The discussion of Mr. Holding’s comments on Romans 9 has once again raised the issue of the importance of exegesis in theology and apologetics. For those whose faith is determined by externals (various forms of tradition, ecclesiastical, historical, philosophical, etc.), the text of Scripture is more a field of prooftexts that are malleable in nature: they can be formed to “fit” into the mold provided by one’s highest authority (tradition in all its forms). Faithful and obedient exegesis is not overly important in that context, for the actual meaning of the text as it was written is not the source of one’s faith or belief. But for those who believe the Word to be God-breathed, exegesis is, in fact, the means by which one honors God by allowing Him to speak with clarity. Anything less than the most disciplined approach to the text will inevitably confuse the voice of men with the voice of God.
As I interact with faithful fellow believers, I am often troubled by the fact that for many the most important thing in evaluating someone’s explanation of a text of Scripture is not what they actually say, or how they come to the conclusions they do, but instead, who is speaking! That is, we have all seen the most horrific interpretations given a free pass on “Christian television” because “he’s a good believer, and he’s so passionate, and such a wonderful preacher” etc. and etc. As long as a person is at least marginally orthodox they are given free reign to interpret the Bible in any fashion they wish. Likewise, they may give clear evidence of allowing traditions to result in eisegetical violations of the text based upon their traditions, but rarely are they held accountable for their inconsistencies on that point. “Don’t we all have a right to interpret the Bible for ourselves?” is the cry. But let’s make sure we are clear here: sola scriptura and the responsibility of each believer before God does not mean we have a right to pillage the text through our inconsistent, ill-informed, ill-disciplined interpretations.
Mr. Holding’s writings present to us an example of how the confident misuse of materials can produce an aura of believability that leads to acceptance on the part of many. What should be the first thought of the discerning believer upon encountering claims that “not” doesn’t really mean “not” (and everyone who thinks “not” really does mean “not” has to prove that “not” means “not”!) or that one should actually translate “mercy” as “pay one’s debt of personal obligation to”? There is a little guide you might find handy: those who think they’ve come up with something “new” that no one has ever seen before…probably haven’t. Likewise, when someone suggests a rendering in a text that goes against every Bible translation produced by a team or committee of scholars, there is an overwhelming probability that they have a traditional axe to grind, or, in this case, to attempt to bury in the text itself.
Given that the meanings of !n:x’ and ~x;r; and evlea,w and oivkti,rw are not difficult to determine, and given that the text has been transmitted to us without interruption (i.e., no major textual variants), and its place in the argument of Romans is easily determined, I would like to invest a little time in documenting the truth about these words, and the exegesis of Romans 9:15ff I have presented in published works. But as noted before, I refuse to be rushed by impatient readers. I need to finish the Matthew 23 series and make some headway in the Saifullah/Azmy response as well.