these matters when you set the tone for this thread with your opening statement.  Unfortunately, I think you have once again greatly oversimplified the issues in a very misleading way.  So let me offer a contrasting view in what I hope is a non-polemical, explanatory fashion.

As an example, take your comments about the remarkable passage in 2 Peter 3:15-15 about Paul.  That fascinating passage does indeed grant Paul’s letters canonical status along with “the other scriptures.”  It also candidly acknowledges something I think we could all agree on, that there are in those magnificent epistles things that are “hard to understand.”  Yep.  There sure are.

However, my concern is that you explicitly attribute that passage to Peter himself, the leading apostle.  So what’s the problem with that?, many readers of this thread may well ask.  Well, essentially it’s that probably 95% of mainstream biblical scholars today, including a growing number of evangelicals, are pretty sure that it’s extremely unlikely that Peter himself actually wrote it (basically only inerrantists think otherwise today).  Not only that, we think it comes from a significantly later time period than Peter’s lifetime (he was martyred about AD 65 in Rome), perhaps as late as the early second century.

Why do so many scholars think so?, you may ask.  On what grounds do they reach such a seemingly skeptical conclusion?  Basically, there are three main reasons.

First, the literary style and vocabulary.  2 Peter is written in an elegant, archaizing Greek style (which doesn’t come through nearly as clearly in English translations) known as Atticistic, i.e., an attempt to mimic the glories of ancient literary Attic Greek, instead of the normal Koine or Common Greek in which the rest of the NT is written.  It’s almost impossible to imagine the uneducated fisherman from Galilee being able to write such elegant Greek, or having any desire to display such linguistic sophistication.  Not only that, but most of the evidence for this revival or mimicing of features of classical Attic Greek comes from the second century AD, not from the first.

Second, the literary dependence on Jude.  Even a cursory reading of 2 Peter 2 alongside Jude reveals a very close relationship between the two.  One has to have had borrowed and reworked the other.  So is 2 Peter 2 a revision of Jude, or is Jude a revised extract from part of 2 Peter?  The much more polished nature of 2 Peter 2 strongly suggests that it is the later document.  For instance, 2 Peter drops the allusion to 1 Enoch as if it were authoritative Scripture in Jude 14-15.  But why would the leading apostle have to borrow from a minor figure like Jude?  It seems unlikely.

Third, there is the very passage about Paul’s letters as being on a par with the OT, as you highlighted, Matt+.  That is, 2 Peter 3:15-16 seems to reflect a later time period, after Paul’s letters have been collected and have had time to be widely circulated and become well-known and cherished.  Since this is unique in the NT, it sugests a relatively late date.  Many would say that 2 Peter is actually the last NT book to be written, perhaps as late as 120 AD or so.

If you want a splendid example of a promnent evangelical NT scholar who adopts such an approach, check out Richard Bauckham’s outstanding major commentary on 2 Peter (and Jude) in the fine Word Biblical Commentary series.  He provides much fuller arguments and evidence about this complex issue than I can here.

But let me hasten to add a crucial comment about the controversial idea that “pseudonymous” writings are worthy of any place in the Bible.  I don’t like the shorthand term “pseudonymous” myself, precisely because it inevitably carries negative connotations that uggest that the writer is engaging in some kind of deliberate deception of his readers.  Needless to say, I don’t think the unknown author of 2 Peter intended any deception at all.

But this is hard for many people to grasp, because the cultural and literary conventions of our time are so radically different from those of the ancient world.  Among other things, they lived long before the invention of the printing press.  Back then, there were no copyright laws, and no real publishing industry.  Perhaps most importantly, we now have LOTS of ancient Jewish writings from the period 200 BC to 200 AD that are certainly “pseudonymous,” or written in someone else’s name.  Dozens of them.  Clearly, the production of writings under someone else’s name was a commonly accepted practice.  It was usually a way of honoring the teachings or life of that revered person and perpetuating their influence, not least by applying their teachings to new circumstances in a later time. 

I know some people will still find the whole concept that such writings could be part of Holy Scripture objectionable because it will still SEEM deceptive.  In fact, the majority of readers of this comment of mine may well have that natural reaction.  That’s OK, it’s perfectly normal and understandable.  I’m not trying to convert everyone to my viewpoint here, just explaining how modern scholars think.

Once again, we are dealing with a theme I’ve raised repeatedly on this thread, which is the challenge of discerning the intended genre of the various biblical writings.  It turns out to be much less simple and straightforward than most people assume.  And therein lies the rub.

I sincerely hope that generates more light than heat.  Even if I’ve now diminished the appeal of the NRAFC, and caused many to wonder if I’m truly orthodox after all.  But I can live with that.

David Handy+

[146] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-14-2008 at 02:45 AM • top

wow NRA+, where to start. Don’t worry, I do not at all feel attacked, I feel weary because the views you express are so very common among revisionists and have been addressed so many times that it is somewhat a redundant task.

As for your actual arguments on this thread, not only do you have no concept of the doctrine of inerrancy, it is as if you’ve never learned exegesis.

Your reading of Mark 7 is absurd, pitting it against Matthew 5 is quite a stretch since Jesus does not say that the law will never be erased, but that not a jot or tittle will be disappear until it is fulfilled. There is NO reason to suggest that Jesus’ declaration in Mark 7 in light of his mission to fulfill the law and replace the temple (as even NT Wright recognizes…btw, I never claimed he was an inerrantist? What a strange objection you make) is anything but consistent. Your reading is not only suspicious but malicious.

Moreover, that section of your argument has NOTHING to do with what view of the OT Jesus held. In “declaring all foods clean” he makes no comment whatsoever that would in any way suggest that the ceremonial laws were not of God or inerrant. As noted above a ready and very easy resolution of the problem is, indeed, found in the fulfillment language of Matthew 5. But since you arbitrarily set the gospels against one another and hermetically seal them against harmonization of any sort, you cannot see the unity of God’s word.

I see no reason to continue the discourse since you seemingly refuse to become in any way informed about the subject and doctrine you belittle.

You go on voluminously as if no inerrantist has ever read modernist arguments regarding authorship (as if that has supreme bearing on the question of inerrancy…but you would not know since you do not know the doctrine), prophesy, the synoptic problem, the differences between 1 and 2 Peter…etc which I am well familiar with and, no doubt, so are many on this thread. Do you really think that scholars like JI Packer and RC Sproul are not well aware of the points you have made? Do you really think they have not been addressed or are overlooked by those who hold this doctrine? Your tone is both insulting and arrogant. You assume that those who hold to the doctrine of inerrancy are blindly ignorant of these things and then attack positions that they neither hold nor assert.

If you felt stung by my last post, that is fine. You are creating straw-men and burning them down. If you care to read the Chicago statement perhaps we can continue.

But let me suggest that the tone has been set by you. You have come into this thread with a level of condescension that is unnecessary and presumptuous ESPECIALLY given the fact that you have not taken the time to investigate or even give a cursory glance to the position that you are attacking. The discussion reminds me of arguments I’ve had with Watchtower people who consider the doctrine of the Trinity absurd because there can be only One God. They do not know the doctrine so they cannot properly attack it. The only difference is that sometimes Watchtower people will take the time to address the actual position that Christians hold rather than the one they imagine.

I would be happy to debate the finer points of 1 Peter v. 2 Peter and the synoptics v. John and the problem of Daniel 11 with you but not until you go back and read the Chicago Statement carefully. Otherwise it is a waste of time and breath and cyberspace to argue with someone who insists on erecting strawmen.

[147] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-14-2008 at 04:26 AM • top

Matt+ (#147),

I’ve taken a whole day to process your stunningly hostile post, and I think I’m ready to respond without over-reacting.  I do note that you posted it at 3:26 AM (Central time), or 2:26 AM in Binghamton, which makes me wonder if you were out of sorts because it was so late (or early), or the baby was crying or whatever.  Anyway, I’ll defer my real reply to your post until later.

In the meantime, I’m happy to say that I finally heeded your call to read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy that you think so highly of.  I took time to ponder it carefully yesterday and I’d like to offer a summary of my reflections on it.

I also went back to your post #43 and found the link to the article by R. C. Sproul that you had earlier commended so highly, and I read that too.  Thanks for providing a link to it.  I actually found the Sproul essay more helpful than the Chicago Statement itself.  But more on that later.  Because SF limits comments to 10 K characters and I want to submit more than that, I’ve broken up my response into three parts (as I did earlier with my 3-part response to your initial post that started this thread).

I’m glad that I did read them.  It was worthwhile and illuminating.  I’m sorry I didn’t do it earlier.  I would indeed have had a better idea where you are coming from.  But hey, we all have time constraints and differing priorities.  Anyway, here goes.


Reflections on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI)

This ringing affirmation of the old-fashioned doctrine of biblical inerrancy could hardly be more clear and emphatic.  Its 19 articles set forth what I’d call a “maximalist” view of inerrancy that appears to leave no wiggle room for flexibility or loopholes.  Certainly, “Limited Inerrancy,” of the type often associated with the later writings of Clark Pinnock or Fuller Seminary is excluded very forcefully and intentionally.

That is, the Chicago Statement (or CSBI for short) rules out the growing trend among evangelicals to see biblical infallibility as limited to matters of “faith and practice.”  That is, some evangelicals even in the late 1970s (and many more nowadays) balked at extending the idea of infallibility to matters of historical or scientific fact that Scripture may happen to touch on.  The CSBI adamantly insists that only a strong, undiluted adherence to total inerrancy will do.

Of course, I know you’re well aware of this, Matt.  But I’m summarizing my take on the CSBI for two reasons.  First, it’s so you and others can check my perception of it against your own.  I hope I’m being fair and accurate in my interpretation of the CSBI, but this helps you or others to point out where I may have misunderstood it.  But secondly, and even more importantly, it’s so others who read this thread can follow the discussion and perhaps join in the fun.

ASIDE: I always try to write my posts in a way that keeps the whole readership at SF in mind.  That is, I admit that I do see SF as a teaching venue for orthodox Anglicans, especially laypeople, and not just a forum for public discussion (or even debate).  That is why my posts are often so long and detailed and lecture-like.  And that may well be part of what lies behind your recent accusation (in #147) that my comments were excessively “voluminous” and even “arrogant” and condescending.  When I’m responding to you, as here, I’m not just writing to you, but to everyone who looks at this blog.

OK, with that preliminary stuff behind us, here are my chief thoughts about the Chicago Statement.  First and foremost, I admit that I see nothing here that suggests to me the kind of sophisticated, open-minded, or nuanced understanding of inerrancy that you seem to find in it.  In fact, the CSBI seems even LESS sophisticated than the kind of view of inerrancy that I was basically taught at dear old Wheaton College as an undergraduate Bible major. 

Many of my Wheaton profs allowed more room for flexibility and saw modern biblical criticism more positively than this rather rigid document does.  Just to name one, I was profoundly influenced at Wheaton by the great expert on Matthew, Dr. Donald Hagner, who transferred to Fuller partway through my Wheaton years and who long held the prestigious G. E. Ladd chair in NT at Fuller Seminary.  One reason he left Wheaton is because he was getting increasingly uncomfortable there as Harold Lindsell (a trustee of both Wheaton and Fuller, I think) was turning up the heat on those falling anywhere to his left.  He wrote a marvelous 2 volume commentary on Matthew in the generally excellent Word Biblical Commentary series.  Needless to say, as you’d guess by my commending him so highly, Dr. Hagner is not an inerrantist.  He’s not even close to being one.  But he remained firmly and enthusiastically evangelical.  And so have many of us in mainstream biblical scholarship.

Now granted, there are people even father to the right, truly obscurantist fundamentalists like the late Jerry Falwell and so on.  But hey, you do have outright fundamentalists like the Southern Baptist Convention’s notorious Paige Patterson (whom I despise) as signatories to the CSBI, along with fine scholars like James Packer and R. C. Sproul.  I suppose it all depends on what you compare the CSBI to.  If you’re thinking of ultra-conservative places like Moody Bible Institute or your typical Bible College in America, this declaration may seem moderate.  But those guys are just outside the pale for me in terms of biblical SCHOLARSHIP (though not in terms of fellowship or homiletical biblical interpretation in general, etc).

However, I was struck by the surprisingly serene and lofty tone of the CSBI.  It was less shrill and strident than I remembered.  In particular, I welcome the conciliatory tone set in the Preface:

“We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we prupose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said.”

Admirable.  I just wish that same open-hearted spirit had been more evident at times on this thread.  But I fully recognize that there are crucial matters at stake, and they get to the heart of what we believe about God’s Word.  So naturally, passions run high.

ASIDE: I sincerely hope that I’ve exemplified that same humble, non-contentious spirit in my earlier posts on this thread.  I’ve certainly tried.  Alas, I must say, Matt, that you haven’t (just reread your caustic #147 to me).

OK.  I won’t attempt a full-scale review of the CSBI here.  There is neither the need nor the space for that.  So let me cut to the chase and hit on a few key points.

As evidence of the CSBI’s firm and clear assertion of total, unqualified inerrancy, I note how the Summary provided at the start of it sounds a clear trumpet call to uphold that undioluted inerrancy without wavering or compromise.  The 5th and last summary point puts it this way:

“The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this TOTAL divine inerrancy is IN ANY WAY LIMITED or disregarded.”  (Note: the words in caps are my own added emphasis).

Now that’s about as clear as it can be.  Commendably so.

I think it’s totally wrong, of course, but at least it’s refreshingly clear.

Enough for now.  More to follow…

David Handy+
Fervent advocate of MODERATE, mainstream evangelical scholarship

[148] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 09:49 AM • top

NRA+

you wrote

“I’ve taken a whole day to process your stunningly hostile post, and I think I’m ready to respond without over-reacting.  I do note that you posted it at 3:26 AM (Central time), or 2:26 AM in Binghamton, which makes me wonder if you were out of sorts because it was so late (or early), or the baby was crying or whatever.  Anyway, I’ll defer my real reply to your post until later. “

I was not out of sorts. It was early in the morning when I usually sit down to write. Nor would I agree that it was hostile. Your posts above, as I said, are both condenscending and arrogant, and they are based on a failure to understand the matter about which you speak. I responded by pointing this out to you. 

“In the meantime, I’m happy to say that I finally heeded your call to read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy that you think so highly of.  I took time to ponder it carefully yesterday and I’d like to offer a summary of my reflections on it.”

This is good, notice that this was comment #147, a full week or so after the original article and after voluminous and numerous posts on your part.

“I also went back to your post #43 and found the link to the article by R. C. Sproul that you had earlier commended so highly, and I read that too.”

I did and do commend it, but it is of course only one example.

“Thanks for providing a link to it.  I actually found the Sproul essay more helpful than the Chicago Statement itself.”

Of course, that is because the statement is making declarations. The various articles and books by the signitories explain and expound the meaning behind them.

“I’m glad that I did read them.  It was worthwhile and illuminating.  I’m sorry I didn’t do it earlier.  I would indeed have had a better idea where you are coming from.  But hey, we all have time constraints and differing priorities.”

I do not see how this was not a first priority. If I going to write three part posts critiquing a position, I cannot imagine setting a thorough read of the primary articulation of the position on as a secondary priority.

“That is, the Chicago Statement (or CSBI for short) rules out the growing trend among evangelicals to see biblical infallibility as limited to matters of “faith and practice.”

True, as I have said above, that is an arbitrary distinction that sets the Church over scripture in determining through external criteria which parts are “true” and which parts are not to be taken as such.

“That is, some evangelicals even in the late 1970s (and many more nowadays) balked at extending the idea of infallibility to matters of historical or scientific fact that Scripture may happen to touch on.  The CSBI adamantly insists that only a strong, undiluted adherence to total inerrancy will do.”

Be careful here and be sure to understand what the signitories mean by authorial intent, anthropomorphic language, and an appreciation for genre.

“ASIDE: I always try to write my posts in a way that keeps the whole readership at SF in mind.  That is, I admit that I do see SF as a teaching venue for orthodox Anglicans, especially laypeople, and not just a forum for public discussion (or even debate).  That is why my posts are often so long and detailed and lecture-like.  And that may well be part of what lies behind your recent accusation (in #147) that my comments were excessively “voluminous” and even “arrogant” and condescending.  When I’m responding to you, as here, I’m not just writing to you, but to everyone who looks at this blog.”

NRA+, we have well educated readers here who appreciate informative posts. The fact however that you were taking a didactic approach with regard to a topic about which you were utterly ignorant was, to use your word, rather “stunning”. I hope you can see why that would come accross badly to those who do know the topic rather well.

“OK, with that preliminary stuff behind us, here are my chief thoughts about the Chicago Statement.  First and foremost, I admit that I see nothing here that suggests to me the kind of sophisticated, open-minded, or nuanced understanding of inerrancy that you seem to find in it.  In fact, the CSBI seems even LESS sophisticated than the kind of view of inerrancy that I was basically taught at dear old Wheaton College as an undergraduate Bible major.”

And why is this?

“Many of my Wheaton profs allowed more room for flexibility and saw modern biblical criticism more positively than this rather rigid document does. “

Articulate your meaning here. This is an assertion. Why do you say this and what is your basis?

“I was profoundly influenced at Wheaton by the great expert on Matthew, Dr. Donald Hagner, who transferred to Fuller partway through my Wheaton years and who long held the prestigious G. E. Ladd chair in NT at Fuller Seminary.  One reason he left Wheaton is because he was getting increasingly uncomfortable there as Harold Lindsell (a trustee of both Wheaton and Fuller, I think) was turning up the heat on those falling anywhere to his left.  He wrote a marvelous 2 volume commentary on Matthew in the generally excellent Word Biblical Commentary series.  Needless to say, as you’d guess by my commending him so highly, Dr. Hagner is not an inerrantist.  He’s not even close to being one.  But he remained firmly and enthusiastically evangelical.  And so have many of us in mainstream biblical scholarship.”

This is rather irrelevant and adds nothing to your argument other than to suggest that those who disagree with you are necessarily narrow and unenlightened…as compared to yourself of course.

“Now granted, there are people even father to the right, truly obscurantist fundamentalists like the late Jerry Falwell and so on.”

So far you have characterized the inerrantist position as narrow and inflexible and unsophisticated…without a single argument or explanatory note. Now you admit that Falwell is perhaps more extreme, but only by a hare.

“But hey, you do have outright fundamentalists like the Southern Baptist Convention’s notorious Paige Patterson (whom I despise) as signatories to the CSBI, along with fine scholars like James Packer and R. C. Sproul.”

Ignoring of course that the exegetical arguments and positions you have articulated on this thread are shared by the vast majority of liberal protestants including those who hold wildly heretical positions on the key doctrinal positions. I would gladly keep company with Southern Baptists over revisionist protestants.

“I suppose it all depends on what you compare the CSBI to.  If you’re thinking of ultra-conservative places like Moody Bible Institute or your typical Bible College in America, this declaration may seem moderate.  But those guys are just outside the pale for me in terms of biblical SCHOLARSHIP (though not in terms of fellowship or homiletical biblical interpretation in general, etc).”

I do wish you had the capacity to hear yourself. This is not an argument, it is an intellectual bullying tactic. You simply belittle and sniff at those you consider the unwashed and having done so you think you have dismissed them. That is not the way debate works. I am still waiting for a point.

“However, I was struck by the surprisingly serene and lofty tone of the CSBI.  It was less shrill and strident than I remembered.  In particular, I welcome the conciliatory tone set in the Preface: We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we prupose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. Admirable.  I just wish that same open-hearted spirit had been more evident at times on this thread.”

Yes NRA+, I do agree. And I am hoping that things take a better turn.

” But I fully recognize that there are crucial matters at stake, and they get to the heart of what we believe about God’s Word.  So naturally, passions run high. ASIDE: I sincerely hope that I’ve exemplified that same humble, non-contentious spirit in my earlier posts on this thread.  I’ve certainly tried.  Alas, I must say, Matt, that you haven’t (just reread your caustic #147 to me). “

NRA+, Alas, I do not apologize for my words above. They were quite accurate given that your posts have not at all exemplified a “humble, non-contentious spirit” but an arrogant one. You speak “softly” indeed, but your words are full of condescension and snide dismissals of those you consider less “sophisticated” than yourself.

“As evidence of the CSBI’s firm and clear assertion of total, unqualified inerrancy, I note how the Summary provided at the start of it sounds a clear trumpet call to uphold that undioluted inerrancy without wavering or compromise.  The 5th and last summary point puts it this way: ‘The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this TOTAL divine inerrancy is IN ANY WAY LIMITED or disregarded.’ (Note: the words in caps are my own added emphasis).
Now that’s about as clear as it can be.  Commendably so. I think it’s totally wrong, of course, but at least it’s refreshingly clear. Enough for now.  More to follow… ‘

I look forward to something more yes.

[149] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 10:46 AM • top

A continuation of my #148, addressed to Matt+, about the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

As you know, Matt, but all the readers of this thread probably don’t, each of the 19 articles in the main body of the CSBI contains both an affirmation and a matching denial (a helpful format).  Some of the ones I found most revealing or important are the following.

Article IV denies the famous Neo-Orthodox view that Holy Scripture only CONTAINS divine revelation (experienced in personal encounter) rather than the Bible being divine revelation itslef.  This rules out the sort of approach advocated by the late great Karl Barth.  And I fully agree with the CSBI here.

Article XIII (13) is especially instructive because it shows the kind of challenges that the signers expected to have to deal with.  Now perhaps this was the kind of thing you have had in mind, Matt, in your repeated insistence that the CSBI doesn’t endorse any “wooden fundamentalist hermeneutic” (in your own words).  This 13th article says:

“We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to the standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.  We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”

Now that’s certainly all well and good.  I would agree.  I was taught the same thing back at Wheaton thirty years ago.  Unfortunately, however, that simply doesn’t eliminate many, much less all, the alleged errors in Holy Scripture.  I’ve tried to provide a few representative samples in some of my earlier posts.

Article XVI sets forth the usual historical claim that inerrancy has ALWAYS been central to Christianity, a basic teaching foundational to orthodox Christianity down through the ages.  This 16th articles goes:

“We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been INTEGRAL to the Church’s faith throughout its history (caps are my emphasis). 

We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine INVENTED by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a REACTIONARY position postulated in response to negative higher criticism” (again, caps my emphasis).

Well, once again, I was taught the same thing back at Wheaton.  Very conservative evangelicals sure love to imagine that it’s true.  And you have valiantly defended the same claim, Matt.

Unfortunately, it simply isn’t true.  This is a historical issue, and the historical facts are really pretty clear.  For example, as William Witt and I have pointed out earlier in this thread, the whole allegorical approach to Scripture that was so common in the pre-Reformation period militates against such a simplistic and naive construal of church history. 

Now it’s true that that inerrancy was not a concept that was INVENTED by Protestant Scholasticism (in the 1600s, as Protestantism consolidated itself).  It existed before that.  But it was never “INTEGRAL” to church doctine, as the CSBI falsely claims.  Furthermore, even though Protestant heroes of the first couple generations like Luther and Calvin did indeed assume that the Bible was BASICALLY free of error, the exegetical work of both of those great expositors shows that they weren’t troubled by minor errors of fact in the text (which occasionally they calmly note in passing).

Historically, inerrancy just didn’t become INTEGRAL to church doctrine until the later Protestant Scholastic era, and it didn’t really became so all-important to (conservative) Protestantism until the rise of modern, skeptical biblical criticism started seeping into England and America from Germany.  That is, I think inerrancy is very much the REACTIONARY kind of position that the CSBI firmly denies.

Finally, although other significant part os the CSBI could be noted, let me focus attention on Article XVIII.  The 18th article is very revealing.  It states:

“We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by GARMMATICO-HISTORICAL exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or any quest for sources lying behind it that leads to the relativizing, DEHISTORICIZING or discounting of its teaching, or REJECTING ITS CLAIM TO AUTHORSHIP.”

Well, again, that seems pretty clear and straightforward to me.  In choosing to use the old, pre-critical term “Grammatico-historical” interpretation, the CSBI is giving away its profound suspicion of (and general hostility toward) modern biblical criticism.  And though it indeed tips its hat to the idea that we should respect the “literary forms and devices” in holy Writ, it slams the door on any legitimate attempt to interpret the Bible that ends up “dehistoricizing” the text.  Obviously, the CSBI signatories would shudder at some of my earlier posts (as many readers of this thread have as well).  For in advocating the mainstream scholarly view that some parts of the Bible are more fiction than non-fiction (such as Job, Jonah, Esther, Ruth, and Daniel), I seem to run afoul of this CSBI principle that it’s improper to “dehistorcize” it.  Of course, there may be a little room for fudge here after all.  As you have noted, Matt, if someone agrees that books like Jonah or Esther have the literary form of fiction and the imaginative nature of a parable, than the standard scholarly view of such books might be accommodated within the bounds of CSBI after all, since it does give at least lip service to the notion that the Bible must be interpreted in accord with its “literary forma and devices.”  But the fundamental suspicion of such interpretive moves is all too clear.

Moreover, the 18th article certainlhy seems to rule out the idea that we can treat any book of the Bible as “pseudonymous,” or actually written by an unknown author in someone else’s name (like the Pastoral Letters in the name of Paul).  Obviously, my explanation of the virtually universal conclusion of non-inerrantist scholars that 2 Peter is not actually by the great apostle himself but comes from a significantly later time (maybe even into the second century AD) would appear to be rejected out of hand by the drafters of the CSBI.

Too bad for I. H. Marshall, an otherwise very conservative and rightly honored champion of evangelicalism (a student and protege of the late, great F. F. Bruce).  It seems that Marshall got a little looser in his old age.  For in his masterful and massive technical commentary on the “Pastoral Letters” (i.e. those addressed to the pastors Timothy and Titus) in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series (in which some of the volumes are by very liberal scholars), he freely concedes that it’s highly unlikely that Paul himself wrote those letters, though he still defends a quite early date for them (i.e., earlier than most of the rest of us who have studied the matter carefully).

Once again, I think the CSBI is admirably clear and forceful here.  And I have no problem with that at all.  I think clarity is always good and helpful, even when it’s divisive.

Of course, I think the CSBI is ultra-conservative in its virtually total hostility to modern biblical criticism.  More importantly, I think it’s just plain wrong.  But at least it’s clear.

\What isn’t so clear to me is why you think the CSBI allows much room for moderation, Matt.  I just don’t see that kind of flexibility here at all.

So much for the Chicago Statement on Biblial Inerrancy.  In my third and fianl installment, I’ll take up the fine essay by R. C. Sproul that you have recommended.

I sincerely hope that helps promote mutual understanding.  And if we do end up having to agree to disagree (as it appears almost certain that we will), then I do hope we can do so agreeably.  As I’ve tried to say all along (going back to #5 and #24, my first two comments here), I’m not interested in picking a fight.  Rather, I’m trying to defend the legitimate place of non-inerrantists with our conservative coalition as together we do battle with the TRUE liberals for the soul of Anglicanism.

David Handy+

[150] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 11:04 AM • top

I would like to thank posters Handy and Witt for their comments here.  I have to say that it is most disconcerting after a lifetime of earnestly listening to what we were taught, studying diligently and reading widely to suddenly be treated like a child of a lesser god because one does not always see the Bible as strictly literally true.  C.S. Lewis called it a “sophisticated book of poetry for adults” which, when I quote it these days immediately draws insults from people who can’t conceive of truth and poetry in the same breath.  The Bible is certainly inerrant,  but our understanding does not measure up a lot of the time.

[151] Posted by Hope on 03-15-2008 at 11:44 AM • top

Before I go on, let me make it clear that I know the CSBI well; I studied under at least a half dozen of its signatories in seminary, read the associated books (Geisler et al.) under the tutelage of several of the authors/editors.  Moreover, I have great sympathy for the position espoused there and agree that it is about as good of a statement on biblical inerrancy that we could have.  The desire of the framers and signatories is not ultimately to affirm inerrancy but to affirm the authority of Scripture, which I regard as both noble and necessary.  That said, the choice to attach the authority of Scripture to the “inerrancy” of Scripture is a regrettable move and terribly unstable. 

It is clear that no phenomenon of Scripture, however apparently “errant” could ever be regarded as an “error” by adherents to CSBI (see Article 14).  Various strategies are used at this point:  an appeal is sometimes made to (non-extant) autographs (although, interestingly, I have never known an inerrantist textual critic who was willing to advance the sorts of conjectures such a view requires).  Or, more often, an appeal is made to literary genre, phenomenological language, anthropomorphic speech, etc. to account for the apparent discrepancy.  It is at this point that something stable and important (biblical authority) is being subverted by something intrinsically unstable, i.e., special pleading interpretations that turn a focus away from understanding the affirmations of Scripture on their own terms to defending the accuracy/truthfulness of the text. 

A signal moment for me was in a class where the professor—after insisting that inerrancy extends to what the Bible teaches and affirms even regarding science (Article 12)—went into a long explanation of why Jesus’ claim that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds was not in fact an error(!).  I thought to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding; something is wrong with a construct of Scripture that would oblige someone to make this sort of defense.”  Fifteen minutes later, I knew that I had gotten on the wrong bus and that I now knew the meaning of “obscurantism.”  Troubled by this bizarre episode and several others like it, I worked through Gleason Archer’s book on Bible Difficulties, and this book clarified for me just why a deductive definition of inerrancy along with the specter of the “slippery slope” argument (a logical fallacy) that I had been taught was an unstable foundation for my faith.
I hold to the infallibility of the Bible, that it does not fail to accomplish its divine purpose (Isa 55), including giving us a reliable record of the history of our redemption necessary for our salvation (2 Tim 3:14-17).  But “inerrancy” is a word connoting to the uninitiated a level of impeccable accuracy which those who define the term do not intend by their use of it.  Thus, it obscures clear communication and puts the emphasis on the wrong things, while the claim of “inerrancy” dies a death of a thousand qualifications.  I know that CSBI folk deny that this is the case, to which I can only say that I have had dozens of conversations with thoughtful lay people about this, and that when I explain to them what “inerrancy” actually means, invariably they respond, “Oh . . . I see . . . so why do they use that word then?”  Why indeed.

[152] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-15-2008 at 11:50 AM • top

“went into a long explanation of why Jesus’ claim that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds was not in fact an error(!)”

I don’t see much difference between this kind of tendentious stretch and the arguments revisionists make about anti-homosexual verbiage referring only to temple prostitutes.  Both seem to me to be fiction or rationalization to make a personal point that has nothing to do with the actual meaning.

[153] Posted by Hope on 03-15-2008 at 12:38 PM • top

NRA+ writes:

“Article IV denies the famous Neo-Orthodox view that Holy Scripture only CONTAINS divine revelation (experienced in personal encounter) rather than the Bible being divine revelation itslef.  This rules out the sort of approach advocated by the late great Karl Barth.  And I fully agree with the CSBI here.”

Me too.

“Article XIII (13) is especially instructive because it shows the kind of challenges that the signers expected to have to deal with.  Now perhaps this was the kind of thing you have had in mind, Matt, in your repeated insistence that the CSBI doesn’t endorse any “wooden fundamentalist hermeneutic” (in your own words).  This 13th article says: ‘We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to the standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.  We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.’ Now that’s certainly all well and good.  I would agree.  I was taught the same thing back at Wheaton thirty years ago.  Unfortunately, however, that simply doesn’t eliminate many, much less all, the alleged errors in Holy Scripture.  I’ve tried to provide a few representative samples in some of my earlier posts. “

The problem NRA+ is that you haven’t. You have superficially set passages against one another and drawn conclusions that are neither necessary or supported by the texts you cite. A fine example of this is your strange and malicious reading of Mark 7 and Matt 5 above. You set two passages against one another and suggest some sort of necessary conclusion that is far from necessary because the two texts are not only not in tension but wholly consistent. You’ve read the prophesies in Daniel in a purposefully destructive way that is, again, not warranted or necessary when reasonable explanations exist that could resolve the difficulties. But, like revisionist critics, you seem bent on pushing texts to unnecessary extremes and pressing them to unwarranted conclusions so that you can show them to be false.

“Article XVI sets forth the usual historical claim that inerrancy has ALWAYS been central to Christianity, a basic teaching foundational to orthodox Christianity down through the ages.  This 16th articles goes: We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been INTEGRAL to the Church’s faith throughout its history (caps are my emphasis). We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine INVENTED by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a REACTIONARY position postulated in response to negative higher criticism” (again, caps my emphasis).’ Well, once again, I was taught the same thing back at Wheaton.  Very conservative evangelicals sure love to imagine that it’s true.  And you have valiantly defended the same claim, Matt. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t true.  This is a historical issue, and the historical facts are really pretty clear.  For example, as William Witt and I have pointed out earlier in this thread, the whole allegorical approach to Scripture that was so common in the pre-Reformation period militates against such a simplistic and naive construal of church history.”

This is an example of asking a question that cannot properly be answered. Dr. Witt’s appeal to St. Augustine is a case in point. St. Augustine found the analogical use of scripture resolved some of the problems he’d noticed using the literal principle. Why did he find it helpful? Because he was able to maintain belief in the infallibility of scripture by use of the analogical sense. The question we cannot ask the departed saint is whether, without the analogical sense, he would have discarded the idea that the bible is wholly and completely infallible. I think there is a good argument to be made that he would have said that it is necessary to believe it so and hold the difficult parts to be true, despite apparent tensions. I think, moreover, if you read the fullness of “On Christian Doctrine” in which he deals extensively with hermeneutics, it is impossible to come away with anything but the sense that he understood the bible to be wholly infallible.

The use of the quadriga, including the analogical sense, itself has no bearing on the question of whether the ancients believed the bible infallible.

“Now it’s true that that inerrancy was not a concept that was INVENTED by Protestant Scholasticism (in the 1600s, as Protestantism consolidated itself).  It existed before that.  But it was never “INTEGRAL” to church doctine, as the CSBI falsely claims.”

It has been absolutely central as even a cursory glance of the apologetic works of the greatest orthodox saints will show beginning with St. Ireneaus. His arguments against the Gnostics, for example, were based on the proposition that God’s word is wholly. That it had been corrupted and misread by the Gnostics and that the tradition of the church provided evidence of the authoritative apostolic intent behind the texts they had twisted. This is the pattern throughout the patristic period and thereafter the truth of God’s word was assumed. That’s why the question of infallibility is something of an anachronism.

...more coming

[154] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 12:41 PM • top

Matt+ (#149),

I appreciate the milder tone of your last post.  I’m sorry if I have come across as arrogant and condescending.  It wasn’t intention.  I’ve been on the receiving end of all too much of that kind of thing myself from people who are far more liberal than I am.  I know how offensive it is.  But by the same token, I don’t think you can hear yourself objectively either.  I’ll let the readers of this thread evalutate this for themselves, while trying to be as respectful as I can in the meantime.

Now as for the essay by R. C. Sproul.  In some ways, the title gets to the heart of the dispute among us.  It’s entitled, “Sola Scriptura: Crucial to Evangelicalism,” and it appeared in a collection of essays edited by the very conservative Presbyterian James Montgomery Boice, The Foundation of Biblical Authority (1979).  It’s lucidly written and well-documented, in Sproul’s usual fashion.

Sproul argues forcefully that inerrancy, like the Protestant doctrine of “sola Scriptura” which lies behind it, is absolutely essential to a full, robust, and healthy form of evangelical Christianity.  In the process he makes very clear, I think, the strong link betwen the two doctrines, something I asserted in my very first post here (#5).  That is a very, very important connection that warrants pondering.

And so I’ll start this response by calling attention once again (as in #5 and 24) to the plain historical fact that inerrancy is especially associated with Reformed (or generally Calvinist) Protestantism.  It was telling, for example, that the link you provided to the Chicago Statement, Matt, was found on an explicitly and proudly Reformed website, the CRTA or Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics.  And of course, both of the heroes you have repeatedly invoked on this thread, James Packer and R. C. Sproul, are unmistakeably Reformed.

As I’ve noted earlier, I think the reason that the idea of there being errors in the Bible (which I regard as a simple, proven fact, but you obviously don’t) just doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it bothers you and so many others, is precisely because I also reject the whole notion of sola Scriptura.  Or at least I reject it in the way that familiar Protestant doctrine is usually understood. 

One of the things I appreciated about this fine essay is how Sproul provides some helpful historical background on sola Scriptura, clarifying what it does and doesn’t mean.  He mentions Melancthon, Luther’s chief assistant and partner, as well as being the drafter of the famous Augsburg Confession and the author as well of the famous Loci statement, the best early summary of basic Protestant beliefs.  Sproul calls attention to Melancton’s famous claim that while justification by faith alone was the “material cause” of the Reformation, sola Scriptura or the Bible as the sole source and norm of all Chrisian doctrine was the “formal cause” of it.  Clearly, the two great Solas, sola fide and sola Sctiptura have always gone together in Portestant thought.  But I’ll just note in passing that the former, sola fide, is plainly taught in the Bible itself.  Sola Scriptura is NOT.  It is a theological clam about the role of the Bible in the life of the Church and the individual believer, but, like inerrancy, sola Scriptura is not found explicitly within the text of Scripture itself.

Sproul makes a very important and helpful point when he states, “Sola Scriptura as the supreme norm of ecclesiastical authority rests ultimately on the premise of the infallibility of the Word of God.”  I basically agree, though I’d want to nuance that claim significantly.  There is indeed an intrinsic, logical connection between the two doctrines.  They tend to stand or fall together.  Not surprisingly, you passionately affirm both of them.

But I do wholeheartedly affirm the supremacy and primacy of biblical authority, even while rejecting the notion of biblical infallibility.  For the authority of the Bible does NOT, in my view, rest entirely upon its own intrinsic merits or its divinely inspired nature.  Rather, it does in fact also derive to a very significant degree from the Church’s acceptance of that authority. 

Sproul, like any good Reformed theologian, is anxious to separate the authority of Scripture from its authorization by the Church.  Suffice to say, as someone with a strong catholic side, I feel under no such obligation.  I am closer in fact to St. Augustine here, who said that he only accepted the Bible as the Word of God because the Church said it was so.  Now I hasten to add, that I also endorse the distinctly Calvinistic stress on the “inner witness” of the Holy Spirit as being what convinces us that the Bible is truly the Word of God himself.  But unlike Calvin or Sproul, and like Augustine instead, I would see that as a case of a both/and situation, and not an either/or.

The Sproul essay is, alas, too short to do justice to these complex matters.  I appreciated his citation of Paul Althaus, the distinguished Lutheran author of the classic work, The Theology of Martin Luther.  Althaus does indeed summarize Luther’s attitude toward the fallibility of Popes and Church Councils as being implicitly driven by his strong conviction that Scripture ALONE was infallible.  (It’s notable that Luther was forced to admit these things as early as 1519, when Luther debated the gifted Catholic apologist Johnannes von Eck in Leipzig.  This, and not just the indulgences issue, helped set the stage for his condemnation by the Pope).

And not being very familiar with the Reformed confessions, I likewise appreciated his summary of how many of them strongly endorse both the concept of sola Scriptura and imply, if not expressly stating, the notion that Scripture alone does not err and is fully trustworthy.  For instance, the Geneva Confession of 1536, the year Calvin arrived there, states it typically:

“First, we affirm that we desire to follow Scripture alone as the rule of faith and religion, without mixing it with any other things which might be devised by the opinions of men…”

Finally, I appreciated Sproul’s careful distinction between the ESSENTIAL place of sola Scripture and inerrancy in Reformed or evangelical thought and its CENTRAL or DOMINANT place.  Sproul interacts with Bernard Ramm, who had criticized some other (unnamed) evangelicals for exaggerating the role of inerrancy as if it were the article by which the Church stands or falls.  Sproul agrees with Ramm there (and I obviously agree with both of them on that point).  That is indeed a helpful injection of balance into a heated debate.  Too often, conservative evangelicals have given the impression that inerrancy was more critical and foundational to evangelicalism than justification by faith.  So I welcome this lucid and balanced statement by Sproul.

In closing, let me re-emphasize that the strong connection that Sproul makes in this essay between the doctrines of inerrancy and sola Scriptura really take us to the heart of the matter.  As I have tried to say all along, inerrancy is not just an issue pitting orthodox conservative Christians vs. liberal revisionsts.  It is also, and maybe even primarily, when you dig down deeper, a Protestant versus Catholic issue. 

That is, it hinges on the role the Bible is supposed to play in the life of the Church corporately and of the individual believer.  But alas, the role of the Bible with regard to either one is not made clear or taught in Holy Scripture itself.  Rather, our positions on that crucial underlying issue on the proper ROLE of the Bible in the Church and for us individually as believers is a PRESUPPOSITION that we bring to the Sacred Text. 

Suffice to say here, I don’t think that issue can be settled by appealing to Scripture alone.  But then again, that’s why I’m in part a catholic Christian (as well as an evangelical and charismatic one).  It’s one of the reasons why I’m an Anglican and comfortable in the Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Albany, and not the Prebyterian that I was raised to be.  And it’s one of the reasons why I could NEVER, ever be happy in the Diocese of Sydney!

I hope that helps.  And again, I hope it helps shed more light than just generate heat and strife.  Clarity is always good, even when it divides us.  At least, we know where we stand and why we’re so divided.

David Handy+

[155] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 12:45 PM • top

cont.

“Furthermore, even though Protestant heroes of the first couple generations like Luther and Calvin did indeed assume that the Bible was BASICALLY free of error, the exegetical work of both of those great expositors shows that they weren’t troubled by minor errors of fact in the text (which occasionally they calmly note in passing).”

What an odd assertion. Calvin obviously believed the bible to be wholly free of error as did Luther. Not basically free, but wholly. That they were troubled by difficulties is no argument. So are RC Sproul and JI Packer and so am I. To be troubled by difficulties is a far cry from denying the infallibility of God’s Word.

“Historically, inerrancy just didn’t become INTEGRAL to church doctrine until the later Protestant Scholastic era, and it didn’t really became so all-important to (conservative) Protestantism until the rise of modern, skeptical biblical criticism started seeping into England and America from Germany.  That is, I think inerrancy is very much the REACTIONARY kind of position that the CSBI firmly denies.”

This is akin to saying, “The doctrine of the dual natures of Christ was not integral to the Church before Chalcedon.” All would agree that this is true in the sense that it was not articulated in a definitive way until an alternative was proposed and pushed. When orthodoxy is challenged it is articulated and defined in response to the challenge. This does not mean that the position defended and articulated was not core to the Church prior to that in a latent way.

“We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by GARMMATICO-HISTORICAL exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or any quest for sources lying behind it that leads to the relativizing, DEHISTORICIZING or discounting of its teaching, or REJECTING ITS CLAIM TO AUTHORSHIP.’ Well, again, that seems pretty clear and straightforward to me.  In choosing to use the old, pre-critical term “Grammatico-historical” interpretation, the CSBI is giving away its profound suspicion of (and general hostility toward) modern biblical criticism.”

Is this an argument or an assertion and, again, something of an intellectually bullying one. Those who hold to the grammatico-historical sense are “precritical.” Not at all. All this means is that the text of scripture is to be interpreted in light of its original intent and in accordance with the regular use of grammar and the regular canons of history where applicable.

“And though it indeed tips its hat to the idea that we should respect the “literary forms and devices” in holy Writ, it slams the door on any legitimate attempt to interpret the Bible that ends up “dehistoricizing” the text.”

Heh, it not only “tips its hat” the literal principle is crucial, central, and at the heart of the innerancy approach as articulated in this statement.

It slams the door on “dehistoricising” texts that are intended to be historical. As in, for example, the suggestion that the raising of Lazarus was not an actual event but a metaphorical one when it is clear that this account is intended to narrate an event that truly took place.

“Obviously, the CSBI signatories would shudder at some of my earlier posts (as many readers of this thread have as well).”

They would assuredly not “shudder” in fear. But they would “shudder” at how badly you’ve managed to mangle texts and at the malicious use of them you have made.

“For in advocating the mainstream scholarly view that some parts of the Bible are more fiction than non-fiction (such as Job, Jonah, Esther, Ruth, and Daniel), I seem to run afoul of this CSBI principle that it’s improper to “dehistorcize” it.”

Not at all, you missed the point above. Because the literary sense is central, if you can demonstrate that these texts were not intended by the author to provide historical information, then you would not be “dehistoricising” anything nor would you be making even a dent in the doctrine of inerrancy. If Jonah was intended as metaphor, then an inerrantist would certainly want to interpret it in that way.

This is a point you apparently cannot come to terms with. The question you ask with regard to these books has nothing to do with inerrancy at all, but with exegesis. Are they intended to be historical? If so, then if you insist on reading them as ahistorical, then yes, you would be opposed, if not then there is no problem.

“Of course, there may be a little room for fudge here after all.  As you have noted, Matt, if someone agrees that books like Jonah or Esther have the literary form of fiction and the imaginative nature of a parable, than the standard scholarly view of such books might be accommodated within the bounds of CSBI after all, since it does give at least lip service to the notion that the Bible must be interpreted in accord with its “literary forma and devices.””

No, it does not give lip service to the literary principle. Again, the literary principle is central. How you can read the statement and not see that is a mystery that I can only explain by reference to your hostile assumptions about the concept of inerrancy itself.

“But the fundamental suspicion of such interpretive moves is all too clear.” Yes, when a text seems to intend a historical account on its face, proving it to be otherwise requires some persuasive evidence.
“Moreover, the 18th article certainlhy seems to rule out the idea that we can treat any book of the Bible as “pseudonymous,” or actually written by an unknown author in someone else’s name (like the Pastoral Letters in the name of Paul).  Obviously, my explanation of the virtually universal conclusion of non-inerrantist scholars that 2 Peter is not actually by the great apostle himself but comes from a significantly later time (maybe even into the second century AD) would appear to be rejected out of hand by the drafters of the CSBI.”

This is another dramatic misreading of the text. The article says: “REJECTING ITS (the text’s own) CLAIM TO AUTHORSHIP.’ I would of course argue vociferously with the conclusion of modern scholars that 2 Peter is not Peter’s but this is because the author names himself as Peter in the text. The same argument would not be necessary with say a gospel or a letter that does not include the name of the author in the text.

And, I would remind you how often the “universal conclusion of modern scholars” has proven to be universally wrong. For many years it was the “universal conclusion of modern scholars” that Colossians and Ephesians were non-Pauline. Why? For many of the same reasons you use to dispute Petrine scholarship. The writing is distinct in those two books from other known Pauline works. Now many if not most scholars, including NT Wright, are rejecting that opinion…to the embarrassment of those “advocates of moderate evangelical scholarship” who accepted such arguments without question.

Why?

Because such considerations are quite arbitrary. If secular critics were to compare the early letters of Abraham Lincoln to the late ones, using the same measures used by NT critics, they might well conclude en masse that the letter are pseudononymous.

“Too bad for I. H. Marshall, an otherwise very conservative and rightly honored champion of evangelicalism (a student and protege of the late, great F. F. Bruce).  It seems that Marshall got a little looser in his old age.  For in his masterful and massive technical commentary on the “Pastoral Letters” (i.e. those addressed to the pastors Timothy and Titus) in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series (in which some of the volumes are by very liberal scholars), he freely concedes that it’s highly unlikely that Paul himself wrote those letters, though he still defends a quite early date for them (i.e., earlier than most of the rest of us who have studied the matter carefully). “

This, again, adds nothing to your argument.

“Once again, I think the CSBI is admirably clear and forceful here.  And I have no problem with that at all.  I think clarity is always good and helpful, even when it’s divisive. Of course, I think the CSBI is ultra-conservative in its virtually total hostility to modern biblical criticism.  More importantly, I think it’s just plain wrong.  But at least it’s clear. What isn’t so clear to me is why you think the CSBI allows much room for moderation, Matt.  I just don’t see that kind of flexibility here at all.”

Hopefully, you see why we differ now. You chose to ignore the obvious centrality of the literal principle to the inerrantist position as articulated by the Chicago Statement.

[156] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 12:48 PM • top

OR, the mustard seed argument is a common one among revisionists. I know that you are not one, but that is the reason why it may have been brought up in the class you took.

Let me ask you. Do you really expect Jesus to give a botany lesson when speaking to other human beings? Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “he runs faster than lightening” or “that is the biggest fish I’ve ever seen”? Do you then run to check these statements for factual error? No, of course not. Why? They are obviously hyperbolic, not intended to be factual statements about the true measure of things. To measure them in that way would do violence to the intent of the speaker and it would be somewhat pedantic.

[157] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 12:57 PM • top

Let me ask you. Do you really expect Jesus to give a botany lesson when speaking to other human beings? Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “he runs faster than lightening” or “that is the biggest fish I’ve ever seen”? Do you then run to check these statements for factual error? No, of course not. Why? They are obviously hyperbolic, not intended to be factual statements about the true measure of things. To measure them in that way would do violence to the intent of the speaker and it would be somewhat pedantic.

For goodness’ sake, this is my point!  Because the professor had committed himself to an “inerrant in science” view, he felt compelled to engage in this sort of pedantry.  I have re-read and re-read my post and can only marvel at your response.  I really don’t know how you could have taken me to be claiming that this saying of Jesus was some kind of botanical error.  My point was that a construal of inerrancy that obliged one to this line of argument was a sign to me that he was on the wrong track.

[158] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-15-2008 at 01:16 PM • top

OR and I think you have misunderstood my point. Regardless of what the prof said, the question of the size of the mustard seed has nothing to do with inerrancy of science as the Chicago Statement makes clear because Jesus nor the gospel writer was intending to make a botanical observation. Had he intended it as such, had he been giving a lecture on the size of plants, then we would need to worry about the sort of thing the prof was worried about.

[159] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 01:19 PM • top

OR and I think you have misunderstood my point. Regardless of what the prof said, the question of the size of the mustard seed has nothing to do with inerrancy of science as the Chicago Statement makes clear because Jesus nor the gospel writer was intending to make a botanical observation.

I can only tell you that the context of the class discussion was in fact the Chicago affirmation of inerrancy with regard to science and that the professor had himself played a substantial role in insisting on the retention of that point in the Statement and in subsequently defending it.  Clearly I agree with you that it was silly, but you are wrong in this case in to say that it had “has nothing to do with inerrancy of science as the Chicago Statement.”

[160] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-15-2008 at 01:27 PM • top

I do not doubt that the prof played the role you suggest. What I am saying is that if he was suggesting that the relative size of the mustard plant has any bearing on the inerrancy of the scriptures, then he was not being consistent with the words of the statement in itself which do not require every mention of nature to be precise.

This is clear when you read these two articles in context with one another:

“Article XII.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XIII.
WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”

Your professor seems to suggest that Jesus was not using hyperbole or an observational description of nature…a very difficult thing to maintain.

[161] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 01:52 PM • top

Your professor seems to suggest that Jesus was not using hyperbole or an observational description of nature…a very difficult thing to maintain.

This is exactly the opposite of what he said.  Since what I am trying to say is apparently opaque and impenetrable and since my description of it gives you better access to the event than my participation in it, I think I’m done here.

[162] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-15-2008 at 02:17 PM • top

As you wish OR, its your choice. I would ask you to note the word “seems” in my comment above. I was not at all suggesting I know for certain what your prof said. I was working off your own comments and my point was that the Statement does not support the sort of pedantic argument I thought you described. So your reaction to him, while warranted, does not have any bearing on the Statement itself as the argument you suggest he made is not one that necessarily flows from it.

[163] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 02:28 PM • top

As you wish OR, its your choice. I would ask you to note the word “seems” in my comment above. I was not at all suggesting I know for certain what your prof said. I was working off your own comments and my point was that the Statement does not support the sort of pedantic argument I thought you described. So your reaction to him, while warranted, does not have any bearing on the Statement itself as the argument you suggest he made is not one that necessarily flows from it.

OK, I would agree that the pedantry of this prof is not required by the Statement, and this incident was only meant illustratively on my part; it does not count against an argument against inerrancy.  It is still significant, I think, that a “framer” of the Statement thought that this sort of argument followed from the Statement itself.  It would be charitable to the Statement, if uncharitable to him, to say that he was wrong about that. 
I will add one final observation:  Articles 12 and 13 are in considerable tension with each other.  Article 13 is altogether right on target, but by insisting on the inerrancy of the Bible re “science” in Article 12, the statement has painted itself into a corner by insisting on a category of biblical affirmation which is “according to standards of truth and error that are alien to [the Bible’s] usage or purpose.”

[164] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-15-2008 at 02:58 PM • top

Hope (#151 & 153),

It’s great to have more people participating in this thread once again.  Thank you for your kind words.  And I wholehertedly agree with your post #153.  There is indeed a bizarre similarity in how inerrantists and our liberal foes both twist and distort Scripture in order to make the text say what they want it to say.  That is, both engage in twisting themselves into pretzels as interpreters while they force the Sacred Page to conform to their pre-conceived ideas.  Scholars call that “eisegesis” (reading meanings INTO the text) as opposed to “exegesis” (which we all strive for, drawing the intended meaning OUT of the text, not imposing our own agenda or views on the ancient text).

I hope you’ll continue to add your comments from time to time, Hope.  Too much of this thread has been monopolized by Matt and me.  I’d be glad to have more people enter the fray.

David Handy+

[165] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 07:29 PM • top

Is this more of your genteel banter NRA+:

“There is indeed a bizarre similarity in how inerrantists and our liberal foes both twist and distort Scripture in order to make the text say what they want it to say.  That is, both engage in twisting themselves into pretzels as interpreters while they force the Sacred Page to conform to their pre-conceived ideas.  Scholars call that “eisegesis” (reading meanings INTO the text) as opposed to “exegesis” (which we all strive for, drawing the intended meaning OUT of the text, not imposing our own agenda or views on the ancient text).”

No doubt that were I to respond this as it deserves you would play the bewildered victim as you did above.

In any case, as to the content of your post, judging by the exegetical prowess you have demonstrated thus far on the thread glass houses spring to mind here.

[166] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 07:42 PM • top

Occasional Reader (#152, plus 158, 160, 162, 164),

I’m so glad that you chimed in.  Thank you for your testimony in #152.  I’ve had similar experiences.  In fact, many of us who have spent years in the very conservative evangelical and fundamentalist world have had those sorts of disillusioning experiences, like you had with that stubborn professor who just couldn’t concede any flaws in Scripture whatsoever. 

And I too have had conversations with numerous laypeople when they experienced one of those “Aha!” moments when the light goes on, and they realized how misleading the language of inerrancy is, when the real concern is to defend the authority of the Bible, not its absolute perfection.

Alas, Occasional Reader, welcome to the club of those who have grown frustrated with Matt’s refusal to ever concede defeat, no matter on how small a point.  I’ve too have experienced that repeatedly in this thread, although I’ve seldom given voice to that mounting frustration.  I hope, however, that you won’t give up and drop out of the discussion. 

On the other hand, maybe William Witt or Forever Anglican were wise to just drop in from time to time, add a comment and then disappear.  I don’t blame them.  I just wish more people were participating in this discussion. 

Perhaps I myself have been partly to blame.  My very long, detailed, and often technical and lecture-like posts may have intimidated or discouraged some lay people from joining in the fun (as if you had to be a seminary-educated clergyman to qualify for participation in this thread).  Or perhaps Matt is right that my tone has come across as arrogant or condescending (and sadly it does appear that it has struck some other commenters that way too).  If so, I regret that.  It was unintentional. 

Anyway, I’m glad that other people like yourself have entered into this discussion, since the topic of biblical authority is so crucial.  After all, we on the orthodox side of this Anglican civil war keep insisting that the battle is not really about homosexual behavior or sexual ethics in general, but about recovering the lost authority of God’s Word.  And so the topic of this thread is highly relevant to that all-important subject.

Finally, in speaking gratefully of your #152, Occasional Reader,I didn’t mean that I had failed to notice or appreciate your earlier comments well before that.  I just hope that you won’t drop out and become an “Occasional Poster.”

David Handy+

[167] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 08:14 PM • top

Matt+,

I took the afternoon off after we exchanged some more posts that seemed to pass like ships in the night, i.e., without really connecting with each other.  I’m not sure why, but we are certainly having trouble communicating here.  Clearly, you think I just don’t get it, and I feel the same way about you. 

So I’m glad others are joining in and keeping this thread alive over so many days.  After all, the topic is so important.  This whole Anglican civil war is really about biblical authority, not gay sex.  And so discussions about just how we should understand the KIND of authority the Bible has, and whether or not that supreme authority necessarily includes biblical inerrancy, are highly relevant.

There are so many ways that we just aren’t getting through to each other that it is probably pointless to engage in detailed give and take about it.  I’ll just let you know, hopefully without it seeming like a personal attack, that what bothers me most about our exchanges is that you use such extremely polemical and insulting language at times in trying to make your point.

A prime example would be your #147, which you continue to refuse to apologize for, although I find its language very insulting.  But it’s not the only example of rude, put down language that you’ve used about me personally, and not just my ideas. 

For instance, you have repeatedly accused me of interpreting Mark 7 and its apparent conflict with Matt. 5:17-18 in a way that’s “malicious.”  It’s bad enough when you call it “absurd,” or “suspicious” (in the sense of betraying a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” i.e., as if I assumed the biblical text was guilty of error until proven innocent, which is NOT my modus operandi and never has been).  Those charges, while false I think, can be taken as just about my ideas (and I can handle that).  But when you accuse me of a “MALICIOUS” maligning of Scripture, you are imputing motives to me, and that is a personal attack, an attack on my character or intentions (which you simply have no way of knowing). 

I hope and trust that I have not at any point done the same thing to you or any other of the more conservative posters on this thread.  If it can be shown that I have, I will quickly apologize.

Let me now try to de-personalize this conflict between us, and to return the discussion here to more objective territory.  And let me do so again by returning to a more testimonial vein, as I’ve done several times in this thread.

Here’s one of the fears that drives my participation in this thread.  I have a fear that the new orthodox Anglicanism that is emerging in North America is vulnerable to experinecing the kind of “ugly” spell that Dr. William Witt spoke of in his important post #111 (BTW, you still haven’t dealt with it).  He was referring to that awful period in the 1970s and early 80s when “the Battle for the Bible” raged so furiously in many conservative evangelical circles in America (and of which the CSBI is itself a product).

Here’s what I mean.  I’m privileged to know two excellent mainsream NT scholars who live in Richmond and who have been driven out of the denominations they were a part of during times when those denominations were torn apart by controversies over inerrancy.  One is a former Missouri Synod Lutheran (my doctoral supervisor in fact, or Doktor Fater, as the Germans say), i.e., Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury (now in the ELCA).  The other is a professor at the relatively new (moderate) Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Dr. Scott Spencer, who was a Southern Baptist (and is now with the Cooperative Baptists, a moderate, ex-SBC group).  I think of both men as friends.

Alas, both have told me denominational horror stories that would curl any normal person’s hair in shock and dismay.  In both cases, with the LCMS in the mid 1970s and the SBC in the 1980s and 90s, the inerrantists managed to carry out a purge of non-inerrantists.  And it was really, really ugly and mean-spirited.  I won’t go into details.  I don’t think it’s necessary. 

But that is what lies behind my admittedly harsh language that I indulged in at least once above, i.e., when I admitted that I “despise” Paige Patterson, one of the chief architects of the fundamentalist take-over of the SBC.  That former Texas judge acted in ways that frankly remind me of Eugene McCarthy and his disgusting smear campaign against anyone suspected in the least of being a “Communist” during the Red Scare in the 1950s.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT accusing you of being another Senator McCarthy type figure.  You do use prejorative words like “revisionist” in very sweeping and overly broad ways, but I’m not by any means accusing you of wanting to carry out a purge of people like William Witt and myself from the ranks of the new orthodox Anglicanism arising on this continent.

But my fear is that such a thing is not unthinkable.  After all, it’s happened before. It happened with the Missouri Synod, the Southern Baptists, and more than once in the last 150 years among Roman Catholics.  Those sort of ideological witchhunts do create a lot of unnecessary suspicion and mistrust.  And a lot of innocent people end up being false accused.

And in the end, that’s what bothers me about this thread.  The whole tone you set from the beginning was one of suspicion and mistrust of those of us who refuse to go along with the mistaken (in fact disproven) notion of biblical inerrancy.  Or at least, that’s the way it comes across to someone like me.  And I think from your recent frustrating exchange with Occasional Reader, he might well agree with me.

All right.  I’ve probably just generated more heat than light.  So, I’ll take another break from this thread, and maybe cease contributing to it at all.  I’ve certainly given it my best shot and said plenty.  Probably more than any one person should say on a key topic like this.  Once again, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you or others.  I may indeed have been arrogant and condescending.  But it wasn’t intentional.

On this eve of Holy Week, I wish you, Matt, and all those who happen to read through this long, controversial thread, a most blessed and powerfully transforming Holy Week.  And a glorious Eastertide, as we celebrate those awesome mysteries by which the Lord accomplished our redemption.

David Handy+

[168] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-15-2008 at 09:21 PM • top

NRA+

I have no idea what you personally feel toward the scriptures. I accept your professions of love for them at face value. When someone says another persons reading or interpretation of a text or speech is “malicious” he does not point to the person’s internal emotive intent, but to the reading or interpretation itself as unreasonably harmful. For example, if you heard someone say the sun is coming up tomorrow” and went on to suggest that that person had suggested a flat earth, that could be called a “malicious” interpretation regardless of whether you had malicious feelings toward the person or not. It is malicious because it takes pains to choose the most harmful or negative possible interpretation.

That is precisely how I used the word “malicious” above and it is quite common usage. No need to take it personally.

As for the tone, NRA, as you yourself note, others took offense from the very beginning of this thread at the tone with which you entered.

As for the strange reference to McCarthy, heh, give me a break. I disagree with you. Lots of people do. That doesn’t make them evil Southern Baptists with sharp teeth.

Finally, declaring your position victorious at this point, given that you have been unable to argue much beyond the dropping of names and retelling of experiences, is rather a good joke.

I also hope that you have a good Holy Week and a blessed and joyous Easter.

[169] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-15-2008 at 09:43 PM • top

I may indeed have been arrogant and condescending.  But it wasn’t intentional.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Matt+.  Your posts have been condescending and snide in the extreme.  I find this statement in [#167] to be typical of the declarations of victory that follow (and often preceed) lengthy non sequiturs, and circular ad hominem attacks:

welcome to the club of those who have grown frustrated with Matt’s refusal to ever concede defeat, no matter on how small a point.

[170] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-15-2008 at 09:50 PM • top

Happy Easter to you, too.

[171] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-15-2008 at 09:51 PM • top

  The whole tone you set from the beginning was one of suspicion and mistrust of those of us who refuse to go along with the mistaken (in fact disproven) notion of biblical inerrancy.

NRA, let the highlighted segment above serve as an example of inflammatory words which may be read as arrogant and condescending by some of us who have been following this thread.  I assume Dr. Witt is of the same opinion, but somehow, he manages to express it without being offensive, which helps one consider his ideas dispassionately and respectfully.

[172] Posted by LBStringer on 03-15-2008 at 10:14 PM • top

NRA+

Your whole style has been one of attempting to throw your intellectual weight around, often simply ignoring points others have raised (Matt+ have you read, my “oh really, prove it” on science or jedinovice pointing you towards David Rohl as one scholar with different dating system, which you ignored to only restate your opinion) or   you know or making appeals to emotion and/or peer pressure. I’ll have to agree with Matt+ not only have you repeated many of the revisionist arguments but often in the same format.

I’ve taken contrary opinions to Dr. Noll+ or to Dr Gagnon and taken much heat. I don’t whine—I fully expect taking on some giants that I’ll be unpopular—I really could care little about that, is my position defensible and at the core to I believe it? So your appeals to sympathy and what appear to be victim claims are very puzzling to me. Your attempt to buddy up with Dr. Witt is also puzzling, I’ve not read you two saying the same thing, maybe you think you are and maybe he does agree, but each post I read on it’s own merit and see no value in your attempt to state alliances that may or may not be there (I’ve only seen Dr. Witt give himself to one and that is to Sarah Hey). Logically it does nothing to help you and seems an appeal to a peer pressure.

I’ll be honest and read most of your post as some of the arrogant, inflammatory and condescending as well. I’m really thankful my priest does not treat us that way, I think takes a lot more heat than you have on this thread but approaches things differently. Blunt and honest, this is one of the oddest fields to go for an advance degree in, unlike a physicist or a physician or any other specialized field, we all have and called to gain a knowledge of God, worse than that, you, Dr Witt, Dr Noll+ and Dr Gagnon are functionally in the same role as “scribes and teacher of the law” thus all those verses of warning would apply as well as the warning of a stricter standard and mill stones—you have chosen a field in which the academic methodology of the ‘competition of knowledge’ is actually shown in the antagonistic role in the NT—which you have reminded us your an expert. 

Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to you too.

[173] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-15-2008 at 11:05 PM • top

Thanks to all on this thread.  I realize that this has been bruising to both David and Matt, but being an educated nonspecialist myself, I’ve found it very illuminating.  So thanks to both of you, and the others who have chimed in from time to time.

I’ve often disagreed strenuously with you, Matt, on the specifically Calvinist doctrines, but I’m more or less with you concerning the Scriptures.  I’m pretty sure myself that Job and Jonah are parables, mainly because of the lack of historical location and the strong vein of typically Jewish humour, e.g. Satan strolling into an angels’ staff meeting and having a mocking conversation with God, or the spectacle of a disobedient prophet preaching to obedient heathens.  I also think that God made our first parents out of the dust, via many generations of ancestors, e.g. the people from whom Cain got his wife.  I wouldn’t want to chain anyone’s faith to the science of the day, but the sudden appearance of cave art and grave goods in the Upper Paleolithic is quite suggestive of a complete spiritual revolution among our early ancestors that I would think quite consistent with God’s having set His image on us at that time.

The typical materialist idea that Genesis 1-2 is nonsense because it doesn’t square with the current scientific picture betrays a really stunning lack of literary sensitivity.  When I talk with my scientific colleagues about this (as I occasionally do), I ask them to imagine that they were God, and needed to explain to all humanity throughout the ages just how they were related to Him—as creatures, as beloved children, as rebels and castaways.  Oh, and their eternal salvation is at stake, and you have a page and a half to do it in.  (Worth 30% of your grade, btw.)

Would you really spend 95% of that space on astrophysics and the sloshings of slime moulds in Earth’s primeval oceans, before you even got to land animals, and then have had one punctuation mark at the end for all of human history?  That’s what a video camera would have recorded.  What price scientific balance?

Is it even possible to get the message of Genesis across without using a mythopoeic approach, at least in part?  I can’t think how.

Stuff like the Flood I find difficult to process.  I can’t accept that dinosaur bones were really just God’s little joke, or that geological processes really proceeded at rates so very different from those observed today that you could make peat into coal in historical times.  I’m forced to conclude that this isn’t what the story of Noah’s Ark is supposed to convey, either to its first readers or to us.  What I take away from the story of the Flood is basically this: God loves righteousness and hates sin, and He visits temporal as well as eternal judgement upon the rebellious; but He is faithful, and by His grace He binds Himself by promises and covenants with such as us.  (Blessed be He.)

Bp. Wright wrote an article on the authority of Scripture about 15 or 20 years ago in which he pointed out that the Bible is full of stories, much more than principles or laws.  The part that got me was when he said (paraphrasing) that going to the Bible only for history or moral instruction was like a soldier going to his commanding officer for the day’s orders, and the commander starting out, “Once upon a time…”.

David, I appreciate your emphasis on the connection between the Reformation idea of sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture, and I appreciate even more your efforts to keep communication going despite personal friction in a very public forum, which is a difficult thing to do.  (I wish I were as good at it as you are.)  Nevertheless I have to agree with Matt that your individual arguments have been quite weak.  That business about Daniel 11 was so unpersuasive as to cast serious doubt on the whole underlying methodology, and there have been other instances as well.  Dropping the names of eminent people who share your position is incomplete without also demonstrating why their views are compelling—which is probably quite a bit harder than just making the argument yourself.

I’m probably betraying my own limitations here, but has anyone actually responded to Lewis’s challenge by doing some sort of blind test of the historical-critical method where an independent check was available?  The history of the method hasn’t been particularly encouraging.  My favourite example is the 19th Century insistence that John was very late—and then a portion of a manuscript of John was discovered in the mummy wrappings of a sacred crocodile in Egypt, dated securely to AD 130 or so, which proved that John had been disseminated widely, far enough before that date that this valuable manuscript had been totally worn out and thrown away.

Piling up a big stack of weak arguments really isn’t particularly persuasive, especially when placed against the witness of the whole Church from earliest times.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

First Aid Theology

[174] Posted by gone on 03-15-2008 at 11:12 PM • top

Some final thoughts about this discussion from my vantage point:

There is no future in a doctrine of “biblical errancy.”  NRA has taken up the questionable rhetorical strategy of trying to demonstrate errors in the Bible.  I say “questionable” because it immediately creates defensiveness on the part of an audience committed to inerrancy, and the definition of inerrancy here espoused is such that there is really no biblical phenomenon that could ever be labeled an error.  The list of unsolved problems in this regard is rather substantial, but the CSBI consigns such to present limitations of our knowledge, but not the sort of thing that should change our views of the matter.  Meanwhile, it makes NRA look like a bad guy with a low view of the Bible, when I doubt that this is the case.  It leads therefore to an unfruitful discussion (though perhaps some have benefited from it).

Meanwhile, to my mind MK has much too high an estimation of the CSBI, its clarity, nuance, and viability—and an inflated estimation of the theological scholarship (biblical, historical, systematic) that stands behind it. 

Regarding the tone of the proceedings, I can see why some read NRA as condescending and patronizing, and not all of his arguments are equally persuasive.  Not infrequently he overstates the certainty of his case.  Nonetheless, I don’t recall him engaging in the kind of ad hominem so frequent in MK’s posts.  Moreover, NRA at least gives ground when so persuaded in the midst of debate, something I have not seen MK do.  Meanwhile MK’s posts are not infrequently peppered with questionable, exaggerated, or even false claims or fallacious arguments, but his inability to listen and accept correction, makes it futile to even bother to point these out.

So I would say that this has not been an especially enlightening discourse and regret losing my patience a few times.

[175] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-16-2008 at 12:32 AM • top

OR, thanks, “Moreover, NRA at least gives ground when so persuaded in the midst of debate, something I have not seen MK do.”

I would be more than willing to give such ground were I persuaded. I’ve been persuaded about WO and about my former optismism with regard to the ABC…two very big, very public positions I have written a good deal about. I have had to publicly recant about both. I have not been persuaded here by you or by NRA so it would not be right for me to give ground on a hill I do not believe has been taken.

But if you can show evidence the arguments I have given above are false or fallacious or exagerated, using data not opinion, I’d be willing to admit it.

[176] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-16-2008 at 03:38 AM • top

Nonetheless, I don’t recall him engaging in the kind of ad hominem so frequent in MK’s posts

One example of NRA+‘s circular ad hominem attack:  Esteeming the opinion of some profs at Wheaton who are more “nuanced” in their position than the CSBI, then admitting that the prof in mind was not an inerrantist.  Apparently, only an orthodox Christian who rejects Inerrancy is capable of understanding and / or expressing arguments that are nuanced. 

That’s an ad hominem attack, that is circular in its reasoning.  There are a lot more to be found.

[177] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-16-2008 at 08:14 AM • top

Folks, having read some of this thread—and declined to enter it because I have already come to a belief about this issue [and no new arguments were made from the side opposing my own belief]—I see that it has degenerated into the supporters of the individuals sniping about the two central antagonists, as well as passive-aggressive wounded side-swipes from some corners, rather like the ineffectual shouts into the wind after a departing gunslinger.

Further comments along these lines will be deleted.

[178] Posted by Sarah on 03-16-2008 at 08:27 AM • top

[#168] NRA wrote:

In both cases, with the LCMS in the mid 1970s and the SBC in the 1980s and 90s, the inerrantists managed to carry out a purge of non-inerrantists.

NRA,
Perhaps you should consider the possibility that “purging the non-inerrantists” saved LCMS from the doctrinal chaos and apostacy that has become ELCA.  Where did these “non-inerrantists” go once they left LCMS?  They formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and eventually merged into ... ELCA. 

You seem persuaded by the modern epistemological crisis which led to Liberal Protestantism in the first place: “The Scriptures are not historically accurate.  How do we rescue Christianity from its historically false claims?”  You can’t.  Christianity is an historical religion.  It makes historical Truth claims that if false render the entire religion a lie.  If the Lord Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we are of all men most miserable.

But if the Scriptures are found false in one part, then they are found false in all parts.  For the authority of Scripture instantly devolves from God to men.  Only men can introduce historical error.  Any Scripture which contains historical error must therefore originate with man.  But if limited finite man is the source of Scripture, we can no longer claim that the Scripture is “infallible” in terms of faith and morals.  For if men can introduce errors of history, men can also introduce errors in terms of faith and morals.  Scripture reduces to a collection of Aesop’s fables written by men for men.  It is not surprising that this is how Liberals view Scripture.  This is the inevitable end point of your errantist doctrine.

Men <u>hate</u> the biblical revelation of sin, and they look for ways to deny it.  It is the offense of the Gospel, and it is the first doctrine discarded once men arrogate to themselves the power to parse Truth from Falsehood in Scripture.  But without sin, there is no wrath.  Without wrath, there is no hell, and no need for atonement.  No need for a savior.  The work of the cross becomes the barbarity of the Cross.  And we arrive at modern Liberal Protestantism: “God loves everyone, and isn’t mad about anything, and justs everyone to find his authentic self.”  The Gospel is eviscerated, and men congratulate themselves on their goodness.

Believe what you want about Scripture, NRA.  But please don’t pretend to hide from the implications of what you believe.  There is no infallibility apart from inerrancy.  There is only the wide road to 815.

carl

[179] Posted by carl on 03-16-2008 at 09:32 AM • top

“Believe what you want about Scripture, NRA.  But please don’t pretend to hide from the implications of what you believe.  There is no infallibility apart from inerrancy.  There is only the wide road to 815.”


People are coming at this topic from a variety of levels and directions.  Some people see inerrancy as literalism, whereas others just understand that as meaning that the underlying truth is sound whatever form the message is delivered in (poetry, allegory, legend, parable etc).  Some people see the Scriptures as theological documents, not historical or scientific explanations.  People have extremely wide ranges in the quality or amount of experience and education, formal and/or informal, that they have had on this subject.  People have been told a lot of conflicting things over time by sources they have had no reason not to trust. 
Now we have some of our leadership trying to force us into one camp or the other, far from the broad Anglican heritage we were accustomed to.  And they not only seem to demand our compliance but are getting nasty with one another.  It is hard not to be affected negatively however often we remind ourselves of our imperfect and fallen nature.

[180] Posted by Hope on 03-16-2008 at 10:25 AM • top

It is hard not to be affected negatively however often we remind ourselves of our imperfect and fallen nature.

Hope,
How do we know we have a fallen nature?  It is not universally accepted.  So upon what basis do you make such a statement?  If you say the Scripture (and that is the correct answer), then upon what authority does the Scripture stand?  And how would you answer the skeptic who says:

“The same Scripture that says Jonah was swallowed by a fish? <snigger> The same Scripture that says God created in six days?  <chortle>  The same Scripture that says the world was flooded for 40 days, and only eight people survived?”

  At that point you had better be able to say something besides “Well, OK, those are wrong, but we really are sinful.”

carl

[181] Posted by carl on 03-16-2008 at 10:54 AM • top

#178—Sarah, I own and apologize for my contribution and accept your abolishment. Telling me what I think in long monologue while not actually responding to mine or other posts does get my goat, more the first part than the latter. It’s the same disrespect when one lumps race or gender into one generality then speaks to likes or dislikes or opinions to tell some one you’re “in dialog” what they think before asking or an attempt at understanding. I probably over-react in response.

I’ll stand by the warning to any who are learned without retraction. Once a long time ago, I thought Jesus was speaking to people who no longer exist, in some ways this is true. However, during this crisis I’ve gone back to school and I’ve begun to read many theological articles. The first irony is that ego is banned from the disciples which takes out the entire academic incentive system as I’ve seen it.  Also, I do not see those learned in Scripture much different than those of today, sitting around debating theology, each hoping for an edge. I no longer see the scribes as monstrous people, rather one very much I’m meeting on the web today, in many ways, I bet they’d be fun for many here to have a cup of coffee and chat, which scares me all the more ...

[182] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-16-2008 at 11:46 AM • top

My concern regarding this thread is that we are in a situation where we (the Anglican conservatives) need to unite around the 39 Articles. I love it when Matt+ starts a thread aimed at gaining agreement about the various aspects of the “Common Cause Theological Statement”. I see this thread as divisive.

[183] Posted by Deja Vu on 03-16-2008 at 12:01 PM • top

Re: divisiveness

I don’t know if I agree that this is divisive in an ecclesial sense.  Recognizing that deep disagreements on foundational matters exist, and trying in our usual bumbling human style to discuss them, is more likely to prevent church divisions than to cause them.  If we all went along assuming we were united on all points, then as soon as circumstances changed we’d be in for a nasty surprise.

Bruising and somewhat unpleasant, sure.  Divisive, not really.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[184] Posted by gone on 03-16-2008 at 01:25 PM • top

“Hope,
How do we know we have a fallen nature?  It is not universally accepted.  So upon what basis do you make such a statement?  If you say the Scripture (and that is the correct answer), “

It is in Scripture, it is demonstrated around me all the time (reason) and my little corner of the church has always reinforced that view (tradition).  Whereas Jonah is swallowed by the great fish in Scripture, but nothing in what I can deduce from the world I see or study reinforces that possibility and I have always been part of a tradition that did not consider it necessary to believe that such details in Jonah were literally true to get the meaning of it.  If God wanted a fish to swallow Jonah, I have no doubt he would arrange it, and if he wanted men to live 800 years and bushes to burst into flame, I am sure he would cause those things to happen.  I am sure he is also capable of putting a large truth in story form to make it easier for our little minds to grasp.  I am not interested in questioning or fighting about how God decides to do things.  I am not saying he didn’t do them, I am just saying they seem highly unlikely to be literal truth, but that does not cause me to doubt the truth of the Scriptures, which is in the meaning of the stories, not their descriptive details.  Saying that a doubt about a detail is a slippery slope leading to heresy or unbelief is sort of like saying everyone who takes a sip of communion wine will end up an alcoholic.  Mostly, it isn’t gonna happen.
I received my religious education from Episcopal priests and teachers who taught me that I worship only God , and respect and revere the Bible as containing everything necessary for my salvation, but do not hold it up as an object of worship.  In fact, I was actually taught that it is heresy to worship the Bible.  Pretty much like the Catholics if you go on their website.  Episcopalian from birth.  So some of you confuse me.  People have been disagreeing about the details of the Scriptures for 2000 years, and I seriously doubt that any of us here, including the most learned contributors, have it all squared away 100% correct.  I am comfortable with mystery, myself.  Isn’t faith more about what we do when we are NOT sure than in thinking we know everything?

[185] Posted by Hope on 03-16-2008 at 02:53 PM • top

Hope,

It is a great pity that Paul’s warnings to the leaders of different communities to be on guard against a sense of self-righteousness and ‘works glorifying the self’ have become the servant of the ‘we are all sinners’ teaching.

1 John 3:7-10 and Ephesians 1:4 demonstrate the ‘unscripturalness’ of this teaching.

Those who choose to follow the righteousness of Jesus have become children of the Most High, ‘begotten’ of God, and cannot sin. Those who do not wish to stand in this spiritual relationship are free to do so - that it their concern.

[186] Posted by vynette on 03-16-2008 at 05:56 PM • top

Those who choose to follow the righteousness of Jesus have become children of the Most High, ‘begotten’ of God, and cannot sin.”

Well, ya could have fooled me.  Whatever.

[187] Posted by Hope on 03-16-2008 at 06:47 PM • top

Hmmm.  Holy Week is a good time for pausing for self-examination and recognizing once again our deep need for redemption and transformation.  And in that llight, I want to apologize to Matt, Hosea 6:6, Moot, and any other readers who have found my frequent posts here offensive.  It is humbling to discover that despite my best efforts and good intentions (e.g., see the last paragraphs of my early posts #24 and 31), I have come across as arrogant, condescending, inflammatory, and evasive etc.  Personally, I don’t consider the posts Sarah Hey was objecting to as cheap shots, and I took no offense at them, though it certainly hurts to be crticized so harshly.

But I’d like to see if perhaps if I can make amends here.  Maybe it’s too late, but I’d like to try.

I’ve just reread the entire thread, lookng for ways that I might have stirred up such negative feelings.  And I’d have to agree that I did an awful lot of lecturing in my posts here, which could easily be taken as a haughty presumption of superiority on my part (i.e., “let me set you ignorant people straight”). 

But I still that there is a clear need for someone to help educate the readership of SF on the nature of the different approaches to biblical interpretation within the orthodox movement in Anglicanism.  Maybe it was presumptuous to appoint or volunteer myself as that person, and someone else can do it better and less provocatively. 

Anyway, I stand by my repeated claim on this thread that we need to build bridges of mutual understanding across the chasm that seems to separate those of us who zealously defend biblical inerrancy and are highly suspicious of mainstream biblical scholarship and those of us who are not inerrantists and are within that mainstream.  There is too much suspicion and mistrust between us, and I think a lot of that is due to ignorance of one another’s real views and why we hold them.

However, I recognize that I may have inadvertently thrown out another red herring by my regular use of terms like “mainstream” above, or “moderate.”  This could easily be taken as a slam on more conservative Anglicans like Matt as if they were fringe extremists.  As Kendall Harmon and Sarah and others have taught us, labels are often offensive, even if unintentionally so.  I’ll have to give that matter more thought to see if I can come up with better ways of describing the different groups within our orthodox coalition.  Suggestions would be welcome (e.g., something as diplomatic as Kendall’s terms “reappraisers” and “reasserters” are).

Alas, one reason a thread like this can generate the kind of heat it seems to have done, is because for too long there has been a huge gap between what is taught in our seminaries to the clergy and what they teach in the parish.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is sometimes a very good thing!  We don’t need heresy taught anywhere at any time!  But what I’m getting at, there is a worrisome gap between the kind of training in biblical interpretation that TEC clergy get in seminary (even at Trinity in Ambridge and Nashotah House in Wisconsin), and what little training, if any, lay people generally get in our parishes in terms of how to study the Bible themselves.

Let me give a personal illustration once again.  In my very first position as a newly ordained deacon, at the conservative Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, I had a rather shocking experience that was a real eye-openeer for me.  The Dean of the Cathedral then was Fr. Gary Kriss, later Dean of Nashotah.  He generously allowed me to preach farily often, even as a deacon.  But after the early service on one occasion when I chose to preach on the epistle for the day, which was from Ephesians, he took me aside between services and made a comment I’ve never forgotten.  It’s haunted me for years.

He said something like this.  “Fine sermon, David.  But I’ll ask you to make one change.  From time to time in your sermon you referred to “the writer of Ephesians” without ever mentioning Paul’s name.  Now you and I know that Paul didn’t really write Ephesians, but the people don’t know that.  And there’s no need to upset them.  Therefore, you WILL at the next service consistently refer to St. Paul as the writer.”

I was stunned.  It’s not as if I had called attention to the authorship of Ephesians, or made an issue of it in any way.  I never suggested Paul wasn’t the author.  I just left it ambiguous.  But somehow, it seemed wrong to me to PRETEND that Paul was the author, when neither the dean nor I actually believed that.  Most of all, it seemed that there was a calculated policy here of “keeping the sheep blissfully ignorant and happy.”  I thought it wrong-headed then, and I still think it’s a misguided approach now, over 20 years later.

Now, it’s NOT my intention to open up yet another matter of controversy on this thread (i.e., debating the authorship of Ephesians, where Matt and I are once again on opposite sides).  I only use this incident from my early days in ministry as a concrete illustration of a profound pastoral problem that all clergy probably struggle with to some degree.  And that is, how to bridge the vast gap between what most of us have learned in our studies, and what our flock knows.  At least, I struggle mightily with that on a regular basis.  Now don’t get me wrong, the pulpit is not the best place for basic instruction in biblical interpretation; it’s where we put it to use in order to feed the flock and build them up in the faith etc.  Dealing with anything new and controversial is usually best done in a setting where two-way discussion is possible.

And that suggests to me one of the problems with blogs like this.  I think if I had been sitting down with Matt, Moot, Hosea 6:6, Phil Hobbs and others who have participated in this thread but objected to various things I’ve said, I think a lot of the irritation and anger that have arisen here could have been avoided.  Because I could have read people’s body language, or tone of voice, and realized that folks were getting upset and backed off.  Alas, when I indulge in the kind of very long, didactic posts that I have here, that inevitably seems like a lecture or sermon or some other more one-way form of communication.  I guess one of the lessons I’ll take away from this thread is the need to keep things shorter and allow more frequent feedback, lest I provoke anger or annoyance without realizing it while I’m waxing eloquent and verbose.

So, let me practice that here, and stop now.  I appreciate all the feedback I’ve gotten here, even that which was hard to take.

God bless you all, this most holy of weeks.

David Handy+

[188] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-16-2008 at 07:00 PM • top

But if you can show evidence the arguments I have given above are false or fallacious or exagerated, using data not opinion, I’d be willing to admit it.

OK, since you ask . . . but I limit myself to only two illustrations:

1.  In #7 (cf. original post re the canonicity of Hebrews), you say:  “I can defer to Nicea because I believe they rightly received the books that are indeed apostolic in nature.” 
Here you claim that Council of Nicaea received the books of the NT canon.  This is not true; no such ruling was made by this Council; no canon list is extant related to Nicaea (see the standard texts on the NT canon, e.g., by Metzger, F. F. Bruce, L. MacDonald, etc.).  This is thus a rather startling assertion that makes a reader wonder about the rest of the argument, as no one with even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the canon would make such a claim.  The first canon list matching our 27 NT books is by Athanasius more than three decades later than Nicaea, but the matter of the NT canon was not settled thereby and never by an ecumenical council of the Church. 

2.  Responding to NRA’s argument contrasting the Christological self-disclosure of the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, you write:  “Let’s hear some evidence. It might suprise [sic] you to know that one of the modern champions of the historicity of John is NT Wright who basis [sic] quite a bit of his argument in Jesus and the Victory of God on it and the claims therin [sic].” (#142)

The claim that N.T. Wright bases quite a bit of his argument in Jesus and the Victory of God on the historicity of John certainly surprised me, as I had read the book twice, carefully.  It is and entirely false characterization of Wright’s argument in the book, and I can’t see how anyone who had read that book carefully would ever make such a claim.  As the index alone shows, there are 25 full columns of references to the Synoptic Gospels and one and a half to the Fourth Gospel (even the Coptic Gospel of Thomas is referenced more often!).  Moreover, almost all of these references are in footnotes, marked by “cf.”, following a list of Synoptic evidence, showing that Wright regards the Fourth Gospel as a secondary level of evidence compared to the Synoptics (whether this is his actual view or rhetoric for the sake of his readership, I don’t know).  There is no section of the book devoted to defending the historicity of John in whole or in part.  Moreover not one of the “I am” sayings is defended as historical or even cited (!) in JVG (which was the topic originally raised by NRA).  So the whole line of argument you offered here is entirely disingenuous.  The condescending tone with which it is offered (“It might surprise you . . .”) makes it all the more egregious. 

In the interests of brevity and charity, I am limiting the number of examples offered.  But it was this sort of thing that stood behind my observation that your posts on this thread were often characterized by errors, exaggeration, and logical fallacy.  I don’t intend to keep dredging up examples to make my case.

[189] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-16-2008 at 07:56 PM • top

Re: Wright and the Gospel of John, he admits that Paul’s letters come more easily to him, that John is the gospel he has to work on understanding. Which might have some impact on how he cites it, or how often he cites it.

[190] Posted by oscewicee on 03-16-2008 at 08:27 PM • top

OR, thanks.

I think this is an odd assertion:

“1.  In #7 (cf. original post re the canonicity of Hebrews), you say:  “I can defer to Nicea because I believe they rightly received the books that are indeed apostolic in nature.”
Here you claim that Council of Nicaea received the books of the NT canon.  This is not true; no such ruling was made by this Council; no canon list is extant related to Nicaea (see the standard texts on the NT canon, e.g., by Metzger, F. F. Bruce, L. MacDonald, etc.).  This is thus a rather startling assertion that makes a reader wonder about the rest of the argument, as no one with even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the canon would make such a claim.  The first canon list matching our 27 NT books is by Athanasius more than three decades later than Nicaea, but the matter of the NT canon was not settled thereby and never by an ecumenical council of the Church.”

This is simply false because you seem either to discount or not to acknowledge the muratorian fragment (170AD)

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10642a.htm

which lists almost all of the NT books received at Nicea.

As this fragment makes clear, our present NT canon was fairly well established long before Nicea at least partly as a result of the rather heated controversy over Marcion’s heresy.

If you dispute this, I would refer you to FF. Bruce’s “The Canon of Scripture”. He points to the fragment as evidence that the NT canon was well established prior to Nicea and, if you read his study, he makes a strong argument that the criterion of “apostolicity” was primary in determining which books were to be recieved.

As for NT Wright’s use of John in Jesus and the Victory of God, I am suprised that you argue on the basis of the endnotes and not the text itself. I do not have the book on hand at the moment, it is at church, but part of his argument for a very early high Christology is founded in an argument that John’s Christology is not late at all; that claims to Jesus’ divinity in John’s gospel and elsewhere are not additions of the 2nd century church, but are rather consistent with what might be expected of Jesus himself and his followers. NT Wright’s thesis hinges in large part on the idea that Jesus consciously appropriated the signs of Temple, Land, and People…appropriations recorded, as Wright points out, rather explicitly in John’s gospel. It is odd that you say you have read this book twice and have missed the centrality of John’s Gospel to Wright’s argument?

Here’s an article that points to the centrality of Johanine Christology to Wright’s arguments about the historical Jesus and his own self understanding:
http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Self.htm

One distinctive of Wright with regard to John is that he regards the book as having been written far earlier than most “mainstream” NT scholars. As he notes in a recent article published in beliefnet:

“What is more, those four canonical gospels must all have been written by about AD 90 at the very latest. (I am inclined to think they are probably a lot earlier than that, but they cannot be later.) They are known and referred to by Christian writers in the first half of the second century, long before anyone begins to discuss the material we now know from Nag Hammadi. And they incorporate, and are based on, sources both oral and written which go back a lot earlier, sources from the time when not only most of Jesus’s followers were still alive and active within the early Christian movement, but when plenty of others—bystanders, opponents, officials—were still around, aware of the new movement as it was growing, and ready to challenge or contradict tales that were gaining currency. Palestine is a small country. In a world without print and electronic media, people were eager to hear and eager to pass on stories about anyone and anything out of the ordinary. The chances are, as John suggests at the end of his gospel, that there was in fact far more material available about Jesus than any one of the gospel writers had space to put down. Source material must have been plentiful. The central features of Jesus’s life and work must have been well known. As one of the early preachers says, these things were not done in a corner.”
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/197/story_19743_2.html

Again, I do not have my copy of JVG with me, but, once more, the point of his argument is that Jesus assumed and appropriated in himself and his disciples the symbols of People, Land, and Temple. John’s gospel, and an early dating of it, is central to his argument in this regard as is its basic historical reliability.

I do invite you to list the other “falsehoods” that you claim I have posted and I will answer them as best I can.

[191] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-16-2008 at 08:48 PM • top

Here also is a section of another article that reinforces the point above.

“My fourth point is a redaction-critical comment.  Redaction-critics have increasingly recognised that the evangelists were, by and large, careful to describe Jesus as they supposed he was in his own day, not simply as though he were a member of their own church.  This, of course, has had a tendency to undercut some earlier form-critical work, and none the worse for that.  Redaction-criticism has also (sometimes quite unnecessarily) suggested that such historicizing settings are largely fictitious.  But in these narratives the question is posed quite sharply.  Are these stories such as would enable us to see Matthew or Luke or John saying to their readers, “This is how it will be in our own day”? The answer is obvious.  Of course they are not.  The accounts are quite clear that the appearances of Jesus were not the sort of thing that went on happening during the continuing existence of the early church.  Luke did not suppose that his readers might meet Jesus om the road to Emmaus.  John did not imagine that fishermen were still likely to come upon Jesus cooking breakfast by the shore.  Matthew’s Jesus will be with his people always, but Jesus is not continually to be met on a mountain in Galilee.  If someone were to suggest that the stories were actually allegories or parables of what happens spiritually in the church, no doubt the evangelists would agree that they could in some senses be taken that way as well.  If you start by supposing that the stories were in some sense based on actual reminiscence, you can easily see how they could come to be used in this extended sense.  I suggest, however, that if you try to imagine the journey being made in the opposite direction you will discover that it is impossible.  The surprising elements, noted above, rule it out.

The fifth general point follows from this.  I find it totally incredible to suppose as many New Testament scholars would have us believe, that the gospel accounts of the resurrection, especially those in Luke and John, represent a late development in the tradition, in which for the first time people thought it appropriate or even necessary to speak of the risen Jesus in an overtly embodied fashion.  The idea that traditions developed in the church from a more hellenistic early period to a more Jewish later period is in any case extremely peculiar and, though widely held this century, ought to be abandoned as historically unwarranted and in any case counterintuitive.  If there was likely to be development, the model we find in Josephus, for example, suggests that we should expect a hellenistic spiritualizing of the tradition.  It is far and away more likely that a very Jewish perception in very early Christianity gave way, under certain circumstances, to a more hellenistic one toward the end of the century (though this would itself need careful investigation before we signed up to it wholesale).  I suggest that, whenever John and Luke reached their final form, the traditions embodied now in their closing chapters go bade to genuine early memories, told and retold, no doubt, are shaped and reshaped by the life of the community that retold them, but with their basic message preserved intact.  Perhaps, however, they were not reshaped as much as is sometimes supposed—hence the absence of developed exegetical allusions. Their message makes sense within the world of apocalyptic Judaism, that is, within the world of Jesus and the earliest Christians. Fifth point, then: beware of development hypotheses that place as late as possible what was probably early.”
here’s the link

Again, NT Wright, while not at all an inerrantist (and I never claimed otherwise) certainly recognizes the basic and essential historicity of John and in this way sets himself apart from most NT critics.

http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Historical_Jesus.htm

[192] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-16-2008 at 09:10 PM • top

Matt, that’s it for me.  Your responses are non sequitous and do not actually respond to what I have said or even to what you have previously said.  To keep going with this is futile.  I knew better before I started.  “Fool me twice . . . ”

[193] Posted by Occasional Reader on 03-16-2008 at 09:54 PM • top

Occasional Reader,
Surely you jest.  Matt addressed your issues at length.

[194] Posted by JackieB on 03-16-2008 at 09:58 PM • top

Okay, OR, you do that. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll be back… : )

[195] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-16-2008 at 10:00 PM • top

RE: “To keep going with this is futile.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

OR listed two “examples” of “false” statements by Matt—one about the canon of scripture and one about Wright’s arguments and the basis for his arguments in Jesus and the Victory of God. 

Matt responded with further rebuttals of the “false” “examples” from OR.

OR does not appear to agree with Matt’s rebuttals and states that Matt does not respond and that it is “futile.”

And on it goes.

It seems clear that Matt has stumbled upon a deep line of division amongst orthodox Episcopalians.

I for one am most interested in this deep line of division.  I think it the source of much that has occurred and I appreciate Matt’s bringing it to light.

I expect that there will be little to no agreement on this matter in the future amongst orthodox Episcopalians, for as OR states about his discussion with Matt—it is futile.

It will be interesting to discover if the two sides—divided over something rather important and fundamental—will be able to work together, considering this.

I greatly appreciate this thread.

[196] Posted by Sarah on 03-16-2008 at 10:11 PM • top

Sarah (#196),

I agree that the division exposed on this thread is crucial and has far-reaching implications.  And I think my more conservative sparring partners would fully agree with that at least.

In that light, I have complied an INDEX of the major contributors (i.e., those who’ve posted five or more comments germane to the main theme of biblical infallibility, excluding vynette, a visiting skeptic).  I put it together while rereading the entire thread in the last 24 hours.  And I hope this list will encourage others to reread some or all of the thread too. 

The concern for the recovery of biblical authority in western Anglicnaism is indeed what drives this whole battle for the soul of Anglicanism.  The concept of biblical infalliblity or inerrancy is obviously relevant to that profound concern we all share.

I recognize that my earnest challengers are honestly concerned lest our movement be compromised from the start by incipient traitors (whether conscious ones or not).  Sarah, as a Tolkien lover, you may remember where in the Lord of the Rings Gandalf says it (I don’t), but somewhere the noble wizard notes that in the long years of battle with the Dark Lord, “treachery has ever been our greatest foe.”  Now I hope Matt, Moot, Hosea 6:6 and others don’t really think I’m a Saruman, much less a Grima Wormtongue, i.e., a Judas among the Twelve so to speak.  Perhaps more like a Boromir, too entranched by the lure of scholarship to beware of its power to corrupt and destroy those with good intentions.  But I’ll leave that to others to decide.

Anyway, here’s the index.

Matt launched the thread with a long, tone-setting post, followed by comments #7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20, 22, 26, 39, 43, 49, 50, 52, 55, 56, 66, 67, 79, 85, 88, 90, 91, 133, 142, 147, 149, 154, 156, 157, 159, 161, 163, 166, 169, 176, 191, 195 (or a total of 41 posts so far).

I contributed the following:  #5, 24, 25, 31, 51, 53, 54, 63, 74, 76, 80, 83, 84, 109, 112, 114, 119, 122, 123, 127, 128, 130, 136, 141, 143, 145, 146, 148, 150, 155, 165, 167, 168, 188 (34 comments so far).

Then in alphabetical order (to be as non-partisan as possible):

Boring Bloke:  #19, 33, 65, 104, 116, 132 (or 6 posts so far).

CryptoCatholic (Phil Hobbs):  #94, 95, 97, 99, 135, 137, 174, 184 (or 8 so far).

Hosea 6:6 added:  #11, 15, 23, 29, 38, 40, 48, 57, 68, 59, 61, 69, 70, 75, 105, 107, 173, 182 (or 18 posts so far).

Moot contributed:  #28, 42, 62, 77, 78, 82, 100, 102, 103, 118, 124, 125, 129, 131, 170, 171, 177.

Occasional Reader posted:  #64, 73, 96, 113, 140, 152, 158, 160, 162, 164, 175, 189, 193 (or 13 comments so far).

Paladin1789 submitted:  #86, 108, 110, 121, 138 (or 5 so far).

William Witt chimed in with:  #12, 37, 45, 46, 111, 117 (or 6 posts).

Note that this means that so far just NINE people (seven besides Matt and me who probably dominated it too much) have been drawn into active participation in debating important topic.  I think that’s unfortunate.  And I’m sorry if I myself have scared some people off, or turned them off so much they stayed away.  But I think a broader base of participants would have helped keep this thread healthier and made it more interesting.

Anyone else therefore willing to join in the fray?  It’s not too late.

David Handy+

[197] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 12:20 AM • top

I’m afraid that this latest flap between Matt and Occasional Reader does indeed illustrate all too well why this thread has often been frustrating for many of us on both sides.  I have some guesses as to why that might be so.  But I do think it’s worth taking a careful look at what has just happened here.

Occasional Reader raised some valid questions about some of Matt’s claims in OR’s #189.  Let me focus just on the first and clearer case.  Occasional Reader rightly criticized Matt for mistakenly claiming that the famous Council of Nicea in AC 325 had anything to do with the canonization of the NT writings (which Matt did more than once, first in his initial post launching the thread and again in #7).  OR also corectly states that “The first canon list MATCHING (caps added by me for emphasis) our 27 NT books is by Athanasius more than three decades later than Nicea.”  Occasional Reader is absolutely right.  That perfectly matching list by St. Athanasius appeared in his Easter letter of AD 367.

Here is how Matt replied in #191:

“This is simply false because you seem either to discount or not to acknowledge the muratorian fragment (170AD)...(Matt gives the link)...which lists ALMOST all the NT books RECEIVED at NICEA” (caps are my emphasis again).

Please note: This is a matter of objective facts, not opinion.  Occasional Reader is quite right.  Matt is completely wrong.  It’s black and white, cut and dried.  If I were a seminary prof and Matt submitted an exegetical or church history paper to me with blatant errors like that, I’d give him a pretty low grade.

Alas, OR is also correct that this is not the only time Matt’s arguments have been seriously compromised by what OR calls “errors, exaggeration, and logical fallacy” (at the end of #189).  I was having enough trouble communicating with Matt that I have avoided calling him on the carpet for those mistakes.  I was trying to take the high road and avoid undue provocation.  But in the interests of clearing up misunderstanding, let me sadly bring forward just one of many egregious examples of Matt engaging in some astonishing lapses in his interaction with me.

Take Matt’s post #156, which responds to my #150 dealing with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  First he quotes my comment on Article 16 of CSBI where I said:

“Furthermore, even though Protestant heoes of the first couple generations like Luther and Calvin did indeed assume that the Bible was BASICALLY free of error, the exegetical work of both of those great expositors shows that they weren’t troubled by minor errors of fact in the text (which occasionally they calmly note in passing).”

And Matt made the following “incredible” response (in the etymological sense, not credible!):

“What an odd assertion.  Calvin obviously believed the bible to be wholly free or error as did Luther.  Not basically free, but wholly.  That they were troubled by difficulties is no argument.  So are R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer and so am I.  To be troubled by difficulties is a far ry from denying the infallibility of God’s Word.”

Now apart from the fact that Matt is simple wrong historically (i.e., both Luther and Calvin did in fact note minor errors in the sacred text without being much bothered by them), the most amazing thing is that Matt has completely turned my statement on its head.  I argued that both men were NOT troubled by such minor problems.  But Matt admits that he IS troubled by such “difficulties,” but these difficulties don’t imply the denial of infallibility.

Alas, there are all too many of these kinds of errors on Matt’s part.  I’m not interested in cataloging them or further embarrassing him. 

Now I know I’m no paragon of infallibility either.  There are enough typos alone in my posts to cause me plenty of embarrassment (or keep me a little more humble), not to mention the arrogance and condescending tone that others have objected to and is probably all too true.  But this kind of sloppy reasoning is what has driven Occasional Reader crazy and frustrated enough to drop out of this thread.  I don’t blame him, although I regret his apparent disappearnce.

I’m sorry if this seems like an unduly personal attack.  I don’t enjoy making Matt look bad.  I’ve been biting my tongue and avoiding challenging Matt on some points where I was well aware he was blatantly wrong, because I was trying to keep the tone as half way pleasant as possible (since it was already spinning out of conrol into ugliness).

But when people like Jackie or Sarah seem to see the dispute between Matt and OR as just a difference of opinion, I wanted to set the record straight.  There are enough places where we have legitimate differences of opinion, because they are matters of opinion.  But alas, Matt sometimes plays fast and loose with the historical FACTS, and he badly distorts the whole argument and responds with illogical comments, as both OR and I have sadly experienced.  And THAT is what has often made the debate on this thread seem more futile than it had to be.

I regret to say that, as it will undoubtedly prove inflammatory and aggravate the dispute here.  But, as Sarah says so often, clarity is always good.  Sometimes harsh and divisive, but clarity is still good.  It’s time to call a spade a spade.

OK, now I’m really going to have to make a sacramental confession this week to get ready for Easter.

David Handy+

[198] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 01:50 AM • top

Perhaps we could make some progress here if we were to discuss what does and does not constitute an error, when applied to Scripture, and what does and does not constitute an argument, as opposed to an assertion or a distraction (or, worse, an attack).

A not-too-thorough rereading of this thread suggests that there are several things that people care about very much.  I’ll try to put them in a way that I hope will be crisp enough for everyone to understand while being acceptable to their partisans:

(a)  If the Bible contains errors, then Biblical authority cannot stand, because then it’s just our say-so that any particular part it is true.

(b)  The Bible demonstrably contains errors, and to pretend that it does not is to try to defend God with lies, like Job’s comforters.

(c)  The methodology of modern biblical criticism is demonstrably so flawed as to be useless, since no independent tests of the method are done, and many of the most firmly held conclusions of its partisans have turned out to be false when additional evidence has come in.

(d)  The program of harmonization and special pleading required to maintain that the Bible is error-free is an unnecessary distraction that consumes much effort and leads to no positive results, either in scholarlship or apologetics.

(e)  The arguments leading to the conclusion that some part of Scripture are erroneous betray an underlying hostility to the idea of supernatural revelation, either by ignoring the clear intent of the text at hand, or by smuggling in anti-Christian assumptions a priori, e.g that there are no true miracles or predictive prophecies, or by ignoring alternative historical timelines that fit the archaeological facts equally well and fit Scripture dramatically better.

(f)  There is a broad consensus among specialists in OT and NT studies that reveals a complex texture of sources, redactions, and competing interests in Scripture that gives us a richer and more human picture of the way that the Bible accounts functioned in the lives of various faith communities, and how they contributed to the development of the Jewish and Christian ideas of God.  Properly applied, this need not undermine traditional Christianity or Biblical authority, but can enrich both.

(g) The other side mishandles the text in such a way as to rob it of vital parts of its meaning.  (Both sides appear to maintain this one.)

Is that a fair way of putting it?

If so, I think that these are testable hypotheses—so why don’t we try testing them?  As Aquinas said, ‘Truth is one’.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[199] Posted by gone on 03-17-2008 at 02:14 AM • top

Ugh.  I see now I hit the submit button too soon.  There are certainly typos that mar that last post, and maybe more serious problems besides.  Anyway, in the quote from Matt’s #156, it should read,
“To be troubled by difficulties is a far CRY from denying the infallibility of God’s Word.”

And the next sentence should read,  “Now apart from the fact that Matt is SIMPLY wrong historically…” 

Alas, I don’t have the evidence at my finger tips (I’m a NT scholar, not a church historian).  But the KIND of errors I’m speaking of were usually inner biblical contradictions that Luther and Calvin were sharp enough to spot, but which rolled off them like water off a duck’s back.  I’ve given examples in my earlier posts. 

For example, how Mark 1:2-3 says, “As it is written in the prophet ISAIAH…” and then Mark proceeds to give a composite quote of Malachi 3:1 and Isa. 40:3,  i.e.,  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way (the Malachi part); the voice of one crying in the wilderness…(the Isaiah part).  It seems that Matthew and Luke caught the error too, for they drop the Malachi quote and leave just the Isaiah citation, making the narrator’s lead in accurate. 

Such minor blemishes in Holy Scripture didn’t cause Luther or Calvin to lose their faith in the supreme authority of the Bible as God’s Word.  It doesn’t bother me either.  But if you are an inerrantist, you can’t allow even the slightest problem of this sort.

Or similarly, in the very next chapter of Mark, the unfortunate gospel writer makes another little mistake referring to the OT when in the course of the passage where Jesus is defending his disciples against the accusation of some Pharisees that they were working on the Sabbath by picking some grain in a field they passed through.  And Jesus cites the story of David fleeing Saul and stopping for aid at the shrine in Nob where the priest alowed him to take some of the holy bread from the altar (since David was in haste, and to take the sword of Goliath too, since he was unarmed, see 1 Samuel 21:1-9).

Unfortunately for inerrantists, Mark 2:26 notes in passing that the priest’s name was “ABIATHAR,” when according to the account in 1 Samuel it was actually the less famous figure, Ahimelech.  Once again, Matthew and Luke in the parallel accounts in Matt. 12 and Luke 6 discretely drop the name Abiathar.  It was observing such minor discrepancies among the gospels as this that I am talking about.  The faith of Luther and Calvin didn’t seem to be shaked by such trifles (and clearly Matthew and Luke weren’t thrown down the slippery slide to unbelief or heresy by such little inaccuracies either).  These kind of glitches only bother an inerrantist.

And if you continue on in Mark, you run across similar problems FREQUENTLY.

In the end, the problem with inerrancy is that it’s like starting off the dance on the wrong foot, or starting to button a shirt by putting the top button in the wrong button hole.  In the well-intentioned attempt to protect the authority of the Bible, it focuses attention on the wrong things, all the problem areas (and there are LOTS of them in the Scriptures).  It is a self-defeating apologetic strategy.

David Handy+

[200] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 02:28 AM • top

David,

Since we seem to be the two insomniacs on the board tonight, perhaps we can engage each other a bit more closely than we’ve done so far.

In your last post, you seem to define an ‘inerrantist’ as someone whose faith would be fatally undermined by admitting things like the Abiathar/Ahimelech boo-boo.  I’ve never met anyone that brittle, have you?  If that sort of inerrantist is a mythical creature, as I suspect it is, then continuing to argue in that vein doesn’t advance mutual understanding much.  How about my actual position, which is rather like position (c) in my list (#199).  When it comes to substantive revisions to the traditional view of Scripture, e.g. that Daniel 11’s leaving off just before the death of the king identified as Antiochus IV Epiphanes dates Daniel to 167-165 BC, it really does seem like a hostile and poorly-grounded attack. (I’m working from memory here—my browser isn’t rendering SF well at all just now, so I can’t go look at what you actually wrote, sorry)

When you said that ‘Daniel’‘s history started going wrong there, the historical errors you talked about don’t actually exist—it was just the one verse, 11:45 that mentioned the king’s death, and it didn’t actually say that he died between Zion and the sea at all.

You see, when all the critical mistakes tend in the direction of undermining traditional scriptural faith—and the messianic prophecies are an important part of that faith—ordinary folk like me tend to get suspicious.  I don’t mean to single you out here—it’s been going on for more than a century, and it seems to be something in the water that the critics drink—but when actual new independent facts have come to light, it appears to me that the confidently skeptical critics just about always lose, and that in the cases where new information supports them (e.g. Jericho), an adjustment to the chronology would remove the difficulty.  I mentioned the dating of John, but there are lots of others, I believe.

So at what point are we ordinary folk entitled to smell a rat?

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

[201] Posted by gone on 03-17-2008 at 03:21 AM • top

NRA:

Please don’t bite your tongue. You are more than welcome to challenge my facts. Here’s what you said:

“Occasional Reader raised some valid questions about some of Matt’s claims in OR’s #189.  Let me focus just on the first and clearer case.  Occasional Reader rightly criticized Matt for mistakenly claiming that the famous Council of Nicea in AC 325 had anything to do with the canonization of the NT writings (which Matt did more than once, first in his initial post launching the thread and again in #7).  OR also corectly states that “The first canon list MATCHING (caps added by me for emphasis) our 27 NT books is by Athanasius more than three decades later than Nicea.” Occasional Reader is absolutely right.  That perfectly matching list by St. Athanasius appeared in his Easter letter of AD 367.

Here is how Matt replied in #191:

“This is simply false because you seem either to discount or not to acknowledge the muratorian fragment (170AD)...(Matt gives the link)...which lists ALMOST all the NT books RECEIVED at NICEA” (caps are my emphasis again).”

Okay, I can see where I was mistaken here and I do apologize to OR. I thought you were making a point you were not making. The council I should have referenced was Rome 382, not Nicea 325. I do agree that my reference to Nicea was incorrect. Don’t know where that came from other than I was not so much concerned with church councils. ie when the canon was formally received, but to establish that the NT canon was recognized and in use far earlier than its formal reception. I thought OR was challenging the early recognition of the shape of the canon.

But in any case, he is right and so is NRA that it was not Nicea but Rome. And it was Rome 382 referenced by FF Bruce in the Canon of Scripture.

The point I was trying to make sans my incorrect reference to Nicea was simply that the canon is not the creation of the Church but was established and accepted almost from the beginning as the apostolic books were widely known.

And that was the point I thought was being challenged above. but it wasn’t that is true now that I re-read the argument.

“Take Matt’s post #156, which responds to my #150 dealing with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  First he quotes my comment on Article 16 of CSBI where I said:

“Furthermore, even though Protestant heoes of the first couple generations like Luther and Calvin did indeed assume that the Bible was BASICALLY free of error, the exegetical work of both of those great expositors shows that they weren’t troubled by minor errors of fact in the text (which occasionally they calmly note in passing).”

And Matt made the following “incredible” response (in the etymological sense, not credible!):

“What an odd assertion.  Calvin obviously believed the bible to be wholly free or error as did Luther.  Not basically free, but wholly.  That they were troubled by difficulties is no argument.  So are R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer and so am I.  To be troubled by difficulties is a far ry from denying the infallibility of God’s Word.”

Now apart from the fact that Matt is simple wrong historically (i.e., both Luther and Calvin did in fact note minor errors in the sacred text without being much bothered by them), the most amazing thing is that Matt has completely turned my statement on its head.  I argued that both men were NOT troubled by such minor problems.  But Matt admits that he IS troubled by such “difficulties,” but these difficulties don’t imply the denial of infallibility.”

And I do admit here that I did turn your point on its head, not purposefully though. It was a misreading of your post.

That being said, the point you seemed to be making was that the notes with regard to errors in the text show that Luther and Calvin were not formally “inerrantists” like those who signed the Chicago Statement. And, if that is your point, I will suggest that those errors of fact noted by Calvin at least, whom I’ve read more extensively than Luther, generally fall under those numerical and scientific categories listed by the Chicago Statement. So, using the categories outlined by Chicago statement, the notes to which you refer are not injurious to the assertion that the Reformers view of scripture is consistent with the doctrine as it is presently articulated

As for the tone. No NRA, I did not set the tone you did. It has been a long thread. I have admittedly made at least two errors of fact. I mentioned Nicea rather than Rome and I misconstrued your argument above.

Both are quite tangential to the arguments themselves. If you insert Rome into the sections I wrote Nicea, the argument is the same. The point I made re: Calvin and Luther stands despite my misstating of your position.

You, however, have argued more than 1 half of this thread against a position no one here has ever advocated because you refused to read the most basic document of the inerrantist position until you had already spilt most of your bile. This was not simply an error of fact or reference. .

Yes, I agree that if I mistook Rome for Nicea in seminary I would at least be docked a letter grade assuming that my description of what happened at the misnamed council actually matched what took place at Rome. If I were grading a disputation and realized that one of the students involved had been arguing with condescending arrogance for an hour against a position neither held nor advocated by the opposition and that he had never actually read the position paper of the other team I would take far more than a letter grade away.

Talk about “playing fast and loose”

I am certain that we could comb through one another’s posts and find other errors of reference and fact and say “aha if you made this bozo mistake your entire argument is compromised” as you seem to have done above. But that’s somewhat of an absurd suggestion…and not a little childish unless the error of fact is foundational to the argument itself which these are not.

Now NRA, you made a general statement…“Matt sometimes plays fast and loose with historical facts…”

I am assuming you think the above examples sufficient to establish that it is my general practice to simply speak out of my rear end. It is not. It is enough to suggest that I was in error with regard to those two references.

If you would like to engage in the exchange I suggested above, I will be more than happy to oblige. And, as I’ve always said, when you point to real mistakes, not just differences of opinion,  I’ll gladly admit them.

[202] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 07:13 AM • top

So at what point are we ordinary folk entitled to smell a rat?

For me it is at the point where the letter of the law snuffs out the spirit. 
Some people seem to have lost all interest in what the text actually is there to teach us about what God is, wants, values.  Drives me back to Brother Lawrence, myself.
I also am distressed by the concept that the flock is basically so stupid that you have to hide stuff from them for fear they will toss the baby out with the bathwater if an error is suspected.  Carry that one to it’s slippery slope extreme and you end up in a constant state of totalitarian vigilance.

[203] Posted by Hope on 03-17-2008 at 07:23 AM • top

NRA,

As I noted with regard to your malicious interpretation of Matthew 5 and Mark 7, what I find most disturbing about your exegesis is that you seem bent on finding the worst possible explanation for the difficulties you see in scripture.

You write:

“Alas, I don’t have the evidence at my finger tips (I’m a NT scholar, not a church historian).  But the KIND of errors I’m speaking of were usually inner biblical contradictions that Luther and Calvin were sharp enough to spot, but which rolled off them like water off a duck’s back.  I’ve given examples in my earlier posts. For example, how Mark 1:2-3 says, “As it is written in the prophet ISAIAH…” and then Mark proceeds to give a composite quote of Malachi 3:1 and Isa. 40:3, i.e., “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way (the Malachi part); the voice of one crying in the wilderness…(the Isaiah part).  It seems that Matthew and Luke caught the error too, for they drop the Malachi quote and leave just the Isaiah citation, making the narrator’s lead in accurate. Such minor blemishes in Holy Scripture didn’t cause Luther or Calvin to lose their faith in the supreme authority of the Bible as God’s Word.  It doesn’t bother me either.  But if you are an inerrantist, you can’t allow even the slightest problem of this sort.”

One thing the Chicago Statement makes clear is that inerrantists recognize the importance of assessing the scriptures not by our own 21st century historical or literary canons but by the measures appropriate to the genre employed and literary practices common at the time the text was written.

It was a common feature of rabbinical literature at the time to blend prophetic texts into one comprehensive reference as Mark has done above. And when this is done, it was common to refer to the passage by the name of the most prominent or important prophet quoted. So, in this case, Mark quotes Isaiah because between the two Isaiah was most important prophet. Matthew and Luke both do the same thing in other places. It was a common practice and not an “error” since Mark was not writing to satisfy the measure of 21st century readers, but first century readers who would be familiar with that sort of reference.

You go on:

“Or similarly, in the very next chapter of Mark, the unfortunate gospel writer makes another little mistake referring to the OT when in the course of the passage where Jesus is defending his disciples against the accusation of some Pharisees that they were working on the Sabbath by picking some grain in a field they passed through.  And Jesus cites the story of David fleeing Saul and stopping for aid at the shrine in Nob where the priest alowed him to take some of the holy bread from the altar (since David was in haste, and to take the sword of Goliath too, since he was unarmed, see 1 Samuel 21:1-9).

Unfortunately for inerrantists, Mark 2:26 notes in passing that the priest’s name was “ABIATHAR,” when according to the account in 1 Samuel it was actually the less famous figure, Ahimelech.  Once again, Matthew and Luke in the parallel accounts in Matt. 12 and Luke 6 discretely drop the name Abiathar.  It was observing such minor discrepancies among the gospels as this that I am talking about.  The faith of Luther and Calvin didn’t seem to be shaked by such trifles (and clearly Matthew and Luke weren’t thrown down the slippery slide to unbelief or heresy by such little inaccuracies either).  These kind of glitches only bother an inerrantist.”

This one is rather easy. Yes, it was Ahemelech who actually gave David and his men permission to eat the bread. But the text in Mark does not say that Abiathar gave David permission. It says, David “entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate…”. Ahemelech was the Father of Abiathar who was almost certainly alive at the time. Why would Jesus reference Abiathar rather than Ahemelech? Abiathar was far more famous and prominent and known in Jesus’ day than than Ahemelech because Abiathar became High Priest during David’s reign and was well known as David’s supporter. It would be like saying to a contemporary Christian congregation, “Appollos was instructed in Jesus’ teachings during the time of St. Paul’s ministry” when it fact it was Priscilla and Aquilla who actually instructed Appollos. The point is, however, that in conversation you employ names and reference instances of common knowledge so that everyone can track with you.

These are not “errors” in the text NRA, but they are more credibly errors of interpretation.

[204] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 07:40 AM • top

#203 Hope:

“I also am distressed by the concept that the flock is basically so stupid that you have to hide stuff from them for fear they will toss the baby out with the bathwater if an error is suspected.”

Well, that is nothing new. Two things popped into mind, translating the Bible in the first place, then in modern times, the collective intelligence of process of Wikipedia. In both cases many learned scholars feared greatly letting go of the power of such knowledge and the effects of great ‘unwashed masses.’

[205] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-17-2008 at 08:54 AM • top

Matt+ (#202 & 204),

Thank you for these careful, irenic posts.  I think we may finally be getting somewhere and clearing away some misunderstandings that have hampered communication.  As it happens, I do in fact agree with you about both of the explanations you’ve just provided, namely about the rabbinic way of citing composite quotes in abbreviated fashion (with reference to Mark 1:2-3), and about how normal and natural it would be for Mark to substitute the much better known Abiathar for Ahemelech (in Mark 2:26).

Unfortunately, agreeing on the nature of these kind of very minor problems in the biblical text doesn’t solve all the conflicts we probably have, but fortunately it does reduce the number of them significantly.  Alas, there are much more serious problems to contend with than these two fairly trivial cases, but it certainly helps when we can find common ground as we have here.  That’s promising.  I hope we can build on it.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you that it would be foolish and churlish to start combing through each other’s posts on this thread looking for errors each other has made (I don’t doubt I’ve made some too).  As I hope has been clear from the start, I’m not interested in trying to WIN a debate here.  Instead, I’m trying to EXPLAIN how non-inerrantist but orthodox biblical scholars think and WHY we reach the conclusions we do (though of course you are free to rephrase that in your mind as “non-inerrantist but otherwise orthodox…”). 

That’s why I haven’t engaged in extended arguments about such things as whether or not the famous story of the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 6 is more folklore than history, or all the reasons why “mainstream” scholars (if you’ll allow me to use that perhaps loaded term) regard Daniel as coming from the 2nd century BC instead of coming from the time of the Babylonian exile in which it is ostensibly set.  Because I’m not really trying to PERSUADE everyone that these standard interpretations by critical scholars are true (which would require much longer and more detailed arguments).  I’m just providing what I thought would be helpful and representative SAMPLES of how modern biblical scholars think.

In other words, I’m not out to PROVE that there are errors in the Bible.  I’m sorry if I’ve somehow given that impression, for it was never my intention (as I thought my first two posts, #5 & 24, would have made clear).  Instead, what I have sought all along is to help many of the readers of SF to better understand the sorts of arguments and evidence that modern critical scholars regularly employ as we go about our craft or ministry.

But if things have gotten more heated and controversial and divisive as the thread has evolved, I think it may be because it has become increasingly obvious to some that there are orthodox Anglicans like myself who are deeply committed to the cause of helping create a new orthodox Anglican presence or province here in North America who have nonetheless accepted far more of the critical methods and conclusions of liberal scholarship than they would have ever supposed. 

I know that comes as a shock to many, and I’ve tried to be sensitive to that fact, and so I’ve constantly stressed the common ground and goals we share as orthodox Anglicans.  As I keep insisting and repeating like a mantra, we are on the same team, the orthodox Anglican team.

But having acknowledged that, I must say that I think you have underestimated your own contribution to how polarized this thread has become, Matt.  For instance, in #202, you denied that you had set the rather adversarial tone of this thread from the start.  You said, “As for the tone.  No NRA, I did not set the tone, you did.”

Well, maybe you didn’t intentionally do so, but you did virtually throw down the gauntlet when you began this thread by emphasizing that critical scholars operate on the basis of a “hermeneutic of suspicion” that presumes the Bible is guilty of error until proven innocent.  Well, that is indeed all too true for our liberal foes, but it is grossly unfair to accuse many of us on the orthodox Anglican team of this same modus operandi.  It doesn’t apply to +N. T. Wright, or Prof. Christopher Seitz, or to Prof. Robert Gagon (OK, he’s Presbyterian but a champion on the gay sex issue), or to me.

Moreover, the whole tone of that intial post was deeply hostile to modern biblical scholarship in general, as if it is a Trojan Horse that we should be wise enough not to allow inside our camp.

I hope that you can see now how that would appear deeply disturbing and highly provocative to someone like me who is deeply committed to BOTH orthodox Anglicanism and to “moderate” (if you will) biblical scholarship.

Anyway, I do appreciate the irenic tone of these last two posts of yours.  I hope I haven’t sabotaged that more amiable and conciliatory tone just now.  I do hope we can build on that new consensus about something and perhaps start this dance over on the right foot.

David Handy+

[206] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 12:12 PM • top

For those that believe that science and the bible are not compatable need to read Dr. Henry F. Schaefer, III. He is one of the top scientists of our generation and a devote christian. His testomony is found here…. http://www.westminsterhall.us/hfs3/berk_to_christ.html.

More here… http://www.irr.org/schaefer1.html

[207] Posted by RickP on 03-17-2008 at 12:39 PM • top

If Scripture is in error, then why are we here?  Orthodox, moderate or liberal, picking ones way through Scripture and deciding which verse is accurate and which is “in error” is unacceptable as it basically amounts to worshipping a human’s opinion.

[208] Posted by JackieB on 03-17-2008 at 01:13 PM • top

Phil Hobbs (#199 & 201),

I’m sorry I haven’t responded to you earlier.  I went to bed after posting my late night post and didn’t see your #201 til this morning.  And I’ve been wanting to answer your thoughtful and appropriate questions, but I perceived other comments as more urgently needing a reply.

Briefly, I think your summary in #199 of five theses (a-e) worth debating is fair enough.  I’d be happy to engage with others, including yourself, along those lines.  As you would probably guess by now, I would have no problem agreeing with or seeking to defend your proposed theses b and d, while strenuously objecting to a, c, and e.  That might provide a practical way forward.

As for your late night #201, let me respond briefly to several points.  First, you suggest that inerrantists of the sort that would be thrown down the slippery slide to unbelief by admitting that such minor and trivial things as the “boo-boo” over Abiathar and Ahemelech in Mark 2:26 are “errors” are perhaps a mythical creature.  You wonder if people with such biittle faith actually exist.  Alas, Phil, I can assure you that they do.  In fact, believe it or not, there are hordes of such people in the conservative Protestant world. 

I grant that this is surprising, as most people would naturally tend to overlook such petty glitches in biblical narratives (whether or not they constitute “errors” in the CSBI sense wouldn’t matter to them; they would see them as errors, only they’d consider them just insignificant mistakes of no real consequence).  However, this is where my pastoral concern that the doctrine of inerrancy, as it is commonly understood, unintentionally SETS UP people to treat these matters as a very big deal indeed, because it suggests that biblical authority is an all or nothing proposition.  That is, they’ve been TAUGHT that if the Bible is found guilty of even the smallest error, on any subject that it mentions, then it can’t be trusted on ANY point.  And all too often, as I said way back in my #5, that turns out to be a needlessly self-fulfilling prophecy.

As for the interpretation of Daniel and similar controversial matters, I’ll address that in my next post.  It is a complex issue, about which whole books have been written and I can’t really do justice to them on a blog like this.  That’s why I’ve suggested resources for further study, like the outstanding commentary on Daniel by the evangelical Anglican OT scholar, John Goldingay, at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, in the Word Biblical Commentary series.

But I want to thank you, Phil, for posing your questions helpfully and respectfully.  They deserve an equally thoughtful and respectful response.

David Handy+

[209] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 01:30 PM • top

NRA et al,

1. I do hope lay people reading this are sufficiently shocked at the fact that many orthodox clergy do consider the bible to be a fallible book. They should be. If it is in error then there is no sufficient reason to trust what it says with regard to moral or doctrinal questions. How do we know that Jesus’ words regarding porniea in Mark 7 are not simply the words that Mark put in Jesus’ mouth for reasons having to do with his own time and setting? And if Mark is wrong about so many other things, what basis do we have for suggesting he is right with regard to things sexual or moral?

Because the church says so? Where do we get the idea that the church holds any authority to pronounce on this matter at all?

From the New Testament…

Do you see the problem? Accepting the NT as authoritative on moral questions or doctrinal questions but in error with regard to history and self contradictory on a number of levels, means that we are forced to draw arbitrary lines within the text. Ultimately an errant text calls even the authority of the church into question.

2. I am glad that we are in agreement with regard to Mark 1 and Mark 7. But I am somewhat confused. If you accept these ready explanations and admit that there may be such ready explanations for many of the problems you cite above, then doesn’t that point to the truth of my earlier accusation, that you seem to gravitate toward the most malicious interpretation of a text rather than investigating to see whether there is a true error or a bona fide contradiction or just an apparent one?

3. I do not reject modern hermeneutical methodology and neither does the Chicago Statement. I do reject the sort of interpretative methodology that necessarily and unquestioningly interprets difference and tension as contradiction and error. You may not agree with the idea that you have employed a hermeneutic of suspicion, but our most recent exchange exemplifies just that. You seemed ready to declare the text in error before thinking through the exculpatory possibilities which you later recognised to be present and probable. Why? Why not assume that the error lies with the reader rather than the text?

That automatic assumption of error in the text rather than in the reader;‘s interpretation of the text underlies the hermeutic of suspicion. Your exegetical foray’s above seem to do employ just that method. You seem to accept NT criticisms uncritically while holding the NT to 21st century historical and literary standards.

How is that not to be seen as a hermeneutic of suspicion?

[210] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 01:35 PM • top

Oops.  About CryptoCatholic’s #201,

I meant to say that I’d be comfortable enough with his proposed theses b, d, f, and g, while firmly rejecting a, c, and e.  I might word them a bit differently, but they seem fair enough.  Sorry.  I certainly don’t claim infallibility myself!

David Handy+

[211] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 01:39 PM • top

I don’t understand the great leap from demonstrating some areas of disagreement about the origins or meanings of some things in the Scriptures to the idea that “some orthodox clergy consider the bible to be a fallible book.”  This is like deciding your mother doesn’t love you because she occasionally slips and calls you by your brother’s name.  I can only speak for one lay person, but I am much more shocked by how Matt can use terms like “malicious” and “suspicious” in what seems like a pretty ordinary and gentlemanly scholarly discussion.  Of course I have just finished the Pope’s book on Jesus where he points out that some of the original Greek still defies definitive translation, some words are simply baffling and sometimes the names of things like plants or animals are substituted because nobody really knows what the original was talking about.

[212] Posted by Hope on 03-17-2008 at 02:01 PM • top

Fr.Handy,

You said: “In that light, I have complied an INDEX of the major contributors (i.e., those who’ve posted five or more comments germane to the main theme of biblical infallibility, excluding vynette, a visiting skeptic).”

In what way am I a “skeptic?”

[213] Posted by vynette on 03-17-2008 at 02:14 PM • top

Hope,

those terms are not personal or derogatory on a personal level. They are used to describe a method of interpretation that takes the most unnecessarily negative construal of the text possible when other explanations are availible. This is common usage and not at all derogatory as I noted above.

2. It is not a leap at all to say that NRA and those who agree with him consider the scriptures errant and fallible. By definition if he holds that they do err and that there are factual mistakes and contradictions then he must hold them to be errant and fallible.

This does not mean that they consider them unauthoritative and I never suggested otherwise. I do suggest that holding the scriptures to be errant undermines their authority.

[214] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 02:22 PM • top

If it is in error then there is no sufficient reason to trust what it says with regard to moral or doctrinal questions. How do we know that Jesus’ words regarding porniea in Mark 7 are not simply the words that Mark put in Jesus’ mouth for reasons having to do with his own time and setting? And if Mark is wrong about so many other things, what basis do we have for suggesting he is right with regard to things sexual or moral?

Matt,

Again, I have not had time to enter into this discussion.  But your statement here is a sheer caricature.  How do we know that Jesus’ words regarding porneia are not simply words that Mark put in Jesus’ mouth? 

1) One does not have to ascribe inerrancy to any text (biblical or otherwise) in order to consider it a reliable historical witness.  You yourself claim to do this above in your argument in which you claim that a case can be made for the resurrection before you have made a case for the inerrancy of Scripture.

2) I refer you (again) to Hoskyns and Davey who argue persuasively that historical-critical method never gets one back to a Jesus who is not portrayed as the Son of God, and whose moral teaching was not central to his message.

3) There would be numerous reasons to believe that Jesus’ statement about porneia in Mark 7 goes back to Jesus.  In fact, it is likely to be one of those statements most likely going back to Jesus for several reasons.  First, although the principle of dissimilarity has its limitations, it can get us back to things almost certainly said by Jesus.  This statement meets that criteria, first, by being discontinuous with the teaching of Judaism, and, at least with a major position in the early church—those Jewish Christians who believed that Christians should keep the law.  Second, it occurs in a pericope that would be potentially embarrassing to the early church.  That is, Jesus and his disciples are portrayed in a somewhat negative light—as violating the law by eating with unwashed hands.  It is also parallel to a “Q” saying that appears in a radically different context (Matt 5:22).  It is consistent generally with what we know about Jesus’ teachings from elsewhere—that is, it agrees with the general thrust of Jewish law while radicalizing it in such a way as to make Jesus’ distinct—Jesus relaxes the externals of the law (ceremonial handwashing) while heightening its moral demands. It occurs in Mark’s gospel (the earliest written) well within living memory of those who could challenge its accuracy.

4) Theologically, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus actually said these very words.  Their theological authority depends on their being in a gospel accepted as canonical by the church.  They are authoritative because Mark writes with apostolic authority.

As an aside, I cannot imagine how my wife would respond should I tell her that I could never trust a single word she said because she occasionally has been known to be mistaken.  To say the least, such all-or-nothing demands would not be conducive to the health of our marriage.

[215] Posted by William Witt on 03-17-2008 at 02:46 PM • top

#208 Jackie—That is very similar logic I came up against that began to move me from a position more like NRA+ seems to be advocating to Matt+ has expounded here. It is also why the allusions back to the Reformation, for as I think this thread has shown, without inerrancy, then we need learned people to inform the stupid laity what is important and what is trivial ... those who know these things must inform us. Time to turn back the clocks to the good old days?

(No joke, I had it happen where use of Scripture in making a point was not met with a reply on how I was incorrect in my exegesis, rather a whole column in the parish newsletter on how to read Scripture ... obviously stupid laity are not skilled at these things ... oddly Jesus didn’t seemed to doubt Genesis or Daniel and even rebuke learned men of His time ... then that’s circular logic again, for it is Scripture that shows us Jesus not doubting, I sure the elite know better wink )

[216] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-17-2008 at 02:47 PM • top

CryptoCatholic (#201 etc.),

Once again, Phil, I beg your pardon for being so slow in responding to your questions addressed to me about Daniel way back in your #137, and now renewed again in your #201.  I fully expected further questions and challenges to the interpretation of Daniel that I put forward in my #136.

Before I get into the heart of that issue, let me provide a little historical background that may be helpful on the special role of Daniel in the triumph of modern methods of biblical criticism within learned Anglican circles.  That is, during the latter 1800s, there were a number of controversial areas where the modern methods and conclusions of German biblical critics that were seeping into England and America caused great angst, dismay, and confusion.  In fact, the very first Lambeth Conference (in 1867) was partly called because of those very conflicts (spawned in part by the publication in 1860 of a collection of essays by liberal Anglicans, with a particularly important essay on biblical interpretation by the liberal Oxford theologian Benjamin Jowett).  Mostly these controversies had to do with OT interpretation, since the critical problems are so much more obvious and glaring there than in the NT

Prominent examples would be the typical source critical and historical critical views of the Pentateuch classically set forth by the notorious agnostic Julius Wellhausen.  His detaied and brilliant arguments in favor of the so-called “Documentary Hypothesis,” i.e., that four main documents or sources underlie the first five OT books (known by the symbols J, E, D, and P), appeared in German in 1878, and his classic and immensely influential book was translated into English in 1885, and a tempestuous fury of controversy immediately erupted (and hasn’t gone away totally since).  Wellhausen was the sort of extreme skeptic who took delight in ridiculing orthodox Christianity, and he openly admitted being agnostic (and he lost his original university position as a result).  And likewise the epoch-making, brilliant literary analysis of the book of Isaiah by Bernhard Duhm around the same time, that divided the book into three main parts: “First Isaiah” (Isa. 1-39), “Second Isaiah (Isa. 40-55), and “Third Isaiah (Isa. 56-66) similarly stirred up lots of turmoil and aroused suspicion about biblical criticism.  But it was the case of Daniel that finally broke the back of conservative resistance to biblical criticism in Oxford and Cambridge.

Interestingly, the great Anglo-Catholic pioneer, Edward Pusey, had studied the OT in Germany and at first he was quite positively disposed to the new methods he learned there in Tubingen.  But he eventually perceived the German style “higher criticism” as just higher skepticism and unbelief (as Matt and others do).  Pusey, who taught Hebrew and OT at Oxford, chose the book of Daniel as the place to take his (last) stand.  And after he died, his disciple, H. P. Liddon, another great Anglo-Catholic leader, took the torch and bravely carried on the fight against liberalism.  But by 1900, the conservative defense of the traditional view of Daniel as a true prophet living in Babylon during the exile in the 500’s BC and writing about events in the distant future just collapsed under liberal attacks and was driven from the academic battlefield. 

I do think Daniel is a particularly revealing and useful place to start exploring the radical difference that acceptance of the methods and conclusions of modern biblical scholarship makes in biblical interpretation of a historical sort. The differences are as stark and vast as can be.  And that’s partly why I chose to highlight the case of Daniel earlier.

Enough historical background.  Let me pause for now, and resume later with a more detailed explanation of the crtical approach to Daniel than I first presented in my #136.

David Handy+

[217] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 03:02 PM • top

#207—Rick, I fully agree with you.

It is odd I’ve met more Astronomers who have less problem with Genesis 2 than NRA+ has presented here. First, I suspect he’s intentionally bundling everything together to provoke while ignoring “Day/Age” or as a metaphor is easily an inerrant interpretation (ie. his use of the logical fallacy of the false dilemma). My reply is basically, what is time, for Einstein (who seemed to advocate the out of vogue eternal universe theory) connected time and space and made wrote of all things relative, thus language begins to break down if an hour is different depended on the speed you are traveling.

So is Natural Revelation errant if Newton described the universe one way and Einstein a second? It’s odd for Biblical inerrant folks can actually be more “scientific” by believing the source to be true and the understanding to be false, thus in attempting to explain come up with understanding that still save the phenomena, which is what must be done in the natural sciences.

However, doubt rages in the social sciences, where you find fewer Christians. Guess where classes on religion tends to fall?

(Those in the DC area might want to check out Fairfax Community Church March 28 and 29 for “Awesome Wonders: The Genome, The Oceans, and The Heavens” with Keynote Speaker will be Dr. Francis Collins, a believer who served as the head of the groundbreaking Human Genome Project and current director of the National Human Genome Research Institute for farther discourse on the topic).

[218] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-17-2008 at 03:11 PM • top

Bill,

Maybe I wasn’t clear? I was not at all suggesting that anyone has made such an argument from Mark 7. I was simply using that text hypothetically. I fully agree with your point that it can be demonstrated to be historical using historical canons.

The problem I see is that there will be many, using the historico-critical method, who will disagree if not with regard to Mark 7, then certainly on other crucial texts. How many sayings, after all, did the Jesus seminar regard as probably historical? I know you disagree with their methodology and I think you are right, obviously, but once the actual presence of historical error and factual error has been recognised, then all historical conclusions become somewhat provisional and contingent and subject to question.

How can they command obedience when the

Here, I think, you might go back to the point you made in .4. The text is authoritative because it is apostolic and the church accepted it as such. So, I think you’ve said, even if Mark inserted it, it still commands obedience.

Here, if I am understanding your argument rightly, I would part ways with you. I do not believe that the Church’s acceptance of a text or teaching as canonical and apostolic and therefore authoritative makes it so. Where does the church derive this authority? From Christ? Where is that recorded? In the error ridden scriptures? So the church validates her own authority by appeal to errant texts that are considered authoritative because she accepts and receives them as such.

[219] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Should read:

“How can they command absolute faith and obedience when there is a very real possibility that they may not even be true records of what Jesus said and taught?”

[220] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 03:37 PM • top

While David is polishing up his Daniel, would some of the Rohl fans here chime in with some more archeological details that have contradicted or supported conclusions of higher criticism?  That’s really the nearest we’re likely to get to a genuinely scientific test on this thread.  The crocodile manuscript of John is one, the discovery of the conquest layer in Canaan is a second, the excavation of the tophet at Carthage is a third…and then there’s the recent discovery of an inscription referring to the House of David and of the pool of Siloam.  Have I got those right?  Do any more spring to mind?

I’d also love to hear a response from David or Bill or another brave higher critic to Lewis’s “Fern Seed and Elephants”, which I have never heard refuted.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

First Aid Theology

[221] Posted by gone on 03-17-2008 at 03:54 PM • top

A follow up to my earlier #217 about Daniel, addressed to Phil Hobbs.

All right, now a further explanation of how “mainstream” (if you will)  scholars interpret Daniel.  I’m not at all surprised that you weren’t convinced right off the bat by my brief presentation of the case in my #136.  I fully expected many people to balk at it and have questions about the view presented there.

What I want to stress is that the usual “late” dating of Daniel as coming from the time of the Maccabees in the 160s BC does NOT depend on just one verse, Dan. 11:45, as my brief post might have seemed to suggest.  Nor does it depend on interpreting that verse as indicating that the dastardly Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”, who persecuted the Jews so fiercely and ruthlessly, died near Jerusalem (historically, he died in battle in Persia).

But it is highly significant that the mention of the cruel dictator’s death is VAGUE, unlike so much of the preceeding chapter, which is quite clear (once you know the historical background).  And the preliminaries to Dan. 12 (with its distant future hopes) end with the death of that devilish tormentor of the Jews.  In other words, the end of Daniel 11 strongly suggests that the whole chapter was written late in the Greek or Hellenistic period of domination over Judah, since it gets the preceeding details right and then stops with this mysterious description of the death of the Jews’ hated foe.

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  As I said in #136, not all critical scholars interpret Daniel 11 as “prophecy after the fact,” or history in the guise of prophecy, because of some strong anti-supernaturalistic bias that such distant prophecies are impossible.  Many liberals of course do suffer from that skeptical bias.  But certainly I share no such anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions.  I’m a charismatic for heaven’s sake!  Rather, it’s because we are familiar with the literary genre of apocalyptic through studying parallel Jewish works from the same general time period, and because we have researched the historical background behind Dan. 11 (or, as in my case, we rely on those who have).

Here is some of that relevant background data.  The four great Persian kings mentioned in Daniel 11:2 are Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes (see Ezra 4:5-7).  The “warrior king” (11:4) is Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC after conquering the whole known ancient eastern Mediterranean world (and more besides, all the way to India).  When he died, his vast empire was divided among four of his leading generals (see Daniel 8:8).

About Dan. 11:5-6, “the king of the south” is Ptolemy I “Soter” who ruled over Egypt, while his officer Seleucus I Nicator ruled over Babylon (and proved even more powerful).  About 250 BC, Seleucus’ grandson Antiochus II “Theos” married Bernice, the princess daughter of Egypt’s Ptolemy II.

About Dan. 11:7-9.  Bernice’s brother, Ptolemy III “Euergetes,” took the throne and captured immense regions in the East.

Skiping ahead to 11:15-17.  The Syrian or Seleucid ruler Antiochus III (the captial of this Hellenistic empire was Antioch of Syria, hence all the names Antiochus I, II etc.) managed to wrest control of Judah away from Egypt about 200 BC.  From then on, Judah was under the control of Syria “the king of the north,” not Egypt, “the king of the south.”

About Dan. 11:18-20.  Antiochus III even tried to expand his empire westward into Greece, but was defeated by the growing power of Rome and died in the “insolent” act of sacking a pagan temple (11:18).  Seleucus IV “Philopator” took over and “sent an official [Heliodorus] for the glory of the [Jewish] kingdom,” i.e., to rob the Jerusalem Temple (11:20), but this was miraculously thwarted and Heliodorus was even converted to Judaism (see 2 Macc. 3).

Finally, about Dan. 11:21-45.  The whole rest of the chapter, i.e., the bulk of it actually, is devoted to “a contemptible person” who gained the Syrian throne as a usurper (11:21), Antiochus IV “Epiphanes,” who is the “little horn” mentioned in Dan. 7-8.  The “prince of the covenant” who is “swept away” (11:22) is the Jewish high priest, Onias III, a godly man, who was murdered by a scheming Jewish traitor (see 2 Macc. 4:34-35).  Antiochus IV invaded Egypt but was driven back (11:23-27), and the great wealth he acquires (11:28) was due to his outrageous plundering of the Jerusalem Temple (see 2 Macc. 5:11-21).  And so on…

OK.  That was one quick, dry (boring) trip through ancient Near Eastern history.  Suffice to say that this seems like very thinly veiled “prophecy after the fact” to most non-inerrantists.  But I don’t think there is any intention to deceive readers here. 

The problem is that most of us aren’t familiar with the Jewish cultural and literary conventions of the late Second Temple period in Judaism.  As a result, we make the natural mistake of assuming that Daniel should be taken at face value as actual prophecy, coming from the time of the Babylonian exile centuries before these events took place.

Phil, you are free to keep on questioning this whole way of approaching Daniel.  I’m sure many readers will still remain unconvinced.  It’s a vey complex subject, which is why I can’t do it justice here and suggest you consult a good Bible Dictionary or commentary on Daniel and about apocalyptic literature in general.

I hope that helps clarify things.  I do think the external historical data (i.e. outside the Bible) does provide not only a valuable “check” on this proposed modern view of Daniel (as you suggest we need in your #201); this extra-biblical data actually provides the KEY that unlocks the door to the whole strange kind of literature apocalyptic represents. 

In this case, Scripture is NOT its own sufficient interpreter.  You HAVE TO know the historical background (as the original readers would have) and the literary genre of apocalyptic (as again the original readers would) in order to understand this strange kind of writing properly.

David Handy+

[222] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 04:52 PM • top

David+

Not commenting on the virtue of your discussion of Daniel above…I’ll let Phil Hobbs have first dibs on that, I did want to comment on your comment here:

“In this case, Scripture is NOT its own sufficient interpreter.  You HAVE TO know the historical background (as the original readers would have) and the literary genre of apocalyptic (as again the original readers would) in order to understand this strange kind of writing properly.”

I hope you do not believe that the principle that scripture is its own best interpreter in any way precludes or rejects the very necessary work of determining setting, genre, etc in the process of exegesis? That is not at all what it means to say that scripture is its own best interpreter.

[223] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-17-2008 at 05:33 PM • top

Fr Handy,

Jesus certainly believed that Daniel 11:31 was to be understood as prophecy.

“When, therefore, you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” (Matt. 25:15-16)

Isn’t his understanding of events to be preferred over all others?

[224] Posted by vynette on 03-17-2008 at 06:20 PM • top

David,

Thanks very much for laying out the historical parallels for Daniel in such
beautiful detail.  We all have day jobs, and that’s not a particularly small
piece of work.  So thanks again.

It really does seem that the historical parallels are close.  For literature
such as the extracanonical Jewish apocalypses you cite, the presumption would
of course be that the account was almost certainly written after the events it
portrays so accurately.  But Scripture has to be handled differently, because
it presents itself (and Jesus accepted it, as vynette points out) as being
divinely inspired.

For instance, is it really so clear that Daniel is merely one example of 2nd C
BCE Jewish apocalypse among many?  Would the writers of those books not be quite likely to copy an earlier canonical author? (*)  Similarities of style would be expected in such a case, surely, as between Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen fan fiction.  If the other apocalypses had known dates, and could be arranged in a historical development of style, with Daniel somewhere in the
middle, that would be one thing.  But I’m not hearing that.

Assuming, arguendo, that there is such a thing as true predictive
prophecy, any such writing must begin and end somewhere, and it is to be
expected that there would be some sort of summing up or a moral drawn at the
end.  But such a book would be equally susceptible to the treatment given
Daniel, would it not?  What would a truly predictive prophecy have to look like
in order to be immune?  The only way I could think of is if it were so far in
advance that it hadn’t been fulfilled even in our own day; but then how would
we know it was accurate?

I’m not seeing anything really probative in what you’ve presented, because it
appears to fit the post-facto apocalypse and the predictive prophecy hypotheses
equally well.  Your saying that half a sentence mentioning the tyrant’s death,
which forms a transition into a passage full of numerology, is strong evidence
for anything whatever, tells me that we have really different ideas about what
constitutes persuasive support.

And the real kicker, I think, is that data coming in from outside the charmed
circle is far less favourable to the scholars’ conclusions—something that was not known in 1900, when speculation had almost free reign.  The formerly
confident dating of John to the mid-second century ran afoul of that crocodile
mummy, for instance, and the notion that the Caananite religion was demonized to justify the Conquest was overturned by the discovery of the burned bones of more than 20,000 small children at Carthage.  I’m almost as far from expert in biblical archaeology as I am in higher criticism, so I speakunder correction here.

Can you give an example of one of those scholarly reconstructions that was
proved by external evidence to have been too favourable to traditional
scriptural belief?

When over a long period of time, all the mistakes in scriptural reconstruction
are observed to go in one direction, there’s a bias at work.  That principle is
eminently testable by many modern analogies—as any parent, teacher, or
lawyer will confirm—and appears to me far more persuasive than the above.
There’s also far less cultural distance between me and the people to whom I
apply it than between them and the ancient Jews.

The single-minded pursuit of rather ambivalent internal evidence, when
apparently crisp and probative tests of the methodology are available but not
used, and repeated tests by archaeology go decidedly against, leads me to think that there really is something in the water that the scholars are drinking.

In my field, if I gave a conference talk about some pretty and suggestive hypothesis that unfortunately went against the experimental evidence, I’d have an unpleasant half hour ahead of me.

Cheers,
Phil Hobbs

(*) I don’t mean ‘canonical’ in any anachronistic sense—the translators of the
Septuagint had to select which books counted as Scripture and which didn’t, for
instance.

[225] Posted by gone on 03-17-2008 at 07:48 PM • top

I have been viewing and observing this thread with interest, and it seems that further participation has been sought. So-before I leave for a week long vacation, I shall do just that.
So-where to begin? Apparently, Fr. Matt has touched on the following, but I will address this point by point. Fr. Handy has repeatedly called into question the veracity of a number of scriptures because he refuses to properly acknowledge the prevalent use by Jewish teachers in Christs time of Targuming Scripture. That is, the Scriptures will be slightly expanded and enlarged with commentary, or two(or more) scriptures will be combined [and THEN] sometimes expounded upon to better illuminate and illustrate a truth. You said: “More significant is the famous passage about a promised spring of living water in John 7:37-38.  “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me; and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” A marvelous promise indeed.  But there is no one OT passage that is being quoted here.” I don’t think it was a mistake that around the time you posted that, I had been completing my reading of the prophet Zechariah.  I think the law of double fulfillment comes into play here. For instance: when the Apostle John was commenting upon the Crucifixion scene, he quotes from Zechariah 12:10, “..They shall look upon Him who they pierced” (John 19:37). Was that a proper application of this verse? Well, yes. Certainly, the Crucifixion of Christ was a very well witnessed event. But when read in its original context, the ultimate fulfillment of this scripture, yet future, will occur when Christ bodily descends to earth in His glory, might and power at the end of this age to rescue the Jewish remnant that is left, and to destroy the armies which were fighting against Jerusalem. National repentance and mourning will occur, and as a result, all the people will be forgiven their iniquity and sin. Then we read the kicker, in Zech 14:8: “And it will come about in that day that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern seas and the other half toward the the western; it will be in summer as well as winter.”
In this prophecy, we see that complete national repentance, mourning, and forgiveness of sin (through the fountain opened in 13:1) is then followed by a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit [living waters] from Jerusalem (corresponding in some way, no doubt, to the outpouring of water from the future temple in Ezek. 47, as you had suggested).
In this current age, beginning on the day of Pentecost, *individuals* from any nation who repent of their sin, behold the pierced One and truly repent, receive Christs promise of rivers of living water flowing out from his belly. In the last day, the nation of Israel will look upon Him who they pierced, with the same result, but on a much larger scale, with Christs physical establishment of His kingdom upon the earth.

In the case of Johns quote of Zech 12:13 (“they shall look on Him who they pierced”), he was marking the lesser, initial fulfillment of that passage, the greater of which is to come. In the case of Christs words spoken in John 7:38, I believed He has taken the words and exact principles that were clearly enunciated by the prophet Zechariah in chapters 12-14—beholding the pierced one, being gifted with the spirit of grace and of supplications, mourning and repenting for ones sin and unbelief-and having been washed with the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, receiving an endless outpouring of rivers of living water. ONLY IN THIS AGE, this occurs in individual hearts, (without ushering in an physical earthly kingdom or Jewish national repentance)- truly, “as the scripture hath said”.
Since I don’t want this to disappear into cyberspace, I will continue below…

[226] Posted by Bob K. on 03-17-2008 at 09:39 PM • top

I hardly see Mark 1:2,3 as some great scandal for the house of inerrancy. This also is a Targum. Not only that, but the phrase “Isaiah the prophet” is not found in the Byzantine family of texts, but in the Alexandrian. I don’t have to guess too hard on which side of THIS issue Fr. Handy comes down on, but there are a lot of solid Biblical scholars who are not convinced that the issue is slam-dunk settled in favor of the Alexandrian family NT texts over the Byzantine. “Isaiah the Prophet” may, in fact, be an interpolation. Even if it isn’t, there is no real problem found in Mark 1:2,3 if taken for what it is-a Targum.

Again, it is difficult to fathom where Mark 2:26 is supposed to be such an embarrassment. Jesus simply says that Davids stated actions occurred in *the days of* “Abiathar the high priest”. Is that true? Abiathar, the son of Ahimilech the priest, was a young man-a priest himself-when Doeg the Edomite brought about the slaughter of the priests of Nob. He escaped, became one of Davids men, and was Davids priest (1 Samuel 23:6-9; 1 Sam. 30:7). Later, David appointed Abiathar high priest. Abiathar was not *high* priest at the time of Davids fateful visit to the priests of Nob, but Jesus was merely using a prolepsis when giving this title to Abiathar.  So Mark 2:26 presents not even a shred of a problem for the inerrantist camp.

These are but three examples of “errors” which are not really errors at all. I could go on, and I may come back to this thread if I have time later-you know how preparing and packing for a trip can be-but if I cant, a bountiful and joyous Easter to everyone here. Amen!

[227] Posted by Bob K. on 03-17-2008 at 10:26 PM • top

William Witt (#215),

Boy am I glad you finally jumped back in on this thread!  I’ve been taking an awful lot of heat defending “mainstream” (if you will) biblical scholarship pretty much all by myself, with some help at times from Occasional Reader.  If I may tease you for a moment, where were you when I needed you to defend my back during the last 100 posts? (grin).  Please don’t disappear again for so long!

More seriously, I think your marital analogy is an excellent one.  It makes a lot of sense to me, and I’ve used the same argument myself in discussing these matters with others.  Hope made the same point earlier, but using her father as the example of someone close to us that we trust implicitly even though they sometimes make mistakes.

And I want to endorse your 4th and final point, which I think is crucial.  With reference to Mark 7, you said:

“Theologically, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus actually said these very words.  Their theological authority depends on their being in a gospel accepted as canonical by the church.”  Amen.  I concur with you (as usual).

However, let me qualify that last point somewhat, and expand on it.  Like St. Augustine, I accept Holy Scripture as the Word of God, because that is the consensual testimony of the Christian Church throughout the ages, something “believed everywhere, always, and by all,” to cite the famous rule of St. Vincent of Lerins (5th century AD).  But I hasten to add that I do ALSO accept it as the Word of God because of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to my spirit as I read this unique text that carries its own inherent power (a point developed especially forcefully by Calvin).  I see these two avenues to knowing the Bible to be in truth the Word of God (accpetance and testimony by the whole Church, and the inner witness of the Spirit) to be complementary and mutually reinforcing.  It’s a both/and situation, not an either/or.

But all we have to do is look at Matt’s comment #219 to glimpse one of the key underlying conflicts in this vexed and wearisome debate.  For Matt is, like any good Protestant, keen to separate the authority of Scripture from the authority of the Church, and to derive the latter from the former and NOT vice versa. 

After all, it was the one of the primary concerns of the Protestant reformers to place the authority of the Bible above that of the Church, both in the sense of its traditions and its hierarchy of authorized interpreters.  The reformers wanted to believe that this was a one-way street, i.e., the authority always flowing from Scripture (and thus from God himself) and not from any merely human source.

And that brings us to one of the truly MAJOR causes of division on this thread and throughout the Church over our various understandings of how biblical authority actually works.  As I said way back in #5 with my original post here, a lot of the controversy over inerrancy that looks at first sight as if it’s simply a liberal vs. conservative issue is really, when you dig down below the surface, at least as much of a Protestant vs. Catholic issue. 

You have just articulated in your fourth point, Bill, the classic Catholic position, i.e., that the authority of the Bible derives in practice from the authority of the Church that recognizes the Scriptures as uniquely bearing divine authority.  And Matt, in protest, insists in good Protestant fashion, that the opposite is the case, i.e., that the authority of the Scriptures derives DIRECTLY from its nature as a divinely inspired text, and therefore ALONE infallible. 

As an Anglican, I feel free to affirm the basic truth in both positions.

One of the topics not yet explored on this thread (despite its length) is how modern biblical scholarship has forced a radical re-examination of that central Reformation era controversy of Scripture vs. Tradition.  I hope to devote a future post to it soon. 

Suffice to say for now, that because both Protestant and Catholic mainstream biblical scholars now recognize that MOST of the Bible doesn’t have a single human author and is actually anonymous, and MOST of the Scriptures have come down to us through a very complex process of gradual formation in stages that we cannot adequately trace (especially in the narrative portions of Holy Writ), a lot of the old 16th century debates are beside the point.  Scripture and Tradition just aren’t so radically different in kind as BOTH sides assumed back in the 1500s, when it was ASSUMED that most of the Bible was produced by single authors writing down the various biblical books at a single point in time. 

Today we know better.  It has been proven that Paul’s letters are the great exception, not the general rule.  Most of the Bible has passed through a long and complex process of communal formation and editing.  And this literally changes everything in terms of how we understand the inspiration of the Scriptures to have worked.  It was much more of a DIFFUSED process of inspiration that covered many people contributing to the shaping and final editing of the biblical books, often over generations, if not centuries. 

In other words, the inspiration of the Bible is much more of a COMMUNAL PROCESS than an individual matter, as was formerly assumed.  And that means we have to revisit those old Reformation battles over Scripture vs. Tradition and revise them heavily.  Or so I firmly believe.

That is one of the most important ways that Matt and I differ so profoundly.  In the end, inerrancy is all about the notion of “sola Scriptura,” and about defending a strict separation of Scripture (as divine) from “merely” human tradition (in the Protestant fashion), and insisting that the latter be radially subordianted to the former. 

To put it rather provocatively, ultimately the reason Matt and I differ so profoundly is not only because he is FAR more conservative than I am, but especially because he is so MUCH, much more Protestant than I am.  In the end, it’s not his extreme conservatism than sets us apart.  Dig deeper, and it’s really his hardcore ultra-Protestantism (if I may call it that without offense) that really separates us.

David Handy+

[228] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-17-2008 at 10:51 PM • top

R.R. Reno has a fascinating article in the latest issue of First Things. (As yet only available online to subscribers).

He discusses the brilliant orthodox Jewish scholar, James Kugel’s, recent book, “How to read the Bible: a Guide to Scripture Then and Now”.

Kugel notes that all ancient Christian and Jewish interpreters of Scripture shared four key assumptions which are not shared as such by historical critical methodologies:

The first and most important assumption was that the Bible taught “lessons directly to readers in their own day.” This assumption is closely related to a second one: Ancient readers “believed that the entire Bible is essentially a divinely given text.” Call it inspiration or infallibility or whatever you want, but the point is again fairly obvious. Ancient Jews and Christians wanted to live in accord with God’s will, which could hardly be done by way of old books unless they took them to be divinely authorized for that purpose. Two further assumptions follow directly from the expectations created by the first two: The Bible has no contradictions or mistakes, and it has hidden meanings that must be ferreted out by all sorts of creative interpretive strategies.

It seems as the book goes on, Kugel who is a very distinguished scholar of Hebrew Scriptures and inter- and post - testamental literature, draws stark conclusions about the utility of contemporary biblical scholarship for people of faith:

Whether or not one is convinced by this or that conclusion of modern biblical scholarship, as a tradition of reading it cannot be incorporated into living religious communities. There is a spiritual parting of the ways, he suggests, that separates ancient from modern traditions of interpretation. The old ways of reading involve “learning from the Bible,” while modern critical approaches end up “learning about it.” Ancient interpretation teaches us to live inside Scripture; modern reading keeps its distance.

Astonishingly for someone who has spent his entire professional career working within the historical critical paradigm, Kugel has come to conclude:

“My own view, therefore,” Kugel reports, “is that modern biblical scholarship and traditional Judaism are and must remain completely irreconcilable.”

Whether one agrees or not, it is extraordinarily thought provoking.

[229] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 12:29 AM • top

Let me just give one example from a major theologian in the Christian tradition. According to Aquinas, the Holy Spirit is the principal author of Scripture and the literal meaning is, thus, the meaning, or perhaps better, meanings intended by the principal author. (eg Summa Theologiae 1.10).

[230] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 12:54 AM • top

I’m interested in the theological upshot of the debate about the dating of Daniel. If Scripture is intended to teach us divine truth, as Aquinas at least suggests, which divine truths does the second century dating (by which I am persuaded) impart?

[231] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 01:39 AM • top

“I’ve been taking an awful lot of heat defending “mainstream” (if you will) biblical scholarship pretty much all by myself,

So does this definition of “mainline” help explain why “mainline denominations” have been in serious decline for the last thirty years, meanwhile ‘Bible churches’ have exploded in growth? cool hmm

[232] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-18-2008 at 06:34 AM • top

I want to go back to a piece of this argument I let drop. Earlier Bill noted the following with regard to St. Augustine of Hippo’s understanding of scripture:

“On whether there are historic Catholic scholars (besides Origen) who advocate a similar approach to Scripture, one need go no farther than Augustine.  Augustine in his Confessions speaks of how he was finally able to convert to Christianity after hearing Ambrose explain passages in Scripture that on a literal reading were unacceptable in an allegorical manner.  In his “On Christian Doctrine,” he suggests as a matter of interpretive principle that, if anything in Scripture cannot, if taken literally, lead to purity of life or sound doctrine, it must be read allegorically.”

I responded later with the following:

“Dr. Witt’s appeal to St. Augustine is a case in point. St. Augustine found the analogical use of scripture resolved some of the problems he’d noticed using the literal principle. Why did he find it helpful? Because he was able to maintain belief in the infallibility of scripture by use of the analogical sense. The question we cannot ask the departed saint is whether, without the analogical sense, he would have discarded the idea that the bible is wholly and completely infallible. I think there is a good argument to be made that he would have said that it is necessary to believe it so and hold the difficult parts to be true, despite apparent tensions. I think, moreover, if you read the fullness of “On Christian Doctrine” in which he deals extensively with hermeneutics, it is impossible to come away with anything but the sense that he understood the bible to be wholly infallible. The use of the quadriga, including the analogical sense, itself has no bearing on the question of whether the ancients believed the bible infallible.

Playing in the back of my mind was a passage from one of Augustine’s works that affirmed his view of the bible as being without error but I could not remember the source. I found it last night:

On my own part I confess to your charity that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty [a defective copy of the Bible], or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.

This is from Augustine’s letter to Jerome chapter 3 para 24., Here’s a link:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102082.htm

I would suggest that St. Augustine’s view of scripture was considerably higher than either NRA’s or Dr. Witts.

I would also add the entire text of Augustine’s
“The Consensus of the Evangelist” in order to show how concerned he was to maintain the truth, accuracy, and errorlessness of God’s word.

Here is the link:
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602.htm

[233] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-18-2008 at 07:14 AM • top

Matt+

St. Augustine scholars are all over the map in Catholic theology, so Dr. Witt will be able to cite some work which refutes you. It demonstrates the wide views held within the RCC, also the period in which one studies (the last ten to twenty years Traditionalist and Ultra-traditionalist inside RCC seem to have an elevation view of Scripture and some their apologetics has changed, liberals, of course, advocate a lower view).

Having struggles through <u>Confessions</u>, I’ll say he seems to hold a high view, weaving verses throughout every book. I walked away with the impression that Monica and Scripture where foundational to his faith. A view shared in discourse with outsiders (Muslim students in class). I realize in the world of academia, that doesn’t count, but I’m not sure that really matters.

[234] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-18-2008 at 07:34 AM • top

Hosea, the point of the quote was not to suggest that Augustine is a modern inerrantist. That would be something of an anachronism. It was rather to suggest that Augustine did not allow for error in the scriptures and that his run to the analogical sense that Bill noted was precisely to satisfy his commitment to an error free word.

[235] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-18-2008 at 08:02 AM • top

While there’s certainly a place for textual criticism, doesn’t ALL real literary criticism of ANY text have to, in practice, assume that the text is error free?  For a critic to say “what the author is trying to say,” is just critical envy, it seems to me.  What Matt contends for, in say #235, is just the reasonable respect that ANY text should receive from a reader wanting to learn from what an author wrote.

[236] Posted by tdunbar on 03-18-2008 at 08:40 AM • top

driver8 (#229-231),

Welcome to this thread!  I’m so glad you jumped in and started contributing to it (and I hope you’ll continue to enrich it).  I’ve been bemoaning how for too long it’s been dominated by just Matt and me.  I think a broader base of participants would help make this discussion far more interesting and helpful.

About your #229.  It may surprise many readers that I am actually highly sympathetic to the viewpoint represented by James Kugel in the Rusty Reno article you cite from the April issue of First Things.  I am by no means an uncritical defender of modern biblical scholarship. 

So let me expand on this important matter that lies at the heart of this debate. That is, Is modern biblical scholarship fundamentally incompatible with being a believing, practicing Jew or Christian?  Is it really true, as is so often supposed, that “modern biblical scholarship and traditional Judaism [and traditional Christianity as well] are and must remain completely irreconcilable? (Kugel)”  I agree that this is the million dollar question, the real issue in many ways at the heart of this thread. 

In response, let me begin by noting that James Kugel’s position is nothing new in traditional Jewish circles.  After all, Jews rightly reacted extremely negatively to the work of Julius Wellhausen (1870s and 80s) that is so foundational to modern OT scholarship.  After all, Wellhausen was sadly and blatantly anti-Semitic, as well as being vehemently opposed to “Judaism,” which he treated with utmost contempt.  Now Wellhausen didn’t do that as a Christian (he didn’t pretend to be one), he did that as an out-of-the-closet agnostic, who despised traditional Christianity (especially Catholicism) as much as Judaism.

No wonder that the famous American leader of the “Conservative” Jewish movement about a century ago (the via media between “Orthodox” and “Reformed” Judaism), Solomon Schlechter, summed up the matter so succinctly and memorably:  “Higher criticism—higher anti-Semitism!”  Yep.  That says it all. 

And as anyone who is well read in modern OT scharship knows, the linchpin of Wellhausen’s classic theory is that P is the last of the four major sources of the Pentateuch (i.e., J, E, D, and P) and that it represents a devastating decline and falling away from the heights of earlier Hebrew religion (which for Wellhausen as a Romantic as well as an extreme liberal peaked with the eighth century prophets like Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah of Jerusalem [the historical Isaiah, if you will]).  Wellhausen heaps scorn and ridicule on P and the whole Priestly tradition as reflecting the victory of a spiritually moribund and dessicated legalism along with a priest-bound institutionalism devoted primarily to its own self-interests over the progressive “ethical monotheism” of the classical prophets.  Thus he blasts P repeatedly for being obsessed with ritual minutiae (all of Leviticus etc.) and compiling dry lists of geneaologies (Gen. 5 and 11 etc.), dates, numbers (the census in Numbers 1 etc.) and so on, but having nothing creative or meaningful to add theologically to the rich earlier traditions P inherited.  And, of course, Wellhausen thinks the whole idea of the sort of elaborate Tabernacle with all its paraphenalia and associated personnel described in Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is pure fiction, a retrojection of exilic Priestly ideals back onto the distant mythic past…

Naturally, devout, committed Jews took vehement exception to this sort of blasphemous, violent abuse of all that they held dear.  But it’s interesting and instructive to see how Jewish biblical scholars has become deeply divided over the years on this matter, just as Christians have.

Just look at the impressive commentaries issued by the Conservative Jewish movement now, i.e., the five volumes on the Torah put out by the Jewish Publication Society.  I think they are SUPERB examples of mixing admirable “moderate” (if you’ll allow that perhaps loaded term) biblical scholarship with a deep commitment to traditional Jewish faith and practice.  Take the volumes on Genesis and Exodus by Nahum Sarna, for instance.  Sarna is a commited, observant Jew, who taught for years at Brandeis (or was it Brown University?  Alas, I’m a NT guy, not an OT expert, so I forget some of these details). Or the volume on Leviticus by Baruch Levine, or the one on Numbers by Jacob Milgrom, who are likewise observant Jews, somehow surviving in the highly hostile world of modern secular academia (e.g., Milgrom teaches at the U. of California at Berkeley, and you don’t get more liberal than that!).  Now, interestingly, Milgrom has also contributed the massive, three-volume commentary on Leviticus for the renownded Anchor Bible series (which is mostly by Christians of course), and Levine did the two-volume commentary on Numbers, thus switching assingments from the JPS Commentary series.

Clearly, Sarna, Levine, and Milgrom are comfortable combining “moderate” (I’m not sure what else to call it) biblical scholarship, including full acceptance of Wellhausen’s basic SOURCE analysis, with a robust confidence in the validity and importance of traditional Judaism. That is, they separate the source criticism from some of Wellhuasen’s historical conclusions and they reject virtually all of his theological assessments, thus keeping the meat and throwing out the bones.

Another outstanding example, and my personal favorite, is the prolific Richard Elliot Friedman, who teaches at U.C. in San Diego.  For anyone wanting to explore the whole controversial subject of the source analysis of the Pentateuch, you can’t do better than Friedman.  His popular book for laypeople, “Who Wrote the Bible?” is a modern classic, I think, and very readable, even entertaining.  Or see his “The Bible Revealed according to its Sources,” which is color-coded edition of the Pentateuch showing which parts belong to J, E, D, and P.

But at the same time, the Harvard Jewish scholar, Jon Levinson, has become increasingly comvinced, as has his colleague Kugel, that modern biblical scholarship is indeed fundamentally incompatible with traditional Judaism.  And Levnson has written some marvelous stuff on the OT from a “mainstream” perspective.  I particularly love his short book on OT theology called “Sinai and Zion,” that compares and contrasts the influence of the conditional Mosaic covenant (Sinai) and the unconditional Davidic covenant (Zion), which is also highly accessible for beginners and wonderfully insightful.  Levinson wrote the fine commentary on Esther for the prestigious Christian series, The Old Testament Library.  But he has grown increasingly unhappy with the whole field of modern biblical scholarship.

And so have I in many ways.  Just go back and check out my earlier post where I speak in a testimonial vein about the ways I was impacted by Wheaton, Yale, and Union, but above all by Wheaton.  As I said then, I sum it up this way.  Good old Wheaton taught me to LOVE the Bible, while Yale and Union taqught me how to really STUDY it.  That is, at least in terms of the ART of exegesis,m or trying to discern “the original meaning” of the biblical text, Yale and Union taught the necessary preliminary skills and gave me some essential tools, especially when it comes to trying to put the various biblical writings in their most likely HISTORICAL and cultural context.

But in the end, I would wholeheartedly agree with Rusty Reno (who is editing a whole new commentary series that is more theological than historical) in that article you, driver8, and others have recomended from First Things.  And I put it this way, in the end the most important thing that I learned at Wheaton is that in order to truly and properly under-stand the Bible, we must be willing to submit ourselves to the Lord through it and to STAND UNDER it, and let it judge us, rather than presuming to judge it.  I realize that some readers of this thread have not gotten that impression from many of my posts here, so I simply re-affirm here that I still hold to that conviction, with a passion.

But my concern has been that so very often, conservative Christians reject modern biblical scholarship entirely and in a knee-jerk, automatic reflex, sort of way.  What I’ve been trying to do here is to help people UNDERSTAND what modern “moderate” or “mainstream” biblical scholarship is really like, and how we who practice that art really think, so that people are in a better position to evaluate it fairly and accurately.

I’m sorry if it’s seemed that I was attacking the Bible (as more liberal scholars, alas, do delight in doing in all too many cases).  That is the FARTHEST thing from my intentions.

David Handy+

[237] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 10:26 AM • top

“What I’ve been trying to do here is to help people UNDERSTAND what modern “moderate” or “mainstream” biblical scholarship is really like, and how we who practice that art really think, so that people are in a better position to evaluate it fairly and accurately.

I’m sorry if it’s seemed that I was attacking the Bible (as more liberal scholars, alas, do delight in doing in all too many cases).  That is the FARTHEST thing from my intentions.”

While this mirrors a discourse with Almost Live Priest on “Seriously, Not Literally” some 14 months ago and you basically demonstrated the point I was making in the last paragraph on my post #11 and how we ended up in this mess … oh yeah, I learned a lot, maybe not the lessons you wanted to teach, but trust me I’ve already begun to email those in the regional sphere of influence to ask about these things …

I’ve learned I was very naive in thinking evangelical schools thought this way about the Scriptures. I honestly have a huge red flag now about TESM that I thought was opposite before this thread and I think those in leadership really should begin to ponder these things before sending students to seminaries in the various Anglican entities and not take Dr. Noll+’s exhortation to blindly support TESM and Nashotah but ask really tough questions and decide based on that (some may value inerrancy, thus if a school is not going to prepare students that way a congregation should not send their students). I do think this thread is one every congregation needs to ponder before sending their seminarians off to school on what is important and do the professors believe and teach it.

I know you do not think you are on a slippery slop, but I always thought this crisis was not about sex but the authority of Scripture. You have try to cast doubt on more than seven verses on this thread. How can you say this verse is important but not that? What criteria are you using to say this verse is in error and not that one? How is Dr Crew in error in his understanding of Scripture and why?  All you wrote here, I’d be curious to what your understanding of the crisis the Anglican Communion is facing.

[238] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-18-2008 at 11:51 AM • top

Fr Handy 237,
Thank you for your gracious presentation.  My priest once said he is a fundamentalist, not a literalist.  I guess that gets close.  For me, scripture tells me what I need to know for salvation and how to live the life I am given for my own good and His Glory.  It really doesn’t matter to me if there really was an Adam who had nothing better to do than dream up animal names all day.  My Lord speaks through it and I listen.  What I don’t understand today He often explains tomorrow, and if not, then it is not for me.  But scripture does not explain all creation, all things, only the basic of what we must have to let the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith have a place to grow and show us the way-the only Way-home.

Easter Blessings

[239] Posted by Elizabeth on 03-18-2008 at 12:21 PM • top

I don’t want to take this off topic, but I’ll simply comment that I have recently read a great deal of criticism literature (form, redaction, literary) etc. One of the things I discovered is that the authors come with a bias in almost all the cases. #237 I agree most heartily with your comment that all criticism must stand under the authority of scripture. More so, I would point out that if the church was under the authority of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit, we would find much more convergence as opposed to divergence. Further, my faith does not depend on speculations of Mark, Q, Matthew, etc., who wrote Hebrews, etc. I appreciate the degree to which canon selected Scripture as an accurate testimony God’s intended plan. Athanasius wrote:
“Since we have spoken of the heretics as dead, and of ourselves as having the divine Scriptures for eternal life; and since some may be beguiled from their simplicity by the wiles of certain men, and may read other writings which are called Apocryphal, and which ought not to be mingled with the Scripture which is inspired by God, it seems good to me to set down those Books which are known by us to be divine…. these are the wells of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the sayings in these. Let no one add to these. Let nothing be taken away.”
The problem is that culture and the church do not believe they are the wells of salvation. I appreciate Matt’s opening dialog, but the conversation about if scripture is true and it’s reasoning is not one for believers to have with unbelievers, for simply that they do not have the understanding infused in faith by the Holy Spirit. The better approach is first understanding who Christ said he was - from there springs faith that these things written are divine.

[240] Posted by Festivus on 03-18-2008 at 12:27 PM • top

The important discusison is to be had not around interpreters but around hermeneutics and around methodologies. Your key point passed by without any argumentation at all. That is, that discerning “the original meaning” is the most appropriate way for Scripture to be used in the church. This hermeneutical assumption is commonly taken to mean that the first and key task of interpretation is to discover the “communicative intentions” of the authors, or authorial communities, or redactors, or the belief states of the first readers, or imaginary belief states of imagined ideal first readers.

It is exactly this that Kugel (and Reno and Aquinas) deny.

[241] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 12:34 PM • top

Festivus,

you said:

“The problem is that culture and the church do not believe they are the wells of salvation. I appreciate Matt’s opening dialog, but the conversation about if scripture is true and it’s reasoning is not one for believers to have with unbelievers, for simply that they do not have the understanding infused in faith by the Holy Spirit.”

I believe I anticipated this suggestion in my original post. I do not think we can arbitrarily limit God’s regenerative grace (and I am not suggesting that you to do that). We do not know what words or actions, what vehicle he may use to breath new life. This is why Peter says to be ready with an answer to those who question the hope that lies within you with gentleness and respect. This is why Paul contended with the Stoics and Epicureans on Mars Hill.

Christendom is populated with at least some believers who God brought to faith, at least partly, through reasoned argument.

At the same time I am not wholly persuaded that an unregenerate person cannot be shown the truth of God’s Word. I believe, for example, that Satan is a strict inerrantist despite himself.

[242] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-18-2008 at 01:10 PM • top

CryptoCatholic asks a significant question in rebuttal to NRA’s ‘reconstruction’ of Daniel:

Is it really so clear that Daniel is merely one example of 2nd C BCE Jewish apocalypse among many?

Rather, the Book of Daniel is a quite unique composite document. First, it can readily be noticed that some of the book was written about Daniel by an observer of history who tells several collected tales, while other parts of the book claim to be written by “I, Daniel” speaking in the first person.

Secondly, the sections of the book are not in chronological order but arranged to emphasize a certain parallelism between the life of Daniel and the prophetic content of the book. (viz., chapters 1-5 vs. 6-12; see Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament by John Walton, p. 57)

Thirdly, it is not difficult to find the hand of the final editor of the document where he stitches the various pieces together, for instance the segway from chapter 6 to chapter 7. Closing chapter 6, the editor writes,

So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persion. (Dan 6:28 NASB)

Opening chapter 7, the editor begins with this introduction:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind [as he lay] on his bed; then he wrote the dream down [and] related the [following] summary of it. (Dan 7:1 NASB)

This introduction is immediately followed by Daniel’s first-person account of the vision of the four beasts.

There is no question that contemporary Judaism saw in Daniel allusions to Antioch Epiphanes. It is my contention (although I have yet to finish my paper on it) that the Book of Daniel was assembled in its current form about when the critical scholars claim that it was written (appx 165 BCE). It was assembled from a variety of sources, including historical and traditional sources about the life of Daniel, along with actual manuscripts originally written by Daniel himself.

The editor, writing in an age greatly influenced by the currently popular genre of apocalyptic literature, assembled this material from a prior age. Daniel is perhaps the deepest book of the Bible. I suspect that not all of its secrets will be unlocked until the risen Christ returns at last.

The Rabbit.

[243] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-18-2008 at 01:48 PM • top

Hosea 6:6 (#238),

I welcome your thoughtful, candid challenge.  As we haven’t directly interacted much so far (despite your frequent contributions to this thread, especially toward the start of it), let me begin responding by agreeing with you that there are enormous dangers that surround us on more sides than one in this crisis (i.e., that not all the danger comes from blatant, explicit attacks from the extreme left).  And I am more sympathetic than you might guess to your profound uneasiness about the role played by the professional “experts” in biblical interpretation on our side.

That is, I am acutely aware that those of us with advanced degrees in biblical studies and who have one foot in academia and another in the Church are liable to act (at least at times, if not usually or always) like the “scribes” and the “teachers of the Law” in Jesus’ day.  I wasn’t meaning to ignore that very serious charge, which you’ve made more than once on this thread.  I’ve been intending to reply for some time, and this seems like as good a time as any.

So I went back and reread your characteristic #173, and the milder #182.  One of the things I appreciate about your continual enphasis on the importance of the Refrmation principle that the Bible is supposed to be made acessible to all believers (through translation into the native tongue, expository preaching etc.).  You are onto something very, very important. 

The way I would put it is that it is fundamental to the Reformation impulse or Protestant instinct to be distrustful of any relegating of the definitive interpretation of Scripture to those “authorized” to act as the final arbiters in such disputes.  That is, I see this as an extension of the basic Protestant principle of “the priesthood of all believers,” which is usually taken to mean that we don’t need any intermediaries to broker the communication between God and the individual believer.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that it would be an absolute tragedy and travesty if this basic concept that each believer has the “right” (if you will) or even the “duty” to interpret Scripture for themselves was lost.  Now I put “right” and “duty” in quotes because I would qaulify and nuance that familiar Protestant claim significantly.  I would prefer to say that each individual Christian has the “possibility” and the “responsibility” to feed themselves spiritually from the rich diet of God’s Holy Word.  It is one of the signs of spiritual maturity that someone is no longer dependent on being “fed” by another Christian, whether their pastor, or someone on TV or a Christian author, or just a personal friend etc. 

Babies can’t feed themselves, and little children can’t fix their own meals.  But something is terribly wrong when there are so many Christians, especially in TEC, that have no clue how to feed their souls from Holy Scripture, much less how to witness effectively to others or to teach or disciple another person, or even how to train their own children in the basics of the Christian faith and life.

Alas, I agree that one of the ironies of the development of modern biblical scholarship is that it has led to such a vast degree of complicating Bible study (or at least SEEMING to make it intimidatingly difficult and complex) that most clergy, much less laity, get the (false) impression that you need to know at least Greek (if not Hebrew too), and have four Ph.D.s in order to hope to ever intepret the Bible and get things “right.”  In creating this impression, the Reformation ideals have been betrayed and compromised by substituting a new class of authority figures for the old ones, but a class of “experts” whose views similarly just can’t be questioned.  Only this time it’s not the Pope and the bishops who are treated as infallible, but the academic experts who teach at the most prestigious schools and are lauded most by the academic guild, even if many of them are agnostic (or worse).

For instance, I noted with pleasure that you jumped right in there when Elizabeth made her post a long time ago on this thread.  You and Br_er Rabbit assured her that she needn’t be intimidated by the deep waters this discussion has ventured through, but that she could and should read the Bible for herself and not be cowed into imagining that the “experts” had all the answers etc.  And I posted a long reply offering suggestions of basic study resources she might find helpful.

But having noted that common concern we share, I do think you are over-reacting here and lumping all us professionally trained biblical scholars together unfairly.  Remember, not all the “scribes” and “teachers of the Law” were hostile to Jesus (think of Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and especially Gamaliel in Acts).  More importantly, Paul was such a person, both before and after his conversion.  He was an “expert” in biblical interpretation, of the Jewish sort.  Yes, God takes special delight in using the weak to shame the strong, the poor to shame the rich, and not least the uneducated to shame “the wise,” as I Cor. 1 reminds us. 

But while God can and does use the Peters of this world, who are blissfully innocent of rabbinic training, he also uses the Pauls.  He can and does use the humble nobodies like Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, but he can also use the education Moses received in Pharaoh’s household. 

The real issue it seems to me, or one of them anyway, has to do with two things. 

First, are the “experts” more concerned about their academic reputation or about serving the Church?  That is, are they more accountable to the secular academic guild or to the Christian community?  Fortunately, in the case of the men you yourself have mentioned: Dr. Stephen Noll, Dr. William Witt, Dr. Robert Gagnon, I think I can honestly say that all of them are concerned first and foremost to serve Christ and his Church, not the academic world with all its pretensions and the skeptical, secular, relativist worldview that reigns triumphant there.  I know that my earnest desire is to put Christ unmistakeably first.  And I’m confident that the same applies to Dr. Christopher Seitz, +Tom Wright, and the faculties at TESM and Nashotah.

Here’s one way to reframe the issue.  It was Pope Gregory the Great around AD 600 who first used an analogy (as far as I know, he was the first) that has been widely used ever since, even down to our own day.  He said, “The Scriptures are like the ocean.  A child may play in its shallows. but even an elephant is out of his depth in its deeps.”  Now maybe the elephant wasn’t the best choice, but the point is clear.  None of us have plumbed the depths of the ocean that is Holy Scripture, and there is much, muich more there than has yet been discovered.  So it behooves us all, and especially “the learned,” to be humble and admit our limitations.

But secondly and finally, there is a crucial issue here which hasn’t yet received its due attention on this thread, as long as it already is.  Along with the Protestant principles of “sola Scriptura,” and “the priesthood of all believers” (and its corollary that all believers can and should read the Bible for themselves and not submit to any human authority as infallible), there are two other Reformation principles that are very much at stake and hidden under the surface in this profound struggle.  And those two Protestant principles are the clarity or in classic terms, the “PERSPECUITY” of Scripture, and its “SUFFICIENCY.” 

And that is where I strongly suspect that you and I would differ radically.  You and Matt appear to think the Bible is much simpler to understand than I do, and much more sufficient all by itself for acting as our infallible guide to “faith and practice.”

But that is a vast subject, and I won’t try to say more about it here.  I would just say, rather provocatively (as is my usual wont and style, alas), that ultimately, where I differ from you and Matt and Moot and probably many other readers of this thread, is that I’m not only much less CONSERVATIVE in my approach to SOME matters of biblical interpretation, the real source of the division is that I’m far less PROTESTANT than you guys are.  That is, I reject the notion of sola Scriptura (at least as it’s usually understood), and I hold to a much more nuanced and complicated view of Scripture that assumes that while its clear and sufficient enough in communicating the truths “necessary FOR SALVATION,” that it is very unclear and quite insufficient for a whole lot else.  And yet, those other things beyond salvation are nonetheless very important in the life of the Church as a whole and the life of the individual believer.

I hope that helps clarify things, and generates more light than heat.

David Handy+

ASIDE:  Now I suspect you’ll want to say, “It’s like wealth, you can’t serve God and Mammon.  So choose which it’s going to be, the Church or academia, because you can’t have it both ways.”  But I won’t say that, because then you could rightly reply to me at that point.  “You see?  You just did it again, putting words in my mouth and telling me what I probably think…”  I’m sorry if I really did that earlier, as you’ve complained.

[244] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 02:08 PM • top

David,

I’d still love to hear some reply to my position (c) from post 199, set out in post 201 and amplified in post 225: I claim that the methodology of higher Biblical criticism is demonstrably deeply flawed, and that the pattern of its demonstrated mistakes reveals an inbuilt (and very likely unconscious) bias against the truth of Scripture.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

First Aid Theology

[245] Posted by gone on 03-18-2008 at 02:30 PM • top

driver8 (#241),

You didn’t explicitly make clear to whom your comment was directed, but I suspect it may have been aimed my way.  In any case, the issue you raise is a very important one and deserves more discussion.

I agree with you that the art of “exegesis,” especially when that is understood in terms of historical study, is not the proper goal of biblical interpretation, although I do think it’s a very valuable check on proposed biblical interpretations.  That is, I do NOT believe that attempts to ascertain “the original meaning” of any given passage determine, much less exhaust, the meaning of the Sacred Page for believers and would-be disciples of Christ.

Rather, what the Church has always stressed is the so-called “literal” or “plain” meaning of Holy Scripture.  That was always the foundation on which any other meanings were based and built (cf. the standard four-fold medieval senses sought in Scripture, of which the literal sense was the primary, most basic, and controling one).  And in practice this was derived not from HISTORICAL study (as has been the pre-occupation and obsession of scholars for the last 200 years), and the attempt (always speculative to some degree) to place biblical passges in their most likely historical setting and to guess at their original form, but rather in practice this was derived from placing any particular biblical passage in the context of the biblical canon as a whole and seeing it in the light of that total canonical perspective.  That is how the Fathers and the Reformers operated.

One way of putting it may help clarify things (driver8, you may well know this, but I’m writing for everyone here).  Historical criticism treats the Bible like a WINDOW into the distant past.  Historical scholars want to look THROUGH that window in order to understand and if possible reconstruct that ancient past, i.e., “what really happened” etc.  On the other hand, traditional Christian interpretation, like modern literary study, treats the Bible more like a PICTURE or work of art.  Instead of looking through it, people look AT it and try to appreciate it AS IT IS, not as it may have existed in some hypothetical earlier state of composition.  This means a focus on the SYNCHRONIC versus the DIACHRONIC aspects of the biblical text.

Now this does raise some significant issues that should be noted.  The clear traditional Christian preference for the canonical (or literary) perspective over the “historical” one does privilege some aspects of the text and downplay others. 

For instance, in the prophetic books of the OT, it has been clear for at least a hundred years now (at least to those of us trained in historical-critical methods!) that virtually all of them have experienced significant editing that has modified the teachings of the original prophets themselves. 

A clear and representative example would be Amos.  Historical critics are unanimous that the “original” text of Amos contained no message of hope for the northern kingdom of Israel.  He prophesied that the end was coming and the nation would be destroyed for its sins, especially its idolatry and its oppression of the poor. 

Just read Amos 8 (especially 8:1-3 and 7-14), which is utterly relentless in its negativity and its pronouncement of judgment.  And it happened.  Not long after Amos preached his message of gloom and doom in Bethel, the Assyrians swooped in like a hurricane and just destroyed the northern kingdom (in 722 BC).  Samaria never did come back to life (unlike Judah). 

But at some later point (or points, there may be more than one later addition), Amos, like the other prophetic books was edited to add a message of hope at the end.  Amos 9:9-15 is thus a very significant modification to “the original message” of Amos, but it is authoritative Scripture, just as much as the rest of the book (because it was accepted by the People of God as such, first the Jews, and then the Christians).  Interestingly, Amos 9:11-12, which is at the heart of this hopeful addition, is what gets quoted by James in Acts 15, which certainly seals its canonical status as part of God’s Holy Word.

Any doctrine of inspriation of Scripture, as well as its authority, must be able to cope with both aspects of the biblical text (the historical and the literary, or the diachronic and synchronic, but emphasizing the latter as canonical).  All is inspired and authoritative, no matter how the text reached its final form. 

But those who emphasize the final, canonical form of the text, like my beloved mentor Brevard Childs at Yale, will tend therefore to downplay the harshness of “the original message” of Amos.  And that does tend to blunt, at least somewhat, the radical prophetic challenge that Amos makes, not only to those who worshipped Baal and “trampled the poor into the dust” in ancient Israel, but to us as well many centuries later. 

It is no accident that Martin Luther King loved so much to quote Amos 5, with its famous and eloquent call for “justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” etc.  Liberals love to stress the supposed “original” message of Amos, for obvious reasons.  It fits their progressive agenda.

Thanks for calling our attention to this issue, driver8.  I hope it doesn’t get ignored.

David Handy+

[246] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 03:08 PM • top

#244 NRA+ —Okay, you have written much but I don’t think you answered my questions #238.

Responding to what you worte, yes, I’ve often been frustrated by the learned theologians responses. On the Dr. Gagnon thread, I took the lonely position with zero backup (no real complaining either), to which Dr. Noll’s defense of Dr. Gagnon was he was a nice guy and has been a faithful in these battles in the past ... okay ... somewhere in school, a level I’ve not reached yet, one is allowed to ignore the rules of Aristotelian logic and get away with it. I’m not sure where, I think it at the PhD club level. It’s not just theologians, I’ve witnessed it in many disciplines, however yours is the odd one. You may not be called to be a rocket scientist, but all rocket scientist are called by God to be theologians, you probably are not called to be a housewife but all housewives are called by God to be theologian, etc.

However, Matt+ must be giggling at the “I’m far less PROTESTANT than you guys are” claim. While I’ve probably been “infected” by evangelicals these last eight years I’m still a bit lost hanging out with them. Now this thread did awaken me to fractures in foundations on the evangelical side, which honestly is still kind of shocking to me, but better known and in the light. My roots are in Anglo-Catholic, just I also been in and out of Catholic school systems to understand the differences and why Anglicanism is certainly Protestant with any tie to Catholicism in a pre-VC2/pre-Trent understanding. Claims to be less Protestant don’t cut it with the last two Popes. In some ways I love Benedict XVI more than JP II & would love use the offer from my school to go hear him live, but 1 Cor 13 tells me that seat should be for a real RC. His approach to Scripture seems different than what I’ve read here.

Yet that still brings me to the question I asked in #238. How can stupid lay folk, like me, know if this is an important verse or some errant thing that has creep in? It seems to be that if the Bible is filled with error then those verses about sexuality are in error. It seems logical to me that we can have active homosexual priest, who fully affirm all things “necessary FOR SALVATION,” that it is very unclear and quite insufficient for a whole lot else.” So the election of +VGR should not have been a big deal, unless we just don’t like homosexuals or something. I think the position Matt+ has taken is logically simple to say sex outside of marriage of one man and one woman is wrong according to Scripture. Your position gets fuzzy, under ethical theories of Distributive Justice or Individual Rights, it seems that Dr. Crew has very valid points, maybe under Utility argument a case could be made for “not now” but I don’t see an argument outside of a Scriptural one for why we’re in a crisis.

[247] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-18-2008 at 03:12 PM • top

Hi David,

Is this right - when you say “historical interpretation” you mean our most reasonable interpretation of what was intended by the final editor, or understood by the original community or some such? Such that our most plausible reconstruction of the “original” communicative intention acts as a check on contemporary use of Scripture?

Could you say more about why scholarly reconstructions of “original” meanings should or even can act as a check on contemporary interpretation.

[248] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 03:58 PM • top

Phil (#245),

I’m sorry if I’ve seemed evasive.  I haven’t meant to ignore your questions, including your repeated request for a response to the incisive essay by C. S. Lewis.  Alas, I’m trying to contend with so many different factors that are in play in this discussion.  Feel free to keep on badgering me (like the widow did the “unjust judge” in Luke 11) until you get your answer!

Is there a built-in bias in the historical-critical method against the historicity of the biblical narratives?  Yes, there undeniably is such a negative bias.  Many of the pioneers of the application of the historical-critical method tio the Bible were open skeptics.  I’ve mentioned Julius Wellhausen as a prime and highly influential example.  But there were many before and after him. 

To switch to the NT field, the pioneers in the so-called “Quest for the Historical Jesus” were often quite frank about their skepticism.  A couple examples will perhaps suffice.  Reimarus, in the 1770s, at the start of the Enlightenment is a notorious example; so would be David Strauss, whose “The Life of Jesus Critically Examined,” published in 1835, was an international bestseller and who started the program of “demythologizing” Scripture that Rudolf Bultmann later promoted so vigorously. 

But as William Witt keeps mentioning, careful application of the historical method, compensating for that bias, actually SUPPORTS the orthodox view of Jesus Christ, as was demonstrated forcefully by the Anglo-Catholic duo, Edward Hoskyns and Noel Davey (BTW, thanks for correcting me and others on the latter name, Dr. Witt) in their classic work, “The Riddle of the New Testament.”

But my chief concern with how you’ve posed your question, Phil, is that you seem to labor under the mistaken impression that most liberal objections raised to the historial veracity of various controversial points in the biblical narratives have been overturned or refuted by later research.  Alas, that simply isn’t true.  It’s a part of the conservative evangelical mythology about the problems with modern biblical scholarship.

It is of course true that many of the more extreme claims made by the most skeptial scholars have indeed been refuted, and yes, that would certainly include Bultmann’s very late dating of the Gospel of John and the ultra-skeptical denial that David and Solomon ever even existed.  Unfortunately, the archaeological record has not been very kind to the biblical record in many other matters in the last forty years or so.  That is, the external evidence is much more mixed that you seem to realize.

However, there is much more to the role of extra-biblical evidence in biblical interpretation than the direct confirmation or disconfirmation of various events described in the Bible.  As you know, I’ve already emphasized that in order to understand the rather bizarre genre of apocalyptic literature, you really need to know at least something about the many parallel works of Jewish apocalyptic produced between 200 BC and 200 AD.  I’ve mentioned 1 Enoch (which is probably the most important, but it’s also the most complex and difficult), 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch, but there are at least a dozen more significant examples that help us put Daniel and revelation in their proper LITERARY and HISTORIAL context.

But fortunately, we now have LOTS of valuable documents from the ancient Near Eastern world that help shed light on many aspects of the Bible (from a historical perspective).  Let me just note a few of them. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls shed a lot of light on just how diverse Judaism was in the time of Jesus, and how crucial was the obsession with ritual purity on the part of the Pharisees, who now appear almost moderate in comparison with the Qumran sect that produced the Scrolls.  And the Essenes were even more strict than the Pharisees on some points of legal observance.  For instance, in the gospels, Jesus asks, “Who among you, if his ox fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t pull it out?”  Well, it turns out, the Qumran community wouldn’t have done it.  The issue is explicitly addressed and it is expressly denied that this justifies breaking the Sabbath!

Likewise, those famous Dead Sea Scrolls have greatly illuminated the textual history of the OT.  They have largely confirmed the amazing accuracy with which the Hebrew text has been transmitted.  For example, the intact scroll of Isaiah [from around 100 BC] has virtually the same text as the earliest Hebrew manuscript Isaiah we had previously known, which dated from after 1000 AD. 

But as usual, unfortuntely, the whole matter is considerably more complicated than that.  Fragments from about 200 biblical scrolls were found in the caves near the Dead Sea, and some of them show what scholars had long suspected.  Namely, there are places where the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint (or LXX), differs radically from the (Masoretic) Hebrew text we know. Prime examples are Job and Jeremiah, where the Greek text is quite a bit shorter (about 10% shorter in the case of Jeremiah, and the order of passages is different in some cases, such as the placement of the Oracles against the Nations).  Well, now we KNOW that the LXX translators were working from an alternative Hebrew text and not just editing the text themselves, since BOTH forms of the text of Jeremiah appear in Hebrew among the cave fragments.  Thus the Scrolls have confirmed confidence in the LXX as well and shown that the textual history of at least parts of the OT is rather complex.

But besides these sorts of things, we are now blessed, thanks to archaeology, to have access to parallel ancient literature from Israel’s pagan neighbors that greatly helps us understand the OT.  I’ll mention just two prominent examples.

First, there are the precious Babylonian myths known as “The Enuma Elish” (a creation myth with remarkable parallels to the first creation account in Genesis 1) and the famous “Gilgamesh Epic” (which combines a variant Babylonain creation myth along with a fascinating story of a premieval universal flood, an entertaining myth bearing many similarities to the story of Noah in Genesis 6-9, but even more striking differences).  These two myths from Babylon have revolutionized our appreciation of some aspects of Genesis, especially the P or Priestly sections, which most likely derive from the time of the Babylonian exile.  But that’s probably the subject for a whole different post, if not a different thread.

Second, there was the fabulous discovery in 1929 of a vast collection of Canaanite myths and literature at Ras Samra (in modern Lebanon), written in Ugaritic, a language close to Hebrew.  Now we know from first hand sources what the worship of Baal and his wives (like Astarte/Asherah) was like and how Canaanite religion shared more features with early Israelite religion than we previously knew.  But again, the stark differences stand out even more.

Enough for now.  I hope that helps clarify things, at least somewhat.  Feel free to keep pressing me on these matters.  I’ve only scratched the surface here of a vast, complicated topic.

David Handy+

[249] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 04:20 PM • top

where I differ from you and Matt and Moot and probably many other readers of this thread, is that I’m not only much less CONSERVATIVE in my approach to SOME matters of biblical interpretation, the real source of the division is that I’m far less PROTESTANT than you guys are.

Leaving Protestantism aside for a moment, I guess I still can’t get around Matt+‘s objection re the authority of the Church being derived from a error-riddled “scriptures,” which would then turn around and validate those things right and proper about the same scriptures.  Even applying the “logic isn’t an end unto itself” type of logic that we need to (e.g.,) embrace the Doctrine of the Trinity, I find that the warrant for such an assertion is lacking. 

I prefer to simply place the errors at the feet of readers who are subject to a very serious set of limitations (NOT yet being taken up into the Kingdom of Heaven, being still creatures, and then having the Fall stick to them worse than BO), and not at the Feet of the Author.  If Scholarship can begin at that point, with a profound sense of its own shortcomings, then I’m all ears;  If not, then quite frankly I’ve got better things to do with my time.  I respect the fact that there are orthodox Christians who reject Inerrancy (taking their profession of faith and life at face-value), but find it comical that they would ask revisionists to stand on feet that have already been blown to bits. 

From now on, you may label me as you see fit, and publically speculate about me as much as you will.  Most of the time I’ll probably grin; think about the claim you made re Inerrantists preferring the NIV over other versions; chuckle, and then let you merrily go on making such assertions.

[250] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-18-2008 at 04:52 PM • top

Hosea 6:6 (#247),

Thanks for a courteous reply, even while you continue to press your objections to the whole enterprise of modern biblical scholarship.  I wasn’t meaning to evade your question at the end of #238.  I’ll see if I can’t do a better job of responding more directly to your key questions.

First, however, let me express an apology if I’ve misconstrued your posts (as it now appears) in taking you to share the same kind of highly Protestant views that Matt+ holds.  I recognize that if I can’t interpret your comments very well, you have every reason to question my ability to interpret the Bible any better than I can your posts.

You asked, “How can stupid lay folks, like me, know if this is an important verse or some errant thing that has crept in?”  Now again, I’m sorry if my posts have communicated an arrogant, condescending attitude toward those outside “the club,” those initiated into the holy mysteries of biblical scholarship.  Be assured, I certainly don’t think you, or Moot, or Elizabeth as a relative beginner at this stuff, or any other lay contributor who cares enough about the Bible and Anglicanism to participate in this thread are “stupid.”

My first response would be a relatively catholic concept (small c).  Recall the famous passage about the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture in 2 Peter 1:20-21.  The writer insists that it’s precisely because the biblical writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit (who of course moved to various writers to wrtie as they did), that biblical interpretation also requires the help of the same Holy Spirit, which is mediated through the Christian community.  That’s my expansive paraphrase of what I think that highly compressed text is getting at.  In any case, 2 Peter 1:20 insists that biblical interpretation is NOT a private matter, something you do all alone, without the input or correction of the wider community of disciples. 

BTW, transposing that same principle that Scripture is to be interpreted by the whole community and isn’t something just for “private interpretation,” I’d add that this applies also to how TEC has acted in such a unilateral fashion, apart from the rest of the wider Anglican Communion.  TEC arrogated to itself the right to act independently, based on its own “private interpretation.”

Second, there are a variety of guidelines that can assist us in the discernment of what is most important in Holy Scripture, and what is less important, and what may be relatively unimportant for us (though not for the original readers and hearers).  I’d list several factors for discerning what is most important:
 
1.  How common and consistent is this idea in the Bible as a whole? 
2.  How emphatic is it? 
3.  Is this point developed or just mentioned in passing?
4.  Is this idea tied to central biblical themes and concerns and integral to them?
5.  Is there any contrary evidence in Scripture that relativizes this idea?
6.  Is there any sign that this idea merely reflects cultural conditioning and not the divine perspective on this matter?
7.  Last, but not least, how does the consensual tradition of the Church understand this idea?

Or to put it another way, we aren’t left on our own to decide what is “binding,” and what is not.  I see this as part of the promise granted to Peter in Matthew 16:19:

“I will give you (singular in Greek, i.e., Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

Now, although the language of binding and loosing can be taken in a number of plausible ways in various passages, in this particular context Peter seems to be granted the role of something like Chief Rabbi, deciding (as rabbis did) what commands were binding and which ones weren’t.  I’m well aware that some people interpret this passage differently (e.g., the binding refers to binding demons, or the loosing the forgiveness of sins etc.), but that’s how I interpret it (and I’m not unusual here, it’s standard).  BTW, in Matthew 18:18, the language of binding and loosing is in a different context that has to do with church discipline, and the power to bind or loose is given to the community as a whole (“you” plural in Greek), and there I think it does refer to the forgiveness of sins and the imposition or non-imposition of discipline.

Finally (at least for this comment!), I would NOT agree that Scripture is the only thing preventing us from endorsing the “gayis OK” delusion.  Tradition and Reason are also firmly and emphatically against it.  And by reason I mean such things as the unidsputable fact that homosexual behavior puts people at greatly increased risk for all sorts of serious health problems.  It’s a plain, medical fact that gay men in particular experience an incredibly high rate of very serious infections.  Anatomically, this is due to their frequent practice of anal sex, since the anal passage is very thinly lined, unlike the vagina, and thus easily bruised or torn (and condoms aren’t sufficient protection to prevent that with FREQUENT anal sex).  And of course, they suffer other problems too.

In any case, by the seven guidelines I’ve proposed above, the biblical prohibitions on homosexual behavior pass with flying colors.  That is, the biblical prohibitions, while relatively few, are totally consistent and very emphatic.  They are closely tied to the whole biblical teaching about marriage and sexual ethics in general, and there is no sign that they are merely a product of cultural conditioning.  If anything, the biblical writers are significantly more hostile to the practice of homosexuality than the surrounding cultures were back then.  And the consensual tradtion of the Church is unequivocal here; there has never been any tolerance for gay sex in our 2,000 year history.

I hope that helps.  I know you will still probably have questions or objections.  But that’s how I’d answer your question in #238.

David Handy+

[251] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 05:35 PM • top

Moot (#250),

Welcome back.  I wondered where you had gone.  Well, perhaps I have engaged in all too much speculation about the theological proclivites of people I don’t know personally.  Hosea 6:6 has also now chuckled at that same comment about how ultra Protestant Matt and you two are.  I was going by what little I could gain from your posts.  If you too are more sympathetic to catholic Christianity than I’ve supposed, I’m happy to hear it (though I’ve never met an Anglo-Catholic who liked the NASB, but you can learn something new every day that causes you to alter your stereotypes).

And as for the translational preference issue, all I meant back then was that most evangelicals prefer the NIV to the NRSV, not that ALL evangelicals use or prefer the NIV to all other translations.  But as Proverbs warns us, when you talk a lot, you’re bound to make mistakes, so maybe it’s better not to say so much sometimes.

But as for the more serious objection you raise, part of where my charge of ultra-Protestantism comes into play (at least we know Matt is hyper Protestant) is that he takes the authority of the Church to be entirely based on the Scriptures.  I don’t.  In the High Church or Anglo-Catholic tradition, there is a very important principle that applies here.  “It is the role of the Churdh to teach.  It is the role of the Scriptures to prove (or test that teaching).”

Or as 1 Timothy 3:15 puts it, “the church of the living God (is) the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

And since you’re an engineer and trained in science (where I’m a rank amateur for sure), let me appeal to a famous and highly influential work on how science progresses, i.e., “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn.  It introduced the language of “paradigm shifts,” which has become so commonly accepted among scholars in many fields.  That is, the real scientific advances come not from the accumulation of more and more data, but when there is a decisive shift in how that data is viewed and a whole new “paradigm” or controlling perspective emerges that organizes all that data in a new way (e.g., Newtonian physics giving way to Eistein’s, or the Copernican Revolution, consolidated by Kepler, that taught us that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa etc.).

What I want to suggest is that the reason this discussion is often so difficult and frustrating for many of us (myself included) is that there are different “paradigms” of the nature of the Bible and its consequent authority in play here.  I think you and Matt and Hosea 6:6 (just to name a few) are struggling to understand me (and I sometimes you all), because we operate within different paradigms.  It’s as if we lived on different planets or spoke different languages.

Now that you’ve jumped back in, I hope you stay active, Moot.  I’ve missed your posts.

David Handy+

[252] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-18-2008 at 06:01 PM • top

In the High Church or Anglo-Catholic tradition, there is a very important principle that applies here.  “It is the role of the Churdh to teach.  It is the role of the Scriptures to prove (or test that teaching).”

Or as 1 Timothy 3:15 puts it, “the church of the living God (is) the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

...A principal that has just been derived from the Scriptures, thus presupposing the authority of Scripture over the Church. 

How do we exegete this passage so that we do not nullify -our- exegesis with -our-faulty presupposition?

What I want to suggest is that the reason this discussion is often so difficult and frustrating for many of us (myself included) is that there are different “paradigms” of the nature of the Bible and its consequent authority in play here.

Without negating anything I’ve written on this thread;  I think so, too.  I think though that the paradigms are still under development.

[253] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-18-2008 at 06:42 PM • top

Getting back to an ewarlier query—

1.  How did the NT writers interpret Messianic prophecy—and does their method matter to us?  It seems the Gospel writers—and Our Lord Himself—took a broader view of the subject of prophecy than we do.  The academy seems to have no place for (forward-looking)prophecy, much less any truck with humor.  (For example, the line about “He shall be called a Nazarene” is based on a pun - hardly a staple procedure for any modern school of interpretation).  And yet the writers of the NT were happy to play fast-and-loose with the words and the (then-contemporary) expectations of the meanings of Scripture.  Were they wrong?  or should we follow somehow in their footsteps? 

2.  How did the Patristic writers interpret the OT—and does their theology/hermenuetic of “types” matter to us?  It seems the early Church interpreted the OT in the light of the NT.  (Indeed, that approach is at least prefigured in Paul, with Ishmael & Issac deconstructed as an “allegory”).  This approach must seem a “folly” to the academy (if not to the Greeks) and to the historical-critical method in particular.  But for most of the life of the Church this method has been honored or even predominant.  Once again, were the Fathers wrong?  if not, how should we follow in their footsteps? 

3.  What of the principle of double application in prophecy - is that an outmoded derelict or does it have a place in and force for our time?  The Gospel writers took some texts that had already been fulfilled—“you shall call him Emmanuel”—and saw them as fulfilled in Christ.  In a similar fashion, some of the apocalyptic texts in Daniel and the Revelation are thought to have multiple applications.  Some view these texts as fulfilled in the Church, others as being completed in the parousia or at the Day of Dooms (to use the Anglo-Saxon phrase).  While very few Episcopalians or Anglicans subscribe to the Darbyite or popular millenial writings, do these and other Scriptures (like Matthew 23) have any further/future application?  (One Jesuit priest explained to me how the “signs in the heavens above” correspond with the expansion of the Sun into a Red Giant over the next few million years—his exegesis might have been as dated as his astrophysics!). 

I would note in passing that many of us do read about developments in biblical archeology or in textual recovery.  But we’ve been through the drill before.  Indeed, some of us do adopt a literal interpretation of this verse: “Of the making of books there is no end, and much learning is a wearines to the bones.”  It is not that we lack respect for learning, but that we have developed a suspicion about the “new thing,” the “new, new thing,” and the “latest research.”  Like John Piper, our working hypothesis is that the Incarnation of G-d in Christ is outside the competence of historical studies.  We are willing to be informed, but we are skeptical of being misled.

That said, this thread has been a boon to me at least.  It’s useful to see how others approach the Bible as a whole.  But it is not clear how some of us lay Christians can use modern scholarship to live a more “devout and holy life.”

[254] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-18-2008 at 06:57 PM • top

it is not clear how some of us lay Christians can use modern scholarship to live a more “devout and holy life.

This is a key question. Historical methodologies seem ill fitted to address the very use to which the church needs to put Scripture.

Indeed the common response is that fruits of historical research need then to be applied in the present or should function as a control of some kind on contemporary use of Scripture. Which, seems to me, to put us back to square one. Given that methodologically history can’t speak to contemporary church we ask ourselves the very question that interpreting historically was supposed to answer, how should we interpret Scripture in order that it speaks God’s word to us now.

[255] Posted by driver8 on 03-18-2008 at 07:23 PM • top

#251—Thank you for a much more polite & straight forward reply.

I actually agree with most of it, but find it ironic an appeal to 2 Peter 1:20, for in my mind it only bolsters the inerrancy claim. I agree with your seven steps would produce a profitable exegesis of a passage. Yet it does not seem to answer my complaint to how to know if a verse is in error or not. This is on the interpretation, I don’t think this will help you if the source is wrong, these seven steps will help pull out a meaning if the source is correct.

I think it is a given that we all can interpret things incorrectly, it’s happen many times on this thread between living people. In Natural Revelation, we accept it’s inerrant (at least the scientist do) but understand the explanation as flawed.  What is in question is the veracity of the Divine Word.

I shown & Jackie in #208 where simple Reason leads to inerrancy, The Church Fathers seem to not doubt it and it’s internally claims it, so by all three again pointing against your claim. Small “c,” I’m not seeing ‘modern scholarship’ as very reliable compared to Tradition.

(Even big “C,” I’m meeting many with an inerrant view, opening their worn and tattered “Catholic Study Bible” and very willing to have an inerrant discussion [you obviously missed when Matt+ charge my logic was failing me and I had a “charicature of a Calvinist” in my head, I was debating the exegesis results was dependent on the hermeneutics used, as examples were dispensationism and Methodism, but it this younger breed of Catholic inerrantist equip with Bible ready to do study to convert me that the root]) .

—-

I must confess that I do not find your explanation of sexuality issues very robust holding to a “loosy-goosy” view of the Bible. On pure ethics, some of our Worthy Opponents are beginning to go of emotional based appeals and stringing rational ethics ones based on the two theories I mentioned (also your apologetics seems very gender specific). 

One warning I’ll pass on to you and Dr. Witt, I painfully know from experience, that unbelievers will pick up on your doubt and will also question the source.

[256] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-18-2008 at 09:28 PM • top

vynette (#224),

You clearly question my interpretation of the mysterious “desolating sacrilege” mentioned in Daniel 11:32 as referring to the sacrifice of pigs on the altar of the Jerusalem Temple by Antiochus IV, the ruthless persecutor of the Jews, in 167 BC.  I would see the way Jesus re-uses the image of the “desolating sacrilege,” or the “abomination that causes desolation” found in Daniel 11:31 in his endtime predictions in Matthew 24:15 (and parallels) as an example of the traditional Christian concept of the “fuller meaning” or “Sensus Plenior” of the Daniel text.  That is, it’s like the understanding of the Virgin Birth of Jesus as a “fuller meaning” of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23, or many other passages taken by the NT writers as messianic prophecies. 

The added or fuller meaning does not wipe out the original meaning, which was addressed to the readers or hearers of those OT texts.  In other words, the fact the first three gospels take Daniel 11:31 as still pointing forward to a future fulfillment doesn’t mean that the original meaning wasn’t about that blashphemous act by a savage pagan ruler in the 160s BC.  It’s not an either/or situation; it’s a both/and.  I hope that answers your question.

As for your earlier question in #213, I’m sorry if I offended you somehow by taking you to be a “skeptic.”  Perhaps a “seeker” would be a more apt description, now that I think about it.  Anyway, I was remembering your post #115, where you disagreed strongly with the claims of Hoskyns and Davey in “The Riddle of the New Testament” that the Jesus of the gospels and history are identical with the Christ of the classic creeds.  Also, I was particularly disturbed by your description in #134 of those creeds as “pagan accretions” or betrayals of the biblical portrait of the Master.  And not least, I guess I took you as skeptical when you declined to answer my question to you about if you believed the tomb was empty on Easter morning.  I expect a Christian to give a robust and confident “Yes” to that question.  But you said you were still researching the matter.  So I’ll look forward to your eventual answer.

Anyway, I apologize if I was unfair and misrepresented you.  I’d be happy to know you aren’t a skeptic after all.

David Handy+

[257] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 12:25 AM • top

driver8 (#255 & 231 earlier),

I agree that historical criticism is of limited value for believers and disciples of Jesus Christ, but I wouldn’t dismiss it entirely.  Back in #231, you posed the question of what the theological import is of taking Daniel to be a product of the 2nd century BC instead of the 6th, i.e., from the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 160s BC instead of the Babylonian exile.

That’s a welcome question, and an important one.  Alas, I can’t give a full answer in a short blog reply.  But I’ll point to three components of how I’d try to answer that question if I had more time and space.

First, it’s very striking that when Daniel is understood as coming from the time of the Maccabean Revolt, the book does not endorse or even mention that revolt.  It appears that the author of Daniel had no confidence in human leaders like Judas Maccabee and his brothers to set things right; only God could do that.  There is no call to arms in Daniel in order to win independence for Judah, and no glorification of the Hasmonean Dynasty they founded, as in 1 Maccabees.  This suggests a certain expectant passivity or quietism that trusts that the Lord will do it all.

Second, there is the famous passage about the coming of “one like a son of man” or “the Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14.  Because Jesus regularly uses this rather enigmatic phrase to describe himself in the Synoptic Gospels, this passage is central to the Christian appropriation of the book of Daniel.  Historically, I think John Collins, who wrote the erudite Hermeneia commentary on Daniel, is right.  Probably this mysterious text originally refered to the archangel Michael who represents the Jewish people at the heavenly level (as in Dan. 10:13; 12:1).  Elsewhere in Daniel, when he sees “a man” in his visions, it turns out to be an angel (Dan. 8:15; 9:21; 12:6-7).  But regardless of its historical roots, when this heavenly figure is identified with Jesus, who returns to earth in glory, coming with the clouds or hosts of heaven (as in Mrk 14:62 etc.), this invests Jesus with tremendous majestic glory.  It is the reversal of his humble state on earth previously.  And his dominion is described as both universal and unending.

Third, there is the striking promise of a resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3.  This is the climax the book has been building up to all along.  What makes it so remarkable is the virtual absence of any such belief in resurrection anywhere else in the OT.  By interpreting Daniel as probably the very last book of the OT to be written, and set in a time of savage persecution for faithful Jews, we see that the book of Daniel creates a whole new motivation for being willing to suffer for God’s sake and even to die as a martyr, the hope of a glorious resurrection.  “Those who are wise will shine like the stars forever.”  In the similarly apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch (104), this same idea appears, where it describes those blessed to be companions of the angels in heaven, a truly glorious destiny.

All right, those are some of the major theological implications of Daniel, as I would see it.  Of course, there is much more that could be said, but I hope that helps clarify the sort of things I have in mind.

David Handy+

[258] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 02:12 AM • top

There are several fascinating aspects of the position NRA has advocated so far and several misconstruals or misunderstandings of reformed hermeneutics by which he has mischaracterized the “ultra” protestant position.

First the misconstruals

1. The doctrine of sola scriptura which includes the idea that scripture is its own best interpreter and the concept of perspecuity, primarily rests on the idea that the scriptures are the only infallible source of revelation given through human agents. As I said above (either NRA ignored it or did not see it) sola scriptura does not at all imply solo scriptura. That individuals may understand all that is necessary for salvation through their interaction with the scriptures is NOT to say that the teaching of the Church is unnecessary. Far from it. To say that the bible is its own best interpreter is not to say that the community has no role to play in the interpretation of the text.

This may be, yet again, another example of NRA’s strawmanning a position. I think and hope that NRA simply does not understand the doctrine. That would be far better than purposefully distorting it.

2. As for the modernist method of hermeneutics. As I’ve noted above, inerrantists do not object to the use of the same hermeneutical tools the modernist employ. The problem for “mainstream” scholars is that the methods they employ do not necessarily yield the results they claim.

NRA has given us a gift in this very thread. His various attacks on the text of the gospels for example, have been easily batted away and shown to be insufficient to demonstrate error in the texts themselves. NT Wright, Ben Witherington et al, generally show the same thing despite themselves. Again, these men are by no means inerrantists but as you read their works you note how often they tools of modern scholarship bolster the reliability of the scriptures.

Part of this is due to the fact that NT Wright himself rejects many of the assumptions that marked critical scholarship in the past. He does not accept, for example, the idea that miracles are beyond the realm of historical inquiry. He spends a good deal of time in Resurrection essentially reversing the burden of proof, suggesting that an account of a miraculous event must be examined without the a priori assumption that it is a historical.

An inerrantist reading Wright can agree with a good 90% of his exegesis precisely because he rejects much of the modernist hermeneutic and is willing to examine the text of the gospels without having already concluded that they are myth or midrash or the record of the 2nd century church read back onto a first century Jewish peasant.

He accepts too readily still, I think, the assumption that tensions and conflicts cannot be resolved and so there are still many differences between his understanding of the nature of scripture and that of an inerrantist. But the tools he employs actually, as Hosea noted above,  aid the inerrantist position.

The fact is there are no errors or bona fide contradictions in the text of scripture. That may be shown deductively, as I did in the article above, or inductively through exchanges, such as the exchanges we’ve had here, with those seeking to undermine the reliability of the text.

Let’s take a look at NRA’s 7 point method and notice the a priori assumptions. Remember, one of the criticisms of inerrancy above is that it is a position arrived at through deductive rather than inductive means. I think it can be shown to be true inductively and deductively, but notice here some assumptions NRA carries into the text:

1.  How common and consistent is this idea in the Bible as a whole?
2.  How emphatic is it?
3.  Is this point developed or just mentioned in passing?
4.  Is this idea tied to central biblical themes and concerns and integral to them?
5.  Is there any contrary evidence in Scripture that relativizes this idea?
6.  Is there any sign that this idea merely reflects cultural conditioning and not the divine perspective on this matter?
7.  Last, but not least, how does the consensual tradition of the Church understand this idea?

Questions 1-5 are very good questions to ask. In fact, they are key to the process of harmonization using scripture to interpret scripture.  I would say “contextualize” rather than “relativize” in point 5 but so long as NRA does not mean by “relativize” a decision to disregard one passage in favor of a common theme found in others, I agree.

At point 6 however, you see something of his prior deductions about the nature of scripture coming to the fore. I agree that there are certainly sections of the text that reflect cultural mores and customs but does that necessarily mean that this section of the text is not inspired? Does that mean that that section of the text is not God’s Word? Why? How does he know? He has made certain deductions about the text prior to his investigation of it?

Could it be that God inscripturated his word through human authors to speak directly to the custom and culture of their own day in such a way that the principles if not the customs themselves, might also stand eternally? Because practices of the first century are not our practices, culturally speaking, does that mean that the spigot of inspiration was turned off? How does NRA presume to know when God is and is not speaking? How does NRA presume to know, a priori, that God is NOT speaking at any point in the scriptures? He has made an a priori decision to do so.

3. I am so happy that NRA has carted out Wellhausen’s corpse. It is a case in point. There was a certain Hegelian dialectical assumption underlying much of European, especially German scholarship, in the 19th century.

It was thought that same sort of evolutionary progress discovered and articulated by Darwin with regard to nature and biology, could be discovered and articulated in history and religion. Marx argued that human civilization had and would continue to progress or evolve along scientifically determinable lines. Wellhausen assumed much the same thing with regard to religion. Religion was a matter of human development, an increasing awareness of the divine, not so much a matter of revelation.

So, just as Darwin could chart biological evolution from simple organisms to complex ones and Marx could chart with scientific precision civilizational development from feudalism to market economies to socialism and ultimately to full communism,  Wellhausen believed he could chart the progress of human religious development from crass animism, to henotheism, to theism.

It was this a priori assumption, that religion develops along discernible lines, that underlay his source theory regarding the Pentateuch. His identification of JED and P sources were largely built on his prior assumptions of religious development and progress as well as his rejection of the notion of direct divine revelation, which is dismissed out of hand. 

As for the sources themselves, if you take the time to read a Pentateuch’s marked in accordance with the JEDP source theory you will see how arbitrary and superficial most of his identifications are.

Does this mean that the Pentateuch was not edited? Not at all. It is a pretty good bet, for example, that Moses did not write the description of his own death. It was obviously edited. But is mosaic authorship of the core of the Penteteuch still a viable position?

So long as you do not come to the text having already decided that God does not reveal himself directly and supernaturally then, yes. Absolutely.

There is no necessary reason to reject the notion that God gave Moses the law on Mt. Sinai unless you harbor anti-supernaturalist assumptions. Nor is there reason to assume there was no parting of the sea or exodus or Great Flood. All of these are possibilities so long as you do not reject the notion of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and who intervenes in his own creation.

This is not to say that such events are not open to historical criticism. They certainly are. But the burden of proof is on the skeptical historian to show why these things did not happen. And that is something they cannot and have not been able to do.

In the past Wellhausen’s theory was simply accepted blindly. Now even modernist critics, like Levenson, find it somewhat dubious and problematic.

[259] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-19-2008 at 07:03 AM • top

While reading through some of the more extensive posts here, a statement by Fr. Handy jumped out of the screen:

“I only use this incident from my early days in ministry as a concrete illustration of a profound pastoral problem that all clergy probably struggle with to some degree.  And that is, how to bridge the vast gap between what most of us have learned in our studies, and what our flock knows.” (#188)

Some of us in the flock take the position in fact that a large amount of what has been taught in Anglican/Episcopal seminaries and schools of divinity over the past hundred years has been, well, to put it nicely, an academic tarradiddle of verbose frustration, which has been swallowed whole, apparently, by a majority of Anglican and Episcopal clergy and laity, and has resulted in the current ECUSA crisis, and the impoverishment, not to say gutting, of our faith, as exemplified by the ECUSA Presiding Bishop’s Easter message.

[260] Posted by Son of Bede on 03-19-2008 at 07:25 AM • top

Son of Bede,

You are right. I attended VTS where the various modernist assumptions regarding scripture were embraced whole heartedly. I was fortunate enough to be equipped by my rector prior to attending, to spot the logical errors and unfounded assumptions, point them out, and maintain an inerrantist position throughout. NT Wright and Witherington and, at the time Luke Timothy Johnson were invaluable. But so were the arguments of inerrantists like Packer and Whenam. It is possible not to buy into the “mainstream” assumptions regarding scripture and do very well even in a “mainstream” seminary like VTS.  I managed, and I’m not saying this at all to boast, to graduate cum laud somehwhere in the top four students in my class of 50 or so and aced NT and OT without compromising inerrancy or orthodoxy in any way.

I think that in a seminary with fair professors, whether liberal or conservative, you can manage to make it through very well indeed so long as you make reasonable and supported arguments and remain respectful. 

The problem is that so many do, as you say, come in having no expectations or awareness of the skepticism and cynicism that awaits and no recognition of the underlying assumptions embraced by most “mainline” modern critics and accept their theories and assertions without question…assuming that they are necessarily correct.

This happens in secular universities too which is why parents send their rather normal kids off to school only to have them return in a semester as marxists or some such. Kids need to be prepped and so do orthodox seminarians.

I would say with regard to Trinity at least that not all of the professors and teachers there reject inerrancy as does Dr. Witt.

[261] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-19-2008 at 07:50 AM • top

an academic tarradiddle of verbose frustration

Tarradiddle or paradiddle, Son of Bede is hereby awarded a free pass to the Laffin’ Place, with a special invitation to bring along his percussion equipment.
The Rabbit.

[262] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-19-2008 at 08:38 AM • top

A paradiddle is a common drum exercise….

[263] Posted by Howdy8 on 03-19-2008 at 08:48 AM • top

Matt #242 - I appreciate your reply. My take is that Paul’s comments to the philosophers grew out of a conversation overheard as it was addressed to Jewish and righteous Gentiles (certainly the Holy Spirit provoked their inquiry). As noted, Paul does not try to convince them the Torah, recorded traditions, the writings of wisdom or the prophets were an accurate written record. He relates his message to their culture of religious passion (why else have an idol to an unknown god?) and uses the quotes of their poets against their philosophies. He preaches Christ crucified and the resurrection. That is the basis of knowing Christ. Who is he, why is he unique, why should I follow him? The problem today is that our culture does not identify itself as religious (although I’d argue we are and we don’t know it - just look for palm readers in your community, the books being sold, hope for luck every week in the lotto, etc.). I think that if you start the conversation that the Bible is true, you might as well be speaking in the same manner about the works of Josephus - if you don’t encounter hostility first. If an unbeliever accepts it is historically accurate (like many authors works on biblical criticism who think beyond that it is embellished to communicate a community perspective and don’t think Jesus did anything divine), then what? You still have to get the heart of where they are with Jesus. We don’t know what conversations Paul had later on, but we do know that based on the witness of who Christ was, some believed. It wasn’t too long ago that the church - not to mention Apostles-  followed a practice of discipling new believers, where they learned a deeper understanding, but we’ve departed that way several decades (maybe centuries) back. That’s the crux of the problem in the majority of the Episcopal church today, folks understand the Bible, want to apply it, but have no transforming relationship with Jesus as their savior. That’s the reason why I suggest knowing and believing who Christ is primary evangelistic thrust, and trust in the scriptures grows out of that. Now, can God work as you described. Yes, by all means. But I haven’t met a redaction, historic, or form critic that said, wow, this looks accurate from what I can distill. I need to trust Jesus. Interesting that all of the writers you mentioned influencing you at VTS probably have lives that reflect an ever growing relationship with Jesus before they attempted any criticism. I’m afraid if the only evidence we can discuss with an unbeliever is our understanding of why the Bile is accurate in a non-theological way (unbelievers don’t understand theology anyway), then our personal relationship with Christ must be so sad that we can’t meaningfully tell it. If I am on an evangelism team, I want folks that can tell others about Jesus in a real and personal way, what he’s done for them. The PhD theologians, while gifted teachers, I prefer they distill discipleship. Sorry to ramble. Blessings in the Risen Christ!

[264] Posted by Festivus on 03-19-2008 at 08:57 AM • top

Festivus, I think we may be talking past one another. I did not say that arguing for the infallibility of the bible is the only way to reach non-believers. I said it is “a” way through which God can and does act regeneratively…as is apologetics in general which is, again, why Peter said in 1st Peter 3:15 that we must always be ready with an answer for the hope that lies within.

I agree that a rational understanding of the bible as inerrant does not in itself bring about faith. Neither does a full orbed biblical Christology or understanding of Salvation. Only God can make the seed grow. Someone can know all about Christ crucified and believe it but still not know Him.

And yet despite the fact that someone can be totally persuaded of the truth of Christianity (i.e. Satan) and still not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we are still commanded to proclaim the truth of the gospel and to defend the faith, to answer the arguments of those who oppose Christ. Why? Because it is through the proclamation of the truth that God, according to his hidden sovereign will, sometimes acts to move a non-believer toward belief.

I think we agree on that.

I’ve known people to have the strangest hang ups. Mental blocks to faith that once removed have been h. Sometimes it takes extended engagement and persuasion and God works through that to bring faith. I think this is what partly took place between Tolkien and Lewis.

I moved from unbelief to belief (or rather God moved me) through a process of intellectual persuasion that was then topped off by a move of the heart and will. I was thrilled to come to believe that the scriptures were true before I formally knelt to surrender to Christ. I am not sure I would have come to faith unless I had been so persuaded. I was swimming in Jesus Seminar currents at the time (better than the more agnostic currents I had recently left behind) and these currents supported my lifestyle of flirting with Christianity while living like a debauched pagan. It was engagement with Christian apologetics that moved me toward Christ not only cognitively, but in every other way as well. I was not moved by simple proclamations of the gospel. I had heard those before and always questioned its validity since it was based on a book that was written so long ago and was so full of myth and fairy tale.

In any case, I do not think I am at all alone in this.

[265] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-19-2008 at 09:15 AM • top

#261 Matt+

I think you have more of a tolerance in this area than I do.

I’m a tad biased at the moment, in shock a bit because of listening to the TESM sales pitch at TFC, I left with a naive impression of an Anglican version RTS (maybe between the now more “loosy-goosy” Gordon Conwell and Reformed) .. it was a nice sales pitch, I guess the use of Barth v. Tillich as a basis both obfuscated and gave hint, anything next to full outright liberalism looks rock solid, but being dyslexic I’m taking others criticism of Barth, so without direct source I’m fussy on he actual take of inerrancy (I took it as the internal not external debates). Second prejudice is once thinking like NRA+ I gave poor exegesis that may have been stumbling blocks to non-believers, so there is certainly more urgency that this is a big deal for in my mind. 

In my narrow context, all Dr. Witt has done is assist my priest to push for students towards his former employer at next years winter conference, which my “catholic streak” is not too thrilled about, desiring to retain that side in Anglicanism. In the broad context, I think we’ll only end up exactly were we are today. I read the logic in post #251 as this crisis is actually about homosexuality. I guess I’ve bought the authority of Scripture argument hook-line-and-sinker so logically if the root problem is not addressed we’ll end up right back where we started, maybe a new presenting issue, maybe not.

The questions after my verbose lead-in: How do Fedcons (Reformed & Anglo-Catholics) move to ensure the concept is taught by one who believes it and course on textual criticisms don’t become textual vandalism in the Seminaries? Where on the “importance meter” would you put these discussions in building of the Common Cause Partnership?

(I guess for the Reformed side it might be easier with many other options. Unless I’m disappointed again, I think RES is pretty grounded on this issue and now inside CCP. Sadly IMO Anglo-Caths have let this slip badly (pity for Tradition can easily uphold it), but where does Nashotah’s “Systematic Theology 1” fall on these issues?)

[266] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 03-19-2008 at 09:22 AM • top

Matt, I appreciate the spirited explanation and defense you have made for the inerrantist position, successfully refuting the dangerous (although perhaps not fatal) position taking by +David. Although I do not have the typing speed (nor speed of thought, perhaps) clearly acquired by both you and NRA, I have frequently wanted to jump in here, only to find that you had already presented my position better than I could have. Thank you.

I will, however, add a bit of information on Source Theory. Julius Wellhausen receives more than his fair share of credit for this line of thought, which orginally was developed by believers rather than agnostics. His contribution was to use a potentially valuable tool in a conscious effort to discredit the authority of the Bible. Beginning in the middle of the 18th century, a number of scholars began a line of inquiry into the possible source material for the writing of the Old Testament. Here is a short summary of the development and application of that line of thought.

A. Early Source Theory
French Physician Jean Astruc in 1753 proposed two sources used by Moses in his creation of Genesis: one that used the El word for God and one that used God’s personal name, the Tetragrammaton YAHWEH. This seemed to account for differences in significant blocks of material, and on this basis he proposed in his treatise Conjectures Concerning the Original Memoranda which it Appears Moses Used, to Compose the Book of Genesis that the book of Genesis be divided into two larger (A and B) and six smaller (C to H) documents 1.  The authors of these accounts were later named the Yahwist and the Elohist, abbreviated as “J” and “E”.

B. The Documentary Hypothesis
By 1791 the source theory was being applied to the entire Pentateuch by Johann Eichhorn, who introduced the concept of myth to biblical studies(2).  Karl Graf in 1866 suggested a third source “P”, then in 1874 Julius Wellhausen added “D” (Deuteronomist); providing dates for “A” ca. 850 BC; “E” ca. 750;
“D” in 621; and “P” (Priestly) ca. 450(3).  The thought that Moses may have penned scripture was abandoned, and Exodus came to be viewed as the accretions of a Passover festival legend, formed over the course of centuries(4).

C. The “Nomadic” Source
In 1912, R. Smend in his Die ErzÄhlung des Hexateuch auf ihre Quellen untersucht suggested the presence of a fifth document, which was later labeled “L” for “Lay source” by Otto Eissfeldt in 1965(5).  Georg Fohrer also adopted this position in 1967, re-labeling the fifth document “N” because of its “nomadic character”(6).  The Wellhausen school’s cultural view of Israel as an unlettered horde of nomads (7) had now evolved: it was acknowledged that there was indeed a surviving written tradition from the nomadic culture.

D. Source Criticism and Atomization
The application of “N” to Exodus 3 provides an illustration of the increasing atomization of scripture growing out of source criticism. Attempting to reconstruct the fragments into the “original” J or E narratives is a speculative enterprise which produces a variety of conflicting tales:
In Exodus 3 according to “J”, Moses came to the mountain of YAHWEH, approached a burning bush, and God spoke to him, telling him that Yahweh himself will bring the Israelites out of Egypt(8). But according to “E”, Moses approached the mountain of El, God spoke to him immediately, and Moses himself was entrusted with bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.  Similar conflict is found by Noth in Moses’ return to Egypt: “J” has him return bringing his wife and sons, while “E” has him return bringing the Rod of God(9).  Little wonder that other exegetes have found little help from this approach in determining the meaning of such passages(10)
At the extreme end of the spectrum, there has been a recent attempt made to use the postulated Yahwist and Elohist sources to demonstrate a logical arrangement for the Book of Psalms(11).  However, many of the conclusions reached by the use of this speculative theory have been largely discredited. While it seems clear that Moses used a variety of sources in his development of the Pentateuch (for instance, the two creation stories in Genesis), a wooden application of classical source theory seems in the end to produce more confusion than elucidation.

Notes
<size=1>
1 A. Noordtzy, “The Old Testament Problem, translated by Miner B. Stearm,  BSac 97 (1940), p465.
2 John J. Davis, “The Patriarchs’ Knowledge of Jehovah” GJ 4 (1963)p29.
3 Richard and Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism 3rd ed (2001), p69.
4 T. D. Profitt III, “Moses and Anthropology”, JETS 27 (1984) p19.
5 Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (translated by Peter Ackroyd; 1965).
6 Edward J. Young, “The Call of Moses,” WTJ 29 (1967) p127.
7 Noordtzy, “Old Testament Problem,” p473.
8 Young, “Call of Moses,” p127.
9 Noth, Exodus, p47.
10 e.g. Cassuto, Childs, Durham, etc.
11 Leslie McFall, “The Evidence for a Logical Arrangement of the Psalter” WTJ 62 (2000): pp223-256.
</size>

The Rabbit.
(c) Rev. Deacon Rolin Bruno, March 2008.
From an April 2005 research paper at Vanguard University of Southern California, under the direction of Dr. William C. Williams, Professor and translator of the Old Testament.

[267] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-19-2008 at 09:28 AM • top

Thanks bre-er, fascinating.

[268] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-19-2008 at 09:36 AM • top

For those interested, this seems to be an accurate biographical sketch of Wellhausen:

http://www.answers.com/topic/julius-wellhausen

[269] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-19-2008 at 09:51 AM • top

David,

Thanks for your response regarding the dubiety of higher-critical methods.  I’m not committed myself to a strict inerrantist view, but I think I know a poor methodology when I see one.  Sometimes it’s all that’s available—in my work right now, I’m using a classical-physics model of my infrared antenna devices because it works in a limited way, and I don’t know enough to make a proper quantum model.  But I recognize its limitations, and when I have to press it beyond its region of proven reliability, I do so with great tentativeness.  Of course I have the luxury of being able to do experimental tests, which historical researchers generally don’t.  But that suggests that historical researchers should prize the tests they do have all the more (Fern Seed and Elephants and crocodile mummies, for instance.)  But as far as it reflects on the method itself, this is apparently not so.  I wonder why.

Adding context and vocabulary, and tracing historical development of some of the biblical stories, e.g via the tablets of Ugarit, is a very proper and valuable occupation for scholars—they’re supposed to be more learned than the rest of us, and their bringing the fruit of deep researches into origins is a real gift.  So we’re in perfect agreement on about 75% of the matter of your post.

But it wasn’t the point I was asking about.  You say, without supporting evidence, that archaeology has been less favourable to the inerrantist (or traditional) understanding of Scripture than I suppose.  Two responses come to mind:

(1) We aren’t the ones trying to introduce innovations, you folk are.  Therefore you, not we, carry the burden of proof.  And even if the archaeological evidence was as unfavourable to us as to you, which I don’t believe is the case, it damages your logical position far more.

(2)  I wasn’t claiming that every innovation of the higher critics had been disproved.  I was claiming that the number of their “assured results of modern scholarship” that the spade has consigned to the dustbin casts their entire methodology into serious doubt.  You can’t argue from the spade’s silence any more than from the text’s silence.  Why is your method more sacred than the Bible?  You appear to treat the method as above criticism in itself.  Even when you say that you recognize the biases of some of its practitioners, you appear to assume that by being careful an honest (as you do seem to be), its biases can be entirely removed.  I see no evidence that this is so.

What I’m looking for is a becoming modesty in the claims of the scholars, more in line with what is expected of me in my own field.  Instead, I find the flimsiest pieces of evidence (such as several you’ve adduced on this thread) used to support the most sweeping statements about the reliability, dating, and composition of biblical books, in the teeth of repeated failure of these conclusions in the face of new archaeological evidence.  I don’t know for sure that those claims are wrong, but given the very low degree of reliability of such claims in the past, why do you feel so free to assume that the errors are all on the side of us unwashed types?

I still think it’s something in the water.

Cheers,

Phil Hobbs

First Aid Theology

[270] Posted by gone on 03-19-2008 at 10:01 AM • top

Matt+ (#259),

Well, I trust that we haven’t just come full circle back to square one, both holding the same positions as at the start without learning anything.  Nevertheless, it is discouraging to see how little progress we seem to have made toward mutual understanding.  I hope others have profited more from this exchange.

Let me try once again to explain why I’ve carried on with this long, difficult discussion, even though I was so often criticized by you and others.  I repeat that I am not attempting to talk anyone out of believing in biblical inerrancy.  If I was really trying to PROVE there were errors in the Bible, I would have gone about this thread very differently, listing lots of the most difficult problem areas I know of in Scripture, and challenging everyone to find adequate solutions for them.  I haven’t done that.

Instead, what I’ve consistently sought to do is to EXPLAIN how modern biblical scholars think, and what sorts of arguments and evidence they base their conclusions on.  I have wanted to do that because I’m acutely aware that there is a very deep suspicion and mistrust of contemporary biblical scholarship on the part of many orthodox Anglicans (and in part that is fully justified, of course; there is a lot of trash and spiritually poisonous stuff out there).  If this thread has only deepened that sense of suspicion on the part of some readers, I will certainly have to rethink the wisdom of the whole idea of carrying on a discussion like this on such a conservative forum; it may just be counter-productive.

Secondly, What I’ve consistently tried to do is to REFRAME THE ISSUE of inerrancy as not simply a conservative vs. liberal issue but as also being (at a deeper, underlying level) very much a Protestant vs. Catholic issue.  There is a profound connection betwen the concept of inerrancy and the Protestant notion of sola Scriptura. 

Similarly, the idea of biblical infallibility is also tied to the Protestant instinct to draw a clear line between Sacred Scripture as divine, and church tradition as merely human.  One of the most important results of modern biblical scholarship has been to undermine that classic Protestant dual understanding of sola Scriptura and that Scripture and tradition are radically different in nature. 

This has been one of the chief contributing factors that has allowed the kind of amazing convergence between “mainstream” Protestant and Catholic scholars that we’ve seen since Vatican II.

That is, now both Protestant scholars (including growing numbers of evangelical ones at leading seminaries like Fuller and Asbury) and Roman Catholic ones have come to realize that the old 16th century Reformation debates were severely flawed by a mistaken ASSUMPTION on both sides that Scripture and Tradition were different in KIND.  That is, both Protestants and Catholics assumed back then that most of the Bible was like Paul’s Letters, written down basically by one person at one time and hence very different from the long, evolving process of church tradition. 

One of the most assured results of modern scholarship is that this simply isn’t so.  Much of the Bible has reached its final, canonical form only after a long (sometimes extremely long) process of being edited and adapted over generations or even centuries. 

Just to mention one of the most obvious examples, whether the Exodus took place in the 1200s BC (as most scholars think) or in the 1400s BC (as most inerrantists think, partly on the basis of 1 Kings 6:1,  perhaps wwith the support of the theories of David Rohl mentioned earlier on this thread), it seems clear that the Pentateuch as we know it didn’t reach its final form until the Persian period.  That is, the overwhelming majority of non-inerrantists, including many fine evangelical scholars these days, would put the final shaping of the Pentateuch in the time of Ezra in the 400s BC, leaving a gap of at least 800 years.  And a lot can happen to evolving biblical traditions, and a lot of change and adaptation did happen, during that extremely long period.

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I am NOT saying there is no difference at all between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  The Bible does indeed remain supreme and unique in its authority and its ability for God to speak through it with unrivalled power.  But there is far more overlap between Scripture and Tradition than anyone thought back in the 1500s. 

True, Scripture and Tradition are not equally important sources of revelation or equally normative for the Church, as the Council of Trent mistakenly maintained in the 1540s.  But neither is the Bible God’s only way of guiding the Church authoritatively and normatively.  Tradition is absolutely essential, even while it’s fallible, as the Fathers stoutly and earnestly insisted.

OK.  Enough theory and review.  Since Matt and others remain unconvinced, let me toss out a few more examples of “problem areas” or “difficulties” in the biblical text that pose real challenges for any defender of inerrancy.  But first, let me again re-emphasize that my goal is NOT to undermine anyone’s faith that the Bible is indeed the Word of God and not merely human.  Instead, it’s simply to illustrate the kind of problems that exist (and in great abundance too), and which make the claim that the Bible is inerrant such a counterproductive and self-defeating apologetic strategy.

Let’s take just two more representative samples of severe difficulties in the OT that involve the common problem of inner biblical tensions and even conflicts. 

First, in 1 Samuel 8-15, there are a whole series of stories relating to the rise of Saul as the first King of Israel.  Even a cursory reading of those chapters in one sitting discloses a radical difference of perspective on the merits and problems associated with Israel having a monarchical form of government. 

Now biblical scholars detect two underlying sources that account for these sharp tensions, which they have given the creative names source A and source B (grin).  Source “A” is basically anti-monarchical or predominantly negative about the institution of kingship in the first place, seeing it as a rejection of the LORD directly ruling his people (as in 1 Sam 8).  Source “B” is basically positive about the monarchy, accepting it as a fact of life (as in 1 Sam. 9). 

I won’t go through it all in detail here, but it appears that the editors of 1 Samuel chose to accent the negative assessment of the monarchy as a whole, because the basic structure of these chapters is chiastic and goes something like this: A B A B A.  Thus the negative critique of kingship comes first and last, and also forms the centerpiece in the middle. 

Most scholars, including myself, think that the editing of 1 Samuel basically took place around the time of righteous King Josiah, who around 622 BC instituted a radical purge of idolatrous practices in Judah and insisted (for the first time) that all sacrifices had to be made in Jerusalem at the one and only Temple.  Such a dating puts the basic editing of 1 Samuel (along with the rest of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, the so-called “Deuteronomistic History”) about 400 years after the events described in 1 Samuel 8-15.

Now again, please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying these are “errors.”  I’m pointing to the kind of sharp tensions (or inconsistencies or ambivalence, to say the very least) that are often found in Scripture.

Alas, more problematic is one of the classic cases of inner biblical conflicgts that appears to be an outright contradiction.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, there is a puzzling passage in which the LORD (when he was angry with Israel) “incited David against them” and prompted him to take a national census (apparently for tax purposes, but the text doesn’t say why).  But in the parallel passage in 1 Chron. 21:1, the motivation to take the census is blamed on “the Satan.” 

Now there may be ways of resolving such a blatant inner conflict in this case, but I don’t envy those who try to pull off that feat.  2 Samuel says the LORD led David to take the census; 1 Chronicles says “the satan” did it.  Now, even if this doesn’t constitute an “error,” do you really want to have to defend a lot of difficult cases like this?  I sure don’t. 

That’s why I keep saying that the claim to inerrancy (which the Bible NEVER makes about itself anyway) is a self-defeating strategy when trying to defend the authority of Holy Scripture as God’s Word.  The goal is laudable (we should defend its authority); but the strategy stinks because it immediately focuses attention on all the problem areas and ties people down to defending all the least defensible parts.

I’ll provide a few NT examples in another post, again just for illustrative purposes, not to disprove the Bible.  But what I’m trying to show here is that the problems are far more extensive and severe than inerrantists usually think or acknowledge.

David Handy+

[271] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 10:32 AM • top

Alas, more problematic is one of the classic cases of inner biblical conflicgts that appears to be an outright contradiction.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, there is a puzzling passage in which the LORD (when he was angry with Israel) “incited David against them” and prompted him to take a national census (apparently for tax purposes, but the text doesn’t say why).  But in the parallel passage in 1 Chron. 21:1, the motivation to take the census is blamed on “the Satan.”

Now there may be ways of resolving such a blatant inner conflict in this case, but I don’t envy those who try to pull off that feat.  2 Samuel says the LORD led David to take the census; 1 Chronicles says “the satan” did it.  Now, even if this doesn’t constitute an “error,” do you really want to have to defend a lot of difficult cases like this?  I sure don’t. 

This one is easy enough.

From Jamiesion, Fausset and Brown Bible Commentary (1871), and most of the commentaries I have on my computer say much the same thing, and I came to the same conclusion before consulting my commentries:

[II Samuel 24:1]
1-4. again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah—“Again” carries us back to the former tokens of His wrath in the three years’ famine [ 2Sa 21:1 ]. God, though He cannot tempt any man ( Jas 1:13 ), is frequently described in Scripture as doing what He merely permits to be done; and so, in this case, He permitted Satan to tempt David [1Ch 21:1]. Satan was the active mover, while God only withdrew His supporting grace, and the great tempter prevailed against the king. (See Ex 7:13; 1Sa 26:19; 2Sa 16:10; Ps 105:25; Isa 7:17 , c.). The order was given to Joab, who, though not generally restrained by religious scruples, did not fail to present, in strong terms (see on 1Ch 21:3 ), the sin and danger of this measure. He used every argument to dissuade the king from his purpose. The sacred history has not mentioned the objections which he and other distinguished officers urged against it in the council of David. But it expressly states that they were all overruled by the inflexible resolution of the king.

[I Chronicles 21:1]
1. Satan stood up against Israel—God, by withdrawing His grace at this time from David (see on 2Sa 24:1 ), permitted the tempter to prevail over him. As the result of this successful temptation was the entail of a heavy calamity as a punishment from God upon the people, it might be said that “Satan stood up against Israel.”

[272] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-19-2008 at 11:29 AM • top

A continuation of #271 about “problem areas” in the Bible, this time involving the NT (and addressed especially to Matt+),

OK,  Here are a few more representative samples of the kind of difficulties that inerrantists face in trying to explain (or explain away) seeming inner conflicts within the Bible itself.  And because the topic of the differences between the Gospel of John and the first three gospels (the Synoptics) has already been brought up more than once, let me pick my illustrations from the gospels.  And in particular, since it’s Holy Week, I naturally thought of some that involve the narratives about the final days of Jesus’ life on earth.

I’ve already mentioned that striking conflict between the dating of the Last Supper.  That is, in John it is NOT an actual Passover meal (as in the Synoptics), because Jesus is arrested and tried and sentenced to death before the Passover is eaten in John (see John 18:28, where the Jewish leaders won’t enter Pilate’s chambers so they won’t be ritually defiled and thus unable to eat the Passover).

I’ve also already mentioned the famous case of the “cleansing” of the Temple, which in the Synoptics comes at the start of Holy Week and triggers Jesus’ death (Mark 11 etc.), but which comes very early on in John (i.e., John 2).  Earlier generations of scholars often tried futilely to argue that Jesus therefore had to have done this radical act TWICE, once toward the start of his ministry, and again at the end.

But there are a lot more problems or difficulties that pose a real wearisome challenge to inerrantists (once people like me point them out anyway).  For instance, take John 12:27, “Now my soul is troubled.  And what should I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” 

Perhaps there is a way to reconcile this with the famous prayer that Jesus prays (three times!) in Gethsemane, “Father, for you all things are possible, take this cup from me…” (Mark 14:32-42 etc).  But I think it’s a thankless task myself.

Or take the flogging of Jesus.  In John 19:1-3, it occurs (very strangely) in the middle of Jesus’ trial by Pilate.  Now, if you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s classic film, The Passion of the Christ, you know how terribly brutal Roman floggings could be.  Many people died from them.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus carrying on the kind of conversation with Pilate that he does in John after this flogging, but that’s the way it goes in John.  In the Synoptics, the flogging appears in the expected place, right before he goes off to be crucified (e.g., Mark 15:15-20).

OK, maybe that’s a minor detail.  But much more significant is the remarkably different tone of the actual crucifixion scene in the various gospels.  Well, actually Matthew and Mark are very close, and both have Jesus utter only one saying on the Cross, the famous cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” 

Luke has three of the seven famous Last Words, and they are far more hopeful and trusting, showing Jesus not in anguish and virtual despair, but confident as he is dying:

“Father (Abba), forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
“Today you will be with me in Paradise”  (Luke 24:43).
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

But in John, the tone isn’t just confident, it ends with what seems to be a cry of triumph, “It is finished!”  (my paraphrase: “Yes! I did it!”).  In any case, the whole depiction in John from the time of Jesus’ arrest in the garden (when the soldiers fall down when they approach him and Jesus calmly heals the high priest’s servant’s ear that Peter has cut off) to his long trial dialogue before Pilate to the scene at the Cross, it all shows Jesus in complete control, willingly laying down his life for his friends, like the Good Shepherd for the sheep, and in no way having his hand forced at any time.

Now again, I’m NOT saying these kinds of sharp differences are necessarily “errors,” but they do pose enough of a difficult challenge for inerrantists to explain that I wouldn’t want to have to take on such a futile assignment. 

As the saying goes, at times “the best defense is a good offense.”  And I’d rather be on the attack myself, forcing our liberal foes to defend the manifest errors in their position, than to tie myself down to defending difficult inner biblical tensions like these.  And believe me, this is only a very small sample.  There are MANY, many more difficulties of this sort in the four gospels alone.

None the less, there is a good reason why God gave us four gospels and not just one, although it does complicate gospel interpretation in some ways.  And there is a very good reason why the Church rightly decided to enshrine all four gospels in the canon of Holy Scripture.  Namely, that we’d much poorer without all four.  They complement each other in vital and fascinating ways.  And the passion narratives are a classic example. 

As the distribution of the famous Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross illustrates so well, the dark, anguished tone of Matthew and Mark differs radically from the confident tone of Luke.  And all three of them are very different again from John, with his Jesus who doesn’t pray to be delivered from the Cross, but who triumphantly goes there and freely offers up his life for the world.

Now I’ve had people ask me after hearing me preach a sermon on the Seven Last Words, “So what did Jesus actually say from the Cross?”  And my standard answer is, “I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  But all seven sayings are important, and all seven are theologically true.”

I hope that helps clarify things and doesn’t just stir up resentment during this holy week.  Once again, I’m not trying to PROVE there are “errors” in the Bible.  I want to DEEPEN appreciation for the marvelous unity and coherence there is in the Bible as a whole, as well as an awareness of the rich diversity that is there too. 

If liberals tend to overemphasize the latter, so stressing the diversity within Scripture that its essential underlying unity is lost (and sadly, they certainly DO), then we on the orthodox or conservative side have the opposite tendency.  We tend so to stress the unity that we overlook or minimize the striking diversity that actually is there in the text, visible for all who have the eyes to see it. 

It’s like a symphony orchestra, if you didn’t have an instrument, say the clarinet or the trumpet (or even a whole section like the brass or the woodwinds), then the sound would be much less rich and satisfying.  So it is with God’s Holy Word.  Incredibly rich and wonderful.

David Handy+

[273] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 11:32 AM • top

Fr. Handy—

On the nature of the Pesach meal, some dated scholarship (mid-70’s) did show a one-day difference in festival calendar between the Essenes and the general Jewish population.  (These tensions have a modern analog with the fierce struggles in the Orthodox Church over their Old Calendar).  A working theory was that John, being strongly influenced by the Essenes, followed in that tradition.  Thus, Jesus his cousin could have observed that tradition as well. 

Some RCC scholars recognized this possibility but felt it too “neat” to be credible.  Has that line of thinking been confirmed or debunked?  In any event, a tension between the Paschal and “holocaust” nature of the sacrifice surfaced early (i.e., Epistle to the Hebrews).

[274] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-19-2008 at 12:02 PM • top

I’ve already mentioned that striking conflict between the dating of the Last Supper.  That is, in John it is NOT an actual Passover meal (as in the Synoptics), because Jesus is arrested and tried and sentenced to death before the Passover is eaten in John (see John 18:28, where the Jewish leaders won’t enter Pilate’s chambers so they won’t be ritually defiled and thus unable to eat the Passover).

Robertson’s 1932 commentry on John 18:28

But might eat the passover (αλλα φαγωσιν το πασχα). Second aorist active subjunctive of the defective verb εσθιω, to eat. This phrase may mean to eat the passover meal as in Mt 27:17 ( Mr 14:12,14; Lu 22:11,15 ), but it does not have to mean that. In 2Ch 30:22 we read: “And they did eat the festival seven days” when the paschal festival is meant, not the paschal lamb or the paschal supper. There are eight other examples of πασχα in John’s Gospel and in all of them the feast is meant, not the supper. If we follow John’s use of the word, it is the feast here, not the meal of Joh 13:2 which was the regular passover meal. This interpretation keeps John in harmony with the Synoptics.

As for the other points; I should probably let other people more qualified than I answer these (my answer is based on something I once read and have probably only half remembered, so I could well be incorrect), but the Chigaco statement says that we should read the Bible in the proper narrative forms of the literature The gospels are in the narrative form of Greek/Roman Biography. These take certain events from the life of the subject, and string them together to make a continuous narrative in order to make a political, personal or in this case theological point. They are not necessarily chronological; but put in whatever order makes the point best. Thus the ordering of the clearing of the temple between John and Mark doesn’t bother me.

Regarding the last words of Christ, what’s the problem? The gospel writers have independent accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection told from different perspectives; we expect some differences in tone; but those differences don’t affect the overall accuracy. And why shouldn’t Jesus say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” at the point where he suffered the most and things looked bleakest, then “It is finished” when he emerged from his ordeal victorious?

The problem in all these cases is that you are taking one interpretation of the passages, with certain assumptions, and not spending enough time thinking that with different assumptions in your interpretation you can create a consistent picture.

[275] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-19-2008 at 12:13 PM • top

I’m sorry David, but to my mind you have not cited a single “striking difference” in the New Testament accounts that should cause the slightest qualm to a believer. In addition, every one of the “striking differences” that you claim are present have been fully and satisfactorily refuted by any number of evangelical—and catholic—commentators on Scripture. None of your arguments for conflict between these passages strikes me with any weighty substance whatever.

I feel that your approach—that is, pointing out and enumerating these “difficult passages”—is more dangerous to the wavering believer than the doctrine of inerrancy, which is a sure and comfortable bulwark of the Faith Once Delivered. The doctrine of inerrancy, while it seems to be a problem for you, is instead the solution for many others.

I referenced the Vanguard elucidation of the doctrine of inerrancy above, which fully prevents the over-literalization by the evangelical writers at the turn of the 20th century; the so-called ‘fundamentalists’. No one here is defending seven 24-hour days for the creation story, or a rigid historical (rather than teaching account of the Passion; these are straw men easily knocked down, as Boring Bloke has so readily illustrated.

The tools of the bygone historico-critical era, used correctly, are no threat to Biblical inerrancy. Far more dangerous are the New Tools, the ones of today’s era, such as Reader-Response criticism and Deconstructionism. The former of these finds the text quite malleable, so that it can be transformed to meet the reader’s demands, while the latter reflects a deep mistrust of the Bible writers, finding in them sinister motives that actually spring unseen from the eisegete’s own perspective.

I suspect this entire thread will have little relevance for today’s youth growing up in the post-modern era, where the culture is teaching them that everyone has their own truth, and each so-called truth is as valuable and ‘true’ as any other. I propose that the safest and most valuable way forward is to proclaim the inerrancy of the Bible and of Christ as the Rock upon which one can stand amidst the swirl of pluriform “truth.”

The Rabbit.

[276] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-19-2008 at 12:53 PM • top

BTW (and a propos of Holy Week), reciting Ps. 22 (“My G-d, my G-d”) would be SOP for a first-century Jew in a time of deep trouble.  We seem to think that saying to be strange.  Some Gospel passages can be better illuminated with the Jewish Tradition of that day rather than through the theology of our own time.

[277] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-19-2008 at 01:24 PM • top

Further thoughts…

My New Testament professor was Dr. David G. Clark, a student of the venerable Gordon Fee; while my Old Testament professor was Dr. William C. Williams, one of the translators for the NASB and other Bibles, and enthusiastic member of the Evangelical Theological Society. For neither of these men did the hermeneutical methods of the historico-critical era hold any terror; in fact, they faithfully taught the methods to their students, making sure that each student (including myself) had the capacity to put each of the methods to use and to recognize the occasions when other exegetes had misused them.

In other words, there is no battle with Scripture, and there need be no battle with Scripture, regardless of holding a doctrine of inerrancy. The battle instead is with those exegetes who have used these methods to build sand castles on the foundation of their own agnosticism (and in some cases, and the foundation of an outright hostility to the claims of Christianity). The advance student needs these methods not so much to interpret the Bible as to refute the faulty and often malicious interpretations put on them by a prior era.

The building blocks of scriptural interpretation taught in many of our seminaries is built on just such conclusions as have been put forth by these agnostics and anti-Christians. It is the job of the advanced student to root out these faulty building-blocks (e.g., Welhaussen) and knock them down.

The Rabbit.

[278] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-19-2008 at 01:45 PM • top

Well, I seem to have stirred up quite a few questions and objections once again.  Where to start?

Let’s take Paladin1789’s post #274.

Yes, I’m familiar with the proposed solution to the problem of the apparent conflict over nature of the Last Supper that suggests that Jesus and his disciples may have been following the minority or alternative calendar associated with the Essenes in Qumran (the group that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, for those not familiar with the name Essenes).  But I think it’s a very weak argument and highly unlikely.

Jesus had trouble enough with the Pharisees.  He would have had even more trouble with the Essenes, who were even stricter about things like ritual purity to which Jesus was indifferent.  So why in the world would he use their calendar?

Attributing Essene influence on Jesus via John the Baptist is very unlikely too.  Although John the Baptizer did spend years out in the wilderness, there is no evidence that he ever came under Exxene influence.  And much suggests otherwise. 

For instance, their messianic expectations were quite different.  Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now know that the Qumran community expected TWO messiahs, not one.  The Davidic messiah, of course, who would drive the Romans out and re-establish an independent, powerful new Jewish state, but also a priestly messiah, to whom the royal messiah actually seems subordinate (many of the Essenes were priests).  More importantly, as I said the Essenes were totally obsessed with matters of ritual purity.  Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist were.

But you just introduced another little interesting minor case of an inner biblical tension or possible contradiction, Paladin1789.  You take at face value the statement in Luke 1:36 that the Blessed Virgin Mary and Elizabeth were “cousins” or “relatives.”  The question is: Were they?

Maybe, but it’s not so clear.  First, there is the lesser problem that Mary was apparently from the tribe of Judah.  There are the two differing genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, and traditionally Matthew’s is seen as giving the lineage of Joseph (on whom the Matthean birth narrative is centered), and Luke’s genealogy is therefore assumed to be Mary’s line (and his account is centered on her, although the account on the surface sure seems to also be based on Joseph’s line).  So presumably, our Lady was from the tribe of Judah.

On the other hand, Zechariah as a (Zadokite or Aaronic) priest would have to be from the priestly tribe of Levi.  And usually, but not always, priests married women from within their own priestly tribe.  Well, OK, it may be have been that Elizabeth was from Judah too.

But the strange thing is, if Jesus and John the Baptist really were relatives and presumably knew each other, the statement found in John 1:31 sounds very odd indeed.  There, John the Baptist says, “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  Hmmm.

Now I admit that isn’t necessarily an “error.”  But it is one more little difficulty that inerrantists have to cope with and explain away.  And the real problem is that there are SCORES (if not hundreds) of such little tensions between the four gospels.

Now, let me make it clear that I don’t go LOOKING for discrepancies of this kind.  I’m not interested in coming up with a catalog of problems or difficulties or “errors” in the Bible.  I don’t have to go looking for them.  They just spring up off the page at me all the time (yes, because I was TAUGHT to EXPECT to find such things at Yale and Union).  Minor, trivial discrepancies like this don’t bother me and don’t undermine my confidence that the Bible is the authentic Word of God (because I don’t expect it to be inerrant).

My real point is, why commit yourself to the thankless task of defending the Bible from the slightest taint of error when that commits you to defending and explaining away all the picky little minor problems that abound in the Scriptures?  Seems like a futile, self-defeating strategy to me.

David Handy+

[279] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 03:31 PM • top

Boring Bloke (#272),

Yes, I admit that your way of reconciling 2 Sam. 24:1 and 1 Chron. 21:1 is plausible.  I wasn’t claiming to have PROVEN anything.  But I think you’d have to admit that not everyone would find this explanation convincing, or think the problem so easily solved.

Notice what just happened here.  You found an “easy” solution in a proposal that relies on the idea that the Lord never tempts anyone.  Well, yes, I know that’s the majority view in the Bible.  But just compare the famous story of the vision of the prophet Micaiah in 1 Kings 22.  In 1 Kings 22:20, we find the startling report of his vision of the heavenly court surrounding God and it contains this surprising line: “And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall…?’”

Frankly, that’s the problem with relying on out-of-date, essentially pre-critical commentaries like the old conservative standby, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (done in 1871 for heaven’s sake!).  And most of the on-line ones are also old and much given to this kind of all-too-easy harmonization too.

In other words, Boring Bloke, you found this solution so appealing because it fits your (entirely natural) pre-supposition that the Bible wouldn’t contradict itself as blatantly as 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 seem to do.  And yes, this is an unusual case.

What I’m getting at is that the proposed resolution would seem like special pleading to others who don’t necessarily share that same pre-supposition that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself.  And yes, I’m thinking primarily of unbelievers here.

So nice try.  It’s a plausibe way to resolve the problem, and basically I happen to agree with you.  I’ll simply note in passing that just as in Job 1-2, the use of the Hebrew noun “satan” (meaning “adversary” or “accuser”) doesn’t necessarily mean the same demonic figure called Satan in the NT.  In the OT, he seems to function more like any other angel, as a member of the heavenly court (cf. Numbers 22, where “satan” also appears without the definite article; i.e., where the angel stands in the path of Balaam’s donkey).  But that’s a whole different minor problem..l

David Handy+

[280] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 04:04 PM • top

Hi David,

Apologies not to have been able to participate more - I’m largely otherwise occupied this week, if you know what I mean.

It only seems like special pleading if you locate meaning at the level of the human author (or authorial community - or whatever). It’s that I feel you need to argue for, rather than assume.

[281] Posted by driver8 on 03-19-2008 at 04:23 PM • top

Br_er Rabbit (#267, 276, 277),

Thanks for these contributions from the Rabbit Patch.  Don’t worry, your status as V-P of the NRAFC is still secure, if you still want to claim it (grin).  Maybe after this infallibility thread, the membership of my Fan Club will plummet.  Could well be.

Anyway, I especially appreciate the key point you raise at the end of your #276.  There you note that the real challenges we face in reaching the younger generations in our day (and in the future) are not likely to come so much from the them being misled by the old scholarly tools of historical criticism, form criticism and so on, as from the new tools, especially Deconstruction and other reader-centered forms of the interpretation of texts.  I wholeheartedly agree with you there.  Many of these reader-oriented approaches destroy the concept of any stable meaning inhering in the text, leaving the door wide open for people to twist the Bible into meaning almost anything.

But let me play the role of contrarian here with you, if I may, as I’ve done with so many others on this particular thread.  I hope it’s clear from my earlier posts that I’m no fan of Julius Wellhausen.  I am extremely critical of his historical and theological skepticism, and I am also appalled by his blatant anti-Semitism.  But there are good reasons why his work has endured and been influential for so long.  Namely, he brilliantly put his finger on problem spots in the OT that others had overlooked, and his source analysis has stood the test of time quite well on the whole.  There aren’t many books written back in 1878 that are still considered indispensable for every OT scholar to know, but Wellhausen’s “Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel” (English trans. 1885) is one of those few immortal works, and it remains in print to this day.

But since you started educating the readers of this thread about the history of source criticism of the Pentateuch, let me refine and expand on that much misunderstood topic.  Yes, Wellhausen’s epoc-making work didn’t come out of a clear blue sky, there were certainly predecessors like Graf, whom you mentioned.  But I’m surprised you left out one of the true pioneers, the French Catholic priest, Richard Simon, in the late 1700s.  He was very much a Christian believer (unlike Wellhausen and some others), and he wrote more than one ground-breaking study that helped lay the foundations for source criticism.  Interestingly, he did it precisely to undermine Protestantism, believing that since Protestants claimed the Bible as their SOLE (or sole infallible) authority, that finding evidence of multiple authors in the Pentateuch didn’t affect Catholicism nearly as much as Protestantism.  Unfortunately for him, his superiors didn’t see it that way and he was forced to stop publishing in that area.

OK.  If you ask me, “David, do you accept Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis?”  I’d have to answer, “which part?”  Basically I accept his source analysis, but not much of his very skeptical historical analysis that goes along with it.  And I’m even more adamantly opposed to his theological analysis, especially his contempt for the Priestly tradition (P).

However, there are major problems with even Wellhausen’s source analysis.  First of all, Wellhausen thought too much in terms of four DOCUMENTS instead of four living, evolving traditions, and he made the major mistake of confusing the dates of his putative documents with the age of the traditions they enshrine.  Thus, for example, he dated J, the earliest, to the 9th century, which would put it well into the divided monarchy period, many centuries after all of the events in the Pentateuch.  And he put the P source last, in the exilic or post-exilic period, several centuries later.  But he made no real allowance for those sources containing much older traditions that had been passed down orally or in small documents.  Today, scholars have modified Wellhausen’s theory on both counts.  That is, J, E, D, and P represent living streams of tradition in ancient Israel more than simple documents, and they incorporate many old traditions of varying sorts.

Second, many scholars have come to the conclusion that E and P may never have been separate “documents” covering the whole Pentateuch, as Wellhausen assumed.  They are more episodic and incomplete than J and D.  I think that’s particularly true of P.

Third, it’s important to recognize the special character of D.  In many ways it belongs more with the books of Joshua through 2 Kings that follow it than it does with the Tetrateuch that precedes it.  The key figure who established that Deuteronomy functions as the introduction to those historical books, which are very much told from the standpoint of the distinctive theology of Deuteronomy, is the great German OT scholar Martin Noth (1940s).  He preferred to speak of three great blocks of narrative in the OT:  the “Tetrateuch” (Genesis through Numbers), the “Deuteronomistic History” (Deut. through 2 Kings), and “the Chronicler’s Work,” (1-2 Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah).

On the other hand, the other great German scholar who dominated OT scholarship in the mid 20th century was Gerhard von Rad, an orthodox Lutheran.  He noted that the dynamic theme of the Promise to the Patriarchs (Gen. 12:1-3) is what largely drives the narrative that follows, which tells how that great promise ws eventually fulfilled, despite many obstacles along the way.  But von Rad noted that the real fulfillment of that promise doesn’t take place until the conquest of the Promised Land takes place in Joshua.  Hence he regularly spoke of a “Hexateuch.”  And it’s true that it does seem that there are parts of Joshua that do probably come from the same epic source, J.

But canonically, Christians, like Jews, recognize a Pentateuch.  And in the end, it doesn’t matter how the text of it reached its final form.  What is authoritative is the final, canonical text, regardless of how it may have evolved.  Furthermore, the sources of the Pentateuch will always remain a matter of speculation, since we have no surviving evidence of any earlier stages in its composition.

That’s just scratching the surface of a very complex subject, but what I’m doing here is not arguing that everyone ought to accept the standard four-source analysis of the literary origins of the Pentateuch.  Instead, I’m trying to EXPLAIN more of what modern views on such matters are like because there is clearly a good deal of suspicion about the whole method of source criticism manifest here.  It’s perfectly OK for more conservative readers of this thread to reject modern source analysis.  But too often it’s done without any real knowledge of what that method entails and how it woriks.

Put very simply.  Yes, there is a lot of foul, yucky liberal bathwater in Wellhausen’s work.  But I think there’s also a baby hidden in there, that I hope won’t be tossed out before people have checked these things out for themselves.

Once again, I highly recommend the work of the contemporary Jewish scholar Richard Elliot Friedman.  See especially his entertaining and masterful “Who Wrote the Bible?”  And check out his color-coded edition of the Pentateuch, “The Bible Revealed according to its Sources,” that prints the J, E, D, and P parts in separate colors.  You’ll have to decide for yourselves.  But I think Matt is totally wrong here.  If you just read Friedman’s color-coded Bible, you’ll catch on quickly to the value of this stuff.  It makes sense.

David Handy+

[282] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-19-2008 at 05:27 PM • top

I suspect this entire thread will have little relevance for today’s youth growing up in the post-modern era, where the culture is teaching them that everyone has their own truth, and each so-called truth is as valuable and ‘true’ as any other. I propose that the safest and most valuable way forward is to proclaim the inerrancy of the Bible and of Christ as the Rock upon which one can stand amidst the swirl of pluriform “truth.”
I don’t think they want truth, but pleasure for the self.  Truth is a word used to rationalize having what I want at any cost.  Just ask TEC.  We need to offer them Jesus.  Plain, simple relationship.  If they want scholarship too, send them off to seminary and let them beat it out on this thread in a few years.

[283] Posted by Elizabeth on 03-19-2008 at 05:35 PM • top

Phil Hobbs,

At long last I’ve gotten around to reading C. S. Lewis’ delightfully vigorous attack on the NT criticism he was familiar with in 1959.  I had read it many years ago, but I’d forgotten almost all of it.  It’s easy to see why you are so skeptical of biblical scholarship after Lewis finishes demolishing the credibility of the literary criticism of his time and the kind of NT criticism that he cleverly mocks.

The original title, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” is dull and tells us little, which is ironic because the essay itself sparkles with wit and a lot of verve.  “Fern Seed and Elephant” captures the vivid style of this fierce critique of NT scholarship much better.  And it alludes to the marvelous riposte by which Lewis dismisses the baseless speculations of Rudolf Bultmann and other liberal NT scholars.  “They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.”  Wow!  What marvelous sarcasm.

C. S. Lewis was certainly a formidable debater, and this little piece by him seems more like a debate speech than a balanced assessment of the field of modern biblical studies.  For instance, he deals only with very liberal critics like Bultman, ignoring the rest of the field.  And I’m afraid that leaves me feeling the way that Matt and some others have felt about my posts here, i.e., that they caricature the inerrantist position and only knock down straw men.  Alas, I think Lewis is doing the same thing.

Thus, C. S. Lewis makes four chief points in this stimulating essay, but the second and third points are only applicable to quite extreme liberals.  Here are those four swipes at NT critics.

1.  These NT critics miss things that eveyone else can see, such as the compelling portrait of a Jesus with a gripping and distinctly winsome personality.
2.  These NT scholars assume and claim that the real Jesus was quickly misunderstood and then falsified by the gospel writers, and we are only now recovering what he was actually like.
3.  These NT scholars miraculous simply doesn’t occur.
4.  Last, but not least, the speculative attempt to guess or reconstruct the influences shaping any literary work is totally misguided and never yields reliable results, as is proven by his own experience of being on the receiving end of speculative book reviews that were always wrong.

I thought that the second and fourth points were the most interesting.  They are the ones Lewis really develops and illustrates so well.

With regard to the second point, Lewis skewers the biblical crtics in inimitable fashion.  He scathingly writes,

“The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages is in my opinion preposterous.”  Well, who can argue with that?  I wouldn’t.  But that devastating charge actually describes only a minority of biblical scholars.

But Lewis saved the best for last.  It’s there that he talks about his own experience of having his own books be reviewed by critics who indulged in speculations about them that were ALWAYS wrong.  It’s amusing and utterly convincing.

The trouble is, it’s just not representative of a lot of what biblical scholars actually do.  In other words, he’s done a wonderful job of lampooning a certain type of liberal NT scholarship that engages in baseless and unverifiable speculations.  But it shouldn’t be supposed that in so doing he has dealt a mortal blow to all biblical scholarship.

Indeed, I think this satirical essay needs to be put in historical context.  I noted that C. S. Lewis delivered this talk in 1959 in Cambridge, ironically enough at Westcott House, named for the great Anglican bishop B. F.  Westcott, who was an outstanding NT scholar!  Now in the late 1950s, there was still a powerful movement in literary circles called “the New Criticism,” which included a strong critique of what is often called “the Intentional Fallacy.”  T. S. Eliot was one of its leaders, and that’s appropriate because it started among poets. 

The Intentional Fallacy involves basing the interpretation of a text on surmises about the intention of the author.  This is dangeous whether the text is prose or poetry, but it’s especially problematic with the latter.  Instead, the New Critics insisted that literary works must be judged on their intrinsic merits, not on external factors based on what is known or guessed about the author’s life and circumstances. 

This essay by Lewis is classic example of why New Critics were so bothered by speculations about the author, as if that supplied the key to interpreting their writings.  Check out the writings of American literary critic Wayne Booth on this important mid 20th century movement.

But that was almost fifty years ago.  The New Criticism is passe these days, for its lessons have basically been absorbed and the literary critics have moved on to new concerns like reader-centered approaches to the interpretation of texts.

David Handy+

[284] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-20-2008 at 01:41 AM • top

Oh Dear, I see NRA has been at it again. It seems like he’s posting like a prosecuting atty desperate to convict an accused criminal (the bible) that he knows the jury is set to aquit…throwing everything but the kitchen sink in hopes that the sheer volume of the charges will persuade onlookers that the accused is guilty as charged. The problem, of course, is that the evidence he has presented thus far is, as Bre-er noted, not at all problematic. Taken together, NRA’s is a collection of “errors” that might be persuasive to the lazy (unwilling to actually study the text) agnostic looking for something to bolster his agnosticism or a lazy revisionist exegetes hoping to justify his inattention to biblical study. These are things you might, without any investigation, appeal to and conclude in the presence of unstudied onlookers to be contradictory. But it is all a facade.

The examples he presents are, indeed, “wearisome” as he suggests but not in the sense he intends. It wearisome to swat these away, not because they are in any way difficult, these “problems” having been put to bed and effectively dealt with since the days of the fathers, but because it is so redundant. I am half tempted to tell NRA just to go back and pick up a 15 dollar paperback study bible where most if not all of his “problems” are shown not to be problematic at all…that is, of course, unless you are a prosecuting atty hoping for a conviction. These examples are precisely why I have suggested that NRA seeks the most malicious construal possible of the texts in order to justify his position.

I will, alas, have to take these up, one by one, next week. Holy week prep is intense here. In the meantime, I am certain that someone will come to them in my stead, I see some already have. Beware NRA’s attempts to move the goal post. He will want you to believe that the mere presence of an accusation is damning to inerrancy. No. His accusations must be shown to be valid. He has the burden of proof. The “criminal” is innocent until “proven” guilty. And he has not come near doing that.

Oh, and don’t buy his protestations that proving error is not what he seeks to do. I do not know his heart but regardless of his intent his method is precisely that of the revisionist or the agnostic. Reading say, Bart Ehrman, you will find the same sort of strange logic and strained isogesis employed for the purpose of destroying trust in the truth of scripture. I trust NRA does not have that sort of intent, but his method is somewhat indistinguishable. And it is equally bankrupt.

[285] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-20-2008 at 05:15 AM • top

Yes, I admit that your way of reconciling 2 Sam. 24:1 and 1 Chron. 21:1 is plausible.

Which is all I was trying to demonstrate. Matt provided the outline of an argument for the inerrancy (my one quibble is that I prefer to talk about inerrancy rather than infallibility, chiefly because of my own definitions of the two terms) of scripture based on the persons of Jesus and the Holy spirit, and argument I largely agree with. You responded by saying that “scripture is not inerrant; it contradicts itself.” Others (eg Justin Martyr, Augustine and some only slightly less exulted commentators above) defended by saying “it is not scripture that contradicts itself, but our understanding of it or interpretation which is faulty (and, of course, we have to have the right understanding.” You provided examples of supposed contradiction; I (and others will presumably do a better job than me) proposed ways in which the passages can be reconciled. All we need is plausibility to refute your original objection.

Frankly, that’s the problem with relying on out-of-date, essentially pre-critical commentaries like the old conservative standby, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (done in 1871 for heaven’s sake!).

“out-of-date?” “Pre-critical?” “Old conservative?” “1871?” Precisely the reasons I like it! Seriously, I simply quoted one example I happen to have to hand; feeling that some professional Bible scholars would be able to present the argument far better than I, even if they have been dead for over a century. There are others I could quote, saying much the same thing. But you should counter the argument; where it comes from is irrelevant.

I should hasten to add that you characterise this as a difference between Catholic and protestant. I disagree. This is the open evangelical/conservative evangelical division (I am tempted to say ‘bloodbath’) we are seeing unfold in the UK; with presumably a similar division existing between “open catholics” and “conservative catholics” (even if it has not yet come to the same public prominence).

[286] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-20-2008 at 05:58 AM • top

I’ve been following this thread as best I can. I wonder whether I might offer an (outsider’s) attempt to summarize where people seem to stand.
At one extreme as it were (the conservative end) lie people who hold the following bunch of views:

(1)  Scripture is to be interpreted in accordance with its “plain meaning”. If scripture says “X happened” it is asserting that there was an event X which actually physically happened. Unless the text invites some other interpretation (e.g., it is clear from within the text that we are dealing with a parable or the like) what looks like history is to be understood as history. To find out whether a given event is being reported “as history” or “as parable/metaphor/allegory” is a task of exegesis which neither requires nor admits of any “non-scriptural” supplement from outside the text.

(2)  So understood, the proposition that scripture is “inerrant” or “infallible” means that no event that scripture reports as having happened did not happen, in the way that scripture says it did.

(3)  If it were to turn out that an event reported as such by scripture did not actually happen, then that would disprove (2). In that event, scripture would not be “inerrant” but fallible. And if scripture is proved to be fallible in the bits that could, in theory, be falsified by reasonable inquiry (i.e., in its reports of events-in-the-world), then it may be equally fallible in the bits that can’t be verified (e.g., in its statements about morality, salvation etc). Without that foundation, all totters.

(4) In fact, rational inquiry has never disproved scripture in point of fact, and there is no reason therefore to doubt that it is in all material respects accurate (allowing for immaterial inaccuracies).

At the opposite extreme lie strong sceptics. They essentially agree with the conservatives on points (1) to (3), but disagree on point (4). The debate turns out to be quite difficult to resolve, because the sceptics’ “best” arguments from their point of view are that miracles don’t happen—which the conservatives can legitimately point out is an assumption which guarantees that scripture is false. Whereas, conversely, the sceptics can point out with equal legitimacy that if one assumes that miracles do happen one has already entered a theological world in which the ordinary tools of rational inquiry (which include various assumptions about natural laws holding good) are rendered useless.

Those who think like David Handy, however, have a rather different approach, which runs something along these lines:

(1) The interpretation of scripture is not a matter of “plain meaning”. No text is self-interpreting, and it is always legitimate to use the facts that we know about the world to interpret a text. An account of the arrival of a Martian in Times Square may, in every textual respect, look absolutely like “history”; but we will be inclined to ascribe it to the genre of fantasy because of what we know about Martians—unless forced to the conclusion that it is intended as history. (To put it differently, “scripture”, “reason” and “tradition” are inextricably intertwined. They are not even three legs of a stool—for none of the “legs” can actually support anything without the others.)

(2) When we say that scripture is “inerrant” or “infallible” we mean that properly interpreted it is a source of truth. This principle functions not just as an explanation of the “upshot” of interpretation (“If scripture says this it is true”) but, at least as importantly, a guide to correct interpretation: “If this is false it is not what scripture means”. So if what looks like history is false as history, the conclusion to be drawn by the faithful interpreter is not “Wow, some false history: turns out scripture lies!” but “Ah! Not history after all, but something else.”

(3) Thus, within certain limits, the discovery of an “error” in scripture does not call into question the inerrancy of scripture, but rather requires some adaptation in interpretation. The “critic”, doing his job faithfully and properly, does not seek to prove scripture to be in error, but rather to establish important background data which assists us in understanding the sense in which scripture is true.

(4) In point of fact, the tools of critical inquiry (properly applied) have in many cases uncovered useful background data of exactly this sort. We know, with reasonable certainty, that we must take the creation account(s) not as “history” but as “myth”—and their “truth” is therefore not scientific but theological. There are other cases.

And now one observation. The conservative’s professed concern is that the discovery of errors in scripture would mean we are wasting our time in any faith at all. I wonder. I am inclined to think that the greater worry is that the alternative offered by the more moderate approach entails a method of interpreting scripture which allows primacy to be given to “non-plain” meanings based on data drawn from outside the text itself. The conservative concern may be that this puts one on a slippery slope, and that there is no bright line between the methods allowed by a moderate conservative, and those adopted by a profound liberal. I suspect that the moderate conservative answer is that there is indeed such a slope, but that a careful and faithful interpretation can find sufficient footholds to avoid slipping too far.

[287] Posted by Paul Stanley on 03-20-2008 at 07:47 AM • top

“I suspect that the moderate conservative answer is that there is indeed such a slope, but that a careful and faithful interpretation can find sufficient footholds to avoid slipping too far.”

This is exactly the way I see it.  This is certainly a good description of my position.  I appreciate this analysis.

[288] Posted by Hope on 03-20-2008 at 08:05 AM • top

NRA wrote[31]: 

let’s pick the destruction of Jericho as a concrete example.  Suffice to say here, that according to the best archaeological evidence that we have today (though someone may dig up something in the future that could change everything; only a small percentage of ancient Jericho has been excavated), there is no evidence that Jericho was even inhabited during the 1200s BC, the most likely time for the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan. 

Biblical scholars have not agreed about the date of the Exodus thus the date of the conquest. The references I have (admittedly not a comprehensive survey of the question) prefer the “early date” of the mid-1400’s BC, as more consistent with the Biblical text. Placing the Exodus in the 1200’s (the “late date”) cuts about 150 years out of the 480 stated to have elapsed between the Exodus and the building of the Temple, an error of nearly one-third. (I believe the era of the Judges is the only place to make up the difference between the two dates, as the reigns of the kings are linked to known chronology by references to other rulers such as Pharaoh Shishak during the reign of Rehoboam, and Sennecharib during Hezekiah’s).

I thought others might be interested to know that the plaster lining of the Siloam Tunnel was radio-isotope dated by two independent methods in 2003. (Listen to the first story in the 9/23/03 Creation Update webcast). Both methods yielded a date of just before 700 BC. This is consistent with the “early date” for the Exodus and the statement of 1 Kings 6:1 that 480 years elapsed between Exodus and the Temple, and with the chronology known from extra-biblical artifacts and documents. I’m very curious as to the “best archaeological evidence” leading scholars to place the Exodus in the 1200’s, contrary to the other mutually consistent data supportiong a date in the mid-1400’s?

[289] Posted by kyounge1956 on 03-20-2008 at 10:08 AM • top

I thought others might be interested to know that the plaster lining of the Siloam Tunnel was radio-isotope dated by two independent methods in 2003. (Listen to the first story in the 9/23/03 Creation Update webcast). Both methods yielded a date of just before 700 BC. This is consistent with the “early date” for the Exodus and the statement of 1 Kings 6:1 that 480 years elapsed between Exodus and the Temple, and with the chronology known from extra-biblical artifacts and documents.

Granted I haven’t listened to the podcast, but how does a date for Hezekiah’s tunnel at 700BC influence a decision between an late (c. 1200 following e.g. Kitchen), early (c. 1400, following e.g. Wood) or very early (c.1550, following Bimson) date for the exodus?

[290] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-20-2008 at 10:28 AM • top

Boring Bloke (#286),

I’m sorry if my rather caustic and disparaging remarks about the commentary you cited (the venerable old JFB of 1871) seemed arrogant, flippant, or condescending.  Alas, they probably were.  I shouldn’t have said that.

So let me make amends.  Of course, you are free to use whatever Bible study resrouces you prefer and trust.  I have no problem with that, especially since it’s now clear that you made a deliberate, intentional decision to avoid more modern commentaries and chose one uncontamminated by the critical approach. 

I was primarily calling attention to the fact that Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown is the sort of old commentary that typically engages in what I called (and would still call) “all-too-easy harmonization” of inner biblical tensions. 

Naturally, that’s why I avoid those sorts of old-fashioned works and don’t trust them.  But it’s precisely why you like them.  Fine. 

I’m just happy that you do personal Bible study with such helps, when many laypeople don’t bother.  I’m all for the laity doing all the personal Bible study they can.  That’s great.

Happy Easter, brother.
David Handy+

[291] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-20-2008 at 11:56 AM • top

No need to apologise, I wasn’t being entirely serious in my comment. I should have made that clearer. Since the old commentaries are public domain, they are easy and legal to download and store on my computer - especially when you have the software installed to find them, and with disk space not being a problem, I have quite a lot of them to whip out at a moments notice. However, I think that its good to compare them to more modern, perhaps even liberal, commentaries and study Bibles, bible dictionaries etc. for another perspective (if I get the time). Unfortunately, as a layman with a limited budget, my library of such works is not as large as I would like it to be.

[292] Posted by Boring Bloke on 03-20-2008 at 12:29 PM • top

Catholic Mom:

That’s an interesting story about Loyola, particularly when Islam DOES believe in the virginity of Mary.  They of course simply deny the divinity of Christ—even while accepting Jesus’ miraculous conception.

[293] Posted by banned4Life on 03-20-2008 at 01:30 PM • top

kyounge1956 (#289),

As Boring Bloke has already noted, nothing having to do with events after the time of Solomon has any real bearing on the question of dating the Exodus.  I mention Solomon, of course, because of the key role that 1 Kings 6:1 has played in that debate, since it dates (as you know) the dedication of the first Temple to “480” years after the Exodus.  Let me just point out in passing that the number 480 is a curious number, not only because it is so high, but because it’s so round and symbolic (12 x 40 or a variety of other possible symbolic associations may lie behind it).  That is, it’s not clear to me that it should be taken literally. 

That, once again, is a matter of discerning the genre of a biblical writing, or a section of it.  Certainly, 1 & 2 Kings comes as close as anything in the OT to a historical annal, but it’s still not history in our modern sense.

But you’re not the only one here who apparently hasn’t caught on yet to what I’ve been trying to say about matters like the historicity of the story of the capture of Jericho or the Exodus in general.  That’s not at all surprising, because I operate under a whole different “paradigm” than you probably do.

So let’s see if I can clarify things a bit more.  What I tried to say back in my #31 (ages ago!) is that it appears to me (and to most “mainstream” scholars these days) that we have severe problems taking the account of the “Conquest” of Canaan in the book of Joshua as literal history.  And the archaeological evidence is only part of the problem.  Actually it’s the internal evidence (i.e., found within the Bible itself) that is the main problem, not the external data.

As I said already in #31, some of the problem is that parts (I repeat just parts) of Joshua seem much more like folklore than sober history.  For instance, the whole long story about Rahab the prostitute sheltering the two Hebrew spies in Joshua 2 is a good example. 

Just to take one minor point as an illustration: when the spies leave, they tell Rahab to hang a crimson cord out her window (since her house was built into the outer wall of Jericho), so that she and her family would be spared during the attack to come.  But how in the world does that square with the later (probably independent) story of the walls miraculously falling down?  Wouldn’t her house have come tumbling down too, taking the crimson cord with it?

Then, there are all the ritualistic elements found early on in Joshua.  You know, things like the circumcision of the new generation after they cross the Jordan (with the ark leading the way, another priestly element) and eating the Passover for the first time in the Promised Land in Joshua 5.  Or the prominence of the priests blowing the trumpets and carrying the ark in the march around Jericho.  Or the way the crossing of the Jordan is described, where the waters stop when the priests’ feet touch the water (Josh. 3). 

And for those of you willing to entertain such a radical notion, I’ll just mention that the obvious similarities between the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua 3 and the crossing of the Red Sea bears many signs of influence from the Priestly (P) version of the Crossing of the Red (or Reed) Sea in Exodus 14. It is the only one that mentions the Israelites crossing the Sea on dry land (as opposed to the much older, poetic version found in Exodus 15 [likely from J, but older than it]). 

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT saying these things didn’t happen.  And I’m not saying these are necessarily historical “errors.”  I’m just calling attention to the diverse types of literary material (or genres) found within Joshua.  It’s not all the kind of dry, annalistic stuff found later in Joshua 13-21, which lists the various places allotted to the twelve tribes.  So what I’m saying is that they don’t all have the same historical value or intention.

But as for the archaeologial evidence, there is a LOT of it to be considered, and much of it is somewhat ambiguous, and alas, little of it now supports taking Joshua 1-10 literally as historically accurate. 

That is, it’s not just Jericho that’s a problem.  Numerous excavations have sought evidence to prove that other places said to be captured by the invading Israelites show a massive destruction layer in the 1200s BC (I’ll leave aside the earlier dating in this post).  Archaeologists have excavated significant parts (but never all) of Ai, Bethel, Lachish, Debir, and Hazor, but with very disappointing results.  Hazor is the only one that has a destruction layer at the right time, and it may not have been caused by the Israelites (there was pretty much constant turmoil in Canaan around this time).

But archaeologists have confirmed that a dramatic increase in population did take place in the central highlands around this time.  That is, there appear to have only been about 30 small villages in that central area of Canaan about 1200 BC, but there are over 250 villages, and some towns emerging, by 1000 BC.  And a careful reading of Joshua suggests that this is the very area first occupied by the Israelites (most of the stories in Joshua 1-10 are set there).

There are several theories proposed by OT scholars to account for all the confusing data, both the inconsistent biblical data and the mixed external data.  But I won’t go into all that here.  There are whole books devoted to the issue, and scholars still haven’t reached anything like consensus on which of the four main models is most likely.

But there is one piece of archaeological evidence that is so important that everyone interested in exploring this topic should know about it.  I’m speaking of the famous commemorative stela or pillar that the Egyptian pharoah Merneptah erected about 1220 BC that boasts of his military victories.  It is the earliest mention of Israel in any source external to the Bible.

It goes (from “Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” page 378):

“Plundered is Canaan with every evil,
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Nanaom us nade as that which doesn’t exist;
ISRAEL IS LAID WASTE, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt.”

This proves a key anchor point.  The earliest attestation of a group called “Israel” comes from 1220 BC.  It’s one of many pieces of evidence that favors the “later” dating of the Exodus.

Out of space.  And for some of you, it’s probably a case of information overload already anyhow.  My point in mentioning all this stuff is just to re-emphasize that these matters are COMPLEX and pose very, very difficult challenges to inerrantists who want to take things like Joshua 10:40 literally, “So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterl destroyed all that breathed.” 

Fortunately, as the very different picture found in Judges 1 suggests (with its much more limited conquest), it appears that Joshua didn’t in fact slaughter all the pagan inhabitants of the land.  But that raises a whole different issue, doesn’t it?  Not a historical one, but a moral one.  What in the world are we to make of the horrendous command to wipe out all the pagans in the land of Canaan, the women and children and the elderly along with the fighting men?  Maybe that’s not an “error” either.  But I’d rather not have to defend that as part of an inerrant Scripture myself.

David Handy+

[294] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-20-2008 at 04:48 PM • top

Fr Handy,

Your post #279 re inconsistencies in the genealogies recorded by Matthew and Luke is a prime example of doctrinal imperatives being read back into scripture.

There is no inconsistency between the the two accounts - Matthew, for a very compelling reason that has nothing to do with virgin birth/conception, gives the genealogy of Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, while Luke provides the genealogy of the biological father of Jesus to demonstrate that Jesus was entitled to be designated as a ‘son of David according the the flesh’ and therefore also as the ‘messiah.’

Luke’s genealogy has nothing to do with Mary - Luke has already gone to some pains to identify Mary with the tribe of Levi. The view that Mary is of the tribe of Judah is merely an attempt to explain away the alleged inconsistencies between the two genealogies to serve doctrinal interests.

As for John’s statement: “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:31), it does not necessarily imply that John never ‘knew’ of Jesus’ existence.

It is more likely that John used his baptismal work in the hope that the Messiah would be identified, and his words in John 1:31 are meant to indicate that he had not previously ‘recognised’ or ‘realised’ that Jesus was the Messiah.

[295] Posted by vynette on 03-20-2008 at 05:04 PM • top

What in the world are we to make of the horrendous command to wipe out all the pagans in the land of Canaan, the women and children and the elderly along with the fighting men?

It is no more horrendous than God sending Unbelievers to Hell.  I know you believe that God sends people to Hell, because once upon a time, you remarked “to Hell with the Liberals!  And I mean that literally!” 

And sending people to Hell falls into apparent contradiction with the notion of a loving, merciful God.  Frankly, I’d rather not have to defend -that- position while self-consciously rejecting Scriptural Inerrancy. 

Maybe that’s not an “error” either.  But I’d rather not have to defend that as part of an inerrant Scripture myself.

I don’t believe anyone here expects that from you.  Meanwhile, you continue to demand more bricks from the Liberals, while cutting back on their straw.

[296] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-20-2008 at 05:12 PM • top

[295] vynette,
Are you arguing from the position that Jesus had a biological father known to Luke?

There is no inconsistency between the the two accounts - Matthew, for a very compelling reason that has nothing to do with virgin birth/conception, gives the genealogy of Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, while Luke provides the genealogy of the biological father of Jesus  to demonstrate that Jesus was entitled to be designated as a ‘son of David according the the flesh’ and therefore also as the ‘messiah.’

[297] Posted by Deja Vu on 03-20-2008 at 05:31 PM • top

Since Matt+ has bowed out of this thread for the weekend, I won’t attempt a long reply to his latest jibe at me in his strident #285.  I’ll wait until he gets back for that.  In any case, I need some time to process the kind of accusations he continues to level at me relentlessly (e.g. my supposedly “malicious” interpretation of difficulties in Scripture in the worst possible fashion, comparing me to the outrageously agnostic and opnely anti-Christian Bart Ehrman and so on).  I’ll just note here that tonight, at the Maundy Thursday service we all go to, we’ll here again the new “mandutum” (from which “Maundy” comes), i.e., the New Commandment, to love one another as Christ loves us.  Even to the point of washing one another’s feet.

Alas, I certainly don’t feel much love coming from Matt.  Whether or not I’m always putting the worst possible construction on problem areas in the Bible (which is clearly false, many liberals go much, much farther than I do), I think it’s undeniable that Matt frequently interprets my comments in a very negative light, assuming the worst about them rather than giving me the benefit of the doubt as a fellow orthodox Anglican (or an “otherwise orthodox” one, if you prefer).  I find that deeply disturbing.  But I have avoided replying in kind, and I hope to continue to take the high road here.

But meanwhile, let me mention yet a few more problem areas that might be proitably explored, since he and others assume that all the ones I’ve brought up so far have been successfully “refuted” and cleared up.  Here’s a timely one.  Last night, I rewatched Mel Gibson’s classic, “The Passion of the Christ,” with my son and daughter in law.  I hadn’t seen it since it first came out.

Now as a biblical scholar, I can’t just totally turn off my critical mindset even when watching a marvelous film like that.  As the director, Mel had to make some important (if implicit) exegetical decisions in how the story is told, especially in the sequence of events.  Just to take a minor and hopefully not too controversial example, I’ve mentioned the interesting and highly significant contrast between the TONE of the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus from the Cross in the different passion narratives and the general tone of the narratives themselves (Matthew and Mark so extemely dark; Luke more confident; John triumphant, with Jesus in full control all along).  So how did Mel Gibson put the seven words in order?  Well, in the accepted traditional way, including having Luke’s final word (from his set of three, intended as THE last word) be the last, while John’s last word (also intended as the last one), placed right before it.  That is, Mel chose to have Jesus say (as in John), “It is finished!” before Luke’s “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  But it’s quite possible, of course, to put together the seven sayings in other plausible ways.

OK, that doesn’t involve “errors” in the Bible.  But what I’m getting to is a notorious case of a difficult inner biblical conflict to resolve.  I was struck this time by how Mel Gibson protrays the death of Judas.  There’s all that wierd imaginative stuff about him going mad, or being demon possessed perhaps, that drives him to hang himself.  But here’s the problem.  We have two conflicting accounts of how Judas died.  There’s the version that he hung himself, apparently in despair (Matt. 27:3-10), after flinging the thirty silver coins back at the Jewish leaders who bribed him into betraying Jesus.  But there is also the very different (and less often remembered) account found in Acts 1:18-19.  There Judas is said to mysteriously fall over and to burst open in the middle, with his bowels gushing out.  Now I’m glad Mel Gibson chose NOT to include that in the film!  The movie is gory enough as it is (especially that long, brutal flogging scene).

OK, you say, it’s not hard to reconcile these two.  Luke just doesn’t mention that it was by hanging himself that he burst open in the middle etc.  Well, if you find that convincing, I’ve got a bridge in Florida I’d love to sell you (in the middle of the Everglades).  OK, I’m sorry.  That was probably over the top.

But here’s an even tougher challenge for you inerrantists.  Both Matthew 27:7-8 and Acts 1:19 mention a “Field of Blood” in connection with the death of Judas, but the stories seem to provide mutually incompatible versions of how that field got its name.  In Matthew 27, the Jewish leaders buy that field with the “blood money” that Judas returned to them.  In Acts 1, it’s because when Judas burst open in the middle and died there, he shed a lot of blood on the spot.

All right, all you inerrantists out there, how in the world do you get around that one??  Now maybe there is a way to harmonize the two accounts, but why would you paint yourself into a corner so that you had to continually defend such hard-to-defend (if not downright indefensible) positions?  It all seems so pointless to me.  As I keep on saying, the claim to inerrancy (which the Bible NEVER makes about itself) just tempts our liberal foes to pick out all these little inner biblical tensions or conflicts, and ties the defenders of biblical authority down to defending all the weakest and most vulnerable spots in Holy Scripture.  It’s just plain self-defeating as a strategy.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a most blessed Triduum, or Great Three Days.  And a glorious Eastertide, as we celebrate he wondrous redemption won for us by our incomparable Savior, Jesus Christ, the universal Lord.

David Handy+

[298] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-20-2008 at 05:39 PM • top

But how in the world does that square with the later (probably independent) story of the walls miraculously falling down?  Wouldn’t her house have come tumbling down too, taking the crimson cord with it?

Hmm, perhaps this works in the same manner as marking the doorposts with blood, allows the Angel of Death to distinguish a Believer’s house from an Egyptian’s house?  That is, the house and its inhabitants would be spared from a hazardous miracle, by adhering to directions graciously provided by the Author of the miracle. 

Same principal with the scarlet thread.  The thread would indicate to the Author of that miracle, to spare the inhabitants of the house marked by the chord. 

RE:  the thread falling down with the walls. With Rahab spared, then the scarlet chord would have served its purpose.  Frankly, if it already fulfilled its function, I wouldn’t care if it fell with the rubble, or if it got up and crooned “Ragtime Doll,” with Michigan Jay.

[299] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-20-2008 at 05:54 PM • top

Fr. Handy –

Let me first address a subtextual problem in this discussion.  Over and again, when particular textual issues get surfaced and responded to, a new issue comes up.  We don’t seem to be talking about our “real” issues because, as soon as one presenting issue is dealt with, another takes its place. 

This reminds me of a radio discussion some years ago.  A host remarked that the Flood story could not possibly be true because Noah, taking aboard just two of every kind, would have consumed many lines of creatures.  I am no adherent to the Flood story, but I saw injustice – or ignorance – at work.  I pointed out that seven of every clean line was included (Gen. 7:2).  This didn’t faze the announcer in the least – he proceeded to the next talking point.  It also signaled that the food stock was not of real interest, and that another agenda – impervious to argument – was at work.  If we were talking about another topic, it might seem we were reenacting the myth of Hercules and Ajax. . . .

This “squishiness” appears in several ways.  For example, you mentioned the ways in which Biblical archeology has rendered a literal interpretation of some passages problematic.  I brought up the meal, described in the synoptics as a Pesach, but occurring on a Day of Preparation (when the sheep were being slaughtered) in John.  This discrepancy is hardly the product of modern archeology; the problem has been known for (about) two thousand years, with various explanations.  An older approach was that Jesus “prefigured” the Pesach by celebrating the feast a day early.  I asked about a discovery made though the Dead Sea Scrolls – i.e., of a single-day differential between the official and the Essene calendars.  This was determined in the mid-70’s, so I assumed it had been debunked. 

Your response, however, took me by surprise.  You acknowledged the archeological discovery, but explained that Jesus and John the Baptizer were unlikely to use that calendar.  I was stunned that the alternate discovery had indeed been confirmed.  It also surprised me that archeology was equivocal in both directions – it made a harmony of Gospels more likely than had previously been thought.

Another instance (which you did not mention) was the old dismissal of the names of public officials in Luke’s birth account.  Archeology has confirmed most (all?) of the names in that list – hardly an equivocal result.  But the confirmation did not produce faith, but only a new and different skepticism - i.e., the current claim that the Scriptures get contemporary references to people and places right but misreport the events – the “unreliability of witnesses” theory.

Likewise, Moot, Boring Bloke, and Matt+ have all addressed particular inconsistencies.  The response is to bring up yet more inconsistencies.  This signals to me that we have not surfaced the underlying or central issue.  As a layman – and on the periphery of this discussion, I seem to see an infinite regression – and get the sensation of a black hole.

Please understand that I bring up this observation not as an opponent but as a general supporter of your approach to the text.  In my former profession, I was involved in reconstructing the text of Old English records.  I certainly can appreciate the problems inherent in recovering an accurate text – with the Venerable Bede, though not with the NT itself.  G-d the Holy Spirit is the source of the in-spir-ation of Scripture and of its “returning not void.”  If the Holy Spirit chose to use history, or stories, or fables, or fantasy to convey G-d’s truth, then it is up to me to conform myself to that revelation.  Whether He did use such forms, and how, and where, is an open question – indeed, the question before this thread.

It just seems a little disingenuous to switch horses in mid-stream.  I hope we can identify a heart of the matter and let “every one be convinced in his own mind.”

[300] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-20-2008 at 06:40 PM • top

Deja Vu,

Yes, I am arguing from the position that Luke names the biological father of Jesus. This fact would be apparent to all if translators had not been required by doctrinal imperatives to play games with Luke 3:23 which begins the genealogy. The resultant nonsensical English translations of the verse are conveniently glossed over or ignored by all but a very few commentators, and even those who do provide a correct translation immediately and with no authority or biblical precedent whatsoever, describe the man named as the father of Mary.

[301] Posted by vynette on 03-20-2008 at 06:44 PM • top

Yes, I am arguing from the position that Luke names the biological father of Jesus.

Indeed, Luke does name the Father of the Our Lord:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,  To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  Luke 1:26-35

Looks like there’s tension between your Bible passage and my Bible-passage, both of which are found in the Book of Luke.  How do we resolve this?  If we assert that Jesus is the biological son of Joseph, then we have to contend with Lk 1:26-35, which points to the First Person of the Trinity as the Father of Jesus. 

Could it be possible that Jesus is the son of Joseph in the same way that a man who marries a single mother, is the father of the children she bore from another man? 

Also, I would encourage you to approach the geneology in Luke as if you are reading a theologian (because, you are).  Who does Luke trace Christ’s geneology to? 

He traces it back to God.  In fact, the phrase “Son of God,” referring to Christ, occurs seven times in the book of Luke. 

The geneology in Matthew begins with Abraham, after leapfrogging over David.  Matthew has a different theological emphasis with this, imho:  Jesus as the Son of Man. 

Matthew also identifies Christ as the Son of God;  oddly (seemingly) interpreting Jewish history itself as a prophecy applicable to the Messiah:  “...out of Egypt have I called my son.”  (Matt 2:15). 

It goes a lot deeper than this, but you need only start by bearing in mind that you are reading theologians, not the authors of middle-school social-studies texts.  And what they are writing is all true.  wink

[302] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-20-2008 at 10:50 PM • top

Boring Bloke [290] wrote:

... how does a date for Hezekiah’s tunnel at 700BC influence a decision between an late (c. 1200 following e.g. Kitchen), early (c. 1400, following e.g. Wood) or very early (c.1550, following Bimson) date for the exodus?

The radioisotope date is not conclusive proof that the Bible record of Exodus and Conquest is historically accurate. But a Siloam Tunnel date in the 700’s is consistent with the date arrived at if one assumes that the Bible accurately states the number of years between Exodus and Temple (which neither of the other two dates are). It is also consistent with external chronology (e.g. known dates of Sennacherib’s reign). I believe that there is also archaeological evidence (IIRC based on artifacts found at the site) that Jericho was inhabited circa 1400 BC—which is when the Israelites would have arrived in Canaan based on the same assumption—but my knowledge there is superficial, based on one textbook of OT archaeology. That is at lesat three and possibly four independent lines of evidence all agreeing with one another, and IMO making it not unreasonable to conclude that, on this point at least, the Bible is true, the external history is true, the dates when Jericho was inhabited are true, and the radioisotope dates are true. It all hangs together in a coherent whole.

OTOH, an Exodus date in the 1200’s must mean that either the Bible is off by nearly 1/3 on the number of years between Exodus and Temple, OR that Bible chronology is out of whack with external dates by about a century and a half.

I still don’t know what evidence the scholars referenced by NRA have that is so compelling it outweighs the coherent picture presented by the “early date”. Why, in the face of the (ISTM) pretty strong evidence to the contrary, do they conclude the Bible is wrong about the date of the Exodus and the account of the conquest? NRA says the scholars have found that the best archaeological evidence supports the later date, but the one fact he did mention (that Jericho was uninhabited in the 1200’s) fits just as well with the Biblical account, which says the city was conquered, the people killed, the site burned, and a prophecy given which would discourage the Israelites from resettling it (see Joshua 6:20-26 & 1 Kings 16:34), as it does with an Exodus date during the 1200’s.

The scholars who propose the “late date” have a lot of explaining to do: they have to explain why 480 years really means 330 (or why the Bible is consistently about 150 years off compared to external evidence), then explain how the Israelites conquered an empty land and explain why they made up stories about it afterwards… It seems to me Occam’s Razor is on the side of inerrancy, at least for the date of the conquest. The simplest explanation that covers the facts is that the Bible is historically accurate about the date of the Exodus and Conquest. 

P.S. I made myself late to work writing my comment this morning, and later still by roughing out this response and another on my breaks. I ended up needing to work too late to make it to church this evening (fortunately the other choir is singing tonight). I probably should turn off notifications after I finish my other comments so I don’t get so distracted again tomorrow. So feel free not to respond to this until Monday, if at all. A Blessed Good Friday and Easter to everyone.

[303] Posted by kyounge1956 on 03-20-2008 at 10:53 PM • top

The genealogy used in the Third Gospel was collected by Luke during his research. He used it as he found it, except to modify the beginning (Luke 3:22) and end (Luke 3:38) of it so that it emphasized Jesus’ position as the Son of God. Luke (in the original Greek) duly notes (contra vynette) that Jesus was only the supposed son of Joseph, rather than the actual biological son.

This genealogy was used extensively by the relatives of Jesus (who were known as the despossunoi, i.e., “those of the Master, or Despotes”) in their travels evangelizing the north coast of Africa. It shows a repeating pattern of seven generations each, Jesus being the seventy-seventh and final generation. In its construction it expresses the specific expectation of the parousia (second coming of Jesus) within the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries, emphasizing the messianic significance of the Despotes, the Master.

The expectation of seventy generations before the day of judgment was expressed ca. 200 BC in 1 Enoch 10:12, and is connected to the Biblical record by Jude 14, which marks Enoch as the seventh generation. With Enoch as the seventh and Jesus as the seventy-seventh, Jesus is designated as the last generation of history before the end of the age.

These relatives, of course, were as yet unaware of the “Age of the Church” interposed before the Parousia, and were perhaps the target of Paul’s complaint about “endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4).

This is yet another example of a Biblical account designed as a theological teaching record rather than an historical account. The supposed “errors” found in the Bible were manufactured in the minds of the historico-critical scholars through their improper use of Scripture. Holy Scripture speaks the truth and is therefore free from error, falsehood and deceit in all it affirms and teaches.


References:
Richard Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, 319-320;
Rolin Bruno, Jude and the Scoffers, 172-173.

The Rabbit.

[304] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-20-2008 at 11:03 PM • top

By the way, Luke shows no indication that he is aware of the eschatological significance of the pattern of generations in the genealogy he has recorded for us. But cousins (Cleopas, etc.) and nephews (grandsons of Jude), etc., are well-noted in the historians of the age and are the most likely referents of “those of the Master” who evangelized northern Africa.

The Rabbit.

[305] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-20-2008 at 11:18 PM • top

Br_er Rabbit,

You said: “Luke (in the original Greek) duly notes (contra vynette) that Jesus was only the supposed son of Joseph, rather than the actual biological son.”

How is this ‘contra’ me?  As well as recording the supposed father of Jesus, Luke also names the biological father. And yes, “Holy Scripture does speak the truth” and Holy Scripture does name the biological father of Jesus. No appeals to extra-canonical texts, doctrinal constructions or theological complexities will alter one “jot or tittle” of it.

[306] Posted by vynette on 03-21-2008 at 12:22 AM • top

Paladin1789 (#300),

I can see why you find the prospect of an unending parade of new issues being presented with none of the old ones being settled or resolved would bother you.  There are indeed “subtexts” at work here, but not perhaps the ones you may be thinking of.

So let me try once more to clarify what I’ve been trying to do on this thread.  As I’ve said repeatedly, I am not out to PROVE the Bible wrong or to talk anyone out of believing in biblical inerrancy.  Instead, I’m trying to illustrate the kind of problems defenders of inerrancy face and to explain how “mainstream” biblical scholars think and why we reach the sort of conclusions we do. 

That is, because Matt started this thread off in a way very hostile to modern biblical scholarship, I rose to defend the legitimacy of such scholarship.  I also have tried to help more conservative readers of this thread understand the sorts of arguments and evidence that moderate scholars use.

It’s NOT that I’m unwilling to stay with an issue until it’s settled, so to speak, like the person you mention who wouldn’t acknowledge the force of your arguments.  Rather, it’s because some of these matters are highly complex, and a blog like this can’t really hope to resolve these disputes (e.g., the historicity of Joshua).  For heaven’s sake, there are whole books written about some of these things, so it’s unrealistic to think we can solve these problems in a forum like this.

But another reason why I’ve kept adducing more and more “difficulties” is because I’ve encountered such fierce resistance.  My experience is that people eventually start catching on, if they are exposed to enough cases.  So rather than getting bogged down in a prolonged debate about a few cases that happened to be brought up early on, I’ve chosen to keep producing further illustrations of the various sorts of problems that the theory of inerrancy must deal with, and because I want to demonstrate more fuly how modern biblical scholarship works. 

And the bottom line is this:  I’m trying to help create more understanding of moderate scholarship here, since it seems to be so poorly understood by many SF readers.  And if people THEN decide that “mainstream” scholarship is a Trojan Horse that we shouldn’t permit to enter the orthodox camp, that’s their choice.  But at least people will be making a better informed choice.  As it is, I see lots of people on this thread rejecting something they don’t yet understand.  My hope is that after coming to understand what moderate scholarship is really like, they’ll be in a much better position to evaluate it fairly and responsibly.

I can see why many are afraid that we who are trying to form a new orthodox Anglican province in North America will end up just eventually repeating TEC’s disastrous susceptibility to heresy, if we allow biblical criticism to get its foot in the door or entrenched among us.  That’s a natural and reasonable fear, IF you have the kind of deep suspicion and mistrust of biblical scholarship that Matt and others have shown.  I’m trying to dispell some of the misunderstandings that I think lie at the root of those fears.

The response I keep hoping for is NOT, “Oh no.  Fr. Handy is right, there really are at least some errors in the Bible.  What do we do now?”  Rather, what I’m seeking is for people to begin to say something like this: 

“Well, Fr. Handy, I don’t agree with you, but at least now I can understand how an (otherwise) orthodox guy like you who is thoroughly committed to a renewed orthodox Anglican presence on this continent could approach God’s Word the way you do and still sincerely believe you aren’t compromising orthodox Christianity.  I don’t agree with that more liberal or “mainstream” approach, but I understand it now and I can see how YOU could honestly think its compatible with orthodoxy.  I’m not sure that it really is, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Something like that signals an openness to recognizing what is simply reality, i.e., that there are lots of clergy and lay leaders in this orthodox movement who are not inerrantists (many more than you’d think from this thread).  So the “subtext” so to speak is really out in the open, and always has been (see my #5 , 24, and 31; I’ve been saying this from the start).

I hope that helps.

David Handy+

[307] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 12:30 AM • top

NRA wrote:

As Boring Bloke has already noted, nothing having to do with events after the time of Solomon has any real bearing on the question of dating the Exodus.  I mention Solomon, of course, because of the key role that 1 Kings 6:1 has played in that debate, since it dates (as you know) the dedication of the first Temple to “480” years after the Exodus.  Let me just point out in passing that the number 480 is a curious number, not only because it is so high, but because it’s so round and symbolic (12 x 40 or a variety of other possible symbolic associations may lie behind it).  That is, it’s not clear to me that it should be taken literally. 

It isn’t at all obvious to me that it shouldn’t be taken literally. There could be symbolic significance or rounding-off involved, but for the Bible to say 480 years when it was actually about 330 falls IMO far outside the range that can be attributed to either symbolism or rounding. 480 instead of 330 is just flat-out wrong. What is it that leads you to conclude that it is a symbolic rather than an actual number?

That, once again, is a matter of discerning the genre of a biblical writing, or a section of it.  Certainly, 1 & 2 Kings comes as close as anything in the OT to a historical annal, but it’s still not history in our modern sense.

What is it in the text that leads you to conclude that this part of the Bible is some other genre than a pretty straightforward narrative account?

But you’re not the only one here who apparently hasn’t caught on yet to what I’ve been trying to say about matters like the historicity of the story of the capture of Jericho or the Exodus in general.  That’s not at all surprising, because I operate under a whole different “paradigm” than you probably do.

I agree, a very different paradigm. Unless I greatly misunderstand what you’ve written, your paradigm says that a document which is full of errors can yet be a trustworthy guide. You have written that the Bible does not claim to be inerrant, but rather “useful”. If it’s full of mistakes, IMO, it can’t be useful. How could one rely on it, knowing it to be at least in part erroneous?

So let’s see if I can clarify things a bit more.  What I tried to say back in my #31 (ages ago!) is that it appears to me (and to most “mainstream” scholars these days) that we have severe problems taking the account of the “Conquest” of Canaan in the book of Joshua as literal history.  And the archaeological evidence is only part of the problem.  Actually it’s the internal evidence (i.e., found within the Bible itself) that is the main problem, not the external data.

As I said already in #31, some of the problem is that parts (I repeat just parts) of Joshua seem much more like folklore than sober history.  For instance, the whole long story about Rahab the prostitute sheltering the two Hebrew spies in Joshua 2 is a good example.

Granted that there are different genres in the Bible, what is it in this text that seems like something other than sober history? Please be very specific because the folkloric elements are anything but obvious to me. There are no seven-league boots or talking cats or pumpkins turning into coaches here. It seems to me like an ordinary sequential account: first we did this, and then we did that. We sneaked into the city, made a deal with one of the inhabitants, and arranged a signal. I can easily imagine U.S. troops in Iraq making a similar report when they get back to base after a reconnoitre. The later material is parallel to legal descriptions of pieces of land, as might be found in a will or estate inventory while doing genealogical research. OK, that’s a different genre, but legal descriptions and narrative can both be factual, can both be accurate. (to be continued)

[308] Posted by kyounge1956 on 03-21-2008 at 12:33 AM • top

Moot,

The God of the Hebrews was envisaged as the ‘father’ of the race; Israel was his son. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hos.11:1)

The term ‘son of God’ implies no particular manner of being born, or of divinity. John 10:34-36 clearly explains the usage of the terms ‘god’ and ‘son of God’ as applied to Jesus. These verses may be taken to exemplify what theologians have failed to grasp - that ‘sonship’ of God is not restricted to Jesus and that it is of a purely ethical and spiritual nature:

“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (Psalm 82:6) If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, say he of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into this world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”

Surely there can be no greater authority to turn to than Jesus himself! On his testimony there were a number of ‘gods’ among whom were: Jeremiah (Jer.1:9), Ezekiel (Ez. 2:7), Shemaiah, Elijah, and Moses (1 Kings 12:22, 17:24, 8:53). This differed from the pagan concept in that the men themselves had no claim to divinity.

The crucial difference between Jesus and other ‘sons’ was that Jesus was ‘anointed’ with plenipotentiary powers to be God’s representative on earth, and to speak and act in the name of the Father. The terms “son of God” and “Messiah” are synonomous terms when used in reference to Jesus.

It is recorded in John 1:40-50 that when first joined by his disciples, Jesus was described by them as:

- the Messiah
- he of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote
- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph
- the son of God
- the King of Israel

As we can plainly see, the disciples believed that Jesus was the son of God while still acknowledging his human parentage, thus demonstrating that ‘sonship’ of God was, to them, a spiritual relationship.  Given this fact, and given the propensity of theologians to wrest from biblical texts the most obscure of meanings in order to support their doctrine of choice, we are entitled to ask why they have chosen to ignore the clear witness of the disciples.

[309] Posted by vynette on 03-21-2008 at 12:38 AM • top

[con’td from #308]
NRA continued:

Just to take one minor point as an illustration: when the spies leave, they tell Rahab to hang a crimson cord out her window (since her house was built into the outer wall of Jericho), so that she and her family would be spared during the attack to come.  But how in the world does that square with the later (probably independent) story of the walls miraculously falling down?  Wouldn’t her house have come tumbling down too, taking the crimson cord with it?

We say that the Twin Towers collapsed when the terrorists flew the airplanes into them, but that doesn’t mean there were no small portions left upright. Likewise, there’s nothing in the text that precludes small portions of the Jericho walls, such as Rahab’s house, remaining upright.

Then, there are all the ritualistic elements found early on in Joshua.  (snip)
And for those of you willing to entertain such a radical notion, I’ll just mention that the obvious similarities between the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua 3 and the crossing of the Red Sea bears many signs of influence from the Priestly (P) version of the Crossing of the Red (or Reed) Sea in Exodus 14. It is the only one that mentions the Israelites crossing the Sea on dry land (as opposed to the much older, poetic version found in Exodus 15 [likely from J, but older than it]).

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT saying these things didn’t happen.  And I’m not saying these are necessarily historical “errors.” I’m just calling attention to the diverse types of literary material (or genres) found within Joshua.  It’s not all the kind of dry, annalistic stuff found later in Joshua 13-21, which lists the various places allotted to the twelve tribes.  So what I’m saying is that they don’t all have the same historical value or intention.

If you’re not saying these events didn’t happen, I don’t see what your objection is to their having happened as recorded. I don’t at all follow your line of reasoning here. Exodus 14:22 says “the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Exodus 15:19 says: “When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.” (italics added). They both say Israel crossed the sea on dry ground. I agree that there are similarities between the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan, but what is to stop these from being plain narrative accounts of two similar miracles, namely the timely drying-up of large bodies of water?

But as for the archaeologial evidence (snip) little of it now supports taking Joshua 1-10 literally as historically accurate.

That is, it’s not just Jericho that’s a problem.  Numerous excavations have sought evidence to prove that other places said to be captured by the invading Israelites show a massive destruction layer in the 1200s BC (I’ll leave aside the earlier dating in this post).  Archaeologists have excavated significant parts (but never all) of Ai, Bethel, Lachish, Debir, and Hazor, but with very disappointing results.  Hazor is the only one that has a destruction layer at the right time, and it may not have been caused by the Israelites (there was pretty much constant turmoil in Canaan around this time).

You keep saying the archaeological evidence of an invasion and conquest in the 1200’s BC is unconvincing. The same could be said of archaeological evidence of WW II in 1800 AD. That doesn’t mean there was no WW II, it means 1800 is the wrong era to be looking for the evidence. If the Bible is factually accurate, and the Exodus was 480 years prior to Solomon, the 1200’s is simply the wrong era to look for evidence of the conquest, and naturally, no evidence is found at that date. You haven’t yet (I don’t think) touched on the question of what the evidence from the mid 1400’s shows.

(snip) But there is one piece of archaeological evidence that is so important that everyone interested in exploring this topic should know about it.  I’m speaking of the famous commemorative stela or pillar that the Egyptian pharoah Merneptah erected about 1220 BC that boasts of his military victories.  It is the earliest mention of Israel in any source external to the Bible.

It goes (from “Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” page 378):

“Plundered is Canaan with every evil,
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Nanaom us nade as that which doesn’t exist;
ISRAEL IS LAID WASTE, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt.”

This proves a key anchor point.  The earliest attestation of a group called “Israel” comes from 1220 BC.  It’s one of many pieces of evidence that favors the “later” dating of the Exodus.

All this proves is that the Israelites arrived no later than 1220 BC. There’s nothing in that text to indicate how long they had been there before Merneptah arrived.

Out of space.  And for some of you, it’s probably a case of information overload already anyhow.  My point in mentioning all this stuff is just to re-emphasize that these matters are COMPLEX and pose very, very difficult challenges to inerrantists who want to take things like Joshua 10:40 literally, “So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterl destroyed all that breathed.”

Fortunately, as the very different picture found in Judges 1 suggests (with its much more limited conquest), it appears that Joshua didn’t in fact slaughter all the pagan inhabitants of the land.  But that raises a whole different issue, doesn’t it?  Not a historical one, but a moral one.  What in the world are we to make of the horrendous command to wipe out all the pagans in the land of Canaan, the women and children and the elderly along with the fighting men?  Maybe that’s not an “error” either.  But I’d rather not have to defend that as part of an inerrant Scripture myself.

David Handy+

I too find the idea of God commanding Israel to wipe out the original inhabitants troubling, and said as much a short time ago on another thread. But IMO saying the Bible has errors in it creates more problems than it solves. What it says is what it says and that’s what I have to repond to.

[310] Posted by kyounge1956 on 03-21-2008 at 12:51 AM • top

I have time for a brief note.

Do notice friends, how NRA struggles to construe disagreement with the “assured results of modern biblical scholarship” with hostility toward modern biblical scholarship when in fact there is no need to be at all hostile to the tools of modern scholarship because when used properly they do nothing but support inerrancy as the quite effortless rebuttals to NRA’s “difficulties” on this thread have demonstrated readily enough.

NRA will, as I said before continue to offer pressed, strained, and twisted eisogetical suggestions and then point to the “sheer number” of his contrived difficulties as evidence that the bible cannot be seen as inerrant. Again, think of the desperate prosecuting atty throwing weak accusation after weak accusation at an innocent accused hoping that the sheer number of accusations regardless of their merit will dissuade the jury from a just aquital.

And all the while his tone will be one of helping the poor benighted souls of SFIF to be brought out of the shadowy cave of ignorance into the clear light of modernity.

Note also that he has been unwilling to address the question of authority and the Church. The errant bible nevertheless has authority according to NRA, because the Church accepts it as authoritative. But the Church gains its authority from Christ. And how do we know that the Church gains her authority from Christ? The errant scriptures to which the Church has lent her authority. The Church then validates errant documents and on the basis of claims found only in those errant documents declares that she has the authority to do so.

In the end then, you have an errant Church (I do not think that even NRA would claim otherwise) claiming authority based on errant scriptures which in turn provide the only testimony to support the authority of the errant Church.

Why trust the Church or the scriptures at all? Why are we even fighting this fight? There is no bulwark strong and mighty…just two thousand years of errant claims piled atop errant claims. There is nothing certain and true.

[311] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 03-21-2008 at 05:23 AM • top

Paladin1789 (#300), some further thoughts,

You mentioned the interesting problem or fact that in the Flood Story, Noah is told at one point to take TWO of every creature onto the Ark, where in another place he is instructed to to take SEVEN paris of the clean animals on board.  How do we make sense out of that discrepancy?

Now I’m not saying this conflict or tension constitutes an “error,” but it does provide a great illustration of the value of source analysis, which many here have doubted.  So let’s have a look at Gen. 6-9.

“Mainstream” biblical scholars are agreed that two sources or traditions underlie the Flood Story.  It represents a skillful interweaving of J (the Yahwist) and P (the Priestly work).  So how do we distinguish them?  Basically by carefully noting the consistent patterns of differences in such things as vocabulary, literary style, chief concerns, and not least, theological perspectives.

Just consider the two creation stories in Gen. 1-3 as an example.  The first creation account is the P one (Gen. 1:1-2:4).  It uses the term “God” (Elohim) throughout and features a very formal, elegant, repetitive style.  Its typical priestly concern for ritual matters is clear from how it celebrates God instituting the Sabbath on the 7th day by keeping it himself.  And theologically, it presents a very majestic, all-powerful God who merely speaks, and things are created.

On the other hand, the second creation account (Gen. 2:5-3:24) uses the phrase “Yahweh Elohim” throughout, and its style couldn’t be more different from P’s. It’s much more concrete and colorful.  And it reflects such ordinary “lay” concerns as marriage and work.  Most of all, theologically, J presents a very anthropomorphic God who is near, not remote.  This God plants a garden, stoops to mold Adam out of mud and breathes life into him.  The walk and talk in the garden, and so on.

But while in Gen. 1-3, the two creation stories are totally separate and just juxtaposed, in the Flood Story they are carefully interwoven in alternating blocks of material.  Let me summarize the data as briefly as I can. And I hope many of you who read this will take the time to click on the references and check what follows out for yourself.

1.  The Flood Story begins with J in Gen. 6:5-8.  A very human-like “Yahweh” regrets he ever made humanity, people have grown so wicked.

2.  The tale continues with P in Gen. 6:9-22.  “God” instructs Noah with detailed plans on precisely how to build the Ark (cf. the detailed plans for the making of the Tablernacle in Exod. 25-31).  The three sons of Noah are named (P is fond of genealogies).  And not least, Noah is told to take just TWO of every kind of living creature on board.

3.  Then it’s back to J for Gen. 7:1-5.  Here Yahweh commands Noah to take SEVEN pairs of the clean animals with him on the Ark.  Why?  Because J allows sacrifices to be made anywhere (not just at the Jerusalem Temple) and by laypeople (not just priests).  P allows neither, so just one pair of animals is enough.

4.  The story switches back to P for Gen. 7:6-16a.  As usual, P dates everything precisely.  The Flood starts on “the 17th day of the 2nd month” during the 600th year of Noah’s long life.  And it doesn’t just rain.  The windows or gates in the “dome” or “firmament” that keeps the primieval waters safely above and below the earth (see Gen. 1:6) are opened and huge amounts of water are thereby released to cover the earth (cf. Gen. 1:2).

To be continued…

David Handy+

[312] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 05:31 AM • top

A continuation of my #312 on the Flood Story in Genesis.

5.  Then J resumes with Gen. 7:16b-23.  Yahweh shuts the door to the Ark himself (a very anthropomorphic touch).  The flood continues for 40 days.

6.  Then P takes over again for Gen. 7:24-8:5.  The flood waters persist in pouring forth onto the earth for 150 days before God shuts the windows in the heavenly firmament and the deluge finally stops.  P notes that the Ark came to rest on the top of Mt. Ararat exactly 5 months after the flood started (17th day of the 7th month).  The water starts receding.

7.  Next, it’s J with Gen. 8:6-12.  Noah lets out the raven and then the dove to test the water level.  Finally it’s dry enough to leave.

8.  Then P picks up the story once more in Gen. 8:13-19.  Note how P, with characteristic interest in ritual matters, dates the exit from the Ark as taking place on New Year’s Day during Noah’s 601st year.  Recall that the first day of the new year was a major holy day in the Priestly calendar (see Lev. 23), whereas it’s not mentioned in the corresponding “D” calendar in Deut. 16.  The animals are let out so they can begin to “be fruitful and multiply” (as the male and female were told to do in Gen. 1:28).

9.  Then comes a brief J interlude in Gen. 8:20-22.  Noah gratefully builds an altar to Yahweh.  And because he brought 7 pairs of clean animals on the Ark, he can and does sacrifice some of each kind.  And when Yahweh “smelled the pleasing odor” (a startling anthropomorphic detail), he promises never again to destroy all life on earth.

10.  Finally, P wraps it up with Gen. 9:1-19.  And God “makes a covenant” with Noah (a central P concept).  He gives Noah the rainbow as a “sign” of this “everlasting covenant” (just as circumcision is the sign of the everlasting covenant with Abraham in Gen. 17, another key P text).  And Noah’s three sons and their wives are dutifully obedient to the renewed command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) and they repopulate the earth.


So there’s the data on which the source analysis is based (in shortened and simplified form of course).  I find it very clear and compelling, though I’m sure not everyone here will agree. 

Here then is my first point in summarizing the value of all this. It really does help make sense out of some of the glaring inconsistencies in this familiar story.  And yes, Paladin1789, and others, that certainly includes the puzzling tension between the command in one place to take just one pair of every kind of creature on board the ark, and the contrary command in another spot to take seven pairs of the clean animals.

But the Flood Story doesn’t just illustrate nicely the benefits of identifying the various sources that underlie the biblical account (when we can, that is, it’s often not so clear as it is here).  It also demonstrates the value of the complementary method of canonical criticism, or reading texts in their final, canonical form (regardless of how they reached that form) and seeing them in the context of the teaching of the Bible as a whole.

What I mean is that it’s the final form of Genesis 6-9 that is the authoritative one for Christians, and it’s the most important one by far.  In the end, source criticism always remains at least somewhat speculative, since no copies of J, E, or P have survived.  And though there is a high degree of consensus in this particular case, there are many other passages where scholars differ somewhat (or even a lot) in their source analysis.

But I want to close by emphasizing that the combination of both the J and the P versions of the Flood Story has created a powerful new hybrid tale that is greater than the sum of its parts.  The very differences embedded in the final form of the Sacred Text help create interest and generate a dynamic quality to the story that enhances it significantly.  It is richer and more profound as a result.

In a similar way, returning to Gen. 1-3, the juxtaposition of the two creation accounts side by side creates a similar effect.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The cosmic perspective of P is brought down to earth by the focus in J on just the Garden of Eden.  And the awesome power of the majestic, transcendent God of the P version in Gen. 1 is nicely balanced by the “immanence” or nearness of the very human-like God who loves to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.  And vice versa.  The horror of the Fall in Gen. 3 is magnified by the fact that the God Adam and Eve have disobeyed is the sovereign Lord who merely speaks and stars, moons, and all things spring into existence.  If lifeless matter is so instantly obedient to the will of the Creator, how ironic is it when the pinnacle of creation, the one creature formed in God’s own image, freely chooses to disobey?

What I’m trying to say is that source criticism, which has been disparaged by some on this thread, is indeed of value in some cases.  But ultimately, I’d strongly affirm that what really matters is the final form of the biblical text, no matter how it evolved to reach that final shape.  And it is that canonical form of the Scriptures which is that which the Church of Jesus Christ is called to “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.”

A blesed Great Three Days to all.

David Handy+

[313] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 06:21 AM • top

Fr. Handy’s illustration of the purported “J” and “E” verses in the Flood story are an excellent example of the fragmentation and atomization of Scripture caused by overapplication of the Source Theory; in fact this application yields little in the way of useful results. How does this theoretical approach help us to understand what God wants us to understand from his Revealed Word? What lesson does it teach us? Does it not drive one away from God rather than attract one to God?

Every one of these tools from the Historical-Critical era of Biblical scholarship (the “mainstream” scholarship referred to by NRA) has the capability to help illuminate the text. When we begin to allow human theories to take precedence over the plain meaning of the text—or more precisely, when we see that these theories when over-applied become less and less useful, we are doing ourselves no favor.

The Rabbit.

[314] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-21-2008 at 06:27 AM • top

Since I can find not a single “glaring inconsistency” in the plain reading of the Flood account, I have trouble seeing how source criticism is of any value there.

The Rabbit.

[315] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-21-2008 at 06:46 AM • top

RE:  “The God of the Hebrews was envisaged as the ‘father’ of the race; Israel was his son. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hos.11:1) “

Exactly.  But this is a different sense of sonship than indicated by Luke 1

Aside – why did the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus, fall on their faces when He said, “I am he” ?  (John 18)

RE:  “The term ‘son of God’ implies no particular manner of being born, or of divinity. John 10:34-36 clearly explains the usage of the terms ‘god’ and ‘son of God’ as applied to Jesus. “

It does???  Jesus often turned the Pharisee’s on their ears, in their attempts to confound Him.  And frequently, He sends them home to their mommies when they themselves cannot answer a difficult question;  quite often we get the sense that Christ doesn’t feel beholden to reveal the truth to the Pharisees.  His needling them with Ps 110 is one such example. 

RE:  (Psalm 82:6)

I’m going to leave that one for someone else, which I consider acceptable given that you have not yet responded to the clear testimony of Luke 1, in a manner which harmonizes the Gospel. 

RE:  “The crucial difference between Jesus and other ‘sons’ was that Jesus was ‘anointed’ with plenipotentiary powers to be God’s representative on earth, and to speak and act in the name of the Father. The terms “son of God” and “Messiah” are synonomous terms when used in reference to Jesus.”

In that case, there is no difference between Jesus and the rest of us.  This is a strained interpretation of the Gospels, to say the
least. 

“It is recorded in John 1:40-50 that when first joined by his disciples, Jesus was described by them as:”

Please read the beginning of John 1.  What’s all the fuss about darkness and light, and beginnings?

RE:  “As we can plainly see, the disciples believed that Jesus was the son of God while still acknowledging his human parentage, thus demonstrating that ‘sonship’ of God was, to them, a spiritual relationship.”

In the case of regenerate Believers, it’s a spiritual relationship that is derivative of the Real Thing. 

RE:  “Given this fact, and given the propensity of theologians to wrest from biblical texts the most obscure of meanings in order to support their doctrine of choice, we are entitled to ask why they have chosen to ignore the clear witness of the disciples.”

A clear witness you’ve chosen to ignore, thus far.  Reconcile yourself with Luke 1, then we’ll talk more.  wink

[316] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-21-2008 at 09:07 AM • top

Vynette,

Ignoring the seriousness your assertion for a moment, I have a question for you.  At least one liberal on this thread has indicated that they think it is more of a stretch for a conservative who rejects Inerrancy to bind the Christian conscience, than for an Inerrantist to do so. 

Do you feel the same way? 

Let me put it another way:
If a priest were to say to you, “Scripture is riddled with errors, nevertheless I will withhold Eucharist from you, as you deny the Diety of Christ,” what would you say to that priest?

[317] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-21-2008 at 09:13 AM • top

vynette (and others):

Two points.  First, it is hard for most of us from our perspective to appreciate the difference between “son of G-d” and “son of man.” To the Greeks, the gods had many sons, and sonship was a familiar concept.  The good doctor’s (watch out, NRA, no debunking Luke’s profession—LOL) Gospel to the Greeks uses that descriptor throughout.  To Jews, on the other hand, “son of G-d” had no meaning at all.  To the extent it had meaning, it was a blasphemous adoption of pagan thought.

“Son of man,” on the other hand, was a royal designation with mysterious connotations.  Ezekiel, of course, employed that name in his prophetic work, but the preeminent use was for a mysterious figure in Daniel.  The good tax collector’s (watch out, NRA, no debunking “Matthew’s” profession—LOL) Gospel to the Jews uses that descriptor throughout. 

The collision of these terms in the life of Jesus produces Paul’s observation that the preaching of the cross was an obstacle or stumbling block to the Jews and sheer folly/madness to the Greeks. 

Second, you say:

Surely there can be no greater authority to turn to than Jesus himself!

The ranking of Scripture in order of authority is a dangerous enterprise.  Unlike followers of Mohammed, we followers of Christ are unwilling to rank sayings as </i>hadith.</i>  Islamic jurisprudence is driven by a process of recovering, ranking and applying various oral teachings of its prophet.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the modern “Jesus Seminar” project seems a kind of Islamization of our faith.  Its goal, and the goal of some other modern scholarship, is to reconstruct “Q” and elevate our invention to a status higher than Scripture—i.e., superior to the works acknowledged and preserved by the Church.

[318] Posted by Paladin1789 on 03-21-2008 at 09:22 AM • top

NRA wrote:

if people THEN decide that “mainstream” scholarship is a Trojan Horse that we shouldn’t permit to enter the orthodox camp, that’s their choice.  But at least people will be making a better informed choice.  As it is, I see lots of people on this thread rejecting something they don’t yet understand.  My hope is that after coming to understand what moderate scholarship is really like, they’ll be in a much better position to evaluate it fairly and responsibly.

I can see why many are afraid that we who are trying to form a new orthodox Anglican province in North America will end up just eventually repeating TEC’s disastrous susceptibility to heresy, if we allow biblical criticism to get its foot in the door or entrenched among us.  That’s a natural and reasonable fear, IF you have the kind of deep suspicion and mistrust of biblical scholarship that Matt and others have shown.  I’m trying to dispell some of the misunderstandings that I think lie at the root of those fears.

It looks exactly like a Trojan horse to me. IMO, this type of scholarship is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story on how TEC got into the sorry condition it’s in today. If this is what the clergy of a new Anglican entity are taught at seminary, I fully expect (though it will give me no pleasure if I am right) to see that entity make a forty or fifty year descent into revisionism and heresy, exactly as TEC has done over the past several decades. What is to prevent it?

My misunderstandings, if that’s what they are, are not at all dispelled.

The response I keep hoping for is NOT, “Oh no.  Fr. Handy is right, there really are at least some errors in the Bible.  What do we do now?” Rather, what I’m seeking is for people to begin to say something like this: 

“Well, Fr. Handy, I don’t agree with you, but at least now I can understand how an (otherwise) orthodox guy like you who is thoroughly committed to a renewed orthodox Anglican presence on this continent could approach God’s Word the way you do and still sincerely believe you aren’t compromising orthodox Christianity.  I don’t agree with that more liberal or “mainstream” approach, but I understand it now and I can see how YOU could honestly think its compatible with orthodoxy.  I’m not sure that it really is, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Well, Fr. Handy, I don’t agree with you. We approach the Bible so differently that I don’t see how you and I can even know if we both mean the same thing by “orthodox”. I don’t see how anyone can approach God’s word the way you do without undermining the foundations upon which orthodox Christianity is built. Even though I don’t see how this approach could possibly be compatible, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt: I don’t think you would deliberately undermine the faith, but I am convinced that the type of scholarship you’ve described on this thread, which sees the Bible as fallible and erring, will inevitably have that result.

A Blessed Good Friday to all.

[319] Posted by kyounge1956 on 03-21-2008 at 11:06 AM • top

#319,

I have to agree with your post.  I have been observing this interchange and to be honest I don’t see how NRA can possibly be considered “orthodox” in any sense of the word.  I fear the inevitable consequence of any widespread approach to Scripture of this type would be simply another repetition of what has already happened to TEC.

[320] Posted by Will on 03-21-2008 at 11:58 AM • top

One of the great inquiries of the historico-critical era was “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” As Albert Schweitzer found out, that quest led him not to the living Christ but to a failed prophet. In the end, it destroyed his faith.

Paladin (#318) is correct to bring forward the example of The Jesus Seminar. Their work represents perhaps the crowning achievement of the historico-critical era. In their two books, they have successfully (in their eyes) debunked all the accretions to the Christ-myth and peeled back the layers to find the dependable record of the true, historical Jesus in a dozen or so “confirmed” of his sayings from the Bible.

And what did they find? Try reading John Dominic Crossan’s essay, where he waxes eloquent about this peasant-advocate (Jesus) for the welfare of poor tenant farmers. There is little there to which one can give his life, while a fuller reading of the Gospels demands just that: the giving up of one’s life for Jesus.

But were they really successful? It is worthwhile remembering one of the guiding maxims of the Jesus Seminar, “Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you.” Then take a look in the conclusions of their second book, The Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do? when they delve into issues at the heart of the Christian faith, such as the resurrection.  You will probably find, as I did, that their conclusions were already prefigured in the preconceptions they had before they even began their project.

The quest for the historical Jesus leads to a dead man of 2,000 years ago, stone cold in the tomb, who said a few interesting things. If that is your quest, that is what you will find. But if your quest instead is to discover what the Word of the Living God has to say into your life… then, my friend, you are on a quest for which you will be richly rewarded.

The Rabbit.

[321] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 03-21-2008 at 01:24 PM • top

Moot,

In response to your # 316,  we can deal with the clear witness of Luke 1:26-35.

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

Luke testifies that, at this time, Mary was still a virgin. However, it is of critical importance to realise that there had, as yet, been no conception.

That Jesus was not conceived until some indeterminate time AFTER the angel’s departure is confirmed in 2:21 - “When eight days were fulfulled for circumcising him, his name was called Jesus, which was so called by the angel BEFORE he was conceived in the womb.”

Luke, writing these words to Theophilus, having no personal knowledge of the events, nevertheless was able to specify a time period during which the conception took place. Had the birth been a Miraculous Incarnation, he could not have been so specific. Perhaps because the early church was male-dominated, it seems to have completely escaped attention that Mary was the ONLY person who could possibly know the truth therefore Luke’s source derived in whatever chain of transmission from Mary herself.

“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”

At first, we are told that Mary could not understand the angel’s greeting for, unlike Zacharias, she had made no supplication to God.
She was nevertheless informed that she had found favour.

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Mary is told that the son she will conceive will be a descendant of David and that he will one day sit on David’s throne. 

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”

Mary, knowing that any son of her betrothed, Joseph, has been debarred from kingship forever by God himself, asks the most natural of questions. How will the Lord God perform this? She does not know, is not acquainted with, a man who could father a child entitled by birth to sit on David’s throne.

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:”

An underlying Hebrew parallelism is evident here (Expressing the same thought twice using equivalent words). The “Holy Spirit” is synonomous with the “power of the Highest.”

Luke records that John the Baptist was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.’ (Luke 1:15). He also records that a few months before John was born, his mother Elizabeth was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 1:41)

To use this theme in a ‘particular’ or ‘exclusive’ way ONLY where it refers to Jesus is to wrest the words of gospel writers who were just availing themselves of commonly understood terminology.

In Mary’s case, it is this divine power, the “Holy Spirit,” which will “overshadow” or protect her, e.g. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4)

“therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee…”

There is nothing singular or exclusive about the word ‘holy’ in reference to Jesus: “And when the days of their purification according to the Law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called HOLY to the Lord).” Luke 2:22-23.

“...shall be called the Son of God.”

When Jesus began to preach, he had this to say: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called Sons of God,” and again: But love your neighbours and do them good, and lend, never despairing, and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High.” (Matt. 5:9, Luke 6:35)

These statements of Jesus contain no qualifications, so they have as much standing as the promise made to Mary by Gabriel, with the essential difference that Jesus was a ‘christ’ son, an ‘anointed’ son.

Moot, in response to your #317 : I do not claim that the scriptures are “errant.” What I do claim is that the doctrines supposedly based on scripture are “errant.”

[322] Posted by vynette on 03-21-2008 at 04:21 PM • top

To all my earnest critics on this thread:

Thank you for your honest feedback.  It’s always good to know how you are coming across, even if it’s hard to take and disappointing.  It is discouraging to see how many here continue to interpret my posts as some kind of attack on the Bible.  That has never been my intention.

Matt+ has accused me (twice now, in #285 and 311) of acting like a prosecuting attorney, trying to convict the Bible of error in front of a jury that’s just not buying it.  Alas, that shows an almost complete breakdown of communication.

I’m not trying to apportion blame for that here.  I’m sure I bear a large burden of responsibility for not making myself clearer.  The fact is that I see myself rather as the defense attorney here, attempting to defend moderate biblical scholarship from the false charge of always undermining orthodoxy.  I’m seeking to defend the legitimate place of non-inerrantists within our orthodox Anglican coalition.  And toward that end, I’ve consistently sought to EXPLAIN enough about how “mainstream” biblical scholars think and why, so that people are in a much better position to make a fair and accurate assessment.

We seem to have reached a sort of stalemate, or logjam.  Nothing I say seems to register with some of the readers here, or it just seems wholly unconvincing to them.  On the other hand, they could say the same about me, I’m sure.

I continue to hope, however, that a broader base of participation in this vital discussion would help.  For instance, I would love it if more conservatives with advanced training in biblical scholarship would participate, say like David Ould.  I don’t know him personally, but from what I’ve read by him here at SF, I think he’d take a mediating position somewhere between Matt and me.  And maybe that could help end the stalemate.

I feel a bit like Paul in 2 Cor. 6:11-13.  To my fiercest critics I’d like to say, as he did:

“We have spoken frankly to you.  Our heart is open to you.  There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.  In return…open wide your hearts also.”

I continue to say, “We are all on the same team, the orthodox Anglican team.”  And we need each other.

David Handy+

[323] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 04:25 PM • top

“The ranking of Scripture in order of authority is a dangerous enterprise.”

Jesus being the spokesman of God, his followers have no option but to heed his commands:

“But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers.” (Matt. 23:8)

[324] Posted by vynette on 03-21-2008 at 04:44 PM • top

Poster Handy, I am one person who is reading you loud and clear, including that according to the “rules” of this board you are doing what you do in love.

[325] Posted by Hope on 03-21-2008 at 05:21 PM • top

kyounge1956 (#308, 310, 319),

You have raised some important questions.  At the risk of only alienating you further (and other readers too who find my views very dangerous) and further increasing the chasm between us, let me try to respond.  I hope I can shed more light than heat.

Among other things, you asked me:

1.  Why do I think the figure of 480 years in 1 Kings 6:1 is symbolic instead of literal?  Actually, all I did was suggest that it’s far from certain that it was intended as literal.  Suffice to say here, it’s unclear what source the writer could passibly be relying on (unlike the annals mentioned n 1 Kings as sources of information about the kings and their reigns).

2.  What leads me to think 1 & 2 Kings isn’t sober history?  That’s a large issue, which I can only touch on here.  Feel free to press for further details.  But basically, it’s two main things. 

First, it draws on a wide variety of sources, not all of which appear to be historical (or mainly historical) in nature.  Take the famous cycle of stories about the prophets Elijah (1 Kings 17-22) and Elisha (2 Kings 1-9).  They are very different in character from the dry listing of the reigns of the various kings. 

And though you may well take offense at this, I regard some of these tales about the two great miracle-working prophets as likely being legendary (e.g., the cursing of the boys who mock Elisha so that two bears come out of the woods and maul them in 2 Kings 4:23-24; or the axe-head floating to the surface of the water for Elisha in 2 Kings 6:1-7 etc.). 

Please note: that is NOT because I harbor some anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions that rule out the possiblity of miracles in advance.  Quite the contrary.  I believe in a miracle-working God who is sovereign and able to do such things.  The question is how we are to discern the genre of portions of ancient literature like this.  And the starting point for that discernment process is becoming familiar with the range of ancient literature in use at the time when the text was likely composed. 

Second, there is the very obvious way in which 1 & 2 Kings reflect a very strong theological pre-occupation with just a couple key issues, especially whether the different kings of Judah followed the commands of Deuteronomy 12 and 17 or not.  That is, the kings are evaluated mostly on the basis of whether or not they obeyed the command restricting sacrificial worship to the Temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 12; I command I would date to the time of King Josiah’s famous reform in 622 BC).  Only Hezekiah and Josiah tried to destroy all the rival “high places,” and so only they really get nothing but praise. 

Similarly, the kings are judged by whether or not they followed the bad example of Solomon in multiplying many wives, condoning idolatry, and imposing heavy tax burdens on the people etc. (Deut. 17:14-20).  And ALL the northern kings are judged harshly because they failed to repent of the sin of Jereboam who built rival temples at Bethel and Dan.  Thus even kings who enjoyed long reigns of peace and prosperity are passed over briefly as if unimportant (e.g., Omri in the northern kingdom) if they didn’t fit the agenda of the Deuteronomistic editors of 1 & 2 Kings. 

This doesn’t mean the account of the various kings is in “error.”  I’m only saying that these books are extremely selective and more theological in some ways than historical in their basic character.  They are very history-like to be sure, but they aren’t works of history in the modern sense.

To be continued…

David Handy+

[326] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 05:40 PM • top

I am afraid that I find the continued and repeated assertions that the subscribers to plain-meaning-inerrancy have “easily” demolished every example of apparent factual error in the bible simply baffling.

These so-called demolitions all take essentially the same form—an assertion that it is in some way *possible* to imagine a way in which one text could be read so as to be consistent with another (... the walls fell ... all except one house), or archaeological or external evidence made to match (usually by positing the existence of “missing” evidence): granted there is no evidence for X at such-and-such a date ... but perhaps a few hundred years earlier, if only someone dug in the right place. They also depend on taking each difficulty in isolation, and failing to note the accumulation of difficulties. If all else fails, it is asserted that the “error” does not matter, in this particular case.

I am also struck by the (very postmodern!) subjection of an inquiry for truth to an agenda of orthodoxy. Don’t go digging for the “historical Jesus” or you may lose your faith; surrender your reason to the dogmatic assumption that the text means what it seems at first sight to mean, and that it is correct. Don’t make use of any tools which might establish or refute that assertion. Stick to “safe” commentaries—making only occasional border-raids into anything that might be “unsafe” only if fortified by the firm preconception that it is erroneous. Although we know that the text has a human history, treat that as a great mystery impenetrable to man. Accept any excuse, however threadbare.

I think this makes sense only within a very specific (and rather hermetically sealed) community of fundamentalists. To the fair-minded observer it is blindingly obvious that the scriptures contain much which absolutely false if regarded as history. The world was not created in 6 days. There was no garden. There was no flood, or ark, or animals (clean or unclean, in pairs or sevens). The waters of the red sea did not part. No walls miraculously fell at Jericho. Refugees were not turned into pillars of salt. People did not live for hundreds of years. These are myths, fables, the curious and ordinary mixture of natural and supernatural, of slightly confused history and poetry and imagination and ritual, pieced together by people over time from many sources.

Those are simple facts. Obvious to anyone not blinded by superstition. The tools of historical and source criticism help uncover them. Of course, many wrong turns are taken. Many errors are made. That is how rational thought develops.

And the simple question for the Christian is: What will you do with these facts. Will you face them squarely as David Handy+ does? Will you participate in the rational inquiry using the tools of archaeology, textual criticism, philology, comparative literature, and the like? (Always watchful of course to see that these tools are properly applied.) Will you then, taking the facts (true facts) about history and scripture THEN seek to understand what it is that scripture truly teaches—trying to understand what a reasonable and rational faith might look like? Or will you retire to a benighted superstition, obstinately refusing to see where the evidence points, unable to approach that evidence without a rigid preconception that it must be twisted or explained away?

I’m not altogether comfortable to find myself shoulder-to-shoulder with David Handy+ on this, and I don’t suppose he’s thrilled to have a liberal sceptic as an ally, since part of the charge against him seems to be that he keeps bad company in this matter. But he is right, on various fronts.

First: the doctrine of inerrancy which Matt+ is defending is false. Demonstrably false to anyone who will look at the matter objectively. David Handy+ has been kind, almost respectful about it. But it deserves rather rough treatment. It is an argument which would be incapable of persuading anyone who did not approach it with a firm preconception that it was right.

Second: Matt+ is utterly wrong in thinking that the false doctrine he espouses is necessary or useful. It is not itself a doctrine found in scripture, but the bastard child of protestantism and nineteenth-century positivism. It plays very directly into the hands of atheist sceptics (because a church which espouses it is very fair game for effective ridicule). It is a crude fundamentalism which deprives the church of any claim to intellectual respectability.

David Handy+‘s “version” of inerrancy—which understands it as a principle to be applied in interpreting scripture and not as a dogma to be attached to any particular interpretation—suffers from none of these defects. It is entirely faithful, entirely orthodox.

Third: It is utterly wrong, as some have said, to suppose that this is some Trojan horse for liberalism. It is quite the reverse. There is nothing the liberals would like more than to be able to say that the only alternative to radical liberal views is naive pre-modern dogmatic fundamentalism. Nothing could be more calculated to advance the liberal cause by making the conservative position ridiculous—little better than spiritualism, or astrology, or homeopathy, or alchemy, or any of the other bizarre beliefs to which (remarkably!) even educated and otherwise intelligent people sometimes subscribe.

Profound faith is not shown by the ability to tolerate without complaint a high degree of implausibility. Falsehood is unwholesome, and there is no spiritual value in swallowing inedible nasties as if they were exquisite treats. Far profounder the faith that is confident enough to look difficulties in the face, and to ask rather “Where does that leave us?” than that which will insist, in the teeth of the evidence, that a forkful of rat is nicer than filet mignon.

[327] Posted by Paul Stanley on 03-21-2008 at 05:41 PM • top

NRA,
You are much too harsh on Fr. Matt.  It’s almost as if finding him in error is a passion for you.  Remember Fr. Matt has never claimed to be inerrant, only the Bible.  Nothing you have posted here has swayed me one inch from my original position in agreement with Fr. Matt.  I for one appreciate his efforts to respond to anything that would place doubt about the Bible in the minds of seekers. 
All this reminds me of the flat earth claims allegedly to be found in the Bible.  When challenged the best the claimant can come up with is the reference to the four corners of the earth and round things don’t have corners.  Just another example of the reader extending his bias to the text. 
We are nearing the end of Holy Week.  May I suggest we put away the ammo and complete the journey that began today with such pain and will end on Sunday with such joy and hope.
Looking to the hope of the Resurrection, I wish you Happy Easter.

[328] Posted by JackieB on 03-21-2008 at 05:42 PM • top

RE: “I am afraid that I find the continued and repeated assertions that the subscribers to plain-meaning-inerrancy have “easily” demolished every example of apparent factual error in the bible simply baffling.”

Heh.

And then . . .

First: the doctrine of inerrancy which Matt+ is defending is false. Demonstrably false to anyone who will look at the matter objectively.”

And . . .

“To the fair-minded observer it is blindingly obvious that the scriptures contain much which absolutely false if regarded as history. The world was not created in 6 days. There was no garden. There was no flood, or ark, or animals (clean or unclean, in pairs or sevens). The waters of the red sea did not part. No walls miraculously fell at Jericho. Refugees were not turned into pillars of salt. People did not live for hundreds of years. These are myths, fables, the curious and ordinary mixture of natural and supernatural, of slightly confused history and poetry and imagination and ritual, pieced together by people over time from many sources.

Those are simple facts. Obvious to anyone not blinded by superstition.”

Priceless.

As I said above, long ago . . .

I expect that there will be little to no agreement on this matter in the future amongst orthodox Episcopalians, for as OR states about his discussion with Matt—it is futile.

It will be interesting to discover if the two sides—divided over something rather important and fundamental—will be able to work together, considering this.

[329] Posted by Sarah on 03-21-2008 at 06:09 PM • top

A continuation of my #326, addressed to kyounge1956,

You also asked me:

3.  How can you rely on a fallible Bible?  Now Matt+ and many others here have asked that same thing, in one way or another.  Once again, that is a very large topic, with very important ramifications indeed.  I fully recognize that a great deal is at stake here, and that passions therefore run high.

But my basic response would start this way.  Rely on the Bible FOR WHAT?  I think that takes us to the heart of the different “paradigms” we see operating on this thread.  It seems to me that my critics want to rely on the Bible for much more than I do.  And I would attribute that to an underlying sola Scriptura orientation on their part. 

That is, the PRIMARY purpose of the Bible is to bear witness to the character of the God who has revealed himself in its pages, and supremely in the person of Jesus Christ to whom it points, and to lead us to saving faith in Christ (see 2 Tim. 3:14).  In our Anglican heritage we speak of that as the Bible containing all truths “necessary FOR SALVATION.” 

But unlike many readers here, I do not presume that we are to rely on the Bible alone as the sole infallible authority in all matters of faith and practice.  I accord the Sacred Tradition of the universal Church a great deal of weight in those latter areas.

4.  What is folkloric about Joshua 2?  Mostly the style and tone of it (cf. the tale of the Hebrew midwives outfoxing Pharoah in Exodus 2).  It seems to be told as much for entertainment as to provide historical information. 

This, again, is a very complex topic.  See Susan Niditch’s fine book on probable folklore in Genesis, “Underdogs and Tricksters: A Prelude to Biblical Folklore.”  Harper & Row, 1987.

5.  You cite Exodus 15:19 to refute my minor argument that the story of the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua 3 reflects the influence of the Priestly version of the crossing of the Red (or Reed) Sea in Exodus 14 “versus 15.”  Alas, I should have been more precise.  I meant in comparison with the fascinating and ancient “Song of Moses” (as the 1979 BCP calls that canticle), or “the Song of the Sea,” as many scholars call it, i.e., Exodus 15:1-18.  About that intriguing text, I basically adopt the interpretation of Frank Cross of Harvard, who sees it as perhaps the oldest bit of poetry in the whole Hebrew Bible (with Judges 5 as its only rival).  But Exodus 15:19 is another P editorial line, resuming the regular narrative after the poem is over, and so it again reflects the Priestly viewpoint.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of some deep subjects.  But that’s about all I can do in short blog comments like this.  I know you will probably have objections to the above, or further questions.  Anyway, feel free to pursue these matters with me, if you wish.

David Handy+

[330] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 06:10 PM • top

Jackie and Sarah,

I’m glad you have been following this thread.  Jackie, I’m sorry if it seems that I’ve been too harsh on Matt+.  I respect him.  He’s a very bright guy, a bulldog as a debater who once he bites just never lets go,and a champion on our side.  But he has been very caustic in his accusations against me, in a way that I think is unfair and unjustified.  There are many times I’ve bitten my tongue, not to reply in kind.

Sarah, I understand your skepticism.  But I guess I’m more of an optimist.  I continue to hope against hope, that some way can be found to bridge some of these gaping chasms that have appeared among us that threaten to undermine, distract, and divide our movement. 

But the key it seems to me is precisely the factor of trust.  Do we trust each other, even when we disagree profoundly?  Alas, it’s all too clear that Matt+ and some others commenters here just don’t trust me.  Well, that’s OK.  Who is David Handy, anyway?  A bit player on this stage for sure.

But if you both are still monitoring this thread.  I really meant it when I suggested that someone like David Ould or Kendall Harmon be encouraged to weigh in on this thread.  A little mediation or some sort of moderating influence on this thread would be helpful.  I don’t think Matt+ is likely to listen to much of anything I say anymore, but he might listen to someone else like the Aussie Ould+, who is orthodox (and probably significantly more conservative than I am), but who isn’t as extemely suspicious of modern biblical scholarship as he is.

Just a thought.

David Handy+

[331] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 03-21-2008 at 06:35 PM • top

I would like to encourage Matt+ to think about applying to Ph.D. programs next fall. He is clearly called to apologetics and it would be great to see him write a dissertation. I am sure it would be published.

And then he could write another book for a more popular readership. (Well, many more, obviously.)

[332] Posted by Deja Vu on 03-21-2008 at 06:58 PM • top

RE: “But the key it seems to me is precisely the factor of trust.  Do we trust each other, even when we disagree profoundly?”

“Trust each other” for what?  Do I trust NRA to believe the creeds?  Sure.

Do I trust NRA’s handling of scripture enough to be interested in his take on various passages?  Not really.

Do I trust NRA to be my ally within TEC or to seek a vision of Anglicanism that is in any way acceptable to someone like me?  No.

Do I trust NRA to fix my automobile?  Probably not [unless he has hidden skills somewhere in this].

Do I trust NRA as a fellow Christian, as I trust Al Mohler, or my Roman Catholic friends?  Absolutely!

Do I trust NRA to be a generally nice fellow.  Yes.

But then—none of that is any different from a month ago.

RE: “But if you both are still monitoring this thread.  I really meant it when I suggested that someone like David Ould or Kendall Harmon be encouraged to weigh in on this thread.  A little mediation or some sort of moderating influence on this thread would be helpful.”

I see no need for either mediation or moderating influence on this thread.  I see two people with polarically opposing viewpoints on a key aspect of the handling of scripture debating fruitlessly with one another.

I personally don’t think this thread is all that important either, as the chasm between the two views is simply too wide to be bridged save by some miraculous intervention by God.  I have long known that to be true about this topic.  Those who have made up their minds about this subject, one way or the other, are pretty much set in concrete—and I suspect the reasons for that are far deeper and broader than any of us would care to know.

I’m just fine believing that folks who do and do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture [as carefully defined by the Chicago statement] may wholeheartedly and mutually agree unreservedly on the literal content of the creeds.

I personally think that Matt has wasted way too much time on this thread and wish that he would close his comments here with some recommended resources—both pro and con his opinion—for interested thread auditors to read further so that they can make up their own minds, if they have not already.

But—as I have also long noted—I unhappily do not control Greg or Matt or Jackie or David or the commenatrix.  ; > )

[333] Posted by Sarah on 03-21-2008 at 07:04 PM • top

I followed this thread when it first began up to about comment 200, and then had to stop for a while.  I saw the interesting beginnings of comments, and jumped to some a few entries up.

One I read, by vynette, puzzled me.  She says

Mary, knowing that any son of her betrothed, Joseph, has been debarred from kingship forever by God himself, asks the most natural of questions. How will the Lord God perform this? She does not know, is not acquainted with, a man who could father a child entitled by birth to sit on David’s throne.

This is the first I have ever heard of Joseph’s descendants being barred from inheriting the throne of David.  Where does this statement come from?  Can you give me a Scripture passage that makes this statement, or one from which it may be clearly inferred?

Also, when Mary said, “How can this be, since I do not know a man,” she was testifying to her virginity.  As we all (should) be aware, “to know” someone in many places in the Bible means, in certain contexts—and this is one of them—to know them sexually.  Mary is not trying to figure out who among the men she knows is a descendant of David who could father her child and make him the proper heir of David.  She is simply saying, “If I am going to have a child, how will it come about?  I am a virgin.  Will the first child I have with Joseph be the Messiah?  Should he and I have intercourse, even it we are not married?  How is this child to be conceived?”  And Gabriel tells her that she will have a child by the direct action of God the Holy Spirit.

[334] Posted by AnglicanXn on 03-21-2008 at 07:34 PM • top

It will be interesting to discover if the two sides—divided over something rather important and fundamental—will be able to work together, considering this.

It would depend on how important Apologetics is to the emerging Anglicanism.  If one side approaches Scripture with the assumption that a text may contain error, and another approaches Scripture with the assumption that an interpretation is subject to error, can agree on a consistent apologetic (or at least on a typical Anglican compromise), then we can get along quite nicely, I think. 

The other problem (as I’ve mentioned before) on that front is whether the two sides can agree on the amount of skepticism they are allowed to bring to the table, when dealing with a seeker/skeptic.

[335] Posted by J Eppinga on 03-21-2008 at 07:35 PM • top

RE:  That Jesus was not conceived until some indeterminate time AFTER the angel’s departure is confirmed in 2:21 - “When eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called Jesus, which was so called by the angel BEFORE he was conceived in the womb.” “

Irrelevant.  That God sent an angel to Mary before the Holy Spirit fertilized her womb, is simply God being graciously considerate. 

Let me put it