Second Reply to James White from Mr. McKinsey

Mr. McKinsey’s response to the above letter as contained in the October and November issues of “Biblical Errancy.”

Section A:

Dear JW. So many of your comments warrant analysis that one hardly knows where to begin. (1) You state that there is no reason to suppose that Jesus’ original command to his disciples was meant to be eternal. But what else could have been intended when he said “I am not sent but unto?” If you’re going to employ this line of defense you’re going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Literally thousands of biblical statements will be brought into question. One could ignore any biblical maxim by simply saying it only applied to the individuals directly involved and the period in which it was uttered. If the absolutist nature of many biblical teachings is jettisoned, the structure will begin to disintegrate. One could argue, for example, that the “Thou’s” in the Ten Commandments only apply to the persons being directly addressed. Secondly, what evidence do you have that it was not eternal? I see no such qualifier in the text. You talk about a “supposition”; yet, you are supposing something less than eternity when nothing in the text justifies your belief. Thirdly, even if the statement were meant to be valid only for a short period, you have only shown that Jesus changed his mind and strategy. The perfect, omniscient being altered his course! This could he seen as more damaging than a contradiction. Fourth, you said “Jesus could direct His ministry in the best way possible.” Yet, one can’t help but ask, “What’s best about it?” The supposedly prescient, perfect being changed tactics and abandoned a crucial teaching. (2) Your comment that Mal. 3:6 was misapplied and taken out of context has no merit not only because biblicists constantly quote the verse in any context deemed suitable but because it is appropriate. Jesus is God and God does not change his basic nature, which includes consistency. For Jesus to change a basic teaching, especially because it was rejected by those to whom it was directed, would not only be inconsistent but expedient. (3) You accuse me of contending that Jesus changed his mind because of his death and resurrection when that was your position. Remember saying, “Your final statement read, ‘Jesus told his followers to go only to the Jews’…” This ignores the fact that Jesus’ statements were made before his death, burial and resurrection. After that event Jesus said…teach all nations (Issue #44, p. 3). (4) You accuse me of applying unrealistic standards to Jesus when all I’m requesting is consistency. Is that too much to ask of a perfect being? (5) What do you mean by saying, “the gospel was opened up…?” You mean Jesus only came to save the Jews and only turned to the gentiles because the Jews rejected him? You mean we can all be saved only because the Jews eschewed him. (sic) How does it feel to be a consolation prize, separate from God’s first choice, especially when this flies in the face of Acts 10:34 and Rom. 2:11 which say God is impartial? (6) Finally, it isn’t a question of whether I think this is a contradiction; I know it is. Jesus originally said I am not sent but unto and later sent his followers to all nations. The “most” whom you contend would not feel this is a contradiction are biblicists and that’s to be expected.

Section B:

Again, JW, your comments are misleading. To begin with, you speak as if you had the autographs (the original writings) in your lap when, in truth, you and your compatriots have never seen them nor have any other living human beings. Apologists concede that they do not exist and I see little reason to believe they ever did. “The autographs are not extant so they must be reconstructed from early manuscripts and versions” (A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix, p. 237). All scholars have are thousands of manuscripts, codices, lectionaries and other writings purported to be accurate representations of the non-existent originals. How, then, do we know for certain what the originals said? We don’t! Scholars only make educated guesses based upon the best evidence available after analyzing and comparing those writings that are available. They boast about the large number of existing NT manuscripts as if this confirmed the reliability of today’s NT. “There are now more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the NT. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions and we have more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the NT in existence today. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation” (Evidence that Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell, p. 39). “There are no known original manuscripts of the Bible; in fact, none are needed because of the abundance of manuscript copies” (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 267). Yet, they also admit there are over 200,000 disagreements among these writings on what verses should say and what verses should he included. “The multiplicity of manuscripts produces a corresponding number of variant readings, for the more manuscripts that are copied the greater will be the number of copyists’ errors…. The gross number of variants increases with every new’ manuscript discovery…. To date there are over 200,000 known variants and this figure will do doubt increase in the future as more manuscripts are discovered’ (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 360-361). Notice that Geisler and Nix try to diminish the importance of this figure by attributing the variants to just copyist errors which they have no way of proving. They also minimize the problem by contending that some errors are merely repetitious and few have any real bearing on important Christian doctrine which is utterly false. Because of wide variances among manuscripts scholars can’t agree on whether the last 12 verses of Mark (which involve some very important tests for belief) should even be in the Bible. They can’t agree on whether Isa. 7:14 says virgin or a young woman, which has a direct bearing on the only OT prophecy of a virgin birth. They can’t agree on whether the word “yet” should be in John 7:8, which is crucial to Jesus’ honesty. One need only read critiques of the latest versions of the Bible written by the King James advocates to see that many disagreements over wording involve important beliefs. Apologists even go so far as to imply that the greater the number of variants the greater the precision. “At first, the great multitude of variants would seem to be a liability to the integrity of the Bible text. But, just the contrary is true, for the larger number of variants supplies at the same time the means of checking on those variants. As strange as it may appear, the corruption of the text provides the means for its own correction (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 366). “Strange is hardly the word; absurd” is much better. Imagine a homicide detective saying his knowledge of what occurred grows as the number of conflicting testimonies increases. Twenty- four thousand manuscripts would provide a tremendous support if they agreed, but when they don’t, when over 200,000 disagreements exist, precisely the opposite occurs.1 Secondly, as a result of speaking as if you have the autographs and ignoring manuscript variances, you erroneously conclude that your source is the final authority. You said that if I “have problems with Matt. 19:18/Rom. 13:9” I should bring it up with the translators, not with the Bible. But it is not I but you who should consult with the translators. You said, “both Jesus and Paul said exactly the same thing — “ou phoneuseis” — yet translators used different words- – murder and kill — which you erroneously called synonyms. You mean soldiers in battle and those shooting in self-defense or to protect loved ones are murderers? The translators with whom you disagree might have any one of several reasons for rejecting your interpretation and using “murder” in one instance and “kill” in another. The following are only a few available: (a) You (sic) picked inaccurate manuscripts among the thousands available. Some translators might have good reasons for using manuscripts with something other than “ou phoneuseis.” For example, 100 manuscripts may have “ou phoneuseis” and 50 something else yet the 50 are preferable because they are far older and closer to the source. (b) “You chose accurate manuscripts but don’t realize that identical words can have different meanings.” “Pound,” for example, can refer to an enclosure for animals, English money, or hitting something, rather than weight, and “hand” can refer to a sailor, part of a clock, a unit of measurement or a game of cards rather than the end of an arm. One “ou phoneuseis” might mean something quite different from another and if you would consult with the translators they might show you why one was translated “murder” and the other “kill.” A contradiction could exist even though the words are identical.2 Identical words need not have the same meaning. Context is a major factor. (c) If you manage to surmount these two obstacles as well as others, an even larger one could be looming on the horizon- -the imprecision of the Greek language. If “ou phoneuseis” can mean both “kill” and “murder” as your Greek- English lexicon of the NT says, then the verse means nothing and might just as well be stricken from the Bible. Unless definite guidelines exist by which to determine which is appropriate, and that’s highly unlikely in light of the disagreements among the experts, the words can’t be translated reliably. How do you know which to use in the English translation – – kill or murder? The distinction is crucial. If they were synonymous in English there would be no problem. But they are not. The problems associated with lower (textual) criticism seem to elude you, JW. The large number of disagreements among the major versions on the market today are something biblicists would just as soon avoid for obvious reasons. If people realize experts are at loggerheads over many key points then what is the layman to believe. (sic) Dissension erodes people’s faith in the Bible to such an extent that biblicists would rather have you believe in any version than nothing at all.

Your comment with respect to the Jehovah’s Witnesses New’ World Translation exposes a distinct bias. BE quotes the most prominent versions available regardless of the source. We also quoted the Living Bible and for you to include it among the “truly scholarly editions” borders on the absurd. The NWT, with all its imperfections. is considerably more scholarly than the pathetic paraphrase known as the Living Bible.

Section C:

You speak of ignorance, JW, when the tapes and literature I received from your organization continually try to make distinctions without differences in order to escape imbroglios. You assert that athanasia applies to Christ while zoen aionion applies to believers. Where does the Bible make such a distinction? First Cor. 15:53-54 says. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immorality (from athanasia — Ed.)…and this mortal shall have put on immortality,…” As you see athanasia could apply to any believer and need not to be restricted to Jesus. Moreover, several verses show zoen aionion could apply to Jesus and need not be restricted to believers: “God hath given us eternal life (zoen aionion), and this life is in the Son” (1 John 5:11), “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath eternal life” (John 6:54), “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it…and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (John 1:2) [note: McKinsey’s citation is in error, it is 1 John 1:2] and 1 John 5:20. If eternal life is in the Son, if eternal life enters one by eating the Son, if Jesus can he called that eternal life which was with the Father, then it’s safe to conclude “zoen aionion” can apply to Jesus as well as believers. You said, “Just because you don’t understand the difference does not mean it doesn’t exist,” when the truth is that just because you created one doesn’t mean it does. Your interpretation of “echon” (hath) in 1 Tim. 6:16 (“Who only hath immortality) is even more tenuous. On page 4 in the August issue you originally asserted that, “the word translating ‘hath’ in the KJV of I Tim. 6:16 is a participle in the original, echon, The (sic) continuous action, without relationship to time expressed by this participle is significant to the meaning of the passage.” Although you are yet to make your point very clear, I assume you meant then, and are repeating now, that echon means Jesus had immortality throughout eternity while others merely obtained it at a point in time. Following your logic, echon (hath) at Mark 9:17 (“my son, which hath a dumb spirit”) means his son had a dumb spirit throughout eternity and echon in John 10:20 (“He hath a devil and is mad”) means he has been mad throughout eternity. These are only a couple of the many examples available. The question is not when immortality or eternal life is obtained but who has it. First Tim. 6:16 said only Jesus has it. Nearly every major version translates the verb in 1 Tim. 6:16 as “has,” “possesses,” or “is,” and none even imply that the verb requires eternity. If it did then their translators aren’t very proficient because that’s a major distinction . .judging from the verbs they employed those on translation committees apparently don’t see your capricious distinctions either. You need to either get with your apologetic colleagues on these committees and create a consensus version or devise a version of your own. Should you decide on the latter, send me a copy and I’ll be glad to critique it.

You have several lamentable habits, JW, including inadequately explaining or proving your position, generating arbitrary distinctions to escape dilemmas, rationalizing the obvious, and patronizing your opponent. You also dwell on ad hominem comments to such an extent that if it continues you could notice a change in the tenor of my responses.

Section D:

Again, JW, you continue to summarize to the jury before the facts are heard and make misleading or inaccurate statements. (1) You allege BE shows much less research than does material from groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are you comparing newsletter to newsletter or newsletter to books? Have you compared their newsletters to BE, i.e., 6 pages to 6 pages? Have you compared their material to all of my notes, including 3 large loose-leaf binders? (2)  Your comment that I obviously borrowed freely from the Jehovah’s Witnesses is totally erroneous. I’ve never needed their literature to notice the same problems with orthodox biblicism. (3) If you wish to reject 1 Peter 1:2, Matt. 28:19 etc. as proofs for the Trinity, I certainly have no objections. Since these are among the few that directly link the three parts of the Godhead and have been interpreted as evidence for trinitarian beliefs, I support your efforts wholeheartedly. A few more comments like that, JW, and perhaps you might want to consider joining us.3 (4) You accuse me of “deliberately deleting” factors and predict that I will “not allow a logical, contextual, and linguistic interpretation of Scriptures.” Apparently you consider yourself a long.distance mind-reader and a forecaster of the future as well. (6) You implied I did not address a trinitarian question with respect to the gender of the word “one” in “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) because I had no answer. The real reason was that the question is of little import since the gender of “one” is of less importance than the number. Incidentally, I listened to your trinitarian seminar tape-recording and found little more than typical Christian metaphysics in which rationalization and obfuscation are sold as erudition and perception. However, I do appreciate the fact that you sent your materials.

Section E:

First, as far as your comment that “I had not demonstrated a single contradiction” is concerned, JW, that’s merely an opinion and we all make mistakes. In your current frame of mind I don’t think you would admit the Bible has contradictions if Jesus and Paul supported me. Secondly, I’ve never claimed to be a Greek and Hebrew scholar nor could you. As in-depth knowledge of these languages is not necessary as apologist W. Arndt explained quite well, “With the various revised versions at hand, with an analytical concordance, with reliable commentaries, and with the help of dictionaries of the Bible language, the reader need not know Greek or Hebrew to verify the original meaning of a given passage. He has in his mother tongue the means whereby he may determine the correctness of most of the obscure translations” (BibleDifficulties, page 20). Thirdly, as I’ve said before, JW, Greek and Hebrew scholars are by no means agreed on what texts say, what they mean, or how they should be translated. You seem to think that by throwing your chips into the Greek/Hebrew basket you are going to emerge with a body of beliefs, teachings, and words resting on granite after emerging from God’s mouth. You have succumbed to one of the cornerstones of Christian mythology. Fourthly, your assertion that “classical Hebrew and koine Greek are not changing and evolving” is almost beneath comment. There is nothing so permanent as change and nowhere is this more evident than in languages. No language is fixed in time and above evolution. The classical Hebrew and koine Greek of 100 B.C. were different from those of 100 AD. and both were different from those of 200 A.D. So the question becomes one of determining which classical Hebrew and koine Greek you are referring to.4 You, not I, missed the point when you decided to find truths that were good at all times and under all conditions. Not I, but you, dodged the issue when you refused to acknowledge the fluidity and imprecision inherent in all languages, classical or otherwise. You tend to minimize the wide variances among modern translations and ignore the fact that knowledgeable scholars disagree on many points. Some of your disagreements are more with your compatriots than with me. You’re seeking a kind of permanence in life that doesn’t exist my friend. Good luck!

Section F:

Again, JW, you summarized the jury without knowing or weighing many of the facts, took verses out-of-context, displayed a poor knowledge of a principle of logic, and exhibited a strong proclivity for tendentious reasoning. (1) ‘What additional relevant information does Jude 6 (“And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation he hath reserved in everlasting chains…”) add to 2 Peter? Nothing!5 Both are merely noting the fact that some angels were punished for sin just as were those living in Sodom and Gomorrah. (2) Where does Peter say they were the ones (the angels- -Ed.) who sinned in the days of Noah, thus narrowing it down a good bit? Talk about taking verses out-of-context! After mentioning that some angels were punished for sinning (2 Peter 2:4) the text merely notes that people living in the days of Noah (verse 5) and those living in Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 6) were also punished for their wickedness. Nowhere does the text imply, much less state, that verse 4 is discussing angels who sinned in the days of Noah. (3) Where does the Bible ever say angels were cast down for their sins in the days of Noah? (4) I’m surprised you mentioned the parallel verse in Jude 6 because, following your logic, I could also conclude that some angels were also cast down for their sins when the Israelites were saved from Egypt. The prior verse (Jude 5) says, “…the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” if you are going to link 2 Peter 2:5 with 2:4, then I’m going to link Jude 5 with Jude 6 in the same manner. In fact, I think I’ll also bring in 2 Peter 2:6 with 2:4 and say some angels were also east down when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. It’s amazing what can be devised when you let your imagination run wild. If there is anyone who should refrain from attributing preconceived prejudices to others…. You read just enough of the text to try to create a plausible rationalization while ignoring that which went before and after. (5) Where did I “equate the angels who sinned” with Satan? I implied, then, and state now that he was included among those cast down. Obviously he couldn’t be equated with them since “angels” is plural. My textual support lies with 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. “The angels who sinned” means all the angels who sinned, not some or most. I learned that logical construct years ago in college. And wasn’t Satan among those who sinned and were cast down? You just displayed one of the great errors common to those who have been reared in an uncritical Christian environment, JW. You have been so thoroughly imbued with a cardinal belief, e.g., the Devil is loose throughout the world and responsible for so much evil, that any evidence to the contrary couldn’t possibly he valid. You even closed you eyes to contrary biblical verses and dismissed them out-of-hand, thus showing why people want to reach children as soon as possible. You said you couldn’t resist bringing up this issue, JW, but you should have.6

One final point. I recommend that you read all of the hack issues of BE before making additional criticisms, as some of your points have already been discussed. Since you apparently consider yourself an authority in biblical defense, I’d especially like for you to address more substantive problems such as most of those posed on pages 2 and 3 of issue #34.


Notes

1.  The material presented here terribly misrepresents what these scholars have to say on the subject. Should the reader wish to read some truly scholarly information on the subject the above referenced book is to be recommended – A General Introduction to the Bible by Drs. Geisler and Nix, published by Moody Press. See also The Text of the New Testament by Dr. Bruce Metzger (Oxford Press) and for a good introduction. see Dr. Greenlee’s Scribes, Scrolls, and Scripture (Eerdman’s Publishing Company). Needless to say Mr. McKinsey knows almost nothing about the subject he is here addressing.

2.  Notice what is being said here – a contradiction could exist even though Mr. McKinsey’s original accusation against the Bible was that Jesus and Paul could not agree on the WORDING of this commandment. Yet, here we clearly see that Jesus and Paul said exactly the same thing. Here Mr. McKinsey begins a process that will continue in the next letter – that of changing the supposed “contradiction’ we are discussing.

3.  This author cannot see how Mr. McKinsey could possibly misunderstand the statement upon which his comments here are based. The point made in my letter was that Mr. McKinsey misunderstood the Trinity and the fundamental basis of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, that being the Biblical teachings of monotheism, the Deity of Christ and the Person of the Holy Spirit.

4.  Again, McKinsey’s original point had been to dispute the accuracy of the rendering of Greek and Hebrew by pointing out that languages evolve and change, which of course, they do. But koine Greek and classical Hebrew are dead languages – they are not changing anymore (dead things normally do not engage in change). Therefore, we can study exactly what that language meant at that time and can thereby translate effectively.

5.  Mr. McKinsey again missed the entire point. Jude 6 is speaking of a specific group of angels who sinned by “lusting after strange flesh” (v. 7). Satan is not included in this group by either Peter nor Jude, and neither writer says that all fallen angels are included in this group that are in chains. Unfortunately, Mr. McKinsey feels he has some basis upon which to make his comments.

6.  I did not bother going into depth at this point in my reply, mainly due to my belief that it is useless to attempt to deal with any subject in context with Mr. McKinsey. The number of logical and factual errors made in the above statements is truly astounding. Possibly Mr. McKinsey had never read 1 Peter 5:8-9? Peter certainly differentiated between the “angels who sinned” and Satan, that is for sure!

Continue to the third letter