Twin Lakes and Inerrancy

Here at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, listening to Dr. Ligon Duncan speak on the seriousness of the resurgence of the denial of inerrancy among young evangelicals, and in particular young reformed evangelicals. Some highlights:

“If God is a Spirit, then the only way we can know him is if he speaks to us. And if he does not speak truth to us, we have no way of knowing him truly.”

His advice to pastors on how to be of help to our younger brothers and sisters:

  1. Re-read the classics on the doctrine of inerrancy.
  2. Walk with seminarians and others through the arguments of the current critics of inerrancy.
  3. Don’t assume Young Evangelicals own this tradition. Instead, persuade them into it by boht your understanding of the arguments from the critics and the biblical defense against those arguments.

This year the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) will be re-constitued and re-begin its work. Dr. R. Albert Mohler will be the convening president, with Dr. Duncan Rankin serving as the Executive Director of the re-constituted ICBI. The make up of the members will be more multi-national than the previous generation of the ICBI.

First up for the ICBI’s work: re-affirmation of the original ICBI statements. Second: affirmation of the total authority of the Bible.

(Reed DePace)

306 Comments

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I’m very glad to hear that ICBI is being reconstituted.

    I hope that ICBI continues to stand firm in the face of withering criticism from errantists.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Wish I was there, Reed! Say hi to my friends for me, would you?

  3. Reed Here said,

    April 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    TUAD: sounds like the ICBI guys had the same response many of us did. They thought their work was done, that inerrancy was secured in the Evangelical Church, that they could move on to other needs.

    The last few years resurgence of attacks on inerrancy from purportedly Evangelical and Reformed has persuaded them that their work is not done. Pray for their efforts in taking back up the charge.

  4. Reed Here said,

    April 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Yep, missing you Lane. Weather is a beautiful low 70’s.

    Will say hi for you. You are missed.

  5. Wayne Sparkman said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    The sans serif typeface in green that you have used in this post — I find it easier to read that the usual black serif format. Others agree?

    I like it.

  6. paigebritton said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I like it, too. Maybe we could take a page from Reed’s playbook here.

    BTW, if you press CONTROL and PLUS together, it enlarges the typeface of whatever you’re reading on screen (OPEN APPLE and PLUS for macs). Same with DASH reduces the font again.

  7. paigebritton said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    What do you folks think is the cause for the loss of a hold on inerrancy amongst younger evangelicals? Is this just a symptom of a general theological laziness, or is this doctrine just not postmodernly cool? Can you point to any particular writer’s or speaker’s influence?

  8. Reed Here said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Paige: I’ve been looking for the simple zoom control for months! Thanks.

    As to the color, Dark Forest Green; in honor of our Green Baggins’ background. That it is easier to read, an unexpected benefit!

  9. Reed Here said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Dr. Duncan noted four areas of problems/conflicts for YE (young evangelicals). These are from Dr. Greg Beale:

    1. OT and ANE sources
    2. NT and its use of the OT
    3. Authorship of Isaiah
    4. OT cosmology and cosmogony conflicts with modern science

    These are the areas that produce conundrums for YE, which some are resolving by abandoning inerrancy.

  10. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I wonder if evolution or theistic evolution is having some impact on people abandoning inerrancy.

  11. David Gray said,

    April 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I’m afraid Evangelicalism is headed down the path well established by the mainline churches. Which is why I’m no longer an Evangelical but am a confessional Presbyterian instead.

  12. paigebritton said,

    April 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Why is New York’s use of the OT problematic?

    Beale no doubt is thinking about Enns.

    Where does N. T. Wright fit, anybody? I am trying to sort out his doctrine of Scripture. Obviously he is one who is very popular and influential. D. A. Carson says inerrancy is the one doctrine that gets him (NTW) really mad. Wright is also consciously in conversation with The Academy in his work, and he leans heavily on history (especially 2nd Temple lit) for his interpretations of the texts. What to make of this?

  13. Reed Here said,

    April 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    AHHHHH …. NT, not NY.

  14. Rachel said,

    April 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Paige~ I think that NTW writes about the gospel accounts as having inconsistencies. His chapters in Meaning of Jesus show view of Scripture that would not fit with “inerrant.”

  15. Rachel said,

    April 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I honestly think one of the biggest issues with “young evangelicals” and inerrancy is not being cool/hip/in the “in crowd.” They think that if they hold to inerrancy they’ll get laughed at. No one in the scientific or scholarly communities will take them seriously and let them play in the sandbox unless they give ground on the inerrancy of Scripture.

    Of course, my question is: who gets to decide which part is true and which parts are wrong? Does science get to decide? Because, science says that babies aren’t born of virgins, and people do not rise from the dead after 3 days in the grave. Is it archaeological evidence that has the final say? Because what good evidence do we have that Abraham existed and received God’s covenant or that Moses led the people out of Egypt, or that a man named Jesus died on the cross and rose again?

  16. Brad B said,

    April 7, 2011 at 1:01 am

    “Because what good evidence do we have that Abraham existed and received God’s covenant or that Moses led the people out of Egypt, or that a man named Jesus died on the cross and rose again?”

    We have none better than natural man, if it is also based on sense perception.

    Somewhere, someone said:

    “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”

    The prophetic word came true, the higher standard is God’s witness to the truth–not mankind with their broken reasoning.

  17. Greg said,

    April 7, 2011 at 6:36 am

    For someone new, what are the classics that should be read on the doctrine of inerrancy?

  18. paigebritton said,

    April 7, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Greg,
    B. B. Warfield’s classic, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, is a must (though admittedly dense!).

    More contemporary work by people like Carson, Woodbridge, Grudem, & Packer is also very helpful, especially the two volumes edited by Carson & Woodbridge, Scripture & Truth and Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon. A new collection of Carson’s (shorter) work on Scripture was published last year.

    You can access the original Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy here:
    http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html

    I’m sure there’s other excellent resources to be found, but these are the ones I fall back on again and again.

  19. paigebritton said,

    April 7, 2011 at 7:02 am

    BTW, I found it necessary a while back to provide a translation to go along with the CSBI (the “Affirmations and Denials” part) for a class of laypeople who were new to the study of theology. There are a number of allusions to theological errors of different stripes in there, and the syntax is also best suited for readers who have lately been working in at least semi-academic areas. Coming to it cold can leave some folks pretty confused and un-edified.

    If anybody would like to see my attempt at a reader-friendly version, let me know — I will email a copy to you. You can contact me here (I have access to your email address) or at paige, then a dot, then britton, and it’s a gmail address.

    pb

  20. Richard said,

    April 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I think two reasons that YE are putting inerrancy aside is that (a) there is a greater appreciation that the bigger issue is hermeneutics and (b) the feeling that it dies the death of a thousand qualifications.

  21. Rachel said,

    April 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    From Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation
    pg.52
    “If pressed, one could attempt to mount the argument that the Israelite stories were actually older than all the ancient Near Eastern stories but were only recorded later in Hebrew. Such a theory- for that is what it is, a theory- would need to assume that the biblical stories are the pristine originals and that all the other stories are parodies and perversions of the Israelite original, even though the available evidence would be very difficult to square with such a conclusion. But could it have happened this way? Yes, I suppose one could insist on such a thing, but it would be very difficult for someone holding such a view to have a meaningful conversation with linguists and historians of the ancient world.”

  22. Stephen said,

    April 7, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I probably should note bite on this, but will…as a, relatively-speaking, “younger” evangelical who no longer holds to inerrancy.

    (1) I agree with Richard (#20) here, and would add that many of us place a greater emphasis on the details of the texts (not in exclusion to bigger-picture matters) and allowing them to shape our doctrine of scripture more than is apparent in various “classic” formulations.

    (2) Taking up the kind of observation Rachel makes (#15) and that GK Beale and others have made on different occasions, why is it that such social factors are only ever pointed out as being at work for folks who abandon inerrancy? A bit of that prized Van Tilian and Reformed self-reflection should move people to a more realistic analysis. Do you not think such social concerns also factor into evangelicals (and YE’s) holding to inerrancy…and even doing so in such overt and polemical ways? Do you not think people have ever garnered social or symbolic capital within evangelical social formations by holding to inerrancy, letting everyone know they do, polemicizing against those who don’t, talking about holding to inerrancy with and among other evangelicals, etc.? Seriously, “sociological factors” (how Beale puts it in one place) are just as much at play among pro-inerrantists as those of us who no longer hold to it.

    (3) At some point it may be useful to acknowledge that reading the Bible actually factors in for us. This often gets lost in various Reformed-Evangelical accounts that emphasize YE’s rejecting inerrancy because they don’t really know the sophisticated and correct Reformed/Evangelical doctrines, they have flawed presuppositions, they succumb to various post-modern and the like “influences,” social factors, etc. One could read most of these accounts and think that evangelicals who abandon inerrancy have no biblical plausibility for their position; that no thinking person (not under the sway of non-inerrantist social and professional movers and shakers) who is aware of the data could find inerrancy problematic, etc. This functional black-and-white painting strikes me as disingenuous and manifests a lack of actual understanding of “critical arguments.”

    Let me briefly come at this from another angle. For me this came down to constantly encountering how in order to uphold inerrancy I had to decide ahead of time (don’t get me wrong, this “decision” is potentially in line with some of the Bible’s self-claims) that the Bible is and must be inerrant. This brings with it an interpretive methodology that inherently favors interpretive options not involving the Bible in an error (whatever we mean by that). Over time I found this to inhibit accurate readings of the Bible. Thus I jettisoned inerrancy because, frankly, I found it problematic for a truly “high view of Scripture,” one truly willing to follow the Bible and God’s challenges in it to us and our doctrines wherever they take us.

    I do not deny the place of various “social factors” in this, though I fail to see the relevance of that generalized charge to this discussion since the same is true for pro-inerrancy folks. Analyzing the place of “social factors” becomes more relevant when we become more precise about them on both sides of this debate…but we can leave that for a later comment.

    Hopefully this “testimony” from an evangelical who no longer holds to standard conceptions of inerrancy helps.

  23. Reed Here said,

    April 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Stephen; it does.

    Do you recognize that just as much as the pro-inerrancy folks have accepted a presupposition that then drives their interpretation and thinking on this issue, so too have the con-inerrancy folks.

    In the end your observations do not tar me as a pro-inerrancy guy unless they also tar you as a con-inerrancy guy. This is so because both of us, according to your paradigm here, are both beholden to the controlling influence of a presuppositional narrative methodology.

    I do appreciate your reasons and am sympathetic. I fear however that your current presuppositional comfort is nothing more than shifting sand. I agree that mere pro-inerrancy based on theological construct is insufficient. And so is mere con-inerrancy based on theological deconstruct.

    Sorry for your brother, and not in a condescending manner.

  24. Reed Here said,

    April 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Paige: good start on a list. I’m following up on a request I’ve made to get a multi-part recommendations list put together as well. When I get it I will add it to your beginning here.

  25. jedpaschall said,

    April 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Here’s a couple of interesting resources that I have accumulated, some discussions are better than others, and I certainly don’t agree with them all, but all are worth considering, especially as ICBI seeks to set the new parameters of the discussion:

    I. Here’s some from a the blog – Evangelical Textual Criticism

    Inerrancy and Textual Criticism

    Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament – Linked from Evangelical Textual Criticism. A PDF of the article is linked here. Daniel Wallace deals with the NT, which due to enormous manuscript attestation seems a lot easier than dealing with some of the issues that concern the OT and inerrancy. Great article nonetheless.

    II. Here’s some from John Hobbins’ excellent blog – Ancient Hebrew Poetry

    Inerrancy According to the October 2008 Synod of Catholic Bishops

    How Not To Frame the Inerrancy Debate

    Inspiration and Inerrancy – A Revised Statement *Note follow the link to Mike Heiser’s Revised Statement

    Reflections on Inerrancy – A Tribute to Michael Spencer This one deals with the conversation on the Reformed side of the issue.

    Breathing Life into the Doctrine of Inerrancy

    Why Conversations About Inerrancy Must Continue

    Anyhow, great discussion, and I hope some of these might be helpful.

  26. April 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Also having a bearing on the Young Evangelicals is their reluctance to receive the traditional doctrine of Hell. They reason this way: “I know some really nice good people who are not Christians, and I simply cannot conceive of a just and merciful God sending them to eternal punishment. But the Bible says He will. Therefore the Bible must be wrong in some of what it teaches. Therefore, I cannot believe in an inerrant Bible.”

    I also wonder if some of the philosophical background of the book and movie “Da Vinci Code” doesn’t figure in here, especially the details about the development of the canon of Scripture. In this case a YE might think thusly: “Oh I see. Someone, or a Church council, who lived after the Apostolic age decided which books belong in the Bible. If THEY had the right to make such a decision, then so do I.” So, it’s either dropping inerrancy, or adjusting the canon, which amounts to the same thing.

  27. Stephen said,

    April 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    So does it all come down to indubitable presuppositions that themselves are somehow not up for criticism, sharpening, falsification, etc.? Are we just “beholden to the controlling influence of a presuppositional narrative methodolog[ies]” that differ and that is that?

    I do not think you think this. What routes for conversation and mutual criticism exist for people like us? Are there ways we can articulate our “presuppositions,” their undergirding assumptions, social locations, and the like and put them up for conversation and criticism? Relatedly, can we discuss details of the Bible and the possibility (or not) of the Bible itself challenging our presuppositions, doctrine of Scripture, etc., and what that would look like?

    I know these are basic questions. I raise them because in the heat of the recent inerrancy “battles” it does not seem that they were ever addressed in a conversational or mutually-critical manner. Instead folks on both (or however many) “sides” tended to make pronouncements about these questions (if brought up at all) and the other side’s inability or unwillingness to address them (I do not exclude myself from this charge). Regardless of whether or not these pronouncements are or were ultimately accurate, I remain curious as to what a mutually-critical conversation on these matters would look like.

  28. Reed Here said,

    April 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Stephen: I value and appreciate your approach. I was contemplating along the same lines after posted. A little late tonight. I do have some ideas, but give me a little more time (just back from the conference, Bible study tomorrow morning, then sermon writing).

    Sincerely, thanks for your intent here Stephen. I share it with you. I’ll respond soon.

  29. Jerry said,

    April 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Stephen,

    What do you make of Enn’s posts that Paul really didn’t get it when it came to Adam’s historicity?

  30. Stephen said,

    April 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks Reed. No rush. Sounds like we’re both busy in the coming days! Like you I’m interested in working through these matters; and like you I have no illusions that we will solve everything here :).

    What are you preaching through?

  31. Stephen said,

    April 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Paige (#12),

    It’s now been a while since I’ve read any NT Wright, but I recall him making comments about how the church should move beyond the “in-” words (e.g., inerrancy, infallibility). He just published another book on Scripture where, I assume (haven’t read it) he lays out his views in greater detail and, somewhat, in relation to the kinds of questions many Reformed and American-Evangelicals bring to the table: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today. I vaguely recall his earlier book on Scripture, The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God – Getting Beyond the Bible Wars, tackling the kinds of questions you may have more directly.

    As for Wright “lean[ing] heavily on history (especially 2nd Temple lit) for his interpretations of the texts,” IMO, that’s just a facet of reading the biblical writings in their historical contexts – the same thing the Chicago Statement, for example, enshrines as how Evangelicals should read the Bible. Though I too am a fan of “leaning heavily on history” for situating and interpreting the Bible (e.g., reading it in context), I disagree with many of Wright’s specific proposed contextual readings … however I disagree not because of the principle of leaning heavily on history, but because I disagree with how he handles the data in different cases.

    Some in the Reformed world make a bigger deal out of this, especially by making accusations of “over-reliance” on historical contextual data and/or making “extra-scriptural sources normative as opposed to informative for reading Scripture.” To be frank, I have never found such charges useful. They typically boil down to leveling that accusation against readings divergent with one’s own but not leveling it against contextual readings of the Bible that support one’s own theology (e.g., Kline’s Hittite Suzerainty Covenant readings of Deuteronomy). Furthermore, I have yet to see anyone who brings that charge delineate precisely what constitutes “normative” (bad) versus “informative” (good) uses of extra-biblical data beyond the implicit criteria of whether or not the specific use produces a reading of the Bible that upholds the views of the person making the charge. Perhaps some have sketched what they mean with precision somewhere. In my time at Westminster during the Enns debacle, however, I could never get Lane Tipton, for example, to spell out what the “normative” versus “informative” jargon meant in any precise way such that a conversation could take place about how to use “extra-biblical data” in specific cases.

    Not sure if this helps – or what value my thoughts are anyway since I’m one of those wicked folk who denies inerrancy as it’s usually meant :)

  32. paigebritton said,

    April 8, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Hey, Stephen,
    Thanks for taking the time to write that! I value your thoughts for the spirit in which they’re offered and the care you take to articulate them. In the best of dialogues here (which don’t always happen), if we gain an accurate and sympathetic understanding of another person’s position we’ve gained a lot — even if we don’t end up persuading anybody one way or another.

    I appreciate knowing the titles of NTW’s books on Scripture: I’ve only been able to gather an incidental sense of how he views the inspired word (I think he retains that “in” word, doesn’t he? :) from his other writings. On the one hand, he is obviously in critical dialogue with “liberal” scholars who deny the resurrection; on the other, he seems to sit loose to the idea of verbal inspiration, let alone inerrancy.

    I’ve read A. T. B. McGowan’s The Divine Spiration of Scripture, in which he lays out his objection to the more North American term “inerrancy,” in favor of “infallibility.” That’s a particularly British objection, which maybe Wright shares (though Packer, interestingly, does not). Have you read McGowan’s arguments, and do they come close to your own thinking? I will have to revisit his main points to remind myself what they were, but I know they raised eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic. :)

    Re. the way NTW uses history — it’s a Sailhamerish thought (related to this post: https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/sailhamer%E2%80%99s-meaning-of-the-pentateuch-take-five/) regarding how knowledge of the historical background is helpful & often necessary to understand the text but does not control the interpretation of the text. I think what you are getting at above is that it’s difficult to impossible to lay out how one’s use of historical background is “informative” rather than “normative,” so that we can use the history in a way that (we think) is objectively “good” rather than “bad,” right? At least, nobody (inerrantist) has articulated how this works in a way that satisfies you.

    Yet I would just observe that if a scholar is self-consciously appealing primarily to outside sources for a controlling interpretive metanarrative, as Wright does with 1st century culture and 2nd Temple literature, he is doing something quite different from a scholar who self-consciously appeals exclusively to the OT and NT for the same (as Sailhamer, for example, does). We could perhaps boil their respective use of Scripture and history down to certain degrees or proportions, though these may change depending on the passage; but the point would be that these scholars each have knowingly embraced an approach to the text that reflects their respective valuation of God’s words and cultural/other-literary contexts. Make sense?

    Thanks for the interaction!
    pax,
    Paige B.

  33. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word.”

    Seriously, read this all at Play the Man: Would You Die for Doctrine?.

  34. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Paige and Reed and anyone else,

    Suppose you were on a pastoral search committee and in your advertising of the position, your committee neglected to say that affirming inerrancy was a requirement to be a pastor at your church.

    If you received candidates that you personally liked, but they rejected the inerrancy of Scripture, would you vote no on that candidate?

    Me? I would vote no. I would not want an errantist to be a shepherd for the church.

  35. April 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I highly recommend listening to Dr. Duncan’s lecture. I was sitting right in front of our intrepid reporter Rev. DePace and agree wholeheartedly with his words in this post.

  36. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Rubber hits the road.

    Should inerrancy be a requirement for a pastoral search committee? Why or why not?

  37. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    TUAD: No-brainer. Exceptions to WCoF 1.5 and 1.10 would cause serious heartburn at Presbytery.

  38. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Peter Enns, theistic evolutionist, says he affirms inerrancy. He does not affirm the historicity of Adam.

    If a pastoral candidate has the same theological views as Enns (a theistic evolutionist who does not affirm the historicity of Adam) yet also says that he affirms inerrancy, would you hire this pastoral candidate to be your church’s pastor?

  39. Rachel said,

    April 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    To my knowledge, theistic evolution has been deemed out of bounds within the PCA. I believe I have read that it even disqualifies one to teach Bible studies. Does that mean that there are no men in the PCA that hold to theistic evolution? I’d like to think so, but I’m not that naive.

  40. Cris Dickason said,

    April 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Re #38 – With Brother Cagle on this, it wouldn’t fly past our session, and it wouldn’t fly with Presbytery. Such a man would probably not get to the floor of Presbytery since the Candidates/Credentials committee would not pass one at the committee exam level.

    I don’t think we would deem a claim to hold to inerrancy consistent with denial of historicity of Adam. That’s a meaningless inerrancy. On this case, the truth of what inerrancy of Scripture means and requires us to divide from such a candidate.

  41. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    “That’s a meaningless inerrancy.”

    Heh. I like that.

    With regards to young (or old) evangelicals abandoning inerrancy, is it “cool” to embrace theistic evolution?

    Tim Keller embraces theistic evolution.

  42. paigebritton said,

    April 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Hey, TUAD,
    I would decide as you do, that an errantist would not be a suitable shepherd for the flock.

    Two things to think about:

    Those who are in positions of shepherding (pastors/elders & profs) or choosing/training shepherds must abide by the agreed-upon (biblical!) standards of the church/denomination/seminary, and for this reason must say a stern “No” to candidates and positions that completely contradict or threaten “the vitals of religion.” (I’m assuming that the elders/profs involved have the same convictions, and have set themselves as responsible before God to uphold them for the sake of those in their care.) There’s a responsibility in such a case to maintain fences.

    In dialogue outside such a setting, we may be both less stern towards a person, but equally sturdy in our convictions about the error of his position: here the goal is mutual understanding, if not apologetics.

    Still, it’s one thing to have such a conversation in private, and another to host it here, where we really don’t know which part of the flock is following along. Sometimes folks have chosen to shut down such conversation, and other times there’s been a congenial tone (on both sides of a divide) that allows for the advance of some mutual understanding. We’d like to promote that kind of tone, but we do want to take into account that some readers might become (more) confused.

  43. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Cris Dickason, #40: “I don’t think we would deem a claim to hold to inerrancy consistent with denial of historicity of Adam.”

    Curious: What other claims would there be that would be inconsistent with the doctrine of inerrancy?

    How about someone who supports WO/egalitarianism and still claims to be an inerrantist? Does that fly?

  44. Hermonta Godwin said,

    April 9, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Stephen (#22),
    What is an example of an accurate reading that was denied by the inerrancy hermeneutic?

  45. Reed Here said,

    April 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Stephen: finally now to your questions.

    I’m currently preaching through Romans. Humbled and blessed to be doing so.

    As to the way forward for us who differ over inerrancy, it sounds simple but I think examining the key presuppositions of each side is helpful. Secondary to that, I think examining the examples supporting these presuppositions are important.

    E.g., I sat under Pete Enns in the lat 90’s. I understood and appreciate his sincere attempt to handle the problems he saw with inerrancy. I’m not sure if it was my prior study on inerrancy or thinking about the “problem” texts, but for me he was tying to solve a non-problem.

    I think sympathetic listening and talking can go a long way to removing much of what supposedly separates one who holds to classic inerrancy and one who holds to some modern iteration that is in effect errancy. I suspect it will still come down to a key presupposition or two that makes the differences that we maintain. Yet I think that much of what causes debates among us can be removed.

  46. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    April 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    As a young believer, I attended the ‘Congress on the Bible II,’ in Washington DC, in Sept. of 1987, where, after a number of days of speakers, (as the program says) there was a “Passing of the ICBI Banner to Other Hands.” The ICBI produced a wealth of helpful essays, books, monographs on the authority of the “God-breathed” Word. I am so thankful for their work and have a shelf of books on the topic. I just looked at it, and the Ws alone are so valuable. John Wenham (his book, Christ and the Bible, is essential) , BB Warfield, Noel Weeks, James White…the list goes on.

    Time goes on, and the same doubts arise, and the old answers still hold true. I am now a member of an OPC presbytery that met and dialogued with WTS-Philadelphia a few years ago, where we expressed our concerns with Dr. Enns’ teaching, after some presbyters read the I & I book and were concerned (to put it mildly). There are no new heresies, they just recycle under new names, to a new generation that knows not the strength of the old answers.

    I am so glad to hear of the reconstitution of the ICBI. May our Lord use it to His glory, so that today’s doubters can see His Word as it is, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3.16) and “Truth” (John17.17), through His carefully chosen and guided prophets and apostles.

  47. Paul said,

    April 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Reed,

    First, I appreciate the irenic tone of your posts on this subject and willingness to discuss things with people, like me, who don’t claim to believe in inerrancy.

    I’m curious to know (if you have time to tell us) why you think Peter Enns thought inerrancy was a problem (because of ANE parallels or whatever) but you don’t. What makes him think differently about this from you?

    Also, when discussing presuppositions, it seems that the key question which (as far as I can tell) gets overlooked is “what exactly counts as an error?” and who gets to decide on the answer when two people don’t agree on whether some particular verse has an error in it or not. Suppose person A says that the four different accounts in the Gospels of Peter denying Christ are inconsistent and therefore must have errors while person B doesn’t agree: who decides which is right and on what basis? It’s all very well for confessional Presbyterians to say that the WCF decides or the GA decides but is there anything you can say to those of us who are unconfessional non-Presbyterians about how precisely one can decide what is or is not an error?

    I can’t speak for YE’s in general but for myself, the reason I don’t call myself an inerrantist is Richard’s “death of a thousand qualifications” problem. Once one makes the thousand qualifications, one has basically made the word meaningless but worse, one is now using the word inerrancy to mean something quite different from what the ordinary pew-sitter thinks it means and to me, that’s disingenuous.

    BTW, this is my first post at GB but I’ve been reading Lane’s blog for three years or so. I’m writing now because this subject happens to be very interesting to me and, as I said, I appreciate your tone in your posts. Also, just so you know, I’m in no sense of the word a Calvinist so quoting Reformed theologians as authorities isn’t going to be a good answer to my questions from my perspective of what counts as a “good answer”.

  48. Cris Dickason said,

    April 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    #43 TUAD

    Curious: What other claims would there be that would be inconsistent with the doctrine of inerrancy?

    It’s pretty hard to abstractly draw up a list like that.* It isn’t so cut & dry as to create checklists. All that does is create atmospheres or situations where people give or imply consent to inerrancy verbally and engage in mental reservations. We’re obviously thinking in the realm of qualifications/disqualifications for office in Church. That’s why Presbyterians have candidates committees and public exams.

    *On the other hand, aren’t the ecumenical creeds and reformed confessions a “list” of things that ARE consistent with inerrancy?

    How about someone who supports WO/egalitarianism and still claims to be an inerrantist? Does that fly?
    At minimum that is an error of exegesis and interpretation. The baldly stated conclusion can give no clues to how it was reached. It’s possible that one could think that Scripture is inerrant and yet decide Scripture also allows women’s ordination (that’s what “WO” means, right?). I’m not sure how that could occur, I don’t think that way, so I can’t spell out all the details.

    In terms of my confessional commitment and my Church (OPC) I would wish or want someone who is convinced of both inerrancy of Scripture and women’s ordination to seek ordination and office somewhere other than the OPC. Not sure I would vote in favor of such a candidate. I don’t believe it proper to let a person hold to an error and supposedly keep it to himself and thus be allowed to be ordained. I’m also realistic and wouldn’t be surprised if such a person would pursue office in the OPC in order to force the WO issue.

    -=Cris=-

  49. paigebritton said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Cris –
    You wrote, It’s possible that one could think that Scripture is inerrant and yet decide Scripture also allows women’s ordination…I’m not sure how that could occur, I don’t think that way, so I can’t spell out all the details.

    I think it’s an error at the level of hermeneutics, where a judgment call is made about what is and isn’t “culturally bound” in the text. So people who share a high regard for Scripture can nevertheless differ (and err) with regard to interpretation.

  50. paigebritton said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Paul wrote:
    “I can’t speak for YE’s in general but for myself, the reason I don’t call myself an inerrantist is Richard’s “death of a thousand qualifications” problem. Once one makes the thousand qualifications, one has basically made the word meaningless but worse, one is now using the word inerrancy to mean something quite different from what the ordinary pew-sitter thinks it means and to me, that’s disingenuous.”

    I’ve read the “death of a thousand qualifications” complaint about CSBI from Andrew McGowan, too. But this seems to me to be an overreaction to the detailed nature of the Statement. Isn’t every confession going to be in part motivated (necessitated!) by polemics? So the more errors there are out there, the more exact one has to be about how one’s position does and does not line up with what other people are saying.

    Most of the “affirmations and denials” of the Statement involve a dis-identification (for lack of a better term!) with formally recognizable positions on Scripture (e.g., neo-orthodoxy, higher criticism), or with generalized trends that don’t fall under the auspices of any particular “school” (as with the “errantist” position, which may be held more or less formally by many different interpreters). These “qualifications” seem warranted, given the need to distinguish one stream of thought from so many others.

    One pair in that section goes into more detail, and may feel like a laundry list:

    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.

    Now, on one read this bit could sound like overkill; but on the other hand it addresses the accusation of biblicism with an acknowledgment of the critical considerations responsible readers ought to keep in mind. (And yet along with these considerations goes the overarching confession that the Bible is primarily God’s project, not primarily a “messy” human project!)

    Re. the “ordinary pew-sitter,” there’s always the possibility of education. That’s the pastor’s job! The CSBI is a tool for this (though as I mentioned above, it’s not hugely accessible to many ordinary readers — hence my attempt to translate it to simpler language with explanations about the embedded allusions).

    Like I said, the more errors being taught, the more necessity for “qualifications” if you’re going to put together a confessional statement. I’m grateful for the precision and the sweeping address of errors. (And, come on, did you guys really count a THOUSAND qualifications? :)

    pax,
    Paige B.

  51. paigebritton said,

    April 12, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Paul:

    Not to answer for Reed, here, but you asked what the difference was between Enns’ and Reed’s views on in/errancy. My guess is that it has something to do with, to use Enns’ own words, what they believe the Bible IS. While Enns leans heavily to the side of “messy human project” (though God is in the background somehow), inerrantists start with the confession that the Bible is primarily God’s project of verbal revelation in written form.

    So because of his starting point, Enns is comfortable spotting errors and doing comparative literature studies with ANE & 2nd Temple sources; while inerrantists prioritize Scripture’s attestations about itself, and keep those contemporary sources in the background. (It’s a foreground/background issue again! As per our N. T. Wright discussion — Doug Moo says Wright “foregrounds the background and backgrounds the foreground.”)

    pb

  52. Richard said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Hi Cris,

    Paige is quite right, one could quite easily hold to an inerrant Bible and affirm women’s ordination and theistic evolution (I know some who do). The issue is hermeneutical. My fear is that conservative evangelicals wish to defend their views (an hermeneutic issue) by using inerrancy (a textual/pre-hermeneutical issue). I would affirm as strongly as any inerrantist that the Bible is authoritative and trustworthy in all that it teaches but I down play the word “inerrancy” because in my context it is unhelpful, mention that word and you’ve lost the argument before you start. Let’s take an easy example; when Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” that is not wrong, it is true. But how we interpret it will depend upon your millennial view…a pre and amillennialist will see it as true for ALL time, whilst a post-mill will see it as true THEN and true NOW insofar as it goes, but in the future it will not because in the future during the ‘golden age’ the situation will be different. IMO then, the hermeneutical issue is far more important and where the focus should be placed.

  53. Stephen said,

    April 12, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Howdy again. To chime in with Cris (48), Paige (49), and Richard (52)…I think they articulate a helpful view in answer to TUAD’s questions. In the mid 80s Westminster’s faculty published a collection of essays (Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, a Challenge, a Debate) that, overall, made precisely these kinds of points about inerrancy in relation to hermeneutics and in-house evangelical theological debates. I highly recommend that book.

    IMO, as a whole it remains one of the most sophisticated and nuanced treatments of inerrancy available when it come to some of the questions and discussions about inerrancy in the contemporary Reformed and/or evangelical world. Tying in with the list of works Paige and others started above, this book would be a good addition.

    Paige and Reed (and others), I will try to interact with some of your comments to me later in the day. Thanks for your patience!

  54. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    TUAD, (RE: 38)

    If a pastoral candidate has the same theological views as Enns (a theistic evolutionist who does not affirm the historicity of Adam) yet also says that he affirms inerrancy, would you hire this pastoral candidate to be your church’s pastor?

    I think this is the important distinction here – where one stands with respect of the historicity of Adam, and more specifically how they take Gen. 2-3: myth or legend? or real (even if obscure) human history? Where Enns goes wrong, and where other OT conservatives who either embrace theistic evolution or aren’t hostile toward the concept don’t is that these (e.g. Waltke, Walton, or even Warfield) is that they insist on the historicity of Adam.

  55. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I don’t buy the argument that Inerrancy dies the death of a thousand qualifications either.

    Have you ever heard this criticism: “That critique isn’t nuanced enough! It lacks the necessary qualifications! It’s too broad-brushed!”

    I think the original Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was just fine given the time frame that the authors had to craft it.

  56. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    My fallible opinion:

    Hold to Women’s Ordination and egalitarianism… Can’t Hold onto Inerrancy.

    Hold to Theistic Evolution (particularly the denial of Adam’s Historicity) … Can’t Hold onto Inerrancy.

    Reject the historical fact-narrative of Jonah… Can’t Hold onto Inerrancy.

    That being said, ICBI did publish an article on hermeneutics and interpretation to be used in conjunction with its paper on inerrancy.

  57. Cris Dickason said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    To PB (49), Richard (52) and Stephen (53).

    Yes, I realize it’s an error at hermeneutical level; and I realize there are some who think you can hold to both Inerrancy and Women’s Ordination. There’s error at work there in those that think to hold to those two together. What I meant was, I’m not going to spell out the details off top of my head, because it’s it’s not my position or thought process.

    So Stephen, you think highly of the Inerrancy & Hermeneutics volume? I’ve not read all of it in detail. It was the attempt of WTS of the 80’s to match the WTS of the 40’s The Infallible Word. I don’t think the 80’s symposium came very close to the earlier one. In fact, I think there are weaknesses evident in the 80’s that paved the way for Enns. I ignored WTS for a while beginning in mid-80’s – shortly after completing my M.Div. Variety of reasons, none really relevant to this, except that I wasn’t snapping up all the “WTS” books for a few years there. These days, I have presbyterial contact with (and respect for) a number of the younger faculty as well as those still around from late 1970s. I came back into the OPC right when the Enns thing erupted publicly (what a welcome).

  58. Richard said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    TUAD, regarding #56 – those are all hermeneutical questions. The CSBI states that “the text of Scripture is to be interpreted…taking account of its literary forms and devices” (XVIII) and so it is perfectly acceptable to say that Jonah is not ‘historical’ if the genre of literature it is allows us to. The commentary states, “in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production…God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman’s milieu…history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth.” Hence the question of the historicity of Jonah and Adam is a hermeneutical question, not one answered by whether the scriptures are inerrant.

  59. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Richard: “Hence the question of the historicity of Jonah and Adam is a hermeneutical question, not one answered by whether the scriptures are inerrant.”

    I call your bet and raise all-in.

    The historicity of Jesus’ resurrection – a hermeneutical question, yes? Not one answered by whether the Scriptures are inerrant, yes?

    So then someone could actually and really claim to be an inerrantist while denying the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Why not?

  60. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Rachel, (RE: #39)

    To my knowledge, theistic evolution has been deemed out of bounds within the PCA. I believe I have read that it even disqualifies one to teach Bible studies. Does that mean that there are no men in the PCA that hold to theistic evolution? I’d like to think so, but I’m not that naive.

    Are you sure about this? Is there any precedent for this? Is it the preference of certain sessions and presbyteries, or is it something coming out of the GA?
    Waltke wasn’t even fired from RTS over his stance on theistic evolution (TE) which he has held at least since his publication of his OT Theology (2007). He was fired for saying (paraphrased) that Christians deny the fact of evolution to their own peril, and that they ran the risk of becoming truth deniers. RTS had to be aware of his position during his tenure at the seminary, so if TE is so out of bounds, why didn’t this become an issue much earlier?

    We should be having a better discussion over this before deciding who is in and who is out of confessional bounds with respect to the evolution issue. Waltke’s words were a bit strong, but outside the issue he has represented the theistic evolution position with academic and spiritual integrity. He isn’t an Adam denier like Enns, therefore his Federal Theology is intact. Arguably, far more is at stake with Adam Christology than the length of creation days or how the beginning of Genesis is to be understood in light of science and ANE evidence. This isn’t to say that the evolution issue shouldn’t be dealt with, but in the hierarchy of issues you do loose more theologically speaking if you deny the existence of a real historical Adam.

    Since I am not a scientist, I haven’t taken a firm stance on the issue, but have followed this debate since I was a little kid reading my dad’s Acts & Facts from ICR. I would consider evolution to be an issue under the umbrella of inerrancy that deserves irenic discussion simply because it is a massive issue that determines how we read the beginning of our bibles, not to mention it’s rallying cry (for both sides) in the present culture wars.

  61. Richard said,

    April 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    TUAD, I think that regardless of one’s view of inerrancy, one would have to agree with Jesus’ historicity because of the nature of what the Gospel is as a work of literature so Luke states explicitly, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

  62. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Richard,

    You cite Luke.

    Luke cites Jesus.

    Jesus cites Jonah.

    “29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.”

    Did the folks listening to Jesus believe that Jesus was referring to Jonah as historical fact-narrative?

  63. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    TUAD, (RE: 56)

    I think we are in agreement on the historicity of Adam issue, but

    How do you square this:

    Hold to Theistic Evolution (particularly the denial of Adam’s Historicity) … Can’t Hold onto Inerrancy.

    With this:

    I label my own position as ‘evangelical’ for lack of a better term. I accept the inerrancy of Scripture as to its Source and its infallibility as to its authority. My spiritual conviction is intellectually defensible. The finite mind is incapable of coming to the truth and moreover it is depraved…But I do not dare to understand how or what this revelation means before coming to it on its own terms. I must allow the Bible to dictate how it seeks to reveal God’s truth (Waltke, An Old Testament Theology)

    The fact is that most current scholars agree at the very least on this, Gen 1-2 isn’t talking about scientific issues of creation (YEC, OEC, TE or any other view). How does one’s scientific views, whatever they may be (assuming orthodoxy in all other confessional areas) really do any damage to inerrancy?

  64. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    TUAD,

    With respect to the Jonah issue The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary ed. by John Walton (and the Jonah portion is written by Walton) asserts that Jonah is a satire in the same literary vein as other similar ANE texts. He doesn’t deny the possibility of an historical narrative, but he does argue for a literary as opposed to a literal reality. Why is this a problem? Walton is firmly an inerrantist, and he even says that where the (ANE/Archaeological) evidence points against scripture we are bound to believe Scripture. He also said the evidence changes drastically over time, and that when all the facts are gathered he is confident that the historicity of Scripture would be vindicated. I had him for several classes over ten years ago while he was still at Moody. Painting him as an errantist, or a misguided inerrantist would be a serious mischaracterization.

    Jesus uses autoritative fiction in his parables, which isn’t too far from a parabolic Jonah. Jesus could be referencing a fictional (but authoritative) Jonah, and saying that what Jonah did in a story, He would do in actuality.

    I think the point here is that some of the OT issues with respect to inerrancy are far more complex, since we don’t have the MSS attestation that the NT does, the literary conventions are very different, and the notions of authorship are more difficult to pin down. At the end of the day I think inerrancy is the correct position to hold, but it isn’t one without obstacles to overcome.

  65. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    “John Walton (and the Jonah portion is written by Walton) asserts that Jonah is a satire in the same literary vein as other similar ANE texts.”

    Jed, did the folks listening to Jesus believe that Jesus was referring to Jonah as historical fact-narrative or as literary satire?

  66. Richard said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    TUAD, re # 62 – there is no doubt that Luke’s account of Jesus’ speech you cite actually took place. We now need to interpret this (hermeneutics) account. Did Jesus actually believe the events in Jonah were historical? Perhaps but it can read just as well if we assume he knew, and his audience knew, that it didn’t…like using one of Aesop’s fables, we know they are fictional but they contain ‘truths’…or perhaps using the film Shutter Island to illustrate a point, e.g. it may be doing no more than using a shared cultural literary work as a ‘sermon illustration’. Further, I am also wary of saying that our knowledge should be determined by the epistemological framework of the 1 C. E. any more than we should let the cosmogony of Ancient Israel determine how I view the world. For the record I have no problem with an historical Adam and Jonah, all I am trying to convey is that the issue is more complex than some think and there are no easy answers.

  67. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    TUAD,

    Jed, did the folks listening to Jesus believe that Jesus was referring to Jonah as historical fact-narrative or as literary satire?

    Can you answer that question definitively? And does it matter what the audience thought of Jonah’s literary status (history v. fiction)? Does it change the point that Jesus was making in any demonstrable way? The fact is, that whatever the composition of Jonah was, the audience got the point. Jesus’ citation doesn’t prove or disprove anything. The merits of a position need to be based on evidence closer to the text (of Jonah) and the text itself. The problem is that we as conservatives been taught to believe that authorship, and historicity in the OT is a straightforward proposition, when it’s anything but. As anyone who has spent any serious time in the OT and they’ll tell you the same.

    Jesus’ fictional parables meet the criteria of being inerrant, why wouldn’t Jonah? Is it any less authoritative if it is a story, along the lines of Jesus’ parables?

    Would it be OK to say that your stingy friend is “as miserly as Scrooge”, or would you object since Scrooge was a fictional character?

    BTW – I am not saying that I hold to a fictional Jonah, all I am arguing is that those who do hold to it need to be examined based on their assumptions about the nature of Scripture, not on how they work out diffucult issues of authorship, history, and genre.

  68. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Jed: just a question about the fictional Jonah, which I understand is not your position.

    If Jonah’s three days in the fish was an allegory, then what would that make Jesus’ three days in the tomb?

  69. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    FWIW, if I was on a Pastoral Search Committee, I would not vote to hire someone who denied that Jonah was historical fact-narrative, and who said instead that Jonah was literary satire.

    Why not be an inerrantist who denies the historicity of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes too?

  70. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Richard: “Did Jesus actually believe the events in Jonah were historical? Perhaps but it can read just as well if we assume he knew, and his audience knew, that it didn’t…”

    Richard,

    All the Early Church Fathers believed that Jonah was historical fact-narrative. It’s highly, highly probable that the audience listening to Jesus speak about Jonah did too.

  71. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Jed: “And does it matter what the audience thought of Jonah’s literary status (history v. fiction)?”

    Yes.

    Didactically, it makes a *HUGE* difference whether something is grounded historically or not grounded historically.

    Biblical Christianity is a historically-grounded religion.

    Taking away the historicity of fact-narratives by arguing that it’s a literary tale does significant violence to the text of God’s Word.

    No thanks.

  72. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure I’d call Jonah’s three days in the fish allegory in the proper sense even. The issue is whether Jonah was fictional satire or historical narrative. If historical narrative, it is odd on several accounts, including it’s canonical placement. However, if the ANE satire is the genre, then it wouldn’t be out of place in the Prophets, where all kinds of literary devices are used to communicate God’s word – very little of the lit in the prophets was historical narrative at all. If we were to literalize fictional satire, then we might assume all Democrats are donkeys, and all Republicans are elephants. But we don’t do this because we understand what the images in the satire represent – they point to reality even if they are symbolic in nature.

    Jesus was making a canonical comparrison, and if Jonah was fiction, it doesn’t nullify Jesus’ comparrison. Where the truths surrounding the story of Jonah are embedded in a fictional story, the truth of Christ’s resurrection is borne out in historical fact. He would die, and literally raise again, where Jonah (according to some) is a fictional account which includes a man who is swallowed by a fish only to emerge 3 days later. We also have external historical attestation outside of the synoptic gospels (all over the NT) that confirm no less than Christ’s resurrection. As far as I understand, there isn’t much of any historical attestation to the Jonah narrative, and there is no textual references that make it real.

    To put it simply, we don’t call conferences to verify the historicity of Jonah and the ordeal with the fish, or the happenings in Ninevah. But we sure as heck do when we come across those who deny the historical claims of the gospels, especially when the resurrection is called into question. Genre issues are really tough to deal with, but arguing a certain form of genre that hasn’t been contemplated yet (usually due to a lack of evidence) doesn’t make a text any less inerrant, or the scholar any less orthodox. It simply can be a new standpoint to consider. I’ll admit that isn’t always easy, and there are plenty of slippery slopes to avoid here.

  73. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    “there are plenty of slippery slopes to avoid here.”

    Exactly, Jed. That’s why I wouldn’t vote to hire a pastor who denied the historicity of Jonah or Adam or who advocated for woman elders while claiming all the time to be an inerrantist.

    Who needs a pastor who’s already slid down the slippery slope and will teach others to join him?

  74. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Paul, no. 47: some partial responses to your queries (sorry, I’m short on time);

    In general I think Enns has bought the presupposition that modern scholarship has proven that ANE sources play a determinative role in the formation of the OT. I would maintain that ANE sources, while playing an informative role, do not have a determinative role.

    I think the difference here in opinion is key for why I would reach differing conclusions than Dr. Enns does on a number of specific questions. If you’re interested in exploring our thoughts here on Enns’ and his book, please look in our archives for any post in which his name appears (simply type “Enns” in the search bar above to the left.)

  75. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Paul, no. 47: additional response to your queries;

    I would agree with you that a key question to answer is to determine exactly what constitutes an error. It may be surprising to some YE errantists, but my understanding of inerrancy is comfortable with some of the criticism leveled in this regard against what passes (at least in my mind) as a rather wooden literalistic understanding of error. I learned my hermeneutics first at the feet of Dispensationalism.

    I’ve spent a bit of time thinking through the kinds of errors to the definition of “error” that comes from that kind of approach. I do agree that some of that approach is found in some reformed expressions. (I’m generalizing my experience in the past. Please don’t ask for specific examples, as I ‘be none fresh at hand :-)).

  76. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Paul, no. 47: additional response to your queries;

    I appreciate the thousand death criticism. No disrespect when I observe that I sincerely don’t think that is accurate. Any doctrinal position rests on the quality of its qualifications. The more consistent they are with Scripture’s own statements, the more confidence we can have.

    Yes, inerrancy has a number of qualifications attached to it. But so does the opposite errancy position. It has similar qualifications, simply moving in the opposite direction. From my perspective, these are the fatal thousand cuts, and one of the reasons why I simply can’t accept an errancy position. Any doctrinal position that is qualified away from the plain in Scripture is problematic in the first place.

  77. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Paul, no. 47: additional response to your queries;

    Hopefully my responses haven’t been laden with reformed jargon, insider’s language. ;-) Appreciate the interaction.

  78. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Stephen, no. 53: no problem, as you have time.

  79. Reed Here said,

    April 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Jed,a host of posts:

    I appreciate you’re nuancing of how Jonah could be ANE satire, non-historical, and still be used by Jesus. I disagree with you completely :-), but that is not why I’m commenting now.

    I think it helpful to use your arguments for the (possible) non-historicity of Jonah as an example of my response to Paul and the fallaciousness of the “thousand cuts” argument. Your argument is a textbook example of an argument that rests on qualifications.

    It would be simply wrong to dismiss your argument by saying it is qualified to death. Similarly, it is fallacious to dismiss inerrancy because of its qualifications. The correct procedure in both cases is to examine the qualifications and determine if they are valid.

  80. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    TUAD,

    Didactically, it makes a *HUGE* difference whether something is grounded historically or not grounded historically.

    Backed up with what sort of evidence!? Were Jesus’ parables didactically deficient since they were not historical occurrences? I think you are making a real stretch here. How do we deal with the Psalms, or Proverbs, or prophetic oracles that present history in ways that aren’t exactly “grounded”. You are creating a false dilemma here. It makes a *HUGER-ER* difference when we take a text on it’s own terms, based on the best internal and external evidence we have available.

    In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jonah is history or fiction. If it is history it is inerrant history, and if fiction, it is inerrant fiction, both able to function as part of our rule of faith, useful for teaching, rebuking, and exhorting the faithful. Arguments to the contrary, deeming only the *truly historical* accounts in scripture to have any didactic value would be disastrous.

    I don’t get the sense that you have really dug in and considered the evidence and relevant material here. Have you given any thought to the most basic issues that cognate literature to the OT implies for OT interpretation? Correct me if I am wrong, because there is a lot more to discuss if you have. But if you haven’t it’ll be hard to get anywhere since you haven’t investigated how a conservative and godly scholar (in John Walton’s case) makes his case for the interpretations he proposes. If you haven’t read up on some of the relevant OT issues, I’d be happy to give some recommendations. The OT has and will always be my first love in terms of my theological interests, and I’m happy to make reccomendations. If you are near a library or have a friend who owns ZIBBCOT, check out Walton’s arguments and make up your mind from there.

  81. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Jed, one more question and I’m done.

    As a Confessionalist, what do you make of the method of using ANE sources as the hermeneutical key to understanding Jonah?

  82. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jonah is history or fiction.”

    Jed, how would you respond if some theological liberal changed just one word in your remark above and then advanced the following claim:

    “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jesus is history or fiction.”

  83. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    “But if you haven’t it’ll be hard to get anywhere since you haven’t investigated how a conservative and godly scholar (in John Walton’s case) makes his case for the interpretations he proposes.”

    Thwwwwwpppt.

    I’ll put up all the Early Church Fathers’ understanding and interpretation of Jonah against conservative and godly scholar John Walton’s understanding and interpretation of Jonah.

  84. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    TUAD,

    Exactly, Jed. That’s why I wouldn’t vote to hire a pastor who denied the historicity of Jonah or Adam or who advocated for woman elders while claiming all the time to be an inerrantist.

    One-size fits all approaches don’t do much good here, at some point arguing “slippery slope” becomes a fallacy, because it doesn’t properly allow for important distinctions and qualifications to be made. One of the best examples is Greg Beale’s argument for why he doesn’t take Revelation literally (in the Dispy sense). He argues to the effect that the first verses of Revelation literally indicate that the book is metaphorical in nature, therefore he doesn’t take the book ‘literally’ but metaphorically according to the prophetic/apocalyptic imagery in the body of the book.

    The difference between a historical and fictional of Jonah comes down to a decision on genre, with negligible theological consequence. The difference between a historical versus a mythological Adam is a fundamental pillar of Orthodoxy – namely the Adam Christology revealed in Romans 5 and elsewhere. The former is a matter of interpretation, the latter a matter of orthodoxy. Calling for a slippery slope in the Jonah case is to assume that the pastor, and the congregants aren’t able to understand distinctions and nuances in theological arguments. We have to draw analogous distinctions all the time when facing issues of praying to a sovereign God, understanding the nature and limits of human freedom and more.

  85. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jonah is history or fiction.”

    Jed, how would you respond if some theological liberal changed just one word in your remark above and then advanced the following claim:

    “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Adam is history or fiction.”

  86. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    TUAD,

    “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jesus is history or fiction.”

    I’d love to continue this one, but I have a few things I have to take care of tonight and tomorrow. If you want a more detailed response, it’ll have to wait until thursday.

    Briefly however, I’d demonstrate that such a position assumes a errant, and liberal at worst, neo-orthotox at a little less than worst. Then I’d point to the fact that such a position isn’t defensible canonically (cf. 1 Cor 15), and begin to attack his (likely) neo-kantian categories that are running roughshot over scripture. It’s all about distinctions dude!

  87. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    *should errant view of Scripture

  88. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    “The difference between a historical and fictional of Jonah comes down to a decision on genre, with negligible theological consequence.”

    Negligible?

    Suppose God wrote/inspired an account that He intended to be understood as historical fact-narrative.

    And God sees that there are teachers who teach others that this particular account is *NOT* to be understood as historical fact-narrative.

    Jed, does God regard this wrongful handling of His Word as being of “negligible” import?

  89. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Reed, (Re: 79)

    Thanks, for the feedback. A fictional satirical Jonah isn’t my position as of now. All I am arguing is that inerrancy as a doctrine should allow for a wide variety of interpretations that can be justified textually and confessionally. This means that old earth, theistic evolutionists, local flooders, fictional Jonah and Job proponents need to be part of the inerrancy discussion, so we can formulate an inerrancy statement that has the breadth to last longer than one generation. That doesn’t mean all conversants will be included at the inerrant table, but it does mean we will carefully and thoughtfully draw distinctions. Anyway, thanks for opening up this discussions, it is one of the pressing issues the Church faces today, and something that needs discussion on multiple levels – even the wild wild west that we call the blogosphere.

  90. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    “It’s all about distinctions dude!”

    Agreed. I have made the distinction that Walton, Waltke, and Enns have erred significantly in their various ways in their teaching.

  91. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Jed, #89: “All I am arguing is that inerrancy as a doctrine should allow for a wide variety of interpretations that can be justified textually and confessionally. This means that old earth, theistic evolutionists, local flooders, fictional Jonah and Job proponents need to be part of the inerrancy discussion, so we can formulate an inerrancy statement that has the breadth to last longer than one generation.”

    versus

    Cris Dickason, #40: “I don’t think we would deem a claim to hold to inerrancy consistent with denial of historicity of Adam. That’s a meaningless inerrancy.”

    How “wide” a “variety of interpretations” before we have “meaningless inerrancy”?

  92. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    TUAD,

    I need proof, not rhetoric here. Unless you can present it, you won’t convince me, you’ll only score points with your own cronies. The fact is that there are truths in Scripture that aren’t all historical. Determining genre is something that troubles even the ablest of scholars. And you have just solved the issue on a blog? Sheesh.

    Suppose God wrote/inspired an account that He intended to be understood as historical fact-narrative.

    Unless you have consulted Him directly on the mode and nature of inspiration of the Jonah narratives, you are sounding a lot QIRC-y here. What if he did just the opposite? The fact is the NT references to Jonah do not require him to be historical. That is, unless you who aren’t a Hebrew scholar want to put that to rest right here. Friendly jabs aside, from a canonical perspective, determining the genre of Jonah (or historicity) doesn’t seem to be the concern of Jesus, as I read Matthew 12 & 16 (or other synoptic accounts). There doesn’t seem to be any canonical way to put that issue to rest. This is different than Adam, or the Exodus, or messianic prophecies, where the cannon indicates how we should read these (as historical realities).

  93. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    TUAD,

    RE 90, Given your responses here, I doubt you have even read Walton, Waltke, or Enns. BTW I do believe Enns is outside the pale of inerrancy because he doesn’t pick up on the intra-canonical distinctions made throughout the NT that call for a historical Adam.

    Familiarize yourself with the arguments before you start making accusations.

  94. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Determining genre is something that troubles even the ablest of scholars.

    Determining that the genre of the Book of Jonah is historical fact-narrative did not trouble any of the Early Church Fathers.

  95. jedpaschall said,

    April 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Who had little if any access to any relevant ANE literature at the time. Besides, it’s a double edged sword using the ECF’s because we depart with them on many issues. Once again, ECF’s prove nothing, unless you want to inbed them in a credible argument. OT studies in the modern era, even among conservatives don’t use ECF’s as an authoritative source given the fact that most of them used highly allegorical arguments. Their theology is better than their exegesis for the most part, and that is the domain of HT, not OT studies.

  96. Stuart said,

    April 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Sorry to jump in with a comment so late in this conversation, but . . .

    I can see how one might read Matthew’s account from a fictional Jonah framework, but not Luke’s.

    Luke’s Gospel is similar to Matthew’s until vs. 32 of chapter 11 . . . “The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah.”

    If Jesus was simply referring to a fictional story to make a point, why would he throw the condemnation of a literal generation at a literal judgment by fictional Ninevites?

    I can only think of a few solutions to this:

    1) We don’t take any of it literally (including the judgment).

    2) We take the judgment of “this generation” in a literal manner, but the rest of the verse is to be understood in some other non-literal way.

    3) We understand “the proclamation of Jonah” as something that actually happened to the Ninevites but not in the manner expressed in the Book of Jonah.

    4) We take Jonah as a historic prophet who really preached to Nineveh, but the Book of Jonah is an exaggerated story about that event.

    5) We take the account found in the Book of Jonah as historical.

    These options (unless I’ve missed one) seem to be the only options on the table when reading Luke 11:32. So which option does the most justice to what Jesus says according to Luke?

  97. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    “OT studies in the modern era, even among conservatives don’t use ECF’s as an authoritative source given the fact that most of them used highly allegorical arguments.”

    All the more reason that the ECF’s had it right when they held the Book of Jonah to be historical fact-narrative.

  98. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Jed: “Determining genre is something that troubles even the ablest of scholars.”

    Me: “Determining that the genre of the Book of Jonah is historical fact-narrative did not trouble any of the Early Church Fathers.”

    Jed: “Who had little if any access to any relevant ANE literature at the time.”

    Oh, is that so?

    So without the “relevant” ANE literature available to them, the ECF’s (and anyone else who did not have “access” to the “relevant” ANE literature) could not have understood that the Book of Jonah was actually written and intended to be literary satire?

    So Jed, when did “relevant” ANE literature become available and widely accessible so that folks could understand the Book of Jonah as truly being a genre of literary satire?

  99. paigebritton said,

    April 13, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Stuart (#96) wrote,

    If Jesus was simply referring to a fictional story to make a point, why would he throw the condemnation of a literal generation at a literal judgment by fictional Ninevites?

    A good reminder that the scope of the Jonah narrative is bigger than just Jonah and the fish! We might get so swallowed up in the piscatory part that we forget there were international repercussions to the events.

  100. paigebritton said,

    April 13, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Just a general comment:

    Faith demands that we navigate a careful course between the Scylla of incredulity and the Charybdis of credulity.

    It would be wrong to so elevate textual criticism that it overrides the actual words of Scripture, but it would also be irresponsible to neglect any kind of textual criticism (such as genre identification) at all.

    In my previous (non-denom, general evangelical, fairly premill) church I got me in some hot water by gently suggesting to a sister that the prayer part of the book of Jonah was an example of figurative literature, so I was pretty sure it didn’t mean that the fish literally took Jonah on a trip to the ocean floor. (How would he know if it had, anyway? No portholes. :)

  101. Cris Dickason said,

    April 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

    >> 99 the piscatory part>

    Love that! The piscatory part can preclude perceiving the prophetic proclamation.

  102. jedpaschall said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Stuart (RE 96)

    I think you make excellent points here. I hope I haven’t communicated that a satirical/fictional Jonah is my view, because it isn’t. The reasons I have come to this are a bit different than your canonical argument, but you raise a difficult objection here. The main point that I held is that one can hold that Jonah is fictional and still be a faithful inerrantist. The main reason is because we believe the text is inerrent, not our interpretations of that text.

    To me, the fact that Jonah resembles the ANE genre doesn’t preclude the historicity of Jonah. It is likely that the account is stylized as a satire, but refers to an actual account. I don’t see (at this point) enough evidence to the contrary for me to hold to Walton’s position here. IMO his strengths are always in interpreting texts in their historical and cultural environments, and a lot of times he gets it right, but sometimes he doesn’t employ our maxim ‘scripture interprets scripture’ very well, and this could be an example. But the NT’s use of the OT is difficult by any account, he’s not the first nor will he be the last to fall short on this side of biblical interpretation.

  103. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Jed, in the midst of being piled on (in love, of course…), I don’t know whether you saw #81?

  104. jedpaschall said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

    TUAD, (RE 98)

    I get it now, lets just scrap the whole process of modern hermenutics and allow the ECF’s to control biblical interpretation. We no longer need to “rightly divide the word of truth” since that was done millenia ago. Great idea, we don’t even need to consult the Reformers, because what do they know. Heck, why even call for a reiteration of ICBI, since all we need to know about our bibles were solved by the ECF’s. We don’t even need to answer those who argue vociferously against inerrancy. Sheesh.

    I have little issue with you disagreeing with the points I bring up. But I do take issue with your inability to deal with the points on their own terms. I seriously doubt that in Reformed biblical scholarship that the ECF’s are used as anything more than incidental citations. The fact is, exegesis calls for a grammatical/historical paradigm (among other implements), which means we take the historical data around the world of the text we are interpreting seriously. In many respects our biblical interpretation has improved with time as our understanding has grown through the contributions of past interpreters.

    With that said, unless you have anything substantial to say about the issue at hand, and unless you can stop falling back to dubious retorts, interaction with you will be meaningless.

  105. jedpaschall said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Jeff,

    No, I didn’t see that one. Thanks for pointing that out, I think that is a very, very important question. Unfortunately I have to head out for a few pressing appointments today, and I likely wont be able to answer today. If you can hold on until tomorrow I should have an answer for you.

  106. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

    “The main point that I held is that one can hold that Jonah is fictional and still be a faithful inerrantist.”

    Besides #81, here’s #91:

    “How “wide” a “variety of interpretations” before we have “meaningless inerrancy”?”

    —-

    And building upon #81, they key word is the word “key”. Which #98 builds upon:

    “So without the “relevant” ANE literature available to them, the ECF’s (and anyone else who did not have “access” to the “relevant” ANE literature) could not have understood that the Book of Jonah was actually written and intended to be literary satire?

    So Jed, when did “relevant” ANE literature become available and widely accessible so that folks could understand the Book of Jonah as truly being a genre of literary satire?”

  107. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

    “I get it now, lets just scrap the whole process of modern hermenutics and allow the ECF’s to control biblical interpretation.”

    You got nothing, Jed. Except that you got it wrong. I never said to scrap the whole process of “modern” hermeneutics.

    This is a bad mischaracterization on your part.

  108. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Jed: “Determining genre is something that troubles even the ablest of scholars.”

    Me: “Determining that the genre of the Book of Jonah is historical fact-narrative did not trouble any of the Early Church Fathers.”

    Jed: “Who had little if any access to any relevant ANE literature at the time.”

    Q: Are there any other historical fact-narratives besides the Book of Jonah that are now deemed as didactic fiction by “modern” scholars who have access to the “relevant” ANE literature for use in “modern” hermeneutics [as compared to the folks who did not have access to the “relevant” ANE literature]?

    How about the parting of the Red Sea? Is that still historical fact-narrative? Or has “modern” hermeneutics with its “accessibility” to “relevant” ANE literature told us that it’s didactic fiction?

    Jed previously wrote: “In the end, there is no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation if Jonah is history or fiction.”

    Let us ask in the same vein as Jed’s claim: In the end, is there no demonstrable difference in theology or biblical interpretation whether the Parting of the Red Sea is history or fiction?

    Someone denies the historicity of Jonah… so what, still a faithful inerrantist!

    Someone denies the historicity of the Parting of the Red Sea… so what, still a faithful inerrantist!

  109. Jed Paschall said,

    April 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    TUAD,

    For someone whose first name is ironically Truth, you have a tremendous problem making factual arguments. You have made nothing but naked assertions vaguely referencing the ECF’s, while making no citations, no references of any credibility at the most basic level, and claim you have bested research that dedicated scholars have actually gone to great lengths to articulate. I think it is a safe assumption based on this discussion that you haven’t seriously read any ANE lit, much less read Walton or Waltke. You deem their positions errant (vs. inerrant) by flimsy references based on the universally revered, and scrupulously crafted arguments of Mr. TUAD.

    You are arguing from the fallacy of the slippery slope here, each instance must be dealt with on a case by case basis. Just because a scholar deems that one text is the genre of a fictional satire (e.g) Jonah, does not mean that they deem the historical narratives of the Exodus as fictions or contrivance of scheming editors. Walton and Waltke are both ardent defenders of the historicity of the Exodus and the Pentateuch as a whole. Waltke is one of the most revered scholars of OT in the conservative camp, he also happens to be Reformed, and Walton likewise is one of the foremost scholars in the comparative studies between ANE lit/archaeology and the OT in the world. That doesn’t give them a pass on all issues of exegesis, but if you are going to try to refute their position you need more than weak and alarmingly vague allusions to ECF’s. You need to take a page from Stuart, or Jeff Cagle and provide arguments backed with relevant data. Are you even interested in engaging this, or are you content to pontificate irrelevant arguments?

    The biggest distinction you miss is that the locus of inerrancy is in the text of Scripture, not in the arguments of the interpreter. We cannot jump to the rash conclusion that if someone holds a different interpretation that they do not hold to an orthodox inerrancy. One can be wrong on issues of interpretation and still be an inerrantist. These issues need to be ironed out on a case by case basis (e.g. Westminster’s dismissal of Enns). The new ICBI efforts hopefully will clarify these issues so that we can determine these definitively.

    The reason that ANE, 2nd Temple, and Greco-Roman sources (among others) are utilized in modern scholarship is because they are pertinent to the context that Scripture was written in. The ECF’s, aside from a few in the Antioch School (as I recall) who advocated something like the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, employed a predominantly allegorical hermenutic that frankly paid little attention to issues like historical context or genre, or many other features that are present in modern-day Reformed hermenutics.

    Once again, and for the last time, provide a real argument and not naked, unsubstantiated assertions. If not, you can go on and on ad nausaeum about my insufficient arguments and score points with those who don’t care to deal responsibly with these scholars. You’ll get nothing from me though, because frankly there are more productive discussions to have on this topic.

  110. Jed Paschall said,

    April 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Jeff (Re: 81, 103),

    Thanks for the question, I have had some time marinating on this while being poked and prodded and having my tires kicked by a few doctors today, so thinking about something else was a blessing to say the least.

    One of my OT prof’s likened the hermenutical process to using MS Windows. There are plenty of windows open and operating simultaneously.

    In order to synchronize the process, here’s the process I’d recommend:

    1) Textual Analysis: For those who know the original languages need to do a detailed textual analysis all the way from syntax to literary forms & devices. For those who don’t have a grasp on the languages, ideally they would use the tools that will help them get the same feel for the text, which in most cases is very probable except in the few cases where interpretation hinges on knowing Hebrew (in the OT). This gives the interpreter a fundamental understanding of what the text in question is saying.

    2) Contextual Analysis:

    a. Textual Context: First the interpreter needs to compare the passage in it’s near context – book, section of scripture (Pentateuch, Prophet, Synoptics, Pauline Epistles, etc.) and it’s canonical contribution/meaning/significance. This is also where the interpreter engages in textual criticism and form criticism (e.g. in the psalms). This will give the interpreter a grasp of the theological signifigance of the passage in it’s own context and in it’s broader biblical context (Greg Beale does a phenomenal job in this respect).

    b. Historical Context: This is where the interpreter compares the passage and his developing interpretation against the historical sources. This should give texture to his interpretation that informs him of the cultural setting of the text. Issues of genre, geography, culture, custom, and many other related issues are discovered here, and can help get to what the author of the text was trying to communicate to the original audience. Obviously this can be abused, and it can be abused in a couple of ways (I am borrowing these terms from DA Carson’s compelling lecture on the use of the OT in the NT):

    – Parallelophobia – this is where interpreters give no credence to the ANE context of the text, what happens is their interpretation begins to betray the diachronic nature of interpretation, and assumes a synchronic, and even atemporal meaning of the text. Synchronic analysis is great if you are a systematic theologian, however it can obscure the meaning of the text. IMO conservatives tend more toward this error.
    – Parallelomania – This is where interpreters allow ANE and other historical sources control the meaning of the text. Parallels are very helpful i settling many contextual issues we have discussed (genre, form, the nature off ANE authorship). However, when Scripture is equated with ANE sources. The fact is every text is unique and ultimately needs to be understood in it’s own unique terms. Similar sources can illucidate certain parts of the text that aren’t solved at the level of bare textual analysis. Here is where liberals and higher critics take the Scriptures and cram them entirely into the convention of external, and often highly contradictory ANE sources.

    3. Comparative Analysis:Here is where the interpreter compares his hypothesis with other interpreters, historical and contemporary, along with his confessional statements. The comparison should sharpen and shape something closer to his final position. If the interpreter departs from the historical, majority, and/or confessional view, he should rework the process laid out above, and scrutinize why his position is different. Is it an issue due to a fundamental difference in interpretative method and assumptions (one’s understanding of the nature and doctrine of Scripture), differences in data considered, or differences on technical processes (grammar, syntax)? If this is the case, the interpreter should tread lightly, and prayerfully re-examine his conclusions. If, in good conscience he asserts a new interpretation, especially when based on new, or unconsidered evidence and it isn’t in violation of fundamental creedal and confessional tenets, he should stand by this interpretation until such a time comes that his position is reasonably refuted.

    After theses processes are completed, the interpreter should have a defensible position. The position should give reasonable consideration to the three steps I have provided. If one step controls the interpretation there is a good chance the interpreter is missing important components in his position. These steps, and some I haven’t listed aren’t always undertaken chronologically, rather simultaneously. But, if the ANE evidence can be proven to warrant the textual interpretation, it should at a minimum be examined seriously. I would argue for a balanced interpretation that includes all reasonable fields of analysis. This would exclude radical feminist, marxist, and many postmodern modes of exegesis, these are too agenda driven to get at what the text is actually saying. Those who seek to toss all ANE comparative analysis end up tossing the baby out with the bathwater IMO.

    Does this begin to answer your question? Is there anything you would add or disagree with?

  111. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 13, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Jed: “But if you haven’t it’ll be hard to get anywhere since you haven’t investigated how a conservative and godly scholar (in John Walton’s case) makes his case for the interpretations he proposes.”

    Jed, you appeal to John Walton as if we are all supposed to be impressed that he rejects the historicity of Jonah. In response I merely appeal to the unanimity of the ECF’s who all held to the historicity of Jonah.

    “Just because a scholar deems that one text is the genre of a fictional satire (e.g) Jonah, does not mean that they deem the historical narratives of the Exodus as fictions or contrivance of scheming editors.”

    I never said that either Walton or Waltke did that. That’s another false characterization on your part. I only examined what you yourself focused on:

    o “He [Waltke] was fired for saying (paraphrased) that Christians deny the fact of evolution to their own peril, and that they ran the risk of becoming truth deniers.” (#60)

    o “John Walton (and the Jonah portion is written by Walton) asserts that Jonah is a satire in the same literary vein as other similar ANE texts.” (#64)

    “That doesn’t give them a pass on all issues of exegesis, but if you are going to try to refute their position you need more than weak and alarmingly vague allusions to ECF’s. You need to take a page from Stuart, or Jeff Cagle and provide arguments backed with relevant data.”

    Would you like me to cite scholarship showing the unanimity of the ECF’s on the historicity of Jonah? I’ll be happy to if you’d like. Would that change your mind that denying the historicity of Jonah by keying in on ANE literature as the interpretive key is a mistake?

    “One can be wrong on issues of interpretation and still be an inerrantist.”

    Have you looked at Cris Dickason’s comment: “That’s a meaningless inerrancy.”

    Or my question: How “wide” a “variety of interpretations” before we have “meaningless inerrancy”?

  112. Stephen said,

    April 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Paige and Reed,

    Sorry for the long delay; have been buried under piles of papers to grade.

    I did read McGowan a while back and do not remember enough of it to comment in any detail.

    Perhaps I can answer your questions about my own thinking in comparison to McGowan, interact with your analysis of NT Wright (and presumably an implied question about what I think of it?), and taking up various points about differing “presuppositions” while still agreeing on much by laying out some of my own views? Much of this, especially when it comes to theological uses of the Bible (in/for the church) in relation to academic-historical study remain somewhat inchoate.

    I believe in the full verbal inspiration of the Bible and affirm that everything in it is fully God’s Word as well as human. The humanity of the Bible in no way detracts from or stands against its divinity. I disagree with claims about the inherent limitations of human language (in relation to divine communication) such that errors necessarily exist in the Bible because, for example, “to err is human,” etc. Absolutely everything in the Bible is doing exactly what God wants it to be doing; he did not lose control of the human authors or lack ability to “overcome” the limitations of human authors while inspiring his word, etc.

    Ok, thus far situating myself in relation to some of the classic debates about inerrancy in the 20th century. Where I differ from classical Evangelical-Reformed understandings of Scripture may be categorized in terms of what I think it means that the Bible is fully God’s Word. For me that doesn’t mean lack of error because I refuse to prejudge what God can or did do when inspiring his word. Furthermore, it remains patently obvious to me (I do not mean that polemically) that the Bible is FULL of errors in the classic sense (inaccuracies where a claim about history or science is meant; “contradictions;” and so on). Thus my “high view of Scripture” requires that I allow the Bible itself to define what it means that it is God’s fully inspired word. If he wanted to inspire errors in it and, in fact, did so…my view is that our place is to praise his wisdom and submit to it.

    This is where evangelicals, IMO, unfortunately agree with the “Liberals.” Both agree that errors in the Bible militate against its divinity and authority; evangelicals and liberals simply respond to this differently. For me, a Christian view of Scripture means that it’s not God’s application to be our God such that we somehow only have to affirm and submit to its authority if it squares with our views of how something that is God’s Word must behave (e.g., “perfection” in terms of lack of error). Our place is to reverently study what God’s word in fact does and says and submit to it. Thus in “spirit,” if you will, I think we agree…we happen to differ on the significant issue of whether or not something that is God’s word can have errors in it. My view of inerrancy (e.g., everything in the Bible is doing exactly what God wants it to be doing) is accurately (from one perspective) designated by Reed as “errancy.”

    For what it’s worth, this highlights a way that I disagree with my former ThM advisor, Peter Enns. His way of talking about these issues was that the “messiness” of Scripture corresponds to its humanity, implying that the divinity of Scripture and focusing on it would involve non-“messiness.” I find this problematic because I don’t think it’s our place to judge what parts of the Bible manifest God’s divinity as opposed to its humanity. ALL OF THE BIBLE reflects his divine inspiration. If the Bible is “messy” or has errors in it this means precisely that God’s divinely inspired word involves messiness and errors in the divinity of the text as well. Though I am not sure Enns would disagree with me on this point, he still framed the matter in this way with which I disagree in his book.

    This all, of course, directly relates to the question of how to read the Bible…and questions about use of “history” or “extra-biblical” sources come in here…and I will get to these in the next comment (just don’t want the comments to be too too too long).

  113. Stephen said,

    April 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    To Paige and Reed, continued…

    So, questions about how to read the Bible…and questions about use of “history” or “extra-biblical” sources. For me these discussions among some inerrantists seem confused. There are basic historical methodologies across the academy that all swirl around the notion that everything is properly (in a historical sense) understood in context. Thus all data relevant to sketching various aspects of context is relevant to a historical reading of a text. The confusion among inerrantists, IMO, enters because most of the examples of “normative” (read: bad) uses of contextual data as a theological argument against “over-reliance” on “extra-biblical sources” are examples that I (and other historian types) would identify as poor use of basic historical methodologies or just flawed particular interpretations.

    If some scholar finds a 3rd century CE ritual that involves standing under a bull while its throat is cut and its blood splashes down on the person and a source interprets the significance as somehow sealing a good relationship with the goddess Cybele and proceeds to claim that early Christian baptism therefore is basically this ritual and that Rom 6 is thus interpreted through this lens…the issue here is not the principle of “over-reliance on extra-biblical sources” but, rather, just poor and undertheorized use of contextual data. When scholars find “parallels” and assume that the significance of “parallels” is that a paralleled passage means the same thing (or, conversely, assume that the paralleled passage comes from a “unique” source that must actually differ from all parallels) this too is poor historical methodology. It does not constitute a critique of basic historical methodology that we historically understand all things in context and thus all contextual data is relevant for sketching the ranges of intelligibility, cultural codes, and the like within which our biblical sources operate.

    For me, when it comes to reading the Bible historically (or, as evangelicals tend to say, in a “grammatical-historical” manner) claims of “over-reliance” on extra-biblical sources confuses matters. Biblical writings are in particular languages, written in specific historical-social-cultural situations with cultural codes and sensitivities within which they are intelligible (and within which they often take innovative positions just like every other writing may), produced with specific goals or points that also relate directly to their social settings (sometimes more specific [e.g., I am sending your slave back to you] sometimes more general [let me tell you about the broader significance of Christ in relation to issues and ideas that are intelligible to you]), and so on. To make a theological argument that downplays the place of historical-contextual data for reading the Bible historically, in my opinion, amounts to a functional rejection of how God inspired his Bible [of course evangelicals who do this do not mean to reject how God inspired the Bible; I’m just outlining what it looks like theologically to me…no doubt the same analysis comes right back at me : ) ]. My favorite response to the claims about making “extra-biblical sources normative” for interpretation has always been to remind folks that the New Testament is written in various dialects of Hellenistic Greek; language(s) thoroughly embedded in particular historical, social, political, and intellectual settings. Is using a lexicon a “normative” use of extra-biblical data considering that all the semantic ranges of words in the lexicon are determined by analysis of usage in biblical and non-biblical sources?

    I do not mean to tirade here; just laying out my views in relation to ideas that should make sense to folks here. How does this relate more specifically to my doctrine of Scripture ideas and inerrancy?

    For me, when it comes to historical readings of the Bible, I think biblical writings should be interpreted with the exact same historical methodologies and “rules” that we use for any other source when studies historically. No special rules for the Bible, such as “an interpretive option involving the Bible in an error must be wrong.” This is a basic violation of historical methodology and saying this is not putting human methods over Scripture. We all use the same intuitive-contextual ideas for communicating in all settings. If you decide that the Bible cannot contain errors and claim that you can anchor that in historical readings of the Bible, you have to use basic historical methodologies to argue for that reading of the Bible. If you do that with the caveat that the Bible cannot err, then you’re selectively using basic historical methodologies (e.g., you’re making a circular and un-falsifiable argument). Evangelicals would never tolerate this for other sources because they/we, just like everyone else, know that when you decide ahead of time that X source must be inerrant it will likely make you a poor reader of that source. One could still, in theory, study a source historically and find that it’s inerrant; but that differs from constraining interpretive methodology at the outset with a rule that only interpretive options resulting in the source being inerrant are legitimate. If you want to justify such “special rules” for the Bible with some sort of Van Tilian circular argument, that’s fine so long as you acknowledge that you have rejected historical methodology when it results in a reading of the Bible that challenges your doctrines – i.e., you have rejected any semblance of an actual historical methodology (e.g., you are no longer following the evidence where it leads you). You have also, again, made some of your views beyond critique from the Bible itself. This strikes me as a dangerous place to go with God’s word.

    Now (and I’ll try to wrap this up since I know these comments are quite long), I do not think that historical readings of the Bible are the only legitimate ways to read it for the church. Various forms of Biblical-Theological or otherwise theological readings that prioritize questions and issues raised by one kind of context (e.g., canonical) over another (e.g., Paul’s Middle-Platonist cosmological and “anthropological” sensitivities) are not only legitimate, but necessary in the church. I think theological readings need to be related to and done in connection with historical readings of the Bible, but I am still wrestling with how to parse out this relationship. My disagreement on this front with most inerrantists is that they tend to downplay or reject the distance between historical readings of the Bible and the theological readings of our traditions, usually to the detriment of accurate historical readings. I think a distance exists. This distance does not, however, mean that we reject theological readings of the Bible or our traditions. It necessitate, rather, that we wrestle anew with the question of exactly how is the Bible authoritative (I do not mean questioning whether it is it fully or divinely authoritative). BTW, this is not my way of advocating NT Wright’s approach to this question (he has an essay with that title)…just me highlighting the kinds of questions that I think an ultimately “high view of Scripture” raises for us today…who have the benefit of sharpened historical methodologies and an incredible wealth of ancient contextual data and generations of scholarship on it that help us become more precise and clear about the Bible’s varying contexts.

  114. Stephen said,

    April 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Paige and Reed (and others), continued (yet again)…

    I apologize for the length of my comments. No doubt I am longwinded here because I am a self-important person and think I have brilliant nuances that just require excessive length in comments : ). Hopefully I am also longwinded because I here articulate some views that differ from those held by most here and desire to do so clearly (which is ironic in a bad way since I dashed off these comments quite quickly and the writing is probably very choppy!).

    Thanks for your patience. I will try to be less long-winded in following comments, especially if folks want to discuss specifics of the text and the like.

    Reed…Romans, eh? Such an easy text for preaching! You probably handled it all in one sermon, right? Just like DM Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians? ;)

    Thanks again!

  115. Jed Paschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 2:10 am

    TUAD,

    Yes, give me citations, chapter and verse, and demonstrate how the ECF’s handled context, and extra-textual referentiality, and how the ECF’s dealt with genre, and the literary conventions of the Jonah narrative, that would at least constitute an argument. Likely you will provide what I already suspect: The church fathers were able theologians in many respects, however, the church grows through time, and most Protestant (and Reformed) exegetes rely on a very different interpretive paradigm than the ECF’s. If the ECF’s are used at all, they are more often secondary and tertiary sources at best. They are not endowed with interpretive privilege any more than Calvin, Luther, Owen, Hodge, or Warfield or any one else in the church through the ages. If the church fathers were the be-all and end all in exegesis then why even bother with inerrancy or even hermeneutics at all? We can just say those issues were laid to rest 1500-2000 years ago. What I heat from you is, “Pack your bags biblical scholars, it seems as if you misunderstood your call to teach the Word faithfully and seek to unearth its truths anew in your generation, the ECF’s have solved all the mysteries of Scripture, and your job is merely to reiterate what has already been said.” Let’s go back to the infusion of grace and all sorts of doctrine dubious to Reformed Protestantism, shoot, we can even embrace the proto-papism of fathers like Augustine! High handed rhetoric aside, referring to the ECFs as a greater well-orbed argument is fair game and can strengthen the exegetes position, whether they agree or disagree with the ECFs. But ANE evidence cannot be ignored, we cannot put our heads in the proverbial sand, and pretend that the advances in historical, archaeological, and narratology and poetics have nothing to add.

    The fact is, if conservatives don’t learn how to deal with the dynamics of ANE studies and all of it’s related fields, we will continue to loose many of our brightest minds to either radicalized theology, liberalism, or some form of hybrid dialectical theology (e.g. the Yale school, ex. Brevard Childs). The fact is the TEXT IS INERRANT BECAUSE THE DIVINE AUTHOR DOES NOT ERR. PERIOD;THIS MEANS THAT WE MUST DISCOVER THE TERMS OF INERRANCY WITHIN THE TERMS OF THE AUTHORS (human and divine) INTENDED, AND HOW EACH INDIVIDUAL BOOK/SECTION (sections such as the Pentateuch, the Synoptics, the Prophets, The Writings, etc) CORRESPONDS TO THE EXTERNAL WORLD (extra-textual referentiality) AND HOW EACH SECTION IS COHERENT WITH THE REST OF THE CANON (scripture interprets scripture).

    Deferring to the ECF’s doesn’t begin to address one of the pressing issues of our day. If you were to try to argue with any OT scholar, even ones who hold to a historical Jonah (which is the position I hold), they would likely end the discussion with you if your only source of *proof* is the ECF’s. You have made no attempt at even the smallest modicum of exegesis here. You argue from the slippery slope, which is in effect a cop-out so you don’t have to deal with each interpretation on a case by case basis, judging them on the hermeneutical warrants for the interpretation. I am sure you are capable of better arguments, and if you prove the case, I’ll defer. I’ve changed plenty of positions, and I have no problem changing another if the facts warrant it.

  116. Jed Paschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:02 am

    TUAD (PT. 2)

    Inerrancy is not meaningless if the scholar shows warrant for believing that a certain portion of scripture is fiction. The fact is there are several instances of fiction in scripture. The fact is that fiction, is as valid, and at times even more valid vehicle for communicating truth than historical narrative, here’s a few instances:

    – The parable of the trees in Judges 9
    – Nathan’s parable of the sheep in 2 Samuel 12
    – The extended parabolic accounts of Lady Wisdom contrasted with the Adulteress in Proverbs
    – The proverbs 31 woman
    – Moving to the NT, the plethora of parables taught by Christ himself.

    The fact is that fiction isn’t divorced from history, it exists within the set of conditions that exist in the cultural and literary traditions of it’s time and place. For example Jesus’ parables were often reflective of the agrarian and religious conventions of his day. The same is true of each of these parabolic/fictional accounts in scripture.

    With respect to satire, as in our day there is always a historical antecedent to the satirical point being made. Donkeys and Elephants are tied to something bound in our American time and place. Political cartoons are not divorced from the events they lampoon, they are inextricably tied to the historical events. A cartoon of an Arab man with a rather immense mustache sitting on a giant missile aimed at Israel would have no meaning if not for the first Iraq war where we ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. There was a historical antecedent to the cartoon that gave it meaning.

    In the case of Jonah, even assuming that he was a real person and a real prophet, the satirical genre makes sense. Israel (specifically Judah) had contrived a vaunted Temple theology. They had a sense of the invincibility of the Temple and Jerusalem since this was where God had dwelled. Even when Judah was more or less faithful, there was a misplaced sense of pride and arrogance that they were God’s people, and by virtue of election that they had an elevated status. There was an arrogance among even the faithful, as demonstrated by Jonah the exemplar, that manifested itself in a sense of superiority and privilege.

    The problem was God hadn’t elected Israel because of her inherent dignity or superiority among the nations, he elected a weak and lowly people because He loved Israel (Deut. 7:7). God shows mercy to whom he shows mercy, and this is not restricted to the borders of Judah or Israel. God can show mercy on even the most wicked of people. The irony of the book of Jonah is that the Ninevites received the prophetic message and responded with urgency and sincerity; however, Jonah (as an exemplar of many Jews at the time) couldn’t muster the smallest amount of thankfulness or awe at the mercy God had showed to Nineveh, even after his life was spared by the miraculous intervention of God! The satire was a scathing critique of the prevailing attitudes of the Jews at that time. It’s also a warning to us if we think ourselves entitled to the benefits of election and are not grateful when God shows mercy or desirous that he would show such kindness to wicked sinners as he has to us.

    The internal context of Jonah doesn’t loose its rhetorical force, or its moral and spiritual demands if it is a satirical account like ours today if it is a fiction or a historical fiction. Walton argues this regarding the power and nature of satire:

    a written composition in which vice, folly, or incompetence is held up for ridicule. The closer to reality a satire can be, the more effective it is. By definition, it targets real people and tries to use the mannerisms and words that they use. Satire exaggerates reality, but by its nature is based on reality. (ZIBBCOT Vol. 5 p. 104 HT: John Hobbins)

    If Jonah is a fictional satire, then it is inerrant with respect to the intent of both the Divine and human authors as in all other examples of fiction or non-historical accounts in scripture. Scripture uses literary devices such as parable, satire, and biting sarcasm often, and they are very effective in getting the attention of stubborn and wayward believers and unbelievers alike. How else do you explain the Elijah’s ruthless taunts that caricatured Baal, and mocked his priests and the showdown bet Carmel (I Kings 18)?

    I happen to think that if satire has real history and real people in mind, than, even though it can be fictitious at times, then there is no reason that the book of Jonah isn’t a satirized account of Jonah’s historical experiences. This is where I depart from Walton. There are tricky OT -> NT issues with respect to Jonah (as Stuart identified), but there are plenty of even more baffling OT/NT connections throughout the NT. Does a fictional or fictionalized Jonah pose some problems canonically, sure. Are they insurmountable, I am not convinced. Pointing out the problem a fictitious take as you have time after time only identifies a potential issue, it doesn’t put it to rest.

    If it is your desire to go out and blast all of these sorts of findings by conservative, and by all meaningful accounts, capable scholars you really need to dive in to the material they do. If you can destroy their arguments by really dealing with the difficulty of ANE sources, and the complex arguments they have developed, by all means do so, but if you refuse even the most basic analysis of their material and arguments, you will continue to fail to convince anyone who has spent any amount of time in OT studies. It’s your choice, evade the issues or deal with them. The difference will be in the quality of your position.

  117. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Me, #111: “Would you like me to cite scholarship showing the unanimity of the ECF’s on the historicity of Jonah? I’ll be happy to if you’d like.”

    Jed, #115: “TUAD, Yes, give me citations, chapter and verse, and demonstrate how the ECF’s handled context, and extra-textual referentiality, and how the ECF’s dealt with genre, and the literary conventions of the Jonah narrative, that would at least constitute an argument.”

    Jed, you do not get to twist what I offered to do. That is wholly pathetic on your part and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    I will do what I said I would do. Look at the following article:

    The Prophecy of Jonah: History or Parable?

    Excerpts:

    o “This unanimity, on the other hand, is truly surprising: for not a single example in all of Catholic tradition is demonstrated against it; and, on the other hand, the Holy Fathers who profess the historicity of Jonah are so authoritative, so numerous, and of such diverse times and regions, that it would be superfluous to detain ourselves on that which no one ignores and is plainly manifest.”

    o “The book of Jonah contains a renowned prophecy of the resurrection of the Savior; a prophecy, it is true, in the typological sense, but not therefore less certain and splendorous. Above all, Jesus Christ Himself testified that there existed between His Resurrection and the portent of Jonah in the whale a unique similarity, asserting (Matth., 12, 40) that as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights; and the Holy Fathers expressly confess as indubitable, in the liberation of Jonah, a prophetic similarity to the Resurrection of Jesus, and they declare and amplify this prophecy on numerous occasions. Thus, to not cite less celebrated names, attest, for example, Origen (29) and Tertullian (30), St. Cyprian (31) and St. Athanasius (32), St. Basil (33) and St. John Chrysostom (34), St. Hilary (35), St. Ambrose (36), and St. Augustine (37). A “very clear and plainly manifest” prophecy, St. Gregory of Nyssa names it (38). St. Cyril of Jerusalem inculcates it in the catechumens as a renowned prediction (39), St. Gregory of Nazianzus (40) and St. Isidore (41) commemorate it upon enumerating the sacred books, St. Maximus of Turin (42), Basil of Seleucia (43), St. Peter Chrysologus (44), and St. Zeno of Verona (45) exalt it with entire homilies, and, finally, St. Ephrem, St. Jerome, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, Rupert, and Haymon diligently note it in their commentaries: that is, all the patristic commentators on Jonah; even the heresiarch Theodore of Mopsuestia (46), so hesitant to admit prophecies, recognizes it in this case and praises it excellently. This is a singularly renowned prophecy, not only for prophesying the Resurrection of the Savior, but for being, among all the predictions of the Old Testament, the most certain and clear, wherein is predicted the circumstance of the Resurrection on the third day.”

    o “And the Holy Fathers, would they, as they do, defend the historicity of the episodes of Jonah so forcefully and earnestly if they thought it only a literary question, an indifferent point? Indeed, when St. Augustine was consulted as to whether the sojourn of Jonah in the whale was reality or figure, he responded “either all the miracles wrought by divine power may be treated as incredible, or there is no reason why the story of this miracle should not be believed”; and he continues to copiously illustrate his response (48). Let us note that a genius like the bishop of Hippo, after carefully studying the question, does not perceive even a glimmer of doubt as to the reality of the miracle discussed; and this in trying to satisfy a friend (though a pagan) who felt special difficulty in accepting that portent, a friend whom the Saint desired to convert, and on whom he surely would not place any obligation that he did not hold as very certain.”

    o “Finally, the so-called intrinsic proofs against historicity scarcely withstand the slightest scrutiny. That the work shows a didactic purpose does not militate against its being historical; rather, all things being equal, one better imparts a doctrine with real examples than with pretend ones. That the writer omits secondary details, for example, the name of the King, likewise proves nothing, unless we also reject the historicity of Genesis or of Exodus, for they do not mention the names of the Pharaohs with whom Joshua and Moses dealt.”

  118. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:45 am

    “But ANE evidence cannot be ignored, we cannot put our heads in the proverbial sand, and pretend that the advances in historical, archaeological, and narratology and poetics have nothing to add.”

    So Jed, when did “relevant” ANE evidence and scholarly literature become available and widely accessible so that scholars like Walton could finally understand and teach that the Book of Jonah is really a genre of literary satire?”

  119. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:56 am

    Jed, #115: “The fact is, if conservatives don’t learn how to deal with the dynamics of ANE studies and all of it’s related fields, we will continue to loose many of our brightest minds to either radicalized theology, liberalism, or some form of hybrid dialectical theology (e.g. the Yale school, ex. Brevard Childs).”

    You’re serious, aren’t you? I’m not supposed to laugh, right? I’m supposed to be utterly terrified at the picture you paint, yes?

    ANE studies are the end-all and be-all for the modern hermeneutic process, else faithful Christians lose our brightest minds, eh?

  120. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 4:01 am

    “Inerrancy is not meaningless if the scholar shows warrant for believing that a certain portion of scripture is fiction.”

    Scholars who deny the historicity of Adam maintain that they are showing warrant that that portion of Scripture is fiction.

    Scholars who deny the resurrection of Jesus maintain that they are showing warrant that that portion of Scripture is fiction.

    Scholars who deny the parting of the Red Sea maintain that they are showing warrant that that portion of Scripture is fiction.

    And so on and so on and so on.

  121. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 4:10 am

    The fact is there are several instances of fiction in scripture.

    Jed, you’re brilliant. I agree with you.

  122. paigebritton said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Stephen, (#112)
    Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to write all that out. (I will read the next long one later in the day. Don’t worry about being long-winded.) FWIW, you are describing a position that is almost exactly Andrew McGowan’s — he, too, bridles at the suggestion that we can predict what God will or will not do in the process of inspiration, and he adamantly insists that the Scriptures are “exactly as God intended them to be.” (Side note: for all that he protests against inerrantist’s arguments about the autographa, it would seem to me that his statement about the Scriptures being just as God intended would also only apply to these elusive documents…)

    Now, I don’t exactly know if there’s a complete one-to-one match between you and McGowan, because I can’t exactly tell whether he would identify the “discrepancies” that he sees (such as between the Synoptics) as “errors.” (For this reason, I think, he does not call himself an “errantist,” nor does he believe the hermeneutical world is only divided into two kinds of people. :) You seem more comfortable naming discrepancies as “errors.” Also, he seems to have as his target the subgroup (admittedly a large one) of inerrantists who tend towards a dictation theory, rather than those who have a more balanced stance towards textual studies and who might agree with him that the biblical texts are in places difficult to explain, rather than neat and tidy.

    One thought this raises — the idea that God “let slide” actual errors in the text because his standard was different than we could have predicted — is something that occurred to me when reading Enns’ I&I. Enns, of course, makes much of how 2nd Temple Lit influenced the NT writers — e.g., the allusion to Jannes & Jambres in 2Tim 3:8. Enns argues that such (non-historical) allusions should reassure us that God was willing to come close to the world and clothe his holy Scriptures with the familiar garb of humanity (in this case, rabbinic fiction).

    I appreciate how you distinguish your thinking from Enns’, but I would question whether there really is much difference between God designing a text with errors in it, and God simply winking at the human error and credulity that would include such things. Either way, the idea of God supervising the inclusion of errors does seem to reflect on his (revealed) character, because it contradicts the biblical assertion that his word is “true.” Or do the “phenomena” of Scripture necessarily take priority over the meaning of the words? This seems to be the stance you are taking: if what “is,” is error, then God doesn’t mind error, because he supervised what “is” — despite what he says about himself & his word being “true.”

    Just a thought — perhaps you have addressed how you prioritize the “phenomena” in one of your other comments; if so I’ll see that later on. Gotta get the troops going!

    Thanks for the interaction!
    Paige B.

  123. paigebritton said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Jed (#110, 115 & 116) —
    Just wanted to say that I really appreciate your balanced and careful approach, and that I think I fixed your italics (in 115). ;)
    pax!
    pb

  124. Richard said,

    April 14, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Hi Paige,

    To add a few thoughts; we have both had to deal with the following objection to the existence of God:

    Premise 1: God is good.
    Premise 2: God is all powerful.
    Premise 3: Evil exists in the world.
    Therefore: Either God is not good or he is not powerful.

    And our response will always be that whilst that is a logical conclusion it is nevertheless wrong because there is more to it than that. Such is what I would want to say to those who argue:

    Premise 1: What God says is always true
    Premise 2: The Bible is God’s word
    Therefore: There are no errors in the Bible

    That is, we need to take into account more ‘data’ than simply what is in this logical syllogism.

    I am also wondering if applying the quality of inerrancy upon the autographa is made more complex by the Qumran discoveries. That is, it demands a very specific theory of the literary development of the text and even Emanuel Tov has changed his mind on the issue of our being able to determine the ‘original text’ – see his “The Status of the Masoretic Text in Modern Text Editions of the Hebrew Bible.” Not only is he agnostic on whether we can recover an Urtext he questions the very concept. If he is correct, and I am not saying he is, but if he is then this is a MAJOR problem for the current statement of inerrany in CSBI. Perhaps we sould return to the view of the Reformers that the quality of inerrancy was attached to the apographa (cf. Muller’s PRRD vol. 2 pp. 413-416)?

  125. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Paige,

    Thanks for fixing that. I was kind of embarrassed, all those italics might have given the impression that I was hoarse after the end of the paragraph! And thanks for all of your great OT posts and for your feedback as well.

  126. Reed Here said,

    April 14, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Stephen: thanks for the responses. One follow up question: what relative role does the “Scripture interprets Scripture” hermeneutical principles play in your understanding?

    Do you affirm or disagree with it?

    If you affirm it, what is it role relative to other hermeneutical principles? E.g., how do you coordinate it with the historical hermeneutical principle(s) you outlined above? Is it co-relative, submissive, determinative, etc.?

    Thanks!

    (Romans – 13 sermons, only up to Rom 2:24. So far, everyone seems to be having fun ;-))

  127. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    TUAD,

    It would be a waste of my time to interact with you further. You seem content to claim victory, while holding an exegetically untenable position. The biggest danger in your posts is that it seems that you are intractably comfortable in not doing even the most modest exegesis or interacting with material that any student of scripture should consider in their interpretations.

    TUAD, have you seriously studied any of the sources mentioned here? Walton? Waltke? Other conservatives such as Paul House, John Sailhamer? Any OT Theologies, any major OT commentaries? Any survey’s of ANE history? Any ANE accounts similar to Jonah, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh or Adapa and the Food of Life?

    These would give you many solid indications as to why ECF’s are not the be-all, end-all for OT exegesis on any major textual issue. They would also help you understand how connected ancient Israel was to it’s ANE cultural setting. Israel was as imbeded in the cultural context of the ANE as we are in Western/American/Democratic/Multi-ethnic cultural setting. If you want to understand modern Western Lit. you need to understand the culture it is developed in, and likewise you need to understand ANE history at a basic level (at minimum) to understand the cultural setting in which the OT was written.

    Besides this you are relying on weak slippery slope arguments where you haven’t demonstrated the likelihood that if one maintains a fictional Jonah, then it surely leads to maintaining a fictional Adam, Exodus, and Jesus. That isn’t to say that such scenarios are impossible, but you have failed to make any plausible or defensible connections that would make these conclusions necessary, or even likely. You would have to demonstrate how Walton’s position on Jonah means that he, or his students who have maintained a high view of Scripture, now maintain fictional readings of Adam, Exodus, and Jesus. If you read Walton, you would know that he holds no such position. Therefore your slippery slope arguments are false, empty rhetoric. I hope it is simply that you aren’t familiar with the pertinent material, and that you aren’t being stubborn or willfully ignorant. If the latter is the case, you are selling yourself short in how much you can draw out of the OT and the depth of understanding you can acquire by understanding the external setting the text exists in.

    I know I have indicated that I won’t interact any further with you, but I think this is the stopping point. If I am to take time to dialogue on this post, I’d prefer more productive conversations. I am sorry that this isn’t exactly productive, but I hope that can change.

  128. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Jed: “you need to understand ANE history at a basic level (at minimum) to understand the cultural setting in which the OT was written.”

    “These would give you many solid indications as to why ECF’s are not the be-all, end-all for OT exegesis on any major textual issue.” [Because the ECF’s didn’t know ANE history at a basic level at a minimum].

    Me, repeating: “So Jed, when did “relevant” ANE evidence and scholarly literature become available and widely accessible so that scholars like Walton could finally understand and teach that the Book of Jonah is really a genre of literary satire?”

    Jesus in John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

    So Jed, you’re stridently arguing that the Holy Spirit waited a period of time before making the “relevant” ANE evidence and scholarly literature available and accessible so that scholars like Walton could then finally understand and teach that the Book of Jonah is really a genre of literary satire unlike the ECF’s who didn’t know the ANE evidence like the modern scholars of today do.

    You’re shouting a lot about ANE but you’re not thinking things through.

  129. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Jed, thanks for this:

    If the interpreter departs from the historical, majority, and/or confessional view, he should rework the process laid out above, and scrutinize why his position is different. Is it an issue due to a fundamental difference in interpretative method and assumptions (one’s understanding of the nature and doctrine of Scripture), differences in data considered, or differences on technical processes (grammar, syntax)? If this is the case, the interpreter should tread lightly, and prayerfully re-examine his conclusions.

    I think this sets Walton’s burden of proof at a high level, especially in light of Luke 11.30-32 and 2 Kings 14. Do you agree?

  130. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    TUAD regarding the Link, (Pt.2 of final response)

    In the terms of the Historical Theology that the article outlines, it is a fair representation of the ECF’s position, which has been the position of the church, with little dispute until the 19th century. This is not shocking, and with all due respect to the ECF’s who have handed us so many of our Cardinal Doctrines, their exegesis focused on the intra-textual literary options. This isn’t entirely bad, however, the extra-textual referents are missing. They are likening the fictional Jonah to a parable, when that is imprecise compared to the modern designation as a Satire.

    You still seem to fail to locate the inerrancy of Scripture in the text. The ECF’s are one source among many that can be consulted to derive a valid interpretation. I have no reason to doubt your Protestant credentials here, but your reference to a Catholic argument is odd. The article tries to settle the historicity of Jonah based on the authoritative tradition of the Church. Tradition is not an authority in se, it’s authority is derived from the text, inasmuch as the interpretation takes the text on its own terms.

    Here is one example of the imprecision of the ECF’s:

    St. John Chrysostom argued with no less firmness against the Marcionite heretics: “For tell me, was Jonah in the whale’s belly a mere appearance? Nay, thou canst not say so. Therefore neither was Christ in the heart of the earth such” (53).

    Chrysostom was right to combat the Marcionite degradation of the OT. The OT is essential to the Canon, and inspired as Paul argues in 2 Tim 3:16. However he is guilty of a non sequitur here. He creates a false dichotomy by basing the impossibility of a Satirical-fictional Jonah on the resurrection. The problem is that the resurrection is attested in every Gospel, Acts, it is a major component of the Pauline Epistles, the General Epistles, all the way into Revelation, not to mention the OT prophecies and allusions to the resurrection. However, Jonah’s historicity is arguably attested in the Synoptics where Jesus refers to Jonah with respect to the resurrection and final judgment. If Jonah is satirical fiction, it does not follow that the Resurrection is fiction, based on no less than the NT witness alone. Now I think that Jonah is a historical satire with a historical antecedent, but the ficticious satire doesn’t necessarily mean that the historicity of the entire scripture falls apart.

    The other problem is that the author of the article doesn’t deal with any of the contemporary evidence at all. For him the argument was laid to rest by the ECF’s. For a Romanist, that is acceptable since they elevate tradition to a source of authority concurrent with Scripture (or nearly so). As confessing Protestants we cannot accept this, we must interpret scripture on its own terms, evaluating the validity of all applicable sources, of which the ECF’s are merely one.

    This interpretation you have linked to is probably a helpful HT argument. However, as a valid and complete exegesis, this wouldn’t fly in any seminary course in OT, conservative, Reformed, or any other school. Noting how a passage has been historically interpreted does not constitute a valid contemporary exegesis, nor does it put this particular issue to rest.

  131. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Jeff (RE 129),

    Thanks for the feedback sir Jeff!

    I certainly agree that this places a high burden of proof on Walton at the interpretive level. I don’t think that his position is impossible in light of the NT, however he has some difficult interpretive issues to overcome with respect to Canonical analysis/synthesis, especially in light of the passages you cite.

    The case of 2 Kings 14:25 is a compelling argument for the historicity of the Jonah as a bona-fide prophet – He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. This, along with the NT passages is why I depart from Walton on the issue of the historicity of the book of Jonah. However, I strongly agree that Jonah is a satire, critiquing the religious/spiritual arrogance and superiority of Israelites and Judahites. The critique is supremely applicable to the cultural and historical context. However as Walton indicated with respect to the historical nature of satire (referenced in my reply to TUAD #116), the critique has a strong tie to the historical antecedent:

    a written composition in which vice, folly, or incompetence is held up for ridicule. The closer to reality a satire can be, the more effective it is. By definition, it targets real people and tries to use the mannerisms and words that they use. Satire exaggerates reality, but by its nature is based on reality. (ZIBBCOT Vol. 5 p. 104 HT: John Hobbins)

    This is why I have a hard time seeing why Jonah, a historical figure, cannot have been the ironic, and cantankerous antagonist in a stylized satire that refers to the real account of Jonah’s ordeal with God, the fish, and the Ninevites. To me there is to much intra-Canonical evidence to completely endorse Walton. However, I do believe he is right-on with his designation as a satirical genre in line with similar ANE accounts like Gilgamesh and Adapa. But this doesn’t militate the historicity of the account IMO. I have read a great deal of Walton, and sat under his teaching for multiple classes, in my estimation he is one of the most creative exegetes I have ever known; he has a mastery not only of the language but the culture and literary contexts of the OT. However, his greatest weakness is how he synthesizes his positions in light of the Canon, and later theological development. That said, he is more often on the side of the angels, and his probing insight opens up ths OT in ways that few are able to do.

    The central issue however is whether or not a fictional-satirical account of the Jonah account can be held by an inerrantist. I have gone round-and-round with TUAD ad nauseum regarding this. I think it is an open and shut case on this issue. A scholar or interpreter can hold a minority, or even wrong position on this matter and still be an ardent inerrantist. Where the line should be drawn is where cardinal doctrines (trinity, deity of Christ, resurrection, hypostatic union, etc.), or fundamental confessional tenets are jeopardized by an interpretation. There may be in the future a interpretation that alters our confessions, or modifies it on the basis of the merits of the interpretation and our confession allows this (WCF Ch 1. 9-10; Ch. 31)

    So, yes, I certainly agree with and appreciate your comment. I am curious as to how you see these sorts of interpretations align with inerrancy since this is the issue at hand. Any thoughts?

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Jed (#131):

    Just two thoughts

    (1) While not a parallelophobic, I would put any exegesis whose backbone lies outside Scripture as “merely possible.” To be bold, I would include Kline’s ANE Treaty analysis in that category. And old-earth creationism.

    (2) What’s to keep Jonah’s account from being satiric *and* factual? The existence of typological events shows that God has a literary flair in His providental workings.

    I think it’s entirely possible that the Jonah narrative could well have been literally true while *at the same time* arranged by God in a pointed rebuke of Israel. Just raising a possibility.

  133. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Jeff,

    I completely agree with your assessment, especially (2), which is very similar to my position on Jonah. In this discussion I only tried to represent Walton well, and argue that he wasn’t a false inerrantist even if his interpretation of Jonah is a minority view among inerrantists. Walton would affirm the absolute possibility of the historic and miraculous account of Jonah, that simply isn’t the view he takes. But, I am an advocate of a historical satire, and I believe the Jonah account, however stylized, corresponds to actual historical events.

    With respect to Old Earth Creationism, I am a bit more agnostic with respect to cosmogony since each theory has it’s strengths and weaknesses, the only theory I have a real issue with is YEC, simply because I think they really miss the point of Gen. 1-2. I hold to the position of Walton and Beale that the Gen. 1-2 account centers on the creation of the cosmos as the temple, which gives the moral and ethical framework for how humans are to relate to God, their earthly domain, and each other.

    Since I am neither a scientist, nor the son of a scientist, I am happy to be an observer of what is a very compelling discussion. I think all views that affirm God as creator, humans as his image bearers entrusted with stewardship of the earth, and the historicity of Adam and Eve in the garden, and recipients of the covenant of works (or a similar construct) are within the realm of inerrancy. Obviously there are stark differences of interpretation, but I think there is liberty where the text doesn’t spell out the exact process and mechanics of God’s act of creating. Creation via God’s spoken word is a difficult construct to derive precise creation processes. Anyhoo that’s my take. Thanks for the feedback.

  134. Reed Here said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Jed: these last few comments back and forth with Jeff have helped me understand your perspective quite a bit. Thanks.

    In principle I find myself tracking you and Jeff procedurally. There are extra-biblical sources that inform our understanding of the text. As long as these are made subservient to the Biblical text (e.g., where they differ, the text wins), it seems not simply wise but intended by God that we use such insights in interpreting his word.

    E.g., I follow a similar pattern of argument in terms of the Framework Hypothesis and Gn 1-2. I see the literary argument. I also see an over-arching demand for historicity of the creation account. Accordingly, I do follow the same method Jeff outlines for Jonah; the text is literarily styled AND historically ordered the same.

  135. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Reed,

    I think we are in fundamental agreement on the issues you have outlined here. One big question I have is from what you heard @ Twin Lakes do you think ICBI be addressing some of the issues we are discussing here? Thanks for initiating this interesting discussion.

  136. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    “In this discussion I only tried to represent Walton well, and argue that he wasn’t a false inerrantist even if his interpretation of Jonah is a minority view among inerrantists.”

    That’s the issue.

    I hope the reconstituted ICBI takes a long, deep, prayerful look at this issue where we see the interplay between inerrancy, hermeneutics, and modern ANE scholarship in order to deliver a *meaningful” inerrancy.

    If I was a voting member of the reconstituted ICBI at this juncture, I would not permit someone who denied the historicity of Jonah to classify themselves as an ICBI inerrantist.

    They could be an inerrantist under some other schema, but not an ICBI inerrantist.

  137. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    TUAD,

    The problem is you aren’t qualified to make those decisions. You have shown absolutely zero interest in interacting with ANE material, or developed a sense of how it might help or hurt biblical interpretation. You haven’t even intimated that you have interacted with men like Walton, or Waltke, or any other scholarship that must account for ANE material one way or another in their scholarly work. The likely wouldn’t be awarded PhD’s, or gain professorships or produce scholarly work if they took the stubborn and uninformed approach you have.

    Walton’s work looms large in GK Beal’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission, who also happens to be the author of The Erosion of Inerrancy. The fact is, even if the ICBI members disagree with Walton on Jonah, they should consult him on how to deal with ANE material in OT interpretation, since he is the most qualified inerrentist to address this issue.

    Your accusations that he should be deemed a non-ICBI inerrantist places you in the extreme minority in the academic world TUAD. You would find kinship with some of the fundies who decry him for his ambivalence to YEC, and his position on a local Noahic flood.

  138. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    “You have shown absolutely zero interest in interacting with ANE material, or developed a sense of how it might help or hurt biblical interpretation.”

    Oh yes I have. I have questioned some of your unthinking assumptions about ANE material, and to date, you have not answered these questions. See #128.

    “You would find kinship with some of the fundies who decry him for his ambivalence to YEC, and his position on a local Noahic flood.”

    Fallacy of poisoning the well. Associating my arguments for the historicity of Jonah as kinship with “fundies.” I’m not discussing YEC or a local Noahic flood.

  139. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Reed: “There are extra-biblical sources that inform our understanding of the text. As long as these are made subservient to the Biblical text (e.g., where they differ, the text wins), it seems not simply wise but intended by God that we use such insights in interpreting his word.”

    Reconciling with …

    Jed: “men like Walton, or Waltke, or any other scholarship that must account for ANE material one way or another in their scholarly work.”

    Walton and Waltke can account for the “mandatory” ANE material by making it “subservient to the Biblical text” as Reed puts it.

  140. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    TUAD,

    You haven’t read what I have already written, see comment 110 where I outlined my purportedly unthinking hermenutical approach.

    Or the comments from other readers: Reeds comments 79 and 134; or Paige’s comment 123; or Jeff 129.

    Your accusations are as baseless as they are absurd! You are digging a deep hole for yourself because you refuse to engage a full orbed hermeneutic that includes analyzing biblical data with in its cultural-historical context. As Walton has said time after time “The Bible isn’t written to us, it is written for us.” Getting as close to the world of the audience to who Scripture is originally written is absolutely necessary for responsible exegesis, to insist otherwise is as reckless as it is naive.

    You can’t simply admit you are unfamiliar with the subject matter, which is painfully clear. While I may be a layman, I have spent years studying the OT and ANE history, it is my passion, and God-willing I can work in that field one day. I may not know everything in the field, but I am anything but uninformed. You could be a well informed follower of OT scholarship, and disagree with Walton on this account, and still extend charity to a brother in the faith who has faithfully taught the Word his whole career, and opened the obscure world of the OT to hundreds if not thousands of students and readers. Walton is an inerrantist through and through and to intimate otherwise is as inane as it is false.

  141. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Jed lacks a consistent, reasonable, epistemological framework. His rule of faith is contemporary academia. Yet he thinks he is demeaning my friend TU&D by ascribing “kinship to fundies” to him. “Fundies” at least have a consistent, reasonable, epistemological framework.

  142. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    TFAN,

    You know nothing of my epistemology. Your attack is absolutely false. If you believe for a second that Walton and Waltke (Who I would consider my intellectual mentors with respect to OT studies) are slaves to the “contemporary academy” then you are fundamentally mislead. Your statements are nothing but a baseless smear founded on zero knowledge of me, and probably little knowledge of OT studies. If your argument against what I have communicated here is slander, then I can only assume it is because you are not willing to engage the discussion along exegetical and theological lines. I challenge you to engage any of the statements I have made here, and you will see the foolishness of your comment. I will leave my comments at that.

  143. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Jed: “Walton is an inerrantist through and through and to intimate otherwise is as inane as it is false.”

    #1. I didn’t intimate it.

    #2. Walton could be an inerrantist, just that if I had my druthers, he just wouldn’t be an ICBI inerrantist.

    TFan: “Jed lacks a consistent, reasonable, epistemological framework. His rule of faith is contemporary academia.”

    Thanks TFan. He’s made so many repeated references to “relevant” modern ANE scholarship and literature that it’s quite reasonable to conclude that his rule of faith for hermeneutics is contemporary academia.

  144. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Jed:

    Your umbrage is noted but hardly persuasive. Your arguments attempting to put down my friend TU&D demonstrate my accusation regarding your epistemology (see your own comments in #137).

    I would agree that any council on inerrancy should consult even with those outside the inerrantist camp, if only to address the challenges posed by the state of contemporary scholarship on the topic and related topics. Care, however, must be taken not to place greater faith in the accuracy of contemporary scholarship than in that of the Word itself. Rather let God be true, and every man a liar.

    -TurretinFan

  145. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    What Did Jesus Know and When Did He Know It.

    On the above post (which is well worth reading) we see the following comment by Harry at #93. I’ll reproduce it in part as it is applicable to the current debate about the historicity of Jonah.

    “Consider the following:

    Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying: Master we would see a sign from thee. Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
    Matthew 12:38-39

    And then consider the words of St. John Chrysostom in his homily on the above verses (Homily XLIII):

    … after His reproach, what saith He? “There shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.” Now is He striking the first note of the doctrine of His resurrection, and confirming it by the type. … “For as Jonas,” saith He, “was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” … But see how exactly He expresses it, even though in a dark saying. For He said not, “In the earth,” but, “In the heart of the earth;” that He might designate His very sepulchre, and that no one might suspect a mere semblance. And for this intent too did He allow three days, that the fact of His death might be believed. For not by the cross only doth He make it certain, and by the sight of all men, but also by the time of those days. For to the resurrection indeed all succeeding time was to bear witness; but the cross, unless it had at the time many signs bearing witness to it, would have been disbelieved; and with this disbelief would have gone utter disbelief of the resurrection also. Therefore He calls it also a sign. But had He not been crucified, the sign would not have been given. For this cause too He brings forward the type, that the truth may be believed. For tell me, was Jonah in the whale’s belly a mere appearance? Nay, thou canst not say so. Therefore neither was Christ in the heart of the earth such. For surely the type is not in truth, and the truth in mere appearance.

    Typology is the way in which scripture itself interprets the scriptures. (See 1 Peter 3:20-21; Heb 8:2-5; Heb 9:1-12)

    Note that Chrysostom assumes his listeners believe in the historicity of the Book of Jonas to make his point, which is of course, that if the Old Testament type is a historical fact, its New Testament fulfillment can’t be less than a historical fact: “For surely the type is not in truth, and the truth in mere appearance.” How far-fetched is the supposed New Testament fulfillment if its Old Testament type is itself a mere fable? As Chrysostom points out, Christ declares the reality of His eventual resurrection, “confirming it by [the reality of] the type.”

    The Church Fathers believed that God really intervened in history, and that the Scriptures, when the genre is historical in nature, is an account of that intervention, whether it be Noah and the flood or Jonah and the whale. Yeah. I know. Modern scholarship scoffs at the notion of the historicity of the Book of Jonah. Yet modern scripture scholarship, after reducing all the types of the Old Testament to fables, is reducing the New Testament fulfillment of those types to fables as well.

    The Fathers didn’t make that mistake. If you doubt that, find me a Church Father who does not believe in the historicity of the Book of Jonah. What you will find, if you look into it, is that not only Chrysostom, but Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome and others believed in/defended its historicity. They were scoffed at by their non-believing contemporaries. Unlike modern scripture scholars, they just accepted that. Augustine basically points out, in his defense of the historicity of the Book of Jonah, that those who ridicule Christians about that ought to at least ridicule them about the resurrection instead, which is much more fantastic than God keeping somebody alive in a big fish for a few days.

    The faith has always been ridiculed by unbelievers. Modern scripture scholarship, in attempting to avoid being the object of that inevitable scorn, is watering down the faith. What difference does that make? Note that the Fathers, with their humble proclamation of the facts of God’s intervention into human history as recorded in the scriptures, converted the known world. Note also that currently, with more than a billion Christians on the planet (too many of which, thanks to modern scripture scholarship, no longer believe in the historicity of God’s intervention into human history), we are losing ground to secularism.

    (Emphasis added).

  146. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks TFan. He’s made so many repeated references to “relevant” modern ANE scholarship and literature that it’s quite reasonable to conclude that his rule of faith for hermeneutics is contemporary academia.

    I would expect these kinds of smears on Fox news or MSNBC. This cannot be all you have left, I am sure that you are better than personal attacks you have hurled at the very core of my belief system. Your position, with the cavalry TFAN, is that since I disagree with you, I am epistemologically deranged, and my faith, rather than being built on the Word of God, and summarized in the Westminster Standards. This is the worst form of an ad hominem I have experienced in some time.

    Is this what your arguments have come to, character smears? Do you have anything to say substantively about why ANE studies, grammatical linguistic studies, genre criticism, grammatical, syntactical, comparative analysis with creeds, confessions, other commentators, other theological sources such as dictionaries, biblical theo., systematics, etc. etc.? I have advocated no less TUAD. The reason why I am harping on ANE material is pertinent so much is because you refuse to interact with it or acknowledge its validity.

    I realize that the findie reference was harsh, and I should have explained that fundamentalists of many stripes have attacked Walton for everything from denying the inerrancy of scripture (aside: which you do – to say he isn’t an ICBI inerrantist, even with the limitations of the Chicago statement would disqualify him as a staffer at Wheaton, or Moody (where I attended over a decade ago), would mean that he would be barred from most Evangelical/conservative institutions including the ETS) to calling him a false teacher, pulling their kids from his class. It’s happened because they are unwilling to consider alternative interpretations. From your responses, you seem to be in the same boat in this respect. That doesn’t make you a fundie, nor did I intend to call you one, but it places you in an ironic position with them

  147. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Jed,

    With all due respect, I think you’re getting too emotional.

  148. jedpaschall said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    How do you know if Walton and Waltke are watering the faith handed down from the apostles to the fathers to us today? You have not read them

    You are obfuscating the issue by proposing a false defeater. The fathers aren’t the final authority on matters of exegesis. Reformed theology is a prime example of this. The fathers are useful inasmuch as their exegesis is correct. You can use the fathers all day long, but until you can establish the fallacy of using ANE texts to clarify the cultural-historical setting of the OT, as well as genre issues. Neither you or TFAN are even aware of what is happening in the academy with respect to OT studies. How in the word can you refute what you are fundamentally ignorant of?!

  149. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Jed:

    Don’t get me wrong. You’ve clearly thought these things through. #110 demonstrates that.

    Regarding your proclivity for making contemporary academia the standard, I also provide, for your consideration:

    The fact is that most current scholars agree at the very least on this, Gen 1-2 isn’t talking about scientific issues of creation (YEC, OEC, TE or any other view). How does one’s scientific views, whatever they may be (assuming orthodoxy in all other confessional areas) really do any damage to inerrancy?

    (63)

    You make similar appeals to the academy in 80, 92, 93, 104, and 109.

    Interestingly, I would probably agree with nearly all of your comments, and even with the bulk of your approach.

    I would agree that ANE scholarship may be helpful (in a variety of ways) to inform OT studies, and that it is a mistake to entirely dismiss them. However, as Reed commented (and you indicated agreement), they must be made subservient to the word.

    My friend, TU&D, may well have gotten under your skin. And if that is so, it may be wise for you to simply ignore his comments rather than putting him down by suggesting that his opinions aren’t widely held in the academy.

    Perhaps my initial comments (about your rule of faith) are too strong. I provisionally withdraw them, based on your insistence that they are wrong. However, I encourage you to consider whether you might be unduly impressed by the state of modern academia.

    -TurretinFan

  150. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Meanwhile, I’d like to know how you came to the conclusion “Neither you or TFAN are even aware of what is happening in the academy with respect to OT studies.”

    -TurretinFan

  151. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    As for the statements you have made, there are two fundamental principles that you should be sure you accept.

    1. Scripture interprets Scripture

    While external sources can be helpful in informing our knowledge of language (in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and even idiom), the interpretation of Scripture is primarily a matter of intra-textual investigation.

    2. Creation is a Test-case for (1)

    If you consider the question of Creation on an intra-textual basis, there are not a lot of options. If you are willing, in principle, to let extra-textual considerations trump that intra-textual consideration, then you have abandoned (1), and your real rule of faith is not Scripture. That’s true, whether you attempt to take an agnostic view of Creation.

    Now, I realize that you are not going to come out and say that extra-Scriptural considerations trump intra-textual considerations, until you are willing to say that you are not an inerrantist. Nevertheless, it is a real danger to be alert for.

    A similar danger exists in the willingness to give up things. We should be willing to give things up for the sake of the argument. For example, as you pointed out, suppose that Jonah is a fictional account: what does that impact? That’s a question that should be asked, but we must be careful not simply to give way on questions like that, just because giving weigh does not (we think) cost much. In other words, it’s one thing to consider the question of Jonah’s historicity — it’s another thing to treat as sound those who deny Jonah’s historicity.

    -TurretinFan

  152. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    TFan: “For example, as you pointed out, suppose that Jonah is a fictional account: what does that impact?”

    Me, #71:

    “Jed: “And does it matter what the audience thought of Jonah’s literary status (history v. fiction)?”

    Yes.

    Didactically, it makes a *HUGE* difference whether something is grounded historically or not grounded historically.

    Biblical Christianity is a historically-grounded religion.

    Taking away the historicity of fact-narratives by arguing that it’s a literary tale does significant violence to the text of God’s Word.

    No thanks.”

    Then look at #145 for a further answer.

  153. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    TFan: “I would agree that ANE scholarship may be helpful (in a variety of ways) to inform OT studies, and that it is a mistake to entirely dismiss them. However, as Reed commented (and you indicated agreement), they must be made subservient to the word.”

    Jed, do you explicitly agree that “mandatory” ANE material is to be made “subservient to the Biblical text” as Reed put it?

  154. TurretinFan said,

    April 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    TU&D:

    Re: #152. I’m aware of your response. His counter-response is that the parables are not historical accounts and yet have didactic value (or something to the effect). What his counter-response seems to fail to properly account for, however, is that the parables are identified as parables by the text. We can derive the fact that they are fictional from the text of Scripture in a primary way.

    Rejection of Jonah or Genesis as historical is based on extra-Biblical sources in a primary way. It’s an important distinction.

    -TurretinFan

  155. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    TFan, #154: “What his counter-response seems to fail to properly account for, however, is that the parables are identified as parables by the text.”

    I was hoping that Jed would have come upon that discovery himself instead of having someone point it out for him.

    “Rejection of Jonah or Genesis as historical is based on extra-Biblical sources in a primary way.

    This rejection is really saying:

    ANE scholarship and literature (the extra-Biblical sources) >> Biblical text.

    This rejection is opposite of what Reed said earlier:

    “There are extra-biblical sources that inform our understanding of the text. As long as these are made subservient to the Biblical text (e.g., where they differ, the text wins)”

    Hence, my specific question to Jed in #153: Do you explicitly agree that “mandatory” ANE material is to be made “subservient to the Biblical text” as Reed put it?

  156. Stephen said,

    April 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    TUAD, Reed, and others…

    From an interpretive-methodological standpoint, what exactly does your theological position of making ANE or other contextual “subservient to the Biblical text” mean? It would be helpful if you do the following:

    (1) Show (with examples, preferably) what a “subservient” use of ANE data is in comparison with a non-subservient use of that same data.
    (2) Explain how this illustrates your theological argument about the necessity of this kind of use of contextual data for the Bible in a way that differentiates an improper (theologically) non-subservient use of ANE (or other contextual) data from just regular sloppy historical handling of data. E.g., show how this point is something beyond general historical-interpretive-methodology.
    (3) Perhaps sharpen #2 by discussing how the same stricture of making such ANE contextual data “subservient” is not properly operative when interpreting non-Biblical sources from the ANE (I use ANE just because that’s what’s being focused on here; we could easily recalibrate and talk of the NT in its broader Greco-Roman [which includes Jewish] contexts).

    I outline these three steps just because that will help me see what precisely is being claimed by saying that contextual data must be made “subservient to the Biblical text” or used in an “informative rather than normative” manner.

    To put my cards on the table here (and as I have said before), in my experience the whole “normative versus informative” use of extra biblical data argument is sophisticated-sounding jargon that lacks any identifiable content. E.g., it’s an argument used against contextually-informed handlings of biblical passages that result in readings divergent with the accuser’s theology (e.g., “that’s an improper normative use of extra biblical data…”) but not generally when contextually-informed handlings produce readings that support one’s theology and view of the Bible (e.g., “wow, what a great informative use of extra biblical data to show that Deuteronomy is a Hittite Covenant…;” or, “wow, I’m so happy that my trusty Hebrew lexicon that’s based upon broader studies of Northwest Semitic Philology helps me know what bara means in Gen 1.1 and helps me read the rest of the OT…”).

    This said, I want to give folks the benefit of the doubt and not just roll with my “sophisticated sounding jargon…” assessment. It may very well be wrong…

  157. Jerry said,

    April 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Hi Stephen,

    Just to ask, again, and, despite the ‘sophisticated sounding jargon’.

    What do you make of Enns’ take that Paul just doesn’t ‘get it’ concerning Adam’s historicity?

  158. Stephen said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Reed (126),

    Excellent question. For me “Scripture interprets scripture” operates more at the level of theological readings of the Bible than historical readings of the Bible; of course, as I said, I think there should be a relationship between historical (“first readings”) of a biblical passage and theological (“second readings”)…I continue to wrestle with the precise shape of that relationship.

    “Scripture interprets scripture” factors into historical readings of the Bible for me at the level of many/all biblical writings were produced by people who knew earlier biblical writings, interpreted earlier biblical writings as part of their writing process, who considered earlier biblical writings to be loci of divine authority and wisdom and thus positioned their own writings in relation to them somehow, for whom other biblical writings constituted a significant discursive repertoire, etc. etc. etc. However, while biblical authors used earlier or contemporary biblical writings, that does not answer exactly how they actually used them in relation to our usual questions: e.g., the fact that Paul claims Deut 25.4 is really about apostles and church leaders and not oxen (1 Cor 9.8-12), or that Paul (re)reads Genesis in Rom 4 to dissociate Abraham/Abrahamic descent/Abrahamic promises from the Law, or that Dan 9 interprets Jer 25’s and 29’s 70 years as 490 years, etc. etc. etc. does not mean that the interpreted passages historically meant what their later biblical interpreters claim. The fact that someone reads, handles, or reflects the discursive influence of a text does not mean that s/he has read it in an accurate historical manner. To be clear, not reading something in an accurate historical manner does not mean the absence of sophisticated, detailed, and/or otherwise textually-attentive and informed reading.

    The interpretive point here is that “scripture interprets scripture” plays basically no role (for me) in historical readings of biblical passages in terms of providing interpretive constraint on what the historical meaning of a passage can or cannot be. Again, when it comes to Biblical-Theological or otherwise theological readings, that’s a different story. This does not constitute putting “man’s methods or wisdom” over Scripture. Rather, I would contend that the Bible itself demands this adjustment to what we mean by “scripture interprets scripture” because of how its own writings handle other biblical writings.

    Does this answer your question?

  159. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 1:22 am

    TUAD,

    First things first, it was wrong of me to label you as a ‘fundie’, it’s clear that you aren’t (fundies at best don’t cite ECF’s often, and at worst are indifferent to them). I do apologize for this without excuse or qualification, I was in the wrong.

    The problem I have with the arguments you are making in this conversation is that you have utilized the ECF’s as if they solve the exegetical debate here. If this were an HT discussion, you’d get an A because you seem to do well with these categories, and there is nothing wrong that. But this isn’t a HT or church history discussion, and trust me, I am not trying to pull one over on you the ECF’s aren’t utilized by even the most orthodox contemporary scholars to settle OT debates. The reason why is that the ECF’s existed in a Greco-Roman culture that is vastly different in many respects from the culture of the Israelites in the OT period, and especially in the pre-exillic period where the Greek culture had a negligible impact on the Israelites.

    Whether or not you buy my defenses of Walton, and to a degree Waltke, it is a big mistake IMO to not grant the critical importance of ANE material to understand the cultural milieu of the OT. I am aware that you think my position is that the ANE material controls the interpretation of the OT. This simply isn’t the truth. Please re-read my comment 110 addressed to Jeff, it captures my most basic assumptions about how an exegete should approach the text:

    Clarifying and Expanding Comment 110

    Here’s why I say this – There are times when the biblical faith of Israel was at total odds with their pagan neighbors. There is a great deal of external coherence between Israel and the rest of the ANE with respect to many cultural, literary, legal, socio-economic, and governmental conventions. However, Israel’s Yahwistic monotheism, and fundamental assumptions about the nature and purpose of worship and Divine revelation (which impacts the nature of OT lit) were radically different. Israel also had a radically different concept of Deity, how the world was created, and how humans related to the one true God vs. ANE culture’s relations to their many gods. What I am trying to communicate, possibly not well enough yet, is that Israel’s culture and the composition of the OT bears striking similarity and equally striking dissimilarity to the ANE culture in which they existed.

    The job of the modern exegete is to determine the nature of the differences and similarities in interpreting the text. Liberal, radical, postmodern, dialectical (neo-orthodox), and sadly some self-labled evangelical exegetes to varying degrees will allow the ANE material to dictate the genre, convention, and meaning of the text, and their theological analysis from there is all over the map depending upon the prior assumptions about the nature of scripture. However exegetes who are bound by an orthodox assumptions about Scripture must not equate the authority of ANE sources with Scripture. This doesn’t mean that existing or newly discovered ANE sources cannot shed some light on shared cultural, and literary assumptions (among others) with portions of the OT. Knowing the cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds of the OT corpus and its similarities and dissimilarities is crucial one process among many others in the exegetical enterprise.

    We can pick up on the Walton/Jonah inerrancy debate in later comments, but I want to take the time to help you understand why even the most orthodox OT scholars engage in a process similar to what I have outlined here. This isn’t to say the ECF evidence is totally invalid, and I realize some of my statements intimated that, but it is to say that this sort of evidence needs to be prioritized and weighed along with all relevant evidence. This sort of process will help the lay, ministerial, or scholarly exegete committed to the inerrancy of the OT (and the rest of Scripture) formulate interpretations that can hold up against the onslaught of interpretations from those who intentionally or out of ignorance do violence to the Word of God and the Church that is fed by it.

    I’ll try to take some prime examples where ANE analysis incorporated in the exegetical process has lead to great interpretations of the OT, where the interpretations have been bad, and where they have been downright ugly, but digging up those resources will take me some time.

    In the mean time, let me know if I have missed anything, or if there are areas where you think I am badly misrepresenting your position, so we can at least resolve this issue. From there let me know how you see ECFs, and other material being relevant to the discussion. If you maintain that ANE analysis as I have outlined is not a valid means of interpretation, then I really think we will end up shouting past each other, and I am not convinced that will be productive at all. But if you can agree in principle, or even substantially to what I have proposed here and especially at 110, I think we can possibly come to a resolution at best, or a better outline of where we agree and where we disagree on the matter of inerrancy and cases like the Jonah one we are discussing currently.

  160. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 1:46 am

    TFAN,

    I am glad that you have taken the time to go back and re-read the statements that represent my position, and that you have raised questions and presented counter-arguments that take the substance of my position seriously. I also realize that some of my statements regarding you assumed more than I actually know.

    However, I’ll address your initial comment to me here. The gesture of withdrawing your comment is appreciated. But, honestly I was deeply offended by what you said, you went after the very core of my faith and why I believe what I believe, without warrant. If I similarly berated my wife or sons with a barrage of profanity, and “withdrew” the statement upon later consideration of evidence to the contrary, it would create a great many problems, and justifiably so. I realize that we can say a lot of things that we ought not in these heated discussions, and my hands certainly aren’t clean. But I would ask, as a brother, and a member in good standing at a Reformed church, that you not assume the worst about me or my motives, and I’ll try to do the same. With that said, I’m perfectly fine with putting that unfortunate part of the discussion behind us and get on to the more productive questions which I am so glad you asked.

  161. paigebritton said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Hey, Richard (#124),
    Didn’t ignore this, just haven’t been around much today (er, yesterday — don’t look too closely at the time marker, here)…

    You wrote, as an example of a logical but all-too-simplistic syllogism,

    Premise 1: What God says is always true
    Premise 2: The Bible is God’s word
    Therefore: There are no errors in the Bible

    That is, we need to take into account more ‘data’ than simply what is in this logical syllogism.

    This was in reaction to my comment to Stephen in #122, in which I questioned whether an errantist position such as the one he described earlier meant that one would prioritize the “phenomena” of Scripture over the words and message of Scripture, particularly the bits about God’s true, truthful character and words.

    As you know, there’s a spectrum of thought amongst self-labeled “inerrantists”: some would totally eschew critical studies of the text and deny that there are any textual difficulties (or yet even genres!) at all, resting entirely in statements such as “God’s word is truth”; others would do all the hard work that Jed has carefully summarized (#110), but then would ultimately rest in that confession rather than calling any unresolved difficulties “errors.”

    The first group you do right to chide; the second will still appear to you credulous, but note that their bottom-line does not preclude the consideration of other “data.” It just puts that data in ultimate perspective. Which gets back around to the question of what the Bible IS: Chicago-type inerrantists (to use one of McGowan’s categories) view it as God speaking, and they are trying hard to heed the content.

    pax,
    Paige B.

  162. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:41 am

    TFAN (Re: 149)

    However, I encourage you to consider whether you might be unduly impressed by the state of modern academia.

    I think you must contrast my comments on the merits of modern academia with TUAD’s insistence on deciding the issue on the basis of the ECFs. The way I see the modern academy, and the state of OT studies in the last century and a half is that it is a mixed bag, and that is excluding the logjam that is the conservative and Evangelical camp. The 20th century OT studies was dominated by dialectic theologians (Barthians), in reaction to the liberalism and higher criticism of 19th century. Later in the 20th century with the emergence of post/late modernist philosophy and the literary theories of Derrida, Foccault, and Fish, OT scholarship has gone all over the map with radical feminist, Marxsist, and multiple ethno-centric theologies have emerged. I won’t mention the Roman, Jewish, or Greek Orthodox scholarship here, simply because I haven’t familiarized myself with these. All of these theological schools of thought are antagonistic to conservative and Reformed (inerrantist) exegesis and theologies of the Bible, and the OT in particular. As a layman, I might not have all of these academic categories as tight as a professional (I’d welcome correction and criticism here), I am more or less aware of the currents in the scholarly world simply because I am nerdy that way and I find it very interesting. While I definitely see value in these schools of thought, some more than others, and some not at all, I wouldn’t say I am beholden to them.

    However, my main referent to the Academy was within the conservative camp, where there is at times a alarming lack of rigor, and at other times there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise. The best in the conservative camp have a depth and a breadth of interaction with sources in, and out of the tradition, and the good ones don’t punt on the ANE issues. At times the higher critics and dialectic theologians come across some real valuable observations and ANE connections, even when embedded in questionable exegesis. There are also non-inerrantists that are comparatively conservative, such as James Barr whose work is semantics, natural theology, and the concept of (OT) biblical theology is of the highest quality. His unrelenting critiques of the ranking Barthians in the OT field such as Von Rad and Eichrodt about the fundamental errors in their methods and assumptions about the nature of Scripture are of higher quality than almost anything in the Evangelical realm of scholarship (where too many are entirely enamored with Bartian and dialectic theology across the spectrum of theological disciplines. To be fair, the Reformed camp has the best theological and philosophical critiques of Barth and his colleagues, but Barr has some of the best exegesis to refute that school of thought.

    There is also a whole other realm of ANE history and Archaeology which is dominated by non-inerrantists. So when evaluating these works, I am perfectly clear that there are plenty of scholars who have absolutely zero motivation to vindicate the historicity of the OT.

    To say I am enamored with the Academy is an overstatement, to say I am scrupulous and selective in how I use ANE and scholastic material on the OT is closer to the case. There is a balance to be struck here; to deny the validity of the truthful and useful scholarship coming from the Academy is as much of a mistake as swallowing its agendas hook, line and sinker.

    Please also review my expansion of 110 in my response to TUAD at 159.

  163. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:49 am

    TFAN,

    Addition to post 162 – I also am indebted to the work of Gerhard Hasel’s fantastic survey Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues In the Current Debate along with the blogs and journal articles I try to keep up with to know what the happenings are in the academic world. For a layman I try to know as much as I can, while I am sure that those in theological higher ed. are far more knowledgeable than me.

    To the next issue:

    Meanwhile, I’d like to know how you came to the conclusion “Neither you or TFAN are even aware of what is happening in the academy with respect to OT studies.”

    I’ll flip the statement which was a definite reach, and simply state it as a question: How familiar are you (or TFAN) with what is going on in academia with respect to OT studies?

  164. paigebritton said,

    April 15, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Stephen,
    I hope you saw my #122 (re. your #112). Thank you so much for #113, too, and your interest in carefully articulating your position. I, for one, value understanding it better (and I didn’t find it long-winded! :).

    You raise an interesting point about whether or not the Bible should be read with a “special exception” clause that sets it outside the pale when it comes to ancient literature. Clearly you would answer NO: one ought to read it like any other ancient text, without presuming inerrancy, & letting the data/evidence/phenomena take us where they will. Anything less is shoddy scholarship (and likely academic suicide!).

    At some level I resonate with this: intellectual integrity is important to me, too, and I can see how someone with your convictions & abilities would feel this is the best way to “love God with all your mind.”

    I am seeing, though, that at least the more thoughtful inerrantists (as opposed not to you but to the less thoughtful ones!) combine loving God intellectually with submitting to particular limits in that pursuit. That is to say, rather than asking (or merely asking), “Should the Bible be read like any other ancient text, or does it get special immunity?” they ask, “Should I, a believing scholar, read the Bible like any other ancient text, or are there limits that I must observe?”

    Jeff nicely summed up what we’d say those limits are when it comes to the use of extra-biblical sources: While not a parallelophobic, I would put any exegesis whose backbone lies outside Scripture as “merely possible.”

    And Reed raised the issue of Scripture interpreting Scripture, which again locates the “backbone” or bottom line of an interpretation within the Bible’s pages (granting, as you point out above, that this is also a complex task).

    FWIW, I think that the scholars who wrote & those who subscribe to the CSBI as a description of their position are striving for a balance of academic rigor and what they understand to be the obedience of faith. So — bring on the ANE and lexical and 2nd Temple studies: let’s glean from them all we can! Bring on the difficulties and discrepancies in the text: we’ll face them head-on! …But at the end of the day, even when faced with unresolved riddles — “In the teeth of the evidence!” you would cry — their confession is, “Despite what I don’t understand, it’s Your word, and what it says is true and trustworthy, because You are true and trustworthy.”

    Is this credulous? naive? intellectually dishonest? — or is it really, as we believe, submitting to be mastered rather than always achieving mastery?

    How about you: even though you don’t agree with the limits the inerrantists have identified, do you think there are any limits imposed on the scholarly task of the believing scholar by the content of the special revelation that is being studied?

    pax,
    Paige B.

  165. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 4:23 am

    RE: 151.

    1. Scripture Interprets Scripture:

    I wouldn’t say it in the way you articulated because it isn’t always a fixed proposition, but in principle I absolutely agree that if the interpreter isn’t dealing with intra-textual (canonical) analysis and connections he is failing at the most fundamental level. I would add, the reason there is such elaborate study with the ANE is that it is part of developing the historical extra-textual refrentiality , this allows us to see how the OT is engaging in polemics, borrowing, transforming, or flat out disregarding the historical realities and pagan worldview of the day. By this we gain a greater insight into the historical reality of ancient Israel and her self-understanding of a people in relation to God. Once again, there is a balance to be struck here, one can deal with the near-context and original audience and authorial intent to the detriment of making the canonical connections and refining the interpretation in light of later and/or earlier revelation. As Reformed exegetes we must maintain this balance, or we fail in the whole enterprise of exegesis and biblical theology.

    2. Creation is a Test-Case for 1

    I see what you are saying here, but I think I need to clarify again. I haven’t officially adopted a view on the physical manufacture of creation in Gen. 1-2. I follow Walton closely in these chapters, with the exception of how he interprets the nature of the tree of knowledge and what it imparted, which is of no consequence to this discussion. I also go further than Walton with respect to intra-textual and canonical analysis and follow Beale in The Temple and the Church’s Mission, as he leans heavily on Walton’s interpretation of this passage. Walton fundamentally argues that the material manufacture of the cosmos and the earthly realm isn’t the point of the passage. He leans heavily on ANE sources to show that the primary focus of ancient cultures was how the material world functioned, not the material world and what it consisted of. They were concerned with how the world worked, that each domain functioned as it should and did not give way to the destructive force of chaos. In the ch.1 he shows, from demonstrating that all ANE cultures understood the world to be a macrocosmic temple, where the gods dwelled. However Gen. 1 continues this notion of earth as the temple/dwelling place of God, where humans carried out a priestly and kingly (viceregency) duty of tending to and ruling over this sacred space as caretakers or stewards. The culmination of creation recorded in ch 2 is the establishment of Sabbath as God rests in the completed temple. ANE cultures including Israel, as Walton contends, would all understand this as a ‘temple’ text as ‘resting’ has to do with the diety, in Genesis, Yahweh, making the temple his abode, and now that the work of constructing the temple, He dwells (rests) in it and govern’s the affairs of the created order.

    Man’s role is as the priest-kings who were to carry out their call by serving God through ruling the earth on his behalf, and to worship him as Lord of the Cosmos, the unrivaled God of the universe. The fundamental purpose of the Genesis account was to demonstrate God as the creator of all things, and to provide man the moral, spiritual, and ethical purposes of creation. I also follow Waltke who argues from a framework interpretation also deals with canonical connections and intra-textual better than Walton that Creation was the first eschatological event, as God ‘makes a place’ for man and the rest of his creatures from the cosmic wasteland in Gen. 1:2 where the pre-created cosmos were in a chaotic state.

    In terms of how this fits with both religious and scientific theories of origins, I place more weight on the meaning of creation than the mode of creation. But I also know that there is ground beneath my feet, and an external world I live in. From the NT in John 1, Romans 4:17, and 2 Peter 3:5 it is clear that God made more than a functional universe (there are several other OT references to this as well), he created a material universe, and he created by the agency of the divine Word who not only creates but sustains the universe. I find that there are several ways in which God could have created the cosmos: YEC, OEC, & TE are all possible and have their strengths and weaknesses. Some modes of thoroughgoing materialistic evolution that doesn’t deny God ‘superintending’ the process to ensure it works according to his perfect will are highly suspect to me. Also, some physicists views on an infinite multiverse that randomly generate universes by themselves by crashing into each other causing the ‘quantum fluctuations’ prior to the big-bang which created our universe and an infinite number of other ones. Some iterations of the multiverse seem to be nothing more than a naked assertion of an infinite materialism.

    So, to wrap this one up. I believe that the Bible, throughout the canon has a well developed creation theology that are similar to the underlying structures of our eschatology which points to yet another new creation. With respect to the material universe, and the historicity of the Genesis creation account, I hold to the historicity in terms that I believe the text presents. 1:1-2:3 as a real historical account, that is akin to Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night, that depicts a real landscape in a stylized way, not communicating what the night is but what it meant . Just like Van Gogh’s painting isn’t like a photographic image (1:1) of the landscape, so Gen 1 is a stylized account of a real event pointing to the meaning of creation rather than the mechanics of creation. I take Gen 2 to be closer to historical narrative, and regardless of creation mode Adam and Eve are absolutely historical people and Adam is our first federal head, I think scripture demands this. This is where Enns fails so very badly. If evolution is the mechanical means through which God created, Adam could have been the very first homo sapien with Eve created afterward miraculously from Adam’s own flesh. Another, and more problematic speculative historical reconstruction is that Adam was not the first human, but a miraculously created human placed in Eden, and Eve was created miraculously likewise. Here Adam and Eve were charged to expand the garden through faithful service to God, bringing all men under his rule. There is the possibility of humans existing concurrent with Adam Eve and their murdering son Cain who fears that he will be murdered by other people. Since no other offspring are attributed to Adam other than Cain and the deceased Abel it is possible, but I am not sure how likely. But these views are possible for inerrantists to hold, and disagree among themselves as to the merits of the various positions of ‘how’ Gen 1 & 2 corresponds to how the world was created.

    Fundamentally, if a view on creation isn’t fundamentally plausible given the canonical witness, with respect to ancient or modern/scientific sources I am absolutely in opposition to this. That’s all I got for now and it’s waaay too late and I’m going to bed

  166. TurretinFan said,

    April 15, 2011 at 8:14 am

    “I think you must contrast my comments on the merits of modern academia with TUAD’s insistence on deciding the issue on the basis of the ECFs. ”

    There are a few intertwined issues here.

    1) My criticism of your attitude toward modern academia wasn’t intended as an endorsement of a similar attitude toward the ECFs. The ECFs were often hampered by having to use a Greek (or worse, a Latin translation of the Greek) translation of the Old Testament. While they were centuries closer to the Old Testament era, they were not necessarily more familiar with the historical context of the Old Testament books.

    2) On the other hand, it is not as though the negative effects of their weakness in Old Testament scholarship were so severe as to prevent them from having a general understanding of the Old Testament.

    3) In other words, the benefit of ANE scholarship is a marginal, on the edges, type of benefit.

    4) By way of contrast, even in the Latin translation of the Greek, the Old Testament was mostly easily understood. However, there were some translational issues that hampered the understanding of a few verses. These were similarly problematic in the Greek translation, but many of these problems have been resolved by access to the original languages. In fact, Jerome was a man out of time in terms of attempting to resolve some of the problems of the Greek translation by referring back to the Hebrew text (the problem of Methuselah dying after the flood, for example).

    – TurretinFan

  167. TurretinFan said,

    April 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Re: “Since no other offspring are attributed to Adam other than Cain and the deceased Abel it is possible, but I am not sure how likely.”

    You seem to have forgotten about Seth, one of your own ancestors!

    -TurretinFan

  168. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Seth came after the Cain & Able incident, at the end of Gen. 4, at least in the chronology. There is also a (low) possibility that they had children before Seth that weren’t accounted for. The point is that the notion that Adam & Eve weren’t the first humans chronologically has some merits both textually and externally under the evolutionary scenario. Eden would have needed to be in sub saharan Africa if Adam was the first evolutionary man (& eve was a miraculous creation) as the paleontologists argue is the area of human origin. If Adam & Eve were not the first humans but rather an example of a divine miracle, then they would be able to be placed in and Eden in the general vicinity of Mesopotamia after the first human migrations to that area, around the rise of urbanization where plants were cultivated for food, and animals domesticated 7-10,000 years ago. I wouldn’t place a high probability on this reconstruction, but I don’t understand for the life of me why evangelical and reformed theistic evolutionists use evolution as a way of denying the historicity of Gen 2. Enns mythological program plays into his reasons, but I don’t see evolution to be something that is an unquestionable defeater of the first 2 chapters of Genesis. I know that Warfield held to something like this reconstruction. It should be instructive for TE’s today.

    My problem with the general theory of evolution is that it isn’t a slam dunk. Even the most honest evolutionary scientists will admit that there are still gaps in the evidence, and mechanical questions about how it exactly works at the genetic level. For example the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ reported as a time of prolific speciation, and this seems to be of some issue since most evolution is supposed to take place slowly over time, yet the fossil record shows rapid explosions of speciations followed by periods of stability and then mass extinctions and this repeats down through time. Since I am not a scientist, I don’t quite understand how life runs along these explosions of rapid evolution, and then equally rapid mass-exctinction squares with the ‘slowly over time’ model we all learn in public high school biology. I’m not entirely convinced, but I am not afraid that evolution under certain parameters ‘contradicts’ Scripture or precludes God’s active involvement in guiding the process along.

  169. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 11:41 am

    “I think you must contrast my comments on the merits of modern academia with TUAD’s insistence on deciding the issue on the basis of the ECFs.”

    Jed, first of all, thanks for your comments in #159.

    With respect to the above comment of yours, that’s not quite right with regards to your characterization of “TUAD’s insistence.”

    I harken you back to #83:

    (Jed) “But if you haven’t it’ll be hard to get anywhere since you haven’t investigated how a conservative and godly scholar (in John Walton’s case) makes his case for the interpretations he proposes.”

    (Me) “Thwwwwwpppt.

    I’ll put up all the Early Church Fathers’ understanding and interpretation of Jonah against conservative and godly scholar John Walton’s understanding and interpretation of Jonah.”

    It’s only because you kept making repeated appeals to John Walton as a conservative and godly scholar with his reliance of ANE scholarship to deny the historicity of Jonah that I simply upped the ante by then making an appeal to the unanimity of the ECF’s in their affirmation of the historicity of Jonah.

  170. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 11:52 am

    TUAD,

    I don’t think we’re coming to agreement on this one, and I’ll leave it at that. I would encourage to read Walton before you indict him as an non-inerrantist, based on evidence you haven’t considered from the source. I will take Walton’s exegesis any day over the ECF’s, I think it is superior on many accounts, partially because Walton, unlike the ECFs has the benefits of 2000 years of scholarship, along with access to external resources that the ECFs just didn’t have. In a sense Walton owes much to the ECF’s, as we all do for laying the groundwork for post-canonical biblical scholarship.

    Remember, I share Walton’s position on the genre of Jonah, and depart with him on historicity. My contention continues to be Walton is, and should be considered as nothing less than a strong advocate for biblical inerrancy. If you read his works and still come away with the same opinion, with a first-hand grasp of his scholarship, I’d be far more receptive of your opinion here.

    If you have more to add that hasn’t been discussed, let me know, but I do think we’ve beat this to death.

  171. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Jed, #159: “Liberal, radical, postmodern, dialectical (neo-orthodox), and sadly some self-labled evangelical exegetes to varying degrees will allow the ANE material to dictate the genre, convention, and meaning of the text, and their theological analysis from there is all over the map depending upon the prior assumptions about the nature of scripture.”

    I heartily agree with you.

    “However exegetes who are bound by an orthodox assumptions about Scripture must not equate the authority of ANE sources with Scripture. This doesn’t mean that existing or newly discovered ANE sources cannot shed some light on shared cultural, and literary assumptions (among others) with portions of the OT. Knowing the cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds of the OT corpus and its similarities and dissimilarities is crucial one process among many others in the exegetical enterprise.”

    Stephen in #156, this comment above by Jed help you?

    “I’ll try to take some prime examples where ANE analysis incorporated in the exegetical process has lead to great interpretations of the OT, where the interpretations have been bad, and where they have been downright ugly, but digging up those resources will take me some time.”

    I look forward to seeing these prime examples.

    “If you maintain that ANE analysis as I have outlined is not a valid means of interpretation, then I really think we will end up shouting past each other, and I am not convinced that will be productive at all.”

    Instead of shouting, let me ask you this genuine query:

    Suppose there was never any ANE scholarship, literature, or research ever done. Would Christendom (clergy, laity, theologians) be forever doomed to misinterpreting some passages of Scripture because there was never any ANE studies being done?

  172. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    TFAN, Re: 166

    (*Note to moderator, I submitted this response with a link to Paige’s Sailhamer’s Pentateuch – Take 5, but my response wasn’t posted, I am guessing because of the link. Pleas disregard the first copy of this comment, or publish the link at your discretion – thanks, Jed)

    2) On the other hand, it is not as though the negative effects of their weakness in Old Testament scholarship were so severe as to prevent them from having a general understanding of the Old Testament.

    Agreed. I’d argue that they have a better than general understanding, and at times, brilliant theological analysis.

    3) In other words, the benefit of ANE scholarship is a marginal, on the edges, type of benefit.

    On what basis? How can you back this up? It is not of central importance to the theology of the text, but it is essential to the grammatical-historical component, and to get to what the texts are communicating to the original audience. There are even places where ANE analysis can change how we understand the theology of a text, here’s three quick examples:

    1) Gen 1-2: By using ANE material it is clear that temple theology is present in the formation of the cosmos, and Eden.

    2) Gen 11: by analyzing the function of the ziggurat, it is clear that the sin of the Babel passage is idolatry, this doesn’t rule out human pride and hubris, the traditional interpretation, but it does give a more robust explanation of the events in this episode. See a fuller explanation on Paige’s post Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch on 4/4/11 Note my comment #7. I can expand on it if it would be helpful.

    3) The uncovering of the form and function of the Hittite Suzerainty-Vassal treaties throughout the 2nd Millennium BC. Helps to explain the conventions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants with greater precision. This gives a better sense of how the covenants were prosecuted, and what the meaning of the split carcasses in the covenant ceremony of in Genesis 15 refers to. It also show how unique the nature of God’s covenant with Abraham is in light of it’s ANE counterparts. While the format of the covenant has striking similarity to Suzerainty-Vassal treaties of the time, no Suzerain make himself liable to the curses of the covenant if he does not prosecute it’s stipulations. However, this is exactly what God does in the Abrahamic covenant, placing himself liable if he fails to carry out the covenant promises. Similar conventions are present to the New Covenant instituted by Christ 2000 years later.

    There are other examples of ANE textual significance on the interpretation and theology, and certain portions of Scripture that are heavily dependent on ANE sources in terms of literary form and cultural conventions. For example Proverbs 22:17-23:11 where the ‘thirty sayings’ of wisdom (22:20) are heavily dependent on the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope. I could go on, however, I think there is sufficient evidence to support the deep connections of the OT to the ANE culture and literature. Whether the OT was engaging polemics against ANE paganism, agreeing with certain ANE cultural ideals or transforming them for their own purposes, or utilizing ANE literary forms, Israel’s ideology and worldview was inextricably linked to the ANE world in which it existed.

    This isn’t to say that Israel shares everything with their ANE counterparts. Israel’s theology is fundamentally different than ANE sources, as recorded from the inception of the OT canon to it’s close. But to say that ANE studies are of ‘marginal’ benefit to OT studies simply isn’t the case. Whether we are arguing against the ideology of the crass idolatry and religious praxis of the ANE, or seeing the organic similarities between the cultural ideas, the OT is an ANE document, and can’t be divorced from it’s historical context. It is up to the exegete to understand the nature of the similarities and dissimilarities between respective passages and ANE ideology, and textual forms, etc.

  173. Rachel said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Jed~ why do you believe that there is only a low possibility that Adam and Eve had children other than Cain and Abel before Seth? According to Genesis, Adam was 130 when Seth was born and had other sons and daughters. Wouldn’t it be more unusual for Adam and Eve to have lived so long without having other children given that they were to be fruitful and multiply?

  174. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    TUAD,

    Suppose there was never any ANE scholarship, literature, or research ever done. Would Christendom (clergy, laity, theologians) be forever doomed to misinterpreting some passages of Scripture because there was never any ANE studies being done?

    That’s a fair question. The church would never be ‘forever doomed’ to a deficient interpretation in perpetuity because God is faithful to his word, and he is not bound by our limitations. The phrase an old pastor of mine used comes to mind, “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.”

    The fact is our interpretations on many texts are at best faithful approximations of the truth as God sees it. That isn’t to say that we can’t be certain, interpreting the Word is like trying to hit a bullseye on a dart-board. If we are unable to hit it dead center on every issue, we shouldn’t be alarmed if we get to the second ring of the bullseye on many matters of interpretations. Maybe future generations of the faithful will best us with this enterprise. The basic meaning of Jonah should be apperant, and useful for teaching, reproving, and rebuking the faithful. I am sure the ECFs had an able grasp on this.

    I think this case is similar to the minister’s sermon in many respects. The sermon isn’t infallible, nor is the minister. However, God, knowing our weakness and propensity to err is still faithful, and stands behind the faithfully and skillfully preached Word more than he stands behind even the most sophisticated scholarship. In the end, and a Reformed believer, I believe that all scholarship should be aimed at serving the church. If some of the ministers textual findings, as in this Jonah case, which aren’t essential to the text, and they would likely unduly scandalize the faithful who don’t have access to this scholarship or training to understand, than he would be wise to omit this in the sermon. These sort of controversies are for debates like this, not the pulpit. That’s where I stand

  175. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Stephen in #156 asked: “From an interpretive-methodological standpoint, what exactly does your theological position of making ANE or other contextual “subservient to the Biblical text” mean?”

    Do the following excerpts help you?

    Paige Britton: “Jeff nicely summed up what we’d say those limits are when it comes to the use of extra-biblical sources: While not a parallelophobic, I would put any exegesis whose backbone lies outside Scripture as “merely possible.”

    And Reed raised the issue of Scripture interpreting Scripture, which again locates the “backbone” or bottom line of an interpretation within the Bible’s pages (granting, as you point out above, that this is also a complex task).

    FWIW, I think that the scholars who wrote & those who subscribe to the CSBI as a description of their position are striving for a balance of academic rigor and what they understand to be the obedience of faith. So — bring on the ANE and lexical and 2nd Temple studies: let’s glean from them all we can! Bring on the difficulties and discrepancies in the text: we’ll face them head-on! …But at the end of the day, even when faced with unresolved riddles — “In the teeth of the evidence!” you would cry — their confession is, “Despite what I don’t understand, it’s Your word, and what it says is true and trustworthy, because You are true and trustworthy.”

    Is this credulous? naive? intellectually dishonest? — or is it really, as we believe, submitting to be mastered rather than always achieving mastery?”

    Jed: “However exegetes who are bound by an orthodox assumptions about Scripture must not equate the authority of ANE sources with Scripture.”

  176. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Rachel,

    Biblical genealogies are often formatted for the purpose of the author. Some say it isn’t impossible for genealogies in to skip births, or even generations in ancient texts to fit the purposes as the author. I’m not saying this is definitely happening here, but I wouldn’t rule out this position.

    I’ll try to get a clear reference on this issue for you. But trying to make any comprehensive position on what’s happening the primeval history of Genesis 1-11 is difficult since, at minimum a history at least as long as the time of Abraham all the way to the time Christ is squeezed into 11 chapters. I don’t think the text fully vindicates any one view here. Some positions are better than others but that’s another conversation.

    And to your question, yes Adam and eve certainly could have had more children, who could have been well aware of the Cain & Abel situation, and been out for Cain’s blood. I don’t place as high a possibility on that because the text doesn’t say so. But remember, I don’t place a high possibility that Cain was afraid of a pre-existing non-Adamic population (with respect to physical genaology, Adam is every human’s spiritual anscestor as scripture makes clear), because the Bible doesn’t say anything to warrant this possibility. I don’t hold a position here because I don’t think we can know for sure one way over the other.

  177. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Q: “Would Christendom (clergy, laity, theologians) be forever doomed to misinterpreting some passages of Scripture because there was never any ANE studies being done?”

    A: “The church would never be ‘forever doomed’ to a deficient interpretation in perpetuity because God is faithful to his word, and he is not bound by our limitations.” (Jed)

    If I understand you correctly, your answer to my question is “No.” If so, doesn’t that lend tacit agreement to TFan’s claim below (despite your earlier protestations)?

    TFan: “In other words, the benefit of ANE scholarship is a marginal, on the edges, type of benefit.”

  178. jedpaschall said,

    April 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    TUAD,

    I don’t think it does. I think each generation of Christian interpreters are obligated to produce the best scholarship that they are able to with the resources given to them. The modern discussion rightly should include ANE sources. The ECF’s aren’t held to this standard, they are held to the standards accessible to them in their time. If modern Christian scholars abdicated their responsibility to deal with the ANE sources, they would be unfaithful stewards of what has been made available to them. It would be like the Presbyterian controversies when very few conservatives joined Machen’s fight. They essentially acquiesced to the liberals for the sake of peace, and the faithful have been decimated from the PCUSA in every following generation. There are handful of PCUSA churches in various pockets throughout the country that maintain any faithful witness to the truth of Scripture, in many cases these PCUSA churches aren’t really churches at all.

    Machen is a prime example of someone who was a foremost scholar in his time, familiar with all the contemporary data and still remarkably able to articulate orthodoxy in using the language of the acadamey. We have the same duty in our time, and for OT scholars need to know how to make use of ANE sources, and articulate the orthodox faith handed down through the ages,anything else would be a dereliction of duty in my estimation.

    I’ve got to run, I won’t be able to any further comments until either this evening or tomorrow due to some previous engagements and responsibilities.

  179. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    “John Walton (and the Jonah portion is written by Walton) asserts that Jonah is a satire in the same literary vein as other similar ANE texts.”

    In the particular instance of the Book of Jonah, regrettably and sadly, John Walton has been seduced by ANE scholarship to deny the historicity of Jonah.

  180. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Jed: “Remember, I share Walton’s position on the genre of Jonah, and depart with him on historicity.”

    On a broader level, let’s categorize genre by two classifications: fiction or non-fiction.

    Given this more expansive scope, you do not agree with Walton on the genre of the Book of Jonah. You believe that it’s historical fact-narrative. Walton believe that it’s literary satire.

  181. Stephen said,

    April 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    TUAD (175),

    Thanks for the thoughts, but no, they do not answer my question. I believe I laid out fairly clearly what would help in an answer to my question (156); I even set out three steps. At bottom the thoughts you listed amount to saying that you locate interpretive authority or priority “in the text” of the Bible itself over other contextual data.

    But asserting that in this discussion, please forgive me for being frank, means nothing. The whole discussion is about how properly to interpret and understand the text of the Bible itself and the place of contextual data in doing this. Thus positioning yourself as submitting to the text itself or letting the “backbone” of interpretation be in scripture and not outside of it carries no identifiable/falsifiable/actual content in this discussion. That claim, rather, seems to function (whether you intend this or not) as pious rhetoric that positions you as a reverent person who submits to the text against me (presumably) who supposedly allocates interpretive authority elsewhere (whatever that means; again, I want someone to spell out the precise interpretive-methodological significance of claims about “subservient” uses of contextual data, etc.). Your claims continue to sidestep the question I am asking. Put another way, you’re “begging the question,” since the entire question is how to know what the text says so we can know what we’re submitting to. Again, my goal in outlining three possible steps in comment 156 was to explain how you and others could better clarify your position and give it some positive content.

    I have the same thoughts about the rest of your comment. Beyond me never having used (or “cried”) the phrase “in the teeth of the evidence,” the broader (inerrancy) issue here is what do we do if we find that the Bible does things cutting across our/your notions of how it should behave. Are you then still willing to submit to it and trust God?

    As for framing my comments as concerns about intellectual honesty versus credulity, I have not framed my own comments thus. Sure, I care about those things in my professional setting, as part of my academic work. I also think, as I’m sure you agree, that honesty is something required of us by God and thus an end in itself, if you will. Even so, what I care more about is not intellectual honesty so much as simply following the Bible wherever it leads us…as Christians.

    Since God gave it to us as human-historical contextualized documents I tend to think that he thus wants historical study to factor into how we read it…especially since he has located some of the church in societal settings with the technological and knowledge resources to study the Bible that way. Studying it historically means following historical methodology, which inerrantists already both explicitly and implicitly think. Adding “special rules” to that methodology for the Bible, however, amounts to throwing historical methodology out the window…especially if you do not answer my question (156) and explain precisely how and why (from a theological and interpretive standpoint) those “special rules” should apply.

  182. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Stephen, #181: “Thanks for the thoughts, but no, they do not answer my question.”

    We may be, and most probably are, at an impasse.

    “Thus positioning yourself as submitting to the text itself or letting the “backbone” of interpretation be in scripture and not outside of it carries no identifiable/falsifiable/actual content in this discussion.”

    For me it does. For you it doesn’t.

    But you’re right, I submit myself to the Authority of Scripture.

    “That claim, rather, seems to function (whether you intend this or not) as pious rhetoric that positions you as a reverent person who submits to the text against me (presumably) who supposedly allocates interpretive authority elsewhere (whatever that means; again, I want someone to spell out the precise interpretive-methodological significance of claims about “subservient” uses of contextual data, etc.).”

    Me: “A reverent person who submits to the text” (True).

    You (Stephen): “who supposedly allocates interpretive authority elsewhere.”

    We’re coming to something akin to the Reformation. The RCC proclaimed interpretive authority in the Magisterium. Protestant Reformers proclaimed Sola Scriptura.

    For me, Scripture has ultimate authority. I do not look to anything or anyone else to be a higher authority than Scripture.

    Are we connecting? I hope so.

  183. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Stephen: “the broader (inerrancy) issue here is what do we do if we find that the Bible does things cutting across our/your notions of how it should behave.”

    Your rhetoric would be more helpful if you could provide some concrete examples of what you’re talking about.

  184. Stephen said,

    April 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    TUAD (182),

    You seem to have missed the point of my comment, “Thus positioning yourself as submitting to the text itself or letting the ‘backbone’ of interpretation be in scripture and not outside of it carries no identifiable/falsifiable/actual content in this discussion.” My point is that such a statement sounds very firm, faithful, and orthodox, but that in this discussion it carries little content since the whole discussion is about how we know what the text of Scripture says in the first place.

    The idea that we would be at an impasse over me asking you to spell out precisely what it means to say that extra-biblical sources can only be used in an informative rather than normative manner (for example) is very troubling. I hope your suggestion of us being at an impasse either reflects a miscommunication between you and me or does not represent the opinions of others here.

    Also, my position is nothing if not a radical attempt at Sola Scriptura, a sola scriptura take that requires even our doctrines of Scripture be held captive to how Scripture itself behaves. I appreciate your sincere placement of Scripture as speaking with God’s ultimate authority; hopefully we can work from that shared commitment of ours to a mutually critical interaction here.

  185. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I suppose it’s a miscommunication based upon a misunderstanding. I’m not really clear what you’re saying.

    So I cede the field to others who may know better than I on how to respond to your questions.

    But when I read this by you:

    “Also, my position is nothing if not a radical attempt at Sola Scriptura, a sola scriptura take that requires even our doctrines of Scripture be held captive to how Scripture itself behaves.”

    I want to ask you, “Doesn’t Scripture itself behave inerrantly?”

  186. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    “Also, my position is nothing if not a radical attempt at Sola Scriptura, a sola scriptura take that requires even our doctrines of Scripture be held captive to how Scripture itself behaves.”

    Stephen, does Jesus treat and approach the OT Scriptures as though they were inerrant?

  187. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Stephen, #184: “The idea that we would be at an impasse over me asking you to spell out precisely what it means to say that extra-biblical sources can only be used in an informative rather than normative manner (for example) is very troubling.”

    It seems that you are saying or arguing that extra-biblical sources can be used in a normative manner. If that is, in fact, what you are arguing, then perhaps it should be I who should be troubled.

    Have you ever heard of norm normans non normata? It means “the norming norm that is not normed.” Scripture is the norming norm that is not normed. So I’m unclear why you would argue for extra-biblical sources to be used in a normative manner for Scripture instead of an informative manner.

    My good friend Turretinfan has written a post “Norma Normans vs. Norma Normata” that goes into further detail and it might be helpful for you.

    Pax.

  188. paigebritton said,

    April 16, 2011 at 5:58 am

    Hey, Stephen,
    I think that TUAD’s pasting of parts of my comment (#164) into his “does this help?” comment (#175) gave my words a de-contextualized clout that I certainly didn’t intend. I respect your desire for scholarly integrity and for trying to “love God with all your mind,” and I tried to frame the observations I was making with this tone. (And sorry for the caricature — “in the teeth of the evidence” — which was meant only playfully!) Unfortunately, TUAD left off the “frame” parts so my words took on a more belligerent tone.

    If you read my original comment, hopefully you’ll see that I was attempting simply to articulate some observations about what I think “Chicago” inerrantists are trying to do, in relation to the puzzle about whether the Bible should be read as any other ancient text. Though I’m sure I didn’t express it as well as I should have, I surely didn’t intend to shoulder my way to the moral high ground or label you as only concerned with intellectual integrity!

    There is (obviously) a difference between our positions, though, and I think it is located in our different understandings of the task of the believing scholar. (I am willing even to concede that the inerrantists may be in error in this, not being inerrant themselves; but laying out the divide like this helps me to see the path they have chosen as one that I personally can accept as having integrity.)

    Apologies for the unintended consequences of a cut-and-pasted comment!
    pax,
    Paige B.

  189. paigebritton said,

    April 16, 2011 at 7:04 am

    TUAD –
    If I may, I think that what Stephen is getting at is this (and he can correct me if I’m off!):

    1. We (inerrantists) insist that we interpret the Bible according to the Bible itself, not outside sources. You agree? Well, as Stephen points out, we’ve actually got to go outside the Bible for an understanding of the original languages in the first place, and also for an understanding of the time, culture, idioms, objects, and customs mentioned therein. IOW, since the Bible doesn’t come with an inspired glossary, maps, and historical/archeological encyclopedia, how can we say that we understand it merely by reading it — it, and no other sources?

    2. Since (as we would readily admit) we DO receive information about the language and times of the Bible from outside sources, Stephen wants to know where we think the divide is between “informative” and “normative” use of outside sources. We want to see those outside sources as somehow subservient to the biblical text, not controlling our interpretation of it; so, then, at what point would we say a source crosses the divide and “norms” our interpretation (so we can make sure we avoid this)? After all, our very ability to read the text comes from outside sources! Nobody has yet been able to articulate the process satisfactorily for Stephen — and he is obviously very well-read on the subject, so I don’t know that we will be able to do so here.

    3. Stephen also values, as inspired Scripture, what has been called the data, phenomena, or evidence of Scripture, or as he puts it, “How Scripture behaves.” This is different from “What the words of Scripture say” — if you’ve read Enns’ I&I, it’s the kind of thing he talks about (use of ANE mythological categories, ways of recording numbers, allusions to 2nd Temple Lit, etc.). Stephen’s view differs from Enns’ regarding God’s involvement in all this, though, so don’t conflate them.

    Anyway, where we would appeal first to what the Scripture says, i.e., “God’s word is truth,” etc., Stephen would also (equally? more so?) appeal to how the Scriptures behave. Since he observes them behaving very obviously in error-like ways, he takes this into account as information about how God intended his Scriptures to be, and he receives & processes this information as a Christian interpreter. He can’t in good conscience side with the inerrantists, since the evidence seems to him to point to error; and he finds it insufficient to appeal to words that talk about God’s truthfulness when maybe we mere human interpreters haven’t understood what God was about when he put the Scriptures all together. Maybe his standards were different than we would expect; certainly the evidence seems to Stephen to point that way. (But Stephen does believe God put it all together.)

    I write all this not to open Stephen or his view up to ridicule, but to try to fairly represent it. I think there is a fault line between his view and ours — I tried to express it in that comment you borrowed from (#164) — and I don’t know that we’ll be able to do more than shake hands across it. I respect that he is trying to integrate his desire to be an honest scholar with his faith that God is the giver of the Scriptures, and I appreciate the chance to give a hard look at the things that trouble him about the inerrantist position.

    pax!
    pb

  190. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 16, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Paige: “Stephen would also (equally? more so?) appeal to how the Scriptures behave. Since he observes them behaving very obviously in error-like ways, he takes this into account as information about how God intended his Scriptures to be, and he receives & processes this information as a Christian interpreter. He can’t in good conscience side with the inerrantists, since the evidence seems to him to point to error….”

    Stephen, assuming that Paige has captured and translated your thoughts accurately with this cut-and-pasted excerpt (and thanks Paige for your explanation, it’s much clearer now), a couple of things come to mind:

    (1) Can you please provide some obvious and very concrete examples of Scripture *behaving* errantly or in error-like ways according to your observations?

    (2) Does Jesus treat and approach the OT Scriptures as though they were *behaving* errantly or in error-like ways or does He treat and approach the OT Scriptures as though they were *behaving* inerrantly?

  191. Reed Here said,

    April 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Stephen: thanks for your comment a ways back on your understanding and use of the Scripture interprets Scripture hermeneutic princple. As a follow up intended to get further clarity might you answer just a couple more questions? I think the answer to these may focus the nature of the divide between our positions.

    Q1: When it comes to theological considerations of the text (doctrinal or biblical), you affirm that SiS is dominant and that all other hermeneutical principles are subservient to it, yes?

    Q2; However, when it comes to historical considerations of the text, is it accurate to say that you think determining the relative dominance of SiS is in effect an irrelevant question? That is, with historical matters is it fair to say that you think SiS is not oriented to deal with such matters? I.e., its not irrelevant to the interpretive process large, but merely inapplicable in this subset of the interpretive process (historical considerations)?

    I’ve tried to focus my questions enough that simple “yes” or “no” answers will suffice. Yet please elaborate as you think is needed for my best understanding. Thanks!

  192. jedpaschall said,

    April 17, 2011 at 12:34 am

    TUAD, (Re: 180)

    This reminds me of the proverbial, “did you stop beating you wife?” question.
    Or better yet the, “Let’s toss a coin, heads I win, tails you loose.” proposition.

    To be serious though, to your statement –

    On a broader level, let’s categorize genre by two classifications: fiction or non-fiction.

    Given this more expansive scope, you do not agree with Walton on the genre of the Book of Jonah. You believe that it’s historical fact-narrative. Walton believe that it’s literary satire.

    To the first portion – What are you aiming at with the distinction between fiction and non-fiction? Are these the irreducible categories of biblical genre? Are you equating non-fiction with truth and fiction with falsehood?

    I realize that you degrade Walton’s inerrancy because he argues for Jonah as a satire. I also realize I have used fiction to describe satire, but that is for a lack of a better term. Fiction is a modern term, not one that the writers of scripture would have been familiar with. I use the term because it is helpful for us, but sometimes the term carries so much baggage that it is more misleading than it is helpful.

    Jonah is a compound account including narration, poetry, and dialogue. However, it’s genre is satire, whether or not it is a recording of a historical event. The reason why it is satire is because it is criticising something. Walton himself notes,

    [satire is] a written composition in which vice, folly, or incompetence is held up for ridicule. The closer to reality a satire can be, the more effective it is. By definition, it targets real people and tries to use the mannerisms and words that they use. Satire exaggerates reality, but by its nature is based on reality.
    – ZIBBCOT 5:104

    So the satirical nature of the Jonah narrative is as I have said before ciriticizing a based on the widely prevalent historical reality: I’ll restate what I had said earlier, with some modifications:

    The faithful among Israel had a horrifically misplaced sense of pride and arrogance that they were God’s people By virtue of election they believed that they had an elevated status over the gentile nations, as demonstrated by Jonah the exemplar, that manifested itself in a sense of superiority and privilege. Israel’s prevailing pride as God’s chosen nation was exactly the opposite effect that God had intended:

    Deuteronomy 7: 7-8
    7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    God’s love was supposed to produce humility. This unfounded arrogance was about to be lampooned in the story of Jonah. God would show that he indeed would have mercy on whomever he wanted, and that this mercy was an unqualified good, regardless of whom it was granted to. Jonah was a satirical figure representing Israel’s misplaced arrogance. Regardless of whether or not the events recorded in Jonah were historical, the book is still historical because it criticized a very real, historical attitude among the Israelites.

    Jonah was certainly a historical figure, and Walton would argue no less because 2 Kings 14 demands this. It is even possible Jonah wrote a ‘fictional’ satire, where he was the arrogant, complaining, misguided antagonist. I don’t think this is the case, I think that Jonah could have satirized himself based on his own experience in the Nineveh ordeal. The effect, however is the same, and the theology in Jonah is the same. God is criticising the pride of his people through one of their archetypal figures – a prophet, ironically by showing mercy to their hated enemies.

    Walton isn’t arguing a ‘fictional’ Jonah as others have in the past, from anti-miraculous, anti-supernatural presupposition. He would agree that it is well within God’s abilities to have Jonah eaten by a fish, stay alive three days, and not be digested. The ‘historicity’ isn’t the fundamental issue here, it’s the genre, and what the author is intending to communicate. It isn’t impossible that Jesus is referring to a satirical/parabolic Jonah, but it isn’t highly likely either. That is why

    So the satire genre is important to maintain if you ask me, and why ‘non-fiction’ and ‘historical fact-narrative’ aren’t as helpful categories than asking how the satirical account is related to history. Does that make sense?

    BTW, I will mail you copies of some of Walton’s work if that will help you, or you can google a pdf of Walton’s work on Jonah The Object Lesson of Jonah 4: 5-7 and the Purpose of the Book of Jonah as an intro to his work.

  193. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Jed: “To the first portion – What are you aiming at with the distinction between fiction and non-fiction?”

    Fiction: It didn’t happen.
    Non-fiction: It happened.

    “Are you equating non-fiction with truth and fiction with falsehood?”

    See above.

    “I realize that you degrade Walton’s inerrancy because he argues for Jonah as a satire.”

    Yes.

    “[satire is] a written composition in which vice, folly, or incompetence is held up for ridicule.”(Walton)

    Do you interpret my comments of you and Walton as satire?

    “Regardless of whether or not the events recorded in Jonah were historical, the book is still historical because it criticized a very real, historical attitude among the Israelites.”

    That’s a rather expansive definition of the term “historical.” It’s not helpful.

    “Walton isn’t arguing a ‘fictional’ Jonah as others have in the past, from anti-miraculous, anti-supernatural presupposition.”

    I take what you write above and use it in response to your proposition here: “The effect, however is the same, and the theology in Jonah is the same (or effectively the same) for both Walton and other Liberal Protestant scholar-exegetes of the Book of Jonah.”

    “The ‘historicity’ isn’t the fundamental issue here, it’s the genre, and what the author is intending to communicate.”

    Historicity is an intrinisic, inseparable component of the fundamental issue.

    “So the satire genre is important to maintain if you ask me, and why ‘non-fiction’ and ‘historical fact-narrative’ aren’t as helpful categories than asking how the satirical account is related to history. Does that make sense?”

    It helps me understand both you and Walton much better. Thank you very much for that.

    But ultimately, I stand here:

    o Regrettably and sadly, John Walton has been seduced by ANE scholarship to deny the historicity of Jonah.

    o So Jed, when did “relevant” ANE evidence and scholarly literature become available and widely accessible so that scholars like Walton could finally understand and teach that the Book of Jonah is really a genre of literary satire?”

    o I hope the reconstituted ICBI takes a long, deep, prayerful look at this issue where we see the interplay between inerrancy, hermeneutics, and modern ANE scholarship in order to deliver a *meaningful” inerrancy.

    o If I was a voting member of the reconstituted ICBI at this juncture, I would not permit someone who denied the historicity of Jonah to classify themselves as an ICBI inerrantist.

    They could be an inerrantist under some other schema, but not an ICBI inerrantist.

  194. TurretinFan said,

    April 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I had written: “In other words, the benefit of ANE scholarship is a marginal, on the edges, type of benefit.”

    Jed replied: “On what basis? How can you back this up?”

    The Bible is written as a largely self-contained book. Although there are some hapax legomena, much of the vocabulary of the Bible is understandable from the Bible itself. That is not to deny the value of extra-Biblical sources for information about the language, but it would be absurd to say that the Old Testament cannot be understood without access to materials that have only come to light in the last 200 years.

    There’s something like an 80/20 principle at work here. Without even a knowledge of Hebrew, just from a Greek translation, one can get a good understanding of the Old Testament. Knowing Hebrew can get you maybe another 16% (80% of 20%), the Talmudic materials can add a few more percent (mostly by improving one’s knowledge of the Hebrew language), and knowing related languages may be able to get you a few additional fractions of a percent. Of course, I just picked 80/20 out of my hat. Perhaps it’s 90/10. The point, however, should be clear: there is benefit to these studies, but the benefit is one of trying to squeeze out information on the edges of Old Testament knowledge – trying to get that last few percent – not something that radically changes our understanding of the text.

    “It is not of central importance to the theology of the text, but it is essential to the grammatical-historical component, and to get to what the texts are communicating to the original audience.”

    “Essential” is to strong a term. It can be valuable and useful. It may also be misleading – for example, when the ANE scholarship is wrong. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the paucity of data on which some of the scholarship is based, nor am I sure whether you are aware of the pressure on academics to come up with new ideas.

    “There are even places where ANE analysis can change how we understand the theology of a text, here’s three quick examples:”

    It makes sense for me to examine these three examples with you.

    “1) Gen 1-2: By using ANE material it is clear that temple theology is present in the formation of the cosmos, and Eden.”

    Again, you’ve overstated the point. That might be the position of G. K. Beale and others, but the parallels that lead to such a conclusion are easily challenged. For example, the central parallel is reference to the “firmament.” But this parallel may easily be reversed. God’s temple may be described in earthly terms elsewhere, rather than the earth being described in templar terms here.

    “2) Gen 11: by analyzing the function of the ziggurat, it is clear that the sin of the Babel passage is idolatry, this doesn’t rule out human pride and hubris, the traditional interpretation, but it does give a more robust explanation of the events in this episode. See a fuller explanation on Paige’s post Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch on 4/4/11 Note my comment #7. I can expand on it if it would be helpful.”

    Yet again, you overstate the case. Given the frequent expressions of God’s jealously against idolatry, it would be strange that it would be omitted here. Moreover, the problem stated in the text is the non-scattering of mankind, not the idolatry of mankind. Moreover, while a tower for the purposes of worship is one kind of tower, there are other kinds of towers, specifically those for defense and food storage.

    “3) The uncovering of the form and function of the Hittite Suzerainty-Vassal treaties throughout the 2nd Millennium BC. Helps to explain the conventions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants with greater precision. This gives a better sense of how the covenants were prosecuted, and what the meaning of the split carcasses in the covenant ceremony of in Genesis 15 refers to. It also show how unique the nature of God’s covenant with Abraham is in light of it’s ANE counterparts. While the format of the covenant has striking similarity to Suzerainty-Vassal treaties of the time, no Suzerain make himself liable to the curses of the covenant if he does not prosecute it’s stipulations. However, this is exactly what God does in the Abrahamic covenant, placing himself liable if he fails to carry out the covenant promises. Similar conventions are present to the New Covenant instituted by Christ 2000 years later.”

    Hebrews 6:13 already provided us with the important part of this information. The comparisons to the Hittite treaties may be interesting, particularly as to their differences.

    Obviously, my point is not to deny that some additional precision in our understanding is impossible, but rather that the amount of additional precision isn’t necessarily very great.

    Moreover, the usefulness of the Hittite treaties may be overrated. Although Abram did journey through the lands were the Hittites lived, we have no evidence that he was familiar with their treaty forms or that he would have viewed himself as God’s vassal.

    “There are other examples of ANE textual significance on the interpretation and theology, and certain portions of Scripture that are heavily dependent on ANE sources in terms of literary form and cultural conventions.”

    It would seem to be more accurate to say that certain portions of Scripture find parallel literary forms – and that there are some overlapping cultural conventions – and that these can inform our study of the texts.

    “For example Proverbs 22:17-23:11 where the ‘thirty sayings’ of wisdom (22:20) are heavily dependent on the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope.”

    Yet again, this is an overstatement. It’s not entirely clear which came first. We know that Solomon’s wisdom was renowned as far as Ethiopia, but we also know that Solomon had connections to Egypt. Moreover, while Proverbs 22-23 lacks Egyptian loanwords (to our knowledge), the Instruction of Amenemope has them (suggesting, though not proving, a Semitic source).

    “I could go on, however, I think there is sufficient evidence to support the deep connections of the OT to the ANE culture and literature.”

    Again – why not just stop at “connections” instead of insisting on “deep connections”? Why overstate the relationship?

    “Whether the OT was engaging polemics against ANE paganism, agreeing with certain ANE cultural ideals or transforming them for their own purposes, or utilizing ANE literary forms, Israel’s ideology and worldview was inextricably linked to the ANE world in which it existed.”

    For the sake of the argument, let’s say that’s an accurate characterization (not yet another overstatement). The ANE world is known in a fragmentary way. It’s not like we have Google Books for ANE literature during the Exodus (there is some debate even over which years the Exodus was), or for the reign of Solomon or David.

    ANE literature can be helpful for avoiding anachronism in our interpretation of the Old Testament, but it can also accidentally produce such anachronism (or similar mis-parallelization errors).

    “This isn’t to say that Israel shares everything with their ANE counterparts. Israel’s theology is fundamentally different than ANE sources, as recorded from the inception of the OT canon to it’s close. But to say that ANE studies are of ‘marginal’ benefit to OT studies simply isn’t the case.”

    Well, there are basically three options: (1) central importance; (2) equal importance; or (3) marginal benefit. I assume you aren’t trying to argue for (1) or (2). You may not like the sound of (3), but that’s how it is.

    Taking your example of the Instruction of Amenemope, apparently the biggest contribution to interpretation is to suggest that the text should read “thirty” where the KJV has “excellent.” Even if this conjectural emendation is correct, it is not exactly earth-shattering in its significance.

    “Whether we are arguing against the ideology of the crass idolatry and religious praxis of the ANE, or seeing the organic similarities between the cultural ideas, the OT is an ANE document, and can’t be divorced from it’s historical context.”

    Are you trying to suggest that there is no way to understand it apart from material discovered within the last 200 years? If you were, that would seem to support your contention. If you are not, it’s hard to see how your comment is true. The OT can be understood without a complete understanding of the ANE context – and, as a matter of expectation, it is not reasonable to hope that we will ever have a complete ANE context: time has simply taken its toll on the documents from those ages.

    “It is up to the exegete to understand the nature of the similarities and dissimilarities between respective passages and ANE ideology, and textual forms, etc.”

    That material may be useful. There will also be a powerful temptation to impose material from a putative parallel text. Do the advantages outweigh the risks? Probably so, but it is easy to overstate the value, as you have done repeatedly.

    -TurretinFan

  195. TurretinFan said,

    April 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Jed: “To the first portion – What are you aiming at with the distinction between fiction and non-fiction?”
    TU&D: “Fiction: It didn’t happen. Non-fiction: It happened.”
    Me: It’s surprising to me that this has to be explained.

    -TurretinFan

  196. Stephen said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Paige (188),
    I apologize for any undue aggressiveness; I did not intend it. It was also difficult to follow who was speaking in TUAD’s cut-and-paste comments and his re-contextualization of previous quotes – my comment was meant entirely as a reply to him (TUAD, not that this means I think undue aggressiveness towards you is ok).

    As to your next comment (189), Paige, you have done a remarkable job outlining my views and concerns. Thanks! You may have articulated them more clearly than I did :)

    Thanks for your careful attention to my thoughts here and, especially, for your charitable acceptance of me as a fellow Christian trying to follow God faithfully…even if we still disagree. Hopefully I return the charity and recognition of how folks here with whom I disagree are faithful followers of our Lord trying their/our best to focus the eyes of our faith to the light he gives!

  197. Stephen said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Following up a bit more, two comments:

    (1) I do not mean to give the impression of strong-arming folks here into answering questions that cross into territory where I am “obviously very well-read on the subject” such that it’s not possible to answer my questions – and, to be clear, I am not assuming that you are accusing me of such strong-arming.

    Let me put this (e.g., my question in comment 156) another way (though you seem to have grasped my point well, Paige). TUAD, this also comes back around to our interaction. Some of you here, Lane Tipton/Jeff Jue/and others at WTS now, and so on, frequently criticize other evangelicals for problematically making a “normative use” of contextual data rather than “informative use” and/or rather than properly making contextual data “subservient” to the biblical text, etc. This criticism serves to point up an underlying problematic doctrine of Scripture and associated hermeneutic, also revealing that the very handlings of the biblical text by such evangelicals remain theologically-hermeneutically flawed. This in turn authorizes the rejection of such evangelicals’ proposals about Scripture and the like.

    The point of my request in comment 156 is that in order for this “normative vs. informative” criticism to mean anything useful, the definition of “normative vs. informative” or “subservient” uses of contextual data must be articulated. Some criteria, if you will, for determining whether or not something is a “normative” versus “informative” use of contextual data must be made known so that the appropriateness of this criticism can be assessed whenever it is made. This is basic and even intuitive communication-argument-discussion protocol. In this way we do two things. First, the very content of this criticism is articulated so that the nature of the criticism (e.g., its theoretical underpinnings, its relevant domains of applicability, what precisely the criticism can or cannot demonstrate about something, etc.) can itself be discussed, assessed, and even criticized (e.g., is this a valid criticism?, does it rest on acceptable definitions and premises?, etc.). Second, and equally important, this allows us to assess whether or not the criticism has been appropriately made; e.g., we have some identifiable definition of what constitutes a “normative” versus “informative” use of contextual data so we can be clear about when someone is in fact making a “normative” versus “informative” use of such data in relation to the biblical text. In the case of this specific criticism it is also important for those who make it to clarify the difference between this criticism and general criticisms of someone engaging in faulty interpretive handling of historical data…because the “normative versus informative” criticism carries the specific theological position of the Bible having a different proper relation to contextual data than non-biblical sources. In comment 156 I attempt to offer a rubric for a helpful clarification of this “normative versus informative” criticism.

    So, again, without clearly defined criteria/definitions for this “normative vs. informative” criticism, it carries no identifiable content or meaning beyond (and pardon me for being a bit reductionistic here) “you’re wrong because I say you’re wrong…it’s a normative use because I say it is and therefore it’s wrong.” Analogies from everyday life communication or interactive settings abound here. We all recognize (though don’t usually make the tacit logic explicit) that a criticism without identifiable criteria lacks logical or argumentative validity; it functions purely on rhetorical, “emotional,” and/or other non-assessable/debatable powers or kinds of persuasion. In some settings we accept the force of these other powers or kinds of persuasion; but in settings where we claim the mantle of reasoning, logic, discussion, debate, systematizing X in relation to Y, etc., such criteria-less criticisms constitute vacuous or pointless criticisms.

    After conversation several years ago with Lane Tipton (for example) I became convinced that this criticism from him was just a complex of sophisticated-sounding jargon without any identifiable content. I continue, however, to want to give the benefit of the doubt here and have a discussion about what precisely this criticism means. Thus I desire to see how folks here lay out the theological and interpretive content and significance of this criticism. I do not mean to force folks onto “my” academic-historical methodological jargon-turf. Quite the opposite, I hope to see the theological and interpretive logic of this criticism that operates on turf that is decidedly not my primary specialization.

    (2) Quick comment on what Scripture “says” about itself and/versus how it behaves. I believe folks in our traditions usually talk about this in terms of the “phenomena” of Scripture in relation to its claims about itself? Theologically I do not mean to value one over the other; in fact, establishing such a hierarchy is not really a concern of mine (though perhaps I do so tacitly). All the “data” of Scripture, if you will (e.g., its “statements about itself” and how it behaves) are useful. Off the top of my head, establishing a hierarchy prioritizing one over the other results in problems either way.

  198. Stephen said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Reed (191),
    Q1: Lol, I wish I could just say yes, but I’m not sure I can…partially because the hierarchical language for interpretive principals remains a bit confusing to me. My hold-up here is that the whole issue of how to know what one passage of Scripture says…that itself remains something intertwined with basic historical-contextual-interpretive questions…and because I continue to wrestle with the relationship between historical readings of the Bible and theological readings for the church. Perhaps a qualified “yes” to this question, though, since I affirm that some kind of scripture-interpreting-scripture remains paramount in theological readings (e.g., I could never [and may the Lord let me never!] read some part of Scripture as undermining the centrality for the church of Christ’s resurrection and our participation in him as determinative for us, etc.). Sorry for the added confusion on my part; perhaps I can get back to you later…or my long-winded answer helped?

    Q2: Yes, I think.

  199. Stephen said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    TUAD (190),

    (1) I believe that I can, though the whole idea of “obvious” may be problematic. On the abstract level, keep in mind that this task is difficult for someone like me on your turf. Since you inherently favor interpretive options that keep the Bible from error (e.g., thus more-speculative interpretive possibilities keeping the Bible from error or more plausible than other interpretive options [also speculative, no doubt] involving the Bible in some kind of error…even if these other options have the support of other kinds of evidentiary-weighing factors), this tends to mean that the only useful examples I can bring in this forum are relatively “clear” examples of inner-biblical “contradictions.” Furthermore, in this setting I will have to contend with counter-interpretations that value “suspending judgment” (even in the face of contrary evidence that in the case of non-biblical sources would be considered sufficient for an interpretive judgment) and just about any speculative interpretive possibility that keeps the Bible from error. I ask you to keep in mind that such inerrancy-driven theological-interpretive priorities constitute non-historical-methodological concerns. E.g., they adulterate any semblance of accurate historical methodology. Does this general interpretive-methodological point make sense? Please understand, this is not my way of saying that inerrantist scholars must be faulty historians or that considering the Bible inerrant is a necessarily un-sound position.

    So, for just two examples (I suspect a LONG list would be counterproductive, at least at first)…
    (A) Starting simple, does Jesus tell his disciples to take a staff or not? Luke 9.1-4: “ And he called the twelve together…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics…””; Mark 6.7-9: “ And he called the twelve and began to send them out…He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bad, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics…”. See also Matt 10.9-10 (no staff or sandles).

    (B) Can a Moabite enter the assemble of the Lord or not? Book of Ruth: YES!, it celebrates a Moabite marrying an Israelite and becoming the great-grandmother of King David! This book, in fact, goes out of its way to define David’s lineage through a Moabite woman and to associate her explicitly with the most prestigious ancestral lines in Israel.
    Deuteronomy 23.2-6: NO! “No one born of a forbidden union (see Deuteronomy 7.1-4) may enter the assembly of YHWH. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the YHWH. No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of YHWH. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever…You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.”
    Ezra-Nehemiah NO! NO! NO! These writings explicitly make all foreigners polluting, by definition, and thus forbidden for Israelites to marry. This total barring of foreigners takes a position diametrically opposed to other writings in the Old Testament.

    So, there’s two quick examples. We could multiply the list. Of course, most of my “favorite” examples are not so much examples of inner-biblical contradiction but, rather, examples of the Bible in context where its writings take positions that make sense in their context but are notions that we decidedly do not accept today: e.g., Paul having a Middle-Platonist moral-psychology [e.g., “anthropology”] and Stoic-material notion of the “Holy Spirit” in terms of its physics – btw, this helps us understand how Paul really meant [tangibly] that Christians are united to and share in Christ!; the book of Daniel as a 2nd century composition that, among other things, represents in contemporarily-intelligible Judean-apocalyptic idiom Antiochus IV as the eschatological adversary whose [incorrectly prophesied in 11.40-45] death would be followed relatively quickly/immediately by a resurrection and ultimate restoration; etc. etc. etc. No doubt with these (in varying measures) I make “normative” rather than “informative” use of extra-biblical data ; ) Sorry, couldn’t help a little joke there…

    (2) The representation of Jesus in John, for example, makes sense to me as representing Jesus treating Judean ancestral writings (there was no OT during Jesus’ time; Beckwith’s erudite but tendentious arguments notwithstanding) as “inerrant.” We could probably have some fun here with potentially relevant extra-Biblical data in the form of what some roughly-contemporary Judean sources say about the quality of these special Judean ancestral writings (e.g., they don’t have discrepancies and contradict each other, etc. etc. etc.). To return to a previous topic, how would we use such sources in “informative” rather than “normative” ways?

    Hope these answers help.

  200. Stephen said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Now…back to focusing all of my attention on the Denver vs. Oklahoma City playoff game!

    For you Confessional buffs, is this an acceptable use of my time on the Sabbath? ;)

  201. paigebritton said,

    April 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Hey, Stephen!
    Thanks for your kind words. Didn’t mean to sound pessimistic there about the possibility of our communication with your well-read self; just wanted to give the heads-up that you were pretty far along in considering ideas, so the basic answers we might come up with probably won’t suffice. Maybe one of us will be able to explain what we’re thinking re. “informative” and “normative” sources in a way you hadn’t considered, though.
    blessings,
    Paige B.

  202. Todd said,

    April 18, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Stephen,

    In your staff-no staff example, why do you think Luke (for argument’s sake we’ll assume Mark wrote first), aware of Mark’s book, would write his book leaving in such an obvious mistake and contradiction?

  203. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Stephen: I appreciate the frustration you have with normative vs. informative and the lack of identifiable criteria. My criticism of the use of extra-biblical materials essential follows along the same lines (at least from what I understand of your reference to Tipton and Jue). I do not remember if I’ve read anything by them arguing this (something causes me to wonder if I picked up something in WTSJ recently). Regardless, I’m comfortable using the terminology at this point.

    I do agree that we need to “norm” what we mean by using these terms. Your’s is a valid request.

    Might I request you continue to listen and interact and not simply conclude you’re hearing gobbly-gook. Frankly, without any sarcasm, from one perspective I sincerely hear you doing the same thing. E.g., your answer to my first question could easily be dismissed as goobly-gook. It is only because of a prior commitment to take you at your word that you are sincerely wrestling that I stop from drawing that conclusion.

    I want to address your response, but no time right now. Let it suffice that we’re sincerely searching for the right answers, and sometimes we speak past one another. I’ll keep endeavoring to deepen my own clarity of expression and listening.

    Thanks.

  204. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Stephen,

    there was no OT during Jesus’ time…

    Are you referring to an OT canon as we have today? Could you elaborate when you get the chance on this statement?

    At a minimum the LXX provides attestation to something like a canon for the Hebrew Bible (OT). Given the LXX’s ubiquitous use among the NT authors, I think we have to at minimum grant that this source was a proto-canonical witness in Jesus’ time and in the Christian period that followed. We also know that OT canon was something that was being discussed by Jews in the Christian era at places like Jamnia. I realize that the nature of the ‘Jamnia Council’ is debated, but it is likely that the Jewish canon was being modified from the LXX and finalized in the first and second centuries. So it isn’t as if Jesus had no canon, it is more likely that he was in a period of canonical finalization of the OT. I think the discussion is a complex one, with many minefields to navigate. However, I am not sure “Jewish Ancestral Writings” is entirely helpful or historically plausible.

  205. bsuden said,

    April 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    200 Stephen,

    Uh . . by their fruits you shall know them?

    To some here you seem to have a cavalier attitude toward Scripture and now, with your last, the Lord’s Day also, no?

    Regardless, you have no call to needle folks on the Lord’s Day if you expect to be taken graciously on the errancy of Scripture as you requested coming into this discussion.

    FTM the confession is quite clear on the Lord’s Day if (and that’s a big if) scripture isn’t clear in how weaker brethren are to be treated.

    That is, if in deed those who avoid entertainment on the LD are the weaker brethren, never mind inerrancy.

    Thank you.

  206. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Stephen,

    (A) Starting simple, does Jesus tell his disciples to take a staff or not? Luke 9.1-4: “ And he called the twelve together…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics…””; Mark 6.7-9: “ And he called the twelve and began to send them out…He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bad, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics…”. See also Matt 10.9-10 (no staff or sandles).

    The “synoptic problem”, or, better yet the issues surrounding the “fourfold gospel” isn’t new, and it has been a point of contention in the church since the writing of the gospels up to their canonization and beyond. Frank Thielman has an excellent discussion of the issue in his Theology of the New Testament. Chapter 2 of this book, entitled “The Persistence and Importance of a Fourfold Gospel” deals with the unity and diversity of the gospel accounts, and addresses the issues of the ‘discrepancies’ therein.

    Here’s some portions of the chapter:

    Most Christians wanted their four ancient witnesses to the one gospel as they were, in all their “offensive” diversity. Even Augistine, although writing specifically how the four gospels can be historically credible despite their supposed discrepancies, affirmed the need for their separate witnesses to “the gospel” and did not wish to replace the with a single, harmonious narrative (Cons. 1.1-9) – p.48

    The early Christians had a theological stake in the accurate historical record of the death ministry and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their one gospel made historical claims… It was critical, therefore, that orthodox early Christians plant their own theological convictions firmly in the earliest witnesses to Jesus and his significance. – pp. 48-49.

    Because its theology had to be anchored in truthful historical accounts, therefore, the early church could not shift its attention from the four gospels either to one of the four or to a harmony of the four. All four in their offensive plurality had to be retained. – p.50

    It is possible to exaggerate the offense of the gospel’s plurality. Most early Christians were more impressed not with the divergences among these gospels but with their theological unity. For all their diversity, these four voices speak in unison on the theological principles that the early orthodox Christians valued most highly… Christians recognized that “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” could be faithfully in more than one form… – pp. 50-51

    and finally,

    The Christian commitment to the truthfulness of the one gospel that lies behind the gospel’s four diverse witnesses, therefore, should caution Christians against a flight from inquiry into the historical Jesus or a denial that the historical-critical method can be used to write Jesus’ biography. In the words of N.T. Wright’s witty paraphrase of Festus, “Christianity appeals to history, to history it must go.” Since for Christians historical study is theologically important, they can and should meet the challenge of the Jesus quest on the battlefield of historiography… – p.55

  207. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    The quotes above are intended to indicate that the issue of diversity in the gospels is something that the church has dealt with since the very beginning. I don’t think that differences in the accounts you propose in 1.A. to TUAD are examples of errors, or that they do damage to inerrancy. I don’t have the ability to power through the Greek text-critical issues here, since I don’t know Greek. But, we must realize that the English versions we are all working with leave serious limitations in addressing some of these tougher passages. This excerpt from an article on bible.org deals fairly with the issues you bring up:

    The context of this puzzle is Jesus’ first commission of the twelve disciples as he sent them out to preach during his own ministry. We focus on the staff or walking stick, but the excerpted explanation, below, notes another difference.

    * The disciples are permitted to take a staff (Mark 6:8-9).
    * The disciples are not permitted to take a staff (Luke 9:3; Matt. 10:9-10).

    This one is a stickler (no pun intended), to be sure. But Walvoord and Zuck come up with an explanation. They write:

    The two concessions of a staff and sandals are unique to Mark. Both are forbidden in Matthew 10:9-10, and the staff is forbidden in Luke 9:3. Matthew used ktaomai (“to procure, acquire”), instead of airō (“to take”); so the disciples were not to acquire additional staffs or sandals – but to use the ones they already had. Mark and Luke both use airō, “to take or carry along.” But Luke says, “Take nothing for the journey – no staff (rhabdon),” presumably no additional staff; while Mark says, “Take nothing for the journey except (Mark 6:5) a staff (rhabdon),” presumably the one already in use. Each writer stressed a different aspect of Jesus’ instructions (p. 128, emphasis original).

    So the apparent contradiction is resolved. Or the three passages do not add up to a contradiction, if they are read in their historical and textual contexts and according to their proper sense.

    However, it is understandable that some readers may not be satisfied with the explanation in that excerpt. So the following comment on the three passages is worth taking to heart:

    Only if one has a very legal mind is there a significant difference . . . Jesus normally speaks in the hyperbole of a wisdom teacher, not the legal precision of a Pharisee . . . These passages are also another reminder to us that we do not have all of the answers . . . these passages call us not to lose the forest for the trees. Jesus called his missionaries to travel simply, without the normal provisions for a journey. They had to depend on God for their support.” (Kaiser, et al., pp. 423-24)

    Now, you might not buy these arguments, but I find that those who cite contradictions and/or errors in certain areas of Scripture don’t go all the way and do the hard work of textual criticism, working in the apparatuses of the Greek and Hebrew text to see if there aren’t textual variants that are able to demonstrate the truthfulness of the text. Sometimes we are also dealing with proper historical criticism, or just the fundamentals of exegesis.

    I realize that we wont always be able to ferret out every error in the textual witness(es) we have today. We don’t claim that either ancient MSS or today’s translation are inerrant, nor should we. But that doesn’t mean at the end of the day we throw up our hands and say we have an errant text. There might be evidence that will surface in the future to shed light on unsolved textual mysteries, and even when this isn’t possible, inerrancy shouldn’t be scrapped. We hold to inerrancy because we believe that God doesn’t err in what he has revealed. Most people find errors because they’re determined to find them, however, few do due diligence to ‘confirm’ whether or not there is really an error on their hands or not.

    Hopefully I can interact more fully with the issues you have raised here. Let me know if any of this is helpful at all.

  208. Stephen said,

    April 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Reed (203),

    Thanks for your reflections and acknowledgment that “we need to ‘norm’ what we mean by using these terms.” I apologize if I came across as accusing you all of speaking gobledegook; thought I made it clear that I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt here precisely in my request that you spell out what you mean.

    Not to be too picky, but there is a difference between what I am asking and my non straight-forward answer to your question…because in my-non straightforward and even mystifying answer I do not level a standard criticism back at you (or others) that (up to that point) lacks any identifiable content. I furthermore acknowledge my lack of precision in replying to you and indicate that the responsibility resides with me to ponder your question more. Again, to me this is different from continuing to level a criticism whose actual content has yet to be articulated.

    Regardless, thank you for your continued patience and hospitality. I appreciate your invitation and advice to continue conversation in hopes of us all clarifying various issues for each other.

    I hope your 14th sermon on Romans went well yesterday…and that you are enjoying the preparation of these sermons too!

  209. Stephen said,

    April 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    bsuden (205),
    My comment was not intended as “needling” and certainly not meant to harass supposedly “weaker” brethren. I included that comment just to be explicit about maintaining a light-hearted and friendly tone here as we discuss matters of such deep importance to all of us. If anything it was a chance for you all to poke fun back at me…

  210. bsuden said,

    April 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    209 Stephen

    Again, what is the confessional view of entertainment on the Lord’s Day? Is it sinful or indifferent?

  211. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    TFAN,

    I think you ask some interesting questions, and I will get to answering them tomorrow probably. Prepare to be wowed and amazed! (insert emoticon here)

  212. Stephen said,

    April 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Back from dinner…

    jedpaschall (204),

    Reed, feel free to cut off this line of conversation after jed has a chance to reply to my comment here (in case it opens up another track of discussion in an already multi-directional thread).

    Back to jed, I just have an allergy to people talking about “the” OT during Jesus’ time, the time of the writers of the New Testament, and so on. This partly stems from the common evangelical-inrerantist argument (most forcefully articulated by Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 1985/86?) that the OT canon was “closed” in the mid 2nd century BCE for all except the “most sectrarian Jews” such that we know we have the correct OT because we have the OT of Jesus and the Apostles (that’s the theological import of Beckwith’s argument and how evangelicals tend to use it). Beckwith’s arguments, though erudite and extensive, remain deeply flawed, confused, and just wrong. I could rehash the numerous problems (both broader methodological and about specific data) and/or refer you to helpful reviews.

    Beyond my annoyance with the uncritical eagerness with which evangelical-inerrantist scholars have adopted Beckwith’s position, on general historical grounds it just isn’t helpful to talk about “the” OT during Jesus’ life in any way relevant to our usual (and by no means unimportant) apologetics-theological questions about the OT.

    There was no “the” LXX during Jesus’ life either; rather numerous Greek translations of various Hebrew special/holy writings existed. Translations of each writing often differed significantly both in content, style, scope, etc. No standardized LXX text existed. Same goes, as you seem to be aware, for Hebrew texts as well. There was no standardized Hebrew text in this period. As for the use of Greek translations by NT authors, again, we have no evidence that they used each writing as part of some standardized, mostly-standardized, etc., collection of “the” LXX. Connected to this, there was no uniform, official, dominant, etc. “the” collection of Judean holy writings in this period either. Different people had different positions on which writings constituted the locus of the God of Israel’s divine revelation and were to be treated and interpreted as such. As best we can tell there was much overlap between these different positions when it came to certain writings (e.g., Gen-Deut, some collection of Prophetic writings, etc.). But this, again, doesn’t mean there was a “the” OT in any way that speaks to our usual questions (precisely which writings? Various writings not included in our OT that were treated by many Judeans as “inspired,” etc.?). Furthermore, Judeans who accepted many of the writings we take as the OT also produced writings that they represented as divinely inspired; so it’s tough to talk about some essentialized “Jewish view of the OT” that matches our Protestant notion of a closed OT canon identical with ours.

    As for Jamnia, it’s not that “the nature of the ‘Jamnia council’ is debated” now…but that most scholars (e.g., scholars primarily of Late-Antique and Rabbinic Judaism) either think that council never happened or that it’s so shrouded in Rabbinic myth-making about themselves that we really cannot take the reports at face value. Even if such a council of proto-Rabbinic intellectuals took place, it also would tell us virtually nothing about what most Jews thought. Scholars are now becoming more cognizant of the fact that there were very few rabbis and that they had little identifiable “influence” on broader Jews in, for example, the second century. Few Jews cared about them and many of them, as best we can tell, didn’t really care about most other Jews.

    As for the terminology “Jewish/Judean ancestral writings” not being helpful for historically plausible, how do you mean that? Judean Ancestral Writings is precisely how various authors (including Judean authors) of the Hellenistic and early Roman era talked about the holy writings of the Judeans. Some authors would use both terms (e.g., holy writings; ancestral writings; etc.). This is a major way writers in the Ancient Mediterranean talked about a people (e.g., the Judeans…there was no “Judaism”), their ancestral practices and laws, and their special/sacred/holy/ancestral writings. Judean ancestral writings is a way of talking about these writings in a historical category that has identifiable emic content and also comparative value from a historical standpoint.

    Did my elaboration here speak to your questions?

  213. Stephen said,

    April 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    jedpaschall (206-07),

    Thanks for your extensive and thoughtful interaction with the example I offer from Mk 6.7-9 and Lk 9.1-4! I agree that various Christians from early on were aware of and took positions about the similarities and differences between the four gospels. I remain unclear, nevertheless, on how the Thielman quotes speak to the specific issue here or the innumerable other examples of such “discrepancies” between the gospels and inerrancy. The fact that they (esp. Matthew, Mark, and Luke) cover so much similar ground and agree on a great deal and orient us towards history doesn’t negate the numerous and specific differences and disagreements (I would argue, often intentional differences and changes made by Matthew and Luke compared to Mark) between them. But, and I do not mean this aggressively, this is a non-answer to the question. It’s like trying to downplay the differences between John Calvin and Jacob Arminius by focusing on the, in fact, many Christian beliefs and doctrines they held in common. I suspect few folks here on GB would be dissuaded from teasing out specific differences and disagreements between them by this argument :).

    As for the bible dot org article working with Walvoord, Zuck, and also Kaiser, this is a fascinating example (in my opinion) of the energy inerrantists will expend to avoid dealing with the Bible God actually gave us. The only way you get the “presumably no additional staff” idea from Luke’s text is if you have some extra-textual motivation to keep the text from disagreeing with Mark on this point. That is not in the text, not implied by the text or context, etc. The text, in fact, reads like someone who knows Mark’s version (e.g., Mk 6.7-9) and intentionally changes it when it comes to the staff…and in this our English translations (including translations done by inerrantists too!) tend to reflect the Greek quite well. Kaiser’s comment, to me, provides us with a wonderful irony of an inerrantist who sincerely values the Bible’s words going out of his way to claim that we should ignore the Bible’s words here. Generalizations about misreading hyperbole, Jesus as a wisdom teacher, the broader similarities between the passages, and generalized associations of people who focus on the words of the Bible here as having “a very legal mind” (the background association of “the legal precision of a Pharisee” is transparent) still do not actually deal with the textual situation in our Bible. Luke explicitly indicates that the disciples should take nothing…neither a staff, nor etc.; whereas Mark says they should take nothing EXCEPT a staff ONLY. The exegetical acrobatics of Walvoord and Zuck and the distracting generalizations of Kaiser do just about everything except engage this specific detail of the text.

    It is interesting to me that you bring forward the potential text-critical solution (e.g., our manuscripts may be corrupted here and the originals wouldn’t have had this contradiction) and the “suspend judgment” argument (e.g., “There might be evidence that will surface in the future to shed light on unsolved textual mysteries, and even when this isn’t possible, inerrancy shouldn’t be scrapped”). For what it’s worth, there are no variants that make this particular issue go away. Also, though standard historical methodology involves making judgments about the most plausible interpretation/explanation and suspending of judgment at times, it councils the latter only in the absence of relatively useful evidence for taking a position.

    I challenge you and other inerrantists in using these two arguments as “last defenses” of inerrancy. It’s standard operating procedure. What bothers me, however, is that often these arguments are trotted out in the face of the Bible itself; such as with this example. What’s the motivating factor for running to these arguments? Inerrantists don’t go to them under normal circumstances. I doubt many here would tolerate an Arminian running to a speculative text-critical argument ora suspending judgment argument in the face of 2 Thess 2.11-12 or 1 Pet 2.8, etc. The motivating factor in these arguments tends to be the commitment to inerrancy itself, no doubt a commitment held because of the perception that the Bible demands it. But when you keep stacking up instance upon instance of running to these arguments and/or the acrobatics of Walvoord/Zuck and/or distractions like Kaiser’s…the impression starts to mount that these arguments are being used to do something that we evangelicals should have a problem with: they are being used to defend inerrancy from the Bible itself.

    Let me put this another way (and going back to the somewhat incendiary language I used to begin the second paragraph of this comment), this commitment to inerrancy seems to drive many inerrantists to do just about everything except read and be content with the Bible (e.g., accepting that Luke disagrees with Mark on this point, to use this example). This tends to smack of us wishing that God had given us a different Bible. PaigeB has understood me quite well here: I have problems with inerrancy because it leads us to have problems with the Bible God has given us. Sure, there are plenty of examples of instances in the Bible where something like what we call harmonization helps or textual-criticism clears something up (most of the latter have already been taken into account in our translations, however). But in the case of passages like Luke 9 and Mark 6, why not get excited that God has given us a window in on something else he may want to tell us through Luke…rather than spending all our energy trying to avoid the text of Mark and/or Luke?

    As for your comment about how people cavalierly cite supposed errors without doing their homework, I think you’re correct about how many people operate. It’s a sad commentary that so many people eagerly assert “errors” in the Bible in connection with their considering the significance of that to be that the Bible is not God’s Word. That said, and I am not accusing you of failing to do this, keep in mind that people like me are not just random folks who cite supposed contradictions without having done our homework. Many of us, like me, were inerrantists for a long time and have great familiarity with the nuances of sophisticated articulations of inerrancy and inerrantist apologetics. We have this familiarity because we eagerly devoured such books as we sought to defend the Bible’s inerrancy. Now we just find these approaches troublesome for reading the Bible.

    I hope this helps. Again, thank you for your interaction with my comment and giving me a chance to lay out some of my thoughts in greater detail. Please let me know if I have misunderstood you.

  214. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Stephen,

    It would be nice to know what resources you are using here (if you have stated them previously, forgive me, I haven’t read all of your responses.

    I am frankly quite surprised that you are questioning the presence of, at minimum, a loosely structured OT canon by the time of Christ. I haven’t argued for a standardized LXX, since historically this wasn’t the case, however, the it isn’t as if the LXX was so unidentifiable that it would be useless to refer to the LXX as a historical source by the time of Jesus and the writing of the NT. I realize that there is no consensus about the finalization of the OT canon, some arguing that it was completed in various stages between ca. 400-200 BC, or in the Hasmonean Dynasty ca. 150-40 BC. The nature of the Jamnia council is disputed, but there are plenty of scholarly agreement that the Hebrew bible was finalized at least a half a century before Jesus’ ministry. Between citations, paraphrases and textual allusions and echo’s we can confirm that much of the OT was contemplated in the NT.

    It seems like, from your comment above, that you have taken an extreme position with respect to the OT canon, and it’s use in the NT. There’s a good degree of non-inerrantists who wouldn’t hold to your ‘ancient Judean ancestral writings’. Honestly, in all of my OT studies, I haven’t even heard the term. Beckwith’s arguments are dated by almost 30 years, and there has been a whole host of canonical studies since then. The likelyhood of a fixed canon isn’t going to prove or disprove the inerrancy debate? What it does is inform what early Christians (and contemporary Jews) understood to be Scripture. The burden of proof upon inerrantists is first to define the meaning and scope of inerrancy and then to go about proving that Scripture is indeed inerrant.

  215. jedpaschall said,

    April 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Quick comment:

    Kaiser’s comment, to me, provides us with a wonderful irony of an inerrantist who sincerely values the Bible’s words going out of his way to claim that we should ignore the Bible’s words here.

    Kaiser seems to give a reasonable baseline that the theology isn’t affected by the discrepancy in our current texts. With the admitted tension in these texts, of course on the scale of tension in the NT these are minor, we have to set down, IMO, a better baseline of what an error constitutes within the historiographical conventions of the authors of scripture. Hopefully the next iteration of ICBI will deal with these issues, and what rises to qualify as an error, and what is incidental (even in terms of modern historiography!).

    I often have wondered, along with other students of Scripture, why God hasn’t just preserved an inerrant text for us today. It would make things easier. That said, I wouldn’t expect Thielman to deal with the specific tensions in the texts, since he is writing a Theology of the NT, which is in a sense an overview of the theology of the NT, as opposed to a commentary. I’ll look and see if there is any more specific material though. This might be helpful. Suffice to say, these tensions didn’t stop the early Christians from seeing these gospels as the infallible Word. I’m sure this discussion about the internal coherence of the gospels isn’t going to go away any time soon.

  216. Stephen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

    jedpaschall (214),

    Several disconnects seem to bedevil our interaction here. I apologize for lack of clarity on my side.

    Let’s use a basic distinction that most in studies of canon-development deploy now: the distinction (historically speaking) between “scriptures” and “canon.” Talking in terms of scriptures means talking about how X writing is treated as a source of divine revelation and what-not by various people (though not necessary all). Talking in terms of canon means a bounded and defined set of scriptures such that when a person uses X writing s/he does so precisely as part of a defined and closed set of scriptures; a “canon”. Don’t get me wrong, this distinction has its problems, but it can serve a purpose in our conversation.

    You seem to conflate the use of a writing as “scriptural” with the idea of a (even “loosely structured”) OT canon. The fact that we can find instances of just about every writing in our OT being treated in various sources like scripture by the time of Jesus and the NT authors DOES NOT INDICATE some canon collection of these writings held “loosely” in common by most or all literate Jews…especially such that we can start talking about a finalization of canon before this time period, the significance of which tends to be (for evangelicals) claiming that certain writings WERE NOT treated as scriptural because they are not part of the canon (e.g., parts of 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Tobit, Susana, etc. etc. etc.). If you want to use evidence in this manner than you need to include the writings in the parenthetical list above in your mishmash of “canon” by this time period too.

    I am not denying that many of the writings in our OT (esp. the writings of our Pentateuch and many of the Prophets, etc.; though to be clear, different forms of these writings existed and were used as “scriptural”) were treated as “scripture” by many/most literate Jews. I am denying that this can have significance for talking about “the” Jewish canon and, certainly, that it can have significance for determining the precise contents of the supposed “canon” of various writers in this period…especially so as to exclude the writings that are not part of our OT canon from the holy-writings repertoire of Jews in this period. No doubt that a few literate Jews of this period used a collection of writings closely (or maybe even exactly) approximating our OT canon in terms of which writings. Even this does not allow you to move to some generally agreed upon finalization of a canon because these decisions were contested and not-completely-agreed upon decisions in this time period. Furthermore, we still haven’t talked about the plausible social situations of the broad use of certain writings (e.g., certain writings crop up over and over again likely because they are the writings popular in scribal-educational curricula; don’t get me wrong, they were “popular” also because they were treated and represented as the sacred ancestral writings of, for example, the Judeans and thus Judean scribes trained in them, etc.; the point here, however, is keeping in mind the extreme limited scope of literacy in this world and thus the social and technological and practical factors also relevant to understanding the issue..e.g., we have to situate the use, production, editing, re-writing, transmission, and various kinds of mediation to illiterate folks of these writings among the social formations and practices of certain kinds of scribes, temple-scribes, etc.).

    Also, you are wrong in saying “there are [sic] plenty of scholarly agreement that the Hebrew Bible was finalized at least half a century before Jesus’ ministry.” The only scholars who think this are certain evangelicals (generally inerrantists!) and a few (I can actually think of one off the top of my head) idiosyncratic broader scholars. BTW, this gets at some of the source of our confusion here; you talk about a “loosely structured OT canon by the time of Christ” and then of “the Hebrew Bible [being] finalized at least half a century before Jesus’ ministry.” Which is it? Better yet, what do you mean by each of these claims so I can better understand you?

    Other comments: we are still disconnecting about “the” LXX. You are talking as though we have evidence for some broadly recognized and agreed-upon “collection” of Greek translations by the 1st century CE such that we can talk of “the LXX.” This is inaccurate. We have evidence of people using different Greek translations of different Judean holy writings (e.g., some of which later become known as Hebrew Bible writings). But “the” LXX did not circulate as some identifiable collection of Greek translations such that we can infer a certain canon of OT writings from “the” LXX.

    I’m not clear what you mean by “[my] ‘ancient Judean ancestral writings.’” That’s not some position I (specifically) have on the canon. It’s simply a way of talking about the Judean holy writings in question within the terminology and categories that many ancient authors use. It’s helpful here also because it can be confusing to talk of “the” Hebrew Bible in a period when there is not one agreed-upon canonical collection of “the” Hebrew Bible. Thus we can talk, instead, of Judean holy and/or ancestral writings. Again, for people familiar with the ethnic sensitivities within which most ancient Mediterranean authors wrote about gods, the specific practices of a people in relation to their ethnic god(s), and the special writings of X people in relation to their god, etc., this is not strange or idiosyncratic language.

    Does this help?

  217. paigebritton said,

    April 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Jed –
    You could probably make more of this than I can, since my knowledge of the topic is very shallow, but Sailhamer does discuss the question of OT canon & versions, especially on p.160-175 of MP, if you’ve got your book. His understanding is that, among other forms of the HB, the Tanak existed in three identifiable forms “for a considerable period of time and for a significantly large portion of Judaism. According to Luke 24:44, the Tanak was the ‘final shape’ of the Bible of Jesus. Judging by the prologue to the book of Sirach, it already had that shape a century earlier, even in its Greek form.” (170)
    FWIW!
    pb

  218. jedpaschall said,

    April 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Stephen,

    I appreciate your challenging comments and questions, but I fear we are aren’t quite understanding each other, I realize that I haven’t been as clear as I should, and that this has been a big part of the issue.

    I do agree that there is, historically speaking a distinction between Scripture and Canon. The Church has, and continues to demarcate canon differently. But in terms of a Protestant, and more specifically Reformed understanding today there is no distinction between what we understand Scripture to be and what the Canon is. But in terms of the historical development of how Scripture was canonized I acknowledge that there is a difference in how it was perceived. So lets deal with the canon first. Hopefully you can get a clearer picture of where I stand, and hopefully I can get a better sense of where you are coming from.

    The reason why I am asking for your sources for ‘ancient Judean holy writings’ is because I am wholly unfamiliar with the term. I predominantly study OT theology, which is very much interested with the canon of the Hebrew bible, and how it was demarcated. I realize that early Christian conceptions of OT canonicity weren’t always analogous to the predominant Jewish conceptions of canon. But the consensus among scholars (who are by no means inerrantists) is that the canon of the Hebrew bible was closed pre-Christ. Most OT Theologians, with the major exception of Harmut Gese (also NT theologians Stuhlmacher and Raisanen) , believe the Jewish canon was fixed, a prime example is Philip Daives, who believed this was fixed by the time of the Hasmoneans, David Noel Fiedman (a foremost Jewish scholar), and Brevard Childs are just a few examples of scholars who have, IMO done a great job of demonstrating that the OT was a fixed property by the time of Christ. Internal NT references to “Scripture” (too many to list here), aren’t likely referring to an indefinite body of ‘Judean Holy Writings’, and it isn’t a stretch, given the fact that most NT authors were in the mainstream of Judiasim at the time, to believe that their views of Scripture and Canon were constricted to the prevailing Jewish canon, which is reflected largely in the Masoretic Text we have today. The MT isn’t w/o issues, but we know the scribal process produced far more accurate MSS than the NT scribes & copyists did. I would contend, based on scholarship that is even hostile to inerrancy that there was an OT canon in place at the time of Jesus that was definite instead of the ephemeral ‘Judean Holy Writings’.

    This doesn’t preclude the importance of the intertestemental literature in the formation of the NT. There are many connections between the OT and these texts, but this doesn’t mean that NT authors took these books to be Scripture. Many of them saw, and rightly so, that the ‘Apocryphal’ and ‘Pseudopigriphal’ works were expositions and reflections upon the canon. Jesus was considered by some of his listeners to have the authority of the ‘prophets of old’ (Mk. 6:15;Lk. 9:8), lending weight to the common Jewish perception that the prophetic witness had gone silent. The intertestemental work reflected the religious and spiritual longings of the Jews, but it is misleading to say that the Jews thought these works carried the prophetic authority of Scripture.

    There have been many iterations of Canon in the history of the church as Christians have grappled with what the Word of God is. The struggle continues today. We as confessing Protestants are a community that is self-consciously shaped by the Canon that we confess to be the inerrant word of God. Just because we don’t hold the interestemental lit to be canonical doesn’t mean it has no value in understanding the NT or the culture and spiritual framework from which the Apostles and NT authors emerged. The reason why we hold to the OT in common with the modern day orthodox Jews is because we believe that this was the canon of the NT. The period of Christian history where the NT canon was forged is informative, but not the inerrant authority determining what constitutes inerrant Scripture. They are as prone to error as we are. However, we hold to inerrancy because we do believe that the internal testimony of scripture absolutely demands this.

    I really do believe that you are presenting a novel view, even among most errantists, with respect to canon, especially with respect to what the canon consisted of during the time of Christ and the writing of the NT. When we move into the early Christian period, the discussion changes. However, the church today should be less concerned with reverting back to the early church’s witness to the content of Scripture (especially the OT), and be more concerned with the near context of what the NT authors, and apostles considered to be Scripture. We do not, and cannot lend authority to history, but to the word we confess to be Scripture. Our present canon is the rule of faith, and it is rooted in the earliest beginnings of the NT.

    I have more I’d like to touch upon, but frankly I don’t have time.

  219. jedpaschall said,

    April 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Paige,

    I hadn’t got that far with Sailhamer, but thanks for the reference! I’ll run that down. Out of respect to Stephen, I tried to stick with non-inerrantists on the OT canon because he is broadly in this camp. I’ll start going beyond this hopefully soon if the conversation continues down this vein.

  220. Stephen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Paige,

    I know I am not jed, but just think about Sailhamer’s logic here. How exactly do the statements in Luke 24 and the prologue of Sirach (throw in 4QMMT as well along with Josephus C. Ap., etc.) tell us (1) that the Hebrew Bible had attained some final form for “a significantly large portion of Judaism” and (2) what the specific contents of that form were (e.g., what writings)?

    None of these writings give us a “list” of writings. With one semi-exception, none even give us a true “three-fold division of the TNK” or “tripartite canon.”
    Prologue of Sirach (2nd cent BCE) gives us Law, Prophets, and the other books of our fathers. Sirach also more broadly represents its wisdom as inspired teaching from God; not clear how that squares with our notion of a closed-canon consciousness.
    4QMMT (1st BCE – 1st CE?): textually is a mess and we don’t really know what it says, but the recklessly-maximal reconstruction has “book of Moses and the book[s?] of the Prophets and…David.” In that reconstruction of the various fragments we still don’t know how the author conceived of each in relation to others; what we actually have reads more like, “the book of m[…]…[pr]ophets and in d […] […] generation and generation…” Either way, not a tripartite canon as we mean it unless we set out assuming its existence in this period (if memory serves, Eugene Ulrich argues this well in his short article “The Non-Attestation of a Tripartite Canon in 4QMMT;” I mention this article because I believe he sets out the fragment and manuscript information in it).
    Luke (end of 1st cent CE – early 2nd CE): Law of Moses and the prophets-and-Psalms [e.g., in the Greek prophets and Psalms are one “category”].
    Josephus C. Ap. (end 1st cent CE): 22 books, Books of Moses (5); Prophets after Moses (13); Hymns to God and Precepts/Advice for People (4). Though Josephus has this 3-part breakdown, we cannot move from his breakdown to our OT and certainly not our Masoretic Text OT. This would be the lone Jewish source from the period attesting a clear “tripartite” division…we have no other sources showing agreement.
    What the heck, 4 Ezra 14 (end 1st cent CE – early 2nd cent CE): 24 books for “public” consumption plus 70 books for “the wise,” among which the author presumably includes his own composition which is certainly represented as “inspired.” Tough to use 4 Ezra for any notion of a closed canon!
    2 Macc 2.13-14 (2nd cent BCE): I bring up this passage just because Beckwith and many evangelicals make a big deal out of it for the closing of the OT canon and even a tripartite canon. I leave it for folks here just to look up the passage and see that it indicates no such thing.

    Having laid out the usual restricted scope of evidence to which evangelicals and inerrantists usually turn for saying things like what Sailhamer says, how exactly do we see these as evidence for a finalized (or even roughly finalized) tripartite canon “for a considerable period of time and for a significantly large portion of Judaism”? Again, this doesn’t deny that many Jewish sources of this period treat many of the writings in our OT as “scripture;” many just also do the same with writings not included in our canon, plus we do not know the precise contents of each literate Jew’s accepted-scriptures (e.g., as reflected in their writings) so as to say things like the OT was basically finalized prior to Jesus’ time such that we can also say X, Y, and Z books were certainly not part of it, etc.

    I should add that the book of Sirach represents itself as a polemical document taking positions with which many other Jews disagreed. For example, it sets out against revelatory-“apocalyptic” writings…e.g., the majority of the extant Jewish writings of this period! So, how do we move from what Sirach’s prologue supposedly claims (a tripartite canon…which, again, it doesn’t reflect this view nor does it indicate precisely what writings are included among the “other writings of our fathers”) to what a “significantly large portion of Judaism” accepted?

  221. Stephen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    jed (218),

    Even though we appear not to be connecting that well, it does seem to be clear that we disagree with each other on many points here :).

    It remains surprising to me that you represent me as having some novel or idiosyncratic view. Childs and Friedman (for example) are not specialists in the use and reception of Jewish writings in the Hellenistic and Roman periods by Jews and Christ-followers. It was more common a generation or two ago (maybe more) for OT scholars to accept a view that the OT was somewhat fixed prior to the 1st century. The caveat here is that they still left the precise boundaries somewhat fluid (maybe I am misremembering). But regardless, again, OT scholars like Childs and Friedman are not specialists in the most relevant data.

    As for PR Davies, you are misunderstanding his position and its relevance for this discussion. Davies is among scholars like Karel van der Toorn and David Carr who attempt to locate what has commonly been called “canonization” in plausible scribal-political social contexts. For Davies the Hasmoneans “fixed” a Hebrew canon in terms of they tried to establish a set of Hebrew “classics” for scribal training and Jewish “culture” and for their own political ends (e.g., they wanted to relocate inspiration and authority to themselves and their temple scribes and their exegetical products…and thus de-authorize competing Jews and prophets, etc.). The point here is that Davies argues for a “fixing” of the Hebrew canon in the 2nd century BCE that (1) is not identical with our OT completely (he never to my knowledge argues this) and (2) is CERTAINLY NOT the normal position of most Jews…it is, by definition for Davies, a contested position that subsequent Jewish history of the Hellenistic and Roman periods show was not some majority position. Davies’ view is an intensely socially-embedded and contested political notion of the “fixing” of a canon that was contested and actually rejected by a great many Jews.

    My approach to “canonization” is actually very similar to Davies’ (though van der Toorn and David Carr, for example, do a better job with this kind of approach, in my opinion). This also helps us to see the problem of evangelicals frequently making the kinds of assertions you make. E.g., it is commonly said that Jews thought prophecy had ceased in this era and thus this witnesses to a canon. This misses that the trope of cessation of prophecy is restricted to a handful of sources that deploy that trope strategically to de-authorize the numerous competing Jews who apparently disagreed with that view (e.g., this trope is a strategy, among others, for relocating inspiration and authority to certain scribes and their exegetical products). The claim that most Jews didn’t think “these works carried the prophetic authority of Scripture” continues to obscure the situation. “These works” are not some undifferentiated mass. Furthermore, your claim would be news to the numerous Jews in this period who produced and read works (many of which we still have!) that overtly and explicitly represent themselves as Inspired Revelation from God.

    This helps us also see the problems with claims about “the” Canon of “mainstream” Judaism. I continue to wait for someone to tell me what “mainstream Judaism” was in a way meaningful to these discussions. EP Sanders (a name we don’t tend to like) tried to do this (though, of course, not in relation to our questions here) with his book Judaism: Practice and Belief and his attempt (laudable in many ways!) has generally been treated with contempt by contemporary scholars of Hellenistic and Roman era “Judaism.”

    Regardless, the evangelical fixation on “the Hebrew canon” continues to miss that the Bible, if you will, of most Christians in the first 3-4 centuries (whose writings we have) was not the Hebrew Bible but Greek translations of Jewish scriptures. It’s tough to argue that the earliest Christians had some closed OT Hebrew canon identical with ours when they (and this includes NT authors) used Greek Jewish scriptures and treated-as-scripture numerous writings not included in our OT. My favorite example remains Jude using at least the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) as scripture…and in doing so is similar to other early Christian writings. This doesn’t deny that many Greek versions of writings of our OT were referenced and used far more often, just that the idea of some closed OT canon inherited by the early church is fallacious.

    I still don’t see why you have a problem with using the terminology of Jewish holy and/or ancestral writings. It’s not some “ephemeral” category; it’s how various authors in this period talked about what we call Jewish scriptures.

    Getting back to your claim that I have some idiosyncratic or novel view, this perplexes me since a perusal of recent scholarship on OT canon and, more broadly, the use and reception of Jewish scriptural writings in this period (scholarship done by those who specialize precisely in these data sets) reveals a fairly uniform rejection of the idea that the OT was fixed for most or all Jews prior to the 1st century CE. Start with works of the big names like Vanderkam, Ulrich, Flint, and so on and the contributions of other scholars in the volumes in which they publish. Peruse various reference works on the topic for outlines of the landscape of scholarship on the matter (e.g., McDonald’s new tome). And, as I already outlined here and in a previous comment, the most fruitful scholarship (in my view) that tries to locate the use of these writings in plausible social contexts…that scholarship helps reorient our questions more to the socially-interested and contested realities of actual life in this time. As indicated, the works of scholars like Davies, which you claim as supporting your position, enmeshes this in a much “messier” and more contested landscape than we generally realize.

  222. TurretinFan said,

    April 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Jed: I wonder whether you have submitted a response to me that hasn’t posted.

    -TurretinFan

  223. Stephen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Just to clarify for folks here, in my discussions of OT canon issues with jed and in my disagreement with him I am not advocating an open OT canon for us or a different OT canon for us today. It’s just that standard Evangelical-Reformed apologetics arguments for the OT canon fail to do justice to history.

  224. paigebritton said,

    April 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Stephen —
    The Sailhamer teaser I wrote out for Jed (#217) was misleading out of context. The “three forms” mentioned there are not the three parts of the Tanak, but three major versions of the Tanak produced by three different communities, each with its own theological agenda (mainly expressed in the order of the final books). This is what he is saying was present among many Jews for a long period (not any specific “canonical” list). Jesus, he suggests, would have been referring to one of these versions (“Law/Moses & Prophets”).

    I flagged this for Jed because it seems to be a position in between yours and one that assumes a fixed OT canon by the 1st c. I’m sure Sailhamer is aware of the sources and has his historically based reasons for his conclusions, but like I told Jed, the footnotes are meaningless to me. He’ll be able to sort that stuff out if he thinks it’s relevant. (This is from S’s Meaning of the Pentateuch, BTW.)
    pb

  225. jedpaschall said,

    April 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Tfan,

    I apolgize yet again. I have a couple of toddlers who could care less about inerrancy and need someone to tackle. I’ll get to a response as soon as I am able. Sorry for the delay.

  226. Stephen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    jed,

    Are you daring to suggest that spending time with your kids is more important than blogging here?!

    ;)

  227. jedpaschall said,

    April 20, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Stephen,

    Are you daring to suggest that spending time with your kids is more important than blogging here?!

    Scandalous, I know. I have tried to tell my oldest how important this stuff really is, and he gives me a blank stare and demands for milk, and to let him have the computer so that he can watch Cars 2 previews. My youngest still thinks biting people is funny, so I haven’t really brought the subject up with him.

    Anyway, I get the feeling you have dived into some of the relevant literature much more than I have. To the degree that you have thought some of these issues more than I have, I won’t fire back with uninformed responses here. I must also thank you for revealing your sources, these have helped direct me to some, hopefully fruitful reading on the subject. I will say briefly that this also seems to boil down to somewhat of a minimalist/maximalist debate that is common to Biblical Archaeology, by way of analogy. In my brief search of the sources you provided, as much as I am able on the internet, I was able to see something analogous to any division of Biblical studies – namely a lack of consensus.

    Some of the debate over inerrancy has to do with how it is defined, nuanced, and qualified. But a great deal of it is driven by the assumptions we bring to the table. As much as we want to say we are bringing pristine assumptions to the table in these debates, we can’t get past our prior intellectual and faith commitments. I will always approach the text from a committed vantage point, and I’ll view the text through my own confessional lens. I am not ashamed of this concession, though many in the academy would be. I am of the opinion that the best scholarship with respect to biblical studies is the scholarship that benefits the life of the church. The academy will never have these commitments, I realize this. So, while I do find the research of the academy very useful even when I do disagree with it, I simply cannot maintain the predominant confessional ambivalence and even (sadly) hostility of many of the brightest minds in academic biblical scholarship

    I’ll admit, canonical studies is complex. difficult, and as you describe messy. I can also see where I might tend to simplification here out of ignorance to the material. But, if my suspicion of the minimalist-maximalist divide is even remotely accurate, then we must start asserting what these scholars already hold to be true about the nature of Scripture and history before we can get down to a better sense of why their findings are what they are.

    I also do realize the convoluted nature of canon in the church era. The fact is however, we confessing Protestants are and were people who at are very best are a community shaped by the Book. One of the strengths of Protestantism, even at it’s inception was a desire to get back to the original sources, and to discover what were and were not scriptures and maintain an authoritative canon for our churches. While these early protestants may not have had access to some of the sources and debates we do today, the quest isn’t lost on those of us who desire to hold to nothing less than the Word of God. I think it is there again for us to discover, and to hash out and fight for as we address the tough issues such as the ones you bring up.

    It shouldn’t surprise you that I am not ready to surrender the notion of an OT canon substantially similar to our Protestant canon, and that of orthodox Jews today, reflected in the more or less in the MT before the time of Christ. Even with NT use of the intertestemental lit, there seems to be an enormous amount of gravity placed in what we call the OT canon today. I do think that the 50+ references to ‘scripture’ in the NT had something definite in mind, not a shifting target of what comprised Scripture based off of various sectarian canons. But I can’t offer anything substantive to rebut the substance of your sources, simply out of my own ignorance. I wish I could contribute more to this discussion, but for now, I fear I am not familiar enough to contribute with any intellectual integrity to the canon and intertestamental lit debate as it relates to inerrancy. I could probably make more of a contribution with respect to ANE sources, but not these one.

    From my brief scanning, it seems that William M Schneidewind tends more towards a canon comprised of the books in the OT reflected in today’s Protestant and Jewish canons extant sometime in the Greek Period of 2nd Temple Judaism. I’ll have to dig more to give a fair representation of his book. Have you read his works, and are you familiar with his arguments by any chance?

    Anyway, it you have anything that you want to interact with me in this regard (that is of any value to this discussion) you can e-mail me at my username at gmail dot com. Thanks again for the interaction, and if I have anything of substance to add to the issues you raise here I’ll chime in then.

  228. paigebritton said,

    April 20, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Jed wrote:
    Some of the debate over inerrancy has to do with how it is defined, nuanced, and qualified. But a great deal of it is driven by the assumptions we bring to the table. As much as we want to say we are bringing pristine assumptions to the table in these debates, we can’t get past our prior intellectual and faith commitments…(I)f my suspicion of the minimalist-maximalist divide is even remotely accurate, then we must start asserting what these scholars already hold to be true about the nature of Scripture and history before we can get down to a better sense of why their findings are what they are.

    Jed & Stephen & everybody,

    I would be interested to hear how each of you would answer this question:

    What limits are placed on the scholarly task of a believing scholar by the content of the biblical text he/she is studying? (And by “content” I mean the ideas in Scripture, not the “phenomena.”)

    I am assuming (based on Stephen’s earlier comments) that we are all in agreement that the Bible is inspired by God, whether or not we are in agreement about inerrancy.

    Thanks, good thinkers!
    pb

  229. TurretinFan said,

    April 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Jed:

    Just so you know, I don’t insist on receiving a response. It was mostly a cautionary post (on my part), aimed at providing you benefit. Given your affirmation that Scriptures, not contemporary academia is your rule of faith, and given your affirmation that academia’s research needs to be subordinated to the Scriptures (not vice versa), I think the gap between us is not so large as it might have appeared when I first commented in this thread.

    While I respect your right to respond to any criticism I’ve provided, the gist of my criticism was that you are blowing the significance of ANE studies out of proportion (perhaps as an overreaction to what you perceived to be an argument that ANE studies are utterly worthless, which is certainly not my position).

    -TurretinFan

  230. jedpaschall said,

    April 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    TFAN,

    Here we go at last:

    The Bible is written as a largely self-contained book. Although there are some hapax legomena, much of the vocabulary of the Bible is understandable from the Bible itself. That is not to deny the value of extra-Biblical sources for information about the language, but it would be absurd to say that the Old Testament cannot be understood without access to materials that have only come to light in the last 200 years.

    I really think you are downplaying the external context of Scripture, and how it gives us a better understanding of the culture it was written. I agree that we need to have a grasp on the language of Scripture, as well as a sense of how scripture interprets itself, I would never deny this part of the exegetical process as anything less than crucial. But, we need to understand the cultural and historical context to better understand scripture, ultimately so that we can teach it with greater fidelity to what it actually says.

    Luther himself says,

    For expounding the prophet one needs a double kind of knowledge. The first is grammatical, and this can be counted as the most powerful. The other is even more necessary, namely the knowledge of the history… – Prologue to Isiah lectures 1527
    When we have the grammatical knowledge, we have at once to go on to the histories, that is what these kings, under whom Isaiah prophesied, did, and these histories have to be learned and carefully investigated… For it is necessary, if one should understand the prophecy, that one should know how it was in the country, how things were, how the people thought or what proposals they had with or against their neighbors, friends and foes – Prologue to Isiah lectures 1528

    The fact is, while it is always a balance, good interpretation always involves historical and grammatical analysis. This goes all the way down through our Reformed tradition. It isn’t as if historical interpreters would have no clue about what a portion of scripture was saying, or how it connected to Scripture as a whole, but as we acquire a better understanding of the ancient world, its culture, and its literary conventions, we would be unwise if we didn’t fold this into our broader interpretive process.

    “Essential” is to strong a term. It can be valuable and useful. It may also be misleading – for example, when the ANE scholarship is wrong. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the paucity of data on which some of the scholarship is based, nor am I sure whether you are aware of the pressure on academics to come up with new ideas.

    Could you give an example of the ‘paucity of data’ on an important historical that you are aware of? Or even better, an instance of where ANE scholarship is flat out wrong? I only ask because, in your statements so far I get the sense that you haven’t interacted much with ANE history or archaeology. I would be very happy if you proved my estimation totally wrong, and that the reason you have questioned the value of ANE scholarship and the quality of its data is because you have taken the time to read it. Frankly I am happy when anyone takes the time to dive into this stuff.The fact of the matter is the quality and quantity of data is wholly dependent on what time period it represents, and where geographically it is from.

    Yet again, this is an overstatement. It’s not entirely clear which came first. We know that Solomon’s wisdom was renowned as far as Ethiopia, but we also know that Solomon had connections to Egypt. Moreover, while Proverbs 22-23 lacks Egyptian loanwords (to our knowledge), the Instruction of Amenemope has them (suggesting, though not proving, a Semitic source).

    Erman and Wilson placed Amenemope in the beginning to the middle of the first millennium BC (ca. 1000-500 BC +/-). However new fragmentary data discovered by Williams and Lichthein suggests that Amenemope be dated to the early Ramesside era (1292-1069 BC) in Egypt, based on this fragmentary data Amenemope would be placed around 1200 BC. This places Amenemope 2-300 years before Solomon (cf. John Walton’s Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context). The lack of loanwords wouldn’t be a defeater, since it isn’t uncommon for ANE literature to be translated and circulated throughout the region. Even if this didn’t happen, why would Egyptian loanwords be used if there were acceptable Hebrew words could be used as a translation from these sources?

    You also raise doubt as to the nature and degree of the connections between Israel and the ANE. The fact is Israel was an ANE culture. While Israel had vastly different notions of deity and theology (at least when she was faithful) from her ANE cultural setting, she was deeply connected to cultural sources in Egypt where she grew into a nation for over 400 years. Israel, as a Hebrew speaking nation is also a West Semetic culture, originating in the north-west of Mesopotamia, as the patriarchal narratives indicate. Their culture shared many of the fundamental worldview components as the cultures they were incubated in. When God revealed himself to the patriarchs or to Israel, he did so in a way that was linguistically and culturally intelligible to the Israelites. This is the nature of Revelation, and the wonder of it – it is culturally intelligible but still able to communicate the eternal truths and realities of God and his purposes in the world. Part of paying attention to the history and cultural settings of Scripture is necessary if we are going to uphold the divine and human authorship of scripture. God was making himself known in the convention and idiom of the cultures he was revealing himself to.

    There’s something like an 80/20 principle at work here.

    This is misleading. Should I stop looking at ANE connections when it has made up 20% or 16% of my exegesis? I think it is better to say there is a multi-valent quality to exegesis, and each of the levels makes as much of a contribution to the overall interpretation as needed. Assigning percentages in the end isn’t helpful, because, it doesn’t allow for the necessity of flexibility in exegesis. In the OT, exegesis involves more ‘feel’ based on a holistic understanding of the relevant sources both internally within Scripture and externally in the historical and cultural setting. Knowing when an ANE connection is relevant and helpful, and when it begins to control interpretation is a hard balance to keep, and it is navigated by experience and wisdom. There are many ways in which OT exegesis isn’t as cut and dry as NT exegesis is, both by the nature of the biblical genres and their cultural settings.

    Well, there are basically three options: (1) central importance; (2) equal importance; or (3) marginal benefit. I assume you aren’t trying to argue for (1) or (2). You may not like the sound of (3), but that’s how it is.

    This is a gross oversimplification of the issues at hand. The there options you give seem more designed to suit your purposes here than they are a faithful representation of how and why ANE sources are a vital part of understanding what the OT is communicating. This is like systematic theology is 1) highly valuable to the church 2) detrimental to the church, or 3) of marginal value to the church. The truth is the merits of any field of biblical and theological study are borne out in the final product, and how it helps us to understand scripture and the theological implications of scripture.

    I’d encourage you to pick up some of Walton’s writings, and examine his exegesis first hand. I really don’t care how much of it you agree with, but I think it would help you actually grasp Walton’s exegetical process. You would be able to see how he connects Israel from the ANE, but also how he demonstrates that the truth of scripture (vs. its cultural milleiu) is uniquely and substantially at odds with the spiritual and religious concepts of the ANE as it is with the Persian, or Greco-Roman world as well.

    Are you trying to suggest that there is no way to understand it [ie. the OT] apart from material discovered within the last 200 years?

    I have never maintained this. Understanding the OT in light of ANE literature helps us improve and clarify our understanding of it. ANE evidence has only strengthened our covenantal understanding of the OT. I would liken understanding the cultural and historical setting of Scripture to moving from black and white television to 3D HDTV. 3D HDTV transmits the same image, but with a fuller depth of color, clarity, and texture than and B&W TV but with the HDTV you get a better grasp of what is being viewed.

    You can argue all you want about the marginal merits of the ANE connections of the OT, but I think you are selling yourself short in what you can see and understand in Scripture if you limit how much of it’s historical context determines how you understand the text. I am not arguing, nor have I ever, for a parallelomaniac approach to the ANE and the OT, but your approach seems to discount the fundamental value that understanding the ANE has in understanding the OT.

  231. jedpaschall said,

    April 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    TFAN,

    Just so you know, I don’t insist on receiving a response.

    I never got the sense that you were demanding a response. Regardless of the nature of our disagreement (which isn’t that large IMO), I felt what you had written was good interaction and deserved a thoughtful response.

    the gist of my criticism was that you are blowing the significance of ANE studies out of proportion

    This is where I do disagree, but I understand what you are saying here. I do think that regardless of where we disagree here, you and I are probably theologically on the same page with much of the final analysis of the OT. The difference I see centers on exegetical method, and how one comes to understand scripture in the most well-orbed fashion possible. Theological analysis is another process that is built on exegesis, but involves other processes that aren’t related to exegesis, especially when you get into dogmatic and systematic theology. I would say largely due to our confessional commitments we are in more agreement on the theological level.

    Anyway, if you have more responses to this, I’ll try to respond thoughtfully, as soon as I can. Thanks for the interaction so far.

  232. jedpaschall said,

    April 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Paige,

    What limits are placed on the scholarly task of a believing scholar by the content of the biblical text he/she is studying? (And by “content” I mean the ideas in Scripture, not the “phenomena.”)

    I am not quite clear on what you are driving at with ‘content’ v. ‘phenomena’, could you elaborate?

  233. paigebritton said,

    April 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Hey, Jed,
    I’m trying to be specific re. what kind of “content” I am asking about: I want to know, What revealed ideas do we believe ought to control the scholarly task for the Christian scholar?

    That is to say, aside from whatever interpretive demands we believe the various “phenomena” should put on us (e.g., genealogies, reports of numbers, discrepancies between the gospels, ANE or 2nd Temple parallels), how is the scholarly task guided, even limited, by the very words (ideas) of Scripture?

    I ask this because I am curious about how Stephen would answer, and also because we who take the inerrantist position have received and accepted certain limits from the ideas in the texts, and it would be good to state what we believe those limits to be.

    Make sense? ;)
    pb

  234. paigebritton said,

    April 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Knowing when an ANE connection is relevant and helpful, and when it begins to control interpretation is a hard balance to keep, and it is navigated by experience and wisdom.

    Really good point, Jed. Thanks.
    pb

  235. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Paige,

    I think I know what you are getting at, but just to be clear, can you give me an example of what you have in mind?

  236. paigebritton said,

    April 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Sure, Stephen. And I don’t mean this as a set-up or anything, just out of curiosity.

    If we drew a Venn diagram of the ways we think the ideas in Scripture guide and limit the task of the Christian scholar, we’d have lots in common (i.e., inerrantists and you as a “believing errantist”): for example, our confession of the reality of the resurrection, and the reality of the miraculous events described in Scripture, keep us from affirming many unbelieving interpretations; also, moral exhortations to honesty in the scholarly task, as well as humility, firmness of conviction, and love, are presented there as outside checks to inner temptations that might beset the academic.

    Would you add anything else from the ideas in Scripture that you think ought to guide or limit the believer involved in scriptural studies?

    It’s my understanding that the inerrantists’ part of the Venn diagram would include the revealed information about God’s character and word as truthful, this being their given reason for stopping short of calling discrepancies “errors”; this is also why they would rather rest in that confession than pursue or accept explanations that solve textual problems by positing errors in the original texts. (Neither of these decisions qualifies as non-falsifiable piety, I think; either this information is available in the text or it is not, and either it means what we think it does or it does not; so there’s something objective there to argue about. We’re either acting reasonably, based on revelation, or we’re just plain wrong in our exegesis.:)

    Interestingly, both acceptance of the resurrection and this confession of “inerrancy” don’t curry much favor with the academy, though perhaps not always the same parts of the academy.

    Anyway, just some interesting (to me) ways of comparing and contrasting the inerrantist/believing errantist positions.

    pax,
    pb

  237. Jed Paschall said,

    April 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Paige,

    I get a better sense of what you are asking now. Thanks for the explanation.

    I think that the ANE and canon discussions we have had so far highlight the messiness of the world behind the text. I do think there are explanations that those who hold to inerrancy can posit that do account for the messiness, but still uphold the veracity of Scripture.

    Waltke does an admiral job of briefly discussion the issue; in An Old Testament Theology: an Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach Bruce Waltke writes:

    Evangelicals Stand under the Bible

    I label my own position as “evangelical” for lack of a better term. I accept the inerrancy of Scripture as to its Source and infallibility as to its authority. My spiritual conviction is intellectually defensible. The finite mind in incapable of coming to infinite truth and moreover is depraved… I dare not presume to understand how or what this revelation means before coming to it on its own terms. I must allow the Bible to dictate how it seeks to reveal God’s truth. I study how it writes history; I examine and learn to recognize the different forms of literature: poetry, narrative, prophecy, and so on…I do not presume to know beforehand the exact nature of its parts… (p. 77)

    I think that the fundamental stance of an inerrantist is that we are judged by as opposed to judges of Scripture. This means that we are committed to show how Scripture is internally coherent as a body of truth, and how Scripture faithfully corresponds to the external world, so that we can confidently say that Scripture is true in all it affirms. This, in my mind is the most difficult position for any scholar to hold and maintain intellectual integrity. However, it is also a crucial stance that most in this age don’t make since humans, since the fall, and in this age abundantly believe themselves to be the final arbiters of truth. The end up placing themselves in the ironic position of deciding for themselves what is or isn’t true in the very Word of God.

    I do think that believing errantists, in spite of the sincerity and ostensible reality of their faith profession fall into a grave error, making themselves arbiters of truth. I do realize and accept that they do not see it this way. But they make strange bedfellows with those who are intellectually committed to the errancy of Scripture. What ends up happening is that there is a witch hunt of sorts for errors to prove the case. The academy, with little exception has endorsed the autonomy of the human intellect, and ends up playing the role of the final arbiter of what constitutes authentic or fabricated divine revelation.

    I fought inerrancy for many years, thinking that the argument from the alleged autographa was as absurd as the Mormon insistence that their scriptures are based on golden tablets no longer extant. I figured there were other, existential, mythological, and psychodynamic ways that Scripture could be in a sense, absolutely true, while still containing errors. I think that this, in the end, was based off of a poorly formed understanding of inerrancy and it’s importance. Inerrancy flows from God’s own nature, if he cannot lie or err, he must reveal himself in a way that is consistent with his own truthful and unerring nature. I had inadvertently fallen into a sort of Barthian view of scripture. It took me a while to come back to an inerrantist position, and I hold it dearly now.

    The church fathers who formed the canon, all the way down to the Reformers who refined it to its form today dealt in principle to the very errors that still get tossed around today. It is not as if assaults on the coherence and inerrancy of, say, the gospels in the NT is a new one. The fathers were aware of the tensions, yet they saw fit to recognize the gospels, along with the other Scriptures as canonical, difficulties and all. They defended the tensions and difficulties in Scriptures against all charges of error. In this sense the battle hasn’t stopped.

    Errantists, who don’t totally reject the historic faith, find themselves in an odd position of determining a sort of canon within the canon. Each of them having to modify this canon according to his or her own prefernces and prior epistemological commitments. Regardless of the piety of the beleiving errantist I find them in the constantly precarious position of having to decide what is true in Scripture. Or even worse, holding to a view that something can be true on a certain level if it is (by all reasonable analysis) errant or untrue on another.

    Barthians, for example, while holding to a strange facsimile of orthodoxy, still enjoy a measure of acceptance in the academy, because they don’t rock the boat with respect the academy’s insistence on arbitrating truth at nearly every level of human existence. Sure, there is collegial disagreement, and various schools of thought, but in the end the academy still retains its place of nearly unchallenged privilege. However, inerrantists are pejoratively deemed unthinking fundamentalists, who regardless of the intellectual merits of their arguments for inerrancy, will earn for themselves derision for essentially throwing away their minds. Surrendering intellectual autonomy, which is exactly what we inerrantists do with respect to Scripture, is anathema to nearly all (with precious few exceptions) of the academy.

    I realize that this sounds polarizing, but I believe every word of it. And while I am not a hard-core presuppositionalist, I do believe that a rejection of inerrancy starts with one’s prior intellectual commitments. With respect to Scripture, I don’t think there is neutrality. With all this said, I don’t believe that the inerrantist scholar is exhonerated form producing scholarship with the highest standards of academic rigor, but in rigor, they cannot ‘sell-out’ to the academy.

  238. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    “I have a couple of toddlers who could care less about inerrancy and need someone to tackle.”

    A case of badly misplaced priorities. Jed, you really need to teach your toddlers to care about inerrancy and the historicity of Jonah, or else they get a long timeout with no Lightning McQuade for 2 months.

    Stephen,

    I hope you’re not rooting for the Denver Nuggets because they look like they’re going to lose to the Thunder.

    I myself am returning from a wonderful family vacation of sledding and eating. Nothing better than hearing my children laugh gleefully as we slide down the hill. This is the only situation and context where I will tolerate a slippery slope. ;-)

    Stephen, #199 and futher comment interactions with Jed/Paige, what can I say? When inerrantists resolve the errors/contradictions (be they internal or external) that you see, you claim exegetical gymnastics or an unwarranted commitment to the axiom of Inerrancy.

    When I read stuff like yours (thoughtful and scholarly as they are) I think of one of my favorite apologist’s response to some big question from a skeptic:

    “If I answer your question, will you believe in God?”

    Similarly, if answers were proffered to your 2 questions about staff/no-staff and the Moabites, would you become an inerrantist? Doubtful. Highly doubtful. What you’ll do is what we have already seen you do. You’ll discredit the methodology of inerrantists and then you’ll psycho-analyze inerrantists for their commitment to inerrancy. Which is ironic because you complained to Reed earlier about psycho-analyzing Young Evangelicals for abandoning inerrancy.

    Look. Errantists, their claims notwithstanding, do damage to the Authority of Scripture. Errantists are the Judge of Scripture: They judge and declare when and where Scripture is errant. This is backwards.

    People in the pew are harmed by preachers who teach the errancy of Scripture. Seminary students are harmed by professors who teach the errancy of Scripture.

    That’s the essence of the re-constituting of ICBI. If there was no harm, there wouldn’t be a need to reconstitute ICBI, would there? But of course, there is. And although Spurgeon is quite right about defending a lion when it comes to defending the Bible, we’re still called to demolish every lofty argument.

    Stephen, the silver lining is that you’re happy to not be a CSBI inerrantist. And there are other folks happy that you’re not a CSBI inerrantist too.

    So let’s part on those terms of happiness!

  239. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Jed @ 237,

    There’s a glow in my heart for you, buddy! We’re all good now, Walton notwithstanding.

    Pax. And have a great Good Friday reflection and an awesome Resurrection Sunday!

  240. hashavyahu said,

    April 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Jed,

    To take a trivial example, do you believe that the Israelites left Egypt during the day (cf. Exod 12:22, 28, which claims that the Israelites did not leave their houses until morning, Num 33:3) or at night (Exod 12:29-33, and Deut 16:1, which assert that it happened in the middle of the night)? I don’t think it is any prior intellectual commitment that leads me to see these as mutually exclusive historical claims.

  241. Jed Paschall said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    hashavyahu,

    There were upwards of 1 million people in the exodus event. It is entirely plausible that the three accounts are accurate from their POV. The process of a million people leaving probably took the better part of an entire day. Some could have started packing up and leaving at night and that accounts for that account for leaving, could have packed all night and left first thing in the morning explaining the other account. And then there were my descendants with disinterested toddlers who absolutely refused to put on their sandals, while they couldn’t find their infants other set of swaddling cloths, and they got out late in the afternoon, much to the chagrin of Moses and Aaron, who rolled their eyes at the stragglers, this probably accounted for the late comers. Some Egyptians may have decided to join the massive caravan later the next night. It isn’t as if they all boarded at gate 29 and left on a red-eye flight.

    I don’t see this as a discrepancy, just the conventions that accompany different reports that are all constricted to certain locales. The same thing happens on the news. Have you followed the Libyan, or Egyptian uprisings. There were different things happening around the same event that were all accurately reported by different correspondants.

  242. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Stephen @ #199 and #213,

    Are you Stephen Young?

    As in the Stephen Young commenting in this Triablogue post Ents?

    Here are some excerpts:

    o (Young) “(3) Does Jesus tell the disciples to take a staff (Mk 6.8) or not (Matt 10.10)? I have heard it suggested that the only way to ‘deal with’ this is positing autographs that did not have this problem—therefore this issue arises from corruption in the transmission history of either Mark or Matthew. This would seem like an extreme case of ‘special pleading.’ What do you all think?”

    (Steve Hays) “i) I agree with Blomberg that this is probably a case of narrative compression.3 On his understanding, Matthew’s version is a composite speech combining some of Jesus’ injunctions to the Twelve with some of his injunctions to the seventy-two disciples. There is only a contradiction if we fail to make due allowance for Matthew’s redaction.

    ii) France makes the additional point that,

    The specific application of these instructions to the mission of the Twelve in Galilee, rather than as rules for all subsequent Christian mission, is indicated by Luke 22:35-36, where they are rescinded for the new situation following Jesus’ arrest.4

    So these injunctions were always flexible in time and place.”

  243. hashavyahu said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Your claim that “some might have started packing up and leaving at night” directly contradicts Exod 12:28, which states that the Israelites obeyed the commands including the command in v. 22 that no one go out of his door until morning. Either at least some went out of their doors before morning, in which case v. 28 is in error, or they did not, in which case Deut 16:1 (and Exod 12:19-33) is in error. The different points of view are, in this case, contradictory.

  244. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Here’s more excerpts from the Triablogue post “Ents” and ensuing comment thread:

    (Stephen Young) “(9) Is it ok for a Moabite to enter the assembly of the Lord and be part of Israel (the book of Ruth) or not (Deut 23.3-6)? See also the general theology of Ezra-Nehemiah on foreigners, Israel, and marriage.”

    (Steve Hays) “i) In context, the Mosaic legislation is talking about pagan Moabites who also enemies of Israel. By contrast, Ruth was a convert to the true faith.

    ii) In addition, the Mosaic law has to be adjudicated, and OT judges enjoy broad powers of judicial discretion. That’s’ because the Mosaic law, like ANE law codes generally, was paradigmatic rather than exhaustive.

    In sum, Young’s 10 examples are pitifully easy to harmonize. They pose no threat to the inerrancy of Scripture. We don’t need to revise our theory of inspiration—a “theory” which happens to be conterminous with the self-witness of Scripture.”

  245. Hugh McCann said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    The WCF well states what is a conundrum and circular reasoning for papists and emergers:

    1:4 ~ The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

    :5 ~ We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it both abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

    ~ ~ ~ ~

  246. Hugh McCann said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    And the WCF was echoing Calvin:

    Scripture and the Spirit’s Testimony: Institutes I:8:1

    1. Scripture is superior to all human wisdom

    In vain were the authority of Scripture fortified by argument, or supported by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other helps, if unaccompanied by an assurance higher and stronger than human judgement can give. Till this better foundation has been laid, the authority of Scripture remains in suspense.

    On the other hand, when recognising its exemption from the common rule, we receive it reverently, and according to its dignity, those proofs which were not so strong as to produce and rivet a full conviction in our minds, become most appropriate helps.

    For it is wonderful how much we are confirmed in our belief, when we more attentively consider how admirably the system of divine wisdom contained in itis arranged – how perfectly free the doctrine is from every thing that savours of earth – how beautifully it harmonises in all its parts – and how rich it is in all the other qualities which give an air of majesty to composition.

    Our hearts are still more firmly assured when we reflect that our admiration is elicited more by the dignity of the matter than by the graces of style. For it was not without an admirable arrangement of Providence, that the sublime mysteries of the kingdom of heaven have for the greater part been delivered with a contemptible meanness of words. Had they been adorned with a more splendid eloquence, the wicked might have cavilled, and alleged that this constituted all their force.

    But now, when an unpolished simplicity, almost bordering on rudeness, makes a deeper impression than the loftiest flights of oratory, what does it indicate if not that the Holy Scriptures are too mighty in the power of truth to need the rhetorician’s art? Hence there was good ground for the Apostle’s declaration, that the faith of the Corinthians was founded not on “the wisdom of men,” but on “the power of God,” (1 Cor. 2: 5,) this speech and preaching among them having been “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. 2: 5.) For the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when, unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itself.

    # # # #

  247. Jed Paschall said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Hav (for short),

    You are misreading the Exodus 12:29-32 account, which only records the nighttime demands from Pharaoh for the Israelites to leave. It doesn’t record their leaving at all. Besides this would be ludicrous given the fact that the command is in that chapter.

    You also misread Deuteronomy 16:1; which records the redemption God won for Israel at night in the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt. This is clearly the referent, it isn’t incorrect to say that the journey began (was enabled) by God’s actions, as opposed to Israel’s subsequent response. This is actually archetypal of how our own salvation is accomplished – God’s action first, our response.

    The author of Deuteronomy who would have had access to the Exodus account, and that assumes Moses didn’t write both passages, wasn’t so dense as to misinterpret the event that was the catalyst of Israelite independence. Your errant reading doesn’t constitute an error in this passage. These sort of narrative devices help us to re-align our temporal understanding of important events like the exodus in this case to their divine origin. Temporality isn’t always a straightforward proposition in OT narrative. Exodus is emphasizing the precise exodus event, Deuteronomy, throughout the book is emphasizing the election of Israel, so the start of the exodus event will be seen from a different perspectives. Both accounts are showing two perspectives of the same even.

    I get the feeling that you are trying to read biblical narrative like you would a news report. The fact is you need to learn how to read biblical narrative so you can understand how it is communicating truth. You can’t expect a 3500 year old document to communicate like a 35 minute old one.

  248. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    “Your errant reading doesn’t constitute an error in this passage.”

    “Your errant reading doesn’t constitute an error in this passage.”

    “Your errant reading doesn’t constitute an error in this passage.”

    Jed, you struck gold.

  249. Jed Paschall said,

    April 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    TUAD,

    There’s a glow in my heart for you, buddy! We’re all good now, Walton notwithstanding.

    It seems like this conversation is getting a bit of a 2nd wind, if it does heat up, I wanted to make sure I thanked you for your response. I think we had to fight to get to a reasonable agreement, but I am glad we can see where we stand.

    My 3 year old would take umbrage at calling his hero Lightning McQueen, Lightning McQuade. I haven’t told him so I think we’re cool. Besides, I think it was Owen Olsen who played McQueen, not Griswold’s creepy brother-in-law Eddie.

  250. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Jed, tell your 3 year-old that I meant to say Lightning McQueen. I don’t know why I said Lightning McQuade.

    Anyways, it’s not Owen Olsen who voiced Lightning McQueen, it’s Owen Wilson who voiced Lightning McQueen.

    Now don’t forget it. There are a lot of Owen Wilson fans out there who will roll their eyes at anyone who says Owen Olsen instead of Owen Wilson.

    No grace for the errantists! Only for the inerrantists!

    ;-)

  251. hashavyahu said,

    April 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Jed,
    Since the issue in Deut 16:1 is purely philological, which should theoretically be common ground between a critical and non-critical reader, I will focus on Deut 16:1 rather than Exod 12:19-34 (although I would point to vv. 33-34, which you failed to cite, as the clue that this tradition views the departure of the Israelites at night).
    Your explanation of Deut 16:1 verse as referring to “the redemption won” by God and to the beginning of the journey simply ignores what the verse actually says: “For in the month of Abib I brought you out (Hifil Suffix Conjugation expressing an action in a past time context as perfective, i.e. completed) from Egypt at night (unmarked adverbial indicating the temporal location of the perfective action of the main verb).” The perfective aspect of the suffix conjugation here expresses a view of the action of “bringing out” as a completed whole, and the adverb locates that completed action at night. Again, note the semantics of the verb. If Deut 16:1 said that the Lord “saved” them at night, your reading would be correct. As it is, however, it says he brought them out at night. It should go without saying, but in this context appears to require emphasizing, that “bringing out” actually means “bringing out” and not something else. Your harmonistic hermeneutic, however, requires that you read this as meaning something else, but I find that approach to Scripture unsatisfying both linguistically and, for reasons well articulated by Stephen, theologically.

  252. TurretinFan said,

    April 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Jed:

    You wrote: “I really think you are downplaying the external context of Scripture, and how it gives us a better understanding of the culture it was written.”

    Yes, that was the central point of comment: not to write it off completely, but simply to downplay it. It has a use and it has value, but it is not the central thing.

    You wrote: “I agree that we need to have a grasp on the language of Scripture, as well as a sense of how scripture interprets itself, I would never deny this part of the exegetical process as anything less than crucial.”

    Great!

    You wrote: “But, we need to understand the cultural and historical context to better understand scripture, ultimately so that we can teach it with greater fidelity to what it actually says.”

    I didn’t disagree with that.

    You wrote: “Luther himself says,”

    Just so you know my background (Reformed), attaching Luther’s name to something doesn’t add any value to the statement for me.

    You wrote: “For expounding the prophet one needs a double kind of knowledge. The first is grammatical, and this can be counted as the most powerful. The other is even more necessary, namely the knowledge of the history…”

    Don’t you understand that he meant the history provided in Scripture? And, of course, he’s correct that it is important to have a sense of the historical context – and Scripture provides that for us.

    You wrote: “The fact is, while it is always a balance, good interpretation always involves historical and grammatical analysis.”

    No doubt.

    You wrote: “This goes all the way down through our Reformed tradition.”

    I wish this were true to an even greater extent than it is.

    “It isn’t as if historical interpreters would have no clue about what a portion of scripture was saying, or how it connected to Scripture as a whole, but as we acquire a better understanding of the ancient world, its culture, and its literary conventions, we would be unwise if we didn’t fold this into our broader interpretive process.”

    Of course you’re right. I wasn’t suggesting otherwise.

    “Could you give an example of the ‘paucity of data’ on an important historical that you are aware of?”

    The Exodus is one example. The Egyptians, it seems, were not fond of documenting their defeats. Although the Philistines obviously knew about it by David’s day, we still don’t (to my knowledge) have any ANE accounts of the Exodus, apart from the Bible and a few Jewish materials (mostly or all post-exilic, if I recall correctly).

    “Or even better, an instance of where ANE scholarship is flat out wrong?”

    What would you accept as evidence here? You seem to be familiar enough with the ANE scholarship to be aware of changing views within ANE scholarship on various things.

    “The fact of the matter is the quality and quantity of data is wholly dependent on what time period it represents, and where geographically it is from.”

    I don’t have any objection to the idea that the quality and quantity data depends on the time frame and the geographic location. Clay tablet writings and wall paintings have lasted longer than those on other media (such as scrolls). Scrolls in Egypt have lasted longer than scrolls in Israel.

    “Erman and Wilson placed Amenemope in the beginning to the middle of the first millennium BC (ca. 1000-500 BC +/-). However new fragmentary data discovered by Williams and Lichthein suggests that Amenemope be dated to the early Ramesside era (1292-1069 BC) in Egypt, based on this fragmentary data Amenemope would be placed around 1200 BC. This places Amenemope 2-300 years before Solomon (cf. John Walton’s Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context).”

    I’m aware of the dispute over the question of the date of the document.

    “The lack of loanwords wouldn’t be a defeater, since it isn’t uncommon for ANE literature to be translated and circulated throughout the region.”

    I didn’t say it was a defeater. When one version has loan words and the other does not, the usual expectation is that the version without loan words is the original and the other is a copy. That’s just a presumption, though, not a proof (as I said before).

    “Even if this didn’t happen, why would Egyptian loanwords be used if there were acceptable Hebrew words could be used as a translation from these sources?”

    That wouldn’t be expected, and my comments didn’t suppose they would. If both documents were pure language documents, the issue of loan-words would be a non-issue.

    Of course, it is also possible that Egyptian was simply widely “polluted” with Semitic loan-words, and that consequently it was very natural for an Egyptian author to write with those loan-words in the original.

    “You also raise doubt as to the nature and degree of the connections between Israel and the ANE.”

    Actually, we know a fair amount about the connections from the historical works of the Old Testament. There is also, doubtless, a lot we don’t know about the connections. I’m not sure why one would characterize that as “raise doubts” as opposed to just “recognize facts,” but whatever.

    “The fact is Israel was an ANE culture.”

    By definition.

    “While Israel had vastly different notions of deity and theology (at least when she was faithful) from her ANE cultural setting, she was deeply connected to cultural sources in Egypt where she grew into a nation for over 400 years.”

    She had connections and she had disconnections. Adding “deeply” just seems like salesmanship. She was in Egypt for about 215 years (a point where, perhaps, a majority of ANE scholars get it wrong these days – but lets not turn this thread into a debate on that).

    “Israel, as a Hebrew speaking nation is also a West Semetic culture, originating in the north-west of Mesopotamia, as the patriarchal narratives indicate.”

    Right.

    “Their culture shared many of the fundamental worldview components as the cultures they were incubated in.”

    “Incubated” is a strange term for it, but naturally they did share many worldview components with their neighbors for a variety of reasons.

    “When God revealed himself to the patriarchs or to Israel, he did so in a way that was linguistically and culturally intelligible to the Israelites.”

    Yes and no. There was a now and not yet to God’s revelation. The veil is taken away in Christ so that we now understand the Old Testament better than the Jews did (in many of the most important respects).

    “This is the nature of Revelation, and the wonder of it – it is culturally intelligible but still able to communicate the eternal truths and realities of God and his purposes in the world.”

    It is intelligible to the human mind, including to ancient Hebrew minds – but also to Adam’s and Noah’s minds. There may be some cultural aspects, of course, but it doesn’t require a great deal of cultural adaptation, as Bible translation projects have proved.

    “Part of paying attention to the history and cultural settings of Scripture is necessary if we are going to uphold the divine and human authorship of scripture.”

    This seems a little over-dramatic. One can do those things with virtually no extrascriptural assistance, because the Bible provides a picture of the historical and cultural setting.

    “God was making himself known in the convention and idiom of the cultures he was revealing himself to.”

    This seems to be your assertion. Another way of looking at it is that God was transforming the cultures to whom He was communicating.

    I had written: “There’s something like an 80/20 principle at work here.”

    You wrote: “This is misleading. Should I stop looking at ANE connections when it has made up 20% or 16% of my exegesis?”

    I don’t know why you would take that approach. Sometimes the work of contemporary exegetes may be in hashing out the last few percent, not about getting the main point.

    “I think it is better to say there is a multi-valent quality to exegesis, and each of the levels makes as much of a contribution to the overall interpretation as needed.”

    There is a primacy to the text itself and to the text’s own interpretation of itself, and to the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament.

    “Assigning percentages in the end isn’t helpful, because, it doesn’t allow for the necessity of flexibility in exegesis.”

    It’s an observation, not a rule.

    “Knowing when an ANE connection is relevant and helpful, and when it begins to control interpretation is a hard balance to keep, and it is navigated by experience and wisdom.”

    The idea of ANE connection controlling interpretation is a little frightening. Informing it, of course – but “controlling” – yikes!

    “There are many ways in which OT exegesis isn’t as cut and dry as NT exegesis is, both by the nature of the biblical genres and their cultural settings.”

    No doubt, though little of that is due to cultural settings.

    I wrote: “Well, there are basically three options: (1) central importance; (2) equal importance; or (3) marginal benefit. I assume you aren’t trying to argue for (1) or (2). You may not like the sound of (3), but that’s how it is.”

    You wrote: “This is a gross oversimplification of the issues at hand.”

    I’m aware that you don’t like the sound of it.

    You wrote: “The there [three?] options you give seem more designed to suit your purposes here than they are a faithful representation of how and why ANE sources are a vital part of understanding what the OT is communicating.”

    They are not “vital.” That’s the point. They are useful and interesting. They may even be helpful. There may be relatively minor points where they could be “vital,” such as in terms of the meanings of obscure words.

    “This is like systematic theology is 1) highly valuable to the church 2) detrimental to the church, or 3) of marginal value to the church.”

    Two problems here: your set is ill formed (there is a missing category) and your set is unlike mine because you are not comparing systematic theology to its colleagues.

    “The truth is the merits of any field of biblical and theological study are borne out in the final product, and how it helps us to understand scripture and the theological implications of scripture.”

    That’s a very utilitarian approach, don’t you think?

    I asked: “Are you trying to suggest that there is no way to understand it [ie. the OT] apart from material discovered within the last 200 years?”

    “I have never maintained this.”

    Great. That rules out the “central” option.

    “Understanding the OT in light of ANE literature helps us improve and clarify our understanding of it.”

    No doubt.

    “ANE evidence has only strengthened our covenantal understanding of the OT.”

    I wouldn’t agree with that, but perhaps we can leave that discussion for another day.

    “I would liken understanding the cultural and historical setting of Scripture to moving from black and white television to 3D HDTV. 3D HDTV transmits the same image, but with a fuller depth of color, clarity, and texture than and B&W TV but with the HDTV you get a better grasp of what is being viewed.”

    There are lots of analogies we could use. I think the analogy here might better be between 1020i and 1020p, but the basic gist of the analogy is the same. It’s an improved picture.

    “You can argue all you want about the marginal merits of the ANE connections of the OT, but I think you are selling yourself short in what you can see and understand in Scripture if you limit how much of it’s historical context determines how you understand the text.”

    That depends, in large amount, on the level of accuracy and reliability of the scholarship. And realistic assessments of its inaccuracy and unreliability need to be used as limits on its use.

    “I am not arguing, nor have I ever, for a parallelomaniac approach to the ANE and the OT, but your approach seems to discount the fundamental value that understanding the ANE has in understanding the OT.”

    Yes. It’s value is not fundamental or central. You seem to acknowledge this sometimes and then swing back to overstatements of the case.

    -TurretinFan

  253. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    TUAD,

    The Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City series has me torn. As a graduate of UNC, I want the Nuggets to win since the PGs of our last two NCAA Tournament Title teams (Ray Felton, 2005; Ty Lawson, 2009) play for the Nuggets. Oklahoma City, however, has a better shot at beating one of the few NBA teams I truly do not like: the Lakers. So…whether the Nuggets or Thunder win…I will be both happy and sad.

  254. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Interaction with TUAD continued (and interaction also with jed, 227…though to a lesser extent than with TUAD),

    I would hope that my engagement with inerrantist exegesis is more than a crass “discredit[ing] the methodology of inerrantists and then […] psycho-analyz[ing] inerrantists for their commitment to inerrancy.” Or, put differently, when I do what you identify thus, I try (as should be clear here) to do so by showing why that analysis of mine is accurate (e.g., showing that the most plausible explanation for why inerrantists prefer X interpretive option over Y is solely their commitment to inerrancy, whereas Y-option has more or actual positive historical evidential factors in its favor). Despite the length of my comments here, I obviously have not been able to do this in great detail, but I have at least laid out specifically what I mean and why I am saying it.

    I remain fully open to such kinds of analyses of my own positions. What I take exception to are facile, generalizing, or otherwise imprecise kinds of that analysis. For example, (and this relates somewhat to jed’s insightful comment, 227): it is commonly asserted that the issue here really comes down to “presuppositions” and “the assumptions we bring to the table,” etc., and that I hold the positions I hold because of the errantist (and the like) assumptions I bring to the table…whereas you all (presumably) hold the positions you hold because of your inerrantist and the like assumptions, etc.

    My problem here is not with the idea that we are all socially-located and come with prior intellectual, political, ideological, theological, etc., commitments, but with the idea that simply pointing this out in general can act as a great leveler in these discussions or actually carries argumentative content. This is where inerrantists (especially certain current day Van Tilians) equivocate with terms and arguments about “presuppositions.” Pointing them out only carries content to the extent that you show precisely how the assumptions and commitments of the other person determine his/her positions such that his/her positions-interpretations-etc. cannot stand apart from those assumptions. In the case of our discussion it would mean, for one example, that you show how my positions stem entirely from a drive to find errors in the Bible and do not reflect some potentially plausible or reasonable historical engagement with the data that could be faithful to the text of Scripture. If you assert that an interpretive methodology that even allows for the possibility of an error already reflects a positive rejection of God’s involvement in the text and thus some active opposition to inerrancy motivating all interpretive decisions…well, this brings up my next point.

    Assumptions and prior-intellectual commitments are not mystifying or un-articulable entities, especially if you think that making comments about them is useful in a debate. If you are going to criticize my assumptions (e.g., “errantist” assumptions or assumptions that functionally deny God’s existence…as you imply in one of your comments) then you need to articulate yours clearly and put them up for criticism. So, for example, why does presupposing inspiration and a Christian approach to the Bible entail inerrancy, also entail the legitimacy of interpretive approaches that uphold inerrancy (and the illegitimacy of approaches that allow for rejection of inerrancy), also entail the denial of God’s inspiration of Scripture for everyone who denies inerrancy, and also entail that only inerrantists are truly faithful to the text of Scripture?

    This is a complex of “assumptions” or “presuppositions” that underlie many of your charges. If you are going to use them as a starting point to de-authorize my views (e.g., paint me as ultimately just driven by rejecting inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, etc.), you need to put your complex of assumptions up for discussion as well. At that point I will re-introduce the questions I have been asking for years: e.g., please show me how inerrancy necessarily follows from accepting the inspiration of Scripture; show me how this is necessarily a view more-faithful to ALL of Scripture; show why this complex of starting “assumptions” on your part are valid and should be accepted as the ground-rules for all evangelical discussion such that divergence from them in-itself constitutes a legitimate point of criticism in this debate.

    If you’re unable or unwilling to do this in a way that potentially puts your views up for criticism, then you’re standing on a massive circular argument that amounts to, ‘We inerrantists are right and faithful to Scripture because we are right and we are faithful to Scripture.’ How else, BTW, am I to take your bald assertions that “Errantists, their claims notwithstanding, do damage to the Authority of Scripture. Errantists are the Judge of Scripture: They judge and declare when and where Scripture is errant. This is backwards…People in the pew are harmed by preachers who teach the errancy of Scripture. Seminary students are harmed by professors who teach the errancy of Scripture.”

    The fact that we all come to this task we pre-existing assumptions does not mean that we’re unable to talk about the precise import of those assumptions…or that we’re unable to attempt to articulate and analyze those assumptions. This is not about moving entirely beyond them or getting to “pristine assumptions” (quoting from jed, 227), but about delineating what precisely relates to our faith commitments and how and why we assume those commitments relate to other commitments (e.g., interpretive methodology). Without willingness to articulate, analyze, and discuss these questions about “assumptions,” it is not argumentatively relevant or useful to appeal to how X person’s views are bound up with his or her “presuppositions.”

  255. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Recapping and Summarizing my overall concern with respect to TUAD’s recent comments…

    If your starting assumptions involve that errantists are just by-definition wrong and unfaithful, why even put up the pretense of having a discussion at all? My hope and goal in chatting with you and others here is that even though I know we all come with our various kinds of orienting assumptions, we are all willing to articulate them and our positions in such a way as to have a mutually critical interaction.

    Furthermore, I know most inerrantists (such as the ones here) presume (1) the inerrancy of the Bible, (2) that this is a biblically faithful and informed view, and (3) that historical readings of the Bible are at least a component of properly studying the Bible and what it means (or, at least, that inerrancy cannot stand with an error in the historical meaning of Scripture).

    I find room for us to have a discussion precisely because of our shared commitment to #3 (or some form of it) and our shared commitment that whatever we think about Scripture doctrinally needs to be informed by Scripture (the inerrantist version of this is #2 above). Thus I try to show how historical readings of the Bible undermine inerrancy and, from there, show inerrancy ultimately NOT to be a biblically faithful and informed view. Part of this also generally involves me pointing out that when push comes to shove, inerrantists generally allow their commitment to inerrancy to overwhelm or redefine their commitment to historical readings of the Bible…thus allowing me to show that inerrantists do not “really” base their doctrine of inerrancy upon faithful historical readings of the scriptures.

    Yet again, when you resort to assertions like what I outline in the previous comment or you resort to interpretive methodologies that preclude the possibility of an error in the text (and over-ride what any semblance of a sound historical reading would find in favor of an inerrancy-friendly reading justified solely by the fact that it’s an inerrancy-friendly analysis) I try to point out that you’re engaging in a massive circular argument and are not REALLY committed to letting the Bible itself define your views of Scripture. When you then bust out the “assumptions determine everything” discourse to marginalize what I’m saying, I take exception to the generalized claims about assumptions determining everything…because such generalized claims truly mean nothing unless you get into the specifics and mutually-critical conversation about assumptions and the like that I talk about in the previous comment.

  256. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    TUAD 242, 244,

    Hays’ reply to my example of the staff still doesn’t address the issue. Here I focus on Mark 6.7-9 and Luke 9.1-4, both of which the texts represent as referring to the same incident. Thus explanations of them talking about different instructions or “narrative compressions” are not relevant.

    As for Hays’ “explanation” of the opposition between Ruth and Deuteronomy on Moabites, it too misses the mark. How does saying that “the Mosaic legislation is talking about pagan Moabites who also enemies of Israel. By contrast, Ruth was a convert to the true faith” speak to the issue? The Deuteronomy passage is precisely about who among certain other ethnic groups can “enter the assembly of the LORD” and when. Do you think Deuteronomy is talking about allowing Egyptians in the third generation (Deut 23.7) “to enter the assembly of the LORD” as “pagan[s]”? There’s no exception clause implied or even allowed in Deut 23.3-6 about Moabites, such that one who “converts” would be tolerated. The passage is precisely about forbidding FOREVER them “entering the assembly of the Lord.”

    As for the claim that “the Mosaic law has to be adjudicated, and OT judges enjoy broad powers of judicial discretion. That’s’ because the Mosaic law, like ANE law codes generally, was paradigmatic rather than exhaustive,” though I agree somewhat that the Mosaic law was ACTUALLY treated that way in Israelite/Judean sources and about broader ANE law codes in general, I don’t see how this helps an inerrantist get around the problem here. Deuteronomy 23.3-6 represents itself as in-flexible legislation FOREVER on this issue; just go read the passage and pay attention, especially, to 23.6.

    What is the point of highlighting the rhetoric about such examples being “pitifully easy to harmonize”? I don’t deny that one can possibly “harmonize” most examples or opt for “suspending judgment” in a way that tries to claim the mantle of historical sophistication and plausibility…I will simply continue to point out that such harmonizations in these cases are driven by the extra-textual commitment that, dern it, Mark and Luke and then Ruth and Deuteronomy (and Ez-Neh) just cannot oppose each other. If you disagree with my assessment here of commitment to inerrancy serving as the deciding factor for which interpretive option you find most plausible, please feel free to show me by engaging these parts of our Bible.

    Now, back to paying attention to the Mavericks vs. Trail Blazers game. I’m sure the Dallas players and organization are sick of hearing about what happened the last time Dallas had a 2-0 series lead in the NBA playoffs (e.g., 2006 NBA Finals).

  257. Stephen said,

    April 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Oh, TUAD, before I forget…your comment about the one situation in which you will tolerate a slippery slope (238)…that had me laughing for a while. Props…that was funny!

  258. Jed Paschall said,

    April 22, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Well Hashavyahu,

    I at the very least do appreciate you bringing out the old BHS, gives me the chance to shake out the my cobwebs gathering around the old lashon qadosh.

    Sadly that’s where the pleasantries end amigo. You are still taking 16:1 in absolute isolation of the context of Deuteronomy as a whole, or even chapter 16, which heavily weighs on God’s election and recent redemption in the past as celebrated through Passover. The long and the short of it is that you are missing the forest through the trees.

    I appreciate your brief grammatical analysis and I think it is workable, but I think you are trying to prove the wrong point here, and you are making Israel’s leaving as the referent to ys’. But if you take the cross section of the use of the term, you would find that ys’ is very closely related to God’s redemption in Deuteronomy.

    Note Eugene Merrill’s comments in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis on ys’:

    4. It is instructive, therefore, to note the paralellism or other juxtaposition between hosi’ [Merrill’s gloss of the hiphil] and such terms of redemption as g’l (“claim for one’s own HALAT 162) and pdh (“ransom from” HALAT 862)…This clearly lends to ys’ the special nuance of a bringing forth to accomplish redemptive purposes[boldface mine]
    The favorite vb. in Deuteronomy for the notion of redemption is pdh [ransom from, or ‘redeem’] and in a clearly synonymous parallelism the text reads, “he brought you out hosi with a mighty hand and redeemed you wayyipdeka from the land of slavery.” (Deut. 7:8) Both Exodus and Deuteronomy attest to the fact that the bringing forth of Israel was redemptive …”

    The fundamental problem with your proposed and admittedly brief (no harm- its a blog) interpretation of 16:1 is you are mixing of distinct sequences in the same overall event. I realize that the following example is not exhaustive, but the Battle of Lexington and the following battle of Bunker Hill are the beginning battles of the American Revolution, they are distinct episodes in an overall event.

    There are two distinct episodes happening when God draws Israel out of Israel, and frankly it is paradigmatic of much of Israel’s relations with God – God Acts, thereafter Israel Responds. The emphasos of Deuteronomy is far more on the theological/cultic than it is historical (though history is important here). God is reiterating the practice of Passover in the land, and the only historical aspect of this text is that the Passover is grounded in the historical reality of the first passover. Back to the two-part episode of Israel’s exit from Egyptian slavery, Exodus 3:19-20 sets the structure of the event:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. [3] 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

    Note the structure of Israel’s departure from her slave masters; Egypt under Pharaoh’s rule will not let Israel go until-

    1. God inflicts his wonders upon Egypt, culminating in the plague of the death of the firstborn. (The Redemption)
    2. Then Pharaoh lets Israel go (The Departure)
    So the drawing (ys’) out of Israel follows a two-part structure.

    If the bringing (ys’) out of Israel is, contextually speaking in Deuteronomy, as Merrill indicates, fundamentally tied with redemption (pdh). Then as I indicated in my previous response we are dealing with the redemption (part 1) of Israel’s departure, namely Israel’s redemption or being ransomed from Egypt through the plague of the firstborn. Exodus 6:6 Reinforces the redemption theme connected to the judgments, and also as the impetus of Israel’s departure. In addition to Merrill’s comment on Deut. 7:8; see 9:26; 13:5 where ‘redemption’ and ‘bringing out’ are fundamentally connected.

    The redemption of Israel through the Firstborn plague is most certainly tied to God bringing them out of Egypt, however, the redemption stage of the bringing out is a distinct phase from them actually leaving Egypt. You are also fundamentally ignoring the near context of chapter 16 where the Passover laws are being discussed. Redemption is tied fundamentally to the plague of the firstborn. Israel is actually commanded to redeem it’s firstborn, on the basis of the redemption God brought to Israel in sparing the Israelite firstborn and not the Egyptian firstborn. And to your supposed ‘error’ the only reason there were restrictions on leaving until morning is because Israel had to wait until her redemption was complete, otherwise they too could suffer under God’s wrath on Egypt.

    The ‘drawing out’ being emphasized in 16:1 is clearly dealing with the first episode in God’s removal of Israel from the land, namely the final judgment on Egypt, which also served as the impetus for Israel’s redemption, and the basis for the passover meal. I realize that there are departure motifs in the passover meal, but the fundamental motifs are redemption motifs. The lexical and syntactical ties of ys’ to redemption in Deuteronomy and in the Exodus account indicate this. The near context of chapter 16 indicates this. The morning departure of Israel is secondary to the judgment in the night that bought their redemption. This is manifestly obvious from the text. I would hope that even the most insistent non-inerrantists would have the clarity to recognize this.

    The contradiction you have provided is only a contradiction if you don’t read the text within the literary and theological context of the Pentateuch. The departure is part of the ‘drawing out’ but the ‘redemption’ is the instrument. The instrument of ‘drawing out’ is what is in question, as evidenced by the context of the passover meal.

  259. Jed Paschall said,

    April 22, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Stephen,

    I think we need to settle something here that I wish opponents of inerrancy would just acknowledge, some of the errors that we have discussed here such as the Ruth one, or Hashavyahu brought up are obviously not errors, even upon closer reading, without having to engage in textual criticism, or the ‘autographa’ argument. I am sure there are others like this, that when exposed, inerrantists can posit at minimum very plausible arguments and at times compelling arguments that there are no such errors or contradictions.

    There are also errors that could have easily occured as texts were copied and transmitted. This is part of the autograpa portion of the inerrancy argument. As the guys over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog have written (or linked to), the inerrant NT is likely either in the text or in the apparatus. Obviously the OT is a bigger challenge due to attestation, where it isn’t hard to see some of the smaller discrepancies in the dubious Samuel narratives for example, that we know, at the manuscript level, suffer from descrepancies, and rely on careful emendations. Can we call these texts errant in their pristine form? That is a harder call.

    I think we do have to allow for errors to be defined as they would to say, the author of the text, or the original audience, or the culture in which the text was written. Otherwise we are imposing modern views on pre-modern texts, which is just bad reading.

    (forgive the fragmented sentences) I really think the hard issues where we disagree are on contentions of history like did the exodus happen or not, if it didn’t inerrantists have an admittedly huge issue to address. Or conceptual ones, such as the resurrection, and miracles, which would automatically defeat inerrancy if such events are impossible and never happened. There are also conceptual issues like how the first 2 chapters of Genesis are inerrant. (I don’t think this is an issue regardless of interpretation.) The historicity of Adam. The nature of the flood. Historicity of the united monarchy.

    When we are dealing with errors that come from poor reading and theological analysis, or ticky-tack errors that could be due to manuscript error, or simply aren’t errors from the vantage point of the inspired author (e.g. phenomenological language), I think this is where the debate gets bogged down, namely because I don’t think these issues are hard ones to argue intelligently for those who are able.

    The substance of the inerrancy debate is what concerns me here. The smaller discrepancies do not.

    As to your other comments, I can’t respond now and I might not to be able to this weekend. Family stuff….you know, code for ducking hard questions.

  260. paigebritton said,

    April 22, 2011 at 6:41 am

    TUAD –
    Please don’t keep bringing in Stephen’s past comments from other blogs, okay? He’s taken that very graciously, but let’s just let him choose for himself what he wants to say in this conversation.
    Thanks.

    Sorry, Stephen, that I was not aware Truth was doing that yesterday. I will nix the bits you didn’t interact with.

    pb

  261. paigebritton said,

    April 22, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Stephen again,
    I answered your question in #236, which you may not have seen because of the flurry of TUAD comments directed towards you. It would interest me greatly to hear your answer to my question about how the ideas in Scripture guide and limit the believing scholar’s task.
    Thanks,
    Paige

  262. hashavyahu said,

    April 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Jed,

    “you are making Israel’s leaving as the referent to ys’.”

    Correct, because that is what ys’ means.

    “But if you take the cross section of the use of the term, you would find that ys’ is very closely related to God’s redemption in Deuteronomy.”

    No one would deny that, but your conclusions that ys’ means “to redeem” rather than “to go out” is completely unfounded. ys’ is redemptive only insofar as it is a “going out,” and killing the firstborn is not a “going out”.

    “If the bringing (ys’) out of Israel is, contextually speaking in Deuteronomy, as Merrill indicates, fundamentally tied with redemption (pdh). Then as I indicated in my previous response we are dealing with the redemption (part 1) of Israel’s departure, namely Israel’s redemption or being ransomed from Egypt through the plague of the firstborn.”

    This is lexicographically and logically fallacious. Being “fundamentally tied with redemption” doesn’t making “going out” any less “going out.” In other words, ys’ does not lose its basic semantic meaning of “going out” when it happens to be a redemptive going out.

    Can you find any other examples where ys’ refers to a redemptive action other than a “going out” of something?

    “You are also fundamentally ignoring the near context of chapter 16 where the Passover laws are being discussed.”

    I don’t think so. Deut 16 claims that the departure from Egypt happened the night of the Passover, which, by the way, is what I also think Exod 12:29-34 says. Deut 16:1 refers to the event that the continual practice of the Passover commemorates. Like it or not, for Deut 16:1 the passover commemorates the actual departure from Egypt.

    I appreciate your interaction, Jed, but your convoluted argument for ys’ not meaning “to go out” in Deut 16:1 is precisely the kind of interpretive gymnastics that makes young evangelicals like myself reject inerrancy. If inerrancy means bad lexicography and grammatical analysis, then so much the worse for inerrancy.

    By the way, looking at this passage, I found another dis-chronology that I thought might be fun to share. In a speech with Pharaoh, Moses claims in Exod 11:4 that the plague of the firstborn will happen “tonight” (kachatsot halaylah). Exod 12:3 and 6, however, require that the passover lamb be set aside on the 10th day of the month, and then sacrificed on the 14th day, which means that the 12:3, 6, must have been spoken several days before the plague of the firstborn (v. 28, after all, states that the Israelites complied). Note that the wayyiqtol sequence linking chs. 11 and 12 has not been interrupted, so you can’t claim that 12:3 and 6 were spoken earlier than the conversation in ch. 11. So Exod 11:4ff. was spoken several hours before the plague whereas ch. 12:3, 6 require several days.

  263. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Hi Stephen Young @ 257,

    Good Friday greetings. The following is posted on behalf of Steve Hays.

    o He’s being ham-handed about OT law. OT case laws deal with typical situations. General conditions.

    But take the case of Rahab and her family. There was no explicit provision for her particular situation. Still, she’s an exception to the rule–precisely because the rule was never meant to rule out relevant exceptions. Case law doesn’t address every conceivable contingency. It lays down broad guidelines.

    He’s also wooden about idiomatic or hyperbolic expressions like “forever.” These are stock linguistic conventions, not unconditional oracles.

    o (Stephen Young) “Hays’ reply to my example of the staff still doesn’t address the issue. Here I focus on Mark 6.7-9 and Luke 9.1-4, both of which the texts represent as referring to the same incident. Thus explanations of them talking about different instructions or “narrative compressions” are not relevant.”

    Steve Hays: “[snip] The claim is not that these represent two different events. Rather, the claim is the Matthew or Luke are combining speeches from two different events, which they apply to the same event. So, yes, that’s narrative compression.”

  264. Stephen said,

    April 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    TUAD (or Steve Hays),

    This brings back memories of the exchange Hays and I had a while back. Perhaps one of you would care to articulate what kind of evidence it takes to show that the Bible is in error at some point.

    As it stands Hays just selectively pulls whatever tool out of the tool-box works for making it seem like any potential problem isn’t, in fact, one. Do Jesus’ words contradict between two accounts? Does Deuteronomy explicitly forbid something that Ruth represents as a legitimate thing? Oh, that’s narrative compression, or that’s talking about different events, or he’s taking “forever” too woodenly (would you say that about statements where the Bible makes claims that help your theology?), or the law deals with “typical situations,” or that’s authorial license (I actually have no problem with the last option; though it then becomes relevant to be clear that one author is consciously changing what another reports of Jesus’ words).

    These explanations could be ok if Hays or you articulate some positive arguments for why they should apply in analysis of particular passages…arguments beyond, “Oh, well, this helps the Bible not be in error.” It’s like harmonizations between divergent dates given for the same event in the Bible based up the potential use of different calendars. The different calendar explanation could be the case, but you need more evidence for X writing using one calendar and Y writing using another calendar than the fact that such a situation helps explain away a potential error! To be clear, it may be possible to argue this through relevant evidence for some situations in the Bible, but it cannot simply be asserted. That’s not an acceptable exegetical argument unless you’ve already decided that the Bible just isn’t allowed to be in error and thus interpretations and analyses keeping the Bible from error are inherently more plausible than analyses that would involve the Bible in an error. Yet again, this kind of exegetical methodology vitiates any semblance of historical reading of the Bible that lets the Bible itself criticize our views.

    So I ask you again, what kind of evidence would it take to show that the Bible has errors in it? If you cannot or will not answer this, then the whole discussion is basically a farce. It is instead you, Hays, and whoever else representing yourselves as being subject to how the Bible actually behaves as interpreted from the standpoint of sophisticated academic-historical methodology; and making a show of such methodologies supporting your views…but in fact you will never allow historical study of the Bible to challenge your views.

    Obviously the premise of this interaction is that we’re all willing to engage in a discussion by the rules, if you will. Thus I do not assume that the whole discussion is actually a farce…and I welcome your articulation of the conditions of falsification of the Bible’s inerrancy.

    [snip] I would prefer for us to keep such heavy-handed polemical tones out of this discussion as well.

  265. hashavyahu said,

    April 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Jed.

    Another thing worth pointing out in reference to Deut 16 is that v. 1 is not the only reference to the “going out” of the Isrealites. Verse 3 gives the reason for eating unleavened bread: “for in haste you went out (Qal Suffix Conjugation denoting perfective action in a past time context) from the land of Egypt.” There shouldn’t be any doubt about what this refers to, but if there is, the qualifier “in haste” shows that the reference is not to the plague of the firstborn but to the actual departure. That is, the reason for the eating of unleavened bread is that they “went out” (ys’) in haste. How plausible is it to claim that the “going out” in v. 1 refers to a different event? cf. also v. 6.

  266. TurretinFan said,

    April 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Stephen:

    You sound a little tired of having your attempts to demonstrate errors shot down. But your request that we identify what kind of evidence it would take to show that the Bible has errors in it is an unreasonable request.

    -TurretinFan

  267. jedpaschall said,

    April 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Hashavyahu,

    but your conclusions that ys’ means “to redeem” rather than “to go out” is completely unfounded. ys’ is redemptive only insofar as it is a “going out,” and killing the firstborn is not a “going out”.

    I really don’t think you read what I had written closely at all, I made no such claim about ys’. You are flatly taking one word and ripping it out of its context to show how a gloss is the meaning, when anyone who has any familiarity of hebrew at all knows that context, not gloss determines usage and meaning. Your argument for an error is an absolute failure here on textual-contextual grounds not to mention theological and temporal ones.

    I know what ys’ (draw out – cause departure in the hiphil) means, but you are missing its unique tie to pdh (redemption). The material cause of ys’ in Deuteronomy is pdh, you are going to have to argue against the evidence, and the conventions of hebrew narrative where repitition of key words are fundamental features that ties the narrative (especially in the Pentateuch) together. The editors would have been aware of the supposed error you report, and if it were a problem term, violating the previous use, do you think, even from a human perspective that they would allow for such a crass and obvious error.

    You are giving an uncharitable reading of the text here, and paying little attention to the context or the theological connection between terms. The material cause of ys’ was not leaving, that is not the emphasis of the term here. Leaving is merely an effect of the cause which is redemption. You are ignoring a mountain of evidence here to make a minor and fundamentally dubious point.

    Survey the relevant texts, draw connections, and try to rule out an error before you make a rash judgement of one that isn’t there. Your prior intellectual commitment is manifestly obvious here. I have given you citations, and lexical connections that are obvious. You are just being dense here. I am willing to play ball, but not if you are simply committed to your point to the degree that you ignore evidence that is smacking you in the face.

  268. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Stephen Young: “So I ask you again, what kind of evidence would it take to show that the Bible has errors in it?”

    Steve Hays (on his behalf): “Well, that’s a loaded question. What kind of evidence would it take to show that God is in error? The question is nonsensical.

    Why should I approach the Bible with the assumption that the Bible ought to be disprovable?

    Here’s a better question: what kind of evidence would it take to show that Stephen Young is in error rather than the word of God?

  269. Stephen said,

    April 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    TUAD (and Steve Hays),

    My question is not loaded unless you presume that your views just have to be right.

    We should also be clear on something else. I am not “approach[ing] the Bible with the assumption that the Bible ought to be disprovable.” I am approaching our discussion about the Bible with the assumption that our views about the Bible ought to be disprovable.

    Work a bit more on not equating your views about the Bible with the Bible itself when it comes to framing the field of legitimate discussion. As Paige and others here seem to have grasped, my approach here is decidedly not about “disproving the Bible,” but presupposing the inspiration of Scripture (that everything in the Bible is doing exactly what God wants it to be doing) and trying to follow Scripture faithfully to learn precisely what God actually says in it and how he behaved while inspiring it.

    If your analysis is that I am attacking or rejecting the Bible, engage in a discussion about the data and show it without theological strong-arming (this means, among other things, without recourse to special rules that presume you are right from the outset). Otherwise please cease framing the discussion as me trying to attack or disprove the Bible. I am not attacking or trying to disprove the Bible; I am ‘attacking’ and trying to disprove your views about the Bible :).

  270. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Stephen Young, #255: “That’s not an acceptable exegetical argument unless you’ve already decided that the Bible just isn’t allowed to be in error and thus interpretations and analyses keeping the Bible from error are inherently more plausible than analyses that would involve the Bible in an error. Yet again, this kind of exegetical methodology vitiates any semblance of historical reading of the Bible that lets the Bible itself criticize our views.”

    Steve Hays (on his behalf): “What’s wrong with “already deciding that the Bible just isn’t allowed to be in error?”

    This has nothing to do with letting the Bible criticize our views. Just the opposite. This has everything to do with letting [Stephen] Young criticize the Bible.

    It only vitiates a historical reading of the Bible under [Stephen] Young’s tendentious assumption that the Bible isn’t inspired.”

  271. TurretinFan said,

    April 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    “I am ‘attacking’ and trying to disprove your views about the Bible.”

    Actually, those attempts have been shot down. Now, you are complaining because you feel like the deck is stacked against you. Perhaps it is – perhaps you are approaching the question in a way that is ineffective.

    Nevertheless, asking us what evidence we would accept that the Bible errs is rather like asking us what evidence we would accept that God errs. Do you see the absurdity of the question? If you don’t, I’m not sure how it could be made more plain to you.

    -TurretinFan

  272. Stephen said,

    April 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Tfan, TUAD, Steve Hays, etc.

    Let’s review your positions and assertions here.
    (A) The Bible is inerrant and is necessarily so.
    (B) The most accurate historical readings uphold this.
    (C) Before tolerating discussion about what we should do IF the Bible in fact behaves errantly you want me to give you some concrete examples.
    (D) You “shoot down” my examples by recourse to interpretive methodologies that presume the greater inherent plausibility of readings of the Bible that accord with your own views. Let’s just be clear, this is the essence of circular arguments gone wild.
    (E) Doing D (above) is somehow consonant with you claiming that accurate historical readings uphold your views.
    (F) You are happy to acknowledge that, functionally, the whole discussion about whether or not valid examples can be adduced showing the Bible to be in error is a farce anyway…because apparently it’s unreasonable for me to ask you to articulate the conditions of your views’ falsification. Put differently: it’s impossible for you to be wrong.
    (G) Though the above establishes a purely circular methodology that makes sure the Bible cannot ever be read in a way that challenges your views, I am somehow still the one who is “attacking Scripture” and denying its inspiration or trying to “disprove” it.

    Let me sum this up in a way that any intro student to logic or sociology would: you guys are right because…wait for it…you are right. I am wrong because…wait for it again…I am wrong. Just to anticipate the classic Van Tilian rationalization of such reveling in begging-the-question, see my comments 254 and 255 above.

    TFan, I’ll be sure to file this all away under new definitions of what it means to have one’s hypotheses “shot down.” Also, I am not asking you “what evidence [you] would accept that God errs.” I am asking you to articulate why you equate your views of the Bible’s inerrancy with the view that the Bible is inspired and to make your view something possible to discuss by articulating what constitutes valid evidence both for and against it.

    Cheers.

    Paige, I apologize for the long delay in replying to your comment (236). I will try to get to that later tonight.

  273. TurretinFan said,

    April 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Stephen:

    Let’s see if we can identify the scope of our common ground.

    1) Do you believe it is possible for God to err?

    2) Do you believe that Scriptures are the inspired word of God?

    3) Do you understand that the answers to (1) and (2) are answered by revelation (authority) as opposed to some kind of evidentiary investigation?

    4) If the answer to 1-3 is “yes,” then do you also understand why asking the question you are asking (about what kind of evidence it would take …) is as absurd as asking the same question about (1) and (2)?

    -TurretinFan

  274. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 23, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Reed DePace: “Here at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, listening to Dr. Ligon Duncan speak on the seriousness of the resurgence of the denial of inerrancy among young evangelicals, and in particular young reformed evangelicals.”

    Stephen Young,

    Dr. Ligon Duncan thinks that the denial of inerrancy (or affirmation of errancy) is serious business.

    Obviously, he, the original authors and signers of CSBI, and the re-constituting of ICBI think that inerrancy is an important doctrine and that errancy is a (severely) aberrant teaching.

    You obviously do not think errancy is severely aberrant teaching. Otherwise, you would not be an errantist! The logical consequence or logical implication of biblical errantists is that biblical inerrancy is a (severely) aberrant teaching.

    Question for you, Stephen Young, why do you think biblical inerrancy is an aberrant doctrine? Furthermore, what are the bad fruits that you’ve identified as the result of Christians holding and propagating the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, specifically the CSBI?

  275. paigebritton said,

    April 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

    TUAD wrote:
    “Obviously, he, the original authors and signers of CSBI, and the re-constituting of ICBI think that inerrancy is an important doctrine and that errancy is a (severely) aberrant teaching.”

    I agree that these thinkers would call a denial of inerrancy “serious”; I am not sure that it qualifies all the time for them as “severely aberrant” (=heretical) teaching. The reason I hesitate to assume they would identify heresy (or unbelief) in every case is the final “Affirmation/Denial” pair of the CSBI:

    Article XIX

    We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

    We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences both to the individual and to the Church.

    I am keeping this in mind, by the way, as I interact with Stephen. I recognize that all errantists do not line up evenly in their readiness to accept, say, inspiration (let alone verbal inspiration!), the supernatural, and the gospel. Stephen has not seemed reticent to confess to these things, which seems a good sign of faith. (Granted, any of us could be hiding something, even our true names…)

    But yes, it’s serious: “inerrancy is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith.” I fully agree with Jed’s summary above (#237, re. whether we are judging or being judged by the Word) and with TF’s insistence (#273) on the authority of Scripture over evidentiary input.

    My challenge to Stephen in #236 (which is just a retry of #164 and #228) was to name the ways in which he thinks the ideas in Scripture guide and limit the task of the believing scholar. As a believing scholar himself, he must agree that they do, in one way or another. Obviously, though, he would say that the scriptural ideas about God’s truthfulness are not among those that limit the scholarly task. What I don’t know yet is whether this is because

    a) he does not believe these ideas exist in Scripture, or

    b) because he believes God’s truthfulness in the Scriptures does not extend to matters of history or science, or

    c) because he has redefined God’s truthfulness as “God being true to himself” (and therefore the error-like discrepancies he notices are simply God’s way of doing things, and we mere humans shouldn’t get to define how God should behave), or

    d) whether he actually is reluctant to submit to the authority of Scripture.

    Perhaps he will tell us, when he gets the chance.

  276. paigebritton said,

    April 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

    One related thought:

    The seriousness of the error increases as it is taught to others. That is, I would agree that it is more damaging to hold a view that denies inerrancy and to teach it in the church, than to hold the view as an individual and try to explain oneself to others. Clear implications for the pastoral search, there; less so for Green Bagginsing.

  277. Reed Here said,

    April 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Paige: agreed. While I think Stephen is horribly wrong, we did invite him here to interact on the topic. As valuable as our conversation on GB may be (more or less, I know, I know), it is not as vital as what happens Sunday in and Sunday out.

    I do want what Stephen believes, like a fire lit at the edge of a dry Texas forest, stamped out. I do think we’ve got some space to not stamp Stephen out at the same time, but maybe seem his concerns addressed, and maybe him recovered to inerrancy.

  278. hashavyahu said,

    April 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Jed,

    For all of your vague references to a “unique tie” between “going out” (ys’) and “redeeming” (pdh) (would you be willing to define this “connection” linguistically in such a way as to defend your claim that the verb in v. 1 does not refer to an actual departure?), your claim is that Deut 16 does not narrate that the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by night. This is flatly contradicted by Deut 16:1, and anyone with a decent English translation or with a year of Hebrew is invited to check this for themselves. While you’re at it, read the rest of the passage and its repeated references to the departure from Egypt (v. 3, for example).

    You claim that the departure is nevertheless “caused” by the redemption. Deut 16:1 still says “(as a result of redeeming you) The LORD brought you out from Egypt by night.” And one might add that the material cause of the departure referred to in v. 3 is also redemption (pdh).

    Just to push this point a little, Jed, do you admit that v. 3 refers to the actual “hasty” departure from Egypt? And yet do you still claim that the same verbal root in v. 1 with the same prepositional compliment (“from Egypt”/ “from the land of Egypt”) refers to something else (the pre-departure plague of the firstborn that happened on the night of Passover)? I don’t see how you can avoid this since it is manifestly the actual departure that was “in haste” in v. 3, thus providing an etiology for the eating of unleavened bread. And you accuse me of ignoring context? No, in the context of Deut, ys’ in 16:1 can only refer to the departure from Egypt.

    In any case, I don’t expect to convince you or anyone else here. I’m sure you think your explanation is convincing. Perhaps others who share your assumption about a coherent Pentateuch do as well. Having spent my fair share of time in doctoral seminars on Northwest Semitic Philology, where the concerns, I should stress, are linguistic and not historical critical, I think I can assert with confidence that your explanation would convince few students of Hebrew who don’t share your theological convictions about the text (i.e. that Deut 16 and Exod 12 must cohere). And this is ultimately my point. I reject inerrancy because I find the arguments used to defend it (yours here being a nice example) so utterly unconvincing, in this case since the argument ignores basic rules of contextual exegesis and lexicography.

    Finally, which of our readings is more charitable is completely a matter of perspective. You think it is uncharitable of me to read Deut 16 without harmonizing it with parts of Exod 12. While I can sympathize with this perspective, I disagree with it. What I think is an uncharitable reading of a text is one that marginalizes or obscures what the text actually says in the interest of harmonization. I think respect for both Exod 12 and Deut 16 requires that they not be harmonized.

    One final note in response to: “The editors would have been aware of the supposed error you report, and if it were a problem term, violating the previous use, do you think, even from a human perspective that they would allow for such a crass and obvious error.”

    Whether editors of a composite text would permit such ‘crass and obvious errors’ is a purely empirical question. I think the answer is yes, but justifying it would require a full-scale analysis of the Pentateuch that is obviously not possible here. What I don’t think is justified is assuming a priori that the answer to your question is “no.”

  279. Reed Here said,

    April 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Nathan (hashavyahu): I’m sorry, but I haven’t been following your debate with Jed. Where is the textual discrepancy between Ex 12 and Dt 16:1? Specifically where in Ex 12?

    Thanks.

  280. hashavyahu said,

    April 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Hi Reed,

    The issue is the time of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. My position is that the Pentateuch preserves two mutually exclusive historical claims about this. One is that it happened during the day, specifically the day after the Passover (i.e. the 15th of Abib/the 1st month). This is clear in Exod 12:22, where the Israelites are forbidden from leaving their houses until morning (v. 28 further narrates that the Israelites in fact did what Moses told them). I would point also to Num 33:3 for this tradition.

    The other tradition is that it happened at night. Deut 16:1 provides the clearest example of this tradition. I would also argue this tradition appears in Exod 12:29-34, but that would be more difficult to defend in this setting, and Deut 16:1 is clear enough to establish the point.

  281. Reed Here said,

    April 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Nathan: I’m sorry, but where is the discrepancy between the texts? It appears that you are reading into the text modern notions of time keeping.

    E.g., was Jesus in the tomb for exactly 72 hours? Asking this question of “in the grave 3 days” with a modern time keeping notion in view is to insist that this too would be an example of an error in Scripture.

    Yet this is an error flowing from eisegesis, reading into the text contemporary norms. Allowing the text to be interpreted via its own setting, a culture which used approximate time measurements, and the appearance of conflict disappears.

    The Israelites began their departure in the evening. As you note, this is verified by the details of Ex 12:29-34. E.g., Pharoah’s command to depart came in the evening, possibly the marker of the beginning of the departure if we want to ask for more time specificity. The departure was completed the next morning.

    This sounds an awful lot like my family leaving for vacation. We get in the van at one time, and then actually pull out an hour later. I think we can cut Moses some slack that it took a few more hours than that to get all those Israelites moving. :-)

    Regardless, no conflict here, unless we insist on apply time measurement standards to the text that are historically inconsistent with normal interpretation. As well, surely this is not such a serious “error” as to cause one to jettison the whole doctrine of inerrancy.

  282. hashavyahu said,

    April 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Reed,

    Simple. If they set a foot outside their doors before morning, they were disobeying the command (which would contradict v. 28). If they didn’t set a foot outside their doors, then you can’t call it beginning the departure.

    The “3 days in the tomb” is easily explained as an inclusive system of counting. Can you explain to me what notion of reckoning time you are assuming for “Moses” such that he can forbid the Israelites from setting a foot out of doors until morning (Exod 12:22), then narrate in the 3rd person that they complied (v. 28), specifying elsewhere that the departure in fact took place on the 15th of the 1st month (Num 33:3), and yet elsewhere describe the whole thing as happening “at night” (Deut 16:1). Nor will it do to claim that the departure began at night (in contradiction of Exod 12:22 which forbids departing until morning) but was finished in the morning since the verbal form in Deut 16:1 views the action of departing as a whole (i.e. perfectively) and then locates this whole at night!

    Your dismissal of this line of reasoning as an eisegetical reading-in of modern notions of time-keeping looks like an act of desperation. What exactly is “modern” about the distinction between “night” and “day” as discrete periods? Note that the issue is not quantity of time, as was the case in your “3 days in the tomb example”, where differences in counting might be relevant. Instead, the issue is qualitatively different times of day: night (darkness) vs. day (light). My hermeneutic takes these as meaningful temporal designations, and I’ve never seen anything in my reading of the OT or other ANE texts that suggests someone could describe the same event as happening both at night and “not until the next morning.” This leads me to conclude that these are in fact different traditions with slightly different temporal ordering of events.

    Of course I know you can’t accept this, but I hope you can think of something better than the claim that the ancient Hebrew author was incapable of giving precise designations of what time of day an event happened.

  283. Reed Here said,

    April 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Nathan: You call my response a dismissal. I call you response a grasping at straws to prove unbelief.

    Did Moses and Aaron set foot out the door when Pharoah commanded them to appear before him, in the night? Yes. Did they then disobey God’s command? According to your reading they did. Then why weren’t they dropped dead on the spot?

    Your interpretation begins with a presupposition, same as I do, but exactly the opposite. My explanation is reasonable, unless you are a priori already denying any explanation except contradiction between the various texts. Your interpretation is no better than mine on this basis. It comes down to whose presupposition is more consistent with the truth.

    Problem is that you have such a contradiction within Ex 12 accordingly to your reading. Are you going to tell me that two texts were woven together, and that the editor did not do a good enough job of removing the discrepancies? And this explanation is more believable than the Spirit’s witness?

    The issue is that you are requiring a hyper-literalist reading of the text. The text does not offer the kind of specificity you demand of it. You have set up an unreasonable standard of judgment, and then found fault with the Bible when it does not match your standard.

    Please stop with the arrogant condescension (“Of course I know you can’t accept this.”) I assume the ancient Hebrew author was not interested in the kind of time specificity you demand of the text. There is NOTHING in this text or the others you mention that demand it. The time keeping practices in the ANE support this observation.

    The Exodus (departure) began at night. It proceeded with the morning light. I continued for some days. If measuring by geographic boundaries, the departure was not complete until they crossed the Red Sea, not formally out of Egypt until then.

  284. Reed Here said,

    April 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Nathan: You and I do not know each personally, yes? In my responses up till now I offered you a gracious response, even though I knew we disagreed. Why do you feel the need to take on a belittling tone in your dismissal of my response to you?

    You find it irritatingly unbelievable that I don’t see this as an example of an error. I find it irritatingly unbelievable that you write in such a manner that you treat with contempt a person you’ve never met before.

    I’m willing to back off and cut you some slack. Are you willing to give me the same?

  285. paigebritton said,

    April 24, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Nathan wrote:
    Instead, the issue is qualitatively different times of day: night (darkness) vs. day (light).

    A shot in the dark, guys (pun intended), but I am wondering, when does the morning of a day BEGIN?

    Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…

    Blessed Easter, everybody.

  286. Paul said,

    April 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I’d be interested if someone (who is more on the irenic end of the spectrum here) could let me know if I am correctly summarizing where the basic disagreement lies.

    In #264 Stephen asks: “what kind of evidence would it take to show that the Bible has errors in it?” and in #269 says “I am approaching our discussion about the Bible with the assumption that our views about the Bible ought to be disprovable.”

    In #273 Tfan responds: Do you believe it is possible for God to err? Do you believe that Scriptures are the inspired word of God? Do you understand that the answers are answered by revelation (authority) as opposed to some kind of evidentiary investigation?

    It seems to me that Stephen (and myself) simply don’t approach this the way Tfan and many other people here do. For me (I will not speak for Stephen) the way to decide if any book has errors in it is to decide how to define the concept of an “error” based on the genre of the book and then to read the book to see if it has any errors.

    For Tfan and others, the way to decide whether a book has errors in it is, at least in part, to decide first whether the author of the book is capable of making errors and if not, then the book has no errors. For Tfan and others, the key issue (to me) of how you define what an error is, is irrelevant.

    Am I right that this is the source of the disagreement?

    If I’m correct about this, I do have a question for the inerrantists. How would you respond to a mormon who uses exactly Tfan’s logic in #273 to show that the book of mormon was inerrable (or a muslim doing the same with the koran)?

    Please note that that’s a genuine question and I am not interested in getting into an argument with anyone here. I’m interested only in trying to understand people I disagree with.

  287. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Paul, it is a good question.

    I would say that there are three possible answers in principle:

    (1) The fideist response would be “The Bible is inerrant because it is.” This is the Mormonesque “burning in the bosom” approach.

    (2) The empiricist response would be “The Bible is inerrant because it has been rigorously fact-checked and found to be free of error. This appears to be the approach that would satisfy you and Stephen.

    (3) The bootstrap response would be “The Bible is inerrant because it (a) claims to be the word of God; and (b) has enough empirical integrity to verify (a).” That is: empirical evidence gets us to “the Bible is the word of God” ; then, the nature of the author gets us to infallibility.

    Like you, I don’t want to debate the merits of each position. But I would point out that most evangelicals take some kind of bootstrap approach, but are charged with fideism by the “rigorous factcheck” camp.

    Also, I would point out that faith in Christ would seem to require trust in His Word at some point.

    For example, faith in Christ requires the belief that He is returning someday. This is in principle not fact-checkable (until it’s a moot point).

    Likewise, faith in Christ requires the belief that He rose from the dead. While this might have been checkable empirically by Peter or Thomas, it is not rigorously checkable by us today. So option (2) would *seem* to possibly lead us down the slope of denying crucial tenets of the Christian faith. That may explain why you get really strong reactions around here.

  288. bsuden said,

    April 25, 2011 at 1:00 am

    286 Paul,
    How would you respond to a mormon who uses exactly Tfan’s logic in #273 to show that the book of mormon was inerrable (or a muslim doing the same with the koran)?

    You don’t. The canon is closed, Christ is the first and last, the great and final prophet according to Scripture, which both Islam and Mormonism inconsistently acknowledge as authoritative even as they add unto it the sacred writings of their own prophets.

  289. paigebritton said,

    April 25, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Paul,
    For Tfan and others, the way to decide whether a book has errors in it is, at least in part, to decide first whether the author of the book is capable of making errors and if not, then the book has no errors.

    I don’t think this accurately summarizes what TF is getting at. It’s not as if he is applying some general rubric about book-reading when he approaches the Bible. Instead, he is accepting the Bible’s testimony about itself as being the very words of God; and because God is God, he has the right to call the shots on how we read and consider his revelation (i.e., as Lord, he has authority, and his word in written form is authoritative for us).

    This means that the IDEAS in that revelation, conveyed in written words, have priority over the features (“phenomena”) of the text, because ideas convey meaning while phenomena just are. (i.e., Who gets to decide how to interpret them? God does.) And the particular revealed idea that TF & other inerrantists have accepted as a limit to their scholarly task of dealing with the phenomena is the idea that God is true and tells the truth.

    TF’s logic couldn’t be used to argue for the inerrancy of the Book of Mormon or the Koran, because his logic accepts the revealed idea that only the Bible is the Word of God and the others are fakes.

  290. hashavyahu said,

    April 25, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Reed,

    “Did Moses and Aaron set foot out the door when Pharoah commanded them to appear before him, in the night? Yes. Did they then disobey God’s command? According to your reading they did. Then why weren’t they dropped dead on the spot? … Problem is that you have such a contradiction within Ex 12 accordingly to your reading. Are you going to tell me that two texts were woven together, and that the editor did not do a good enough job of removing the discrepancies? And this explanation is more believable than the Spirit’s witness?”
    This isn’t a problem for my interpretation since, yes, I consider Exod 12:29-34 to be from a different source than Exod 12:1-28. I think vv. 29-34 agree with Deut 16 that the departure happened at night, whereas vv. 1-28 forbid it from happening before morning. I should note that the chronological discrepancy is not the only reason I divide sources here, although I think it is a significant one.

    And like I told Jed, the level of concern the editor (better: compiler) of the Pentateuch had for fixing contradictions has to be established empirically rather than assumed. I think the compiler had some concern with consistency, but in the majority of the cases this was overridden by the compiler’s conservatism with respect to his sources – he appears to be highly reluctant to change anything.

    Also, I’m not sure what you mean by opposing this interpretation to the Spirit’s witness.

    “I assume the ancient Hebrew author was not interested in the kind of time specificity you demand of the text. There is NOTHING in this text or the others you mention that demand it. The time keeping practices in the ANE support this observation.”

    Nothing that suggests the authors were interested in time specificity? Then why do they qualify the actions they narrate temporally? “He brought your out from Egypt at night” vs. “you shall not go out until morning.” The texts themselves attest to their interest in the specific times that things happened or didn’t happen.

    Perhaps you could explain with relevant examples the “time keeping practices” of the ANE that you keep referring to.

    Perhaps you can also explain how “you shall not go out, each from the door of his house, until morning” allows the interpretation “you may begin going out at night.”

    The question posed by paigebritton (285) is the exact right one to be asking: in Classic Hebrew, when does morning begin, and when does night end? TDOT discusses this in detail and holds that bqr primarily refers not to a period of time, but to a moment in time: the first appearance of light. Further meanings such as “tomorrow” are derived from this. Egyptian and mesopotamian words for morning also refer to the appearance of light, and TDOT even suggests that the Hebrew word could be a loan from Egyptian.

    This might suggest, paigebritton, that the greek word behind your NT quotation has a different range of meaning than bqr in Classical Hebrew.

  291. hashavyahu said,

    April 25, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Reed,

    “You find it irritatingly unbelievable that I don’t see this as an example of an error. I find it irritatingly unbelievable that you write in such a manner that you treat with contempt a person you’ve never met before.”

    Actually, I would be very surprised if you saw this as an example of an error, so “unbelievable” might not be the right word. I do, however, apologize if you perceived me as treating you with contempt. It was not my intent.

  292. Reed Here said,

    April 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Nathan: thank you.

    I think I’ll leave this debate between us at this point. We understand each other’s approach sufficiently I don’t think there is nothing new to be gained in trying prove the other guy is wrong

    Thanks.

  293. Stephen said,

    April 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Paige (236; 275-76) and Jed (237) somewhat as well,

    Sorry for the delay in replying. Paige, I think my view would be closest to option C on comment 275. My thoughts here remain somewhat inchoate, as I do not yet have a satisfactory positive theological articulation of what this means about God more systematically. Where I am at is that (1) I fully believe in God’s truthfulness and also inspiration of the Bible and (2) that, therefore, however the Bible in fact is (including what it “says” about itself and how it actually behaves in terms of various passages and details of the text, etc.) must determine how I understand what it means for God to be truthful with respect to his inspired scripture.

    I appreciate Jed’s (237) very clear and self-reflective articulation of his views and analysis of the situation. He is correct, I obviously do not consider myself to be sitting in judgment over scripture…at least not anymore than he or you or other inerrantists do. Of course, from my point of view, inerrantists are sitting in judgment over scripture when they constrain possible interpretations with the notion that it’s impossible for the Bible to err. To me this is transparently a case of deciding ahead of time how Scripture can behave and forcing it to conform.

    Rather than position myself and folks like me as a lone remnant who refuse to “judge” scripture [though, of course, I probably would like to represent myself this way ;) ], perhaps it would be more precise to say that I approach the Bible historically from the standpoint of standard historical methodology that will rigorously follow the evidence of scripture wherever it leads…and trust that God wants me to do this since he inspired it all to begin with and it’s my place to trust him in what he has done. Thus also you see some theological underpinnings of my approach. You also approach the Bible from the standpoint of an interpretive methodology and read the Bible as such. Of course, your approach claims the mantle of rigorous historical methodology while at the same time adulterating any semblance of sound (or non-selective) historical methodology by deciding ahead of time that potential interpretive options involving an error are inherently less plausible. IMO, finding this problematic is not easily labeled as “intellectual autonomy.” You employ the same standard interpretive methodologies (if you will) in everyday communication, when studying non-biblical sources, when engaging in other domains of study, etc.

    This is why I do not just declare some presuppositional or assumptions-brought-to-the-table stalemate. Since inerrantists think inerrancy relates somehow (often directly) to historical readings of the Bible (or, at least, inerrantists think they relate enough that it’s impossible for the historical meaning of the Bible to contain an error), I see an arena (if you will) for discussion since we can dispute historical meanings of the Bible in relation to inerrancy.

    Though perhaps I have not been clear here, this is why I do not think it useful to construe people like me as “standing in judgment” over the text in comparison to you. We do that only to the extent that you identify “the text” with your views of how it MUST behave (inerrantly)…and to the extent that you make this identification in such a way that it’s not up to dispute even from the Bible itself. Many Van Tilians, for example, would be happy spelling the situation out thus (e.g., it’s illegitimate and basically non-Christian even to ask about the possibility of the Bible having errors in it and thus tolerate interpretive methodologies that could allow it…as Lane Tipton once said to me).

    Getting back to Paige more directly, I affirm your outline of ways that I (alongside of you) accept constraints from the ideas of Scripture. That said, I think I do so when it comes to theological readings of the Bible (which, as I have already made clear here and in other comments, is an enterprise that I cannot yet precisely spell out how to do in relation to historical readings of the Bible) and my theology in general. When it comes to how to interpret the Bible historically, however, I generally accept no constraints or theologically-determined hierarchies of interpretive controls from the “ideas” of Scripture or Scripture’s “teachings” about itself. Such aspects of the Bible are data alongside everything else, with varying degrees of contextual relevance depending upon the writing and its situation etc., to be weighed when interpreting and analyzing various passages, books, and so on.

    I say this because, as you can probably predict I am about to say :), this is standard analytic methodology. For example, just because X source or person says that everything s/he writes or says is completely accurate, that doesn’t mean we approach analyzing that person’s writings/sayings by presuming that everything s/he says is completely accurate. Our basic intuitive psychology for interacting (often subconsciously) with others in everyday life doesn’t even work this way, much less any kind of specialized interpretive or otherwise analytical study of something else. Such statements are relevant for numerous parts of the interpretive task: e.g., what does the producer of X source think or claim s/he is doing, how might s/he be positioning himself/herself in relation to other sources we know the producer revered, used, or otherwise knew, etc. They do not, however, constrain all analysis.

    Getting more specific with the Bible, I find confirmation in this approach precisely in the fact that general historical approaches to the text lead the interpreter to find the Bible behaving “errantly” on countless occasions. The conventional Scripture’s-statements-about-itself (deductive) versus phenomena-of-scripture (inductive) debate oversimplifies matters. Adopting the supposedly purely-deductive approach results in throwing out any semblance of sound historical methodology. Adopting the supposedly purely-inductive approach results in neglect of theological help for putting it all together in addition to missing how different scriptural authors likely understand and represent matters. I’m not saying that you’re crassly advocating one of these approaches entirely over the other; just trying to frame my thoughts here in relation to this standard debate.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, again. Parts of it speak more directly to your questions than others. Not that I need to say this, but please do not feel obligated to take up everything I say in a reply. Much of it is just me trying to spell out more-clearly for people here what I am thinking and how I think about it. I recognize that many of my views sound like me taking X traditional “liberal” position when, in fact, I am doing something else.

  294. Reed Here said,

    April 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Stephen: correct me where appropriate; in this last response you did not appear to interact with the theological argument on which inerrancy rests. Instead your critique seems to be only at the methodological level. Am I reading you correctly?

    I understand we all bring our theology to the table. Yet for you, discussing the relevant theology is not important, or as important as discussing methodology.

    Am I reading you fairly? If so, why do you approach this subject in this manner? What relative role does the theology play in this discussion for you?

  295. TurretinFan said,

    April 26, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Stephen:

    I’m not sure if you saw my comment #273 above.

    -TurretinFan

  296. TurretinFan said,

    April 27, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Let me flesh out some further issues that I see here.

    1) There’s a pretty fundamental issue of the difference between evidence and authority. I don’t know if that has dawned on Stephen yet. His comments don’t reflect any recognition of this difference.

    2) We accept inerrancy on authority, not evidence.

    3) Evidence demonstrates that our acceptance (on faith) of the authority is reasonable, but evidence cannot prove inerrancy, nor do we argue that it does.

    4) That’s not to say that the evidence is unequivocal. For example, while “narrative compression” is one possible explanation for the differences between the gospels (in some places), another explanation is error. However, since Stephen is the one trying to demonstrate error, it’s not enough for him simply to identify a situation where error is a possible explanation.

    5) Stephen seems to be starting to realize that we weigh the evidence in light of the authority. In other words, we don’t consider the issue of gospel harmonization in a vacuum.

    6) Stephen wants us to disregard authority in consideration of the evidence. The problem is that disregarding authority is disregarding vital information. The fact that these documents are the object of verbal plenary inspiration is significant to the question of whether they have errors.

    -TurretinFan

  297. paigebritton said,

    April 27, 2011 at 8:47 am

    TF (and Stephen, too):

    We accept inerrancy on authority, not evidence…Stephen wants us to disregard authority in consideration of the evidence.

    I think you’re spot on, TF. The interesting thing to me is that Stephen actually does claim to submit to God’s authority, delivered through the text, in certain respects — that is, he is willing to uphold the reality of the resurrection and the supernatural as a scholar, which are unpopular positions in the academy; and he would also accept the moral limits placed on a believing scholar (e.g., honesty, humility, love).

    But he does not accept the limits that the authoritative text sets on the believing scholar regarding God’s truthfulness. Instead, he begins with the evidence (or “phenomena” of the Bible), finds out for himself “what the Bible is,” concludes that it contains errors, and reconfigures an understanding of God’s truthfulness that explains the presence of errors — that is to say, this is just God’s way of doing things, and who are we to judge.

    Why is this the path he chooses? I think this is the crux (from Stephen’s comment #293):

    When it comes to how to interpret the Bible historically, however, I generally accept no constraints or theologically-determined hierarchies of interpretive controls from the “ideas” of Scripture or Scripture’s “teachings” about itself. Such aspects of the Bible are data alongside everything else, with varying degrees of contextual relevance depending upon the writing and its situation etc., to be weighed when interpreting and analyzing various passages, books, and so on.

    IOW, Stephen (if you’re reading along), you’ve accepted the paradigm that the believing scholar can step aside from the authority of the text (the “ideas” in Scripture) and objectively weigh the evidence of the Bible, just as you would any other book. And you’ve accepted the notion that the ideas — God’s words to us — are on equal footing with the phenomena, which basically means that the ideas ARE phenomena, so you can consider them objectively along with grammar and vocab and literary quirks and other textual puzzles.

    The trouble is, none of us has access to a “visitors’ booth to the universe,” nor to the Bible: only God can tell us the meaning of the things that happen and the things he does. Scholarly methodology does not grant us objectivity: if we are believers, we are under God’s authority, and he gets to call the shots on how to interpret both history and his written Word. The ideas of Scripture are NOT equal to the phenomena: the phenomena must be understood to be subservient to the ideas.

    If I could leave one bug in your ear, to buzz there until you heed it, it would be that you need to reconsider who you are as a believing scholar: for even the scholarly task needs to be placed under the authority of God, expressed in the ideas of his authoritative word.

    pax!
    Paige B.

  298. Reed Here said,

    April 27, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Stephen: if I may pile on without simply ganging up on you, I’d like to echo Stephen: let me echo TFan’s and Paige’s comments. A while back I asked you to answer how you apply the basic biblical hermeneutical principle of Scripture interprets Scripture. I expected a straightforward split answer: in theological considerations you adhere to it rather consistently, but in historical issues you make it submissive to other interpretive principles, most notably the text-critical principles.

    Suffice to say I was a bit surprised. You gave me the expected response regarding historical considerations. But I was surprised at how much these issues had even hindered your following SIS in theological considerations. I didn’t follow up at the time because you were busily engaged in other conversations with others here. Let me follow up now.

    Am I correct in concluding that is not the first time you’ve heard this line of argument, that you have a faulty view of the authority of Scripture? If so, I’d like to hear your reasoning in response.

  299. Reed Here said,

    April 27, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Stephen: I cut my response in two so it wouldn’t be too long in the combox. To conclude:

    1. As inerrantists, we hold to a supreme view of the authority of the Bible.
    2. This flows as a necessary consequence from our conviction about the nature of God, especially His sovereignty vis-a-vis the Creator-creature distinction. We simply have no choice but to assume that the Bible is authoritative over any other authority.

    You, on the other hand, seem to have made reason your supreme authority. It is not that you deny the authority of the Bible. Instead it is that you make it’s authority submissive to the authority of human reasoning.

    This is nothing more than an Enlightenment recidivism. You’ve been deceived into believing that Man’s reason is the final arbiter of what it true. I understand that you think you’re merely methodologically dealing with how the text functions. Yet that otherwise appropriate method is fatally flawed by a presupposition you cannot get out of your soul – God must in His dealings with man submit, fully and completely, to man’s rational abilities.

    It is a sickness of the soul my friend, not a failure of intellectual integrity that you are dealing with. I get all the “yeah but” questions you are facing from the text of Scripture. I sat through the same courses at WTS. Indeed, I came loaded with twenty years of dispensational fitting-square-pegs-into-round-holes-answers that simply left me with more difficult questions. For me it was sitting in one class debating whether or not God must be logical. After about 30 minutes of back and forth it dawned on me what my problem was. I was failing to make the necessary Creator-creature distinction. When I did, I realized we were debating the wrong question. The real question is, does logic always submit to God? (Why, yes, yes it does.)

    You’ve begun with a phenomena based conclusion, according to current human reasoning the Bible contains noticeable errors. Therefore your doctrine of Scripture, let alone your doctrine of God, must accommodate itself to this man-based authoritative statement.

    For me the doctrine of God authoritatively shapes everything else. If God says He does not lie, and He claims the Bible is His words, then the Bible must not contain any lies. An error is a form of a lie. Therefore the Bible must not contain any errors.

    I admit that this does not resolve all the messiness. But the doctrine of sin provides a better explanation for the messiness than re-adjusting my doctrine of God. I expect the Bible to have some appearance of messiness simply because it is being interpreted by men struggling under the noetic effects of the fall. Whenever I run across a question regarding the Bible’s inerrancy, the conviction that the mental fog of the fall (Rom 1:21-32), coupled with the conviction that God does not make mistakes and man does, leads me to first question the interpreter, not the Bible.

    Does this mean we can achieve some sort of grand harmonization of the Bible and eliminate all appearances of error? Of course not. I remember my first seminary experience (dispensational) devouring Thomas and Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels . I distinctly remember the uncomfortable itch at the back of my neck with some of their constructs. I remember doing other studies in which I read “solutions” to problematic texts that made me want to rip my hair out (notice my avatar above, I’m bald).

    Yet it was not until the Spirit had quieted my soul, graced me with some humility that I saw my wickedness, I was demanding God give me what I needed to take Him at His word. It was in repenting of this placement of man’s reasoning in authority over God that the itching problem in my brain went away.

    My fear Stephen is that you will spend a professional lifetime hunting for a golden fleece, never quite realizing that it is just a story from pagan mythology. I do sympathize with your struggle. I simply do not agree that you’re looking for the solution in the right place. The problem is in us, not the text.

    I don’t need any response to the following because I think I’ve read enough from you to believe you will do the following (if you haven’t already), give some prayer to this. Give some prayer to the challenge that you’ve made a fatal error, namely demanding that God submit Himself to man’s reasoning. It may take sometime, but as the gospel truly is the good news that frees us, I hopefully expect a good outcome.

    Yes, I know I’m saying you need to become an inerrantist. But what better solution might I envision? Who better equipped than one who gets it?

  300. Stephen said,

    April 27, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Wow! A lot of good questions.

    Yes, I am still reading along and no, I do not consider this to be “ganging up” on me…at least not yet :).

    I will get back to you all as soon as possible…the rest of the day is pretty busy though. Wanted to let you all know that I’m still here though.

    Thanks!

  301. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 27, 2011 at 11:08 am

    “Yes, I am still reading along

    Hi Stephen,

    If you have time to read the following as part of your reading along, it might be worthwhile for you:

    Inspired Errors.

    by Steve Hays over at Triablogue.

  302. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    One more thought. It strikes me that an Ennsian “small errantist” might come back to inerrancy in this way:

    (1) There are several places in Scripture that appear to be self-contradictory or contradict external evidences.

    (2) These could be errors; OR, it could be possible that they are not intended to be strictly literal statements of fact (e.g.: “3 days later, the Son of Man will rise” does not mean 72 hrs to the second).

    (3) Given that Scripture is not any other document, but God-breathed, then the probability is overwhelmingly high that these putative errors are actually simply not literal statements of fact.

    Which then raises the question, How do we interpret them? But that’s a whole different issue. The main point is that an Ennsian errantist could latch on to (3) as a kind of corrective.

  303. Richard said,

    April 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    @Reed: I would like to pick you up on your comment in #299. When you open your Bible to preach on a text what do you do? If you are anything like me you have a number of steps, such as looking at the literary and historical context recognising that to understand the text we need to have a number of hermeneutical steps. But as soon as you do that you are, in effect, surely placing scripture under the authority of human reasoning? In that, those rules of interpretation are not found in scripture but have been developed by humans independently of scripture using reason.

    I’d also refer you back to my comment #124 if reference to your saying:

    For me the doctrine of God authoritatively shapes everything else. If God says He does not lie, and He claims the Bible is His words, then the Bible must not contain any lies. An error is a form of a lie. Therefore the Bible must not contain any errors.

  304. Richard said,

    April 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    @Stephen: If you haven’t already, would you be able to provide a list of the errrors you believe the Bible contains?

  305. Reed Here said,

    April 27, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Richard: it seems you are missing my key point. It is not that there are no other hermeneutical principles to be applied in interpreting the Bible. It is a matter of hierarchy of those principles. Scripture interprets Scripture is always the supreme, it always has the trump for the reasons I listed.

    As to comment no. 124, I don’t follow your conclusion, to wit, that we need to take into account more data. There is nothing forcing me to do so, unless you want to insist that an opinion of man must be given precedence over God’s declaration. That is a form of unbelief, in the end, as it conforms to the pattern of the original sin of our first parents.

  306. Hugh McCann said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

    It seems we are all to assume/ trust that God has preserved enough truth for salvation, creation arguments, etc. in the extant manuscripts, whether or not one be a fan of “providential preservation” (like most KJV/TR fans).


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