Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Discussion About The End Of Infidelity

There's an ongoing thread at TheologyWeb about The End Of Infidelity.

Were the gospels anonymous?

John Moles 
Hengel does/did use the first argument you cite but others as well (e.g. the very rarity and distinctiveness of the traditional titles). As for the Ignatius (and others) argument, Hengel retorts that Christian writers could still do this in the period when the titles were undoubtedly known. The arguments on both sides seem to me finely balanced, unless of course one thinks one can find internal ‘self-inscriptions’ within the Gospels (as, for example, Bauckham thinks in the Fourth Gospel, with complicated numerological arguments which I can’t possibly assess). I just think the general assumption of anonymity is a little glib, especially considering the huge proportion of internally anonymous texts in the ancient world, even in relevant related genres like historiography and biography, only a tiny proportion of which were actually anonymous, naming normally being conveyed by existing reader knowledge or by the titulus (whether on papyrus or codex).

I assume this is the commenter:


The Bible Among The Myths


I’m going to respond to this post:

The real problem for anyone passing from the OT to the NT is what to make of the “newness” of the Church (cf. Eph. 2:15; Cf. Matt. 16:18; Jn. 7:39, etc.).  Dispensationalists, by and large, are not given to seeing the Church in the OT.  There may be vague adumbrations in the OT (per the Progressives), but the Church as the Body of Christ is not there.  Therefore, Israel in the OT is not in any sense the Church (of course, Stephen, in Acts 7:38 is not referring to Israel as the Body of Christ, despite the best efforts of Bishop Bancroft.  The word ekklesia simply refers to Israel as “a called assembly”).  Covenant Theologians (CT’s), in the thrall of the “covenant of grace,” see only one people of God in both Testaments, which must be the Church.  From this conclusion OT Israel has to be understood as being the Church in the OT, whether the Bible says it is or not.  I realize CT’s do recognize a change from OT church to NT church, but that is another matter.

It's true that I see one people of God in both Testaments. I don't have to call that the "church." The "church" has more specific connotations. If you restrict the "church" to the NT, then, by definition, there is no OT church. But that's semantic.

I'd use a more general term: we have covenant communities in both Testaments. There are continuities and discontinuities between the two based on similarities and dissimilarities between the respective covenants that govern them. Yet they are one people of God inasmuch as both groups are saved by grace; both groups share a common destination.

What ultimately unites both groups is divine election. The elect of all ages.

Once this view is adopted, any unity cannot, of course, be arrived at via plain-sense, law of identity interpretations.  The only way unity can be saved is by making the Apostolic authors identify OT objects as “types” and such, to be realized in different form in the NT (i.e. via reinterpretation).

As I just explained, I don't think we have to view Israel as a type of the church to ground their unity.

Let's take a borderline case. Take 1C proselytes or Godfearers. These are ethnically Gentile, but religiously Jewish. They belong to the OT covenant community. When they convert to Christianity, they now belong to the NT covenant community. There's "newness" in their Christian identity, but Cornelius the Godfearer is the same person as Cornelius the Christian. And his conversion from Judaism to Christianity is a continuum rather than a quantum leap.

One of the frustrations some of us encounter when dealing with CT’s is their habit of redefining words like “literal,” and “replacement,” and “transform,” and even “reinterpretation.”

In my experience, "replacement theology" is not a term that CTs generally use to designate their own position (although Waltke is a partial exception). Rather, that's a term of abuse which dispensationalists use to characterize covenant theology. So I don't see that CTs are "redefining" the term "replacement."

And, as an aside, it is hard for me to comprehend men like C. Venema when they write about the First Resurrection of Revelation 20 as “not a physical but a spiritual participation with Christ,” while insisting we take “the thousand years of Revelation 20 as figurative, rather than literal,” – ( R. D. Phillips & G. N. E. Fluhrer, These Last Days, 122, 121).

i) For the record, I think the "first resurrection" in Rev 20 has reference to the intermediate state. The martyrs go to heaven to be with Christ during the church age. That’s distinct from the final state.

ii) One factor we must take into consideration when we interpret the "first resurrection" in Rev 20 is the OT counterpart in Ezk 37.

iii) In addition, there's an implicit analogy in Revelation:

The first resurrection is to the second resurrection


The first death is to the second death

But unless the second death is the same type of event as the first death, then there's no presumption in treating the first and second resurrection as the same type of event.

As G. Goldsworthy says, “Some literalists have an aversion to spiritualizing, but it is clear that there is a real sense in which the New Testament spiritualizes the Old.” – Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 248, n.14.

I don't think the NT spiritualizes the OT. Rather, I think NT writings understand OT writings the same way later OT writings understand earlier OT writings. I think there's a common typology which carries over from the OT to the NT.

Be that as it may, some Covenant Theologians do say that the NT “reinterprets” the OT (e.g. K. Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism, 37).  To re-interpret something is “to interpret in a new or different way.”  Is that not an accurate description of the position of those who teach that the NT is needed to understand the OT when it speaks of “Israel” and “land” and “temple” etc.?  Isn’t that exactly what we are often told the NT writers did with OT contexts?

i) Some CTs do view the fulfillment scheme in terms of reinterpretation. Bruce Waltke is a case in point. I think that's a mistake.

ii) Using the NT to interpret the OT doesn't presume that the NT is reinterpreting the OT. For one thing, promises and prophecies are inherently future-oriented. So it makes sense that we'd grasp them better retrospectively than prospectively. You have a better understanding of the future when the future becomes the present or the past.

In a promise/fulfillment scheme, living in the time of fulfillment gives you a better perspective on where the promise was heading.

iii) At the same time, the starting point isn't the key issue. Whether we begin with the OT or the NT, at the end of the day we need to integrate both. We can't compartmentalize apostolic exegesis as if that's sui generis. Both dispensationalists and CTs are in the same boat in this respect. Even if we begin at different launch sites, we need to arrive at the same destination.

It's not as if there's a special problem for CT. Dispensationalists have the same duty to come to terms with apostolic exegesis. Dispensationalists must also understand OT promises and prophecies consistent with how NT writers understood them. If you want to make the OT your benchmark, so be it. But even if you take the OT as your point of departure, your understanding of the OT can't be at odds with how the NT understands the OT.

To be clear about this, Beale, as Goldsworthy, and most contemporary CT’s, thinks Jesus is Israel (thus, the church is “new Israel” in Him).  Jesus is also the temple (ditto the church).

I think the identity language ("is") is shorthand. If you press the identity language, that's reductionistic. It's not that Jesus is (i.e. identical with) Israel, but that Jesus recapitulates Israel. Yet where Israel is the faithless son, Jesus is the faithful son.

That, however, doesn't eliminate Israel as an entity distinct from Jesus. Rather, it's a vicarious principle, where the Redeemer acts on behalf of, and in place of, the redeemed. But we're not actually collapsing two parties into one.

Once this view is adopted, any unity cannot, of course, be arrived at via plain-sense, law of identity interpretations.
“39. This view, which teaches a God who prevaricates in the promises and covenants He makes, also tempts its adherents to adopt equivocation themselves when they are asked to expound OT covenantal language in its original context. 

There are two basic issues here:

1) A promise involves two parties: the promisor and the promisee. For a promise to be a sincere, good-faith promise, it must mean the same thing to both parties. If the promisor intends the promise to mean something different to him than it does to the promisee, then that's deceptive.

Take the classic Delphic oracle: "If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed."

Croesus took this to mean he'd defeat the Persians–whereas the Persians defeated Croesus.

The oracle was equivocal and treacherous. The oracle fostered a misimpression.

2) Apropos (1), what would a land-promise mean to Abraham? Is the land just a place? An address? A set of GPS coordinates?

Don't space and time go together? Is the land the same land in every century or millennium? Doesn't the same place change over time?

Take a crooked realtor with a time-machine. Suppose he sells a customer a view property in Santorini. It has a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea.

Only there's a little catch. He sells them the same place, but not at the same time. He shows them the property before the eruption, but sells them the property after the eruption. They buy the same plot of land, but it's timing makes all the difference!

Did he cheat them? It's the same address. 

When Dispensationalists appeal to the Abrahamic land-promises, what did that mean to Abraham? Is the Dispensationalist indexing the land-promises to Abraham's world? To the world Abraham knew? Is modern Tel Aviv equivalent to that address in c. 2000 BC? What could be more equivocal than that?

Is that the "plain sense" of the promise to the promisee? Isn't that interpretation highly anachronistic?

3) Let's put this another way. Suppose God fulfills the land-promise to Abraham in the world to come by recreating a replica of the ANE, minus the damned. Wouldn't that be a more “literal” fulfillment of the promise to Abraham than reassigning the promise to the modern state of Israel?

4) Dr. Henebury is also glossing over the meaning of meaning. This is a complicated issue in hermeneutics. According to Henebury, what is the locus of meaning? There are several candidates:

i) Sense

ii) Reference

iii) Authorial meaning

If (iii), that breaks down into the following options:

a) The intention of the human author

b) The intention of the divine author

c) The actual author

d) The implied author

e) The editor (e.g. Psalter)

iv) Audiencial meaning

If (iv), that breaks down into the following options:

a) The actual audience

b) The implied audience

c) The intended audience

v) The narrator

vi) A normative character

viii) Canonical context

Again, he may not be interacting with my piece, and I have yet to get to his examples.  But does a resort to a debatable typology solve the problem?  As I shall show next time, Hays’ examples of “recapitulation” from Isaiah 11 & 35 & Jeremiah 16 seem to exemplify a reinterpretation along typological lines.

If the land always had a typical significance, if that was frontloaded, if there always was a one-to-many relation between the type and its multiple tokens, then we're not "reinterpreting" the land.

More about the New Testament fragments

Larry Hurtado has a post suggesting caution with regard to the new manuscripts. He says, “With many others, I await further news, and even more so I await more forthcoming scholarly work on these mooted items.  Additional early New Testament fragments?  As someone said when asked what he thought of the French Revolution:  “Too soon to tell.”

Hurtado provides a link to the owner of the collection, Green Collection, whose scholarly impetus is provided by Scott Carroll, PhD. The story is, “Using a new technology developed by The Green Collection in collaboration with Oxford University, scholars have uncovered the earliest surviving New Testament written in Palestinian Aramaic — the language used in Jesus’ household — found on recycled parchment under a layer in this rare manuscript”.

That said, here’s what’s going around:

In one of the comments Steven Carr notes “You can already read about this frament …” The link is to an article that discusses 7Q5 – a fragment that has so little extant that its identification is generally held ot be questionable, and that has nothing to do with the Green Collection papyri that Dan Wallace was referring to.

From what I’ve been able to glean there are now in the Green Collection 7 unpublished NT papyri

1. 2nd century frg. with Hebrews 1
2. 2nd century frg. with I Corinthians 8-10
3. 2nd century frg. with Matthew
4. 2nd century frg. with Romans 8-9
5. 2nd century frg. with part of a Pauline Epistle, from what I know it is from Hebrews
6. 2nd century frg. with Luke
7. 1st century frg. with Mark

Rearding Mark Stevens question as to where they were found, it appears most of these have been recently extracted from mummy cartonnage, but I don’t know any details as to where these were found.

As Hurtado notes, “With regard to NT writings, we are already in an enviable and unparalleled situation, with substantial early papyri copies of a number of them (e.g., the Chester Beatty papyri, and the Bodmer papyri).” Still, the early word is, “caution”. 

Edit: Links fixed, 10:00 am

Friday, February 10, 2012

Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?

Solar submarine


i) There are many variations on this familiar diagram. That, itself, is rather telling. The same basic diagram is reproduced ad nauseum. So we’re being treated to thirdhand scholarship. Scholars copying other scholars copying other scholars. We’re not getting original, independent research. What we’re getting, instead, are scholars who unquestioningly reproduce earlier scholarship. Indeed, that isn’t real scholarship. It’s just handing down rote tradition.

You have to wonder who produced the initial diagram. How far back does this go?

ii) However, let’s examine this diagram on its own terms. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this is how Bible writers viewed the world. What are implications of this depiction?

How does the sun restart in the east every morning? It has to go under the earth. But what’s under the earth is the primordial sea. So, in order for the sun to rise in the east and set in the west every day, it must go under water at night. A solar submarine.

Suppose the ancients thought of the sun as a giant ball of fire. What would be the effect? Well, there are two possible effects:

iii) Submerging the sun in the ocean would cause the ocean to boil. In fact, Revelation plays on that sort of imagery:

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Rev 8:8-9).

Question: was that the daily experience of folks living on the Mediterranean coastline?

iv) Conversely, the sun would be extinguished by sustained submersion. And I daresay ancient Near Easterners had experience dousing fire with water. That’s not very hitech.

So how did the soggy sun reignite every morning?

v) I’d add that these aren’t mutually exclusive explanations. (iv) could naturally follow (iii).

vi) In sum, this diagram isn’t realistic even from the perspective of somebody living in the ANE. 

Did ancient Near Easterners believe the world was flat?

One stock objection to the Bible is the claim that Bible writers thought the earth was flat. This objection is supported by the further claim that ancient Near Easterners in general adhered to a triple-decker cosmography. Bible writers were simply operating with the same antiquated framework. So goes the argument.

Charles Halton challeges that facile assumption:

One caveat I have with his discussion is when he says, “How else would ancient people have approached a topic that was so beyond their technological capacities to understand? ”

While that’s true for ancient Near Easterners in general, it fails to take into account the inspiration of Bible writers.

Hurtado on Hurtado

Gadbois on creation ex nihilo

David Gadbois said,

January 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm
Indeed, Tfan. I would add that if one were to observe nearly any conceivable universe 5 seconds after the creation event (one that is ex nihilo), it would always “appear” to be older than 5 seconds. There is something when a few seconds ago there was nothing, yet there is no indication to the observer that that something wasn’t there minutes or hours ago. If that observer were to merely extrapolate the laws of conservation of mass and energy, one could not account for the recent creation event.

Are souls gendered?

This is a question that a commenter over at Randal Rauser’s blog asked. (“Does Christian theology hold that the soul has gender?”). Of course, the answer is somewhat speculative.

i) Some folks might think the question is inherently nonsensical. Surely gender is a property of embodied agents. Only bodies can have primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

But we need to distinguish between gender as an abstract property and its concrete exemplifications. For instance, every man is male, but every male isn’t a man. Maleness is more general than manhood, while masculinity is more general than maleness. Same thing with femininity.

ii) There are different ways to model the mind/body problem. Different versions of monism and dualism. For discussion purposes, I’ll take interactionist dualism as my operating model.

iii) The question of whether souls have gender raises the nature/nurture debate. It’s really two questions with two possible answers:

a) Does the soul have innate gender?

b) Does the soul have acquired gender?

Apropos (a), I don’t know that we’re in a position to tell one way or the other.

Assuming that (a) is true, there’s not much more to be said. But if (b) is true, then that generates other permutations:

iv) Take a comparison. I’m psychologically American. That’s acquired rather than innate. I could have been born to the same parents, but in a different country (if they were living abroad).

I’m psychologically American because I was raised by American parents, and I grew up in America, around American relatives, neighbors, and classmates. Because I’ve been immersed in American culture (both media and society) from as early as I can remember. So I’ve been conditioned to be psychologically American.

Moreover, that conditioning is irreversible at this stage. It’s part of my formative years. To a great extent, personal identity is bound up with memory. Remembered experience.

v) In principle, gender could be conditioned by physical experience. Say a soul is united to the body of a human male from conception to death from old age.  His experience of the world is filtered through a physical medium. Specifically, male embodiment. That’s how he perceives the world, interacts with the world, remembers the world. That informs and thereby forms his psychological makeup to some degree.

vi) When he dies, he leaves his body behind, but not the lasting effect of his physical conditioning.

vii) But suppose he dies in the womb and goes straight to heaven? Then what? There are two possibilities:

viii) The soul of the baby remains in a state of psychological stasis until the resurrection of the just, at which time it’s united with the body of a baby, and naturally matures. Perhaps the discarnate baby has little sense of time’s passage during the intermediate state. It’s happy, but there’s no character development. No acquisition of knowledge.

ix) That’s one possibility. Here’s another: the discarnate baby enjoys a simulated physical existence. Like dreams or virtual reality. The discarnate baby undergoes a simulated lifecycle–infancy, boyhood (or girlhood), adolescence, adulthood (manhood or womanhood, as the case may be).

Krishna & Christ: part 8

Prof. Win Corduan has been doing a series on Krishna and Christ.

We've already posted part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7.

Here is part 8.

on the Manhattan Declaration vs Obama

Thanks to the “Obama Contraception Mandate”, there are renewed calls for Christians to sign on to the Manhattan Declaration. Here are some Triablogue articles on that document:

And keeping with Steve’s admonition that “it’s not enough to simply attack the document. One should also present an alternative. And that needs to be done by contributors who are at least as prominent as the contributors to the Manhattan Declaration”, here is Turretinfan’s “Bronx Declaration” as an alternative:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

"Panentheism and Ontological Containment"

Prof. James Anderson continues his helpfully incisive thoughts on panentheism.

Faustian bargain comes due

Life's a beach

Los Angeles County has approved a hefty fine for throwing footballs and frisbees on local beaches.

LA County's move has caused a domino effect throughout the Southland. Neighboring Ventura County has started to issue warrants for the arrest of little kids who knock over their siblings' sand castles. What's more, young adults who douse their friends with buckets of water, particularly if their friends are females peacefully dozing off while sunbathing, or otherwise engage in boyish, juvenile pranks deemed by their female peers more fit for a frat house than a beach could face up to ten years of rehabilitation to bring down their testosterone to more socially acceptable levels.

Not to be outdone, Orange County has in turn outlawed pretty girls in bikinis since the ensuing distraction might cause motor vehicle accidents. The consequence for offenders is life imprisonment, whereas the consequence for male oglers is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In other news, sales of darkly tinted sunglasses for men has reached an epic peak since the ban.

San Diego County has decreed Taliban-approved beachwear compulsory for all beachgoers:

Suffice it to say those who transgress the new law by refusing to wear the approved beachwear would be served with a light punishment if they only received the death penalty, which would be the minimum punitive measure mandated by the county's courts.

On the other hand, SoCal counties have jointly sanctioned the following: picnics; romantic walks along the beach; Rebecca Black's hit song "Friday" permanently set on repeat; shirtless muscled men with long wavy Fabio hair galloping their beautiful white unicorns steeds on the surf in slow motion as they move to literally sweep women off their feet and mount them onto the saddle in a single seamless maneuver which will likewise take her breath away; and excessive giggling. In fact, excessive giggling is rewarded with a free massage, spa, and facial treatment.

Famous for being famous

Why me? Well, I’ve become something of a world renowned atheist…Just google my name and you’ll see what I mean.

Richard Carrier, Why I Am Not A Christian, p2 


Uploaded by  on Sep 10, 2007
  •  likes, 234,489 dislikes

2 min - Sep 10, 2007
Uploaded by itschriscrocker