Friday, February 13, 2015

The "corpus fallacy" redux

I'm going to reply to Alan's post, as well as his podcast:

Imagine if someone took a three-page high school history paper of yours and claimed, "Your entire vocabulary is contained in that paper." Out of the millions of words in your written and oral discourse over the course of your lifetime, your entire terminology is limited to that high school paper.
That sort of application happens with many interpreters of the Bible. Have you read statements such as: "Matthew tends to have X vocabulary, therefore his theology is Y." Or, worse, "Paul does not use the term X in Y sense, therefore he was not aware of another commonly used sense." Or "Matthew uses X in Y sense, but Mark does not, therefore, Mark is not aware or would use its sense." You get the picture.

I don't know whose windmills Alan is tilting at. That wasn't my argument. But I guess Rocinante can use the exercise.

I have heard this type of reasoning for many years. And no linguistic Bible scholar (actually trained in linguistics) would ever use such a naive argument, at least these days.

So long as Alan is attacking a caricature. But that's irrelevant to my stated argument.

However, since he brought it up, let's consider some illustrations:

i) Protestant Pauline scholars typically include word-studies of the dikaioo word-group when attempting to ascertain Paul's usage. And although they don't confine themselves to Pauline usage, they center their discussion on Pauline usage. That's a starting-point. The primary frame of reference. How does Paul use that word-group? 

Catholics, by contrast, appeal to James. Now, is Alan taking the position that it commits the "corpus fallacy" to begin with Pauline usage in determining what Paul means by his own terminology vis-a-vis "justification"? Should we take into account all the thousands of times Paul may have used that word-group without that particular nuance? 

ii) Calvinists say proegno in some NT passages means "to choose beforehand." Arminians counter that the word usually means "to know beforehand."

Moreover, they could appeal to the thousands of times that Peter and Paul may have used that word in the sense of foreknowledge or prescience rather than prior choice. Does Alan think that's a valid tactic?

lii) Arminians appeal to cosmos in Jn 3:16 to prooftext unlimited atonement. Some Calvinists (and even some non-Calvinists) counter by pointing out that in Johannine usage, cosmos often has a qualitative rather than quantitative connotation. Moreover, they note that John often uses cosmos in contrast to Christians. 

But is that a "corpus" fallacy? Should we appeal to all the thousands of times that John may have used cosmos as a synonym for "everyone"? 

I agree, but I am addressing the claim (or the implication) by some who reject that Paul intends a literal sense of naos (temple) in 2 Thess 2:4, and some who think that Paul never would had used (or even been aware!) of the sense of a literal temple with the term naos. To claim that Paul uses the term in a spiritual sense in other contexts therefore it must mean this in 2 Thess 2:4 is ridiculous and sloppy linguistics (not saying this is Steve's position, but others make this deduction). I demonstrated that absurdity in my program in the link in the blog post.

Once again, Alan is shadowboxing with nameless opponents rather than responding to my own argument. 

In addition, yes, we should start with the target context, but I have seen not a few times from historicists to begin outside of Thessalonians and then import a spiritual meaning to naos in 2 Thess 2:4.

Alan also says that in his podcast. I find the oft-repeated accusation that "historicists" have to go outside the text to derive their interpretation ironic considering the fact that in his podcast, Alan said the naos is a makeshift shrine which Orthodox Jews will build, without divine sanction, before the midpoint of the 7-year period, to reinstate Levitical sacrifices, &c. Where did he get any of those crucial details from 2 Thes 2? 

Beale strains the text when his point is grasping at some connection between the apostasy and the temple representing the "covenant community." The exegetical connection is not there. 

Unfortunately, Alan fails to explain, either here or in the podcast, why that's the case. He simply asserts that these are unrelated.

i) Now, I can't speak for Beale, but if I were fleshing out the connection, I think the argument would go like this:

Beale is offering a unified interpretation. These are aspects of the same event. 

Alan himself admits that the apostasy concerns the professing church. He also admits that it will be instigated by the Antichrist. So the apostasy centers on the church, while the action of the Antichrist is directed at the church. 

In that context, it's logical to see the naos as a figurative synonym for the church. 

ii) Moreover, that meaning has linguistic precedent in Pauline usage. 

iii) Furthermore, this has historical precedent in the Antiochean crisis, where the same religious community and same religious institutions lie in view throughout. Antiochus was persecuting faithful Jews as well as desecrating the Jewish temple. 

By contrast, Alan separates the naos from the church–both in time and place. He treats that as something which happens in Jerusalem. Something that's undertaken by Orthodox Jews. And the action of the Antichrist has reference to that.

On the face of it, Alan is the one who's isolating these elements to produce a compartmentalized interpretation of each, resulting in a disjointed interpretation of the passage as a whole. 

It would be incorrect to claim that therefore he would not be able to draw from a literal sense of naos in the 101 instance, just as any Greek-speaking Jew in the first century would have had in his or her semantic range of this term.

I don't know why Alan is fixated on attacking an argument I never used. 

The linguistic skepticism is not warranted, and would reduce us to only make linguistic observations on single authors! and not on the body of Greek language. 
We have an abundance of documentation in the NT and outside of it. We cannot assume that Greek semantic ranges of words are dependent upon not only a single author, but on a very small sampling of that author. The NT has frequent instances of naos in a literal sense. Paul certainly was aware of this sense and easily could draw from it—which bring us back to the contextual question of 2 Thess 2:4

For some odd reason, Alan is absolutely obsessed with refuting an argument I never made. It's like trying to correct a computerized misbilling. No matter how often you call the company and patiently explain to them that the bill is wrong, they never purge the system. The computer keeps spitting out the same erroneous bill. 

Thats not an intellectual virtue. You need to update the objection (or else withdraw the objection) to take into account the actual state of the argument.

If there were another instance in his letters where he clearly talks about a temple in a spiritual-church sense associated with the Antichrist figure that is a different matter.

Does Alan think the sense of a word depends on carrying over the entire context? Isn't that a semantic fallacy? It confuses the meaning of a particular word with the meaning of a sentence, pericope, or argument. 

I'll end with saying that I gave about seven reasons why the context in 2 Thess 2:4 indicates a literal temple, not a spiritual temple. These are arguments that historicists need to contend with. 

Let's run through these:

1. The action of the Antichrist would be a conspicuous, concrete, observable event, to correct the false eschatology of 2:2c.

i) Given the parallel with the other precursive sign, we shouldn't expect that to be more or less conspicuous than the apostasy. The apostasy of the professing church is a bit vague. Throughout church history we have examples of that. The apostasy of the professing church is a matter of degree–unless you deny anything faithful remnant.

ii) Moreover, Alan seems to treat these as independent events. The apostasy of the professing church is clearly different from Ultraorthodox Jews erecting a shrine on the Temple Mount. 

If, by contrast, these are conjoined, then the sign is less ambiguous. 

2. "Taking his seat" suggests a literal physical temple.

That simply begs the question. Where's the supporting argument?

If the naos is figurative, then "taking his seat" is part of the same picturesque metaphor. A consistent word-picture. 

3. The definite article implies a particular temple of the true God.

i) But Alan doesn't think the construction of this shrine is authorized by God. At least he's noncommittal. But absent divine sanction, how is that any different than schismatic or sectarian "Jewish" shrines like the rival shrine in Samaria? 

ii) Furthermore, this overlooks the "heavenly temple" interpretation. 

4. The "object of worship" (2:4) implies a material temple rather than a church.

I find that argument peculiar. Isn't a sanctuary a place of worship rather than an object of worship? And in that respect, a church is a place of worship. 

5. Alan cites an article by Dan Wallace:
My Accordance/Gramcord search revealed altogether ten places in which ναὸς θεοῦ occurred (Matt 26:61; 1 Cor 3:16, 17 [bis]; 2 Cor 6:16 [bis]; 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 3:12; 11:1, 19).As well, there are another six instances of οἶκος θεοῦ, and here again a similar development occurs: The gospels refer to the literal temple (Mark 2:26 and pars. in Matt 12:4 and Luke 6:4), while the referential value of the expression has been transferred to the church by the 60s (1 Tim 3:15;5 Heb 6:21; 1 Pet 4:17).6What are we to make of these data? It seems that by 63 CE (the date I would assign to 1 Timothy),7 the idiom had shifted in Christian usage sufficiently that a metaphorical nuance had become the norm. However, it is equally significant that all of the references in the Corinthian correspondence seem to require an explanation (readily supplied by Paul) in order to make the metaphorical sense clear.

But doesn't that commit the "corpus" fallacy which Alan spends so much time attacking? Why does this little sampling suddenly become representative when Alan says no scholar trained in linguistics would use such a naive argument? 

6. Quoting Green:
The orientation of the divine claims of the "man of lawlessness" is toward the world at large and not the church."

Unfortunately, Green doesn't bother to defend his contention.  

i) What is it about the orientation of the divine claims in 2 Thes 2 that's directed at the world rather than the church? Where's the supporting argument?

ii) If, as Alan admits, the apostasy has reference to the professing church, and the Antichrist is the instigator of the apostasy, then isn't that oriented at the church rather than the world?

iii) What does it mean for the Antichrist to proclaim himself to be God? Hard to say for sure, but here's one possibility:

What if the Antichrist claims to be the Second Coming of Christ? That would make him God Incarnate. 

Moreover, it makes sense that the Antichrist might have a Messiah complex. He's a pretender. A usurper. 

And if he gained a sizable following in the professing church, that would certainly qualify as mass apostasy. His claim to be the Second Coming of Christ would be "a conspicuous, concrete, observable event." So would having a huge entourage in the professing church. 

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