Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Continued Response to Abdullah from the UK (Part 3)
05/31/2008 - James White
Publishing Whatever One Wants To: Rome's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, and Current Trends in Catholic Apologetics
05/30/2008 - James SwanOver the last few years I've focused on current popular Catholic apologists, that is, those whose names you may hear on Catholic Answers, or find on The Journey Home. In order to be familiar with Catholic argumentation, the best way to do so is to actually hear them make their own arguments and interpretations of Catholic doctrine.
I purchase their books as well. I buy these books because not only am I interested in how they argue, I like to see how they document their claims. I'm sure there are much better well-trained Catholic scholars who present far better argumentation (in books that cost a whole lot more). But the books that sell, and the apologetic book your Catholic friend at work has is probably one of the many books of popular Catholic apologetics put out in the last twenty years.
I have a number of these books on my desk at the moment. For instance I've got Not By Scripture Alone by Robert Sungenis staring back at me. This book was dedicated to John Paul II, and was checked over for accuracy by two Monsignors. Hence, it obtained what is called the "Nihil Obstat" and the "Imprimatur." I'm assuming many Protestants have no idea what these two words mean.They typically appear on one of the first few pages of a Catholic book.
Nihil Obstat: "A Latin phrase meaning that 'nothing stands in the way,' the nihil obstat is a designation that must be given before a book receives impramatur, the Church Permission for publication" [Alfred McBride, O.Praem, Catholic Beliefs From A to Z (Michigan: Servant Publications, 2001), p. 117].
Imprimatur: "From the Latin meaning 'let it be printed,' an imprimatur is given by a bishop for books on certain scriptural or religious topics. It is required for all Catholic versions of sacred Scripture and liturgical texts as well as religious books that will be used as textbooks or for public prayer. Otherwise, an imprimatur is not needed for every religious book" [ibid., p. 86].
I can appreciate Rome's desire to keep some sort of official standard that Catholic writers should abide by. I can even appreciate that Sungenis took the time to obtain these stamps of approval, as well as any others within Rome's walls that do likewise. It was a recent comment in a discussion on Dave Armstrong's blog that got me thinking about this. In yet another episode of "When Catholic Apologists Attack Each Other" someone commented on a recent book by Sungenis:
"Not By Bread Alone didn't ever get an imprimatur, either. Sungenis said it was because of some technical issue, but that wouldn't have stopped him from getting one later."
Armstrong responded, "Sadly, the Imprimatur is not always a safeguard anymore. My books don't have them (except for The New Catholic Answer Bible, and my books are perfectly orthodox. And some that have them are not orthodox."
The same person then asked, "Yeah, imprimaturs don't mean what they used to. Did you submit and get turned down or just never submit them?" He then noted the Catholic Apologetics Study Bible by Sungenis was turned down, as was Not By Bread Alone.
Armstrong: "Sophia Institute Press, the publisher of my three main books, chose not to do it. It wasn't really in my hands. OSV did for the Bible: probably because that seems more 'serious': being a Bible and all."
I'll pass over Armstrong's comment that not all books with the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur are orthodox, which is an interesting Roman authority problem to say the least! Give Sungenis at least this much credit, at least he tried to get the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur (by the way, this Catholic blog has some sort of obsession over this issue, and spends ample time documenting every move Robert makes- they claim, "In the end, it is noteworthy that Sungenis has not received an imprimatur on any of his books over the last 10 years"). Armstrong on the other hand, simply puts a disclaimer on his blog, and pretty much stated above he doesn't even try to obtain them.
Well, what's the big deal? "An imprimatur is not needed for every religious book." Well, it could turn out to be a big deal for those apologists serious about their Catholicism. Say you're a Catholic apologist without the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, and a local parish has invited you to give your testimony or an apologetics lecture. You decide to bring some copies of your book to sell. The problem though is, Canon Law says leave them home if you don't have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur:
Can. 827 §4. Books or other writings dealing with questions of religion or morals cannot be exhibited, sold, or distributed in churches or oratories unless they have been published with the permission of competent ecclesiastical authority or approved by it subsequently.
Canon Law also states:
§2. Books which regard questions pertaining to sacred scripture, theology, canon law, ecclesiastical history, and religious or moral disciplines cannot be used as texts on which instruction is based in elementary, middle, or higher schools unless they have been published with the approval of competent ecclesiastical authority or have been approved by it subsequently.
§3. It is recommended that books dealing with the matters mentioned in §2, although not used as texts in instruction, as well as writings which especially concern religion or good morals are submitted to the judgment of the local ordinary.
Read this whole section of Canon Law here.
One has to wonder how seriously the recent batch of Catholic apologists take the above statement (§3). I just looked through my shelf of Catholic apologetic books, and many of the recent volumes do not have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, while the older ones typically do. If Canon Law recommends something, what seems to be the problem for these folks? I'm tempted to say for some of them, their continual claims of submission to Rome fall short when it comes to having a career as a Catholic apologist. Sure, they say they submit to Rome, but they don't submit all their books for ecclesiastical approval.
It's easy to pick on the failure of Sungenis to attain official approval, and let's face it, he's produced some eclectic material. On the other hand, it seems to me many Catholic apologists don't even try to follow Canon Law on this. Why is the failure of Sungenis such a scandal, while a multitude of Catholic writers not even trying to gain the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur not? It's easy to claim that one's books are "perfectly orthodox," but one wonders if these apologists ignoring Canon Law while complaining about the orthodoxy of a fellow apologist who at least makes some sort of attempt to adhere to it have the right to complain.
I'm not just picking on Armstrong. He simply serves as an example since he's put forth a lot of effort going after Sungenis recently (by the way, Armstrong explains the problem with Sungenis and Gerry Matatics: "'Insufficiently converted from Protestantism' more than amply explains Matatics and Sungenis, as far as I'm concerned. But it's not Protestantism per se: it is an extreme form of fundamentalist Calvinism"). There are many more besides Armstrong that publish books without the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. I'm simply asking why they don't follow the guidelines their teaching authority puts forth- this just happens to be the same authority they defend in their writings.
Today on The Dividing Line
05/29/2008 - James WhiteStarted out with a period of mourning for the demotion of Tim Staples from one of the "Church's foremost Biblical scholars" to just "a top apologist." We are still pondering whether we should send a dozen Tulips as a consolation prize. Then we looked at Hamza Yusuf repeating the "Nicea set the canon" myth, and then played a random clip from Grasshopperjax, the KJV Only fellow who has posted a 23-part reply to my book on KJV Onlyism. Also took a call on...the epistemology of ultimate authorities. Another eclectic Dividing Line!. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Then, just for fun, a random comment just posted in channel: (Fibster^) When you're in school, and there's a fire alarm you have to line up in a single file line from shortest to tallest. What is the logic? Do tall people burn slower?
Truth in Translation: Grading the Professor
05/29/2008 - Mike PorterNot too long ago, this ministry received some emails regarding a small work that had been handed or otherwise recommended to them by members of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The book was concerning to them for a couple of reasons: 1) It was written by a man claiming to be a biblical scholar who was, above all, a neutral observer and evaluated several translations to determine bias and fairness. 2) Among the translations he evaluated was the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses and, despite finding some flaws with it, determined that it was among the best translations he reviewed.
It is not surprising, then, that many Jehovah's Witnesses have been offering this book to their Christian friends and family members. Many believers have been told over and again by reputable scholars that the NWT is not a good translation and demonstrates theological bias rather than biblical and linguistic scholarship. So, when a biblical scholar claims neutrality for the sake of historical truth and judges in favor of the NWT, it is hardly surprising to find such believers requesting information on such a work.
The particular book is by Dr. Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University and is called Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. It is not intended to be a scholarly work, but rather a popular work which dispenses with the usual detailed argumentation and rigor demanded. He targets his audience those who have little to no knowledge of the biblical languages and culture.
This blog article begins a series where I will examine and review the claims of Dr. BeDuhn in his book and discuss his approach, methods, arguments, and conclusions. I am not intending on reviewing every chapter of the book as some of the arguments seemed to be peripheral to greater matters of theological import (although I am sure to touch upon some issues briefly, such as gender translation).
Dr. BeDuhn evaluates several translations and paraphrases of the New Testament intending to, in effect, grade their competency. He believes that he is qualified because he considers himself a biblical scholar and unbiased in his perspective. These are points he wishes to make abundantly clear in order to contrast himself with those who worked on the translations he reviews. The premise is that major translations are not made by biblical scholars but by reasonably competent committees with a vested doctrinal interest. Indeed, he states:
"With thousands of biblical scholars in America alone, you may think that biblical translation is mostly a scholarly enterprise. It isn't. Although biblical scholars have been the key players in identifying the more accurate Greek text of the New Testament, most have never been involved in a bible translation project." (BeDuhn, 9)Dr. BeDuhn then goes on to assert that the work of these biblical scholars is usually confined to specialist type projects focused narrowly on particular passages.
By contrast, he tells us, ""Bible translation is usually undertaken by people with theological training who also happen to be reasonably competent in biblical languages." (BeDuhn, 8)
Note that biblical translators are not necessarily biblical scholars. Just what is a biblical scholar according to Dr. BeDuhn? A biblical scholar must possess three qualities in order to be considered a true scholar: Knowledge of 1) the linguistic content, 2) the literary setting of the work, and 3) the historical and cultural setting (BeDuhn, xvi-xix).
Dr. BeDuhn believes that he is qualified because he considers himself to be a biblical scholar. Now, I am willing to grant Dr. BeDuhn the assumption of scholarship. I am a little hesitant to consider him to be a biblical scholar since I am not familiar enough with his works on biblical scholarship to be able to grant him such on his word. I did look into his background and his website to understand where he believes himself qualified.
Dr. BeDuhn has his doctorate in Manichean studies. It is neither specific to nor specialized in New Testament. However, he does have a Master's degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Thus, I am certain he has had at least two years of Greek training. And, I am aware of at least one Greek manuscript of Manichean writings that he may have worked on at the doctoral level. ...
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On Tragedy and the Comfort that Comes from God
05/28/2008 - James WhiteOnce again my hope is that someone will be helped by these thoughts.
Today on The Dividing Line
05/27/2008 - James WhiteStarted off with a story DA Carson told about CH Dodd and the meaning of propitiation, moved on to an LDS blog article, and then in the last half of the program, finished up the Steve Ray "verses I didn't see as a Protestant on the Eucharist" material, including Jerusalem Jones' "Bloop in and out of the Bubble" analogy. You have to hear it to believe it! Here's the program (free/high quality).
Encouragement, Endurance, Patience (Parts 1 and 2)
05/27/2008 - James WhiteAn unusual set of videos that I hope will be of encouragement to some. I went 90 seconds long, so...had to break it up into two parts. Hence the double posting.
An Introduction to Textual Criticism: Part 11--The Eclectic Text Position: "Thoroughgoing Eclecticism"
05/26/2008 - Colin Smith
As the name suggests, the Eclectic school differs from the various defenders of the Byzantine text in that it does not, at least in general, favor any one particular text type. Rather, the Eclectics select the readings that fit their accepted criteria for determining the original wording of a particular passage, regardless (for the most part) of the readings textual family.
There are essentially two opinions that differ from one another with regard to Eclectic methodology: Thoroughgoing, or Rational Eclecticism, and Reasoned Eclecticism. Both are of the opinion that the original readings of the New Testament can be determined from the extant manuscripts, and that reading is found scattered among the various extant manuscripts. They differ on their approach to the manuscripts. In this installment of our Textual Criticism series, we will look at the "Thoroughgoing Eclecticism" position.
Thoroughgoing Eclecticism, also known as Rational Eclecticism and Radical Eclecticism, is by no means a widely held position. One of its main proponents is J. K. Elliott, whose article on the subject forms the basis for this presentation (J. K. Elliott, "The Case for Thoroughgoing Eclecticism," in David Alan Black (ed.), Rethinking New Testament Criticism, (Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 102-125) believes that while those who explicitly take this view may be few, many unknowingly adopt its practice in the course of commentary on the New Testament text. It is of interest to this study, however, since it is a viewpoint radically different from the various Byzantine text positions (the historical-documentary approach) and also distinct from the more popular Reasoned Eclectic viewpoint (the cult of the best manuscript approach, according to Elliott.
The main distinguishing feature of the Thoroughgoing Eclectic position is that it strongly favors the use of internal evidence to assess the value of any given reading. This is not to say that it disregards external evidence, such as the age of the manuscripts, or their geographical location, but it considers these to be secondary considerations. There is no pre-determined view of the manuscript traditions; there are no favored manuscripts or text types. When faced with a collection of textual variants, the Thoroughgoing Eclectic will want to determine which best fits the style and theology of the author, not which comes from the best quality manuscripts, or which follows a particular textual tradition.
A definition of the movement I defend here is that we do indeed seek to achieve a knowledge of readings over and above a knowledge of documents. We start our work from a full apparatus criticus... and we pay attention not only to the reading but at a later stage to the attestation as well. (Elliot, p. 104)
The principles of textual criticism applied by Elliott and those who share this view agree to a great extent with those of most, if not all, Eclectic textual critics, at least in terms of internal evidence. Such principles include the famous difficilior lecto potior, or the principle that the most difficult reading is to be preferred, the recognition of a scribal tendency to conflate readings and assimilate parallel passages, the effects of scribal frailty (paleographical considerations) such as homoeoteleuton, and the effect of church controversy upon the transmission of the text. Where Elliott believes that his Reasoned Eclectic brethren err is not that they fail to apply these principles, but they fail to apply them consistently. He laments the fact that while they will faithfully apply the principles to one reading in one case, in another case they will jettison them when the better reading disagrees with one of the favored manuscripts (principally B and Aleph). Elliott cites Mark 3:32; 6:23, 41; and 7:4 as examples of this kind of behavior. In each of these passages, the readings adopted in the Nestle-Aland text are those of manuscripts other than B or Aleph. However, in each case they have put the B-Aleph reading in the main body of the text in square brackets, as if to say that while this reading may not be original, it ought to stand in the text on the merit of the manuscripts alone. In Elliott's view, this is a classic example of the cult of the best manuscripts.
The Thoroughgoing Eclectic applies these principles to every variant reading in every case, regardless of manuscript tradition. Elliott illustrates this extensively by applying the principles to a number of passages and describing the process by which the Thoroughgoing Eclectic determines the correct reading, or at least showing how one can better achieve a determination by applying this methodology. Some of his treatments of textual issues are worthy of note. For example, there is a variant in Mark 1:4 where the reading could be either VIwa,nnhj o` bapti,zwn or VIwa,nnhj bapti,zwn. Does Mark introduce John as the Baptizer, or does he simply indicate that John came baptizing? The Nestle-Aland and UBS texts put the definite article (o`) in square brackets, indicating that the committee is undecided. Elliott correctly notes that B and Aleph are split on this particular variant. For Elliott, though, the matter is relatively simple. The title bapti,zwn was used by later writers, and so, assuming Marcan priority, (which, interestingly, Elliott does without qualification) the verbal form with the definite article is probably correct. Also, since this is at the beginning of Mark's Gospel, it is likely that he would introduce John by name: the Baptizer. Another good example is Elliott's treatment of Mark 10:1. Here, Mark's use of o;cloi is in question. According to Elliott, manuscripts D and Q have the reading o;cloj which he believes to be more in line with Marcan style. Out of 40 instances of this word meaning crowd, this is the only place where the modern critical editions have the word in its plural form in Mark's Gospel. While the singular form of the word is not well attested, Elliott accepts it on this basis, suggesting that the plural form was a scribal change to harmonize this passage with Matthew 19:1.
In Hebrew 2:9, the writer speaks of Jesus' humiliation on the cross where "by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (NASB). There is a variant reading at this point where some manuscripts read "apart from God" (cwri.j qeou/) in place of "by the grace of God" (ca,riti qeou/). Since the reading "apart from God" is not as well attested as "by the grace of God," it is presumed that the former came about as a result of either a scribe misreading the word, or the accidental inclusion of a marginal gloss. Elliott notes that while the former reading seems to lack support, Origen says that it was in many manuscripts of his day. Also, since this is the more difficult reading, it ought to be given due consideration. Finally, he contends that, from the point of view of doctrinal history, this reading fits first century views of Christs separation with God on the cross. He presumes the text was changed as a result of fifth century Christological disputes where it could be used to imply that Christs divine nature did not suffer. It should be pointed out that this is, of course, Elliott's interpretation of first century views, and even if these were first century views, he would be hard-pressed to demonstrate that the New Testament writers shared such views. A good case can be made for Jesus' cry of dereliction on the cross being simply a means of drawing attention to the fulfillment of Psalm 22 in the events of Calvary.
From these examples it should be clear that the Thoroughgoing Eclectic view is far more interested in issues of style, context, and theology than it is in issues of text types and dates. While Elliott is firm in his conviction that the readings are more important than the documents, he will admit that his methodology can be used to suggest manuscripts that ought to be treated with some suspicion. He suggests that if a certain manuscript consistently produces readings that run contrary to the recognized style and theology of the author, that manuscript will be considered less trustworthy (Elliott, pp. 122-123). On the other hand, if a solid reading comes up (and by "solid" I presume he means that the reading in question fulfills the criteria for internal evidence at least within the passage in question) that appears to contradict the recognized style and theology of the author, one must be prepared to accept this as an exception to the rule and explain its existence.
In response to the criticism that this approach does not account for the history of the text and does not provide for any continuity in the textual tradition, Elliott responds that the Thoroughgoing Eclectic approach is alert to the historical context of the passage in question, both in terms of church history, and the development of Christian doctrine. This perspective also accounts for theological disputes occurring in the church at the time that the various manuscripts would have been produced, as well as popular literary movements that may have affected the text, such as the Atticism of the second century.
Thoroughgoing Eclecticism, therefore, is an approach to textual criticism that is eclectic in that it does not start with a particular manuscript or textual family, but it presumes that the original readings are to be found within the broad spectrum of manuscripts and variants. It is thoroughgoing in that, at least in the opinion of those who hold this position, it applies the standard by which readings are evaluated consistently with each and every reading, regardless of text type, and regardless of other external factors.
Part 12: "Eclectic Text" Positions: Reasoned Eclecticism--coming soon...
Theology Matters: There is a Creator
05/23/2008 - James White
Accusations from 1998 Refuted and Steve Ray Review Continued on The Dividing Line
05/22/2008 - James WhiteToday on the Dividing Line I took the time to review and refute the accusations published nearly a decade ago in Interpretation by D.H. Williams relating to his very poor reading of my chapter in the Soli Deo Gloria book and his provision of a footnote in which he made some negative comments. This footnote had been recently posted by a convert to Rome, so I decided to examine it. Of course, someone else could have done that and realized the accusations were not overly weighty, but---well, you know why folks like a convert to Roman Catholicism wouldn't do that. Anyway, that took the first half hour, and involved a discussion of Athanasius and his view of authority. Then we went back to Steve Ray and his "verses" he never saw as a Baptist on the topic of the Eucharist. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Spied on Campi's Blog
05/21/2008 - James White"A debate is a conflict which clarifies a position. A dialogue is a conversation which compromises a position."
John E. Ashbrook, The New Neutralism II
I don't have the book (yet), but given what yours truly does regularly (and by the way, we will have a major debate announcement upcoming soon!), this pithy statement caught my attention. So many I speak with fear the word "debate." Why? Because it assumes the very thing our culture denies exists: right and wrong, truth and error. We've become so concerned about the offense caused by someone who abuses the truth that we have abandoned those categories completely. The result is a neutered Christianity that has absolutely nothing to say to the world.
Pastor Chuck McIlhenny on ISI Today!
05/21/2008 - James WhiteThis is short notice, but you may wish to tune in Pastor Chuck McIlhenny on Iron Sharpens Iron today. McIlhenny's experience as pastor of the First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco (which is right on the road I take to GGBTS each time I'm up there) was told in the book, When the Wicked Seize a City. My how true that title has proven to be! You can listen to the program on the web here at 3pm EDT.
A Mighty Mountain of Sound Theology
05/21/2008 - James WhiteA monument to how deep sound theology was not so long ago. The Complete Works of Thomas Manton being offered by Solid Ground.
"The renowned Thomas Manton (1620-1677), whose writings have long been prized by thousands, was known first and foremost as a great preacher. In a day when good preaching is sorely lacking, we need the reprint of his Complete Works, in which twenty of his twenty-two volumes are sermons. These sermons are the legacy of a powerful preacher devoted to the systematic teaching and application of God's Word. Whether he is expounding the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 119, Isaiah 53, James, or Jude, Manton presents us with the best that English Puritans had to offer in careful, solid, warmhearted exposition of the Scriptures." - Dr. Joel R. Beeke, author of Meet the Puritans.
The Relic of Relics
05/21/2008 - James WhiteThis morning I noted Erik Raymond's blog entry on relics here (Hi Erik!). There are few things more repulsive to the life-long Protestant than relics, and nothing more creepy than entering an old style traditionalist Roman Catholic church filled with skeletons and bones and the like. The relic trade continues to this day, despite how often modern Roman Catholics try to sanitize this glaring example of gross superstition and unbiblical idolatry. To be honest, just allowing modern Rome's representatives to "spin" the pictures of people bowing in front of corpses and skulls and femurs, lighting candles and fingering their rosaries, is normally enough refutation in and of itself for any semi-literate reader of Holy Scripture. The few texts they cobble together have to be so grossly isolated, so completely removed from any meaningful biblical context, so as to provide automatic refutation upon the most basic contemplation. It only took a moment or two with Google to pull up the images found here.
Modern Rome, and its apologists, is truly an enigma. On the one hand you have the liberalism found throughout the scholarship of Rome. Inclusivism at best, universalism at worst, is the watchword of the day. On the other hand you still have the worst of medieval superstition in many lands, and Rome's apologists have the gall to try to stick all of this under one grand banner of "Mother Rome." The relic trade was well worthy of Erasmus' scorn half a millennium ago, when he rightly noted that one could build an entire ship out of all of the "genuine fragments of the cross." Bottles of Mary's milk and feathers of the Angel Gabriel were a dime a dozen then, and were just as much of a fraud as they are today. But what is worse is that the theology that gave rise to this gross superstition remains in Rome today. Ask the faithful flocking to Fatima or Lourdes or any of the other of a thousand shrines today. Ask the people on their knees praying to dead bones. And then be reminded: Rome remains as much of an opponent to the gospel of grace as she has ever been.
2 Timothy 1:8-14
Protest Khalid Yasin? No, Refute Him!
05/21/2008 - James White
Today on the Dividing Line: Arminian Proof Texts (2 Calls) then Steve "Jerusalem Jones" Ray
05/20/2008 - James WhiteHere's the program (free/high quality).
Aletheia Forum, Duluth, Georgia
05/19/2008 - James WhiteI will be speaking June 7th in Duluth, Georgia, at the Aletheia Forum. Click here for details. The next morning I will be speaking at the Hickory Road Baptist Church in Canton, 2146 Hickory Road, Canton, GA 30115-4333. Hope to see some of my Southern friends in a few weeks!
The Gospel: God Centered, Free, Powerful
05/19/2008 - James WhiteLet me begin by noting that I am sure I will probably err in the future and double-post videos here. It is very hard to keep what is scheduled to appear in the future, and what has already appeared in the past, straight. So, I apologize beforehand should I post something more than once!
As far as I can tell, I have not posted this before. I put it on my YouTube page May 9th, and in a very short time it has garnered 3,500 views and nearly 120 comments. This is the closing statement I delivered at the end of the debate with George Bryson at the Anaheim Vineyard in Los Angeles. A number of folks have found this a useful presentation. I hope you do as well!
Continued Response to Abdullah from the UK (Part 2)
05/17/2008 - James White
On the Special Friday Edition of The Dividing Line: There is No Such Thing as Homosexual Marriage
05/16/2008 - James WhiteYesterday four radical judicial revolutionaries decided to overthrow centuries of practice and law and create a monstrosity called "gay marriage." No such thing exists. That is like a round square, or a light of darkness. Marriage is not defined by judges who believe themselves free to create new realities. Marriage is a divine institution. But yesterday, the far-reaching proclamation (it wasn't a decision) of the CA Supreme Court made historic and biblical Christianity officially bigoted by granting civils rights on the basis of deviant sexual practice. This is an abuse of sexuality, marriage, children, families, and the nation as a whole. That was our subject on the DL today. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Snip Snip, Snip Snip
05/16/2008 - Jeff DownsImagine being in a restaurant enjoying a great meal with your family. Your ears begin to walk over to the table behind you, as you hear the words "cult," "church history", "old light," "new light," etc. The problem is the details of the conversation are muffled. Since you know enough about the cults of Christianity, your mind is bouncing back and forth from "they must be talking about the Jehovah's Witnesses" to "they must be talking about the Latter-day Saints."
The reason your mind would dance this way is because both (JWs and Mormons) are guilty of what I'm calling the "Old "Edward Scissorhands fallacy" - a cut here, and a cut there, who will know and who will care. Surely you know people forget; some are just not aware of what is happening; some simply don't care; and for some, since this is "God's organization," whatever goes on is good and true.
I say all that to simply peak your interest in the latest edition of the Salt Lake City Messenger (Is. 110, May 2008). Two articles appear in this edition:
"Saintly Scissors: Cutting Away of Unwanted Revelation"
This article gives a nice short run down of the fallacy (mentioned above) perpetrated by the Latter-day Saints.
The other article is by Ronald Huggins titled "Hugh Nibley's Footnotes", by Ronald Huggins.
Click here to read the online edition.
Shirk: A Basic Definition and Introduction
05/16/2008 - James WhitePlease note: the doctrine of the Trinity does not involve "shirk." If Muslims would just understand the doctrine correctly (i.e., if they could break out of the errors forced upon them by the ignorance of Muhammad who simply did not understand the doctrine), they would realize that we are monotheists and we are not in any way "associating" separate "gods" with the Father.
Special Friday DL!
05/15/2008 - James WhiteSince I was out of town all week, we are going to do a special DL Friday morning at the regular Tuesday time (11am PDT). Join me!
Khalid Yasin: Further Straw-Man Arguments from a Leading Islamic Apologist/Speaker #3
05/14/2008 - James White
Debate Over Presuppositional Apologetics
05/13/2008 - Jeff DownsYesterday afternoon I had the privilege of participating in my first debate. Was this something I wanted to do? Not really, but I was coerced :) by the president of GPTS to do so. The debate was for the spring 2008 logic course. And since I was auditing the class, I wasn't going to debate a topic I had to put a lot of work into. So, I suggested we debate apologetic methodologies. The resolution: Presuppositional Apologetics is the Most Consistent Biblical Methodology. Well, quickly I was told that I'd have to take the opposite position I actually hold.
I certainly agonized over how I would approach this and finally did came up with something. Well, the debate is over and the audio is up. Click here to listen and decide who won. It only lasts about 1 hour.
This was a team debate. There were four (10 minutes for each speaker) constructive arguments and four (5 minutes a piece) rebuttals. The debate begins at 6:51 into the audio.
So there is no confusing me with the Brazilian speaker :) here are the participant (in order) Kevin Vickery, Breno Macedo, Charles Johnson and myself.
05/13/2008 - James Swan
Recently, Dr. Eric Svendsen was on Iron Sharpens Iron discussing "Mary: Her Role & Status in the New Testament & Roman Catholicism." Part one of Dr. Svendsen's interview can be heard here, part two here. Dr. Svendsen has written one of the most thorough books responding to Roman Catholic Mariology, Who Is My Mother? The Role and Status of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament and Roman Catholicism (New York: Calvary Press, 2001). For those of you interacting with Roman Catholic argumentation, this book and these two interviews contain very helpful insights in understanding crucial issues in Mariology.
During the second interview, I took a minute to call in with a question for Eric based on a book I recently purchased: Where Is That in the Bible? (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001) by Patrick Madrid. The book is designed to "deflate standard objections to Catholicism," and to "use Scripture to bring people into (or back into) the Church." Madrid includes a section on Mary. In attempt to prove the Biblical basis for the Immaculate Conception, Madrid states,
"Mary was 'full of grace'- a term that signifies and implies (though it does not explicitly prove) her Immaculate Conception and freedom from sin. Throughout the Old Testament, there are many people, places, and things that are "types' of prefigurements of greater and more prefect [sp.] things that would come in the New Testament... The New Testament fulfillment of any Old Testament type is always more perfect and more glorious than the type itself. There are no exceptions to this scriptural rule. As we will see, Mary's sinlessness, her Immaculate Conception, was the perfect fulfillment of several imperfect Old Testament types...The first of these types was the immaculately created cosmos (cf. Genesis 1:2). It was from this pristine organic material, as yet unblemished by sin or corruption, that God formed the body of the first Adam (cf. Genesis 2:7). Jesus Christ is the 'second Adam" (cf. Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ, the second Adam was formed from the body of this Immaculate mother Mary" (p. 67-68).
I read this statement from Madrid to Dr. Svendsen and asked him to comment on Mary typology. His answer can be heard here:
In regard to Madrid's argument that the "created cosmos" represent Mary's Immaculate Conception, we do see in the Bible that indeed, Christ is a type for Adam. Paul says so explicitly in Romans 5:14, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." On the other hand, search the Scriptures high and low, you will not find Paul, or any of the Biblical writers explaining how Mary is a type for the "created cosmos."
I've been going through a number of my Roman Catholic books specific to the Immaculate Conception and have yet to find any official presentation of this particular Marian parallel. I'm tempted to say it's yet another example of private Roman Catholic interpretation, or perhaps it's a variation of a statement from Irenaeus:
10. For as by one man?s disobedience sin entered, and death obtained [a place] through sin; so also by the obedience of one man, righteousness having been introduced, shall cause life to fructify in those persons who in times past were dead. And as the protoplast himself Adam, had his substance from untilled and as yet virgin soil (?for God had not yet sent rain, and man had not tilled the ground?), and was formed by the hand of God, that is, by the Word of God, for ?all things were made by Him,? and the Lord took dust from the earth and formed man; so did He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin. If, then, the first Adam had a man for his father, and was born of human seed, it were reasonable to say that the second Adam was begotten of Joseph. But if the former was taken from the dust, and God was his Maker, it was incumbent that the latter also, making a recapitulation in Himself, should be formed as man by God, to have an analogy with the former as respects His origin. Why, then, did not God again take dust, but wrought so that the formation should be made of Mary? It was that there might not be another formation called into being, nor any other which should [require to] be saved, but that the very same formation should be summed up [in Christ as had existed in Adam], the analogy having been preserved [Against Heresies 3.21.10].
The parallel implied by Irenaeus has to do with the virgin birth, not the Immaculate Conception. This doesn't stop Roman Catholic apologists from using Irenaeus as supporting this doctrine. Irenaeus is said to make statements proving his implicit faith in the Immaculate Conception with his use of the Eve and Mary parallel (Mary as the Second or New Eve).
Madrid appears to have been making this parallel between Mary and creation for quite a while. Back in December 1991, Madrid wrote an article for This Rock Magazine entitled "Ark of the New Covenant." Madrid stated,
"Mary's Immaculate Conception is foreshadowed in Genesis 1, where God creates the universe in an immaculate state, free from any blemish or stain of sin or imperfection. This is borne out by the repeated mention in Genesis 1 of God beholding his creations and saying they were "very good." Out of pristine matter the Lord created Adam, the first immaculately created human being, forming him from the "womb" of the Earth. The immaculate elements from which the first Adam received his substance foreshadowed the immaculate mother from whom the second Adam (Romans 5:14) took his human substance."
Interestingly, Dr. White actually addressed this very statement in The Roman Catholic Controversy:
"This is a rather unusual interpretation. Mary foreshadowed in Creation? There is no emphasis in the original Hebrew text on the 'immaculate' elements of the earth, or the idea that Adam was formed in the 'womb' of the immaculate earth. Don't misunderstand, I have no problem with the types that are directly presented to us in Scripture- Paul uses such an allegory in Galatians 4:2-31. But I also realize that there is no end to the types that one can find in Scripture, nor any controls on how far you can take such an interpretive method" (p. 204).
This type of exegetical "find what one needs" within Roman Catholic interpretation is actually allowed within their system. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "all persons, events, or objects of the Old Testament are sometimes considered as types, provided they resemble persons, events, or objects in the New Testament, whether the Holy Ghost has intended such a relationship or not." That is, make the connection that is needed. Whether or not the author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, actually intended it is not a factor. This is exactly what happens with Mary typology. Catholics go through the Old Testament finding people, places, and things that are "types' to grant Biblical status to their extra-Biblical Marian beliefs.
Madrid states in the beginning of his book that Catholics who use it will be able to show non-Catholics things in the Bible that haven't been pointed out to them before (p.12), and that his method of using scripture is "a more thoughtful stance" in which "Catholics draw implications from the biblical text" (p.11). He says, "I as a Catholic look not just to Scripture alone...but also to the Church and its living Tradition of interpreting Scripture" (p. 10). I would be very interested to find out where the Church and living Tradition has infallibly declared creation as a type for Mary. In the guide on how to use his book, he explains how one can know the Catholic Church's understanding of the gospel is accurate by comparing it with what the Church has taught since the days of the Apostles. It would be very helpful for Mr. Madrid to actually trace the parallel between Mary and creation back to the Apostles. If such cannot be done, the claims made to historical continuity with the Church collective ring hollow. When Madrid refers his readers to Tradition as the "Church's lived understanding of the depositum fidei, which is nothing less than the faith once delivered to the saints" (p.16), he needs to also point out the vast amount of private interpretation put forward by Roman apologists in interpreting the Bible, especially in his own book.
The Texe Marrs Saga: Conclusion
05/12/2008 - James White
A Response to Abdullah from the UK: Part I
05/10/2008 - James WhiteAs I was uploading the last in this four-part series of replies to "Mujtahid2006," I found his name on his page (sorry about that), and confirmed it by seeing Jay Smith make mention of him as well. So, I apologize for using his YouTube nick throughout this reply. I am hoping this dialogue can continue and focus upon key issues without the kind of rhetoric that often derails such attempts.
Bob Ross: Slanderer of the Brethren
05/09/2008 - James WhiteI had removed Ross' feed from my RSS reader last week. This evening while doing something else I opened up my Google homepage, and it has a blog search window in it that pulled up Ross' most recent slander. Bob Ross has been corrected, many times, on his spreading falsehoods about others, and in this case, in his questioning my clear and repeated defense of the Trinity, including the fact that the terms Father, Son, and Spirit are not merely incarnational terms, but that this relationship has existed in eternity. I have defended this in debates, and in writing. In fact, ironically, I was finishing up a video (which I will post later this evening on YouTube) refuting a KJV Only modalist, and I was just about to insert a graphic I had created quoting Colossians 1 in reference to the distinction between the Father and the Son, one of the texts that teaches this very truth. So Ross' willingness to question my repeated teaching on this topic when the documentation exists to demonstrate the truth going back long before he became agitated because I rebuked him for his childish attacks upon John MacArthur only shows that the man is a troubler of the brethren, one to be rebuked, marked, and avoided. He writes:
But if White had held to Eternal Sonship in 1993, why didn't he expose Riplinger's heterodoxy? Why has he never -- to our knowledge, at least -- exposed her heterodoxy?I have informed Ross that I have always held my current position. To say otherwise is simply to show oneself deeply dishonest. And why did I not harp on Riplinger's error on the matter? Because Gail Riplinger doesn't even understand what the issues are. Anyone who listened to my radio debate with her knows she could not even follow a discussion of Edwin Palmer's words relating to the inner relations of the Trinity in contrast with the incarnation. She is not a theologian, and her grasp of the most fundamental doctrines of the faith is highly questionable. So why on earth would I when her problems are significantly more basic? The fact is, Ross is simply seeking to dishonestly sling mud, just as his alter-ego Peter Ruckman has done for decades. Mark the man, avoid the man.
Even after we published our exposure of Riplinger, James White still remained mum about her non-creedal view of the Son. Was it because he regarded this doctrine as a "non-essential" in Christianity?
Some Roman Catholic Issues: Transubstantiation/Apocrypha
05/09/2008 - James White
On the Dividing Line Today: a KJV Only Modalist, a Call on the KJV and Arminianism, and a Response to an E-Mail Inquiry on Reformed Theology
05/08/2008 - James WhiteToday on The Dividing Line I began by answering a question from a listener on why Reformed theology is important, and then I began examining some of the claims of YouTube's "KingJamesVideoMan" regarding his denial of the Trinity and promotion of modalism. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Muslims Tell It Like It Is
05/08/2008 - James WhiteLast week I mentioned a video I had seen a few years ago of Muslims desecrating an American flag in a US city and mentioning a "loop hole" that allowed them to do this. The irony was, they admitted that if they did this almost anywhere else, the government would come after them. To many serious Muslims, the fact that the US government allows this is a simple sign of weakness. I indicated on the DL that I had not kept the video. Well, someone found it for me on You Tube. Here it is.
More Blasphemy for Money Coming Your Way
05/07/2008 - James WhiteI truly wonder what many of my Muslim friends think when they see this kind of stuff. Another anti-Christian work of absurd fiction, brought to you by folks who do movies about Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle, and Bigfoot (I'm being perfectly serious), is about to show up on movie screens across the US. For those who call this a "Christian" nation, how do you explain the hatred that can be expressed toward Christianity with the full support of the main stream media and the culture at large that rewards the purveyors of this kind of stuff with multiple millions of dollars? All the same lame, idiotic silliness that gave Dan Brown millions a few years ago has been refurbished in what seems to be a "Ghost Hunters" type of conspiracy film once again designed to spit in the eye of the Christian faith. The film, The Bloodline, opens this weekend.
Woops! VLog Error!
05/07/2008 - James WhiteEvidently I cut and paste the wrong embedding codes a few months back for the Khalid Yasin video, and ended up repeating myself. I guess I might have been trying to avoid posting the actual first video since people made fun of my bright shirt! But, here's the actual first part of the Khalid Yasin series; the one that posted this morning was "correct" in that it is the second. Of course, all of these are on my YouTube page, so you can always get the whole series (at least as much as has been posted) there.
Khalid Yasin: Further Straw-Man Arguments from a Leading Islamic Apologist/Speaker #2
05/07/2008 - James White
A Most Unusual Dividing Line
05/06/2008 - James WhiteThis morning I started reading through James E. Cone's Black Theology & Black Power. I had ordered the book since Jeremiah Wright had insisted that to understand his views, you have to read Cone. So, today, I started reading quotations from Cone's book on the program. Racism breeds heresy, and Cone's racism is absolutely beyond words. It is tremendously sad to read "Christianized racism," whether the purveyor of it is white, tan, brown, or black. It remains horrific all the same. Heresy is heresy, and this perversion of Christianity needs to be identified for what it is, and believers need to be quick to condemn it and all it stands for. A fast moving program, to be sure. Here's the program (free/high quality).
The Latest and "Greatest" Ideas
05/06/2008 - Jeff DownsSome of the readers of this blog are familiar with my old site rctr.org (well, it is still there, but nothing has really been done with it for quite some time) and the Resource Report or Resource Blog. This site was designed to keep the average Joe, who did not have access to libraries nor the time to research, updated on the latest resources in the areas of theology, apologetics and philosophy.
If these Reports were not beneficial to anyone else, they were to me. At the time (to my knowledge) I was the only one doing this work. I thought I would make it big :) (then blogs came on the scene). I was able to stay on top of the latest ideas coming from a variety of places. One such place was the world of academic journals. I love journals. Not only do some of them smell good!, but journals produce the latest ideas floating around the academic world (some good, some bad and some simply ugly).
It was "hard work" going to the (Bible College) library (frequently) searching for the latest issues and punching in, by hand, the latest table of contents of Bib. Sac., JETS, SBTSJ, PFO Quarterly, etc. etc.
Well, you might have caught wind that someone began doing this work (with the journals), although in a different format (the spelling errors won't appear). If you have not heard the news I would encourage you to bookmark James P. Boyce Centennial Library’s Journal Table of Contents page and check back frequently, or use your RSS Feeder. Of course, with today's technology, most academic journals put the TOC online, and you can normally receive this information by way of Email. Here is a good example of one journal; and at times you can receive the contents free of charge.
I guess at this point, the Resource Index will never be revived. Oh well, back to the drawing board in coming up with something unique (umm, I don't think so).
Quick Corrections/Clarifications on the Acts 13:48 Entry
05/05/2008 - James WhiteBob Anderson wrote to me today. He was very kind, apologized for the fact that what had been posted on the Steve Gregg forums was taken from another web forum and hence was not appropriately documented, and likewise indicated that he is not associated in any fashion with the University of Maryland. It seems the person who posted this material, a "Homer," is the one who should be apologizing for not identifying his sources, for cross-posting materials, and for assuming Bob Anderson was associated with the University of Maryland. I appreciated Mr. Anderson's note, and wanted to offer these clarifications as soon as possible.
The "Wilkins' Frog in the Throat" Video Found!
05/05/2008 - James White
Bob Ross Declares Joel Osteen "Closer" to Spurgeon: Arizona Cardinals Go Undefeated and Win Super Bowl
05/03/2008 - James WhiteI suppose it has been pretty obvious for a while now that Bob Ross (not the "pretty flowers" Ross, the other guy) is about as Reformed in his theology as...Joel Osteen, since his blog is titled the "Calvinist Flyswatter." Ross' rambling rants (now coming two or three a day) against anything Calvinistic are spinning so far off into the realm of the absurd that it is probably time to remove his feed from the ol' RSS list out of sheer embarrassment for the poor man. His most recent offering, in which he tries to argue Osteen is more consistent with Spurgeon than Founders churches and other "hybrid Calvinists" (the term he uses for those he has decided to skewer, despite how often he has been corrected on their actual beliefs), pretty well demonstrates Ross' "I see only what I want to see" mentality when it comes to argumentation and logic. And as such, it seems best to close the door on the Bob Ross saga, say "thanks" one last time for all those colorful Spurgeon volumes on the shelf, ask him to try to regain some sense of balance or even honesty, smile, and say "good night."
Oh...the Cardinals thing seemed just as connected to reality as Ross' claims.
Acts 13:48 Revisited and Dishonesty Exposed
05/03/2008 - James WhiteYou know you are really busy when something that took place only a matter of weeks ago seems like it took place long ago. A month ago now we did five programs during which I debated Steve Gregg on the doctrines of grace. Since then, I have debated Jalal Abualrub on the deity of Christ, and a sociologist in northern California on gay marriage. My mind has completely moved forward to debates upcoming, including the exciting possibility of a debate in November in Durham, NC, and, of course, the debate with Bart Ehrman in January of '09. Likewise, I am starting work on a revision/update of The King James Only Controversy as well!
So it struck me as very odd a few days ago when someone in channel noted that the conversation on the doctrines of grace was still on-going over at Steve Gregg's forums. It was mainly odd because one of the main participants was confessing he still had no idea what I was talking about when I explained the background of the Greek in Acts 13:48. I have not had time to even think about the subject over the past month, but, evidently, others have. And so I was directed to an article posted there relating to Acts 13:48. It is allegedly by Bob Anderson of the University of Maryland. Now I looked around the UMD website, and the most commonly referred to Bob Anderson teaches physics there. An attempt to e-mail this individual bounced back, so without confirmation I cannot trust that the article was produced by any scholar of the Greek language. Because I have no way of contacting the author to verify accuracy, I will simply refer to "the author" and go from there, since the person who posted this provided no citations, no URL to check, etc.
White's argument is always against the use of the direct middle voice of the verb TASSO in Acts 13:48. When used in this way, the middle voice construction often takes the translation of "disposed" instead of "appointed" or "ordained." At least since his publication of The Potter's Freedom, White has consistently argued that such a construction is impossible. His arguments follow the pattern below.
Of course, I have argued no such thing, and the fact that the author is willing to think I have is very telling indeed. Thus begins a long string of simple misrepresentations of my actual words. I have argued that you cannot simply throw out a middle translation and not defend it, which is what is done 95% of the time in synergistic/Arminian writings. Proper exegetical practice requires one to explain why one "prefers" a particular understanding. Given that the middle (sans deponents) is relatively rare in Luke in comparison with the passive, and given the periphrastic construction, there must be some compelling reason to adopt it. What is the reason? I have never said "such a construction is impossible," and I challenge the author to document the allegation, or withdraw it.
1. Periphrastic construction - White always starts his argument for Acts 13:48 with the fact that we are dealing with a periphrastic construction. He never explains how it is significant, but plays on it rhetorically because most do not know what this construction means.This is significantly less than useful because it is significantly less than honest. Any meaningful discussion of the grammar and syntax of the relevant portion will note the periphrastic construction. Sadly, the majority of synergistic discussions do not mention it at all. It is simply dishonest to say I never explain why it is significant. I have always explained why it is significant. Whether our author understands it or not is another issue. It is significant because a periphrastic construction produces a specific tense-translation for the phrase, in this case, a pluperfect. As a result, however you take the meaning of τάσσw, it points us to something done prior to the Gentiles hearing that the gospel was coming to them. The honest reader who is familiar with what I have written on this topic will reject the author's dishonest accusation of "playing" on the periphrastic for "rhetorical" reasons. Such a false accusation is without basis and is to be rejected.
The truth is that the construction has nothing to do with the voice of the verb/participle. It has to do with the tense of participle, making a pluperfect participle from a perfect participle by adding the imperfect verb of "to be" to the perfect participle. Periphrasis is simply a round about way of saying something, using a verb of being (eimi or huparcho) with a participle of another tense. The combination may change the tense of the verb in question or just provide more of an emphasis.The reader will see that obviously the presence of the finite form of a verb of being together with the participle resulting in a pluperfect sense is completely relevant to the proper interpretation of the text, and how it is directly relevant to the question at hand.
2. Pluperfect participle - White argues that the pluperfect participle places the completed action of that participle before the action of the primary verb. Therefore, this action must occur before the events of the story takes place.My argument has been that in describing "as many as" the action of the periphrastic construction is, in fact, "completed" with reference to the time frame of the text itself. That is, the ordination that marks out those who will believe is a reality not dependent upon concurrent or future actions.
This is only a partial truth, and may even be questionable. Under normal circumstances, a pluperfect participle would precede the main verb ("believed") in this clause. However, that in no way means that the event is not given in the story itself. In the case of Acts 13, we have two key events that occur immediately before the belief. The first is the declaration of Paul that he is now turning to the Gentiles to preach the gospel (13:47). This would make the "appointment" or "setting" to eternal life complementary to that event. (It is the rhetorical flip-side of Paul's calling.) The second event is found in the first clause of 13:48 where there is a clear change of disposition among the Gentiles where they rejoice as the word of God - Paul's words that gospel now is coming to them. This seems to be the most direct tie to the events of the second clause of 13:48, but requires us to translate the participle phrase as "had been disposed to eternal life."Here we have true rhetoric that is plainly designed to avoid giving a straight answer to the question at hand, and is itself not even mainly true. We are given assertions without substantiation. Why is this not a "normal circumstance"? ἐπίστευσαν is directly before ὅσοι; there is no reason whatsoever to look for any syntactical context outside of that provided by the phrase itself. The author simply throws out a number of claims, evidently hoping to do what he has falsely accused me of earlier. Are we to seriously believe that the idea is, "and as many as had disposed themselves to eternal life right then and there believed"? What competent scholar has ever translated the text this way? What translation? Not even the Jehovah's Witnesses were that bold! No, those who had been ordained to eternal life believed. The idea of "disposing oneself to eternal life" is an outlandish concept anyway---how do those who have not believed "dispose" themselves to something they have not yet heard of or had explained to them? Or, how does one "dispose" oneself toward eternal life instantly upon hearing of it? This kind of "it can mean almost anything as long as it doesn't mean THAT" kind of "translation" is utterly without merit.
Now, you will note that at this point, the author has not provided us with anything even resembling a sound basis for translating the text as "disposed themselves to eternal life." It has been asserted, but no evidence has been given.
The Calvinists are also caught on the horns of dilemma here. For this to be an "ordination" to eternal life in the sense that they mean it, we must say that this is a state that always exists for those individuals who are so ordained. That means that the there is no real action involved. We simply have an existing state of being for these people. However, in verbs of state, or stative situations (per Carl Conrad), the pluperfect operates as an imperfect verb, which makes the action continuous and not complete. Some modern translations have recognized this and translated this as an imperfect participle ("were appointed"), instead of as a pluperfect ("had been appointed"). But unfortunately for the Calvinists this places the "state of being elected" in time and makes it incomplete! Therefore, the verb cannot be a state, but an action that is taking place in the narrative itself. They are simply caught in a formal linguistic paradox.It would be nice if our author would provide basic citations, you know, so you can check his work? That is evidently a bit much to ask. Is our author suggesting that God's decree cannot enter into time? Let's accept Conrad's statement (he is a classical scholar more than koine, but Luke is more classical than most of the rest of the NT). Is the divine action of "ordination" a "state"? Does Conrad include divine ordination as a "state"? Are there extra-biblical parallels to such a usage? And even if one translates this as an imperfect, how does this make the action "continuous and not complete"? How so? The imperfect at John 1:1 tells us the Word pre-existed creation: the imperfect simply refers to continuous action in the past: in the same way, those who were appointed believed. How does this change the essential fact that the periphrastic is delimiting the number of those who believed, and that on the basis of a pre-existing reality? It doesn't. The divine choice indicated in ἦσαν τεταγμένοι really does not fit into a description of "state," and without a reference to examine, we can only point out that "appointedness" as a "state" is a pretty far stretch once again. ...
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An Introduction to Textual Criticism: Part 10--"Traditional Text" Positions: Byzantine-Priority
05/03/2008 - Colin SmithThe Byzantine-Priority position is often considered simply a further variant of the Majority Text position, especially by those who object to its conclusions. For example, Dr. Daniel Wallace, an advocate of the Reasoned Eclectic approach, frequently cites both Majority Text and Byzantine-Priority proponents together as Majority Text advocates. Proponents of the Byzantine-Priority view, however, distinguish themselves from the Textus Receptus, Majority Text, and Ecclesiastical Text positions, often agreeing with the Eclectic Text advocates' critiques on these views.
The Byzantine-Priority view rejects appeals to simple nose-counting to establish the best text. It also rejects the stemmatic approach of Hodges, and even, to some extent, the argument from divine preservation. The strength of the Byzantine-Priority position is its appeal to both rational principles of textual criticism, and to the need for a logical, reasonable, and factually defensible history of the transmission of the New Testament text.
The foremost proponent of the Byzantine-Priority view is Dr. Maurice Robinson. In a variety of papers, as well as in his published edition of the Greek New Testament (along with Dr. William Pierpont), The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform, he has articulated what is, in my opinion, the best challenge to date to the standard position of the Eclectic school.
Robinson sets the Byzantine-Priority position apart from the Majority Text position by pointing out a number of weaknesses in the latter. Firstly, he notes that while there is great similarity between manuscripts of the Byzantine family, there is by no means anything approaching a uniform text. No two Byzantine manuscripts are identical, as is true with all the New Testament manuscripts of all text types. The Majority Text position appeals to the uniformity of the Byzantine text as evidence of divine preservation, a position that the evidence contradicts. Robinson is also not comfortable with the idea of a single, orthodox line of transmission. This discomfort makes sense since he acknowledges the variations between the Byzantine manuscripts; that is to say, since no two Byzantine manuscripts are the same, if God had intended to preserve a perfect copy of the Greek New Testament in the Byzantine text type, one could only conclude that He failed to do so since no one can point to a single Byzantine manuscript and identify it as the preserved original. Indeed, the very existence of Hodges and Farstad's work, The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text, demonstrates the need for a unified text that represents the Majority Text. If God had preserved this single text, one can only wonder why Hodges and Farstad had to reconstruct the Majority Text and did not just reproduce the manuscript containing the Preserved Word. Also, while Robinson is very cautious over his use of internal evidence, he would not reject it completely as the Majority Text advocates are wont to do. Finally, he rejects Hodges' stemmatics saying that this approach violates other accepted principles of textual criticism. Ironically, as Wallace has pointed out, Hodges' stemmatic approach falls short of vindicating the principle that the majority of manuscripts must be correct. Firstly, he only applied the method to John 7:53-8:11 and Revelation, so it is not being tested against the entirety of the New Testament. Further, when the results of this method against these sections are examined, it turns out that 15 of the readings that they adopted as a result are supported by a minority of manuscripts. In other words for the pericope adulterae [John 7:53-8:11], the Majority Text, in half its readings, is a minority text. (See Daniel Wallace, "Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text," available on-line at http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=673.)
Robinson does not dismiss the fact of the quantity of extant Byzantine manuscripts as meaningless: he simply sees their value in a slightly different way. Rather than regarding the number of these manuscripts as a proof of his position in and of itself, he regards them as a phenomenon that must be explained adequately by any theory of textual transmission. It is here that Robinson identifies what he considers to be the Achilles' heel of the Eclectic position: it fails to adequately account for the transmission of the New Testament text as is evident by the extant manuscripts. Robinson argues that there is a reason why there are only hints of Byzantine readings prior to the fourth century, and then an explosion of Byzantine texts after the ninth. He rejects the idea that there was some kind of official standardization of the text after Constantine brought peace to the church on the basis that there is not a shred of historical evidence to support such an idea. According to Robinson, not all of the earliest manuscripts are of the Alexandrian family favored by modern Eclectics. Indeed, most display a mixed text with no clear text type throughout. The textual situation in Egypt was, in his view, a little more complex than in the Greek-speaking East. Most of the manuscripts there display a mixed text type, although there is evidence of distinctively Alexandrian texts (p75) and some distinctively Byzantine texts. The vast majority of the manuscripts, however, seem to be a Western-Alexandrian mix. With such a preponderance of mixed texts, reasons Robinson, it is unlikely that a general text could emerge from the Egyptian sands. In light of this, it seems reasonable to suggest that in a very short space of time, the autographs were copied and, unintentionally, corrupted. Robinson points out that the corruption of the original was less likely as a result of heretical influence (most of the information available today about early heretical groups comes via contemporary critiques from Christians, indicating that heretical writings were identified as such by the church early on and dealt with) and more likely a result of hurried copies being disseminated around local communities. Each region would make its own errors and attempts to correct perceived errors of previous copyists, and as a result develop its own regional text type. While many regional copies would have been lost in the first couple of centuries as a result of persecution, the situation changed in the fourth century and onwards after Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Now Christian communities could freely interact with each other and share their copies of the Scriptures. As they did so, over a number of centuries of copying, comparison, and correction, a consensus text emerged that reflected the archetypal text from which these regional variations had all been born centuries before: the so-called "Byzantine" text form. As Robinson puts it:
"The result inevitably arrived at would be a continually-improving, self-consistent Textform, refined and restored, preserved (as would be expected) in an increasing number of manuscripts which slowly would overcome the influence of local texts and finally become the dominant text of the Greek-speaking world. This explains both the origin and dominance of the Byzantine/Majority Textform."
Since it became the dominant text of the Greek-speaking world, it is only natural that the vast majority of manuscripts preserved to this day are from the Greek-speaking Eastern Church. It was this branch of Christendom in the Byzantine East that held out against the Muslim invaders until 1453. When Byzantium fell, the scholars fled into Europe taking their manuscripts with them. It only makes sense that these Byzantine texts became the basis for the earliest editions of the Greek New Testament, since these were the most readily available.
This historical reconstruction presents a possible chain of events that explains the evidence and in turn vindicates the Byzantine text type. It is such a historical reconstruction that explains the phenomena of the various extant text types the like of which Robinson believes modern Eclectics have, thus far, been unable to provide. Furthermore, Robinson believes that the inability of the Eclectic school to produce a text that resembles anything within the stream of transmission is also detrimental to their position.
While the Eclectic scholar may be able to provide a strong case for the acceptance of a particular Alexandrian variant within a reading, the resulting reading is found to be little, if at all, attested by the extant manuscripts. As Robinson points out, given that no two manuscripts are identical, one could overlook this if it occurred periodically in a text. The problem is that the Eclectic approach repeatedlyproduces readings that have no manuscript support. In Matthew 20:23, for example, there are seven variants. Of these seven variants, the Nestle-Aland text (27thedition) follows Aleph, B, and other Alexandrian or non-Byzantine readings over Byzantine readings in three places (the first, second, and sixth variants). The resulting passage (i.e., the chosen readings along with the rest of the verse) has no manuscript support, according to Robinson. In other words, the effort expended to determine the correct reading of a couple of variants has all been for the purpose of supporting a non-existent (let alone non-extant) text. Robinson believes that the transmissional history that the Eclectic critics would have to propose to support such readings is not even remotely probable to have occurred under any normal circumstances.
Robinson is very critical of Hort's text critical methodology. In short, he accuses Hort of simply applying criteria that would eliminate the problem of the Byzantine text. For example, Hort's genealogical argument suggested that all manuscripts of a particular text type are descended from a single ancestor; hence only one form of each type need be compared. Clearly this undercuts the Byzantine family's majority status. Hort also dismissed the Byzantine text on the grounds that it shows evidence of later conflation, regardless of the fact that Alexandrian and Western manuscripts also show evidence of conflation. The lack of distinctively Byzantine readings in either the early manuscripts or the Fathers was also cited by Hort. Robinson claims that there are over 150 distinctively Byzantine readings dating from before 350 A.D. Also, he notes that if it were not for p75, there would be no evidence for distinctively Alexandrian texts prior to B and Aleph. With regard to quotations of Byzantine readings by the Fathers, Robinson points out that the early Fathers would have used local texts that would not have had a consistent text type. They would have also paraphrased, quoted from memory, and even altered the wording of passages to fit their purpose. Later scribes would not have modified readings to make them more familiar (i.e., Byzantine), as is often claimed. He proposes that if such a practice were widespread, there would not be as many passages left untouched as there are.
The proposed transmission history put forward to support the Byzantine-Priority view would seem to explain the existence of variant readings and the rise of the Byzantine text type. However, the demise of the other text forms, and the growth in popularity of the minuscule text both need to be explained. Many of the Byzantine manuscripts were written in minuscule script from after the ninth century. This in itself has been posited as a weakness in the Byzantine-Priority position since these are clearly late manuscripts. Robinson argues, however, that early does not always mean best. Indeed, if his hypothesis is correct, the earliest copies of the autographs would be, by and large, altered local copies and not direct verbatim copies of the original. In fact, his theory of transmission would certainly lend credence to the idea that the further along the transmission line the text is,the more likely it is to have been compared and conformed to other manuscripts. As noted earlier, Robinson sees this process as one of purification, returning these texts to the original (Byzantine) readings. From this perspective, a ninth century manuscript could be a lot closer to the original than a fourth century manuscript. Also, recognizing that a minuscule could have been copied from an early uncial manuscript no longer extant, there is a re-examination underway of the value of minuscule manuscripts. Even Kurt Aland admitted that this much maligned class of witnesses is in need of re-evaluation in light of some of the discoveries being made, in particular the discovery of miniscule manuscript 33, known as the Queen of the minuscules due to the quality of the text (see the Alands' book, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 128-129).
Robinson explains the disappearance of the uncial texts by appealing to copying revolutions. He states that there is evidence for two such revolutions: the first occurred when parchment became popular, and the second when minuscule writing came into vogue. When both of these happened, many scribes would make copies of the old form into the new form and destroy the old. Hence, many early uncial texts were copied into minuscule script and the uncials then destroyed. For evidence of this, Robinson points to the mute testimony of palimpsests, which seem to indicate that older, presumably valuable uncial manuscripts were considered fit to be erased and re-used for other literary purposes. He also notes Kirsopp Lake's comments regarding the genealogically-unrelated manuscripts he discovered at Sinai, Patmos, and Jerusalem. Lake concluded that the scribes must have destroyed their exemplars (i.e., the texts from which they copied).
In light of this, proponents of the Byzantine-Priority position would not necessarily advocate the use of text critical methods that tip the scales in favor of Byzantine readings. Rather, they would insist that textual critics stop tipping the scales against Byzantine readings, and simply allow the evidence to speak. While they do not dismiss completely the value of internal evidence, they are a lot more suspicious of it than those of the Eclectic position. On this point, Byzantine-Priority advocates appeal for a return to a more thorough use of external evidence according to Burgon's principles.
Part 11: "Eclectic Text" Positions: Thoroughgoing Eclecticism--coming soon...
Khalid Yasin: Further Straw-Man Arguments from a Leading Islamic Apologist/Speaker
05/02/2008 - James White
Today on The Dividing Line
05/01/2008 - James WhiteMade my one poor caller wait till the last portion of the program as I reviewed some more of the Greer-Heard discussions. Talked a bit about Dan Wallace and the concept of preservation, then listened as Bart Ehrman replied--sorta--to Dan Wallace's opening statement. Lots of discussion of the text, its transmission, etc. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Approaching Christian Counterfeits
05/01/2008 - Jeff DownsThis past Sunday I began teaching a course titled "A Biblical Approach to Christian Counterfeits." The audio (MP3s) for this course will be parked online here (the first class is there now). Keep in mind this is a Sunday School course, not "seminary" level.
The class on Acts 17 was done two weeks prior to the beginning of the Counterfeits class, as I was filling in for someone else. But the class on Acts 17 is somewhat a preview for the Counterfeits class.
I will not keep posting updates on this blog when classes are put online. Hope you enjoy!
James White: Christian Heretic! Or...So Says a Confused Muslim
05/01/2008 - James White
(Once again, thanks to Turr8tinfan for the ht on the original video!)