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Iyov

One of the most discussed points in Jewish exegesis. See here.

Mike Heiser

Well said, John. I have a number of similar bones to pick in this regard with those on both sides. Thanks!

JohnFH

Thanks, Iyov, for a fun link.

art

John: Thank you very much for your interactions with me on this point. I found that reading your post has helped me very much in where I did not articulate my argument well enough.

I'd like to keep the conversation going by adding some clarifications that, I think, will be helpful.

First, I completely agree with your statement:
There is no reason why one cannot admit that we do not know how old Saul was when he became king, and how long he reigned, but also aver that no important scriptural teaching depends on knowing the answers to said questions, and therefore, in terms of what Scripture is meant to teach us, it remains possible to claim that Scripture has been kept pure for all ages.

But, with that said, the context in which I was writing was in terms of the wording of the WCF. The WCF, at this point, is referring to the actual text of Scripture, not that which Scripture is meant to teach. This was brought up in the comments on that post where someone made the same objection. I agree that the teaching of Scripture has been kept pure. But this was referring to the actual text of Scripture...which brings me to my next point.

Second, your statement that there may have been errors in the autographs seems to speculation, although I understand the argument you are making because of the textual evidence before us. But, to say that what was missing in our extant manuscripts were also missing the autographa is theoretical. Most scholars, including Tov, note that what is missing is the result of an unintentional error by the copyist and, therefore, was lost in transmission.

Third, my "definition" of what "pure" might have meant in the WCF was merely a speculation. It served as an example of how vague the Confession is on this point. Part of my argument for a more robust view of Scripture, at least in the Reformed context, is that these terms be defined for us so that we don't have to guess as to what they meant. I completely agree, as a fellow Calvinist, that what we have today as Scripture was, indeed, "meant" by God for us to have. But that was not the point I was attempting to make. Rather, my point was that if purity of Scripture means that we currently have every term that was in the autographa, then is it really a viable option to believe? If it could be proven that these terms were absent from the authographa, then I suppose that it would be viable. But if the current text is the result of a neglegent scribe, then it would seem to me that if purity means a smooth transmission of the text then "purity" is not a good term to be thrown around without nuance.

Now, if the Westminster Assembly may have meant something different with their use of "pure" that can handle such issues as 1 Sam 13.1, then I am willing to accept that and move on. But I haven't heard any other options presented.

I agree with you that if my premise was that what we have in our hands as Scripture is something other than what God meant, then my premise would be flawed. For clarification's sake, that was not my premise. Rather, my premise was that if the WCF means to say that our current texts of Scripture are exact copies or representations of the autographa (hence, kept "pure"), then it is incorrect. This is how people, at least in my circles, tend to read this statement.

Fourth, and last, I agree that inerrantists should qualify their statements and doctrinal formulations without the fear of being labeled "liberal." I find the same problem in the WCF on this matter: lack of qualification. They do not qualify what they mean by "pure," so modern readers take it to mean, as I just wrote, that the current texts of Scripture are equivalent to the authographa. 1 Sam 13.1, among other examples, call that understanding into question. But I believe that if the term "pure" is nuanced to mean something other than "our texts are equivalent to the autographa," then the WCF can still work. Part of the point of my post was to call this to the attention of those within the Reformed world.

Again, I thank you for your interaction. Your insights and criticisms are appreciated, as they serve to sharpen my thinking on the subject.

art

BTW, I hope I didn't come across as an "angry inerrantist"! That was definitely not my purpose.

Iyov

Art: I wouldn't worry about the terminology "angry inerrantist."

Jonathan ("Eddie") Hobbins' choice of title is an old Yale joke (boola, boola). Shaul has much more reason to be offended -- John is claiming that you hold the baby Shaul over a pit, the way one would hold a spider or a loathsome insect over the fire. It is only natural that you be dreadfully provoked.

Mike

John: It was encouraging to read this post. I don't feel so alone as a inerrancy believing Calvinist any more.

Ivoy: I'm going to have to watch that video later...I don't have speakers right now...

JohnFH

Art,

that was kind of you to comment so thoroughly. Iyov is right; I was just having fun with the title; it was not directed towards anyone in particular.

Your comments demonstrate that our positions are, as I suspected, similar. My comment about the autographs is indeed speculative, and I made it not because I think text criticism (i.e., the attempt to recover a text that is closer to the autographs than we have now) is unimportant, but because I think all of our doctrinal statements about scripture need to be independent of the results of that endeavor.

Alan Lenzi

We've been through this before, but I'll say it again. Inerrancy is an old, tired doctrine that simply cannot deal with the messiness of history. Remember this?

It sounds like so much question begging!

David Guttmann

John I have been following your posts for a while and find them to be an eye opener on ways of approaching the texts that are quite different than the ones I have been used to in my traditional upbringing.

I was surprised though that there seems to be no differentiation in the inerrancy of the scriptural text whether it is in the prophets or the Torah itself. The prophets after all, as traditionally accepted, had official editors (see TB Baba Batra 14-15) and was only canonized during the late second temple period.

JohnFH

Alan,

thanks for providing a link to your post on this subject. In that post, you say that, for the scholar, the Bible is nothing but a human book. That, of course, is a counterfactual programmatic statement, of the kind, "all men are created equal." The facts are otherwise.

A majority of biblical scholars treat the Bible as an artifact of the ancient Near East, but also as a mantic instrument which, if properly manipulated, emits sounds from God - excuse me if I poke fun at what I do as a pastor. A little bit of self-deprecating humor helps me get through the day.

Insofar as the Bible remains an instrument of divination for hundreds of millions of people around the world, questions like the sense in which the Bible is reliable and how to interpret it as tradition relevant to today (see Gadamer, for example) will continue to be of the greatest interest, though not necessarily to you personally.

JohnFH

David,

you make an excellent point. Judaism makes a distinction whereby textual details, including anomalies, in the received text of the Torah are never eliminated but, on the contrary, freighted with significance, whereas analogous details in the Nach (prophets and writings) may be understood differently.

Christians, on their part, tend to freight even the smallest details in their Old Testament with enormous significance in terms of a typological, prophetic kind of exegesis known already from the Bible itself (Daniel's interpretation of texts in Jeremiah and Isaiah, for example), from Qumran (Pesher Habakkuk, for example), and in later midrashic exegesis of a certain kind, though of course legal exegesis predominates in Midrash.

Alan Lenzi

I don't deny believers like Art and you the right to iron out a mythology of inerrancy. I understand that viewing the Bible as ONLY a human book rubs people and even assertions in the Bible the wrong way.

{{It's funny that you say I'm making a counterfactual programmatic statement. But you are too: the Bible asserts/was received as divine proclamation and yet everything about it points to its humanity. We're all interpreting here. I'm not the only one interpreting "facts."}}

But I think it is important for believers to see a different view--the secular scholar's view. Interestingly, although you are clearly not secular, your comparing the Bible to divination is wonderful. It's right on the money. Too bad more people can't see it that way. It puts matters into a whole new mythological light.

JohnFH

I agree with everything you said, Alan. Including the part about everyone, including myself, making counterfactual programmatic statements.

My other snide comment for the day on this topic: one might think that examining scripture rather than bird entrails for clues about how the future will unfold would be a relative safeguard with respect to the accuracy of the results.

But such is not the case, should one judge by the track record of someone like Hal Lindsey who knows his Bible inside and out but has never once been right. I think he would have better luck with bird entrails.

If only people would learn to think historically. I think Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel did think historically - in an ancient sort of way - whereas those who interpret biblical prophecies today sometimes seem to be entirely clueless.

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