Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Shane Coombs' Debate Challenge
08/09/2006 - James WhiteThe response to my simply replying to a Roman Catholic who started out attacking me perosnally, calling me an agent of Satan, etc., over at Envoy, has been, as normal, most sad. Though Jerry-Jet continues to melt down, filling his posts WITH CAPS AND LOTS OF EXCLAMATIOIN POINTS!!!!! and throwing around accusations of "lying" and "serving Satan" and the like, and though I did not respond to him in anything that could be considered a parallel fashion, it matters not. Somehow, I am still the mean one! Shane Coombs wrote:
Perhaps he is an idiot. Perhaps he is a genius. Perhaps he is mean, perhaps not; I do not know. However, regardless of whether he is a mean idiot or not, Mr. White's treatment of him is completely inappropriate. We do not defend our Lord by mocking others, and much less by devoting multiple posts on a blog to do so. The spirit with which Mr. White has posted concerning Jerry is utterly astonishing coming from a Christian, with post after post put up seemingly for the primary purpose of depicting all Catholic forum members as imbeciles at the expense of Jerry.
Let me see if I follow: if I reply to Jerry-Jet's accusations that I am a servant of Satan and, by contrasting reasoning and logic and self-control with his rambling accusatons of being a servant of Satan, demonstrate that his arguments are empty and self-contradictory, I am "mocking" him? Is hoping for his salvation, praying for him to open his eyes and think about something other than his current views, an act of mockery? What kind of standard are these folks using? Does this not demonstrate the kind of standard they are applying when reading their own apologists, and when reading anything opposed to their viewpoint? No wonder they can say with a straight face, "You've been refuted over and over again!" If I read their material with this kind of bias controlling my thinking I would never give them a second thought. Thankfully, I realize you cannot do serious apologetics in that way.
Now, the same Shane Coombs issued a debate challenge to me. He is not the first. A number of folks would love to do a debate with me. Sometimes I will debate someone in a formal setting who is not published, if they have a sufficiently wide audience to make it possible that our encounter will actually allow me to communicate my message to a sufficiently wide group. But in general, we do have certain minimum standards we attempt to maintain for the obvious reason that if I debate someone who cannot read Greek about a topic that requires us to engage the text on that level, all I would hear is, "Oh, sure, pick on some guy who can't read the language! Why not debate a real scholar!" All one has to do is look back at what happened when I debated Bill Rutland in 2005. Many of Bill's ostensible friends "threw him under the bus" in no time when it became clear in the cross-examination that he was not up to engaging the text on that level. So I wonder about Mr. Coombs' background: is he published? Books? Articles? Teaching experience? Language capacity? Has he shown himself capable of handling scholarly material?
So I went to his website and took a look at his materials. He has an article attempting to respond to me on the Korban issue that I found very disappointing (it basically ignores the entire point, that being that Jesus' command to test tradition by Scripture includes all forms of tradition, including those whose proponents/teachers/promoters say their particular tradition is divine in origin) and, if time allows, I will reply to it in full. But I wanted to see some evidence that Mr. Coombs is truly capable of handling the Greek language properly. So I found an article on the topic of the Mass and Hebrews 10, found here. In the midst of this discussion we find the following paragraph:
The problem with verse 14 is that it doesn't translate into English well at all. The Greek text says, literally, “For by a single offering He has perfected into continuity the being sanctified.” The Greek word that is translated in most Bibles as "those who are being sanctified" is a`giazome,nouj (agiazomenous), a present passive participle. It is a verb form being used as a noun substantive. The actual word doesn't actually include ‘those’ or ‘the ones’ or anything of that sort. It is translated into English with those words added so that it makes sense in English. The Greek language uses participles like this quite often, but they do not translate well. In the original language, the verse says only that the process of being sanctified is perfect. a`giazome,nouj, the being sanctified, is in the accusative case, which means that it is the object of the verb ‘perfected.’ However, the verb 'perfected' does not apply to the "those who are" or "the ones who are"; it only applies to "the being sanctified," the process of sanctification which is applied to the ‘those.’ This is taught by Hebrews because in the Old Covenant, a person could offer all the proper sacrifices for sins, they could do everything they were required to and the process could fail because it was imperfect. This verse teaches that the process now is perfect thanks to the sacrifice of Christ and will not fail as long as a person remains in the process. This is perfect given that overall theme of Hebrews of the superiority of the New Covenant sacrifice over the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
Now, given what passes for apologetics so often in various forums, I am almost tempted to say "thank you!" for even attempting to engage the text on this level. But I will stop short of so doing, because this is a very poor attempt. Why? Any basic reader of the Greek language immediately caught the simplistic error in Mr. Coombs' words. Evidently, he cannot read Greek at all, for he cannot recognize the difference between a singular and a plural, and, he cannot recognize the definite article. Here is the text:
mia/| ga.r prosfora/| tetelei,wken eivj to. dihneke.j tou.j a`giazome,noujÅ
The relevant phrase is tou.j a`giazome,nouj (tous hagiazomenous) the present passive participle accusative masculine plural form. Evidently, Mr. Coombs has not spent a lot of time with Greek participles. They are my favorite portion of the language, and my former Greek exegesis students can testify of the gleam in my eyes when we got to that portion of our studies. In any case, when someone who is just using Greek tools looks at a text, they see nothing but words; single units, not phrases, not clauses, not sentences. Just words. A Greek student sees that tou.j sitting there and realizes it is his friend. It is a definite article, and it tells us what we want to know about this participle, which is functioning as a substantive. Since this participle is a masculine plural accusative, this tells us it is properly translated "the sanctified ones" (taking one syntactical interpretation of the present) or "the ones being sanctified" (taking another). In either case, "the ones" is right there in the form of the participle (seen in the definite article). Mr. Coombs is just plain wrong to say, "The actual word doesn't actually include ‘those’ or ‘the ones’ or anything of that sort. It is translated into English with those words added so that it makes sense in English." Since it is a plural substantive participle, it is appropriately translated "the ones being sanctified." "The ones" comes from its plurality and its function as a substantive in this context. Coombs is simply wrong to render it "the being sanctified." Such a rendering would be marked "wrong" on any first year Greek test.
The problem for Mr. Coombs becomes clear as soon as this basic fact of Greek grammar is recognized. His entire presentation is based upon this misunderstanding. The entirety of his point collapses immediately as soon as the most basic facts of the underlying text are noted. It is not a "process" that has been perfected. This is a term referring to those who are sanctified, not to a process. Coombs is simply in error. So his entire explanation is gone. So what will he do now? Will he amend his article, add a footnote admitting his error, admitting that his error was pointed out by a Protestant apologist, and seek to deal with the text as it actually stands? We shall see.
Of course, what this means is I would need from Mr. Coombs considerably better examples of his ability to handle the text than I have seen so far. That would be the first step in determining if Mr. Coombs would represent the Roman Catholic side in a debate appropriately. Then we would need to see if the Roman Catholics themselves would accept his services. Many who challenge me to debate do not seem to recognize that it is a two-way street. Their side needs to "step up" and that requires the Roman Catholics in a given area to support their particular debater. If a person is utterly unknown, it may be very difficult to get the Roman Catholics to support the debate and get folks out to advertise and promote it. In any case, I await Mr. Coomb's correction of his error documented above, and would be interested in his new "explanation" for the text in light of its accurate translation.