I was sent a response to my entry below concerning Daniel Peterson whose unwillingness to defend Mormonism in public debate runs contrary to his own stated stance (as in this clip from a radio program in California). In it Peterson does not refute any of the facts I presented, nor even mention his own statement in the audio clip. Instead, he refers to me as a “professional anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon” with whom he has had “deeply unsatisfying” encounters. Well, I can imagine he would find them unsatisfying. I mean, when you have to redefine your opponent as an “anti-X” rather than just having the honesty and temerity to refer to him for what he is, obviously something is not right in your own neighborhood to begin with. And the fact is Dr. Peterson has not done very well when he has wandered out of his field of expertise. I have documented numerous errors on his part over the years, and I’m sure he has found that to be “unpleasant.” I have repeatedly pointed out errors in what is still one of the primary “apologetic” works of Mormonism, Offenders for a Word, which he co-authored with Stephen Ricks. If I had written such a work, I surely would not wish to have to defend it against someone who could demonstrate its many errors and misrepresentations. We have posted documentation of its problems for years (click here). But, that’s the problem: Peterson tells the “choir” that they need to “stand up to” their critics and demonstrate that they are “bluffing.” Well, we have done many debates in Salt Lake City, and we are not bluffing, and Dr. Peterson knows it. As to his disliking me, well, I find that a rather poor excuse. Fact is, we can provide video taped evidence that we handle ourselves as scholars and gentlemen in debate. Peterson cannot. Facts are facts.
In looking over the review of their book we have offered for a number of years now, I did find this section most interesting. I wonder if Peterson would call this “bluffing”?
On an even more basic and fundamental level of error, Peterson and Ricks show no familiarity at all with the standard works on Old Testament canonization, such as Beckwith (1985), Bruce (1988), or Sundberg (1964). They write,
It is true that Mormons irritate their critics by accepting other books of scripture not included in the traditional canon. But is this enough to exclude them from Christendom? It seems odd to take such drastic action on so flimsy and uncertain a basis. The Hebrew canon had not yet been fixed in the time of Jesus. Josephus (d. Ca. A.D. 100) was among the first to identify an authoritative collection of Hebrew scriptural texts. But the collection of which Josephus spoke consisted merely of the Pentateuch, thirteen prophetic books, and four books of “writings” â€”for a grand total of twenty-two, seventeen short of the canon insisted upon by fundamentalist anti-Mormons (p. 118).
Seemingly our writers are ignorant of how the Jews collected books. As Beckwith rather exhaustively documents (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, Eerdmans, 1985, pp. 235-273), the twenty-two books of Josephus includes the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament canon. The minor prophets were rolled into the major prophets, some books were made appendices of larger works, etc. The comment that the twenty-two is “seventeen short” only shows that Peterson and Ricks are trained in areas other than biblical history and canon issues.