Thursday, July 20, 2006

Errant critics of inerrant Scripture

AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom said:

“Thanks, Steve. A friend of mine was asking for an example of an ad hoc argument and I couldn't think of a good one until I read this.”

i) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Thompson’s interpretation is ad hoc. I’ll return to this charge momentary. But, for now, let us grant the charge for discussion purposes (only), and run with it.

Assuming that Thompson’s interpretation is ad hoc, that doesn’t make it an ad hoc response to Curry. Even if it were ac hoc in relation to Chronicles, it is not ad hoc in relation to Curry.

Remember the form of Curry’s argument. He was supposedly arguing with Evangelicals on their own turf.

He thinks that 1 Chron 22:14 disproves the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy.

So he is mounting an internal critique of Evangelical Bibliology.

But is it, in fact, contrary to the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy? Well, shouldn’t Curry begin by asking himself what the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy actually is?

Where would we find a representative definition? One standard reference point is the Chicago Statement.

Indeed, Geisler, whom Curry cites by name to illustrate the kind of Evangelical he has in mind, was one of the original framers of the Chicago Statement.

Among other things, the Chicago Statement allows for hyperbole and round numbers consistent with inerrancy.

It also doesn’t strike me as altogether unreasonable that if you’re going to claim that 1 Chron 22:14 disproves the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy, you might first bestir yourself to actually consult one or more Evangelical commentaries on 1 Chron 22:14 so that your disproof is directed against real life Evangelicals, and not a straw man.

So I did what Curry was too lazy to do, which was to pick up an Evangelical commentary on 1 Chron 22:14 and see what it had to say.

And what do you know? It’s perfectly consonant with the Chicago Statement! And I cited two other Evangelical commentators to the same effect.

So I was answering Curry on his own terms according to the way in which he chose to frame the issue. That is not ad hoc. That is the very opposite of ad hoc.

Therefore, even if Thompson’s interpretation is ad hoc, that’s irrelevant to Curry’s argument.

ii) But is it ad hoc?

a) What did Thompson say? One thing he said was that “this sort of hyperbole is often used in ancient literature and speeches.”

Is that an ad hoc assertion? In what sense would it be ad hoc? Is it untrue?

Let’s remember who Thompson is. Thompson is an archeologist as well as a historian in the field of ANE language and literature.

He knows his way around the primary sources.

Is “AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom” claiming that ANE literature does not employ hyperbole?

In fact, since “AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom” presumably denies the inspiration of Scripture, he would regard the OT as just another example of ANE literature, right?

(Mind you, the use of literary conventions is entirely consistent with the inspiration of Scripture.)

But if you don’t think the OT is a class apart from ANE literature generally, but just another example of uninspired ANE literature, then why would you claim it’s ad hoc for a commentator to say the OT employs hyperbole?

b) Or is “AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom” claiming that while hyperbole was a customary literary device in ANE literature, it would be ad hoc to say that 1 Chron 22:14 is an example of that general convention?

But how is it ad hoc to claim that 1 Chron 22:14 is a special case of a generally attested literary convention?

Is “AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom” claiming that while ANE literature employs hyperbole, the OT does not?

Or is his claiming that while the OT does employ hyperbole from time to time, it is ad hoc to interpret 1 Chron 22:14 as a case in point?

But how would that represent an ad hoc interpretation?

c) In addition, this is not all that Thompson said. He gave a supporting argument for his interpretation: “and the round numbers further imply that they are not to be taken literally.”

Is “AGuyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom” contending that figures like “a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver” are not round numbers?

They sure look like round numbers. Exact multiples of ten. Not 99,973 talents of gold or 999,977 talents of silver.

But if they’re obviously round numbers, then doesn’t that corroborate Thompson’s interpretation?

Actually, the only evidence of ac hocery is “AguyWhoDoesntLiveWithMom's" ad hoc objection to Thompson.

Moreover, Pratt, in his commentary on Chronicles, gives additional examples of the Chronicler’s use of hyperbole.

Furthermore, this is not the only available interpretation of 1 Chron 22:14. Cf. G. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan 1982), 223-24.

That’s another standard reference work which Curry was too indolent to read.

Moving along:

“Curry meant I Chronicles 22:14 rather than 24:14. That lists the quantities of gold and silver. I Kings 6:2 is relevant because it gives the dimensions of the temple. With that information and information about the density of gold and silver you can determine that the gold and silver don't actually fit within the dimensions of the temple.”

1 Kgs 6:2 is not germane to the argument that Curry was making. Curry’s argument was that the amount of gold and silver specified in 1 Chron 22:14 was in access of the amount of gold and silver available to David or Solomon—not that the Solomonic temple was too small to accommodate that amount of gold and silver.

Remember Curry’s argument?:


A talent is equal to about 75.5 lbs, cubit is equal to about 17.5 in, the density of silver is 0.379 lb/cu in, the density of gold is 0.692 lb/cu-in. The Bible report 100,000 talents (=7,550,000 lbs) of gold and 1,000,000 talents (=75,000,000 lbs) of silver.

It is estimated that by 1860 the world had produced only 40,000 lbs (regular not troy pounds) of gold (see here). This is far less than what the Bible reports for the temple. It is also estimated that by 600 BC the world’s total production of silver was 112,000,000 lbs (see here). It is implausible to think Israel would have the majority of the world’s silver. Even if the gold and silver were melted down, it would not fit into the temple. (To say nothing of the bronze, iron, timber, and stone).


The dimensions of the temple are relevant to Fred Titanich’s article in the Skeptical Review, but Curry didn’t carry over that part of the argument. Rather, he used Titanich’s data as a springboard to mount a different argument based on the amount of extant gold and silver in today’s world.

Moving along:

Bill Curry said:

“Wow! If Biblical Inerrancy is not negated by the reporting of falsehoods (like say, a false resurrection), what does inerrancy mean, and why do you bother to defend any Biblical claim? Why would you think the ‘inerrant’ Bible does have falsehoods that are of a theological nature?”

Maybe I think that because, unlike Bill Curry, I also think it’s important to make at least a minimal effort to acquaint myself with the opposing position before I attack it.

The “reporting of falsehoods” has reference to quotations. Bible writers, in the course of narrating historical events, quote various speakers. Some speakers are inspired while other speakers are uninspired.

When, for example, a Bible writer quotes a false prophet, this is an accurate quote of a false statement—just as a court stenographer will transcribe whatever a witness says, even if the witness is lying through his teeth.

Curry would know this if he bothered to read the exposition of the articles from the Chicago Statement, such as:

“The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (for example, the lies of Satan)…”
Moving along:

Anonymous said:

“OK. If he's equivocating tell us what the phrase means. Inerrancy is not negated by the reporting of falsehoods. What would negate inerrancy?…What is proof of errancy is proof that the Bible reports falsehoods. At least that's what I've always assumed. Is that not so?”

Been there, done that. See above.


  1. You know what, I think this guy does live with his Mom. But that's OK, most 12 year olds do...

  2. Who does Steve live with?

  3. first anonymous7/20/2006 1:34 PM

    Well, I'm not sure. I don't know him personally. But he's an adult, so I guess his wife and kids, or maybe a dog or cat...

  4. one things for sure, Steve sure wastes a lot of time on the internet, rather than working or enjoying life outside.

  5. first anonymous7/20/2006 3:42 PM

    You know what, all of us anonymous' spend too much time on the Internet as well. In fact, I'm going outside right now. Heeyyyy, it's nice out here....

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. "one things for sure, Steve sure wastes a lot of time on the internet, rather than working or enjoying life outside."

    I don't see how this is "for sure." People who regularly write and are knowledgeable about particular subjects do not need to take a lot of time responding to some other written work or piece. Just from my undergraduate experience, I learned to write 1000 words in two hours, and that was for a formal essay. So while it's *possible* he spends ("wastes" is a value judgment I don't agree with) a lot of time working on his writing, I don't see how such an assertion is "for sure." It's more likely he's drawing on many hard hours of previous study and learning.

  8. Does Steve live with momsy-womsy or not? Enquiring minds want to know.

  9. "Does Steve live with momsy-womsy or not? Enquiring minds want to know."

    I don't see why he would have to tell you that. These "minds" already seem to have a taste for reading far too much into blogging habits. Would you even believe him if he told you?

  10. first anonymous7/21/2006 12:07 PM

    Who really cares? The answer doesn't change the argumentation. Does this have some substantive bearing on the topic at hand? Does John Loftus live with his Mom? C'mon, will ya? Save this for 10th grade study hall...