Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Dyer Straits

“This is the Orthodox canon, bro: we include the prayer of Mannaseh. We exceed the scope of the Hebrew canon.”

That was never in dispute. Rather, that’s the source of the problem.

“You, following wickewd Jews, do not.”

There are several problems with this Jew-baiting dismissal:

i) Dyer is, himself, appealing to what he takes to be a Jewish witness to the OT canon: the LXX.

Now, the LXX was originally a Jewish translation of the OT. So Dyer is very selective about which wicked Jewish testimony he is prepared to accept or reject. For Dyer, some wicked Jews are more equal than others. Wicked Jews who bear witness to the Hebrew canon are untrustworthy, but wicked Jews who (allegedly) bear witness to an Alexandrian canon are trustworthy.

ii) Does Dyer have some evidence that post-Christian Jews are wickeder than pre-Christian Jews? Were the Jews who committed idolatry with the golden calf less iniquitous than 1C Jews? Were the Jews who committed apostasy in Elijah’s time less iniquitous that 1C Jews?

If you transported 2C BC Jews to the 1C AD, would they be less iniquitous than other 1C Jews?

And it’s not as if “the wicked Jews” held the patent on iniquity.

iii) Speaking of which, why does Dyer think that a wicked heretic like Origen is a reliable witness to the OT canon, but “the wicked Jews” are not? Isn’t heresy wicked?

iv) And why doesn’t the iniquity of all those wicked Arian bishops discredit Orthodoxy polity and ecclesiology?

“And the previous author you quoted thinks that St. Athanasius or pseudo-Athanasius threw them out, even though I already pointed out to you in the James White article you posted shows that St. Athanasius' canon included Baruch, which you ignored when you posted that.”

I ignored it because it’s diversionary tactic on your part. Not only does the Athanasian canon fail to support the Orthodox canon, but it undercuts the Orthodox canon. It is hardly adequate to say that Athanasius included one of the DC in his OT canon. You need him to include all of the DC in his OT canon if you’re going to invoke his name as a witness to the Orthodox canon. Consider what he actually says:

“But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.”

Notice that he’s explicitly excluding a number of DC from the OT canon. What is more, he ranks the excluded DC with the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Did the Orthodox church ever canonize the Didache or the Shepherd of Hermas? Since you keep harping on his Festal letter, the onus is now on you to explain away his opposition to the Orthodox canon.

Moving along:

“Why do you keep twisting my arguments? My argument was against Ian Paisely, who said that 1) the NT never qoutes the DB, and that 2) no Jews used the DB. The Bruce and MacDonald quotes in my first article show that to be entirely false.”

i) The most charitable interpretation to put on this statement is that you suffer from short-term memory loss. In one of my very first replies to you (over at Brisby’s blog), I specifically acknowledge the fact that you had shaped your argument in response to Paisley. Have you already forgotten that? You’re pretty young to misremember what I said.

The less charitable interpretation is that you hope my readers will forget what I said. So which is it? Are you forgetful or mendacious?

ii) And as I pointed out, at the time, when you direct your argument against someone like Ian Paisley, you are picking on an easy target.

This is not a serious way to make a case against the Protestant canon of the OT. If you were halfway serious, you would take on a real scholar like E. E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity, or Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church. And that’s just for starters.

iii) As I’ve also pointed out on more than one occasion, you’re very selective in your appeal to Bruce. You disregard his larger argument against the DC.

Moving along:

“Bruce goes on to note about the Church’s acceptance of the LXX (the Septuagint): ‘Indeed, so much did they make the Septuagint their own that, although it was originally a translation of the Hebrew into Greek for Greek-speaking Jews before the time of Christ, the Jews left the LXX to the Christians…’ (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, pg. 26)”

Several more problems:

i) You’re simply rehashing the same arguments you used before, even though I already interacted with your sorry arguments. You merely repeat yourself instead of addressing the counterargument. For a philosophy major, you don’t show much aptitude in the art of argumentation.

ii) As I mentioned before, appealing to “the Church’s” acceptance of the LXX doesn’t give a Protestant any reason to accept whatever “the Church” accepted.

You are an Orthodox believer. You are attempting to defend the Orthodox faith to Protestant believers. As such, you cannot take Orthodox presuppositions for granted. An argument from the authority of “the Church” simply begs the question.

iii) And while we’re on the subject, *which* canon of *which* church is *the* canon of *the* Church? Even if I were to grant your premise, why should I favor the canon of the Eastern Orthodox Church over the canon of the Oriental Orthodox Church?

iv) As I also mentioned, once before, “the church” is hardly coincident with Christians who read the Greek OT. The NT church included Palestinian Jews as well as Diaspora Jews. And even a Diaspora Jew like St. Paul could certainly read the Hebrew OT. So you are equivocating.

v) And this is not your only equivocation. Bruce doesn’t say that Christian copies of the LXX map back onto pre-Christian copies of the LXX. Some of the DC are not translations of Hebrew originals. To the contrary, some of the DC are Greek originals. So your quote is deceptive. You are using Bruce to prove something that Bruce would deny.

vi) And this brings us to the next point—which was the point of my original post. You are appealing to a Jewish witness: the LXX—which was originally a Jewish translation of the Hebrew OT.

So the next logical question to ask is whether Christian copies of the LXX correspond to the pre-Christian editions of the LXX. Remember, your argument is that post-Christian Jews suppressed the DC, suppressed certain books which were originally included in the LXX.

vii) Apropos (vi), to follow through on your own argument, the first question we need to ask is, Where do we find the LXX? What MSS constitute our earliest and/or best witnesses to the LXX?

And that would take us back to 4-5C Uncials like Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus.

viii) Apropos (vii), if you’re going to equate the Orthodox canon with the LXX canon, and if, in turn, you’re going to equate the LXX canon with the pre-Christian LXX canon, then you need to establish that our extant copies of the LXX correspond to pre-Christian copies.

ix) Apropos (viii), when we turn to these historical and textual witnesses to the LXX, what do we find? We discover that they don’t match the Orthodox canon. They exclude some books which are included in the Orthodox while they include some books which are excluded from the Orthodox canon.

x) So this brings us to the final question which you continue to dodge: what evidence to you have that the Orthodox canon corresponds to pre-Christian editions of the LXX?

“Fine: we are ignorant and stupid: you know all things.”

I suggested that you were ignorant, not stupid. However, I’ll grant you that ignorance and stupidity are not mutually exclusive explanations, so if you wish me to evaluate your performance by recourse to both explanations, I’m happy to comply with your descriptors.

“Debate me via phone. Let your readers know that you have consistently shyed away from a real audio debate.”

This is another diversionary tactic on your part. Because you keep losing the argument, you want to change the medium.

I thought you were a philosophy major. Don’t philosophers debate one another in philosophy journals?

Imagine if Dyer were to try this tactic on one of his philosophy profs: Debate me via phone. Let your students know that you have consistently shyed away from a real audio debate!

This is not a philosophically serious challenge.

To put things in writing is the best way to debate this issue because it’s the best way to document the evidence. There’s a word for that: scholarship. Something you know precious little about.


  1. To put things in writing is the best way to debate this issue because it’s the best way to document the evidence.

    Are you saying Jimbo White shouldn't have debated Michuta orally? Good. Maybe you can convince him to stop running away from a non-oral debate with Dave Armstrong.


    “Are you saying Jimbo White shouldn't have debated Michuta orally? Good. Maybe you can convince him to stop running away from a non-oral debate with Dave Armstrong.”

    i) If two parties voluntarily agree to an oral debate, that’s fine with me. That’s hardly equivalent to the situation with Dyer.

    ii) Dave Armstrong is not the only representative of Roman Catholicism. Indeed, he’s in no sense an official representative of Roman Catholicism.

    James White can debate the merits of Roman Catholicism, and cover the same ground, by debating other Catholic apologists or epologists. And, indeed, he’s done so on a regular basis.

    iii) James White can’t spend all his time debating Catholic apologists, for he is involved in a broader countercult ministry.

    iv) I assume that Armstrong is always at liberty to phone in to White’s radio show if he wants to debate him live.