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July 01, 2011

Comments

Reliable for what?

Hi Dennis, the reliability is in regards to what the New Testament says and what it claims to be, i.e. the Word of God, revealing to man the truth about our condition before the Holy One and all of what that means to those who believe.

Remember that time that Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim slew Goliath the Gittite (2 Sam 21:19)?

I do remember that time, Malebranche. Did you have a point, or were you just strolling down memory lane with your high view of Scripture and your Googling for Biblical contradictions?

Brad said: what it claims to be, i.e. the Word of God...

The New Testament, as an "it," is something the Church collated and deemed "the Word of God" centuries after each individual book was written. Which book of the New Testament makes that claim for the whole New Testament, which did not exist as an "it" at the time any of the individual books were written?

Hi Perry, the new testament was "received", not collatted and deemed a certain title. I'll try to address this more when I have time later.

Brad B,

While you're at it, please clarify your response to Dennis: I don't think you heard his question. Reliable for what?.

I think reliable is supposed to mean historically accurate in this case.

Melinda seems to imply that the high resolution photos demonstrate this form of reliability. How is that?


RonH

Hi RonH, the NT is not a history book, but the events described as having occurred did certainly take place in time and space. Is thelre something particular that you[or Dennis] are aiming at?

As far as what is it reliable for[?], revealing the gospel in its fullness, teaching man how to worship, and live Godly lives, before the Holy.

Thanks Brad.

Hi Perry, it would be inadequate to attempt a sufficient reply to your question in a blog format, but some clarification can be had. When I said that the NT is "received", that term is meant to describe that men did not determine which books of the NT were canonical, but that men discovered with help from the Holy Spirit which books were to be included in the canon.

To say that church councils or some other formulas gave approval to the books is to place them as authoritative over the Word of God. I may be misinterpreting your question, but unless you hold to a view of infalliblity of a magisterium[ala Roman Cathoicism] to determine canon, my objection to that kind of language is a valid objection. Maybe this is sufficient enough for you, or not.

As far as the NT being self attesting, Jesus, Paul, and Peter all made statements claiming inspiration and authority of NT writings. Here is[partially] what the Westminster Confession of Faith says:

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

It is evident that even as late as the reformation, debate as to the canonicity of the NT was taking place--as it is even today. I'm not sure we could say that the canon was closed at some early century if that determination is to be by Church authority, since the visible church is fallible and has continually debated the issue. But the Word of God is not fallible. One sits in judgement over the other, and the Protestant view is that the scriptures are binding over the church, not the other way around as the Roman church holds.

One thing cannot be denied, the NT canon was present by 90 a.d., but not necessarily recognized because there is the fallible church taking steps over time in various efforts to come to discover which books are in fact inspired. I am not prepared to discuss which of these efforts have merit, and in fact books written on this topic have much to say in tension with each other and are well reasoned that I would not be able to comment on further than this.

Brad said: When I said that the NT is "received", that term is meant to describe that men did not determine which books of the NT were canonical, but that men discovered with help from the Holy Spirit which books were to be included in the canon.

That is an opinion all right, Brad, but how is it provable? This says nothing about any outside, verifiable source existing to "prove" which books were to be included, or even if the authors themselves foresaw that their works would one day be deemed as "Scripture" and bound on thin paper in a leather cover and called "The New Testament." Don't get me wrong - I believe they are reliable as historical documents and helpful in many ways to understand the workings of the early church, but I hold that "inspiration" is something we have deemed them to be, and it is nigh impossible to verify outside without resorting to circular reasoning.

"Jesus, Paul, and Peter all made statements claiming inspiration and authority of NT writings."

Again, so what? This is circular reasoning at its most basic. How could Jesus claim inspiration or authority for the NT when He wasn't alive at the time of any of the books' writings? If you're referring to Revelation, well, again, I attest it is deemed holy because men have said so. If Paul or Peter made statements regarding their writings as authoritative, well, okay, but they were still men. Perhaps I am more Roman Catholic in my view, but there it is.

Malebranche,

A note on your point, from the Net Bible notes:

sn The Hebrew text as it stands reads, “Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite.” Who killed Goliath the Gittite? According to 1 Sam 17:4-58 it was David who killed Goliath, but according to the MT of 2 Sam 21:19 it was Elhanan who killed him. Many scholars believe that the two passages are hopelessly at variance with one another. Others have proposed various solutions to the difficulty, such as identifying David with Elhanan or positing the existence of two Goliaths. But in all likelihood the problem is the result of difficulties in the textual transmission of the Samuel passage; in fact, from a text-critical point of view the books of Samuel are the most poorly preserved of all the books of the Hebrew Bible. The parallel passage in 1 Chr 20:5 reads, “Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath.” Both versions are textually corrupt. The Chronicles text has misread “Bethlehemite” (בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי, bet hallakhmi) as the accusative sign followed by a proper name אֶת לַחְמִי (’et lakhmi). (See the note at 1 Chr 20:5.) The Samuel text misread the word for “brother” (אַח, ’akh) as the accusative sign (אֵת, ’et), thereby giving the impression that Elhanan, not David, killed Goliath. Thus in all probability the original text read, “Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath.”

As Christians we don't shy away from problems with the Bible

Brad B,

If the Bible is not a history book, then how do you know the events 'did certainly take place in time and space'?

Also, how do you know the Bible is "reliable for revealing the gospel in its fullness, teaching man how to worship, and live Godly lives, before the Holy"?

And how do the high resolution pictures of the various fragments show that the NT texts are reliable in that way?

I think that, in the original post, reliable is meant to be taken as very like the originals and by the authors of tradition and historically accurate.

That's what reliable usually means at this site and in this context. Take, for example, this post. Or this one.

I think it's great to have the high resolution photos. I'm sure much will be learned from them.

But why do they point to this kind of "reliably" of the NT texts?

This kind of talk usually, if not always, confuses two "reliablities".

One is the reliability of the existing physical texts.

The other is the reliability of "the NT". (What is the NT anyway?)

The meaning of reliable is not necessarily the same in the two cases.

Depending on what it means, the reliability of the texts might or might not support the reliability of the NT depending on what THAT means.

RonH


Hi RonH,
I agree with this:

I think that, in the original post, reliable is meant to be taken as very like the originals and by the authors of tradition and historically accurate.

And that's what the resource is meant to defend.
HAve you enjoyed the videos?

Hi Daron,

Nice for us to agree on something!

I haven't looked at the videos.

If you have, do you want to point me to one in particular?

RonH

Hi RonH,
Nope. The several of the videos, the subject of this thread, that I have watched all go toward making the very case that you thought was the intent. It seems they all will do just fine, if you're interested.

Hi Perry, a few thoughts but 1 at a time.

" but I hold that "inspiration" is something we have deemed them to be, and it is nigh impossible to verify outside without resorting to circular reasoning."

When you say "we have deemed them to be", you place mankind in the judgemtent seat of what is God's word and what is not. Since men are even still debating about the canonicity of certain books, where do you rest? You admit the problem with proving inspiration, but every self attesting proposition reduces to circular reasoning so what's the problem with that?

This is why I quoted the WCF chapter 1, par. 4.

Evidentialists may be disappointed about that when they feel the need to offer some kind of evidence other than God's holy self attesting Word[as though they can improve on it], but this error although common is not biblical.

Thanks, Brad. I guess I am stuck on the notion of "God's holy self attesting word." It takes Man to make that judgement. How else do we say that it is that? For what it's worth, the human authors' limitations make the New Testament something that, indeed, can be improved upon. If not, then would Christians not be in much more agreement about its contents than they currently are?

I believe that the extant manuscripts of the New Testament are preserved in a manner that makes them reliable as close as can be to the original documents. I believe that they were written in an honest manner and that they are reliable transmissions of the authors' thoughts.

However, I cannot say with certainty that Paul, John, et al, knew that what they wrote would be preserved and named as "God's Word" or holy scripture hundreds of years hence. They are not here to ask that of.

Furthermore, if the New Testament books are reliable in a historical sense, can we not accept them in that vein? Why do we need to add a layer of "inspiration" to the mix? If, as Christians believe, the events described in the New Testament books are historical, then does the information not stand on its own?

In trying to draw a distinction between the Koran and the Book of Mormon and the books of the Bible, for example, we need a better explanation than "my inspiration is better than your inspiration."

However, I cannot say with certainty that Paul, John, et al, knew that what they wrote would be preserved and named as "God's Word" or holy scripture hundreds of years hence. They are not here to ask that of.
But they did make multiple copies to be spread and read in many churches in their time. And they did refer to each others' writings as Scripture.

And they were often sharing the permanent words of the Everlasting God. And Paul did say that in his writing he thought he had the Spirit himself.

Daron, I understand. But just because they may have referred to each others writings as Scripture, and Paul said he thought he had the Spirit, are not sufficient in and of themselves to support that the words themselves are indeed inspired. Joseph Smith and Muhammad could have said the same.

Is it really a case of "My Spirit is bigger than your Spirit?" Then it is faith, indeed, and all this talk of "proving" is just moot.

You are asking a lot of things and bringing up many points, Perry. All I did was provide a response to one of your thoughts:

However, I cannot say with certainty that Paul, John, et al, knew that what they wrote would be preserved and named as "God's Word" or holy scripture hundreds of years hence. They are not here to ask that of.
I'm not quite sure how this lack of certainty on your part weighs into your entire quest, but I've given you some thoughts on this point.

Q: Where do you get the information that the New Testament books are inspired?
A: From the New Testament books.
Q: What do they say?
A: That they're inspired.
Q: How do you know they're inspired?
A: Because they say so.

Sorry, Daron, but this is how far you've gotten.

This circular reasoning says or proves nothing. How do Christians distinguish their faith from those of Muslims and Mormons viz-a-viz their holy books? Or can we just drop "inspiration" from the mix and say we have a better historical case that the events happened as described, than do Muslims and Mormons?

I am really seeking an answer, not just playing Devil's Advocate.

I would also like to read responses to these questions Perry raises. Of particular interest would be missives from the prominent Piper Cubs on this blog; Wisdomlover and Brad B.

Hi Perry,

Sorry, Daron, but this is how far you've gotten.

This circular reasoning says or proves nothing

Why are you sorry? That's as far as one can get answering the question I answered. You say you are really seeking answers, but why did you ask this one if the answer was meaningless to you?
I'm sure you can tell I was not attempting to formulate any proof of inspiration; only giving some answer to your ponderings about what the writer's thought about their writings.

------

Hey Jeff,
Why do you call the Piper cubs?

"Why do you call them Piper cubs?"

Yes Jeff, why? John Piper[if this the the "Piper"] is neither confessionally Reformed or Lutheran, so may I also ask why as Daron did? I dont quite follow.

Hi Perry, coherency is an absolute necessity in proof of inspiration as we hold that God is perfect and connot reveal incoherent propositions. The book of Mormon and the Koran cannot stand the logical scrutiny that the New Testament can along with the OT [and the world as we know it] as a revelation of the developing story of God's dealing with His people.

In the charge of circular reasoning, consider: 1 if the writers are inspired, and 2 claim the be speaking the Word of God [by appealing to God as their authority], and 3 Gods word is inerrent, then it necessarily follows that the writers words are inerrent and reliable in the message therein.

Of course the RonH's of the world will challenge these premises and will be borrowing from a distinctly Christian worldview to do so thereby acknowledging God while trying to dismiss divinity of any kind. We cannot, by evidence, convince people of spiritual truths that are spiritually discerned [ala 1 Cor. 2] They are not truths dependant on a popular vote, nor a favorable opinion or by designation--by mans evaluation--they are truths inherently because of the Originator of them. Again, this is why I quoted WCF 1 IV.

As far as the fair minded dealing with canonicity, I recommend this article for it's fair view of the difficulties that different positions have.

Thinking presuppositionally is one way of dealing with this issue, and this is why I previously mentioned the challenge for the evidentialists among us in proving inerrancy.

Hey Brad,
I think your input is needed over here:
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/06/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-hell.html#comments

Hi Perry, a second point I wanted to address to you from the 7-3 at 10:42p.m. post will dovetail off of what I last posted, so here it is. You asked:

" If, as Christians believe, the events described in the New Testament books are historical, then does the information not stand on its own?"

Can they stand alone? If so, why do antagonists question all of the fulfilled prophecy, the genealogies, the crucifixion, death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus? Everyone has a starting point for evaluating their experiences. The starting point affects how one views evidence so there is no neutrality as one inspects information of any kind and especially facts concerning ultimate questions like those associated with biblical revelation. Regenerate men will necessarily see the world differently than unregenerated men will because their starting point is different--one acknowledges God, and one denies God

A little off topic but do you know of any evidence for the Red Sea crossing and the destruction of all those Egyptian solders, horses and chariots? If there were 600,000 male Jews that crossed, my guess would be at least 600,000 male solders perished. Any thoughts?

There is no archaeological evidence of their remains, Gene.

Gene, they haven't found archeological remains of the soldiers, but there is some controversy over where to look in the first place. Here's a recent post Melinda did on other types of evidence that is available.

No idea what is meant by "Piper Cub" other than an easy-to-fly, inexpensive, single-engine airplane from Piper Aircraft.

As for the fundamental issue...how do we know the texts are inspired...I suppose I'd make two arguments:

1. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring His teachings to their remembrance. As such, Apostolic writings on the teachings of Christ are, according to the words of Christ, inspired.

Notice that I am not depending here on the claim that the words of Scripture that say this are inspired. I am merely depending on the claim that those particular words happen to be true reports of what Christ said.

So, is the Bible an accurate report on this? Well, there is no principled reason to say that it is not. You can always adopt the skeptical position that we don't know whether Jesus really said this. But if you take that position consistently, then there's precious little that we can say that anyone ever said.

There is the separate issue, of course, of whether Christ is in any position to say what He said. How can He make promises for the Holy Spirit? This is supported by the fact of His deity as attested to by His resurrection.

2. A priori, we know certain things about God. That He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Perfectly Just, Merciful and Gracious (among other things). Traditional arguments from the Middle Ages support this claim.

Surveying the world's faiths, you will find only one account of God that agrees on all points with this a priori picture...and that is the account of the Old and New Testament.

One of Luther's most important insights is that there are only two religions...the one of grace, and the one of works. Only the Bible teaches the religion of grace. So, among the real sacred texts in the world, only the Bible could be the inspired Word of God. And, among the real religions in the world, only the faith that the Bible teaches, Christianity, could be true.

Now, one of the things I think we can know about God is that He will ultimately reveal Himself to His creatures. I think this will eventually lead us to the view that either Christianity is true and it's sacred text inspired, or the truth about God will come out in some, yet-to-be-revealed religion. But we have no reason to think that that yet-to-be-revealed religion will ever come to light. Thus, at least for now, Christianity, and its sacred text, is the best fit to the facts.

Piper cubs are followers of the foremost popular Calvinist apologist of our day, John Piper.

He is prominently featured in articles in the popular press on the rise of the "young, restless and reformed".

So, Brad B., John Piper not Calvinist enough for you? Really?

Widsomlover's first point echoes the argument put foreword in Greg Boyd's book, "Letters from a skeptic".

We have good reasons to think that the Apostles had unique knowledge directly imparted by God. So, we would consider their writings, or the accounts of those who sat directly under their teaching, as "inspired".

Now as to the precise meaning of inspired...... well, that is a whole nother ball of yarn.

Piper cubs are followers of the foremost popular Calvinist apologist of our day, John Piper.
Of course they are. Have Wisdom Lover or BradB declared that they are such followers?

Or did it just feel like a cool thing to say that was vaguely insulting?

Jeff-

I have not read one word John Piper has ever written (nor Greg Boyd for that matter).

If there is some overlap between his ideas and mine, that's probably no surprise. Not one argument I've put forward is original to me or to the last 500 years of philosophical and theological thought for that matter.

I'd also be hard pressed to know if I've ever read so much as a single sentence from a John Piper article/book/sermon. I've heard of him and seen a short video or two. I remember he was in some hot water for having allowed someone sketchy to a conference, I think it might've been Rick Warren or Joel Osteen--someone of their vein anyway.

I'm inclined to say that I'm more of a R.C Sproul cub, or maybe a James White cub. I could also be charged with being a Mike Horton cub, a Meredith Kline cub, a Jonathan Edwards cub, or a number of others[Spurgeon,Whitfield,Scott Oliphant,even Greg Koukl], but certainly not Piper. As far as the list above, Sproul is a classical apologist, I tend toward presuppositionalism, White is a Babtist as in credobabtist, contrary to WCF's paedobabtism. Horton and Kline are confessionally Reformed, and Edwards...well he is, as R.C. Sproul has called him, "the greatest theologian that the U.S. has ever produced" [but he's hard to read with all the detailed argumentation].

These are all "Calvinist" enough for me.

I guess if I'd understand the term "cub" properly, I'm really a Lorrain Boettner cub and a Martin Luther cub equally since "The Bondage of the Will, and "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" are two of the most worn out books I possess along with Charles Hodges' Systematic Theology from when Princeton was still producing authentic Protestant theologians.

So Jeff, whatever you mean when you call Piper "the foremost Calvinist apologist of our day", he hasn't got me in his fan club, and I'd be more inclined to put him down the list behind these other previously mentioned men.

We have good reasons to think that the Apostles had unique knowledge directly imparted by God. So, we would consider their writings, or the accounts of those who sat directly under their teaching, as "inspired".

Well. Close. We have good reason to think that the eleven surviving original Apostles were promised that the Holy Spirit would bring Christ's teachings to their remembrance. As such, their writings are inspired according to Christ's own words (what else can you say about stuff that's brought to one's remembrance by the Holy Spirit...if that's not inspiration, what is?).

The writings of Paul are included because Peter identifies Paul, as an Apostle and his words as Scripture.

The writings of Luke and Mark are included because they wrote with Paul and Peter (respectively) as their editors.

The books that were ever in dispute, were in dispute primarily because these links are doubted. Hebrews is by Paul, but there is some doubt about that. Likewise 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Their apostolic authorship is doubted.

Some have argued that James was by James the Lesser. Others even that it was by James the Greater...though this is a very small minority. Most argue that it is by the half-brother of Jesus (who converted only after the ascension). If the later is true, there is no clear linkage to the oversight of one of the eleven or of Paul on the work. Though Paul does refer to James the brother of Jesus as an Apostle in Galations 1. (There are number of people, including one woman, outside the eleven, Paul and Matthias who were called apostles by the New Testament writers.)

Re: the Koran and inspiration. It differs from the Bible in that it is the work of one man, Mohammed, while God imparted his truth to multiple authors of the Bible. One of the reasons I find Scripture to be inspired is the simple fact that so many different authors writing in different time periods, independent of each other, all managed to come up with a unified message. That can't be coincidence.

It's interesting to note that the Muslim argument for inspiration rests in the claim that the language in it is so wonderful, it HAS to be from Allah. That's like saying Shakespeare's plays are so verbally magnficent, they had to be inspired of God. Unfortunately, the Koran isn't particularly well-written. In fact, parts of it are incomprehensible and have given Muslim scholars fits down through the centuries. Even people in Mohammed's own day found his argument re: language unconvincing.

As for the Book of Mormon, again, we have one author who claimed to be hearing from God. It tells the story of a Jewish group who came to North America some time between 600 to 400 B.C. Unfortunately, there is no archaeological evidence that this ever took place and, if you read it, you'll find there are all kinds of errors in it, some of them pretty obvious and silly (about elephants, horses and honey bees being in North America at that time when we know that they weren't introduced there until much, much later). Yet, its author called it "the most correct book on earth". If it is indeed the most correct, then why doesn't it contain some of the major Mormon doctrines that are followed today? In fact, it contains some doctrines that the Mormon church actually says are incorrect such as God existing as a Trinity. Archaeology backs up the Bible, not the BOM which is pure mythology.

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