Monday, August 07, 2006

Christianity And Fideism

Frank, a writer at Debunking Christianity, comments:

"I began reading things I never would have looked at before on the internet (this was 1998.) They would have caused doubt and doubt is something no man of god can allow himself to have or even consider. Doubt destroys faith. It brings guilt and condemnation. It ruins your fellowship with god. Doubt cannot be allowed."

But those comments come several paragraphs into Frank's article. The opening paragraph suggests something else:

"I used to delight in asking my Christian brothers and sisters why they believed the things they said they believed. The most common answer was simply, 'That's what I've always been told.' That always disturbed me. You could pull a wisdom tooth with a piece of string easier than you could get a straight answer out of most of these people. I decided it was my purpose, indeed my calling, in life to teach the foundations of Christianity to all these people who didn't seem to know why they were even believers in the first place."

Which is it? Was Frank as concerned about evidence as his opening paragraph suggests, or was he as fideistic as the later comments suggest?

As this blog demonstrates, not all Christians take the fideistic approach Frank has described. There are some Biblical passages that suggest that we should avoid some disputes, because of our own ignorance or because the issue under dispute isn't of much importance, for example (Psalm 131:1, 1 Timothy 1:4). And some professing Christians do sometimes act in the fideistic manner Frank has described. But does Christianity itself suggest that we should behave that way?

The book of Acts doesn't suggest that the earliest Christians lived the way Frank claims that he lived. Paul reasoned with non-Christians in the synagogue and in the Areopagus (Acts 17). Apollos is commended for "powerfully refuting the Jews in public" (Acts 18:28). The Old Testament frequently addresses fulfilled prophecy and other evidential concepts, and so does the New Testament, such as in its emphasis on the significance of eyewitness testimony. Some of the earliest Christian works of the patristic era interact with non-Christian belief systems (Aristides' Apology, Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, etc.). Irenaeus studied the teachings of the Gnostics in depth and interacted with them. Origen wrote a lengthy response to Celsus. Etc. The sort of fideism Frank suggests does exist among some professing Christians, as it does among adherents of other belief systems, but it isn't consistent with Christianity itself.

"Once it is recognized that what Galen says of the Christians could just as well be said of other schools, it must also be said that Christians had already developed a reputation among the Greeks and Romans for appealing to faith. Celsus, another critic of Christianity whom we will consider in the next chapter, complained that Christians sought out uneducated and gullible people because they were unable to give reasons or arguments for their beliefs. They asked people to accept what they said solely on faith (c. Cels. 1.9). What Galen and Celsus said about the Christian movement no doubt fitted the kind of Christianity that most people met with in the cities of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, precisely at the time that Galen and Celsus were writing against Christian fideism a number of Christian thinkers had begun to revise and correct this view of Christianity. Among the defenders of the reasonableness of the Christian tradition were such early Christian apologists as Justin Martyr and Athenagoras...Though Celsus might make rhetorical points against Christian reliance on faith instead of reason, his more serious arguments assume that Christian thinkers wished to be judged by the same standards as others....The question of the mythological and legendary character of the Gospels did not first arise in modern times. The historical reliability of the accounts of Jesus' life was already an issue for Christian thinkers in the second century....What Porphyry wrote about Daniel [dating it to the second century B.C.] was so revolutionary, and so disturbing to Christian interpreters, that his critics sought to refute him in detail and at length....Pagan critics realized that the Christian claims about Jesus could not be based simply on the unexamined statements of Christians...The question of faith and history, so much a part of modern theological discourse since the Enlightenment, was also a significant part of the debate between pagans and Christians in the ancient world....Christians and pagans met each other on the same turf. No one can read Celsus's True Doctrine and Origen's Contra Celsum and come away with the impression that Celsus, a pagan philosopher, appealed to reason and argument, whereas Origen based his case on faith and authority....Pagan critics realized that the claims of the new movement [Christianity] rested upon a credible historical portrait of Jesus. Christian theologians in the early church, in contrast to medieval thinkers who began their investigations on the basis of what they received from authoritative tradition, were forced to defend the historical claims they made about the person of Jesus. What was said about Jesus could not be based solely on the memory of the Christian community or its own self-understanding....When one observes how much Christians shared with their critics, and how much they learned from them, it is tempting to say that Hellenism laid out the path for Christian thinkers. In fact, one might convincingly argue the reverse. Christianity set a new agenda for philosophers. The distinctive traits of the new religion and the tenacity of Christian apologists in defending their faith opened up new horizons for Greco-Roman culture and breathed new life into the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the ancient world." (Robert Wilken, The Christians As The Romans Saw Them [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984], pp. 77-78, 101, 112, 138, 147, 200-201, 203, 205)

45 comments:

  1. You are so apt to harmonize statements in the Bible which are truly inconsistent which each other, and yet you won't make any effort at all to harmonize Frank's statements, which are easily harmonizable.

    I've said it all along. Christians operate by a double standard, and here's more evidence of it. It should make you wonder if you truly understand what the Bible says too. Because if you cannot understand what Frank says using the same hermeneutical skills that apply to any written piece, then you do not have the ability to properly understand anything.

    Show me Jason, that you can do it with Frank. Come on. Can you? Show us all. If you cannot do it then you are willfully ignorant and blinded by your faith, which wants so desperately to malign apostates like us, and which wants so desperately to make the Bible fit your preconceived notions.

    Keep on with the inconsistencies. Fair minded people will know the difference.

    ReplyDelete
  2. John,

    All you've done here is to make a series of groundless accusations.

    You have given Jason no argument to respond to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Suffering Servant8/07/2006 9:56 AM

    Another point that John Loftus ignores is: I don't need to understand in order to believe. I can simply believe because God wants me to believe. That works. Why would my ability to understand be a qualifying criterion for the truth of God? I'm a nothing. So, I believe. Why? Because I do. Yes, all the apologetic firepower is nice to make it seem understandable. But do I really understand? Of course not. Understanding is a worldly requirement. Faith and obedience are God's requirements.

    ReplyDelete
  4. John,

    When unbelievers contradict themselves, they're REAL contradictions. When the bible contradicts itself, it's only an APPARENT contradiction. See, the problem is with the unbeliever here. There's no problem with Christianity when you look at it from this perspective. Why should Jason try to harmonize Frank's statements when a contradiction among Frank's statements would be an apologetic advantage to Jason's position? And if Frank's statements can be easily harmonized, what does that tell you? It tells you that the harmonizing itself must be suspicious. So it couldn't really be a harmonization now, could it?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve, Not all premises must be argued for, especially if they are obvious. You fault me for failing to argue both that Frank's statements are easily harmonizeable, and that Jason has double standards.

    I did claim that what Frank says here is easily harmonizable, and that Jason has double standards. Sure, I didn't defend either of these two premises. I figured fair minded people would come to their own conclusions no matter what I said here anyway. Of course, you won't grant my second claim, so why bother spelling it out, but the first one should be seen to be true by any fair minded person.

    You would argue with me if I said someone should tie their shoes before walking in them, wouldn't you? That's an extreme claim of course, but you exhibit no standards of fairness to what we apostates write. No wonder you're losing your readership (as seen in the sitemeter on this blog), whereas we're gaining in readership.

    Like I said, fair minded people are wondering if you're being fair with us, and while they may not be able to determine this about everything you write, on this issue it's clear.

    So Steve, give it a shot. Harmonize Frank's statements for us all to see that you are a fair minded person, someone your readers can trust to properly evaluate what we say at DC. Go on. Try.

    Why should I spell out the obvious to you? You can do it, can't you? If not, it calls into question your objectivity when it comes to the Bible, now doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Suffering servant, you are the kind of reader that Steve preys upon. Keep on believing then. There's nothing I can say to you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Suffering Servant" says it best:

    Understanding is a worldly requirement. Faith and obedience are God's requirements.

    People can't "make" themselves believe, only God can give them this saving belief/faith.

    Aplogetics are used to try and 'bolster' this faith for some reason, although why Christians fear to rely on 'faith' I do not understand.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The problem here seems to be that we have atheists beefing about the fact that Christians can answer their alleged difficulties, that we are not so 'humble' as to say, oh, you must take that on faith.' With all due respect, this is pure humbug, especially when that argument is being put forward by an apostate. Like Daniel Morgan's statements about the possibility of reconciling evolution and the Bible, the immediate source makes me a tad suspicious.

    When an atheist starts to talk about 'humble faith' which needs only to believe, I trust him about as much as I trust the Socialist canvasser's opinions about what the Conservative Party should do to make itself electable.

    If the atheist wants the Christian to take refuge in a bunker he has prepared, it is quite understandable if the Christian suspects a trap.

    As for Organ Donor's little piece, while clever, it tells me nothing I didn't know. Again, I appeal to the political analogy and what's know as the confirmation bias. This means that for the committed there is no advantage in trying to sort out apparent contradictions (in other words, Loftus, once we take sides, we are all in danger of operating according to a double standard). However, it also does not mean that those apparent contradictions can't be sorted out. In other words; 'yes, so what?'

    Or, when making arguments in a debate setting, try to avoid saying things that sound contradictory or you'll end up tied in knots.

    Now, sometimes the answer 'I don't know' is the right one, because it is true, but in such cases it should always be followed with 'but I'll give you an answer as soon as I can.' For the majority of us Christians, we have not been to theological college and our reading and Bible study may not have covered that particular difficulty. This is not fideism, but simply that we do not know everything.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just checked, you're not losing readers. I saw in the middle of July that you were and I was going on that when I wrote, but I guess you're not. I was wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hiraeth, you're right. Christians do not trust what I say. I must be leading them down a road of no return...a trap. But I cannot do anything about this. I was once where they are and I didn't trust atheists. I first read moderate Christians and then as I moved forward I read liberal theologians. It's baby steps all the way.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh, and Loftus, I think the remark about people in glass houses and stones is apt at this point, viz:

    'I've said it all along. Christians operate by a double standard [...]'.

    Old man, you, too, operate by a double standard. We all do, as I noted above, it's known as a 'confirmation bias' by political scientists. We let up on those we agree with and come down hard on those we disagree with. You plead for Jason to try and understand how Frank's statements can be harmonised in the same sentance as you declare that some statements in the Bible 'are truly inconsistent with each other'. I do not doubt but that you believe this.

    I for one suspect that Jason knows exactly what he is doing. Now, mind if I adapt some words?

    '[...] you are willfully ignorant and blinded by your apostacy, which wants so desperately to malign Christians like us, and which wants so desperately to make the Bible fit your preconceived notions.'

    And I end with a quotation:

    'Keep on with the inconsistencies. Fair minded people will know the difference.' (John W. Loftus, 2006)

    See, in the end, it is simply a matter of one's commitment when it comes to issues such as that currently under discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Suffering Servant8/07/2006 10:51 AM

    I read, and believe. I don't need to understand it. Does everything that Steve writes make sense to me? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But is it true? Of course it is, because Steve is one of the chosen, and he is guided by God. So I read what he has to say. I don't claim to understand. In fact, I find it's best when I don't understand, because then I can be assured that I am following God. If I gauge my faith according to my understanding, then I am disobeying God by elevating my own understanding as a requirement above His requirement for me to believe and obey. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, because our selves can only get in the way. John does not believe because he let his self get in the way. If he would let go of his requirement to understand using his own mind, then he would come to the realization that God's truth is good, and it doesn't need to be understood to be true or good. Believe it, not because it fits your paradigm of understanding, but because God said it. I may never understand. But I can always believe. I don't understand why so many Christians fear faith. But I don't need to understand this to know that it's often true. I think Steve is struggling with this, as he clearly wants to understand what he believes. But God still uses him to trumpet the truth, even if Steve doesn't understand, even if I don't understand. There's no necessary relationship between our understanding and truth. The fundamental error of human autonomy is to assume that truth can be understood by human minds.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Or, translated:

    'Remember me as you pass by
    As you are now so once was I
    As I am now so will you be
    So be content to follow me.'

    But that, my dear chap, is where you are wrong. I was raised in the Church of England, when I went for confirmation, I was taught that much of Genesis was allegorical and that the birth narratives were later interpolations. My confirmation notebook was written by the notorious Bishop of Birmingham and denied the atonement, among other things. Then, when I went to university, I started reading 'moderate' Christians and attending a Charismatic Church, where I was converted. I discovered J. I. Packer and read John Bunyan. From there, I went on to attending a Reformed Baptist Church and discovered the old truths.

    Loftus, I was familiar with liberal authors and liberal Christianity before I knew there was any other sort of Christianity. My bookshelf includes R. J. Campbell, Bishop Montefiore and John Robinson as well as Packer, Richard Sibbes and Lloyd-Jones.

    As you say, baby steps all the way. All the way to Zion. Just remember, John, not every Christian Church is an American fundamentalist congregation, and not every man is John W. Loftus.

    ReplyDelete
  14. suffering servant said:

    "Does everything that Steve writes make sense to me? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But is it true? Of course it is, because Steve is one of the chosen, and he is guided by God."

    That is frightening.

    I doubt that even Steve would say that EVERYTHING he writes is "true."

    He is a fallen human too, and just as prone to sin and mistakes as the 'internet atheist.'

    ReplyDelete
  15. Suffering Servant8/07/2006 11:05 AM

    I haven't read the entire bible, but I have faith that whatever it says is true. So I don't need to read it all. That is the strength of my faith. It does not put my need for knowledge and understanding above God's requirement for faith and obedience. Christians err by elevating their own knowledge and understanding above God's requirements. By doing this, they fall into Satan's trap. Some never recover. But only God can pull them out by giving them the will to believe and obey apart from their knowledge and understanding. I walk by faith, not by sight, not by understanding, not by knowledge. I gave it all to God at the altar, and I'm not taking it back.

    Knowledge and understanding proceed FROM faith in God. For instance, by having faith that the bible is God's word, I therefore KNOW that it is true. And I UNDERSTAND that it is true because I KNOW that it comes from God. So the circle is complete.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Suffering Servant8/07/2006 11:08 AM

    I doubt that even Steve would say that EVERYTHING he writes is "true."

    Of course Steve would not make such a claim, because Steve is of God, and is not puffed up. Even where Steve thinks he may have erred, God's truth supercedes this and prevails. It shows through in everything Steve writes, because God has chosen him to write what he writes. So even where Steve errs, God's truth is manifested. Do I understand this? Absolutely not. But do I have faith? Absoluetely yes I do.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Again, I say, Suffering servant, you are the kind of reader that Steve preys upon. Keep on believing then. There's nothing I can say to you

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hiraeth,

    Like Daniel Morgan's statements about the possibility of reconciling evolution and the Bible, the immediate source makes me a tad suspicious.

    Personally, I don't care if Christians choose to be scientifically ignorant or not, so long as they don't impose their ignorance on my school curricula.

    Are you seriously unaware that the entire Catholic church, minus a few small parts, as well as huge swaths of Protestant denominations, live with the harmony of admitting common descent is a fact and believing that God exists? Perhaps you'd like to talk to one of those billion or so Christians about it, if you don't trust me?

    ReplyDelete
  19. "I believe in order that I may understand." -Augustine

    ReplyDelete
  20. PS: Follow-up on evolution and Christianity. Salon has an interview (you can read the whole thing with a free day pass by watching an ad) with Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, who is a Christian, and who replied:

    [questions italicized] So, one response then is simply to dismiss evolution -- to say it doesn't hold up as science.

    [FC] I think that's what many well-intentioned, sincere believers have done. The shelves of many evangelicals are full of books that point out the flaws in evolution, discuss it only as a theory, and almost imply that there's a conspiracy here to avoid the fact that evolution is actually flawed. All of those books, unfortunately, are based upon conclusions that no reasonable biologist would now accept. Evolution is about as solid a theory as one will ever see.

    Obviously, you're saying you should not read the Bible literally, especially the story of Genesis.

    That also seems very threatening to many believers who have been led to believe that if you start watering down any part of the Bible, including a literal interpretation of Genesis One, then pretty soon you'll lose your faith and you won't believe that Christ died and was resurrected. But you cannot claim that the earth is less than 10,000 years old unless you're ready to reject all of the fundamental findings of geology, cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology. You really have to throw out all of the sciences in order to draw that conclusion.

    Intelligent design is a more sophisticated critique of evolution. And the core argument is that certain natural phenomena, such as human blood clotting and the eye, are irreducibly complex; you can't get these through incremental genetic mutations. What's wrong with this argument?

    It's a very interesting argument, but I fear there's a flaw. The intelligent design argument presumes that these complicated, multi-component systems -- the most widely described one is the bacterial flagellum, a little outboard motor that allows bacteria to zip around in a liquid solution -- that you couldn't get there unless you could simultaneously evolve about 30 different proteins. And until you had all 30 together, you would gain no advantage. The problem is it makes an assumption that's turning out to be wrong. All of those multi-component machines, including the flagellum, do not come forth out of nothingness. They come forth very gradually by the recruitment of one component that does one fairly modest thing. And then another component that was doing something else gets recruited in and causes a slightly different kind of function. And over the course of long periods of time, one can in fact come up with very plausible models to develop these molecular machines solely through the process of evolution as Darwin envisaged it. So intelligent design is already showing serious cracks. It is not subject to actual scientific testing.

    This is what's often called "the God of the gaps." You use God to explain certain things that science can't explain. You're saying these arguments end up hurting religious people because once science does explain these things, it discredits religion.

    And that has happened down through time. When God is inserted in a place where science can't currently provide enough information, then sooner or later, it does. My God is bigger than that. He's not threatened by our puny minds trying to understand how the universe works. And He didn't design evolution so that it had flaws and had to be fixed all along the way. My God is this amazing creator who at the very moment that the Big Bang occurred, already had designed how evolution would come into place to result in this marvelous diversity of living things.

    Well, this gets at what I think is actually the more serious challenge that evolution poses to religious faith -- the whole business of random genetic mutations. Certainly, many evolutionists have argued that there is no inherent meaning to the course of evolution. It could end up any which way, and the fact that human beings ever evolved was blind luck. Without the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, it seems unlikely that large mammals, and eventually humans, would have ever evolved. Isn't this a problem for religion?

    I don't think so. I can see the arguments that you just voiced and why they trouble people. But they are based upon the idea that God has the same limitations that we do. We cannot contemplate what it is like to be able to affect the future, the present and the past all at once. But God is not so limited. What appears random to us -- such as an asteroid hitting the earth -- need not have been random to Him at all. And in that very moment of creation, being as He is, outside of the time limitations, he knew everything, including our having this conversation. As soon as you accept the idea of God as creator, then the randomness argument essentially goes out the window.

    Are you saying that God set the natural laws in motion so that somehow, billions of years later, humans would evolve? There was intent, there was purpose to humans evolving, and God made it so?

    That is part of my faith -- to believe that God did have an interest in the appearance, somewhere in the universe, of creatures with intelligence, with free will, with the Moral Law, with the desire to seek Him.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Daniel,

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1409

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oops, I didn't put the post #

    /1409

    (add that to the end of the web address above)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Daniel,
    I was not arguing that no Christian believes in theistic evolution, nor was I suggesting that an argument for theistic evolution cannot be made. Rather, I was suggesting that you are possibly not the best person to be making such an argument.

    Again, you miss the point. I was referring to arguments made by atheists that appear disingenuous. look at the context of that remark, which was that when atheists tell Christians what they should believe, said atheists should not be surprised when they are regarded with some suspicion.

    I'm more than willing to speak to theistic evolutionists and hear them out. I know many such persons, but you are not one of them, you are an atheist, and thus, coming from your mouth, the argument that one may be a Christian and believe in evolution rings somewhat hollow. And suggests the possiblity of a hidden agenda.

    As I said, it's the same when a socialist offers opinions as to who would make the best Conservative leader, the source of the opinion makes me suspicious. Last year, there was an election to see who would lead the Conservative Party, among the candidates was Kenneth Clarke, a man who I'd voted for at the last leadership election, back in 2001. So, I was not anti-Clarke. However, whenever I heard a Labour spokesman or supporter saying Clarke should have been elected leader this time round, I could not help but feel that they had an agenda other than electing an effective Conservative leader.

    Do you understand now what I was trying to say?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hiraeth,

    I understand what you are saying. I suppose my point was that, considering these arguments aren't ours, but belong to other believers as much as to us, they are objects of reason which you cannot use the genetic fallacy to discredit.

    Saint and Sinner,

    Is that supposed to be a response? So a well-known Orthodox Jewish creationist reviewer (David Klinghoffer) doesn't like Collins' new book...so? And he shows the same typical poor grasp of the issues that other creationists do:

    Something you'll often hear people say is, "Well, Darwinism doesn't mean God isn't the creator. Maybe evolution was programmed into the universe from the start. So He had no need to guide the process." The problem with such thinking is that it's directly contradicted by a major current in Darwinian evolutionary theory. In his book Wonderful Life (1989), the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould demonstrated what he called the "contingency" of life's history. Gould explained what an incredibly lucky break it was that Earth ever cast up intelligent life forms.

    For Klinghoffer, or you, to say that God cannot have used evolution, and even the "illusion" of randomness to bring humans about (humans see randomness, but God foresaw the end result), is a contradiction of your belief that God is all-powerful and all-knowing.

    For you to say that God didn't do this because of your interpretation of the Bible, on the other hand, is the same typical dissonance we find on every other issue in every religion known to man...more subjective silliness.

    In the end, Klinghoffer presents no logical reason that Collins is wrong in his belief, he just asserts so. And he ends with:
    Can we reconcile God and Darwin without changing the accustomed meaning of one or the other? I remain skeptical. Yet readers owe Francis Collins--and Rabbi Slifkin--a debt of gratitude for making us think more deeply about issues that often get swept away with trite, unexamined formulations designed to give us an excuse for not thinking. The theological and scientific paradoxes will not be resolved in a book review, nor perhaps in any book that has yet been written.

    Hardly a rejection of common descent. I seriously doubt that this Jewish fellow does reject common descent. Most thinking people today don't. What they all argue about is whether God's hand was in it at the beginning (universe constants), as it unfolded (guiding evolution), or at all...and this question is obviously one of philosophy.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Daniel, you continue to miss my point. I am not trying to discredit their argument! I am saying that coming from you such arguments sound disingenuous.

    I am pointing out that when a person who does not believe in God tells me 'you can believe in God and in evolution,' I note that he apparently does not believe his own argument and thus is a humbug.

    That isn't the genetic fallacy, of which I'm well aware, it is the natural scepticism of a man who notices the car salesman drives a differnt make.

    The point, my boy, is that it is not your argument, it does not belong to you, and you do not believe in it. Perhaps yo now understand my scepticism. Or perhaps you will continue to get the wrong end of the stick.

    ReplyDelete
  26. John Loftus,

    Why is it unreasonable to trust one source more than another? If a five-year-old child in the third century and a twenty-first century scientist refer to the sun rising, I'll give the scientist a benefit of the doubt that I wouldn't give the five-year-old. I think that the evidence suggests that the Bible is inspired by God. I don't think that Frank is God. But if you want to suggest a harmonization of his comments, then do so. I imagine that the reason why you didn't offer one earlier was because you hadn't thought of a plausible one yet. You've had more time now, so why don't you give us one? The primary subject of my post was the relationship between fideism and Christianity, not whether Frank was inconsistent. If you think that you can show that he was consistent, then do so. I'm willing to consider it. But I don't give Frank the same benefit of the doubt that I give a document that I consider Divinely inspired.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Jason, you and your cronies here don't give people who disagree with you any benefit of doubt. And fair minded people know this.

    ReplyDelete
  28. John Loftus,

    You aren't addressing my points. You often make highly questionable assertions without providing any evidence, and you often leave discussions when you're on the losing side of a dispute. And fair-minded people know these things.

    ReplyDelete
  29. The reality is, Jason, that it's more than just giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt and not your opponents. It's that you man handle the bible to make it say what you need it to say such that it's not contradictory and you man handle the statments of your opponents such that they say something contradictory and nonsensical.

    I thought it was telling to watch you parse my own statements on James White's program such that you conclude I'm not aware of Scriptural fragments prior to the 3rd century. An ounce of charity would help you understand that I am not so ignorant as to be unaware of fragments that exist from the second century. But when it comes to the Bible the benefit of the doubt meter does a complete 180 and it doesn't matter what it says. It is harmonious. You parse the statements in the bible to make them harmonious, just as you parse my statements to make them incoherent, or such that they are arguing for what is not in dispute. I can say nothing sensical. The Bible can say nothing contradictory. Further when I offer to speak with you on the phone to help explain that what I'm saying is not contradictory, you refuse. I have to wonder if you just don't want to know.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Jon Curry wrote:

    "I can say nothing sensical."

    When did I say that you "can say nothing sensical"? I didn't. My disagreeing with some of what you say isn't equivalent to an assertion that you "can say nothing sensical".

    You accuse me of distorting scripture, but you don't document any examples. In contrast, I've documented examples of your distortions, both of scripture and of extra-Biblical material. You left our discussion at Greg Krehbiel's board without responding to what I had documented in those threads. Several months later, you started posting here. Recently, you stopped posting replies and told me to check my e-mail. You sent me two e-mails saying that you wanted to talk on the telephone, and you said that it would take only "a few minutes". I explained to you that I wasn't going to call you, and that you need to do more research. A telephone conversation doesn't benefit other people in the manner a discussion on a blog does. You didn't acquire your interest in a telephone conversation until I posted a message in which I documented a series of false claims you made about your discussion with James White and some false claims you made about the church fathers. Since you're claiming that I've misrepresented your discussion with James White, I'll repeat what I said in the other thread:

    >>>>>
    Jon Curry said:

    "James White and I were discussing Mt 17 and whether it is possible that the text could be corrupted without manuscript evidence. I said (working from memory) that the first copies we have of it are something like 3rd century. He says that's wrong. You apparently think so to. A simple web seach proves I'm exactly right. The first copy of that text is contained in P45, which is dated to the year 250. Smack dab in the middle of the 3rd century."

    The webcast we're discussing is at:

    http://www.aomin.org/dl21.ram

    Your comment came during the closing moments of the program, about 58 minutes into it. Matthew's gospel was discussed, but it wasn't the only subject of discussion. James White had mentioned that the Mount of Tranfiguration follows Jesus' comments, and it does so in all three gospels, not just Matthew. The gospel of Matthew was discussed because you cited it as an example. Just before you made your comment about the third century, you used the qualifier "in the case of the Bible, the New Testament". After you said "Bible", you specified "New Testament". Did you misspeak twice? Why would you say "Bible" and "New Testament" if you meant "Matthew 17"? You put the comment about the third century in the form of a question, suggesting that you were unsure. If you knew the details of the textual record before you called James White, then why put that comment in the form of a question? You also said that we have evidence of various people modifying the text along the way, which is similar to a comment you've made here about the New Testament in general, not just Matthew 17. After James White corrected you, you began to try to modify the comment you had made, and the program ended at that point. I don't deny that you've wanted to modify your comment after being corrected. But you did make the comment.

    Even if we limit ourselves to copies of Matthew, some Matthew papyri are dated as early as the second century. See, for example:

    http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/NTOxyPap.htm

    http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1217

    http://www.kchanson.com/papyri.html

    But you seem to now want to limit your comments not only to Matthew, but to Matthew 17 in particular. In your latest post in this thread, the one I'm now responding to, you write:

    "James White and I were discussing Mt 17...The first copy of that text is contained in P45, which is dated to the year 250."

    If you meant to refer only to Matthew 17, then why did you refer to the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular? Why did you go on to refer to how various people modified the text? Are you saying that what you had in mind was various people modifying the account of the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew's gospel? If so, tell us what examples of modifcation you were thinking of. And since P45 doesn't contain Matthew 17, why would you have had P45 in mind?
    >>>>>
    (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/who-wrote-gospel-of-john.html)

    I suggest that people also read the rest of my discussion with Jon in that thread. You'll see many examples of his bad reasoning and false assertions.

    Jon Curry asks us to interpret his claims with "charity". I ask that people read the thread at the URL above and see how much charity Jon shows the ancient Christians, such as when he assumes universal error among the early Christians in attributing the fourth gospel to John, when he dismisses Irenaeus' memories of meeting Polycarp, and when he calls Tertullian a "wicked" and "vicious" man. Jon expects people like James White and I to show him "charity" by assuming that he meant something other than what he said on James White's webcast. Yet, when the evidence supports the claims of the early Christians and suggests that they lived by high moral standards, Jon assumes that they were wrong and characterizes them as "wicked" and "vicious". Jon should be glad that I'm not showing him "charity" in the same manner in which he shows it to the early Christians.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Jason, this was one of the things I wanted to explain to you with a phone conversation that you are again not getting. It would save you a lot of wasted keystrokes to simply talk with me on the phone.

    The reason I discuss the integrity of the fathers (I also mentioned Cyril of Alexandria, a murderous "saint") is not because I wanted to engage in ad hominem, but because you raised the integrity of the fathers as evidence to support your conclusion on the Gospel of John. The only way I can rebut your claim is by pointing out instances of their lack of integrity. It's not that I'm "mean." I'm just engaging in argument. Your response should not be to get all huffy about me disrespecting the fathers. You should just rebut and try not to get angry. I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just responding to the argument you made. Your various usages of ad hominem were in no way related to the arguments that were going on, so your application of name calling is fallacious, whereas my comments about the fathers being "vicious" were relevant to the argument.

    With regards to the James White conversation, again, this could be cleared up with you by a phone call. But you refuse.

    James White and I were discussing Mt 17 and whether portions of it could have been added without manuscript evidence.

    To support that claim I first made a general comment about the NT as a whole. Generally books of the NT show signs of modification by copyists. With that in mind you then consider that the first copies of this text in question are from the third century (you corrected for thinking P45 contained Mt 17. Apparently the first copy is Vaticanus in the 4th century). White misunderstood my comment to be about any NT copies of any kind, so I tried to clarify and that's when the show ended and I was cut off.

    So I didn't misspeak at all, let alone twice. We did talk about two things, the NT texts generally and Mt 17 in particular. So when I referred to copies it wasn't clear if I was referring to NT texts generally or Mt 17 in particular. But since scraps of texts unrelated to the point in question would not help White's assertion that modifications will have manuscript evidence you could make the obvious logical connection and realize I'm talking about Mt 17.

    So by interpreting charitably I mean that Jason could very easily say something like "I can see that you didn't really mean to suggest that the earliest fragments are from the third century, but you can probably see based upon what I heard why I would misunderstand you. I withdraw my claim that you are ignorant for thinking the first fragments are from the 3rd century" And I would respond charitably and say "I can see why you would misunderstand me based upon what you heard. No big deal."

    That's responding charitably. But that doesn't work for you, Jason. You desperately want to believe that I'm that ignorant about the manuscript evidence so you're going to continue to beat me over the head as a result of your misunderstanding.

    And you do the same with Frank, as John pointed out. You'll probably do the same thing with this post. You could call me if you really want to understand me. But I really don't think you want to.

    ReplyDelete
  32. A Fair Minded Person8/08/2006 2:16 PM

    Hello,

    I'm a fair minded person and I think John Loftus doesn't back up his claims, makes spurious accusations, and generally removes himself from the argument when he's getting creamed with the excuse that he's not being treated like a well-informed, intelligent person. So, there you go...

    A fair minded person's assessment

    ReplyDelete
  33. John, old man, I suggest you may want to speak to Daniel Morgan about the genetic fallacy.

    Seriously, old chap, why would a person being, in your opinion 'vicious' make then more or less likely to alter scripture? If a person is a bigot for the faith they hold, does it mean they'll alter their holy book? Put another way, is Osama Bin Laden more likely to alter the words of the Koran than, say, Lord Ali (a secular Muslim in Britain)?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jon Curry wrote:

    "The reason I discuss the integrity of the fathers (I also mentioned Cyril of Alexandria, a murderous 'saint') is not because I wanted to engage in ad hominem, but because you raised the integrity of the fathers as evidence to support your conclusion on the Gospel of John. The only way I can rebut your claim is by pointing out instances of their lack of integrity. It's not that I'm 'mean.'"

    The issue wasn't the character of the church fathers, but the character of the ancient Christians in general. You gave two examples of allegedly "wicked" and "vicious" Christians, Tertullian and Cyril of Alexandria. I explained to you that Cyril lived too late to have much relevance to what we were discussing, and I asked you for docuntation on Tertullian. The Wikipedia article you eventually referred to didn't give us any reason to think that Tertullian was "wicked" and "vicious" in any relevant way, much less did it give us reason to doubt the testimony of the ancient Christians in general.

    You write:

    "I'm just engaging in argument. Your response should not be to get all huffy about me disrespecting the fathers."

    I didn't get "all huffy". I explained that your argument was false and was inconsistent with your objection that you weren't being treated with enough charity. Since you've claimed that I haven't shown you sufficient charity, should I conclude that you're "getting all huffy"?

    You write:

    "You should just rebut and try not to get angry."

    You initiated this discussion with objections about how you were being treated. I then responded by mentioning some of your errors and by mentioning how you've been treating the ancient Christians. Why is it acceptable for you to initiate such a discussion, but if I respond by mentioning your errors and your inconsistencies, then I'm "getting huffy" and "getting angry"? Are you huffy and angry?

    You write:

    "I'm just responding to the argument you made. Your various usages of ad hominem were in no way related to the arguments that were going on, so your application of name calling is fallacious, whereas my comments about the fathers being 'vicious' were relevant to the argument."

    You can be uncharitable when discussing a topic that's relevant. Your comments about Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other ancient Christians didn't reflect the sort of charity you're telling us that we should show you.

    You write:

    "To support that claim I first made a general comment about the NT as a whole. Generally books of the NT show signs of modification by copyists."

    If you were addressing "the NT as a whole", then your comment about the earliest manuscripts was about the New Testament as a whole, unless you want to argue that you changed topics in mid-sentence. But you've acknowledged now that P45, which you cited in another thread, doesn't contain Matthew 17. You were wrong, then, even if we limit your comments to Matthew 17. And, as I said before, you probably wouldn't have put your comments in the form of a question if you knew what the textual record was before calling James White's webcast.

    You write:

    "But since scraps of texts unrelated to the point in question would not help White's assertion that modifications will have manuscript evidence you could make the obvious logical connection and realize I'm talking about Mt 17."

    James White was responding to what you said. You're the one who mentioned the New Testament. Your comment about the third century came just after your reference to the New Testament, as part of the same sentence, and you put your comment in the form of a question. If you're going to mention the New Testament, then change topics to Matthew 17 in mid-sentence without saying so, how is James White supposed to know what you had in mind? If the New Testament in general was irrelevant to what you were discussing with him, then why did you bring it up? If it was relevant in some manner, then your claim that we should have recognized that it wasn't relevant is fallacious.

    You write:

    "You could call me if you really want to understand me."

    If calling you is the only way to "really understand" you, then why did you just post another message? If posts aren't sufficient, why do you keep posting? And why did you begin arguing that a phone conversation is needed only after we had been posting in response to each other over a period of several months? How would lengthy discussions over several months get resolved in what you called "a few minutes" on the phone? If it would only take a few minutes on the phone, why have you failed to communicate that information in probably hundreds of pages of posts over several months? That's a lot more than "a few minutes" worth of material.

    ReplyDelete
  35. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  36. HIRAETH

    If you were to look closely into the history of Church Councils you will find that the proceedings are rife with violence, bad arguments, and intimidation used to extract the votes needed. At Nicea the early fathers stopped their ears rather than listen to the arguments of Arias. At Constantinople bitter jealousy between the West and East lead to dirty political tactics. Cardinal Newman refers to the 4th century councils as “a scandal to the Christian name” and expresses similar sentiments of the 5th century church councils. The Council of Ephesus was presided over by Cyril of Alexandria. As punishment for throwing a rock at a prefect, Cyril had one man, by the name of Ammonius, tortured to death. He canonized criminals as martyrs and encouraged evil such that he is widely regarded as partly to blame for the brutal murder of the female philosopher Hypatia. Ephesus took its tone from him. Nestorius was condemned by virtue of violence, bribery, and all around unfairness. On and on I could go.

    The history of Christianity shows that many early powerful Christians had no scruples about using bad arguments, dirty politics, violence, bribery, etc to reach the conclusions they are interested in. Would I put it past early Christians to either 1-mistakenly identify the author of a text or 2-mislead about authorship of a text for theological motivations? Absolutely not. Especially when we have abundant evidence of Christian forgeries floating around, whether it is an interpolation in Josephus or an entire pseudonymous book, such as the Acts of Peter, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, etc.

    Now, with regards to Osama bin Laden, I think that’s a pretty good illustration. You may or may not know this, but Muslims have two sources for the teachings of Mohammed. One is the Koran. The other is Hadith. The Koran is universally accepted as authentic, but Hadith is not. Hadith is supposed sayings of Mohammed but Muslims are not bound by that. So for your Osama analogy, since the authentic books of the Bible were not universally recognized at those early stages, the parallel is Scripture to Hadith, not Scripture to the Koran. Would I be surprised if I found that Osama promoted only the Hadith that was consistent with his violent religious agenda? Not at all. In the same way I wouldn’t be surprised if early Christians (since the Canon was not universally recognized at the time) would sometimes promote such books as they agreed with theologically, not necessarily those books which withstood the weight of the historical evidence.

    ReplyDelete
  37. By charitable, Jason, I don't mean reading negative comments in a positive way. What is the charitable interpretation of Tertullian's misogynistic comments? What is the charitable interpretation of Cyril's murderous deeds? That makes no sense. What I'm saying is, sometimes communication is imperfect. You could try to interpret my words in a manner that makes them coherent, knowing that we were near the end of the webcast and knowing that I attempted to clarify White's misunderstanding of what I meant, but was unable to because we ran out of time. You could accept the explanation I've offered and withdraw your claim about my ignorance of the dating of the manuscripts. But when you say something you just can't seem to withdraw it.

    "If you were addressing "the NT as a whole", then your comment about the earliest manuscripts was about the New Testament as a whole, unless you want to argue that you changed topics in mid-sentence."

    As I already explained, I talked about both. I talked about the NT as a whole to establish the general realities of copying as it related to Mt 17 specifically. Do you really believe I was not aware that there were fragments that dated to the 2nd century? And yes I wasn't sure if the earliest copies of Mt 17 were third century. So what? Does that make me highly ignorant? I was guessing. Apparently I had a general sense that the first copies of the gospel were 3rd century. That's true, though apparently P45 is missing sections in Matthew. So we're out to Vaticanus at the year 300 for our first copy of Mt 17. I'm off by a year. I'm highly ignorant on the basis of a claim like that?

    And don't lump James White in with you. I never said he treated me uncharitably. I'm not a perfect communicator and I didn't have time to clarify what I meant, so I don't blame him at all. If he refused to allow me to clarify (as you now do) I would consider that uncharitable. If Tertullian came along and said "Hey, I didn't mean it that way" I'd have no problem allowing that. You will not accept that from me even though as you've admitted I did try to clarify at the end of the webcast but ran out of time.

    "If calling you is the only way to "really understand" you, then why did you just post another message?"

    Because you continue to misrepresent and misunderstand me, and since you won't allow me to help you understand me in an efficient way (by phone) I'm left attempting to straighten you out with the keyboard.

    "And why did you begin arguing that a phone conversation is needed only after we had been posting in response to each other over a period of several months? How would lengthy discussions over several months get resolved in what you called "a few minutes" on the phone?"

    Ummm, because I didn't intend to cover every single topic we've ever discussed. I only meant to clear up the two or three misunderstandings you have with regards to our current conversation.

    And hey, if you're really not "all huffy" that's great. Typing is an imperfect form of communication, so I certainly have no objection to allowing you to clarify how you feel and I'll take you at your word. You should give it a try some time.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Any readers interested in responses to the arguments Jon Curry has mentioned in his reply to Hiraeth can read my recent discussion with Jon at:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/who-wrote-gospel-of-john.html

    Jon refers to the canon of scripture as not universally accepted, but in the other thread he argued that he's justified in rejecting even the books that were universally accepted just after the time of the apostles. Notice that, in the other thread, he repeatedly makes false claims about the church fathers, and notice that he doesn't attempt to document much of what he asserts. He'll keep going back and forth from one century to another, citing one type of behavior he disapproves of from a fourth century figure, other behavior he disapproves of from a group in the ninth century, etc. He strings all of his examples together, then tells us that it's possible that every Biblical book whose authorship attribution he wants to dismiss might have an incorrect attribution. After all, look at those examples of bad behavior by Christians. Couldn't they have behaved badly by attributing Biblical books to the wrong author also?

    Using Jon's reasoning, we could also dismiss the authorship attributions of ancient Roman documents, based on stringing together examples of bad behavior by Roman figures over the centuries. The same reasoning could be used to dismiss documents from any society. Does any historian take Jon Curry's approach on issues like these? No. Does any historian agree with Jon's suggestion that Jesus didn't exist? None that I'm aware of. Does it seem that Jon did sufficient research on subjects like these before he abandoned Christianity? No.

    Jon writes:

    "What is the charitable interpretation of Tertullian's misogynistic comments?"

    Why don't you interact with what I said on this subject earlier? Here's what I wrote earlier, which you never responded to:

    "You don't tell us what you have in mind that supposedly demonstrates that Tertullian was a 'vicious' and 'wicked' man, so we have to guess. The author of the Wikipedia article comments that Tertullian 'is occasionally considered as an example of the misogyny of the early Church Fathers'. But the quote that follows only has Tertullian saying that women are guilty of leading the world into sin, with Eve as their representative, so that Jesus had to die for them. He also believed that men are guilty with Adam, and that Jesus had to die for men. How do these beliefs make Tertullian 'vicious' and 'wicked', and how does the supposed 'vicious' and 'wicked' character of Tertullian lead us to the conclusion that we can't trust the early Christians in general on the issues we were discussing?" (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/who-wrote-gospel-of-john.html)

    Jon, would you explain how Tertullian's view of women is relevant to an issue like the authorship of John's gospel? How does it demonstrate that Tertullian and the early Christians in general were "wicked" and "vicious" in a way that makes their authorship attributions unreliable? Do you agree with how Roman society in general viewed and treated women? If not, can we therefore conclude that the Roman world in general was "wicked" and "vicious" in a way that makes their authorship attributions unreliable? Do you agree with the views some early Americans held on issues of slavery and the races? If not, how can you trust what the early Americans said about who wrote the letters attributed to Patrick Henry and George Washington, for example?

    The same Wikipedia article you cited on Tertullian also tells us that Tertullian had noble motives and had "moral vigor".

    You write:

    "Do you really believe I was not aware that there were fragments that dated to the 2nd century?"

    Yes, at the time you made the comments. Similarly, at the time you called James White's webcast, I think you probably didn't remember some of the discussions we had on Greg Krehbiel's board about Matthew 16:28. I doubt that you were being dishonest in the sense of lying about something you had in mind. You probably didn't make enough of an effort to remember what you had already been told, so you approached your discussion with James White without remembering some things I had already mentioned in our previous discussions. Similarly, I don't deny that you may have heard about second century fragments of the New Testament sometime before calling James White. But what you said when you spoke with him was false.

    You write:

    "Apparently I had a general sense that the first copies of the gospel were 3rd century. That's true, though apparently P45 is missing sections in Matthew."

    A lot of the documents we have, including P45, are fragmentary. If fragmentary copies from the third century are to be included, then so must fragmentary copies from the second century.

    And, remember, I haven't just objected to your reference to the third century. As I explained before, your argument was problematic in other ways as well. The Mount of Tranfiguration account occurs just after Jesus' comments in three gospels, not just Matthew. It's unlikely that one of the gospels would have been altered in the way you're suggesting, and an argument for two or three gospels having been altered in such a way would be even more implausible. If Matthew was altered early on, then eyewitnesses and contemporaries would have been alive to recognize the alteration. The author himself could have recognized any early alterations as well. And if it was altered later, then the document would be too widely distributed to leave no trace of the alteration in the textual record. We know that the gospels were widely distributed early on. Quadratus distributed copies as he traveled, Aristides refers to how even enemies of Christianity can read the gospels for themselves, etc. The scenario you've proposed is unlikely to have occurred even with one gospel, let alone three. You've given us no evidence from the manuscript record, from the text, or from any other source. You're just speculating, and you're speculating against the evidence.

    You write:

    "So we're out to Vaticanus at the year 300 for our first copy of Mt 17. I'm off by a year. I'm highly ignorant on the basis of a claim like that?"

    Using your reasoning, if I said that Ronald Reagan was a president of the nineteenth century, it wouldn't be much of an error, since I was only off by one year. That's ridiculous.

    You said that you had P45 in mind. P45 isn't from the year 299. And Vaticanus isn't from the year 300. Or are you now saying that when you referred to the third century you didn't have P45 in mind? Why did you cite P45 to justify your claim in the other thread, then?

    You don't think I'm being charitable enough about your comments on James White's webcast. But if we set those comments aside, we'd still have your favorable comments about the theory that Jesus didn't exist, your false claims about Irenaeus, your suggestion that it's a significant problem for Christianity if the number of textual variants in the Bible's textual record equals the number of words in the Bible, etc. You've been making a lot of comments along these lines on a lot of subjects. And you make these comments in discussions that you initiate. You initiated the discussion at Greg Krehbiel's board, you initiated the two phone calls to James White, you initiated the discussion here in the thread on the gospel of John, you initiated the discussion between us in this thread, etc. You aren't well prepared for these discussions, but you keep initiating them. And it's not as though an error like suggesting that Jesus didn't exist is something minor.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "Using Jon's reasoning, we could also dismiss the authorship attributions of ancient Roman documents, based on stringing together examples of bad behavior by Roman figures over the centuries."

    This is not "Jon's reasoning". This is your gross distortion of my reasoning. You are the one making the positive claim. You claimed that the early Christians had "high ethical standards" so there's no reason to suspect they would put a false document forward. When I respond and say "not necessarily" you say "Oh, so you're saying that we can never know any authorship attributions because everyone is guitly of some bad behavior." No, of course I'm not saying that. I'm just telling you that your conclusion doesn't follow because your assumption that early Christians had high ethical standards needs to be demonstrated, not just asserted. And as I've shown above the evidence is against you.

    I notice you use this straw man tactic a lot. You take an argument I made and extend it far beyond where I put it. You then critique it on that basis. You did the same about my simple point about how there is incentive to falsely attribute famous names to relics or ancient documents. That's a pretty obvious point. It shows that we should be a little extra cautious when someone makes such a claim and we should take a close look. Which is exactly why experts do take close looks at these type of things, such as the Ossuary of James.

    You take that simple statement and erect your straw man. You say "So we can't know any claims of authorship by famous names?"

    At this stage I usually just call it a day. It's not worth my time to explain to you your misunderstandings and misrepresentations. I really am here to learn and I enjoy getting an opening salvo from you. You usually give me something useful. But after a while you start drifting in to this sophistry. You could call me if you wanted to understand, but it seems your goal is just to allay the concerns of fellow Christians publicly, not actually learn. My goal is more to learn, so since I've gotten everything I can that is useful out of you I'll just be on my way and I'll see you at the next discussion. We're approaching this stage now.

    "Does any historian agree with Jon's suggestion that Jesus didn't exist? None that I'm aware of."

    It seems you have not done sufficient research on this topic. Richard Carrier accepts it and he is a degreed historian. Robert Price may not qualify as a historian, but he's a very smart guy. Even Mike Licona stated that during his debate with Barker. He (Price) accepts it. Incidentally I think Mike Licona is a very smart guy. Also, incidentally, I asked Robert Price about James White's criticism of him. I can share if you are interested.

    "Does it seem that Jon did sufficient research on subjects like these before he abandoned Christianity? No."

    Have you read more than two books by skeptics arguing against your faith? Are you informed enough to reject skepticism? It seems we are back to the ad hominem.

    "Why don't you interact with what I said on this subject earlier? Here's what I wrote earlier, which you never responded to:"

    Jason, not everyone can keep up with your voluminous writings.

    "But the quote that follows only has Tertullian saying that women are guilty of leading the world into sin, with Eve as their representative, so that Jesus had to die for them."

    He only says that? Let's look at it:

    "Do you not know that you are Eve? The judgment of God upon this sex lives on in this age; therefore, necessarily the guilt should live on also. You are the gateway of the devil; you are the one who unseals the curse of that tree, and you are the first one to turn your back on the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was not capable of corrupting; you easily destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because of what you deserve, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die."

    Some might call this vicious and wicked.

    "Jon, would you explain how Tertullian's view of women is relevant to an issue like the authorship of John's gospel?"

    As I said above, you had argued that the integrity of the early Christians is demonstrative of their claims. My rebuttal is that they don't seem to be men of extraordinary integrity. See also my prior comments to Hiraeth.

    "Do you agree with the views some early Americans held on issues of slavery and the races? If not, how can you trust what the early Americans said about who wrote the letters attributed to Patrick Henry and George Washington, for example?"

    If you don't think the inherent morality is relevant to their claims about authorship of texts, why did you raise the issue as evidence in support of your claims?

    "Jon-Do you really believe I was not aware that there were fragments that dated to the 2nd century?

    Jason-Yes, at the time you made the comments."

    Why would I attempt to clarify so quickly then? Because I suddenly realized the existence of the John Rylands fragment and so forth? You're just dead wrong on this. I've read FF Bruce, much of Geisler's General Introduction to the Bible, and other books on this topic. You are wrong. The facts are the opposite of your beliefs. It's really indicative of your entire problem with regards to Christianity. You believe what you want to believe, not what's true.

    "Similarly, at the time you called James White's webcast, I think you probably didn't remember some of the discussions we had on Greg Krehbiel's board about Matthew 16:28."

    It's not so much that I forgot them. I just don't regard them as at all reasonable. This is one of the things you just don't understand. Just because you can mouth a response to a skeptical objection, this doesn't mean I should accept it. Even if you have a perfectly rational explanation for a problem, that doesn't mean you're right. Even if I were to grant that your explanation is a possibility you should recognize that there is another possibility. Possibly it was really intended in the way I understand it, and possibly it's a mistake. Not only is that possible, it's probable. Why say "Some standing here will not taste death" if you're talking about events that will occur in six (or eight) days? The belief that he was talking about the end of the age (as even some Christians admit, such as C.S. Lewis and preterists) is certainly rational. So the reason I continue to discuss the passage with others is because your reading is not natural, and probably stems from that "benefit of the doubt" view you have of the Bible, as opposed to an objective reading of what is in the text. That's why I continue to talk about the text with others. It's not that I forgot your explanation.

    "A lot of the documents we have, including P45, are fragmentary. If fragmentary copies from the third century are to be included, then so must fragmentary copies from the second century."

    P45 is not to be included because it doesn't contain Mt 17 as you pointed out.

    "And, remember, I haven't just objected to your reference to the third century. As I explained before, your argument was problematic in other ways as well."

    That's not really the point of this discussion.

    "Using your reasoning, if I said that Ronald Reagan was a president of the nineteenth century, it wouldn't be much of an error, since I was only off by one year. That's ridiculous."

    It is ridiculous because it's not at all what I'm saying. For that claim you are off by 80 years, not one. Where are you getting 1? I said the text was third century. According to my source it's actually the year 300. So it's one year into the 4th century. I'm off by a year.

    "You said that you had P45 in mind. P45 isn't from the year 299. And Vaticanus isn't from the year 300. Or are you now saying that when you referred to the third century you didn't have P45 in mind? Why did you cite P45 to justify your claim in the other thread, then?"

    So in your world I'm informed enough to know precisely the names of ancient texts and what is contained in them as I speak with James White, but I'm too ignorant to know that there are fragments that date prior to the third century. I think if you thought things through you'd see that your statements are incongruint.

    I didn't have P45 in mind when I talked with James White. I pointed out to you that I was just speculating, working from memory. I'm not an expert in ancient manuscripts, but I've read enough to have a sense of when the first complete gospels we have are dated. I went online after my discussion with him and found this website.

    http://www.biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html

    This website claims that P45 contains the 4 gospels, and that Vaticanus is from the year 300. So I assumed that our first copy of Mt 17 was P45. You say no. So based upon the website I referenced, Vaticanus would be the first with Mt 17 and it is dated to the year 300.

    "But if we set those comments aside, we'd still have your favorable comments about the theory that Jesus didn't exist,"

    That doesn't make me ignorant. It may make me out of the mainstream of historical scholarship. It may even make me wrong. But it doesn't make me ignorant. Most Christians can't even articulate Doherty's thesis let alone evaluate it. Can you articulate it? Have you read his rebuttal to Licona? Are you truly the one that is ignorant on this subject, as you are on skepticism in general?

    "your false claims about Irenaeus,"

    As I've already explained to you, my claim was simply a repeating of what I got from Wikipedia. That again makes me more informed than most Christians. Most Christians have never heard of Polycarp or Irenaeus. I told you the link was at a Wikipedia article on the authorship of the Johannine texts. Why do you act like I'm not providing the reference? If you can't go to Wikipedia and type in the relevant keywords, I guess I can provide you with the link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Johannine_works

    "your suggestion that it's a significant problem for Christianity if the number of textual variants in the Bible's textual record equals the number of words in the Bible, etc."

    Your theoretical conception of how it might not be a problem does not prove that it is not a problem.

    So it seems none of your justifications for the name calling really carry a lot of weight. You should just drop it and try to focus on arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Jon Curry wrote:

    "I'm just telling you that your conclusion doesn't follow because your assumption that early Christians had high ethical standards needs to be demonstrated, not just asserted. And as I've shown above the evidence is against you."

    You didn't discuss any of the earliest Christians. And most of the examples you cited weren't accompanied with any documentation, nor were they accompanied with any explanation of how they relate to issues of authorship attribution. Most of your examples are from the fourth century or later, when the evidence surrounding issues of authorship was already well established. The examples you cited from those later centuries weren't enough to prove a general unreliability in the authorship attributions of those later Christians, much less a general unreliability in the authorship attributions of the Christians of earlier generations. You cited Tertullian, who lived earlier, but nothing in the Wikipedia article that you cited suggested that Tertullian was unethical in his document attributions. Your claim to have "shown above the evidence is against" me is absurd.

    Earlier, I cited the New Testament scholars D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo commenting on the standards of document attribution in ancient Judaism and early Christianity. I also gave examples of the early Christians' willingness to assign a document to a lesser known figure, acknowledge that a document's authorship was unknown, or dispute an attribution accepted by other Christians (Mark, Hebrews, 2 Peter, etc.). In addition, I've given examples of New Testament and patristic passages that discuss the early Christians' concern for historical information and eyewitness testimony, for example. In the past, I've also cited Glenn Miller's article on this subject, which covers not only the ancient Christians' views on document attribution, but also the views of the ancient Gentile world and the ancient Jews (http://www.christian-thinktank.com/pseudox.html). This sort of data is directly relevant to what we've been discussing, in contrast to your far less relevant appeals to the possibility that Tertullian was sexist or the behavior of Cyril of Alexandria during a fifth century church council. You're trying to make a case against Christianity on a subject you don't know much about.

    You write:

    "I notice you use this straw man tactic a lot. You take an argument I made and extend it far beyond where I put it. You then critique it on that basis. You did the same about my simple point about how there is incentive to falsely attribute famous names to relics or ancient documents. That's a pretty obvious point."

    Wouldn't it make sense for you to present something that you consider a convincing argument against my position rather than just posting some "obvious point" that doesn't overturn anything I said? As I explained in the other thread, your "obvious point" is outweighed by other factors.

    And what's the relevance of "relics or ancient documents"? When the fourth gospel began circulating, it wasn't a relic, and it wasn't ancient. Ptolemy, Theophilus of Antioch, and the other sources who attributed the document to John early on were doing so shortly after the apostle's death.

    You write:

    "Which is exactly why experts do take close looks at these type of things, such as the Ossuary of James."

    Earlier, you referred to the ossuary as a forgery. Now you're using it as an example of how we should "take a close look". Who suggested otherwise?

    You write:

    "I really am here to learn and I enjoy getting an opening salvo from you. You usually give me something useful. But after a while you start drifting in to this sophistry."

    I've cited extensive internal and external evidence for Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel. Your response has been to tell us that false document attribution sometimes occurs, that we should "take a close look", that Wikipedia refers to how some people consider Tertullian a sexist, etc. After putting up multiple posts on this subject over several days, you still haven't given us any reason to conclude that it's probable that John didn't author the fourth gospel. You're the one who's "drifted into sophistry".

    You write:

    "You could call me if you wanted to understand, but it seems your goal is just to allay the concerns of fellow Christians publicly, not actually learn."

    I've read Raymond Brown, Pheme Perkins, Craig Keener, and other scholars on this subject. I own thousands of pages of commentary on this gospel, and I've read thousands of pages of patristic material, including the writings of the earliest sources to comment on the authorship of the fourth gospel. What am I supposed to "learn" by calling you on the telephone? If you had much of significance to offer, I think that your posts would have reflected it by now.

    You write:

    "It seems you have not done sufficient research on this topic. Richard Carrier accepts it and he is a degreed historian. Robert Price may not qualify as a historian, but he's a very smart guy. Even Mike Licona stated that during his debate with Barker. He (Price) accepts it."

    I'm aware of Richard Carrier's view on the subject. He's still working on his doctorate, but if you want to classify him as a historian based on his lower degrees or some other basis, I'll accept that. I've heard of Robert Price, but I'm not as familiar with him as I am with Richard Carrier. If you think that he's "a very smart guy", then let's include him also. You would only have a small fraction of historians. Robert Van Voorst writes:

    "The theory of Jesus' nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question....Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it [the theory that Jesus didn't exist] as effectively refuted." (Jesus Outside The New Testament [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000], pp. 14, 16)

    The sort of shift in belief among the early Christians that you're suggesting should have left explicit traces in the historical record. We should see the early Christians responding to other Christians who denied Jesus' historicity. We should see early opponents of Christianity arguing that they had no evidence of Jesus' existence. Much of what does occur among the early Christians and non-Christians, such as discussions of Jesus' tomb, shouldn't have occurred if the earliest Christians believed in a non-historical Jesus. The early Christians believed that they were in contact with relatives of Jesus for several decades. Etc. The theory that Jesus didn't exist is highly speculative and is inconsistent with many lines of evidence.

    You write:

    "Also, incidentally, I asked Robert Price about James White's criticism of him. I can share if you are interested."

    It would be better to send James White an e-mail about it or call his webcast. I don't have much familiarity with Price or the circumstances surrounding what James White mentioned on his webcast.

    You write:

    "As I said above, you had argued that the integrity of the early Christians is demonstrative of their claims. My rebuttal is that they don't seem to be men of extraordinary integrity."

    They wouldn't have to have "extraordinary integrity" in order to be honest enough for their authorship attributions to be reliable. Similarly, the ancient Jews, ancient Romans, early Americans, etc. don't have to have "extraordinary integrity" in order for us to accept their authorship attributions. You still haven't shown a logical connection between Tertullian's comments on women and the concept that the ancient Christians in general were unreliable on issues of authorship attribution.

    You write:

    "If you don't think the inherent morality is relevant to their claims about authorship of texts, why did you raise the issue as evidence in support of your claims?"

    I didn't deny that moral standards are relevant. What I denied is that citing something like a passage in Tertullian about the guilt of women is sufficient grounds for doubting the ethical standards of the ancient Christians in general relative to authorship attribution. Again, you need to explain how we get from Tertullian's view of women to the conclusion that we can't trust what the ancient Christians said about the authorship of John's gospel.

    You write:

    "Why would I attempt to clarify so quickly then?"

    Because James White corrected you.

    You write:

    "I've read FF Bruce, much of Geisler's General Introduction to the Bible, and other books on this topic."

    Yet, you put your comment to James White in the form of a question, and you've acknowledged that your comment about the third century was wrong. You're arguing that the error isn't of much significance, but it was an error. Whatever you may have read in the past, the argument you used in your discussion with James White was incorrect, even if we accept your claim that you were changing topics from "the New Testament" to Matthew 17 in mid-sentence.

    You write:

    "It's not so much that I forgot them. I just don't regard them as at all reasonable."

    If you consider my arguments unreasonable, then why did you say that you would look further into what C.E.B. Cranfield wrote on the subject after I cited him? You never refuted my argument, but instead you assert without evidence that it's "not at all reasonable". Similarly, your response to James White was to speculate that the text might have been altered without leaving any trace in the manuscript record. The evidence we've cited from the text and the Jewish context is better than your non-responses and speculations about unproveable textual corruptions.

    You write:

    "Even if I were to grant that your explanation is a possibility you should recognize that there is another possibility. Possibly it was really intended in the way I understand it, and possibly it's a mistake. Not only is that possible, it's probable."

    If you want us to agree with you, then you have to argue for your position. Speculating that there might have been a textual corruption doesn't make it probable that such a thing occurred. Similarly, when I cite C.E.B. Cranfield, D.A. Carson, and other scholars making relevant comments about the text and context, you have to do more than just tell us that you aren't convinced. You have to interact with the details of the arguments you've been presented with. You haven't done that on this issue. During our discussion on Greg Krehbiel's board, you didn't interact with most of what I presented on this issue. Telling us that you're unconvinced isn't equivalent to showing that our arguments are faulty.

    You write:

    "Why say 'Some standing here will not taste death' if you're talking about events that will occur in six (or eight) days?"

    I've already addressed that argument. You never interacted with my citation of C.E.B. Cranfield on the subject. Either you forgot about my citation or you're just repeating your question without interacting with that citation. Either way, you need to interact with the evidence you've been presented with.

    You write:

    "I said the text was third century. According to my source it's actually the year 300. So it's one year into the 4th century. I'm off by a year."

    The book by Geisler and Nix that you cite in your latest post dates Vaticanus to c. 325-350 (A General Introduction To The Bible [Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1986], p. 391). Bruce Metzger explains that "The manuscript was written about the middle of the fourth century" (The Text Of The New Testament [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992], p. 47).

    You've given us the following web address:

    http://www.biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html

    But, as you've acknowledged, that same web site misled you on the contents of P45. The dates it gives are approximations. You should have known that approximations were being used, and you should have looked for another source after what happened with P45. Not all of the information at that site is reliable, but if you had scrolled down on the page you linked to, you would have seen P45 dated more generally at "200-250", even though it's at "250" on the chart. Vaticanus can't be set at the year 300, as if we have evidence leading us to that specific year.

    You write:

    "But it doesn't make me ignorant. Most Christians can't even articulate Doherty's thesis let alone evaluate it."

    The issue isn't whether you know more about Earl Doherty's theory than most Christians. Most Christians wouldn't be able to articulate the latest theory about Jesus' identity as a space alien, nor would they be able to evaluate it. There are major problems with the concept that Jesus didn't exist, regardless of how knowledgeable most Christians are about Earl Doherty's form of the theory.

    You write:

    "Have you read his rebuttal to Licona? Are you truly the one that is ignorant on this subject, as you are on skepticism in general?"

    No, I haven't read Doherty's response to Licona, and I doubt that more than a small fraction of Biblical scholars or historians of ancient Israel have read it, if any of them have. Does anybody have to read Doherty's article in order to be confident that Jesus existed? No. Have you read all of the responses to Earl Doherty by Christopher Price, J.P. Holding, and other people? I've read scholars who are more qualified than Doherty, and I've read thousands of pages of the earliest Christians' writings, including all of the earliest patristic sources. Have you?

    You write:

    "If you can't go to Wikipedia and type in the relevant keywords, I guess I can provide you with the link"

    As I explained to you before, here's what you wrote that I objected to in the other thread:

    "Polycarp doesn't quote the gospel in his surviving letter, and Irenaeus memories of him are childhood memories. He doesn't distinguish which John it is that Polycarp knew." (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/who-wrote-gospel-of-john.html)

    As I've explained, your assessment of Irenaeus is false. He had more than childhood memories to go by, and he refers to Polycarp as a disciple of the apostle John, son of Zebedee. Since you mentioned Polycarp, I went to the Wikipedia article about Polycarp. But now you're claiming that you had another article in mind, namely:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Johannine_works

    Even if this second article supported your claim, the fact would remain that the other Wikipedia article doesn't, and I've given you documentation from the writings of Irenaeus. For you to keep citing Wikipedia, even when you're given documentation to the contrary of your conclusions, is unreasonable.

    You write:

    "Your theoretical conception of how it might not be a problem does not prove that it is not a problem."

    You cited the number of textual variants relative to the number of words in the Bible. I responded by explaining that such a number of variants is minor in light of the entire textual record. The number of variants doesn't lead us to your conclusion. If you now want to argue that some other element of those variants, such as their content, is what's problematic, then you can do so. But that's not what you originally argued, and you haven't given us any documentation yet.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Just a couple of comments.

    First I want to give you credit for your C.E.B. Cranfield commentary. The reason I said nothing about it with James White is because truthfully I did not understand it. But since your latest post I went back to it and reflected on it. I've finally gasped it. That is very creative, and does result in a possible explanation. Now, I don't buy it. I don't think it is a natural reading of the passage, and I think this is evidenced by the fact that James White, who knows the Bible well enough to know the original languages, did not see it. But I admit it does provide a way of escaping the "six days later" problem, which is the problem I emphasized on my second call with White. Now, it still doesn't absolve the context problem I discussed on my first call, which appears to be discussing the end judgement, but I think this was the weaker of my two points indicating that this was talking about the end judgement as opposed to the transfiguration.

    But again, I want to emphasize the point I made last time. Though you have a possible explanation for the problem, this doesn't mean your understanding was right. It still could be that it should be understood as the context indicates and as the natural reading that James White and I (and probably anybody else that hasn't seen C.E.B. Cranfield's commentary, whether we're talking about C.S. Lewis, who has no predisposition to find errors in Christ's words, or preterists, who probably understand the difficulties they are undertaking by talking about these days as if they are the glory days but do so anyway because they see denying my understanding of the text as an even larger problem) both see. I say this because I'm often told that I'm crazy for not recognizing this is not a problem. Or I'm told that I must have some bias that prevents me from seeing this text for what it really means.

    Again though, hat tip to you. I've learned something from you so I'm pleased. It makes the insults worth it in my view.

    "Jon-Why would I attempt to clarify so quickly then?

    Jason-Because James White corrected you."

    James White's correction consisted of four words. The first was "Uhm." The second was "no." He then said "they're" and "not." Based upon the information provided with those four words you believe I was able to recognize that in fact there were fragments from the second century, and since I now knew that, I should quickly respond to make it appear I'm specifically talking about Mt 17 and not the whole Bible, to make it appear that I wasn't actually mistaken?

    "We should see the early Christians responding to other Christians who denied Jesus' historicity. We should see early opponents of Christianity arguing that they had no evidence of Jesus' existence."

    Honestly this whole discussion is getting out of hand. This is just too much to cover here at this location. But I'm not unwilling to discuss any topic with you individually. We could talk about copyist textual modifications, the integrity of early Christians, we could talk about the Jesus myth view. With regards to your comments about the Jesus myth view, in fact we see precisely what you describe above in the early Christian record. You don't think you could learn anything from me by way of phone, but these comments here expose you as being completely ignorant of the arguments about Jesus as myth. Even superficial exposure would have prevented you from making the statment above. You have a lot to learn, as I do and as everybody does.

    ReplyDelete
  42. It's probably worth pointing out though, just so you don't get the wrong idea, that a commentary by an inerrantist is not a proof. I'm impressed that there's a theoretically possible way to squeeze out of what the text says. But I want to emphasize that this doesn't make it so. Lot's of commentators think differently. I copied this from preteristarchive.com

    3/1/4: Prophets and Prophecy - "Jesus specifically told his disciples that he would return within their lifetimes. "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Paul also predicted that Jesus would return within their lifetimes.. So, we can see that Paul predicted an event that did not come about... Moses taught us that this is how we know that people like Paul were false prophets."

    Jewish view of failure of Christ's return - "Jesus did not come back "quickly," as promised, to judge mankind. The time has long past that one can claim Jesus will come back "quickly." Thus, what we have in Revelation 22:20 is a false prophecy." Jews for Judaism
    - "These various statements reveal that the myth of the "second coming" was explained in different ways as the interval following Jesus' death lengthened." Jews for Judaism
    - "Apparently, the early Christian community was convinced of the imminent return of Jesus, as the Messiah, and the inauguration of the kingdom of God. It never happened." Jews for Judaism
    - "The expectation of Paul and the other New Testament authors was for the speedy arrival of the second coming in their generation. The use of "for yet a little while," "shortly," "the time is near," and "I am coming quickly" point to the utter failure of the predictions that Jesus was coming a second time to do what he did not accomplish the first time." Jews for Judaism
    - "There was to be fulfillment within the lifetimes of certain individuals alive at the time Jesus made the promise and following upon certain cataclysmic events which were to be witnessed by that generation. These events never occurred and the time for their occurrence has long since passed." Jews for Judaism
    - "The second epistle of Peter is a late attempt to explain away the obvious fact that the second coming did not arrive at its appointed time." Jews for Judaism
    - "It should be noted that these "tribulations" were not fulfilled in the events of the years 66-73 C.E., the period of the First Jewish-Roman War. Jesus' own statement shows that the culmination of the "tribulation period" was to see the parousia, the second coming of Jesus (Mark 13:26; Matthew 24:3, 30), which certainly did not occur during the war nor subsequently." Jews for Judaism

    Max I. Dimont (1971)
    "Like the Christians, who continually had to postpone Judgment Day because Jesus failed to keep his appointment for a second coming, so the Jews, from century to century, had to postpone the arrival date of their messiah by new calculation." (The Indestructible Jews, p. 174)

    John P. Meier
    "And he said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power [en dunamei]'." - Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28 // Luke 9:27)

    "(This saying was) most likely...produced by early Christians who sought to reassure themselves of Christ's coming in glory as the years passed by with no parousia in sight." (John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.)

    Rudolph Bultmann (1961)
    "The mythical eschatology is untenable for the simple reason that the parousia of Christ never took place as the New Testament expected.. (Kerygma and Myth, p.5)

    Nils Alstrup Dahl (1977)
    "Today, nineteen hundred years later, we know that the future did not unfold as Paul had hoped and expected. His journey to Jerusalem with the collection he had gathered did not excite the envy of his compatriots in the way he had hoped. Israel has not accepted Christ, the parousia has not yet occurred." (Studies in Paul, p. 157)

    House and Thomas Ice
    "It is probably true that the disciples thought of the three events (the destruction of the temple, the second coming, and the end of the age) as one event. But as was almost always the case, they were wrong." (House and Ice, Dominion Theology, p. 271)

    W. G. Kummell (1957)
    "Therefore it is impossible to eliminate the concepts of time and with it the 'futurist' eschatology from the eschatological message of Jesus (and from the New Testament altogether);.. Jesus does not only proclaim in quite general terms the future coming of the Kingdom of God, but also its imminence. What is more: on the one hand he emphasized this so concretely that he limited it to the lifetime of his hearers' generation; yet on the other hand he only expected a part of them to live to experience this eschatological event; so he did not wish to limit its proximity too closely. It is perfectly clear that this prediction of Jesus was not realized and it is therefore impossible to assert that Jesus was not mistaken about this." (Promise and Fulfillment, p. 148, 149)

    C.S. Lewis (1960)
    "Say what you like," we shall be told, "the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else."

    It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side....

    The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined." (Essay "The World's Last Night" (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)

    The Pulpit Commentary (On 1 John 2:18)
    "The last hour can only mean the last hour before the second coming of Christ. Nothing but the unwillingness of Christians to admit that an apostle, and especially the apostle St. john, could seem to be much in error about the nearness of the day of judgment, could have raised a question about language so plain.. But it may very reasonably and reverently be asked, What becomes of the inspiration of Scripture if an inspired writer tells the church that the end of the world is near, when it is not near? The question of inspiration must follow that of interpretation, not lead it. Let us patiently examine the facts, and then try to frame a theory of inspiration that will cover them; not first frame our theory, and then force the facts to agree with it."

    H. J. Schoeps (1961)
    "It is undeniable that Paul, with the whole of primitive Christianity, erred about the imminently expected parousia." (The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, p. 46)

    "the objective course of world history has belied New Testament eschatology." (ibid. p 46)

    ReplyDelete
  43. Jon Curry wrote:

    "First I want to give you credit for your C.E.B. Cranfield commentary. The reason I said nothing about it with James White is because truthfully I did not understand it. But since your latest post I went back to it and reflected on it. I've finally gasped it."

    I don't know why it would take you so long to understand it. Shouldn't you have thought about it more or asked for clarification before you continued discussing the passage?

    You write:

    "I don't think it is a natural reading of the passage, and I think this is evidenced by the fact that James White, who knows the Bible well enough to know the original languages, did not see it."

    You can't dismiss my argument about Matthew 16 on the basis of whether James White mentioned it when you called his webcast. The fact that he knows Greek doesn't mean that he knows every passage and all of the issues relevant to each passage as well as he could. My reading of Matthew 16 isn't determined by language alone, so knowledge of Greek, by itself, wouldn't make my reading obvious. I don't know whether James White is aware of my interpretation or whether he agrees with it. If he isn't aware of it, or doesn't consider it the best explanation of the passage, we can't conclude that the interpretation therefore is probably incorrect. When you asked him about your interpretation of the phrase in question, you said that you didn't mention this issue in your first call to him, because you were "very nervous". Why couldn't a similar explanation be applied to his not arguing for my interpretation? What if the phrase you were asking him about is one that he hadn't studied much? What if he wasn't expecting you to call again and wasn't as well prepared as he could have been? Etc.

    But, all of that aside, I see no reason to think that your suggestion that James White wasn't aware of my interpretation is correct. His response to your question was to tell you that Jesus was using a Jewish figure of speech that didn't have the same meaning then that you apply to it today. He asked you, "How did Jewish people talk in that particular day?" We don't know whether James White had my interpretation in mind or something else in mind, because he didn't go on to explain his answer in that sort of detail. Your appeal to James White, then, is unconvincing.

    My interpretation explains why the Mount of Transfiguration follows Jesus' comments in all three gospels. It explains why Luke seems to connect Jesus' comments with the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9:28. It explains why Acts 1:7 refers to Jesus' disciples as ignorant of the "times and epochs" of Jesus' return (not just the day and hour), whereas your interpretation has them knowing that it will happen within a generation. D.A. Carson suggests that Matthew 16:24-28 is a chiasm in which verses 24 and 28 refer to events of the immediate future prior to the second coming (The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Chapters 13 Through 28 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995], p. 382). And why do the later New Testament documents and early patristic documents interact with a wide variety of arguments against Christianity, but never respond to an accusation that Jesus made a false prophecy? That accusation didn't come until later in church history.

    You've suggested a textual corruption of Matthew's gospel in which the Mount of Transfiguration account was inserted, but you have no evidence for it in the manuscript record or anywhere else. And what about the same sequence in the gospels of Mark and Luke? Were their texts corrupted also? If the early Christians were willing and able to change the text in such a manner, why didn't they just remove all of these passages that allegedly refer to the second coming happening within a generation? If you're going to argue that they couldn't remove the passages, because people would notice and object, then how would they be able to add the account of the Mount of Transfiguration without people noticing and objecting?

    Furthermore, you don't seem to realize that your interpretation doesn't follow even if we accept your reading of the reference to not tasting death. Have you consulted any commentaries on Matthew that address this issue in depth? D.A. Carson and Craig Keener, for example, in their commentaries on Matthew, or Darrell Bock on Luke, for instance, give examples of a wide variety of views held by scholars across the spectrum. Carson, for example, doesn't hold my view, but argues instead that seeing the kingdom involved "the manifestation of Christ's kingly reign exhibited after the Resurrection in a host of ways" (ibid., p. 382). Similarly, Jesus refers to His kingdom coming in other contexts that can't possibly have the second coming in view, such as in Matthew 12:28 or in Luke 22:69, where Jesus' reign is "from now on". The theme of God's kingdom in the gospels is presented in a series of phases and contexts. Your assumption that the second coming is in view in Matthew 16:28 is highly questionable.

    And your reference to inerrantist scholars is misleading, given that an inerrantist's interpretation can be correct without having support from other scholars and given that inerrantists aren't the only ones who reject your reading. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990), for example, is a liberal commentary edited by Roman Catholic scholars who weren't inerrantists, and it makes some of the same points I've made in its comments on this saying of Jesus in the Synoptics. See also the comments on the spectrum of scholarly views in the commentaries by Carson, Keener, and Bock, mentioned above.

    You write:

    "Based upon the information provided with those four words you believe I was able to recognize that in fact there were fragments from the second century, and since I now knew that, I should quickly respond to make it appear I'm specifically talking about Mt 17 and not the whole Bible, to make it appear that I wasn't actually mistaken?"

    Apparently, you knew that James White was more familiar with the textual record than you are. That's why you would put your comment in the form of a question. Given the fact that you had just referred to "the New Testament", not Matthew 17, and given the fact that you referred to various people modifying the text (a concept you acknowledge isn't related to Matthew 17), and given the fact that you used the plural "copies", every indication was that you had the New Testament in general in view, not the first copy (singular) of Matthew 17. But now you claim that you had only Matthew 17 in mind, despite the language you used, although your comment was erroneous even if we accept your claim about what your intention was. The issue, then, is which error you committed. Either way, you were wrong. You then committed another error in citing P45. Then you committed another error in dating Vaticanus. There's no way for me to know whether you meant to say something other than what you seemed to say on James White's webcast, but your record of errors on textual issues (and not just the ones I've mentioned here) doesn't speak well for your knowledge of the subject when you spoke with James White.

    You write:

    "You don't think you could learn anything from me by way of phone, but these comments here expose you as being completely ignorant of the arguments about Jesus as myth."

    That's easy to claim, but you haven't given us any evidence.

    You write:

    "It's probably worth pointing out though, just so you don't get the wrong idea, that a commentary by an inerrantist is not a proof."

    I didn't claim that a commentary is proof. I'm appealing to the concept C.E.B. Cranfield described. I'm not arguing that I'm correct just because C.E.B. Cranfield said it, although he was a highly regarded scholar. The quotes that you go on to produce from preteristarchive.com are only partly about Matthew 16, and when they address that passage, they don't say anything that refutes what I've argued.

    You write:

    "I'm impressed that there's a theoretically possible way to squeeze out of what the text says."

    That's another unproven assertion. I've given you textual and contextual evidence for my interpretation (the use of chiasm, the fact that the Mount of Transfiguration immediately follows, Luke 9:28, Acts 1:7, etc.), and your latest response is to appeal to James White and what some sources quoted at preteristarchive.com said. While I appeal primarily to textual and contextual evidence in addition to the outside sources I cite, you appeal primarily to outside sources (James White, Jews for Judaism, Max Dimont, etc.). I'm not "squeezing out of" anything. You're the one who's suggesting a textual corruption for which you have no manuscript or other evidence. I haven't suggested anything that unnatural.

    ReplyDelete
  44. "I don't know why it would take you so long to understand it. Shouldn't you have thought about it more or asked for clarification before you continued discussing the passage?"

    Well, it's a very unnatural reading. Secondly, I have to pick my targets with you. Partly just to try and focus our discussion and partly because of time constraints. You've brought up the Jesus myth view, Mt 16, my knowledge of the manuscript evidence, etc. None of these had any direct bearing on the conversation we were involved in and these are quite involved topics so I don't really want to go into them in any depth at this time. I'd rather you picked a subject and stayed with it. Looks like now you are picking Jesus prediction of his return, so I'll focus more on that.

    "You can't dismiss my argument about Matthew 16 on the basis of whether James White mentioned it when you called his webcast."

    I didn't dismiss it. I said this is evidence that your reading is not natural.

    "When you asked him about your interpretation of the phrase in question, you said that you didn't mention this issue in your first call to him, because you were "very nervous". Why couldn't a similar explanation be applied to his not arguing for my interpretation?"

    Do you really think that a guy that's done 60 public debates was nervous about taking a call from me? I don't think so.

    "His response to your question was to tell you that Jesus was using a Jewish figure of speech that didn't have the same meaning then that you apply to it today."

    No, that's not what he said. He said there are a lot of texts that may sound one way to our ears but sound different to an ancient person. I agree with that. But I asked him if they would understand this particular passage differently and he never answered. In fact he changed the subject to me as a "former believer."

    "He asked you, "How did Jewish people talk in that particular day?" We don't know whether James White had my interpretation in mind or something else in mind, because he didn't go on to explain his answer in that sort of detail. Your appeal to James White, then, is unconvincing."

    He didn't go into detail despite the fact that he was asked to go into detail directly and he responded by changing the subject. It seems that my appeal to James White in fact is convincing. If he was aware of your modified interpretation he would have suggested it at that time in resposne to the direct question. He didn't see it. I didn't see it. Dozens of commentators don't see it. It's not natural.

    "My interpretation explains why the Mount of Transfiguration follows Jesus' comments in all three gospels."

    What do you mean it "explains" it? Do you think it is inexplicable on my view? On my view it doesn't even require explanation. It's just the chronology that Mark offered, and Mt and Lk followed his lead.

    "It explains why Luke seems to connect Jesus' comments with the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9:28."

    He's just giving the same chronology that Mark is giving.

    "It explains why Acts 1:7 refers to Jesus' disciples as ignorant of the "times and epochs" of Jesus' return (not just the day and hour), whereas your interpretation has them knowing that it will happen within a generation."

    Youngs Literal Translation has "times and seasons." That's not the same as within a generation.

    "D.A. Carson suggests that Matthew 16:24-28 is a chiasm in which verses 24 and 28 refer to events of the immediate future prior to the second coming"

    Inerrantist wishful thinking does not count as an argument. I'm sure that's what he'd like it to mean.

    "And why do the later New Testament documents and early patristic documents interact with a wide variety of arguments against Christianity, but never respond to an accusation that Jesus made a false prophecy? That accusation didn't come until later in church history."

    Wrong. They did interact with this argument. Here is 2 Peter 3. We get an expression of the argument being made and the first instance of Christian excuse making. I've italicized the argument and excuse.

    "3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

    "You've suggested a textual corruption of Matthew's gospel in which the Mount of Transfiguration account was inserted, but you have no evidence for it in the manuscript record or anywhere else."

    No I have not argued for a textual corruption. You are misrepresenting me again. James White tried to turn this argument on me by saying if I want to follow such men as Robert Price with regards to dating, what sense does it make for them to put such a difficult text in that is already false at the time of the writing. I said that I don't know if I agree with them on their dating scheme. But I offered just as an FYI what they would say in response to him. I emphasized that this is what they say, not what I say because I don't know.

    Now I suppose you'll start word parsing and try to make my words mean something other than what I know I intended.

    "Your assumption that the second coming is in view in Matthew 16:28 is highly questionable."

    I'm not surprised that inerrantists hold a wide variety of views. I think this is because the meaning is fairly apparent, and it is apparently wrong. So some that want to show that it is not wrong will try one method (like you) and others will try a different method (like Carson) and others will try a different tack. But the overwhelming majority of those that have no prior theological committment all see the same thing. It's a prediction of an imminent return and it is false.

    The same is true of other faiths. For Roman Catholics there is a prior theological committment to the belief that Mary was ever virgin. So what to do with a text that indicates Jesus had blood relatives? Well, some will say it really means cousins. Others will say that these are half siblings from Joseph's prior marriage. If you were Catholic and I were Protestants you'd say "Have you consulted Cardinal Newman, Ludwig Ott, Hans Kung, Raymond Brown, Peter Kreeft? Why don't you do some research? Why don't you stop being lazy? You are ignorant, ignorant, ignorant" And I'd say "I don't consider the assertions of those with prior theological committments to be all that compelling."

    As far as the New Jerome Bible Commentary, you say they make "some of the same comments" you do. In what sense? In the sense of criticising them? Can you substantiate what you are implying?

    Now let's talk about a few of the things my understanding explains. As I said last time it explains the context of the passage much better. Here's the text, with emphasis.

    24Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and (AH)take up his cross and follow Me.

    25"For (AI)whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

    26"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

    27"For the (AJ)Son of Man (AK)is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and (AL)will then repay every man according to his deeds.

    28"Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the (AM)Son of Man (AN)coming in His kingdom."

    So Jesus is talking about obtaining eternal life. Consistent with the rest of the Bible he's expressing the urgency of the issue. So not only is it far more important to save your soul than to have a good life here, it's also something that needs to be done quickly, because some standing here will not taste death before the judgement comes. Notice also, Jesus is coming with angels. He's coming with judgement. None of those things are present at the Transfiguration.

    Your interpretation disconnects Jesus' thoughts. He talks about how important it is to get saved, then offers as a completely unrelated sidenote that some of the people will see him transfigured, while others will be dead and won't see it. So what? What does that have to do with getting saved? On my view the thought is coherent. Get saved and do so quickly because it's not going to be long before you're going to give an accounting.

    Now, if you want to talk about other verses that my understanding explains, consider the following:

    Mt 26:64-65 But Jesus kept silent And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."

    Caiphas is dead. He did not see what Jesus said he would see.

    Rev 1:7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

    Those that pierced him (the Roman soldiers) are now dead.

    Paul has the same mentality:

    I Cor 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, (i.e. die) but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

    I Thess 4:15-17 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

    Mt 24:34"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

    What does your New Jerome Bible Commentary say about that one?

    In addition we have the argument in the mouth of the "scoffers" expressed in 2 Peter 3. Where are they getting this notion that the "coming" would occur before the saints died? From Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn, I Cor, I Thess and probably oral Christian teaching as well.

    "Apparently, you knew that James White was more familiar with the textual record than you are. That's why you would put your comment in the form of a question."

    Of course James White knows more about the textual record than me.

    "The issue, then, is which error you committed. Either way, you were wrong."

    The issue is the question I just asked you. You've offered a lot of verbiage, but you haven't answered the question. You've asserted that I didn't know of 2nd century fragments. This is your grand piece of evidence of my ignorance. If that is true, why would I attempt to clarify White's similar misunderstanding on his webcast? You say it is because he corrected me. He offered 4 words of correction which consisted of no substance at all. So the question to you is, how is it that I was able to recognize my error and offer clarification based upon 4 words of correction that have absolutely no substance? Are you going to answer the question or ignore it again?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Jon Curry said:

    "Well, it's a very unnatural reading."

    How does the fact that you consider my reading of Matthew 16 "very unnatural" explain why it took you so long to understand what C.E.B. Cranfield wrote about the passage? Cranfield distinguished between experiencing something in this life and experiencing it in the next. Tell us what was difficult in understanding what he wrote.

    You write:

    "Secondly, I have to pick my targets with you. Partly just to try and focus our discussion and partly because of time constraints. You've brought up the Jesus myth view, Mt 16, my knowledge of the manuscript evidence, etc."

    As I explained before, you're the one who initiated this discussion, and you did it by addressing topics other than the one that originated this thread. Your first post in this thread accuses me of "man handling" the Bible without giving details, then goes on to mention your call to James White's webcast, the manuscript record, and how I allegedly think you "can say nothing sensical". It doesn't seem to me that you were trying to give the discussion much focus.

    You write:

    "Do you really think that a guy that's done 60 public debates was nervous about taking a call from me?"

    You didn't quote what I went on to say. I gave two examples, and neither was about nervousness.

    You write:

    "No, that's not what he said."

    Yes, it is. I quoted his own words. But you go on to say the same thing I was saying, even though you had just told me that I was wrong. You write:

    "He said there are a lot of texts that may sound one way to our ears but sound different to an ancient person."

    How is that different from what I said about his comments? It isn't. You go on to accuse him of "changing the subject", but whether he changed the subject doesn't change the fact that he argued that the phrase in question had a different meaning in its original context than you apply to it today.

    You write:

    "He didn't go into detail despite the fact that he was asked to go into detail directly and he responded by changing the subject. It seems that my appeal to James White in fact is convincing. If he was aware of your modified interpretation he would have suggested it at that time in resposne to the direct question. He didn't see it. I didn't see it. Dozens of commentators don't see it. It's not natural."

    You don't know what details James White had in mind, because he didn't explain. If he holds a view like the one advocated by D.A. Carson, he didn't explain that. If he holds a view like mine, he didn't explain that. He holds some view of the passage that involves at least a partial fulfillment in the Mount of Transfiguration, and he sees Jesus' comments about not tasting death as consistent with that view. We don't know what other details are involved, because he didn't explain. Whatever details he holds, he didn't address them. Your assumption that he would have mentioned more details if he held my view doesn't make sense. Whatever view he holds, it would involve more details. The fact that he didn't address more details doesn't tell us which view he holds.

    And your appeal to "dozens of commentators" is insufficient. Millions of people have commented on this passage in one context or another over the centuries. I don't know which "dozens" you have in mind, but your vague appeal to "dozens" doesn't accomplish much. The fact that three gospel authors recorded Jesus' statement and the fact that none of the earliest Christians were responding to accusations that Jesus made a false prophecy are far more significant pieces of evidence against your view than your vague reference to "dozens of commentators" is against mine.

    Furthermore, if you're so concerned about determining natural interpretations by popularity, how popular is your interpretation of Paul and other sources with regard to whether Jesus existed as a historical figure? How many people have agreed with Earl Doherty's reading of Paul and other ancient sources that supposedly didn't believe in an earthly Jesus?

    You write:

    "It's just the chronology that Mark offered, and Mt and Lk followed his lead."

    Then why did Mark place it there to begin with, and why did Matthew and Luke follow his chronology on this point while putting things in different order elsewhere?

    You write:

    "He's just giving the same chronology that Mark is giving."

    Luke includes a reference to "these sayings" (Luke 9:28), which makes the connection even stronger.

    There are other connections with the surrounding context as well. Joel Green notes:

    "When will 'some' see this? In the immediately adjacent scene, three disciples 'see' Jesus n his glory, the glory of the Son of Man (vv 26, 32). That is, those who witness the transfiguration of Jesus (vv 28-36) witness thereby, albeit in a proleptic way, the kingdom of God....The question of Jesus' identity - raised explicitly in the Lukan report concerning Herod's perplexity (vv 7-9) and again by Jesus (vv 18, 20) - has not been fully resolved....In short, in the transfiguration scene Jesus and his words, even when they are unconventional or seem bizarre, receive divine sanction." (The Gospel Of Luke [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997], pp. 376-377)

    Green goes on to discuss many other points, such as the fact that the accounts of both Luke 9:18-27 and 9:28-36 begin with prayer. Luke 9:8 and 9:19 mention the belief of some that Jesus was Elijah, whereas 9:30-33 has Elijah witnessing Jesus' Divine sanction as the Son of God. Etc. It does seem that the Mount of Transfiguration is meant to be a confirmation of what had been discussed among Jesus and His disciples (and others earlier). Some of the same parallels exist in the accounts of Mark and Matthew, but Luke seems to put the most emphasis on them. The Mount of Transfiguration glorifies Christ, and other passages refer to the kingdom of God being manifested in the present (I gave examples in my last reply in this thread), so what happens just after Jesus' comment in all three gospels does sufficiently explain that comment.

    You write:

    "Youngs Literal Translation has 'times and seasons.' That's not the same as within a generation."

    That's the point. The same Luke who wrote Luke 9:27 also wrote Acts 1:7. The reason why people wouldn't even know the general time or epoch (or season) is because there wasn't any assurance that it would happen within a generation.

    You write:

    "Inerrantist wishful thinking does not count as an argument. I'm sure that's what he'd like it to mean."

    None of your dismissive comments refute his argument.

    You write:

    "Wrong. They did interact with this argument. Here is 2 Peter 3."

    2 Peter 3 says nothing about any false prophecy. There's no attempt to explain what Jesus said in Matthew 16. It's about why the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10, 3:12), which is an Old Testament concept, hasn't occurred yet. The context is about Old Testament promises, not a statement of Jesus in the gospels. That's why there's a reference to "His coming", referring to God in general, not Jesus in particular, and Peter goes on to refer to parallels to Old Testament judgment and Psalm 90:4. The reference to "fathers" in 2 Peter 3:4 most likely has Old Testament patriarchs in view, not Christians. That term is applied to Old Testament figures frequently, but none of the earliest Christians apply it to other Christians. In other words, this objection Peter is addressing is an objection about the continuity of events since Old Testament times, not just since Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 16. Their focus is on what's happened "from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:4), not whether a particular saying of Jesus had been fulfilled. The "promise" of 2 Peter 3:4 is associated with the new heavens and new earth in 2 Peter 3:13, which suggests that what 2 Peter 3 has in mind is the Old Testament promise of a day of the Lord that would transform the universe. Jesus' second coming would be relevant, but it isn't the focus, much less is its specific form in the saying of Matthew 16 Peter's focus.

    Compare 2 Peter 3:4 to Isaiah 5:19, Jeremiah 17:15, and Ezekiel 12:22. The theme of people being impatient about the fulfillment of God's promises is a common theme in scripture. The fact that people are impatient in the New Testament era, as they were in the Old Testament era, doesn't prove that Jesus made a promise that His second coming would occur within a generation. You're assuming that the reason why people are asking why the day of the Lord hasn't come yet is because of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:28. Nothing in 2 Peter suggests that, and a promise of a second coming of Jesus within a generation isn't the only explanation for why people would question God's promises.

    Your interpretation also fails to make sense of 2 Peter 3:9. Peter tells his readers that the fulfillment is yet in the future, which is an interpretation that wouldn't make sense if he was trying to explain Matthew 16:28 as a reference to the second coming after that generation had passed. In other words, if the generation Jesus referred to was dead, and 2 Peter 3 was attempting to explain why the second coming hadn't happened yet, then it would make no sense for 2 Peter 3 to explain Jesus' comment as a reference to a second coming that was yet future. If Peter was trying to explain what happened within the first generation of Christians that had already passed, he wouldn't argue that something in the future will fulfill it. Rather, he would argue that something in the past fulfilled it. Yet, 2 Peter 3:9 has something future in view.

    2 Peter 3 makes sense as a discussion of the Old Testament theme of the day of the Lord, but it doesn't make sense as a discussion of Matthew 16:28. 2 Peter 3 is much like other passages we see in the Old Testament about people questioning God's promises, and the themes Peter mentions are Old Testament themes.

    Your argument from 2 Peter 3 is erroneous, so my point stands. The earliest Christians show no indication of having to explain a false prophecy of Jesus. Instead, the earliest Christians speak of their eschatology as if it's a repetition of what the apostles had taught, and Jesus' comments are recorded in three gospels and aren't removed or changed in the later copies of those gospels. The sort of major, widespread disappointment and counterarguments that we would expect, if your reading of Matthew 16 was correct, didn't happen.

    You write:

    "But I offered just as an FYI what they would say in response to him. I emphasized that this is what they say, not what I say because I don't know."

    Then you went on to defend their argument against James White's objections, and you've continued to do so at this web site.

    But if you don't want to defend the argument for textual corruption in Matthew 17, then are you saying that you believe that the Synoptic gospels were written while Jesus' generation was still alive? If so, then that earliness has significant implications for the gospels' credibility and for theories like Earl Doherty's. If, on the other hand, the gospels were written later, then why would they include a prediction of Jesus known to be false? Or do you view the situation in some other way? I'm trying to understand just how you think these things fit together.

    You write:

    "I'm not surprised that inerrantists hold a wide variety of views."

    First of all, if inerrantists hold a variety of views on this subject, then you can't refute the inerrantist position by interacting with only one of those views. Secondly, I didn't only cite inerrantists. I gave examples of non-inerrantists who hold a similar view.

    You write:

    "But the overwhelming majority of those that have no prior theological committment all see the same thing."

    So you claim, but you've given us no documentation. The commentaries by Keener, Bock, etc. that I referred to earlier are by New Testament scholars who name names and who are much more familiar with the scholarship than you are. I accept their word over yours.

    But, again, how consistent are you with your appeal to the majority? There are far more scholars who hold my view of Matthew 16 or something similar to it than hold your view of Jesus' non-existence or Earl Doherty's view of some of the passages in Paul's writings, for example.

    You write:

    "The same is true of other faiths. For Roman Catholics there is a prior theological committment to the belief that Mary was ever virgin. So what to do with a text that indicates Jesus had blood relatives? Well, some will say it really means cousins. Others will say that these are half siblings from Joseph's prior marriage."

    And others, like those who deny Jesus' historical existence, will say that the "brothers of Jesus" are members of a group by that name, not blood relatives of Jesus. Considering that you hold to the position that Jesus didn't exist, and that you would therefore have to apply a less natural meaning to passages about Jesus' relatives in Paul's writings, much as Roman Catholics do, I would say that your comments apply to you far more than they apply to me. You've asserted that my interpretations are like Roman Catholic interpretations, but you haven't proven it. I, on the other hand, can cite a highly similar parallel between your own example (Jesus' relatives) and your own belief system. People who believe that Jesus didn't exist don't have much credibility in objecting to the allegedly unnatural interpretations of other people.

    You write:

    "As far as the New Jerome Bible Commentary, you say they make 'some of the same comments' you do. In what sense? In the sense of criticising them?"

    No, in the sense of agreeing with them. I'm not going to type out everything contained in the commentaries, but an example is Robert Karris' comments on Luke's account. He takes a view similar to D.A. Carson's, and he makes points similar to the ones I've made regarding connections between the earlier parts of Luke 9 and the Mount of Transfiguration account.

    You write:

    "So not only is it far more important to save your soul than to have a good life here, it's also something that needs to be done quickly, because some standing here will not taste death before the judgement comes. Notice also, Jesus is coming with angels. He's coming with judgement. None of those things are present at the Transfiguration."

    You're assuming your interpretation in order to argue for it. Whether Jesus is referring to judgment coming before some of His listeners die is the issue we're debating. You can't assume your conclusion in order to argue for it.

    Your argument is also fallacious in that you're using verse 27 of Matthew 16 to qualify verse 28. But that, again, assumes the correctness of your view. Under my view, verse 28 is about how some people will see Jesus' glory in this life, then will die. What they'll see will be a foretaste of Jesus' later glory at His second coming. My view doesn't anticipate seeing the details of Matthew 16:27 in the Mount of Transfiguration. Rather, it anticipates seeing the details of verse 28.

    You write:

    "Your interpretation disconnects Jesus' thoughts. He talks about how important it is to get saved, then offers as a completely unrelated sidenote that some of the people will see him transfigured, while others will be dead and won't see it."

    Why would my view of verse 28 be "completely unrelated" to verse 27? It isn't. My view of verse 28 involves a foretaste of Jesus' glory mentioned in verse 27, a foretaste that all three gospels go on to describe just after Jesus' comments.

    Likewise, your references to Caiaphas and the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus are incorrect, since the future judgment involves both the living and the dead (Matthew 25:32, John 5:28-29). That's why Revelation 1:7 refers to "every eye". The phrase "hereafter" in Matthew 26:64 means "from this point forward" (Craig Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], n. 120 on p. 650), as in Luke 22:69. Jesus is using the familiar language of Daniel 7 to address His spiritual status. There would be an eventual fulfillment in His second coming, and Caiaphas would witness that event as well (after his death).

    Your references to 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 are likewise irrelevant, since the "we" can refer to believers in general, not just the earliest Christians.

    Regarding Matthew 24, I already addressed that passage in our discussion at Greg Krehbiel's board. You didn't interact with what I presented then, and I'm not going to repeat everything I said. I gave you a link to an article on the subject by Glenn Miller, and I made some points of my own.

    Briefly, the "all these things" of Matthew 24:34 is referring to the immediate context in verses 32-33. Those verses are about general signs, like the leaves of a fig tree (verse 32). Those signs lead up to the end, but don't include the end itself. The "all these things" in verse 34 (which is the same phrase used in verse 33 to refer to what happens before the second coming) would refer to the signs of verses 32-33, not the second coming itself. And those signs were seen by Jesus' generation, especially in the destruction of Jerusalem. The point is that Jesus' second coming could occur even in His own generation, since the signs would occur even that early, but there was no assurance that He would return in that generation.

    You write:

    "What does your New Jerome Bible Commentary say about that one?"

    Daniel Harrington, commenting on Mark 13:30, writes that "The phrase 'all these things' must refer to the events leading up to the Son of Man's coming (see 13:29), though it may have been taken by early Christians as referring to Jesus' death and resurrection or to the destruction of Jerusalem (see Mark 9:1). The definiteness of the saying is blunted by 13:32." (p. 624)

    Benedict Viviano, commenting on Matthew 24:34, suggests that "The death and resurrection of Jesus as an anticipated parousia fulfill part of it, as does the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, but neither fulfills 'all these things.' The greatest event, the coming of the Son of Man with the kingdom, is still to come (5:18). Matthew's answer to this difficulty begins in v 36 and continues to the end of chap. 25, concerning the unknown day and hour and the delay of the parousia." (pp. 667-668)

    The commentary on Luke doesn't address Luke 21:32.

    As I said before, there's a wide variety of views of these passages you've been citing, including among non-inerrantists. Many non-inerrantists are more reasonable than you are in interpreting the documents. They know more about and give more attention to historical context than you do, and many of them aren't trying to justify their rejection of Christianity in the manner you are.

    Would you like me to also cite what these scholars think of the theory that Jesus didn't exist?

    You write:

    "In addition we have the argument in the mouth of the 'scoffers' expressed in 2 Peter 3. Where are they getting this notion that the 'coming' would occur before the saints died?"

    Again, the term "the fathers" in 2 Peter 3:4 is never applied to Christians by the earliest Christian sources. As Thomas Schreiner notes, even advocates of your view of the phrase admit that no other Christian of the earliest generations uses the term in that manner (1, 2 Peter, Jude: The New American Commentary [Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman, 2003], p. 373 and n. 22 on p. 373). In contrast, the phrase "the fathers" is repeatedly applied to figures of the Old Testament era (John 6:58, 7:22, Acts 13:32, Romans 9:5, 11:28, 15:8, Hebrews 1:1). You're wrong about 2 Peter 3:4, and you're wrong about the larger context of 2 Peter 3. The second coming of Christ is relevant to what Peter is discussing, but the focus is on Old Testament themes such as the day of the Lord and the promised new heavens and new earth.

    Even if we granted the concept that 2 Peter 3:4 is referring to the recent deaths of Christians (a conclusion that's contrary to the evidence), it doesn't therefore follow that a promise that Jesus would return within His generation is in view. People can question God's delaying of fulfillment even if no timeframe of one generation had been established. Your argument, then, is doubly erroneous. You're misinterpreting the context, and even if the context was what Jesus taught about His second coming, it wouldn't follow that people were questioning it because it was promised to happen within that generation.

    You write:

    "So the question to you is, how is it that I was able to recognize my error and offer clarification based upon 4 words of correction that have absolutely no substance? Are you going to answer the question or ignore it again?"

    I didn't ignore it. You knew that James White had more knowledge of the textual record than you do. When he corrected you, you might have accepted the correction because you knew that he had more knowledge of the subject. As I said before, there's no way for me to know what was in your mind. I have to go by the evidence available to me. Given the language you used and your errors since that discussion with James White occurred, it seems likely to me that you were as ignorant of the textual record as I suggested you were.

    ReplyDelete