[According to the Seminarillion, Ents are the offspring of Pieter Enns, a legendary ogre who dwelt in the land of Westmünster during the Second Age, and devoured nubile seminions for breakfast.]
I've been asked to comment on something which Stephen Young posted over at Green Baggins. Let's make a few preliminary observations before I delve into the details.
i) I don't know what theory of inspiration he thinks that he's opposing. Who or what is the target of these examples? The Westminster Confession? The Chicago Statement? Warfield? Turretin?
If so, then he's shadowboxing with a straw man.
ii) What if we couldn't harmonize two Biblical accounts of the same event? Would that impugn the accuracy of Scripture? No.
Suppose you and I went to Disney World. Suppose that evening we wrote down what we saw in our daily journals.
There would be almost no overlap between your account and mine if you and I chose to go to different events at Disney World.
Or suppose we saw the same events, but I went in the morning while you went in the afternoon. And suppose we didn't state the time of day when we attended.
That might make it difficult for an unsuspecting reader to sort out the chronological details. Yet the discrepancies would be purely illusory.
But imagine if the higher critics got hold of our journals. They would insist that each journal was a work of composite authorship, involving several different redactors. The stories of what we saw must have undergone a long period of oral gestation before they were committed to writing. The higher critics would carefully peel away the editorial layers to isolate and identify the rival theologies of the Ur-Hattist, Ur-Cinderellist, and the Ur-Epcotist. Erudite monographs reconstructing the Epcotist Community and the Cinderellist Circle would be published. Bart Ehrman would write a bombshell book on the long lost ideology of the Hattist faction—which had been ruthlessly suppressed by power-hungry, "orthodox" Cinderellians.
Yet stuck-in-the-mud fundies would blindly insist that these canonical accounts were authentic and accurate even though they didn't coincide on many details. Bold, visionary professors who tried to liberate their students from the shackles of this scholastic, antiquated paradigm would be persecuted by the old guard.
iii) Then there's Stephen Young's disingenuous disclaimer. On the one hand, he double-dares the inerrantist to harmonize these passages. But just in case the inerrantist should rise to the challenge, he dismisses the effort in advance because it robs the text of its "richness" and significance. If the inerrantist fails, he fails—but if he succeeds, he also fails.
Hopefully you would accept me as a Christian—I am, after all, a member in good standing at a PCA church.Perhaps his membership status needs to be readjusted in light of his public comments.
A while back, when I was frustrated by similar sentiments from someone else on a different blog, I typed out the following nine examples off the top of my head and posted them. They represent some of the types of issues, I think, inerrantists should confront when articulating what Scripture 'is.'As if inerrantists had never done that before.
So, for all the nuanced Reformed inerrantists here—who pay close attention to the phenomena of Scripture—please do share your thoughts on these examples.
The issue isn't specific to Reformed inerrantists. I see no reason to cast it in such parochial terms.
Some of these may seem harmonizable. But, in those cases, as I try to point out, you miss out on the theological depth and significance of the passage and the Scriptural writing in question—thus making me suspicious that the harmonization deal with the text in a way honoring to it.He sets up a false antithesis between theology and historicity.
1) Mark 12.9 attributes words to Jesus that Matthew's version of the pericope attributes to the crowd (Matt 21.41).I agree with Bock that this as probably a case of narrative compression.1 Instead of distributing the question to one speaker, and the answer to another, Mark and Luke summarize the incident.
Does Young think that the traditional doctrine of inspiration can't make allowance for narrative compression? Where did he get that idea?
For another fun synoptic 'who said what' instance compare Matt 19.16-17 with Mk 10.17-18. In Mark the man said to Jesus 'Good teacher.' In Matthew the man says uses good with reference to the deed in question. What is going on here? We could multiply examples such as these from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) almost endlessly. The Matt 19 and Mk 10 example has an interesting history of discussion in Westminster circles. Both E.J. Young and Ned Stonehouse treated it at some length. Young essentially harmonizes while Stonehouse refuses to do so, looking at how the differences reflect the freedom and creativity of the author and as such serving as windows in on the theology of the writings in question.The conventional explanation is that Matthew redacted Mark. The Markan version could leave a misleading impression regarding the divinity or rectitude of Jesus.
Does Young think the traditional version of inspiration is unable to accommodate this? If so, why?
Without a proper context, facts can be deceptive. And a writer like Matthew was in a position to know something that his audience did not.
(2) The Synoptics portray Jesus as eating his last supper with the disciples as a Passover meal (Thursday night), being arrested that night, and being crucified Passover day, Friday (c.f. Mk 14.12 / Lk 22.15; then follow the narratives). John portrays Jesus as eating supper sometime prior to Passover and then being crucified on the eve of Passover precisely when the Lambs are being slaughtered for the Passover meals for the Jews (see John 13.1-5; 19.14-16). It seems that John has a rich theological reason for what he is doing—Jesus being killed with the Passover lambs fits in nicely with his emphasis of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29; cf. 1.36). Or, perhaps the Synoptics were motivated in their chronological presentation to cast the last supper (eucharist?) as a new Passover meal? It seems we have the authors of the Gospels (or at least one/some of them) modifying the 'facts' for their theology.Blomberg discusses this issue in his standard monograph of the historicity of the Gospels.2 Unless Young can tell us why he thinks that Blomberg's harmonization is unsatisfactory, we need go no further.
(3) Does Jesus tell the disciples to take a staff (Mk 6.8) or not (Matt 10.10)? I have heard it suggested that the only way to 'deal with' this is positing autographs that did not have this problem—therefore this issue arises from corruption in the transmission history of either Mark or Matthew. This would seem like an extreme case of 'special pleading.' What do you all think?i) I agree with Blomberg that this is probably a case of narrative compression.3 On his understanding, Matthew's version is a composite speech combining some of Jesus' injunctions to the Twelve with some of his injunctions to the seventy-two disciples. There is only a contradiction if we fail to make due allowance for Matthew's redaction.
ii) France makes the additional point that,
The specific application of these instructions to the mission of the Twelve in Galilee, rather than as rules for all subsequent Christian mission, is indicated by Luke 22:35-36, where they are rescinded for the new situation following Jesus' arrest.4So these injunctions were always flexible in time and place.
(4) Do you mind if I mention a canon 'issue'? Jude quotes the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36; a Jewish apocalypse of the 3rd century BCE) as Scripture, Jude 14-15. The way he introduces it corresponds to ways other parts of our Bible (and contemporary Jewish literature) cite what the authors in question would consider Scripture. Such a view of the Book of the Watchers for Jude makes sense since the Book of the Watchers—along with many of the other writings making up 1 Enoch—were viewed as Scripture by Jews in many (most?) strands of Early Judaism in the centuries prior to Jesus and around his time. In fact, the view of 1 Enoch as Scripture continues in the early church as early church writers cite 1 Enoch as Scripture (see, for example, the Epistle of Barnabus with its 3 citations of 1 Enoch with scripture citation formulas!). I am not claiming 1 Enoch or some of the writings in it should be in our canon—but rather that this material makes the Bible messier than we would like.i) Jude doesn't use a standard citation formula for Scripture in quoting Enoch.
ii) Young offers no documentation to back up his claim that many Jews in pre-Christian Judaism regarded 1 Enoch as Scripture. As one authority has noted:
The fact that works such as 1 Enoch or Jubilees have been preserved since 70 CE through other/Christian channels need not indicate that they were accepted as authoritative and authentic within Second Temple Judaism beyond the pale of the sect which came in part to occupy Qumran.5iii) Has Young ever read the standard monograph of Jude by Charles? Unless he can explain why he thinks that this analysis is unsatisfactory, we need go no further.6
iv) Commentators generally attempt to reconstruct the life-situation of a Biblical document as a preliminary exercise before they proceed to the exegesis proper. This includes an effort to identify the target audience or implied reader.
But we only have one document from the hand of Jude. And what we do have is exceedingly brief. As such, we have a very restricted frame of reference for knowing what this sectarian literature would have meant to him or his audience or his opponents. As such, there's no solid basis on which to draw sweeping conclusions regarding his personal opinion of the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha.
(5) What did Jesus say on the Cross? You could put all the Gospels on this together and have our '7 last words of Jesus' sermon series. But, that distorts the different theologies of the death of Jesus that each Gospel has. This is especially true if you conflate Mark and Luke on the death of Jesus. They have different views on the death of Jesus and his approach to it—which can be very theologically enriching (after all, it is the Bible) if we do not flatten them out.i) Traditionally, the seven words of Jesus consist of Matthean saying (27:46; par. Mk 15:34), three Lucan sayings (23:34; 23:43; 23:46), and three Johannine sayings (Jn 19:26f.; 19:28; 19:30). And the textual authenticity of Lk 23:34 is questionable.
ii) How one Markan saying and three Lucan sayings represent different theologies is something that Young asserts rather than demonstrates.
iii) Moreover, "different" is ambiguous. Does he mean "different" as in contradictory? If so, how does he think they represent contradictory doctrines of the Passion?
And if they're not theologically contradictory, then how does that present a contrast to the traditional doctrine of inspiration?
(6) Deuteronomy (10.1-5) has a different understanding of where the ark came from than Exodus.He doesn't say what he means here. But as one commentator has observed, there's a difference in literary genre between the two accounts, so we'd expect some differences: "the sermonic style of the text in Deuteronomy is such that particular parts are emphasized and other items are added (the ark) which do not appear in Exodus."7
Does Young think that the traditional doctrine if inspiration can't make allowance for differences in literary genre?
Another commentator makes the additional point that,
In the following verses [Deut 10:1-11] we have a very condensed account of the incident [Exod 34:1-4) without special attention to exact chronology. It was sufficient to draw attention to some of the more important features of those events which presumably everyone knew about.8Does Young think the traditional doctrine of inspiration can't make allowance for narrative compression or topical selection?
(7) Who failed to dislodge the Jebusites from Jerusalem, Judah (Josh 15.63) or Benjamin (Judg 1.21)? Note, it is exactly the same verse, except that Judges has modified the material from Joshua to fit in with its, basically, anti-Benjamin ideology/theology seen throughout the book. If you delve into this further, you find this to be a window into some rich theology in Judges. But, if you flatten this out, you start to miss something God was saying through Judges.i) As several commentators (e.g. Block, Howard, Woudstra) have explained, Jerusalem was a border town. As such, we'd expect the city limits to be disputed by rival claimants.
ii) Moreover, Judges obviously recounts a latter state of affairs than Joshua. Would we try to harmonize a 1990 roadmap of NYC with an 1890 roadmap of NYC?
iii) How does understanding that both statements are factually accurate removed the "rich theology in Judges"? Is Young saying that rich theology comes at the expense of impoverished factuality, or that rich factuality comes at the expense of impoverished theology?
(8) Was Hiram/Huram-abi's descent from the tribe of Naphtali (1 Kgs 7.14) or Dan (2 Chr 2.13-14)? Perhaps one could harmonize this, but then you are missing out on the Chronicler's rich theology of Solomon and Hiram/Huram (in the building of the Temple) as the new Bezalel and Oholiab (who built the Tabernacle). As the Chronicler draws on his sacred scripture and traditions, he brings out this parallel between Huram and Oholiab by, among other things, giving Huram the same tribal affiliation as Oholiab (see Exod 31.6, 35.34, 38.23). All this has a very important function in the Chronicler's overall message and theology. But, again, to harmonize this is to get in the way of understanding what God is saying and doing through Chronicles.i) Since every man has both a mother and a father, it's quite possible to be of multi-tribal descent. Moreover, some place names can be geographical while others can be eponymous.
ii) And how does factual accuracy "get in the way" of theology? Young seems to think a message is more meaningful if it's less truthful. Is fiction his standard of sound theology? If so, he might be happier converting to Mormonism or Scientology.
(9) Is it ok for a Moabite to enter the assembly of the Lord and be part of Israel (the book of Ruth) or not (Deut 23.3-6)? See also the general theology of Ezra-Nehemiah on foreigners, Israel, and marriage.i) In context, the Mosaic legislation is talking about pagan Moabites who also enemies of Israel. By contrast, Ruth was a convert to the true faith.
ii) In addition, the Mosaic law has to be adjudicated, and OT judges enjoy broad powers of judicial discretion. That's' because the Mosaic law, like ANE law codes generally, was paradigmatic rather than exhaustive.
In sum, Young's 10 examples are pitifully easy to harmonize. They pose no threat to the inerrancy of Scripture. We don't need to revise our theory of inspiration—a "theory" which happens to be conterminous with the self-witness of Scripture.
1 D. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53 (Baker 1998), 2:1602.
2 C. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP 2007), 221-25.
3 Ibid. 187-88.
4 R. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 2007), 386.
5 D. Jackson, Enochic Judaism (T&T Clark 2004), 7.
6 J. Charles, Literary Strategy in the Epistle of Jude (USP 1993).
7 P. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (Eerdmans 1989), 199.
8 J. Thompson, Deuteronomy (IVP 1974), 143.