Friday, February 01, 2008

Grammatico-historical exegesis

“Words only have meaning within the code of their own language system and in their historical context. Exegesis assumes that the biblical writer is historically conditioned so that he is drawing on the same pool of words, idioms, motifs, and historical situations as his historical audience—a pool that is not shared by us today. Later audiences are historically conditioned by different environments from that of the original writer…But the ancient pool of the biblical writer’s world can be reconstructed with reasonable certainty and completeness through the disciplines of grammar, history, and literature,” B. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan 2007), 86.

“The process may be called reconstruction, because the Old Testament texts ere written in a different world from ours. We not only need to be aware of, but we must expect and respect this historical distance. To bridge this historical distance, we use the grammatico-historical method that allows us to piece together words, phrases, and historical situations while seeking to uncover material assumed by the text; and, if possible, we use archaeological artifacts to help shed light on that world as well. Only after we have done this work can we confidently ‘rebuild’ the meaning of the text. Most people do this intuitively, but it needs to be done with academic rigor,” ibid. 87.

“The grammatico-historical method is based in Scripture itself and thus is not foreign to biblical thought…Biblical authors themselves employ the method of historical reconstruction to define words and events of their stories that have not been experienced by their audiences. For example, to clarify geographical information such as old locales whose names had changed, biblical writers commonly use formulae such as ‘it is’ or ‘that is.’ In Genesis 14:17 the toponym ‘Valley of Shawe’ (NIV, ‘Valley of Shaveh’) is clarified by ‘that is, the King’s Valley.” In Joshua 18:13 Luz is contemporized by ‘that is, Bethel’,” ibid. 87.

“Biblical writers also defined terms as they thought it necessary, as in the case of the narrator of Samuel, who explains the change of words from ro’eh to nabi to designate a prophet (1 Sam 9:9). An ambiguous word like nwtw (‘oppress him’) in 2 Samuel 7:10, an imprecise word like hpsk (‘you want’) in 1 Kings 5:22 or an obscure nominal form like mwpz (‘refines’) in 1 Kings 10:18 is substituted by bltw (‘destroy him’), srkk (‘our requirements’; ‘your need,’ TVIV), and thwr (‘pure’) in the parallel interbiblical version: 1 Chron 17:9; 2 Chron 2:15; and 9:17, respectively. The same is true of patronymics. Esau becomes ‘that is, Edom.” As for ancient customs, the narrator of Ruth explains that the nearest kinsman took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz to signify Boaz’ right to redeem Nomi’s property (Ruth 4:7). Presumably, at some point in the writing or in the transmission of the story that practice was no longer used or understood. The narrator thought it necessary to explain this practice in order to bridge the historical distance. In other words, biblical authors took note of the differences between the historical horizons of the story and their audience and bridge the gaps so that their message was understood,” ibid. 877.

As an OT scholar writing an OT theology, Waltke naturally uses some OT examples to illustrate his point, but it’s easy to think of NT examples as well, such as the way in which Mark defines certain foreign words, or some of the Johannine asides in the Fourth Gospel.

30 comments:

  1. "he is drawing on the same pool of words, idioms, motifs, and historical situations as his historical audience—a pool that is not shared by us today."

    "But the ancient pool of the biblical writer’s world can be reconstructed with reasonable certainty and completeness through the disciplines of grammar, history, and literature,"

    See how circular this is? How can you use ancient texts to clarify the meanings of ancient texts unless you already knew what the words meant anyway?


    "we use archaeological artifacts to help shed light on that world as well"

    How can you use a pot to deduce the meaning of a word?

    All these problems disappear once you accept that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Why do protestants continue to try slogging through the mire of these patently inadequate methods?

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  3. derridafan writes:

    "All these problems disappear once you accept that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Why do protestants continue to try slogging through the mire of these patently inadequate methods?"

    A pragmatic appeal, but I'm not sure where the Church (it's unclear which "we have the answers" denomination you're referencing) has sufficiently addressed these issues.

    And how will you produce a non-circular method of determining that your particular denomination should be followed on these matters? It feels like you're just pushing the difficult questions of faith back a step and then pretending that they don't exist at all.

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  4. Bernabe: what is there to exegete? Catholics accept this passage at face value: the Church is the ground or foundation. It's infallible and protected by the Holy Spirit so that it can be the Guardian and Preserver of apostolic tradition and doctrine.

    Matthew: I'm not pushing back 'the difficult questions of faith'. We'd both agree that 'faith comes by hearing'. But what you hear leads to a Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail, ie. one that has been around since the beginning.

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  6. Derridafan said:
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    See how circular this is?
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    Let us stipulate this is a circular argument then. Why would that be wrong? Does the Catholic Church say that circular reasoning is always wrong?

    You said:
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    How can you use ancient texts to clarify the meanings of ancient texts unless you already knew what the words meant anyway?
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    Because of the objective nature of language. While the words and symbols are themselves used only conventionally, the objects that the words are affixed to remain that: objective. People always have certain similar experiences, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or geography. And because of that, there will always be a thread of commonality that can be used to interpret across linguistic boundaries.

    In reality, your question is no different than asking how we can clarify the meaning of Spanish texts using other Spanish texts; or even more simply, how can we clarify the meaning of English texts with other English texts? The process is similar in all these cases.

    Just as we know how to interpret what Shakespear said, even though we do not speak Shakespearean English today, so too we know how to translate Cervantes, and so likewise can we translation Homer. Finally, so we can translate the Scriptures too.

    You said:
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    How can you use a pot to deduce the meaning of a word?
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    Not all archeological artificats are pots. Every text that we find, such as cunieform tables, papyrus writings, etc. are also archeological artifacts. The point is that artifacts that are not religious in nature (that is, Hebrew finds that are not the Torah, etc.) give us a window into how words were used by the common people too. It is important to understanding the context of language to know what a shepherd's engraving on his staff meant, for instance. This is especially true since the Hebrew Scriptures used so many common-level illustrations, such as the shepherd.

    You said:
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    All these problems disappear once you accept that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth.
    ---

    No, they don't "disappear" at all; they are simply ignored. There's a difference.

    You said:
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    Why do protestants continue to try slogging through the mire of these patently inadequate methods?
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    But you haven't demonstrated they are "patently inadequate." Indeed, all you can say is that the GH method is contradictory to what your church says. But that would mean you're using circular reasoning (ahem) in assuming the Church right in the first place.

    Steve quoted reasons and I've provided more of the the logic above as to why the GH method is valid. What have you offered by way of demonstrating the Church is infallible? Just an appeal to a Scripture passage, one that must be interpreted APART FROM the GH method already. In other words: circular reasoning, which you've claimed to condemn.

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  7. derridafan writes:

    "Matthew: I'm not pushing back 'the difficult questions of faith'. We'd both agree that 'faith comes by hearing'. But what you hear leads to a Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail, ie. one that has been around since the beginning."

    So where's your non-circular method of determining that your particular denomination should be followed on these matters? Passing along the soundbites of Catholic Answers tracts doesn't quite address the issue.

    And where has your denomination addressed, directly or indirectly, the subjects raised in Steve's post? It doesn't seem fair to say that your denomination can make these "problems disappear" and not explain why/how this is the case.

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  8. derridafan said...

    “See how circular this is? How can you use ancient texts to clarify the meanings of ancient texts unless you already knew what the words meant anyway?”

    This is simple-minded. It isn’t a question of having to know everything to know anything. We make use of more information to correct or refine the conclusions we drew on the basis of less information.

    How did I learn English? From hearing contemporary English-speakers. Does that mean I already know everything I need to know in order to read Chaucer or Shakespeare? No. I would have to take what I already know about modern English and use that to bone up on Middle English or Elizabethan English.

    Likewise, someone might learn Greek and Hebrew from a rabbi or a Greek citizen. He would be learning modern Greek and Hebrew.

    Would that, of itself, fully equip him to understand the OT or NT or LXX? No. He would still need to study Classical Hebrew, Koine Greek, as well as certain cognate languages.

    What do you actually know, if anything, about lexicography?

    “How can you use a pot to deduce the meaning of a word?”

    In what you quoted, he didn’t say “word,” he said “world.” One can learn a lot about the ancient world from pottery.

    BTW, “pot” is your example, not his. But since you bring it up, potsherds were a popular writing material in the ANE.

    Unfortunately, you suffer from self-reinforcing ignorance. Because you think that Biblical archeology isn’t worth your while, you’re ignorant of archeology. If you knew about archeology, you would know that ostraca are a basic source of inscriptional evidence.

    “All these problems disappear once you accept that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Why do protestants continue to try slogging through the mire of these patently inadequate methods?”

    Several problems:

    i) Everything that Waltke said about Bible writers could be transferred to church fathers. You must employ the grammatico-historical method to exegete patristic and conciliar documents.

    ii) How do you know that your interpretation and application of 1 Tim 3:15 is correct? Did you interpret that passage independently of the church, or did the church interpret it for you?

    If the former, then you don’t need the church to interpret Scripture for you. If the latter, then it’s viciously circular to rely on your church’s interpretation of 1 Tim 3:15 to validate your church’s claims.

    iii) Protestants resort to grammatico-historical exegesis because, unlike you, we base our theology on God’s actual practice. You, by contrast, like all high-churchman, sit around the campfire and tell yourselves just-so stories about how God should have done it. This is the high-church formula:

    a) Issue a solemn declaration stating that the Protestant rule of faith has unacceptable consequences.

    b) Postulate an alternative outcome more to your liking (e.g. an indefectible church).

    c) Confabulate an etiological tale to arrive at your desired result (e.g. apostolic succession).

    High-churchman do theology the way Dawkins does science. Vivid imagination as a substitute for factual evidence. I prefer my methods to your bedtime stories.

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  9. one of the most brilliant bible teachers I ever had once laid it on the line when it came to complex exegesis: for example , transubstantiation, does your understanding of this and its analogs effect the way in which you feed the hungry, heal the sick,comfort widows and orphans,etc? if it doesnt then you have an intellectual disagreement but not an ecclesiastical emergency.His name is S.Brown and he is an evangelical protestant. I like his reasoning.

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  10. Todd,

    Your sentiments were refuted by Christ:
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    "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:22-23, ESV).

    You can have horrible theology and still want to feed orphans and help the widows (Mormonism comes to mind). Simply doing those things is not enough to make your theological disagreements irrelevant.

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  11. with all due respect, and i do mean great respect brother pike, I think you are missing the forest for the trees in my analysis.ne' actually DR. Steve Browns' analysis. Jesus said "by their fruits ye shall know them" a sort of..the truth 'will out'(eventually) concerning ministry. Yes, I realize there are truly heretical/abominable doctrines which the true church must confront. They are the lynchpins to the faith. However, my ecclesiastical experience is that these doctrines are extremely few, in ecclesiastical practice, and often the fights are over relatively inconsequential matters. And I hope i dont hit any nerves here but here goes: transubstantiation(not material), papal infallibility( a tempest in a teapot,since evangelicals such as myself dont view the pope as the final authority), salvation by faith alone(no works, no infant baptism)( one of the most insane waste of resources of Christendom[protestants" one is saved by faith alone, strict roman catholics: one must have both faith and infnat baptism(which all have)(or can get)..again, I realize we have butchered each other over this, but Occam's Razor'esque, not really that material since, devout roman catholics only have to work a little bit harder(same result)(p.s I dont agree with salv. works, but I dont really see it as an eccles. emergency)....

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  12. Hi there,

    I had a question about the Ten Commandments that I thought maybe one of you Triablogue members could help me with. I didn't want disrupt the conversation here, so I posted it in the combox of an older, slightly more related Triablogue post entitled "The law of God" -- Link:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6789188&postID=112268082097510855

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  13. "Would that, of itself, fully equip him to understand the OT or NT or LXX? No. He would still need to study Classical Hebrew, Koine Greek, as well as certain cognate languages."

    What do you mean by "understand"? Is exegesis a science? Many non-Christians are studied in these languages.

    "You must employ the grammatico-historical method to exegete patristic and conciliar documents."

    Are those documents (indeed any non-inspired writings) analogous to God's Word in Scripture? If not, perhaps it is not best to interpret both in precisely the same manner?

    "If the former, then you don’t need the church to interpret Scripture for you."

    Of course Catholics can interpret Scripture themselves - RC theology would be pretty boring and stale otherwise. The Church sets boundaries for the playground, the faithful are to remain within those boundaries (and submit when the boundaries are altered).

    "Protestants resort to grammatico-historical exegesis because, unlike you, we base our theology on God’s actual practice."

    Is GHM the sole valid approach to interpreting Scripture? Did Christ and the Apostles use the GHM exclusively in interpreting the OT?

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  14. the dude said...

    “What do you mean by ‘understand’? “

    In context, my usage was self-explanatory. For example, an understanding of modern English isn’t equivalent to an understanding of Middle English, although the former is a stepping stone to the latter.

    “Is exegesis a science?”

    How is that question responsive to anything I wrote?

    “Many non-Christians are studied in these languages.”

    How is that relevant to anything I wrote?

    “Are those documents (indeed any non-inspired writings) analogous to God's Word in Scripture?”

    They are disanalogous vis-à-vis inspiration, but analogous vis-à-vis semantics.

    “Of course Catholics can interpret Scripture themselves.”

    Tell that to the average RC epologist.

    “Is GHM the sole valid approach to interpreting Scripture? Did Christ and the Apostles use the GHM exclusively in interpreting the OT?”

    If you consult a work like the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Beale & Carson, eds.), you will see that apostolic exegesis conforms to the GHM.

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  15. "If you consult a work like the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Beale & Carson, eds.), you will see that apostolic exegesis conforms to the GHM."

    Does the fact that bible writers might have used elements of the GHM really succeed to establish it as normative to the exclusion of other sources of authority? Why GHM and nothing else?

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  16. Anonymous said:

    "Does the fact that bible writers might have used elements of the GHM really succeed to establish it as normative to the exclusion of other sources of authority? Why GHM and nothing else?"

    i) The GHM is not a source of authority.

    ii) Everyone uses the GHM when interpreting any document from the past, viz. Dante, Shakespeare, Josephus, Tacitus, Trent, the Nicene creed, the Magna Carta, Humanae Vitae, the False Decretals, the Westminster Confession, &c.

    iii) What is your alternative? Allegory? Do you treat Humanae Vitae as an allegory? Of what? Do you treat the canons and decrees of Trent as an allegory? Is the Nicene Creed an allegory?

    iv) Contemporary Catholic scholars use the GHM.

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  17. What about the internal witness of the Holy Spirit?

    Probability agruments (a term which is really a misnomer in historiography) leave us at the whims of our own or scholarly (pick your scholar)intuitions about what conclusions the empirical data is leading us to.

    How do we validate these myriad (and highly person-to-person dependent) intuitions?

    My concerns is that the notion of GHM as foundational leads to scientism and (on a related note)that the GHM falls prey to the same Kuhnian epistemological problems as science in general.

    By the way, I have no reason to believe that I am supposed to approach an inspired text in the same way as an uninspired one. That is not a default position for me.

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  18. anonymous said...

    “What about the internal witness of the Holy Spirit?”

    i) I think that can be a valid appeal. We can know, a la tacit knowledge, many things we don’t attempt to prove or couldn’t prove even if we attempted to do so.

    ii) But it’s limited by the fact that this is an argument from religious experience, and religious experience, or the lack thereof, is person-variable.

    An insider can’t debate his private experience with an outsider, for the outsider isn’t privy to his experience: thus, he can’t evaluate it from within.

    Your subjective or personal religious experience may validate your beliefs for you. But that’s where it begins and ends. All we can debate is public evidence.

    iii) Remember, too, that this isn’t just a case of explaining why I believe something. It’s also a case, in this instance, of defending my Protestant faith against various critics. I’m responding to their arguments on their own level.

    “Probability agruments (a term which is really a misnomer in historiography) leave us at the whims of our own or scholarly (pick your scholar)intuitions about what conclusions the empirical data is leading us to.__How do we validate these myriad (and highly person-to-person dependent) intuitions?”

    That’s hyperskeptical. Do you really think the evidence for Mormonism (to take one example) is nearly as good as the evidence for Christianity? Do you think all interpretations of the evidence are equally good? Is the claim that 9/11 was an inside job on a par with the obvious explanation?

    “My concerns is that the notion of GHM as foundational leads to scientism and (on a related note)that the GHM falls prey to the same Kuhnian epistemological problems as science in general.”

    i) I don’t see you addressing Waltke’s argument that Bible writers used the GHM.

    ii) As to scientific epistemology, that’s an analogy without a supporting argument.

    iii) God is aware of our epistemic limitations. Indeed, God is responsible for our epistemic limitations. You don’t have to come down squarely on one side or another of every single issue. If you think the correct answer in some particular dispute is subject to reasonable doubt, you can reserve judgment.

    “By the way, I have no reason to believe that I am supposed to approach an inspired text in the same way as an uninspired one. That is not a default position for me.”

    Since you give us no reason for why you have no reason, there is nothing to respond to.

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  19. “What about the internal witness of the Holy Spirit?”

    i) I think that can be a valid appeal. We can know, a la tacit knowledge, many things we don’t attempt to prove or couldn’t prove even if we attempted to do so.

    ii) But it’s limited by the fact that this is an argument from religious experience, and religious experience, or the lack thereof, is person-variable.

    An insider can’t debate his private experience with an outsider, for the outsider isn’t privy to his experience: thus, he can’t evaluate it from within.

    Your subjective or personal religious experience may validate your beliefs for you. But that’s where it begins and ends. All we can debate is public evidence.

    ---
    Some beliefs are warranted in the absence of evidence, even, possibly, against the evidence. Evidence, itself, has to be subjectively sifted through the biases of the thinking subject. Equally reasonable and smart people often disagree on critical matters.
    ---

    iii) Remember, too, that this isn’t just a case of explaining why I believe something. It’s also a case, in this instance, of defending my Protestant faith against various critics. I’m responding to their arguments on their own level.

    ---
    True enough
    ---

    “Probability agruments (a term which is really a misnomer in historiography) leave us at the whims of our own or scholarly (pick your scholar)intuitions about what conclusions the empirical data is leading us to.__How do we validate these myriad (and highly person-to-person dependent) intuitions?”

    That’s hyperskeptical. Do you really think the evidence for Mormonism (to take one example) is nearly as good as the evidence for Christianity? Do you think all interpretations of the evidence are equally good? Is the claim that 9/11 was an inside job on a par with the obvious explanation?

    ---
    I don’t think it is hyperskeptical. Miracle claims are rarely the “obvious” explanations in general, but they become that for individuals with certain spiritual pre-commitments. We don’t sift the evidence in a vacuum, but make the evidence answer back to our core commitments. These core commitments are rarely objective or even open to rigorous intellectual analysis.

    A for Mormonism, the answer depends on how you weigh the evidence. They are almost uniformly gentle and nice. Can’t say that about my fellow Christians. Is that a valid measuring stick? I suppose it depends on who you ask.
    ---

    “My concerns is that the notion of GHM as foundational leads to scientism and (on a related note)that the GHM falls prey to the same Kuhnian epistemological problems as science in general.”

    i) I don’t see you addressing Waltke’s argument that Bible writers used the GHM.

    ---
    Again, the Bible does not establish GHM as *normative*, notwithstanding the fact that elements of the method are evidently manifest in the M.O. of some bible writers.
    ---

    ii) As to scientific epistemology, that’s an analogy without a supporting argument.

    ---
    GHM works within existing theoretical boundaries to which new developments pay homage, perhaps to the detriment of newer, fresher ideas. GHM uses “inference to the best explanation” as its standard of intellectual respectability. If GHM does not operate like a science, but, in fact, has a better epistemological footing and is less susceptible to the ossification of paradigm formation, I’d like to see how. What does the GHM possess that science does not?
    ---

    iii) God is aware of our epistemic limitations. Indeed, God is responsible for our epistemic limitations. You don’t have to come down squarely on one side or another of every single issue. If you think the correct answer in some particular dispute is subject to reasonable doubt, you can reserve judgment.

    ---
    True enough
    ---

    “By the way, I have no reason to believe that I am supposed to approach an inspired text in the same way as an uninspired one. That is not a default position for me.”

    Since you give us no reason for why you have no reason, there is nothing to respond to.

    ---
    This wasn’t intended to be an argument, but a statement of ignorance. The Bible relates modes of justification besides GHM. I, therefore, see no definitive reason to embrace GHM, solely. Maybe I should, but, then, I don’t see how that can be justified. That was my only point.
    ---

    Thanks

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  20. ANONYMOUS SAID:

    “Some beliefs are warranted in the absence of evidence, even, possibly, against the evidence.”

    That can be the case, although I’d distinguish between evidence and argument. And I’m more concerned with knowledge than mere belief—where belief is weaker than knowledge.

    “Evidence, itself, has to be subjectively sifted through the biases of the thinking subject. Equally reasonable and smart people often disagree on critical matters.”

    Reasonable people can hold unreasonable beliefs, even on issues they’ve thought a lot about. Chomsky and David Ray Griffin are smart men, but their political views are quite unreasonable.

    “I don’t think it is hyperskeptical. Miracle claims are rarely the ‘obvious’ explanations in general, but they become that for individuals with certain spiritual pre-commitments.”

    Depends on what you mean. What constitutes an “obvious” explanation is related to the type of phenomenon it must explain.

    “We don’t sift the evidence in a vacuum, but make the evidence answer back to our core commitments. These core commitments are rarely objective or even open to rigorous intellectual analysis.”

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. People can and do undergo an intellectual revolution. Religious conversion. Religious deconversion. And other suchlike.

    “A for Mormonism, the answer depends on how you weigh the evidence. They are almost uniformly gentle and nice. Can’t say that about my fellow Christians. Is that a valid measuring stick? I suppose it depends on who you ask.”

    No, the personal demeanor of Mormons is not a valid yardstick for measuring historical claims.

    “What does the GHM possess that science does not?”

    There are basic differences between trying to ascertain the meaning of a text from the past, and trying to reconstruct a natural event from the distant past on the basis of trace evidence, or trying to identify indetectible layers of reality (at scales too small too measure or observe)—to take just two examples. Science deals with things, not with propositions.

    “This wasn’t intended to be an argument, but a statement of ignorance. The Bible relates modes of justification besides GHM.”

    I’m not discussing “modes of justification.” I’m discussing semantics. How to ascertain the meaning of a text. Yes, you can debate how we justify our interpretation, but that’s a different issue.

    “I, therefore, see no definitive reason to embrace GHM, solely. Maybe I should, but, then, I don’t see how that can be justified. That was my only point.”

    You haven’t offered any alternative to the GHM. What specifically do you disagree with in Waltke’s statement?

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  21. Steve,
    Do you agree with Waltke's description of his approach with the OT/NT:
    "By the canonical process approach I mean the recognition that the text’s intention became deeper and clearer as the parameters of the canon were expanded. Just as redemption itself has progressive history so also older texts in the canon underwent a correlative progressive perception of meaning as they became part of a growing canonical literature" and Bock's assessment that "Waltke rejects a sensus plenior that “wins” new meanings from the text and sees New Testament writers as “supernaturally” discovering the fuller sense" and "Waltke’s position is that the whole of the Old Testament is to be reread ultimately in light of the New Testament; as a result the original expression of meaning within the Old Testament passage is overridden and redefined by the New Testament" and that the answer in Waltke's article "Is It Right to Read the New Testament into the Old?" is a "resounding yes"?
    (all these citations taken from Bock's article published in 1985 (perhaps Waltke has refined his view since then, I dunno) which is reproduced at http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/articles/bockotnt1.htm and also in Zuck's "Rightly Divided: Readings in Biblical Hermeneutics")

    I was unaware of many evangelical scholars promoting the NT writers using GHM exclusively (the common view I've encountered is because they were inspired, they could find new meanings (the "supernatural" sense Bock mentions in analyzing Waltke above) but since we are not inspired, we should stick to GHM). I fully admit what I've encountered means squat, so maybe what I think is common is actually a minority or outdated view.

    Do you believe "sensus plenoir" or the "canonical approach" perspectives are valid at all, or is all of Scripture limited to a single meaning (determined by authorial intent)?

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  22. I distinguish between sense and reference. A passage means whatever it meant at the time it was written. The sense is frozen in time.

    But many OT passages are intentionally forward-leaning. Passages in Genesis foreshadow passages in other Pentateuch books. Prophecies anticipate the future.

    What fulfillment supplies is not a new or amplified meaning; rather, it supplies the historical referent.

    It doesn't add to the meaning of the text. Rather, it fills in the concrete referent.

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  23. “That can be the case, although I’d distinguish between evidence and argument. And I’m more concerned with knowledge than mere belief—where belief is weaker than knowledge.”

    What exactly does this mean? That belief becomes knowledge just if it happens to be true? But we don’t have access to final truth outside faith. *Direct* knowledge of Truth is open only to God. We are stuck with degrees of belief, not certainty. No?

    ”Reasonable people can hold unreasonable beliefs, even on issues they’ve thought a lot about. Chomsky and David Ray Griffin are smart men, but their political views are quite unreasonable.”

    Okay, but who gets to be the final arbiter of who gets to be called reasonable? You seem to be saying that Chomsky and Griffin are “reasonable” where their beliefs overlap with yours, but “unreasonable” when they don’t.

    ”Depends on what you mean. What constitutes an “obvious” explanation is related to the type of phenomenon it must explain.”

    ‘Obvious’ is not a something we read off an explanation like a convenient label. If it were that simple we’d all agree on just what is and what isn’t obvious.

    ”Sometimes yes, sometimes no. People can and do undergo an intellectual revolution. Religious conversion. Religious deconversion. And other suchlike.”

    Not sure I understand the point you’re making here, though I don’t disagree.

    ”No, the personal demeanor of Mormons is not a valid yardstick for measuring historical claims.”

    True for historical claims in particular, but not for Mormonism in general. I may not be impressed by the superior archaeological attestation the Bible enjoys nearly as much as I am by the virtue of Mormons. Both count as evidence, and one is not demonstrably, objectively better than the other.

    “There are basic differences between trying to ascertain the meaning of a text from the past, and trying to reconstruct a natural event from the distant past on the basis of trace evidence, or trying to identify indetectible layers of reality (at scales too small too measure or observe)—to take just two examples. Science deals with things, not with propositions.”

    Not sure those differences make a difference or get the GHM off the hook. I’m as skeptical of the scholar’s ability to reliably ‘get inside the head’ of a writer who lived thousands of years ago as you are of the evolutionist’s ability to reliably reconstruct earth’s natural history. A paucity of evidence exists in either case, just to differing degrees. At least the evolutionist doesn’t have to deal with the complexity and vicissitudes of human behavior (played out thousands of years ago, to boot).

    ”I’m not discussing “modes of justification.” I’m discussing semantics. How to ascertain the meaning of a text. Yes, you can debate how we justify our interpretation, but that’s a different issue.”

    My point is that other modes of justification could override or supplement what strict application of the GHM yields. If other modes exist, then the meaning of the text is not necessarily one-to-one with what the GHM provides. Or it may be that the GHM, due to human weakness, simply derails itself unless it functions under the auspices of an outside authority.

    ”You haven’t offered any alternative to the GHM. What specifically do you disagree with in Waltke’s statement?”

    I thought I offered at least one: the Holy Spirit. Additionally, there’s the Pope for R.C.s, Holy Tradition for the Orthodox. The Mormons, I think, answer to church authority and they interpret the Bible through the filter of what they consider to be additional/alternative revelation. You, of course, are fully aware of these examples.

    I don’t disagree with the Waltke quotes. I just see nothing particularly revelatory in his (IMO) mundane examples. Are you saying the evidence he provides should convince me that the GHM is all any reasonable person would use to do exegesis? I’m just not seeing it. Perhaps I’ve missed your point…

    ReplyDelete
  24. ANONYMOUS SAID:

    “What exactly does this mean? That belief becomes knowledge just if it happens to be true?”

    My point is that a person can know something on the basis of the evidence without having an argument for what he knows.

    “But we don’t have access to final truth outside faith. *Direct* knowledge of Truth is open only to God. We are stuck with degrees of belief, not certainty. No?”

    Indirect knowledge still counts as knowledge. If you’re equating knowledge with certainty, then it’s possible to be certain by knowing something to be the case.

    However, certainty tends to be a second-order reflection on what I know. Do I feel certain that I know something?

    In that sense, certainty should not be equated with knowledge. For example, we’re not conscious of everything we know. Much of this is subliminal. In that respect, we’re not certain (i.e. feel certain) of many things we know since certainly involves a certain level of self-conscious reflection.

    “Okay, but who gets to be the final arbiter of who gets to be called reasonable?”

    Ultimately, God.

    “You seem to be saying that Chomsky and Griffin are ‘reasonable’ where their beliefs overlap with yours, but ‘unreasonable’ when they don’t.”

    Sounds good to me.

    You are also indulging in a radical chic scepticism. But you yourself don’t really believe that. If you were as sceptical as you pretend to be, you wouldn’t be arguing with me in the first place. You’re too self-confident to be a convincing sceptic. If you were racked by self-doubt, you wouldn’t be so combative. That’s a mark of someone who’s pretty sure of himself. Who’s sure his opponent is wrong.

    We only doubt something in relation to something we do not doubt. If something comes into conflict with what we already believe, we tend to doubt it. Doubt presupposes a level of assurance about some things—which furnishes the yardstick for doubting other things.

    “‘Obvious’ is not a something we read off an explanation like a convenient label. If it were that simple we’d all agree on just what is and what isn’t obvious.”

    People are quite capable of denying the obvious if it takes the form of an unwelcome truth. You need to spend a little less time in philosophy and a little more time in psychology.

    “I’m as skeptical of the scholar’s ability to reliably ‘get inside the head’ of a writer who lived thousands of years ago as you are of the evolutionist’s ability to reliably reconstruct earth’s natural history.”

    i) Human psychology doesn’t vary from one century to the next.

    ii) You’re also confusing the GHM with certainty. Whether or not the GHM can arrive at the correct interpretation in every case, and whether we have an alternative to the GHM, are two very different questions. Even if the GHM only yielded probably interpretations, this doesn’t mean there’s another method which would do as well or better.


    “My point is that other modes of justification could override or supplement what strict application of the GHM yields. If other modes exist, then the meaning of the text is not necessarily one-to-one with what the GHM provides. Or it may be that the GHM, due to human weakness, simply derails itself unless it functions under the auspices of an outside authority.”

    You keep tossing out these empty abstractions without presenting a concrete alternative. And appeal to an outside authority would simply relocate the hermeneutical issues, since the claims of the outside authority must also be interpreted.

    “I thought I offered at least one: the Holy Spirit.”

    i) The Holy Spirit doesn’t interpret the Bible for us. The Holy Spirit makes the regenerate more receptive to revealed truths, but he doesn’t give us the correct interpretation.

    ii) Moreover, your doctrine of the Holy Spirit is mediated by revealed propositions. Unless you can interpret those propositions, your pneumatic shortcut begs the question.

    “Are you saying the evidence he provides should convince me that the GHM is all any reasonable person would use to do exegesis?”

    I’m not responsible for what you find convincing.

    ReplyDelete
  25. One other thing regarding the plenary sense. In the course of progressive revelation, a later Bible writer may well add to an earlier theological motif. Take the Davidic Messiah. God may reveal more about a Messianic motif which he originally disclosed at an earlier date, in less detail.

    This doesn’t mean that a later writer is trying to squeeze all that information out of the inaugural revelation. Rather, his contribution is rooted in that initial point of origin. It takes that as a point of departure, and adds to it by adding new revelation.

    That doesn’t change the meaning of the earlier text. He isn’t reading more into the verse than he can read out of the verse. Rather, we have a series of revelations on a common motif which, taken together, mean more than what they mean when taken in isolation.

    This is often grounded and paralleled in historical events which instrumentally advance and incrementally realize the promise.

    So I regard the plenary sense as a misleading category, although it has a grain of truth.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Triabloguers, would you please consider looking at my last post in the thread below and helping me out?

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6789188&postID=112268082097510855

    I've been looking for an answer for some time now but have failed to come up with anything conclusive. I would appreciate any help, even something as little as a book recommendation.

    ReplyDelete
  27. kirk k. moron2/05/2008 9:41 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Maybe this could help:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dissociative-disorders/DS00574

    Best of luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Rick J. said:
    Triabloguers, would you please consider looking at my last post in the thread below and helping me out?

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6789188&postID=112268082097510855

    I've been looking for an answer for some time now but have failed to come up with anything conclusive. I would appreciate any help, even something as little as a book recommendation.

    2/04/2008 10:25 PM

    **********************

    Hi there, Rick.

    I may post a reply tomorrow to your question.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Al Molder, jr.2/06/2008 11:35 AM

    The die is cast! You've done it this time!

    ReplyDelete