Monday, April 30, 2012

Collective judgment

I’m going to comment on this post:

Steve Hays continues to question the way translators have rendered Deuteronomy 30:14.  (link)  His primary reason seems to be the flexibility of the Hebrew, not some problem with the translators’ contextual analysis and selected rendering.

Different translations render the verb differently.

That’s like questioning most translations simply because they are translations.

Once again, this is Dan in cute mode. Does he really not grasp the issue?

i) For one thing, there’s a reason that commentaries on the Greek or Hebrew text of Scripture routinely review different ways to render a word or sentence. A commentator will often criticize a standard translation, or he will say one standard translation is better than another standard translation.

Does Dan really think you never have to go behind translations to consider the semantic and syntactical options? Do commentators simply base their exegesis on whatever translation is used by the commentary series?

ii) In addition, it’s not as if translation committees don’t debate the best way to render a word or sentence. Bruce Waltke once mentioned that the translation committee he sat on had an 18-hour debate over how to render a single verb in Prov 8:22. And the translation committee members never came to consensus on the right way to render it.

Agreed, but I already walked through why this usage of “may” expresses ability rather than uncertainty or permission.

i) Is that a lexical distinction? Is Dan getting that from the semantic range of the Hebrew verb?

ii) Keep in mind, too, that I responded to Dan’s argument. He merely repeats himself without engaging the counterargument.

Once the statement about “ability” has been overlooked, no doubt the rest of the analysis of the verse will suffer.

But whether the statement is about ability rather than duty is the very question at issue. That’s not something Dan is entitled to stipulate.

Steve said: As I demonstrated, the text isn't about individual choices, but the aggregate choices of a corporate body (Israel), where the majority effectively chooses for the minority, in spite of the minority.
This goes well beyond Steve’s previous statement that, “The passage isn’t confined to individual blessing and bane, but primarily concerned with collective blessing and bane”.  While it’s true that the passage has a collective aspect; it’s wrong to deny it has an individual aspect.  Steve’s one good step here was a springboard into a mistake.
God often singles out individual sinners for punishment, or individual righteous for reward like  Joshua and Caleb entering the promise land, or God’s allowing Lot to escape or Rahab. Also group punishments are not always based on a collective choice or a vote.  Take original sin or Akin as examples; one sinned, yet the majority suffered.  This shows we should not confused collective rewards and punishment, with collective choices, since individual choices can have ramifications for one’s whole family or nation.  So while Deuteronomy 30 may have an aspect of national blessing or curse, it does not discuss a vote.

Dan is disregarding the context of Deut 30, which follows on the heels of Deut 28. It has a national scope. The fate of corporate Israel in the promised land.

For instance, if the Israelites are exiled, righteous individuals can’t escape exile. If the Jewish majority are covenant-breakers, the righteous minority will suffer a common fate. They will suffer the maledictions. That’s how the text is structured. That’s also reinforced by chap. 29. 28-29 is the lead-up to 30.

And it’s not just hypothetical. That’s how it actually played out in the Assyrian deportation and the Babylonian exile–not to mention the ill-fated wars with the Romans.

Also, Paul’s use of this passage in Romans 10 shows the passage has an aspect that runs deeper than national Israel.

Paul cites Deut 30:12-14 to make the point that law-keeping is a futile means to obtain righteousness. Because failure to keep the law is inevitable, righteousness must come by faith rather than works.

How does that repair Dan’s argument?

1 comment:

  1. This came to mind as I look at your post:

    "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”-Daniel 3:16-17