Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One Good Myth Deserves Another

A couple of readers have inquired about a blog entry, supported by questionable Muslim sources, that have alleged to have busted a myth about textual criticism and Biblical reliability. And so I'd say they do, actually – but they’re also perpetuating misinformation of their own.

The myth they bust is one that claims that if all NT manuscripts from ancient times were destroyed, we could reconstruct all but 11 verses of the NT from the Ante-Nicene church fathers alone. Note that there's two limitations here, in what I'll call Version A:

* all but 11 verses
* The Ante-Nicene Fathers

However, that's not what I always heard. What I have always read -- from scholars and the apologetics works I read -- is that it's more like Version B:

* practically the entire NT (no specific number of verses)

* the church fathers -- which includes Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene fathers

Unfortunately, it seems that some folks are thinking that Version A and B of this argument are the same -- and while these critics do a credible job of debunking Version A, Version B is quite solid -- and it's maintained by all the textual critics (from the range of Wallace to Ehrman) and by the worthwhile apologists I know (including Strobel, and I allude to the point in Trusting the New Testament as well).

So's who's actually using Version A? A Google search found a handful of non-entities advancing Version A, and the original blog entry has commenters giving anecdotal testimony saying that they heard "ministers" present it. A non-Christian thinks he heard Gary Habermas make the argument some years ago on a video, and later says he saw it in a book by Strobel or McDowell. Hmm, well -- I can believe McDowell used it. But it is definitely not in Strobel's Case for the Real Jesus -- that's got Version B.

The Islamic site lists several sources it claims reports Version A, but they are all low-level apologetics works, and out of the perhaps a couple of dozen listed, I have only ever read 1 or 2 of them – long ago. And I’m not really that interested in checking all of them. However, I did check two. One, a chapter by Jimmy Williams, does report a slight variation of Version A; however, it says 15-20 verses instead of 11, and the date range is also a bit post-Nicean (down to 450 AD). Another, by Greg Johnson and Michael Ross, does report Version A more or less the same as it is. But that’s still not Version B, which comes from the far more credible sources.

To make matters worse, even the blog entry author confuses the two versions -- saying that the myth is presented by Metzger and Ehrman in The Text of the New Testament. However, what Metzger and Ehrman offer is Version B, not Version A -- and oddly, the blog author essentially admits this, as he acknowledges that Metzger and Ehrman do not give a precise number of verses, and do not specify the range of the "church fathers" writings. Well, uh, then that's not the myth. It appears the Muslim site is just as confused, as it refers to the two versions of the argument as though they were the same, but calling Version B a “somewhat less dramatic tempered format.” It’s somewhat more complex than that – we’re talking about a difference of about 300 versus up to 1100-1200 years, and many more authors and preserved works.

The phrase "church fathers" seems, admittedly, used ambiguously at times. But more credible sources offer the threefold division I noted above, with Nicea as the fulcrum. If we include all of those authors in those three time periods, it would frankly be harder not to believe we would be able to reproduce nearly all of the NT from their works -- especially as this would include voluminous commentaries by authors like Jerome, and such theologians and Ambrose and Basil, and even a couple of popes and ecumenical councils. I don’t know how many verses would be unattested in that larger collection, but chances are it would be less than 100, statistically speaking (my rough estimate, given number of years, authors, and works).

My own anecdotal information indicates that atheists, too, are confusing Version A and B. So -- consider this fair warning to be on the lookout.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On The World Mission Society Church of God

It seems Norman Geisler is reduced to desperation these days' he's collected another "endorsement" from Mark Hanna that vaguely praises him for doing such a wonderful job; calls his arguments against Licona "compelling," praises him for doing everyone a service, and doesn't engage even one argument in the process.

Tell you what, all you Geisler-praisers....whether it be Farnell, or Hanna, or even about you drop the vague back patting, get out from your hidey-holes, and actually take on some of the arguments? Hmm?

Anyway, today's main entry is from the December 2008 E-Block and it's about a cult called the World Mission Society of God. Maybe in a few years I can also write about the Geisler Kool-Aid Cult and all of these yappers and hangers-on as their high priests.


One of my favorite entries from the Christian satire magazine The Door is a parody advertisement challenging the reader to, "Join any 7 cults for one cent." Inevitably I was reminded of this parody when I was first asked about the World Mission Society Church of God (hereafter WMS). My pastor here in Central Florida had advised me that this group was proselytizing in our area, and further investigation showed that we here were just part of a larger effort by WMS to spread the word. And what is that word? Well, let's put it this way: The Latter-Day Saints just might want to sue WMS for plagiarism.

To begin, a little history. Despite impressions, WMS is not an upstart this century but is currently in its mid-life crisis. A summary of the history found here indicates that WMS began in 1964 by the efforts of one Ahn Sang-hong, whom WMS followers came to regard as Christ. Ahn apparently predicted the second coming to occur in 1967, and then again in 1988 (though without the influence of J. R. Church or Edgar Whisenant, I take it), but died three years too early to witness the latter failure, and these days the leadership consists in the main of two persons: Zahng Gil Jah, who is called the "Heavenly Mother," and Kim Joo-cheol, who is a lead pastor. The group is headquartered in Korea, but is making its presence known here.

Heavenly Mother? Yes, and this seems to be the group's distinctive teaching, albeit one not original to them. The Mormons do have an idea of such a being as well, though they are not so bold as to say that it is taught in Scripture, preferring to say at most that it can be obtained by inference. WMS does maintain that the Heavenly Mother is found in Scripture, and they are quite bold about the idea, even if higher on the scale for bark than bite when it comes to justification, as we shall see.

A look at WMS' own website (in English translation) reveals little in the way of substance. The Apologetics Index article linked above refers to witness testimony to the following beliefs:

According to the English-language version of the Church of God Website in Korea, followers believe "only the Bible as God's word"; the teachings of Ahn Sang-Hong are believed to be "those of the last Christ" and they instruct followers to lead a "sacrificial life with true faith according to the Bible" (n.d.). The visiting assistant professor remarked that Church of God followers interpret the Bible literally, deify the founder, and consider images of the crucifixion and the Virgin Mary to be objects of idolatry (1 Dec. 2004). The assistant professor also noted that women are expected to wear a veil during service and that strict observance of the Saturday Sabbath and the rites of the Old Testament, such as Passover, is considered necessary to achieve redemption and salvation (1 Dec. 2004).

The WMS website is notably insistent on two points: The Sabbath observance, and the concept of a Heavenly Mother. Beyond that, WMS naturally presents itself as a force of reform out to do good, and further, the only ones doing it, as noted in an article by Rev. Joo Cheol Kim:

The day is coming when we will see the glory of a new heaven and earth. And God has opened a new age for the Church of God and entrusted this church with the mission of the worldwide evangelization. We all church members are sensible of our responsibility for the mission. And we are trying to perform the mission that the Christ has given us (Matt. 28:18), doing good and practicing love.

Our church is the only true church which God has established on this earth (Acts 20:28). Through all ages and histories, there has constantly been good and evil and the two have been opposed to each other?truth has always hated falsehood, and falsehood truth.

In such history, truth has constantly been oppressed and persecuted. Even for an instant, however, falsehood has not been able to overcome truth, and darkness the light. For God has always been on the side of truth and in the light.

So is the Church of God. Even under severe persecution and false incrimination, our church has been keeping the faith and the spirit that the Early Church had, and has never bowed the knee to Baal. And now our church is taking the lead in the work of salvation, proclaiming the truth of God. The one and only reason our church exists on this earth is that it has the mission of doing the work of God. To fulfill the mission, we will preach the gospel and lead the world to eternal life, salvation and the kingdom of heaven with all our strength.

Inevitably, after the parade has passed, the question to be asked: "Is this merely the posturing of a deviant group trying to put a good face on things?" There are some interesting parallels here, as well: Mormonism also claimed to be the one true church, the reforming power, and did appeal to their persecution as a validation; yet one doubts that Rev. Kim would be much convinced to hand the torch to Joseph Smith on that basis. Either way, we need to discuss those distinctive beliefs instead, and see what sort of epistemology lies behind them.

Distinctive #1: Sabbath Observance. WMS' founder reportedly left the 7th Day Adventist Church, but he kept their idea of Saturday Sabbath observance. In their defense of the practice, I found little that touched upon arguments or points I previously discussed in an article on the subject done long ago. WMS appeals to the threat implied in Rev. 22:18-19 ("I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.") to foster Sabbath observance; this passage of course is a lynchpin for many theological deviancies, but the evidence would indicate, as noted in an Ask the Perfesser question in the last issue, that this is a misplaced appeal:

I believe your skeptic friend is committing an error similar to that of both Christians and skeptics who use Revelation 22:18-19 to address changes to any part of the Bible (not just Revelation). Many have pointed out that Rev, 22:18-19 is only meant to apply to Revelation itself, and this is true, but I think it goes deeper than that.

Revelation seems to be a sort of legal document -- part of what could be called a "covenant lawsuit" against those who have failed in their adherence to God's covenant. In that sense, the warning would therefore apply only to the original document penned by John, not to unofficial copies. In other words, it is just as it is in modern courts, which will not tolerate anyone tampering with official filings (which lawsuit parties might be tempted to do!), but would hardly care if someone took a copy of a legal document home and defaced it.

WMS' case for a Saturday Sabbath leans heavily thereafter on Old Testament commands; when it gets to the New Testament, however, they can only point out that:

Jesus and the Apostles worshipped on the Sabbath. This is true, but some of these events occurred prior to the Resurrection and the institution of the new covenant, while others were a case of someone like Paul simply going where the Jews were (Saturday worship) in order to preach to them. These are points I have addressed in more depth in the linked article.

"The Lord's day" is the same thing as the Sabbath, because "the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath." But one must ask, does WMS not also think that Jesus is Lord of all days of the week? Jesus' reply was to Pharisees who denied his ability to work on the Sabbath; thus it was an assertion that all days, not just the other six, were the Lord's to do as he pleased. Therefore, this phrase does not assist in a case for Saturday Sabbath.

WMS maintains the fiction that the use of Sunday "originated from pagan sun-god worship" and that Constantine was responsible for this error; but like much else that hearkens back to The Da Vinci Code, this is historically incorrect, as attestations offered in my article referring to patristic practice indicates. Constantine did place Sunday under the protection of the state, but was not the originator of the practice of Sunday worship.

Distinctive #2: Momma God. "In the Bible, God the Mother as well as God the Father is recorded as God, who will save mankind. Isn't this shocking?" So asks the WMS website; but arguably, the exegetical practices required to arrive at this conclusion are more shocking than the idea itself. Here are the arguments WMS offers, and the first one might look familiar:

Male and female are created in God's image. (Gen. 1:26) Yes indeed - a key verse for the Mormon concept of God as a human is once again put to use by WMS. The error, therefore, is the same, as more thoroughly documented in my book The Mormon Defenders: The language of "image and likeness" does not refer to any sort of physical resemblance, but to representational authority. Put another way, it means we are designated to act as stewards of the creation.

Jesus' disciples testified that Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament represented God the Father and God the Mother (Luke 16:19, Galatians 4:26). It's not clear what Luke 16:19 has to do with such an idea: Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury." Galatians 4:26 at least has the right name, but WMS has the identities confused:

But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother.

There is nothing in Galatians (or anywhere else) that identifies Abraham and Sarah with God in any sense; at most it can be said from Galatians that Abraham and Sarah are seen as our "parents" in faith. At the same time, Gal. 4:26 identifies Sarah more directly with the heavenly Jerusalem - the home of the bride of Christ (the church) in Revelation. So by the WMS equation, the heavenly Jerusalem is therefore God as well.

It is not entirely clear, in any event, how WMS arrives at this exegesis, although if we may guess, it may run in a chain rather like this:

  • Abraham is called our "father"
  • God is called our father
  • Sarah is called our mother
  • Therefore, Abraham and Sarah represent God

    At best, this logic would be like the old ditty that manages to equate Ray Charles with God by pointing out that God is love; love is blind, and Ray Charles is blind. But indeed, the equation made based on Gal. 4:26 is never explained in so many words, so nothing more can be said.

    In the Bible, there are so many testimonies not only about God the Father, whom Christians have been calling for thousands of years, but also about the existence of God the Mother and Her role, mission and prophecies She has to fulfill for the salvation of mankind. So the WMS website claims, but "so many" of these testimonies apparently do not put in an appearance whatsoever. The above is it.

    So what may we say in conclusion? WMS might be called Mormonism Lite. Their ideas weren't new even in the 1960s, when the founder went on his way. I expect that since WMS is starting to evangelize like the Mormons, our best bet when they ring the doorbell is to not answer, then wait until Mormon missionaries come along too. Who knows? Maybe they'll convert each other!

  • Friday, February 24, 2012

    Book Snap: Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament

    Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (hereafter RCNT) is a grade A production in terms of scholarship, but a mixed bag in terms of practical utility for the everyday reader and the apologist. Edited by premier textual scholar and "Greek geek" Daniel Wallace, it contains six essays on textual criticism, three of which focus on specific verses or words. Bart Ehrman is a frequent though not universal target.

    The first essay by Wallace himself is the most valuable for the apologist, and the most generalist essay, taking on the broad question of just how much corruption occurred in the NT. It's a direct reply to Ehrman, and readers may recognize much of the content as similar to that of Wallace's debates with Ehrman.

    The second essay, by Philip Miller, charges Ehrman with a tendentious approach to textual criticism, in which he adopts as his method an automatic preference for the "least orthodox" reading as original. This essay is particularly revealing to the extent that it shows just how much Ehrman disagrees with the text-critical consensus, often disagreeing with readings regarded as "certain" or "almost certain" by those who assemble the text-critical apparatus (including his own mentor Bruce Metzger).

    The third essay is a specific study of the text of John 1:1, and a heretical variant found in some late manuscripts. As such, it is certainly useful to those making a specific study of that passage, but perhaps of little interest to others (which is no slight on it or on its author, Matthew Morgan; merely a utilitarian observation).
    The fourth essay by Adam Messer, though specifically about one text, Matthew 24:36, is of great use to the apologist given that it is perhaps Ehrman's most powerful example of "orthodox corruption". The passage reads: But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The phrase "nor the Son" is absent from some manuscripts, and Ehrman hypothesizes that this was because orthodox scribes were embarrassed by Jesus' lack of omniscience. (See Wallace's answer to this at the link below.)

    Messer substantially weakens Ehrman's case by showing that 1) certain heretics would have had more reason to scrub the critical phrase in Matt. 24:36, and thus the corruption may have crept in via heretical manuscripts (which, despite what we may suppose, may indeed have been used as exemplary copies by orthodox scribes), and 2) many patristic writers had absolutely no problem with the critical phrase, so that the motive Ehrman ascribes to scribes is far less evident than he would want it to be. Messer's information is of such value that I believe it worthy of a summary article in the next E-Block.

    The fifth essay by Tim Ricchuiti is on the Gospel of Thomas, and the last by Brian Wright in on passages that refer to Jesus as theos (God). Like the third essay, these will be of great value to those involved in special study of those topics.

    RCNT is thus an excellent volume for both specialist and generalist, having something of value for both. Pick it up if your budget isn't too tight.

    Wallace link

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Norman Geisler vs Walter Kaiser

    Norman Geisler isn't that good at picking his friends, I guess -- maybe that's why he keeps alienating people. He's enlisted Walter Kaiser, a credible scholar (albeit a specialist in Old Testament) in his crusade against Mike Licona, but if he's going to do that, he'd best settle his differences with him first, as this vid I loaded today shows.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    January-February 2012 E-Block

    Here's the rundown for the latest E-Block, just loaded today.

    On the Binding of Satan -- A reader asked me to have a look at an article that disputes the contention that Satan ws bound in the first century -- as preterists suppose. But as it turns out, the article is disputing something other than preterism; rather, it was a answering an entirely different view. Still, it was useful for some "teachable moments" about different eschatological views of Revelation.

    The Slave Chains, Special Edition -- While reading for another project, I came across Jennifer Glancy's book Slavery in Early Christianity. It's a fairly decent and quite informative tone, but a bit tendentious when it comes to trying to find problems. In this case, we have a look at Glancy's attempts to discern loopholes in New Testament teachings about slavery -- particularly, when it comes to the sexual use of slaves. In the Roman world, as in slaveholding America, slaves were also considered sexual playthings for their owners. But did the New Testament tolerate or even encourage this? Glancy says, "maybe so." I say, "no" and find that Glancy strains some evidence and ignores other evidence.

    Unconditional Election -- Round 2 in a series where I look at criticisms of my material on TULIP by a source that shall remain shamed by being unnamed. This time though, the critic ignored 99% of what I said, and also presumed to align me wholly with Molinism based on just a few sentences of mine -- big mistake.

    The Puritan Files -- John Owen. Back in the day, writers were long-winded and wordy, and no one minded a bit. I took a look at two and a half of Owen's works, and found only a few issues worth serious discussion -- which included some seeds of some of our problems in the American church today.
    Remnants of Romulus -- Recently, John Loftus happily posted results from a scholar who claimed there were detailed parallels between the ascension of Jesus and that of the Roman hero Romulus. The scholar, though, is from the wacky Claremont school (Jesus Seminar and Burton Mack country), so as you might expected, the results are badly overstated and sometimes unreliable.

    Subscribe to the E-Block.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Reads for Fun: Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin"

    It's been a while since I did one of these entries, because I went off my non-fiction kick for a few months. However, when I saw this one for a good price at the local used bookstore, I couldn't resist.

    Ben Franklin is a highly popular figure, and we all know the stories like the old "kite in a storm" (which he actually did as a middle aged man, not an old man, as is often seen). But of course, the rich detail of his life doesn't get around much, and this being my first look at it, I had a number of surprises. (One of the lesser ones was that Franklin suffered from both gout and -- boy, do I know this one well -- kidney stones.)

    For one thing, although I knew Franklin had spent some time in France, I was unaware that he spent 15 years of his life -- just prior to 1776 -- in England, trying among other things to broker a peace with the colonies. I was aware that he was married, but was unaware that his relationship with his wife Deborah was as, well, "shallow" as it was -- by this I mean, by way of comparison to some other figures I've reported on here, such as George Custer and U. S. Grant. Franklin was apparently fond of his wife, but not so much so that he didn't hesitate to leave her behind in America all those years, and that he even didn't return when his home was being threatened by riots, or even when Deborah died. (To be fair, he asked Deborah to accompany him, but out of some apparent unreasoning fear, she declined sea travel -- and spent nearly all of her life in a small area around their home in Philadelphia.)

    And of course, there are the many accomplishments of Franklin; the inventions (bifocals, lightning rods, etc), the political involvement (editing Jefferson's draft of the Declaration; helping broker the construction of the Constitution), and the voluminous writings (Poor Richard's Almanac, various parodies and satires). There is a positive sense of Franklin as an eclectic culturual superman; balanced, however, not only by his less than stellar treatment of his family, but by his jocular flirtations and occasional sexual indiscretions (one of which fathered his son William illegitimately).

    Finally, there is Franklin's effort to basically invent his own religious faith; he apparently never (by his own admission) investigated Christianity. He also advised Thomas Paine to keep his work under wraps for a few years -- naturally, I'd say he should have told Paine to trash it altogether. However, when it came to religion, Franklin was far more interested in tolerance than truth, so it is doubtful he would have done that.

    Franklin is a fascinating figure, to be sure -- and although Isaacson is not a professional historian, he does a good job digging out sources and presenting his accounts clearly. Well worth a look.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Ghosts of End Times Past: J. R. Church's "Psalm Readings"

    From the December 2008 E-Block.


    1988 saw a spate of end times books with the theme that 1988 was "it" as far as the Rapture was concerned. In the last article in this series, we looked at Edgar Whisenant's definitive pronouncements. This time, we have someone who urged caution on our Rapture Diet even as he presented us with what appeared to be chocolate cake!

    J. R. Church's Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms advanced the thesis that the Psalms -- the 19th book in the Bible -- offered thematic prophecies for the years of the 20th century (the "1900s"). As might be expected, the further development of the idea was that the Psalm numbers were providentially arranged so that they matched the 20th century year of their number (e.g., Psalm 48 predicted events of 1948; Psalm 79, of 1979, and so on).

    Unlike Whisenant, who reportedly died in 2001, Church remains active to this day with his ministry "Prophecy in the News" as well as a website titled "Rapture Ready." Church is certainly still wedded to the dispensational paradigm, as for example, he answers questions like, "How do you plan to maintain this site after the rapture?" by saying:

    I have no master plan for maintaining Rapture Ready all the way through the seven-year tribulation. After the big event takes place, I expect RR to last several months. After all, the internet was designed to survive a nuclear war. It should be able to survive the great catching up of all believers.

    It is unlikely any one domain will be able to service the massive traffic surge that will be directed at all prophecy sites. The best hope for achieving enough bandwidth to allow for millions of people to view Rapture Ready's content is for tribulation saints to mirror the site dozens of times.

    ...Another way to disseminate the site would be to copy the pages onto CDs. This method lacks the worldwide reach of a web server, but it has the advantage of being free from any efforts by authorities to block all sites related to Bible prophecy.

    According to Church, his thesis began when his research assistant decided that passages in Psalm 48 sounded like thematic predictions of the birth of the modern nation of Israel in 1948. To him, it seemed "obvious" that Israel's birth was foretold by Psalm 48 [page 13]. Then he found a similar correspondence in Psalm 17 and the events of 1917 [14], and after that, embarked on a survey of the 20th century up to his time that convinced him that Psalms was a chronologue of Israel's 20th century history.

    Church wrote this book in 1986, so beyond that time, he naturally read the Psalms in terms of what he thought would happen, not what already had. His thesis for Psalms 88 through 95 was that it was possible that these would be the seven-year Tribulation period. He was not as definitive in this claim as Whisenant, only saying that a Tribulation fulfillment was possible. Nevertheless, we will indicate the means by which Church arrived at his conclusions, which may be broken down into three general methodologically-flawed practices; and we will use his treatment of Psalm 1 as an exemplar to begin. Then we will examine his case for the two Psalms that inspired him (17 and 48) and seem to be his strongest exemplars.

    • Practice #1: Selective Use of the Psalms. One estimate has stated that the average length of each Psalm is approximately 17 of our verses. Church stacked the deck of potential fulfillment in his favor by using as few verses as possible from each Psalm.

      For example, here is Psalm 1, with the portions used by Church in bold:

      1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly [are] not so: but [are] like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

      It's not hard to see a serious methodological problem here. Church has used perhaps 15% of the Psalm and discarded the remainder without explanation. He has thus already improved his chances for a fulfillment with a selection bias. He needs only pick and choose what finds fulfillment.

      Treatment of other Psalms reveal the same selection bias with the Psalmic texts. Again, we'll see how this is so with respect to his two prime exemplars (Ps. 17 and Ps. 48). Not all of the Psalms are used so sparingly for Church's exegetical efforts (he uses nearly all of Psalm 46, for example) but the overall rule is sparse use of the Psalmic texts.

    • Practice #2: Selective Use of History. This methodological flaw is similar to the first, except that it selectively uses history in the way the first practice used the Biblical text.

      Put it this way: Church has Psalm 1 before him. He needs to look for events in 1901 that fulfill this Psalm. He has an entire year's worth of history to pick out events that would fit. In this case, here's how he made matches to the history of 1901:

      • "Blessed is the man" -- signifies how, at the "fourth conference of the Bund" (Jewish Socialist Union), "it was decided for the first time that the term NATION be...applied to the Jewish people." Thus Ps. 1 "appears to describe the mind-set of world Jewry in 1901." [42]
      • "delight in the law of the Lord" and "like the chaff which the wind driveth away" -- merely used to describe the reactions of the Jewish people.

      We'll discuss how Church arrives at these interpretations shortly, but for the moment, it is enough to point out that it would hardly be difficult to create a correlation between a selected phrase and some selected event in history. Church had 365 days of history to choose from, and the events which concerned the millions of people of Jewish heritage around the world to choose from that year. And the events did not even have to be "big news." A survey of Jewish history websites reveals the following events as significant in the year 1901:

      • The Industrial Removal Office, organized by several Jewish organizations, relocate Jewish immigrants from the Lower East Side to communities across the United States.
      • The Fifth Zionist Congress decides to establish Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL) - The Jewish National Fund.
      • RELIEF SOCIETY FOR GERMAN JEWS (Hilsvereinder Deutschen Juden) (Germany) was founded. It was designed to help Eastern European Jews immigrate to Germany.
      • JASCHA HEIFETZ (Lithuania-USA) Violinist. He started lessons at age three and debuted at age seven. He is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of the century. Heifetz arranged and transcribed more than one hundred classical and modern compositions.
      • HERZL (Ottoman Empire) Met with the Sultan of Turkey to discuss the establishment of a Jewish state and the obtaining of a charter. Herzl failed in both attempts.
      • WILLIAM SAMUEL PALEY (USA) Radio and television pioneer. Paley began his career working in his father's cigar manufacturing plant. In 1920, he bought a failing chain of radio stations and turned it into the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Paley was also one of the first to see the possibilities of television right after WWII.

      Strangely, the 1901 meeting of the Bund that Church mentions did not even make any of the lists I surveyed, though it apparently did happen as he claims. But it is also clear that the emergence of personalities like Heifitz and Paley were regarded as more significant for Jewish history!

      The implication is clear -- Church once again stacked the deck in his favor by selection bias with history. But there's one last flawed methodolgy to uncover.

    • Practice #3: Midrashic use of Scripture with history. By now the reader will have perceived that Church's use of Psalm 1 is quite free with the text in terms of how it is "fulfilled." The two points above are illustrative. The application of "blessed is the man" is arrived at by claiming that the "man" is corporate Israel [42]. There is simply no exegetical basis for this claim. Moreover, the fulfillment is vague and generalized, and illustrates the selection bias with reference to history. Why is not the "blessed" man Herzl, to be "blessed" for at least trying to get a charter? Or maybe the Fifth Zionist Congress could be called "blessed" for establishing the Jewish National Fund. Or, why is the "man" not perhaps Heifetz or Paley (because of their talents)?

      The second aspect of proposed fulfillment is little better, and reflects a common tactic of Church's. "Delight in the law of the Lord" and "like the chaff which the wind driveth away" are descriptive phrases so vague in context that they might be applicable to any Jewish population in any year -- whether 1901 AD or 364 BC.

    Sadly, these tactics reflect the overarching rule of Church's methodology, not the exception. Now let's see how this is the case with Church's two strongest exemplars, the ones that inspired his book to begin with: Ps. 17 and Ps. 48.

    • Psalm 17: Selective Use of the Psalms. Psalm 17 is more than twice the size of Psalm 1, but Church proportionately uses less of it than he did Psalm 1. Once again, here is the text of the Psalm, with the portions he uses highlighted:
      1 Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. 2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. 3 Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. 5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. 6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. 7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. 8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. 10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. 11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; 12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. 13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: 14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. 15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

      With over 90% of the Psalm summarily discarded, Church substantially increases his chances for a "fulfillment."

    • Psalm 17: Selective Use of History. This is one of Church's "best case" scenarios; he finds fulfillment in the 1917 British capture of Jerusalem, and there is little doubt that this would be regarded as "a" major event in Jewish history of 1917. But had Allenby waited a month and done his work in 1918, there was plenty for Church to appeal to in 1917 otherwise: The establishment of the Tarbut, or Jewish cultural organization; the start of a new round of pogroms after the Russian Revolution; the establishment of the Jewish welfare board, and so on. In addition, since Church has now opened the door to actions of other nations that affect the fate of Jewish peoples (in this case, Britain) he has expanded his range of potential choices. Finally, the campaign against Jerusalem was a complex affair that took almost two months (see here) giving Church plenty of material to select from to match up to any part of Ps. 17.
    • Psalm 17: Midrashic use of Scripture with history. This is the most significant difficulty. Even Church is compelled to admit that these references are "cryptic":
      • "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings..." -- is interpreted in terms of the "wings" of airplanes that Allenby sent over Jerusalem to intimidate the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The figure of speech here, though, is of a mother bird nestling her young under her wings, and that is decidedly not what Allenby's purpose was.
      • "Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey..." Interpreted in terms of Britain (symbolized by a lion, which is indeed their national symbol) becoming "greedy of their new protectorate" because they did not allow Jews "to return with dignity" and "collaborated with the Arabs." It is clear that Church must treat the text midrashically, divorcing this phrase from all else that is said about the "wicked" to whom these words apply.

        In addition, the "greedy" acts of Britain Church describes took place well after 1917, and it is hard to apply "greed" as a motivation even with the descriptors of events that Church uses (which he does not explain, or document with correlations to actual events; e.g., he does not explain how Jews were not allowed to "return with dignity" and how this reflected "greed" by the British.

    • Psalm 48: Selective Use of the Psalms. Psalm 48 is only slightly shorter than Psalm 17 and more than twice the size of Psalm 1. This time, however, Church uses approximately 55% of his text:
      1 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. 2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. 3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge. 4 For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. 5 They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. 6 Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. 7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. 8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. 9 We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. 10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. 11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. 12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. 13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. 14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

      55% is better than 15%, but still reflects a significant selection bias. That said, even with this 55%, there is some that is lacking enough in specifics that it could be applied to a variety of historical events (e.g., verses 1-2, 11, 13-14).

    • Psalm 48: Selective Use of History. As with 1917, this represents a "best case" scenario for Church since there is nothing else in 1948 that could conceivably vie for being the most important event for Jewish persons. Indeed, we may fairly admit that no other historical event of 1948 would fit as well.

      It is here, in the final category, that Church's use of Psalm 48 is at its weakest:

    • Psalm 48: Midrashic use of Scripture with history. Although Church says that Psalm 48 "clearly describes the revival of the nation of Israel," I find that I must squint a great deal to see it!

      • "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." These two verses are quoted at the start of Church's commentary, but his application amounts to identifying the words "beautiful for situation" with Israel, based on a late rabbinic commentary (11th century AD!) that these words come from a Hebrew term that means, "branch of a tree" -- a conclusion for which I can find no substantiation. (The words refer to attractiveness and elevation -- as in, above sea level).

        That said, even if the "tree" reading is granted, this could obviously apply to Israel at any time in history and is not specific to 1948 events. It is this next passage that Church most directly ties to 1948:

      • "For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail."

        Church improbably identifies the "kings" of this passage with "the General Assembly of the United Nations" and says these "passed by together" in the form of a "delegation sent to Palestine to investigate the situation existing in 1947 between the British, Jews and Arabs." It is hard to accept an identification of mere delegation members as "kings." Church is presumably referring to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which consisted of representatives from 11 nations.

        Church goes on to say that the remainder of this quote "remarkably portrays the conclusions of the UN delegation who returned to New York with the suggestion that a new Jewish nation be formed." And so it is that Church says that the baby "born" is Israel.

        The immediate interpretive problem is that the "birth pains" are used as a figure of speech -- not of an actual birth. Moreover, the reason for the kings being in pain is that they see the amazing height of Jerusalem, which makes it a problematic military target. Ps. 48 is a picture of foreign invaders taking a good look at Jerusalem's tactical position and realizing that they're not going to have an easy time taking the city in conquest. Verses 11-13 are offered in the same vein, as a survey of Jerusalem's fortifications (which Church does agree to, and sees as a warning to the Jews of 1948 to get ready for an Arab attack!). Church's interpretation is substantially midrashic.

        At this point, it may be objected that Church is taking no more liberties than New Testament authors did in their use of the Old Testament. We may grant that the NT use of the OT at least permits a precedent, in theory. However, what Church offers is much more radical than anything found in the New Testament (to say nothing of the fact that there is no evidence that Church possesses the inspirational or prophetic authority to take such liberties).

        For example, when Matthew uses a phrase from Hosea and applies it to Jesus -- "out of Egypt I have called my son" -- this is a type of midrashic exegesis, for Hosea's original reference is to Israel coming out of Egypt in the Exodus. Matthew applies this to Jesus (God's Son) returning from Egypt. This is legitimate midrashic exegesis. The idea is substantially the same. The elements are substantially the same: Egypt is the same nation for both Hosea and Matthew; both Israel and Jesus are called "sons" of God. Matthew is properly working under the principle that God acts the same way in history over and over again.

        Church, in contrast, must change the idea (from the fear of the difficulty of conquest, to fear over the fate of displaced, persecuted Jews) and change several meanings (kings, reference to the height, reason for the pain) to make his exegesis work. While NT midrash takes some contextual liberties, none go as far as Church has with this reading. There is no guiding principle of God acting in a way similar to what He did before.

      • That leaves the reference to the ships of Tarshish, which Church reads in terms of Britain occupying Israel, under the assumption that the British could find their ancestry in the people of Tarshish! The picture of Ps. 48, however, is one of a naval attack being deflected by God's power (through the miracle of a wind), and even if we accept the questionable equation Church makes of Britain with Tarshish (an equation I have yet to see in any commentary), the picture will not fit the British of 1948, who withdrew of their own accord.


    Church wisely did not extend himself too far with his thesis, such that he definitively associated 1988 with the Rapture; but he did come close enough. It becomes clear, however, that neither he nor his readers learn from their mistakes. In 1991, Church issued a volume entitled Hidden Prophecies in the Song of Moses that followed the same "freelance" exegetical principles, and offered new readings of Psalms in the 90s range. In this respect, Church is far too reminscent of Jehovah's Witnesses who predicted Jesus' retun at various dates (like 1914) and thereafter re-interpreted and/or denied their prior prophecies when there was a failure to fulfill.

    Regrettably, there are those who will willingly go along with such failures, and even enable authors like Church in the throes of their failings. A 2000 Amazon review of Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms provides just such an example of this:

    The only problem I have with this book is that it is dated and the auther was jumping the Gun a little bit, too eager to see the return of our Lord. He guessed about 1998 (Based on this concept of psalms as mordern prophecy I would guess 2010) He did however predict a war in 1991 (the updated version of this book was printed in 1988) he even included by name Iraq, the threat of bio warfare and that it would not effect the Isreali's directly. (They)"Need only wacth (as in on CNN/TV)the punishment [of the] wicked. Psalm 91 even gives the approximate casualties of the war. 91:7 though a thousand fall on your side (the allies) tens of thousands at you right hand (Iraq) near you it shall not come. The concept is confirmed!

    If as this book suggests, each Psalm is a prophecy for the corrosponding year, than look for a devestating war in the middle east in the year 2002 (perhaps beginning as early as october or November 2001)

    I expect that this reader eventually found some way to identify that "devastating war" with action in Afghanistan in 2002 -- making whatever midrashic adjustments were necessary to make the connection!

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Melting Ice Waiting for Delivery

    A few days ago I had one of those fundamentalist-type Skeptics email me with one of those tired canards that flies in a circle, stating that they saw no reason to study in depth something they already knew would turn out to be untrue. Then they added another canard I've heard before, but as best I recall, not written about: He declared that we need higher standards of evidence for the Gospels than we do for a historical work like that of Tacitus, because there is no fact "on which a person would base his whole mode of life and world view." In other words, for this reason, suddenly all standard and otherwise universally accepted tests are useless, and we need to arbitrarily raise the bar of evidence.

    And indeed, arbitrary it is: Epistemic rules don't suddenly become less effective or valid because the object of their study is more earth shaking than something else. This, of course, is merely variation on Carl Sagan's arbitrary ECREE dictum -- something formulated not as an objective standard for epistemology, but as a flippant pseudo-rebuttal to what Sagan had already decided were absurd claims. In turn, ECREE is merely Hume reanimated from the dead, when in reality he should remain politely dead.

    But there's another side as well; flip this objection over, and you'll see a lot of beetles underneath. It is rightly recognized that yes, Christianity is something on which one may "base his whole mode of life and world view." But the key word is MAY. One wonders what this objector has specifically in mind, and then, why they fail to see that it is a non-objection.

    For example, do they suppose that being a Christian means dropping some view they hold with respect to (say) abortion, or homosexuality? That's not true. There are plenty of professing Christians who hold to pro-choice views, or who side with gay marriage arguments.

    Do they think it means they must become young earth creationists? Also not true. All it would fence off for them is hardcore materialism -- the Christian spectrum includes everything else in between.

    Do they think it means they'll have to give up something like booze or cigarettes? Well, yes -- Christians do continue with such vices.

    More than that, there are more than a few atheists who think there are coherent arguments for being pro-life, or against gay marriage, or for not being into booze and cigarettes, and there is even reportedly an agnostic (David Berlinski) in the intelligent design movement. So it cuts both ways.

    Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus may make it harder to hold on to views like pro-choice ones, of course; I'd say it requires a great deal more gymnastics to stay pro-choice and be Christian than otherwise. But that's hardly the point, because the original objection implies that the problem is that someone doesn't want to adopt a new "mode of life and world view." Well -- obviously, in practical terms, you don't have to. You may make an unwitting fool of yourself in the process, of course. But there's no magic barrier forcing you to change the way you think or act in the present.

    So, from both sides of the aisle, this "mode of life and world view" objection is merely another of those excuses certain critics make as a way of arbitrarily raising the bar of evidence in order to ensure that it will never be hurdled to their satisfaction.

    The tropical prince is still waiting for that ice.

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Continue Your Agonistic Readings Here

    Our guest poster for several of the last entries, Manwe Sulimo, has now started his own blog where he is continuing his series -- and as of this moment, there are several new entries. So, we'll hand off the blogospheric privileges to him from here. Enjoy!


    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    With Friends Like These

    Norman Geisler has of late resorted to a new tactic -- I mean new to this controversy with Licona, not new in general -- of using proxies to stand and speak for him. In so doing, though, he ends up neatly illustrating the failure of his authoritarian tactics, and so as well merely greases the slide that is taking him further down into the pit of obscurity and irrelevance.

    His first effort in this direction was drawing a testimony from Paige Patterson. Nick Peters nicely dissected Patterson's pep speech (link below), so I won't need to say much more, apart from noting that the selection of Patterson as a supporter speaks to a certain moral problem inherent in Geisler's authoritarian methods.

    Patterson apparently did some good in the past, but in more recent years, has become a figure of questionable moral dealings. The interested reader might want to search his name and tie it to, first, the name "Darrell Gilyard" and second, and separately, to the name "Sheri Klouda". The bottom line in these (and in other places) is that Patterson has promoted what can only charitably be described as misogynist viewpoints -- which in turn leads to serious questions about Geisler's judgment in his choice of spokesman-proxies.

    Geisler's next proxy was David Farnell, a Biblical scholar of highly questionable academic achievement. Again, Nick did a number on this one (link below), but I have this to add: Farnell was co-editor, with Robert Thomas, of the caveman-beat-chest volume The Jesus Crisis -- a book deserving of apocalyptic opprobrium for its denigration of serious scholarship. (See link below; it is one of the few books I have ever distinctly listed as Not Recommend.)

    At about the same time, Geisler rang up a co-authored letter from Ergun Caner and D. L. Moody of Arlington Baptist College. Not unsurprisingly, it is, like Patterson's commentary, remarkable for its lack of serious content and engagement with arguments; it is little more than a catena of the standard empty threats (e.g., "the absolute sufficiency of Scripture in the narrative are now both being diluted and denied,") pep-talk statements ("we stand with you in this issue") and papal horn-blowing in support of Geisler's efforts (" Your leadership is once again so sorely needed, and you have stood like Athanasius."). Once again it seems that cooperative back-patting is part of the good old boy system in place here.

    And yet the commentary is also illustrative in many ways of the way Geisler operates. For one, even more so than Patterson by far, is the appeal to the questionable moral character Ergun Caner has become. Since Geisler has stubbornly refused to answer charges regarding his defense of Caner, it is worth asking again whether this does not in fact reflect Geisler's poor moral judgment. Is he now so desperate in circling the wagons that he is willing to take on any sort of support in his defense? How about Jim Bakker next, then?

    In contrast, the use of Moody is understandable; few would see that name and not make an immediate connection to his prior namesake. That said, neither he nor his namesake has any rank as a scholar; so once again, it would seem to be a case of a Great Man speaking, one to whom we are expected to offer immediate deference merely because they have spoken.

    Moody and Caner do seem to briefly allude to my video when they say, "we all see through the childish attacks you have faced." It is a curiosity that more than one from Geisler's support group have used the "childish" canard here; they, like certain atheists I have dealt with, seem oblivious to the use of animated features in the education of adults (see link below) as well as the popularity of animation among adults for entertainment purposes.

    It is also said, "personal attacks are often offered when the opposition cannot

    answer the clarity of your position." That of course is a joke in itself; Geisler has been repeatedly answered, and it is in part because he has refused to reply in turn -- even deleting a link to my challenge from his Facebook page -- that I felt that materials like Geisler's Christmas Carol became necessary. And of course, it is hardly a "personal attack" either, to the extent that it accurately reflects Geisler's own behavior in personally attacking Licona and others.

    Finally, just lately, Geisler has rung up Emir Caner -- Ergun's brother. Yes, of course, the moral opprobrium hangs like a scent here as well; and yes, of course, this Caner offers no more substance than the other one. There is the usual threat language ("path to liberalism," " placing the resurrection of Jesus itself in jeopardy"; "naturalistic presuppositions," -- even though the latter forms no part of Licona's arguments regarding Matthew 27); the usual pep-talking ("It is imperative, then, that Bible believers stand firm on the historicity and trustworthiness on this doctrine," " we cannot, in the name of friendships or sincere motives, let our guards down when a generation of new believers are relying on present Christian soldiers to take their proper stand.") -- but not on iota of actual engagement with the issues.

    So what do we have in sum? We have a collection of authoritarian testimonies; we have little to no argument (only Farnell makes even the slightest attempt at that, and he fails badly, as Nick shows); we have support from at two to three men of questionable moral character and one man of questionable academic character. This is the best stable Geisler can assemble in his defense, and it speaks for himself.

    He'd be better off collecting some more testimonies from "anonymous."

    Vs Paige Patterson

    Vs David Farnell
    Jesus Crisis review (see bottom of page)

    Cartoons as educational

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Book Snap: Charles Taylor's "Sources of the Self"

    I'm still bogged down with USDA work for a few weeks, so I'm happy to have another guest piece to post, this time a review of a book relevant to my studies even if not directly about the Bible. Special thanks to reader M. Smith for his review.

    Thanks to the work of the Context Group (and for many us, to JPH for making their ideas accessible), we have been confronted with the fact that our Western experience of self-hood is not a given of human nature. Even the term 'self-hood' is one which should be used with qualification when applied to other cultures to avoid anachronism and ethnocentrism. This revelation (or retrieval) opens up a field of questions. How can human beings express and genuinely experience such radical differences in their sense of agency? What are the benefits or costs, psychologically, socially, or ethically, in these different modes of being? Is there an expression of self-hood which is really the true one? These questions also fuel those of more direct apologetic significance; is there a Biblically prescribed view of identity? If there is, is it accessible to us or have we gone beyond the possibility of taking it up?

    This tome by Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, explores what makes a self, and particularly, what has made the modern self. It is a book of both history and philosophy, or perhaps it should be described as history read through a certain philosophically attuned lens. It is a philosophical anthropology, perhaps. This theoretical bent might suggest a certain flimsiness in the account and certainly Taylor's reading of modernity's roots is contestable, but it's nonetheless cogent enough (down right persuasive I'd say) that no-one who touts a simplistic view of our cultural situation can justifiably do so while this narrative stands.

    The first one hundred pages are dedicated to explicating the philosophical insights which serve as Taylor's hermeneutic key to his historical interest. Within it he confronts the error of thinking that humans beings have “selves the way we have hearts and livers, as an interpretation-free given,” and the motives in contemporary thought that sustain it. Self-hood, Taylor argues, is fundamentally linked with notions of the Good, which modern moral philosophy, with its emphasis on merely defining the content of obligation, blinds us to. Indeed he argues that one cannot even be a self without having some orientation to a perceived Good; to lack a strong evaluative basis is to not know where one stands, to not know where one is coming from, to be lost – it is what constitutes an “identity crisis.” And indeed, as different ideas of the Good come into vogue so do different ideas of what human agents are (and vice versa); to see individual freedom as the Good is to see human beings as monads, to see rational self-control as the Good is to see human beings as agents concerned with maximising utility. In a myriad of ways Taylor spells out a link between identity and the Good.

    With this legwork done he sifts through the writings of significant voices throughout Western history in a staggering display of learning, highlighting the Goods that captivated them and moulded new visions of human agency. From Descartes' love of instrumental rationality construing a subject radically disengaged, to the Romantics' notion of nature's voice within, stirring our sentiments and fuelling our sense of inner depths, Taylor chronicles the fateful moves that have lead to where we are today. He is aware, of course, that too much is missed out for his account to be one of sufficient historical causation. Much of the sociological factors that would feature in a fuller story is omitted; his project centres on the articulators, the voices that sensed change in its infancy and gave it voice, which in turn empowered and propelled it.

    Any decent account of origins will bring clarity to the thing explained and Taylor's work certainly helps to bring modernity into focus, shedding light on its motives and struggles. The book should no doubt be sought for a deeper understanding of our times and of the issues that underlay the questions posed above. It will absolutely not, however, accommodate a quick and easy apologetic for the Bible, though Taylor is a committed Catholic himself (a fact I didn't know approaching the book, and which is gently confessed but not made much of throughout it). The only views that this work swiftly rebuts are simplistic ones; he aligns himself neither with whole-hearted repudiations of modernity and its individualism, nor equally strong affirmations. Modernity is neither unambiguously good or bad, and there may be certain Goods that can't be recovered without forfeiting those we already value. We exist in a field of dilemmas and tensions. It is material for the thoughtful reader to reflect on and build on; there are no easy answers here.

    More straight-forwardly, it does provide powerful resources for challenging those skeptics (and Christians too) who are incredulous over the very idea of such disparity between ancients and moderns. Taylor's narrative, by showing the progressive change, necessarily makes the gap more traversable. Additionally, by providing an analysis of the transcendental conditions of self-hood, he shows the human nature that unites us with the ancients, combating our instinct to recoil at how alien their world sounds. On a more basic point, the sympathy with which Taylor writes will help carry those open but overly cautious of the idea through its counter-intuitive barriers and on to the other side.

    The book probably takes some background in philosophy to appreciate, though general readers should be encouraged that it is neither as technical as analytic philosophy, nor as impenetrable as continental philosophy. The space between conceptual clarity and beauty of prose is sought and exploited - Taylor is an excellent writer. My only reservations are that, by the end, it feels a little too drawn out. It's also not entirely clear whether Taylor's moral realism really is moral realism, and one also gets the sense that he is unjustifiably dismissive of natural theology. But those are asides, the main thrust of the work is not burdened by these minor gripes. Anyone concerned with seriously thinking through modernity and individualism owe this work a study.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Honor and Shame, Part 4

    While I catch up after spending a week in USDA training, I'm pleased to have another entry from Manwe Sulimo on honor and shame to use. I'm keeping the original font this time so I don't foul up the Greek characters.

    When a person reads the Bible, they can be clued in on some of the underlying subtext by the words used in a text. When looking for instances of honor and shame in the New Testament, a reader can (at least in part) sometimes recognize them by the following terms (this list is not exhaustive either in the terms or the examples of them):

    Greek Words for "Honor"
    • Honor
      GREEK: τιμή, timē
      EXAMPLES: John 4:44, Romans 2:7, 2:10, 9:21, 12:10, 13:7, 1st Peter 1:7, 2:7, 2:17, 1st Corinthians 12:23-24
      NOTE: Most commonly used to refer to humans
    • Glory / Reputation
      GREEK: δόξα, doxa
      EXAMPLES: John 5:44, 7:18, 8:50, Revelation 4:10-11, 5:12-13, Romans 9:23, 11:36, 16:27, 1st Corinthians 2:8, 1st Thessalonians 2:6
      NOTE: Primarily, but not exclusively, used to refer to God
    • Praise
      GREEK: ἔπαινος, epainos
      EXAMPLES: Romans 2:29, 13:3, 1st Corinthians 4:5, 8:18, Ephesians 1:6, 1:12, 1:14, Philippians 1:11, 4:8, 1st Peter 1:7, 2:14
      NOTE: Another word for praise (αινος, ainos) is used exclusively for God (Matthew 21:16, Luke 18:43)

    Greek Words for Seeking Honor
    • Boast / Boasting
      GREEK: καυχάομαι, kauchaomai
      EXAMPLES: Romans 2:17, 2:23, 5:3, 1st Corinthians 1:29, 1:31, 3:21, 2nd Corinthians 10:13, Galatians 6:14, Ephesians 2:9, Philippians 3:3

    Greek Words for "Shame"
    • Shame
      GREEK: αἰσχρός, aischros and words with the αἰσχ- stem.
      EXAMPLES: Luke 9:26, 1st Corinthians 1:26, 11:4-6, Romans 1:16, 5:5, 6:21, 9:33, 10:11, Hebrews 12:2, Titus 1:11
    • Dishonor
      GREEK: ἀτιμία, atimia and words with the ἀτιμ- stem.
      EXAMPLES: Mark 12:4, John 8:49, 1st Corinthians 4:10, 11:14, 12:23, Romans 1:24, 1:26, 9:21
    • Reproach / Disgrace
      GREEK: ὄνειδος, oneidos
      EXAMPLES: Luke 1:25, Romans 15:3, 1st Timothy 3:7, Hebrews 10:33, 11:26, 13:3
    • Scorn
      GREEK: καταγελάω, katagelaō
      EXAMPLES: Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:40, Luke 6:21, 6:25, 8:53
    • Slander / Blaspheme
      GREEK: βλασφημέω, blasphēmeō
      EXAMPLES: Matthew 9:3, 27:39, Mark 3:28, Acts 13:45, 18:6, 19:37, Romans 2:24, 3:8, 1st Corinthians 4:13, 10:30, 1st Timothy 1:20, 6:1, Titus 2:5, James 2:7, 1st Peter 4:4, 2nd Peter 2:10, Jude 1:8

    Let me reiterate that this list is far from exhaustive, neither in the list of terms nor the examples given for each. But this should start as an introduction and should remind everyone that honor and shame so ubiquitously permeate the Scriptures that, should we wish to study them, it would behoove us all to have the Bible in one hand and a solid social science interpretative book in the other.

    • Halvor Moxnes and Richard Rohrbaugh, ed., The Social Sciences and New Testament Interpretation, (Massachusetts: Baker Academic, 1996), 23-24..
    • David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2000), 27-28.
    • “Strong's Concordance and Lexicon,” Study Bible,