No activity on the Geisler front this weekend, so we can now get to Part 2 of this series, from the June 2009 E-Block.
Douglas del Tondo (DDT hereafter) is, as we noted in Part 1, a painful read; his prose is fractured and lecturing, such so that you can see him shaking his finger from the pages. His errors make mattters worse; a major misconception is made or repeated every five pages or so, and when all tangled together, make for a most unpleasant experience. So it is that in Part 2, we will cover pages 181-366, and leave the rest (up to 500+ pages) to part 3.
We note again for the record that DDT ignores most modern scholarship on Paul, preferring (yet again) to reach back into the works of "dead white authors" like Luther and Calvin and local pastors with no serious credentials. We will see a very curious exception occur, however -- one which is quite damning in terms of DDT's honesty as a commentator.
DDT proceeds with a contention that Revelation is intended as Jesus' rebuttal to Paul. Little needs be said here, as his case proceeds with a false reading of Paul from the start : "Faith" in Paul he assumes merely means belief or "mental assent"  or (as he puts it) "works are not your personal responsibility and now you can lean back and relax" but as we have noted previously (and in detail here such an understanding of "faith" simply did not exist. Faith meant loyalty, and loyalty produced actions. Paul could hardly teach a concept that did not yet exist, of a faith that excluded works, and DDT can hardly deny that Jesus demanded loyalty from those who would follow him and follow his commands.
DDT also notes that "grace" is only mentioned twice in Revelation, and supposes this to be some specific aspect of Paul's teachings. But it is not: Grace simply meant favor (Handbook of Biblical Social Values, 89) and again, DDT would hardly deny that Jesus showed various persons favor. DDT creates a false dichotomy between the teachings of Paul and Jesus based on anachronistic definitions of critical words.
DDT provides a curious and somewhat midrashic reading of the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25) that also need not detain us long. The point of the parable is readiness for the parousia; deriving lessons beyond that is an exercise in creativity, and indeed, DDT gets exercise making all sorts of unjustifiable matches. The oil in the virgins' lamps is the Holy Spirit, he says, because "Oil in Scripture typically represents the Holy Spirit." 
Oh really? No, not quite. That is the case perhaps when oil is used for anointing, but there is no representation there for oil used for burning. But really, even if DDT is correct in this forced allegorization, his use of it is based on the same misreading of Paul as teaching a works-free gospel. (It is also worth noting, though, that DDT mischaracterizes other commentators as saying that the parable has no parabolic meaning ; when in fact what is normally said is that it has meaning with reference to readiness, as opposed to salvation.)
DDT also misuses Matthew 25:31-46 the same way others do 198-201], an issue we have addressed here. It may also be noted that DDT falls into supposing that simply because the condemned address Jesus as "Lord," this means that they must have been Christians . Not at all: "Lord" was also an honorific title applied to any person in a superior position (much like "sir" today); and if nothing else, one may also point out that the condemned would just as well be using a divine address in a desperate, ingratiating manner.
DDT returns to the question of the Ephesus church in Revelation; we noted in Part 1 that it seemed odd that Ephesus was commended even though it welcomed Paul. DDT's creative answer to this is that the Ephesian church put Paul on trial for heresy and kicked him out, and this is what Revelation praises them for.
The case, needless to say, is not promising. DDT begins by supposing that Paul was tried for falsely claiming to be an apostle. But his entire case here commits a classic confusion which he is at pains to avoid clearing up. "Apostle" is not simply a titular word; it simply means one who is sent. DDT even admits that such a distinction exists, and admits that Paul was an "apostle" (little a, after his example) in a real sense, because he was "sent" by the Antioch church to do missions.  But to find Paul guilty of a "self-serving" crime, DDT must assume that anywhere Paul calls himself an "apostle" he meant it in the titular sense (with a capital A). But there is no sign of this anywhere, and DDT provides no evidence to show that Paul thought of himself as an apostle in this titular sense. Indeed, Paul identifies the Twelve as a distinct group of which he is not a part (1 Cor. 15).
And this, by the way, is one of those curious exceptions for DDT when it comes to scholars. He quotes Witherington (even though he is not in the bibliography) as saying Paul was an apostle with a lower case A. But he seems to not want to quote anything Witherington says (at least so far) that would contradict his thesis that Paul was a heretic.
So what of a trial of Paul? DDT is first compelled to read this out of non-specific statements in 2 Timothy (that Paul issued a "defense" and that "all forsook him") . The problem: Paul's "defense" is apparently related to something having to do with Alexander, who is identified in 1 Timothy as one who blasphemed (1:20). There is thus nothing to show that Paul's "defense" had anything to do with questions of his own status or beliefs.
Most scholars think Paul's "defense" here, if anything, relates to his trial before Roman authorites; if that is the case, then Alexander may have turned "state's evidence" on Paul as revenge for Paul's earlier condemnation of Alexander. Paul is, after all, in jail while writing 2 Timothy (2 Tim. 1:8), so it makes the most sense that his "defense" means his civil trial -- not one before the Ephesian church.
DDT, thus, can find no clear reference to an Ephesian trial of Paul; he must instead read between the lines and insist that the white space is a coded message, thus:
- He also tries to find such a trial indicated in Acts 19:9, where it notes that some were "hardened" against Paul's message. DDT has a serious problem here, though, inasmuch as he has to admit that the Ephesian leadership was behind Paul; so he must resort to the contrivance that "some influential members"  put him on trial and Luke is presenting a "muted" account of it as a friend of Paul. What DDT misses is that these "hardened" people were members of the Jewish synagogue at Ephesus (Acts 19:8) -- not the Christian fellowship there.
- DDT strains to find a trial for heresy in 2 Cor. 1:8-9, where Paul speaks of "affliction" and a figurative death sentence that befell him in Asia (where Ephesus is...along with hundreds of other cities and towns), some reference to a heresy trial in Ephesus.
- Acts 21:28 is cited as "Jews from Asia" who "appeal to James
for help" and DDT supposes that these Jews "were likely followers of
Jesus."  Really? They were appealing to James for help?
Acts 21:27-8 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all [men] every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.Perhaps James changed his name to "Men of Israel" while no one was looking? And perhaps James had good hearing, since this happened in the public setting of the Temple. We have to wonder. DDT goes on to say that "James then takes their side in conversations with Paul" which seems an odd feat given that James is last mentioned in Acts ten verses prior to this incident.
Little need detail us in detail for several pages. DDT reiterates his claim that the Law remains valid for all humans forever , an issue we discussed in Part 1. An enormous portion that follows is dedicated to the premise that James is a rebuttal to Paul, an issue we have discussed in depth here. Needless to say, DDT does not so much as allude to (much less refute) the answers to this issue, though he has certainly read the works of authors who propose it in general. Indeed, that he did so provides us with yet another example of how DDT abuses his sources, and also has apaprently gotten used to the idea that as a lawyer, he can tell the jury only what he wants them to hear, and they can't check on him.
In a note  DDT defends his use of a fringe scholar like Eisenman, admitting that other scholars called him "marginal." He retorts:
Professor Eisenman now has allies willing to defend him, including the renown Christian scholar Ben Witherington III, in The Brother of Jesus, at 89-211.Really!
For those who may not recognize it, The Brother of Jesus is the book co-written by Witherington and Hershel Shanks about the "James ossuary." In it, Witherington says nothing whatsoever to "defend" Eisenman, much less does he spend over 120 pages doing it. The single time Eisenman is mentioned is in a note on page 208, where he is criticized for one of his "major flaws" in using a "midrashic sort of word or name association" to collapse one James into another. Even more damning, in that very range of pages cited by DDT, Witherington provides an answer to those who make what he calls the "historical mistake"  of trying to "pit James over against Paul in some radical way, as if Paul's message as he preached it to Gentiles was being corrected by James." Witherington does suppose that James was correcting some abuses or misunderstandings of Paul's message -- but he does not see them at odds, and manages to call DDT's position as "historical mistake"! One must wonder how DDT thought himself able to get away with this misrepresentation.
Just as ably, DDT gives a commentary on James by Stulac  the short shrift; Stulac offers a simpler version of our own explanation and Witherington's, which DDT merely dismisses by claiming that Stulac "has ignored Paul's actual teachings" -- that is, Paul's teachings as DDT has badly misinterpreted them. We might at this point address two verses in particular that DDT misuses to turn Paul heretic:
- DDT says, "Paul makes it clear that if you are saved 'by grace, it is no more by works.' (Romans 11:6)" Let's quote that more broadly, shall we?
Romans 11:5-6 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.Far from being an instruction concerning individual salvation, Paul is discussing the status of the "remnant" of Israel who would be saved by favor (grace) as opposed to works of the law (which is what "works" Paul refers to in Romans).
- DDT quotes Romans 4:4-5: "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." This he reads as "faith no works" but once again, "works" here is works of the law like circumcision. As it happens, you can see where I corrected a Skeptic who failed to realize this in a colorful TheologyWeb debate here, but here's what I said about Romans 4:4-5: Paul refers to circumcision BEFORE (3:30) as well as AFTER (4:9) that passage. He speaks of "works of the law" in contrast to faith (3:28, etc). This renders his use of "works" in places like 4:2 as an obvious rhetorical shorthand for "works of the law." It is clear that his focus is on "works" associated with the covenant law and not on works in general.
DDT next finds disagreement between James and Paul in these passages:
James 1:13-14 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Romans 7:7-11 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.Can't see it? Neither can I. Somehow DDT gets out of Paul the message that "law arouses sin." No responsible Pauline scholar could ever read such an interpretation out of Romans 7, but DDT arrives at it by finding one irresponsible commentator who said it (a minor Baptist preacher), and then by the usual means of misinterpretion. Paul is not saying that he went down the Ten Commandments checking them off as he broke one at a time; nor is he saying the law inspired sin in him. Rather, he is pointing to law as something that defines sin. If there is no law, there is no sin; if we don't know the law, we don't know what sin is.Reading this as DDT does, as Paul saying "the Law tempted him to sin"  is irresponsible.
Of course, that said, even if DDT is correct, then it needs to be kept in mind that Paul is speaking of one's life (including his own, previously) as a non-believer (see here). That being the case, Paul would only be reflecting by speech in character, then, the erroneous perceptions of a non-believer -- and agreeing thereby with James that blaming the Law for sin is itself erroneous.
We may also note the use of a typical appeal regarding Timothy's circumcision as a sign of Paul's hypocrisy . That too we have answered before:
These few verses offer us a big argument: Is Paul's circumcision of Timothy in line with his gospel of grace? Or was it just an empty gesture invented by Luke? The matter actually goes back a bit further, to the marriage of Timothy's Jewish mother to a Greek father...It is commonly supposed that the circumcision of Tim was a gesture of concession to the Jewish community, Paul's way of "being all things to all men" so that he could save a few. Tim, whose father was Greek (as Luke is at pains to point out), would be considered an offense and an apostate Jew, and so the circumcision was done to facilitate missionary work among the Jews. [Mun.AA, 155] (In fact, the way Luke phrases the matter suggests that Tim's Christian mission was already being affected by this issue.) The key objections, supported by Haenchen, take these aspects. First, it is said: "Circumcision without religious significance would simply have made no sense anywhere in Judaism at the time of Paul and in reality could never be considered." [Haen.AA, 480] Haenchen, however, fails to distinguish between "without religious significance" and "with a different religious significance". Paul objects mightily to those who demand circumcision as a sign of salvation, but he has no beef at all with those who practice it (and the other Jewish laws) as a matter of ancestral tradition. [With.AA, 474; Jns.AA, 289] And this is what the whole deal was about: Showing respect for one's traditions so as not to cause offense among those who still held them in high esteem. Thus, when Haenchen cites various verses showing that "Paul wanted nothing to do with the supplementary circumcision of a Christian" for "it would inevitably awaken the fatal misunderstanding that the true Christian simply must be circumcised," he utterly misses the point. In the wake of the Apostolic decree, there is no way that such a misunderstanding would crop up, except among the terminally stupid - and in fact, that Tim underwent the procedure even though he technically did not have to would be seen as a tribute to his Jewish side of unimaginable proportions. (And it is not as though the matter would be left unexplained by Paul in the first place!)And amazingly, or maybe not, DDT also appeals to the "Epiminides Paradox" . Of that we said:
What our writer has failed to do is recognize the point of the "paradox". Yes, Epiminides himself was a Cretan, and was regarded as one of "their" prophets (by Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero). But neither Epiminides, nor Paul, intended these words absolutely. The words were written in a fully proverbial sense. What was the point of the words, as once written by Epiminides? The data is not clear, but there seems to be a consensus that it was related to Cretan claims that their island hosted the tomb of Zeus. This was a claim well known of the Cretans (noted by Lucian, among others); the tendency to tell this "tall tale" (and perhaps others like it?) was so characteristic of the natives of this island that the Greeks had a word, kretizein, which referred to the practice of lying or cheating. (The city of Corinth was "honored" in a similarly dubious way, as we might recall!) Now by no means did Epiminides mean these words absolutely. And yet, no one, not even Epiminides, would have denied that the sentiment expressed was indeed "true," for it represented a recognized characteristic of the Cretans at that time. But it is doubtful that one was to understand that ALL Cretans were liars, etc. This is an example of a proverb, a non-absolute truth. (See our essay on this subject.) At the same time, then, it is obvious that Paul did not use these words any differently. He was, after all, writing to Cretans like Titus! And yet, because the opponents referred to in this letter fulfilled Epiminides's description so well (cf. 1:10-11), he was well justified in citing and using (with not a little bit of ironic sarcasm!) the quote by Epiminides and citing as "true" in the very same sense.DDT claims that "[m]any scholars have poured over this to find an escape, and salvage Paul's inspiration" and "solve this logical impossibility." The idea of a genre of proverb is apparently one of those solutions DDT missed...or does not know how to answer.
DDT goes on to suppose that James' remarks about boasting are aimed at Paul [290f], but as we noted in Part 1, DDT misreads the "boasting" verses because of his unfamiliarity with the principles of Greco-Roman rhetoric.
A significant portion of what follows in DDT [293-330] relies heavily on DDT's uncritical acceptance of the theories of Robert Eisenman. DDT simply accepts without question Eisenman's premises that the Ebionites existed in the first century and then runs with it. One minor point of DDT's worth noting: In a note  he claims it "significant" that whereas in 1 Cor. 11:24-5, Paul says Jesus' body was "broken," Luke 22:19-20, which he quotes otherwise exacly, says his body was "given." DDT makes this out as "contradictory of Luke as well as theologically troublesome" but doesn't seem to note that the same word for "broke" is used by Luke to describe what Jesus did to the bread which he identified with his body. If Paul is at variance with Ps. 34:20, then it seems Jesus was as well.
A chapter following supposes that John's epistles identified Paul as a false prophet; this is done by drawing vague connections, as between Gal. 2:6 (where Paul says that the pillars "imparted nothing to me") and 1 John 4:6 (in which John says that people who don't know God "won't listen to" the apostles). [332-3] DDT somehow arrives at the conclusion that because the pillars gave Paul nothing with respect to his Gentile mission assignment, this means that Paul didn't take what they had to say with regard to anything at all. Much is also made of Paul's alleged exclusive claim to evangelize Gentiles, supposedly leaving out Peter's work among Gentiles, though DDT must find this again by putting in Paul's mouth more than what he said.
Of much curiosity is DDT's argument that Paul taught that Jesus "did not truly have human flesh."  This is based in part on adhering to the usual outline of original sin, one that we do not adhere to. Other than this, DDT appeals to Rom. 8:3 and Phil. 2:7 in which Paul says Jesus was in the "likeness" of sinful human flesh (he ignores the qualifier) and in which he "appeared to be a man" (ignoring that Jesus would be more than just a man, but a hybrid of human and divine).
Likewise curious is DDT's argument that Papias read John's epistles as anti-Pauline. One of his arguments for this is that Papias does not quote from Paul -- an odd point, given that the fragments we have left from Papias amount to a few sentences; but of some note is that DDT cites The Catholic Encyclopedia  in approval of this point, while ignoring its comment:
It was formerly customary among liberal critics to assume (for no proof was possible) that Papias ignored St. Paul. It is now recognized that a bishop who lived a few miles from Colossæ cannot be suspected of opposition to St. Paul merely on the ground that the few lines of his writings which remain do not contain any quotation from the Apostle. It is highly probable that Papias had a New Testament containing the Four Gospels, the Acts, the chief Epistles of St. Paul, the Apocalypse and Epistles of St. John, and I Peter.DDT's next argument supposes that Paul's existence was prophesied in the Gen. 49 prediction by Jacob that the tribe of Benjamin was a "ravening wolf" (49:27). DDT's exegesis is quite creative at this point; the prediction that Benjamin would "divide the spoil" is said to allude to Paul dividing the Jewish and Gentile missions . Little needs to be said here; this is simply far too creative to be given credence. We close this round, thus, with comments on one final random connection made by DDT between these passages :
Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am [Christ]; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
Rom. 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.Perversely, DDT supposes that Jesus in Luke has predicted that Paul would use these very words highlighted in Romans, and so Paul is the "Christian preacher who fits Jesus' prophecy in Luke 21:8". That it might be that Paul is alluding to Jesus' own words is not considered.