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Another Biblical Scholar is No More

David Martinez (Associate Professor in both the Classics and Divinity departments at the University of Chicago), one of Francis Gignac’s students a long time ago, once told me that Gignac was far and away the best Hellenistic Greek grammarian alive today. All of us waited for the third volume, Syntax, of his projected trilogy on Roman and Byzantine Greek (volumes 1 and 2 were on Phonology and Morphology, respectively). But the third volume never was published. Perhaps an alumnus of Catholic University of America could locate his files, edit the volume, and publish it for Gignac posthumously.

My friend and former intern, Chris Skinner, recently blogged about the passing of Father Francis Gignac earlier this month. Here’s the link: http://cruxsolablog.com/2014/06/04/francis-t-gignac-s-j-1933-2014-skinner/

 

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Review of Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Bundle (Logos Bible Software)

As would be expected from anything produced by Steven Runge, this is a most useful tool. It is intended to help readers understand why an author chooses the forms he does to convey meaning. Discourse grammar has become an increasingly helpful approach in the last few years to supplement standard grammars. It does not replace traditional grammars, but supplements them. Occasionally, discourse grammars, including this one from Logos, will see meaning in the wrong places. For example, the illustration of the use of the participle like an indicative verb conveying some meaning that is somehow different from an indicative may be overplayed (repeatedly mentioned in the Introduction). The participle used as an indicative verb is quite rare in the NT, never seems to occur in classical Greek, and is most likely due to Semitic influence. Most of the NT examples occur in the Apocalypse, a book whose author R. H. Charles famously described as “thinking in Hebrew but writing in Greek.” Whether there is any meaning beyond revealing the author’s linguistic capacity is not a given. The same can be said for countless other grammatical phenomena in the NT (e.g., paratactic structure in Mark, anacolutha in Paul, redundant pronouns in John). Nevertheless, used with caution, discourse grammar can be extremely valuable.

On the BDF revision committee (now defunct due to the deaths of Robert W. Funk and Daryl D. Schmidt [chairman of the committee]), the team of scholars discussed for many years how best to approach the revision. One of the approaches was to include a section on semantics as a cross-reference tool so that the user could learn about the features of the Greek NT through two routes: (1) textual route, in which the student reads the text and then uses the grammar to determine meaning of the syntactical phenomena; (2) meaning route, in which the student inquires about things like how to express purpose, possession, commands, etc. This comes close to what discourse grammar does, though discourse grammar has made quite a few advances over the narrowly-defined categories of meaning that grammarians typically work with.

The main body of the six-volume work is discourse analysis of the Greek NT, seriatim from Matthew 1 through Revelation 22. There’s also a helpful introductory volume and a glossary.

Below are illustrated some of the features.

 definitions in introductionDefinitions in Introduction

 display feature--minimalDisplay feature—minimal

 Rom 3.21-26 with minimal display features

Rom 3.21-26 with minimal display features

A few limitations of this approach should be noticed. For example, although μαρτυρουμένη in Rom 3.21 is mentioned as an elaboration, the user is not told what kind of participle it is. Whether it’s adjectival ([the righteousness of God…] which is being witnessed), adverbial (being witnessed), or more particularly concessive (although it is witnessed), is not discussed. Yet how this participle is taken affects the exegesis of the text. Notice that what πάντες in 3.22 and 23 relates to is not mentioned; this requires careful exegesis and a good understanding of Greek syntax to figure out.


Highlighting feature in Rom 3.22

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.22

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.23

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.23

 Rom 3.24--elaboration explained

Rom 3.24—’elaboration’ explained

The problem with this explanation is that not everyone sees the participle as subordinate and thus fitting into ‘elaboration’ (most, in fact, take it as an indicative participle), although see J. Will Johnston, “Which ‘All’ Sinned? Rom 3:23–24 Reconsidered,” Novum Testamentum 52 (2010) 1–12.

Display feature--everything

Display feature with everything checked

Rom 3.21-22 with maximum features displayed

Rom 3.21–22 with maximum features displayed

A wealth of data is here—either visually or at a click of the mouse.

In short, the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament is a tool whose time has come. Used in conjunction with traditional grammars, it can only strengthen one’s understanding of Hellenistic Greek and how the NT authors communicate meaning—every exegete’s dream!

It can be purchased here.

 

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There Were Giants in Those Days: Codex Robertsonianus (Gregory-Aland 2358), Part 1

In 1927, Adolf Deissmann began a correspondence with A. T. Robertson that led to the purchase of a Greek Gospels manuscript by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of the story of this manuscript’s travels and text is told by John W. Bowman in his 23-page booklet (with four plates), The Robertson Codex (Allahabad, India: Mission Press, 1928). The booklet was a reprinting of articles in The Indian Standard 139, nos. 8 and 9 (August and September, 1928). Bowman had been a student of Robertson’s at Southern and later became professor of New Testament and Church History at North India United Theological College in Saharanpur, India.

In Bowman’s booklet are two chapters, which correspond to the two articles in The Indian Standard. The first chapter addresses the process of photographing the manuscript, and is a window on the difficulties that attended such labors in the 1920s. It took the author nearly three months to photograph it! Today, with digital photography, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts normally photographs a 350-page manuscript (the size of Codex Robertsonianus) in less than a day. In this chapter he mentions the rarity of photographs of New Testament manuscripts: “Very few complete MSS of the N.T. or portions thereof have hitherto been photographed: I am personally aware of only five such” (5). Bowman’s second chapter discusses many fascinating details of the manuscript.

One thing is largely missing, however, from the book: except for small snippets here and there, the correspondence between Deissmann and Robertson is not mentioned. This blog thus supplements Bowman’s pamphlet with Deissmann’s letters to Robertson concerning the codex (I do not have access to Robertson’s responses to Deissmann).

Below are photographs of the first letter (along with the text printed beneath each one), which was obtained from Southern Baptist Seminary. In later blogs, I will post the rest of the letters and text. These letters constitute the A. T. Robertson Papers, Box 7, Folder 3, Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. I am grateful to Adam Winters, archivist at SBTS, who provided the photographs. They are used with permission of the SBTS Archives & Special Collections.

Deissmann to Robertson_2 Mar 1927_page 1 of 2

Professor Dr. Adolf Deissmann
Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Prinzregentenstrasse 6., March 2nd, 1927.

My dear Dr. Robertson:

Accept please my thanks for your kind letter of Jan. 13, 1927. It is not possible for me now to say an other time for an American tour of mine; but I hope it may be possible at a later date. To-day I should like to tell you some words about a Greek Tetra-Euangelion which I had the opportunity to find in the hands of a Turkish dealer and which I saved immediately. It is a parchment codex, dated by our excellent Berlin expert Dr. Schubart (the papyrologist) in the 11. century A.D. It contains 175 leaves (15 x 11 centimeters), the leaves containing the four Gospels and the following passages being lost: Mt 11–932; 1114–157; 2671–2731; Mr 11–31; 42–36; 616–30; Luk 38–25; Joh 723–41; 1231–2125. The hand-writing is very nice and easily decipherable; the κεφάλαια etc. are added. The codex came from the area of Trapezunt (Asia Minor). It is not known to v. Soden, Gregory etc. and I think it turned up during or after that horrible expulsio[n] of the Greeks in 1922. and adds an unknown new number to the series of extant N.T. manuscripts. The form of the text is not yet explored, I could make only some specimen investigation, e.g. the μοιχαλίς-Pericope is peculiar in some readings and seems to have a type not noted by von Soden.

Concerning the fact that the number of N.T. codic[es] is very small in American libraries (Gregory only mentions 13 codices or small fragments of the Greek Gospels existing in the States) I suppose you may perhaps be interested to acquire the newly discovered codex for the library of your Seminary[.]

Deissmann to Robertson_2 Mar 1927_page 2

I should like of course to acquire it for my N.T. Seminar, but I have had the chance in 1910 by a generous patron to buy a Greek Gospel codex (Gregory’s Nr. 2308), and now I must take care to save money for my Ephesus work. Therefore I cannot buy it for my Seminar. The price is $700.—a modern binding included (it was necessary to bind the venerable leaves). It is of course very helpful for the students to see and to study original manuscripts of the N.T., and I think the opportunities to acquire something like that Trapezunt-Codex are very rare. Next fall I shall try to find other new N.T. fragments in Asia Minor, but I am not very full of hope for a success.

I did not offer the Codex to anybody else; you are the first whom I informed about this chance. If you are interested I suppose you may find some patronage as I found in 1910.

If you should like to see the codex before I could send it to you, but of course this way is rather prolix.

Believe me, dear colleague,

Yours very sincerely

Adolf Deissmann.

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Review of Defining Inerrancy

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, by J. P. Holding and Nick Peters, published by Tekton E-Bricks on 22 May 2014, is intended to be a response to Norm Geisler and Bill Roach’s Defending Inerrancy—and so much more. Both have a similar cover and similar title. Defining Inerrancy, however, is a gloves-off defense and affirmation of a version of inerrancy that many are not acquainted with. That is, many except those who are Old and New Testament scholars.

Defining inerrancyDefending Inerrancy

Defining Inerrancy also interacts heavily with Norm Geisler and David Farnell’s The Jesus Quest, a book published just last March. The info on Amazon says that the eBook is the equivalent of 98 pages long, based on the number of “page turns” on a Kindle. A preliminary Word draft of Defining Inerrancy, sent to me by the authors, weighs in at just 74 pages. It’s a one-evening read, but it will be an evening very well spent.

 

Even though only an eBook so far, this little volume addresses some of the most pressing issues within American evangelical circles that have been brewing for more than four decades. And it comes with a Foreword by world-renown Gospels scholar, Craig Blomberg, giving the book instant credibility.

The booklet has fifteen short chapters and no footnotes or endnotes (but some, though not entirely adequate, in-text notes).

Blomberg’s Foreword, in the opening paragraph, lets the readers know that Norm Geisler has recently been attacking his evangelical orthodoxy. As one reads through this book, they will discover that it is in many ways a response to Geisler’s campaign to rid the church of what he perceives to be bibliological heretics. Inter alia, Blomberg gives a laundry list of evangelical scholars who have been the victims of Geisler’s acidic pen: Robert Gundry, Murray Harris, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Darrell Bock, Michael Licona, Craig Blomberg—and even the entire Evangelical Theological Society (a group which, according to Blomberg, Geisler referred to as ‘liberal’ and the “Former Evangelical Theological Society”)! And Blomberg does not mince words. Penultimately, Blomberg commends this book as follows: “…if Geisler has already misled you on any of these topics, read these chapters carefully so that the record may be set straight.”

Indeed, that is an apt summary of the book. The authors set the record straight on Geisler’s increasingly marginalized approach to inerrancy. Many would regard Geisler as the spiritual heir of Harold Lindsell, a man whose books The Battle for the Bible and The Bible in the Balance bitterly divided evangelicals nearly four decades ago. But I digress.

The major issue that Holding and Peters put forth is that within the inerrantist camp are ‘traditionalists’ and ‘contextualizers.’ Traditionalists claim that the Bible should be read essentially literally and that unless there are clear in-text clues that something is to be taken otherwise, the reader is to regard the text as literally true. Contextualizers see things differently. They would argue that genre, comparative literature, and other extra-textual features are often important keys to understanding the meaning of the text. The book focuses on the Gospels and narrative. Here, it is claimed, traditionalists view the narrative in the Gospels as historical, while contextualizers view it as imbibing, at times, in more than one genre. And even then, this does not necessarily mean that such is not historical. Even though many traditionalists would claim that, for example, dominical sayings are always exact quotations of the Lord (known as ipsissima verba), contextualizers claim that this is not only not in keeping with ancient historiographical reporting but also involves exegetical gymnastics that defy logic.

The authors put forth their thesis rather boldly:

“inerrancy requires a contextualization of the Bible as both the superlative literature that it is and as a document; and that the ‘as it stands’ readings frequently (not always) decontextualize the Bible, reading it as a text out of time, and therefore without respect to critical defining contexts during the time of its writing.”

And:

“… the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable, leading us down a path of endless epicycles of explanation, artificialities, and illogic. The end result will be to bring down scorn on the Christian faith and contributing [sic] to its demise in the Western world.”

This should be enough to pique the interest of any reader! As astounding as their statements are, I think they are spot on. But one will have to read the book to see whether they make out their case.

I will simply note two refrains that the authors make. First, though the Bible may be inerrant, our interpretation of it is not. This would seem to be obvious, yet repeatedly they show that Geisler sets himself up as the arbiter of truth—including true, inerrant interpretations. And this is one of the great divides among evangelicals today. Ironically, though there are many near-consensus interpretations of a number of passages among evangelicals, to hold up a particular interpretation as the true interpretation is to place tradition above the text. And this cuts directly into sola scriptura—the sufficiency of scripture as our final authority. Geisler and other traditionalists tend to claim that any view that does not see the Gospel narratives as utterly historical is not compatible with inerrancy. Yet—again ironically—many traditionalists claim that the Church has from its beginning embraced inerrancy. But if so, it is certainly not the same inerrancy that is embraced by traditionalists.

A case in point (not mentioned in the book): several church fathers, whose bibliological credentials on the New Testament at least were unimpeachable, claim that Jesus’ healing of the blind man in Mark 8.22–26 was not historical. This is one of two miracles of Jesus recorded in Mark that are not found in either Matthew or Luke. Both of them involved Jesus using spittle (the other is the healing of the deaf-mute in Mark 7). Jerome says that the story is “not historical, but symbolic.” And Ambrose, the bishop of Milan in the fourth century, saw the spittle as a symbol for the washing away of sins in baptism.

Nevertheless, these hoary authorities of old were probably wrong. It is instructive that through the route of historical criticism these two pericopes have become seen as among the most likely historical events in the Gospels—and for the same reasons that Matthew and Luke probably excluded them and the church fathers spiritualized them. Why was that? Embarrassment. Most Gospels scholars today, both evangelical and liberal and everything in between, regard a saying or act preserved in the Gospels that would be potentially embarrassing to the church, as having the marks of authenticity for this very reason, for no evangelist would create such out of whole cloth.

Second, the authors make the case that elevating inerrancy to the level of, say, the resurrection of Jesus, puts one’s whole belief system in jeopardy. Toward the end of the book, they make this case as follows:

“Blomberg also offers us, Geisler says, the hideous (!) statement that if there were a few genuine contradictions in the Bible, the rest of the text would not be jeopardized and the entire case for belief would not be called into question. Yes, this is one of those dangerous views of Scripture that says that if the Bible is not inerrant, then Jesus did not rise. How far would it go? Would we say Jesus did not even exist if we find there are mistakes in the Bible? Actually, there are some professed former Christians who hold to this position, and their questioning of the Bible started with them having been in a position like Geisler’s as confessing Christians.”

This view—making inerrancy as important as the resurrection of Christ—is part of a mindset that does not differentiate among doctrines. I call it the domino view of doctrine. When one falls down, they all fall down. I have taught for years that it is one of the main reasons why some conservatives become “liberal.” I put “liberal” in quotes because often such people are not really liberal; they are still fundamentalists, just on the left side of the theological aisle. They still see things in black and white, but now are skeptical about the supernatural and anything that smacks of biblical authority. Darrell Bock speaks of such a mentality as “brittle fundamentalism.” And he sees it as shattering when it comes in contact with the sophisticated polemics of the left.

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

In sum, Defining Inerrancy is a book far more important than its size would indicate. It defines not only inerrancy but a yawning divide within evangelicalism. My hope is that traditionalists will not dismiss it out of hand (as they have so many treatments coming from contextualizing inerrantists), but will indeed wrestle seriously with its contents. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

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A New Twist on the Quadrilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend?

The May/June 2014 issue of Touchstone has come out. In it is a provocative and, I might say, Lewis-esque piece of writing by Tom Gilson, the National Field Director of Ratio Christi. Called “The Gospel Truth of Jesus: What Happens to Apologetics if We Add ‘Legend’ to the Trilemma ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’?” this article wrestles with the literary improbability of some author creating ex nihilo a person who is both absolutely powerful and absolutely good. Gilson wrestles with a number of objections, but marches through them and lays out an eminently reasonable case that no author could have created the likes of Jesus of Nazareth out of whole cloth. He may well be on to something. In turn, this argues for historicity. Take a look:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=27-03-035-f

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Josh McDowell’s Discover the Evidence

Last December I spoke at Josh McDowell’s Discover the Evidence conference in Dallas. There has been a flurry of activity commenting on this conference of late, and I wanted to set the record straight about a couple of things, but only a couple of things. My colleague, Darrell Bock, has quipped that the Internet rumor mill is just as fast as any angelic messenger, but it is not as reliable! His apothegm has proved true once again.

First, some blogposts have suggested that I was involved in the organizing of the event. This is not true. I was asked to speak at the event during lunch, which I was happy to do. I was one among many guest speakers, including some well-known scholars such as Father Columba Stewart, Director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota, and Dr. Peter Flint, Canada Research Chair of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, Trinity Western University. As a guest speaker at conferences, I usually have no input on what others are going to say. Such was the case here. My time at the conference was also quite limited. I heard no other lectures about the manuscripts, but simply gave mine and worked on identifying some papyrus fragments with some students for an hour or two. A terrible snowstorm hit Dallas that weekend, and my time at the event was significantly curtailed because of it.

Second, I am aware of what some bloggers are saying by way of criticisms against certain claims that were made by some of the participants at the conference. I never heard any of these claims so have no first-hand knowledge of them.

Third, other criticisms were made about the handling of archives and the dating of some of the papyri. Again, I was not a part of either of these features of the conference: we had papyrus fragments at our table and we never touched them by hand. We also did not have time to definitively date any of them.

Finally, some claims were made at the conference (so I am told) about one papyrus in particular, a fragment from Mark’s Gospel. What was said about that fragment was not said in my presence. And even if it had been, I can neither confirm nor deny the points made because I signed a nondisclosure agreement on this issue some time ago.

I realize that this note doesn’t satisfy the rumor mill much since there are no juicy revelations made here. And it hardly sets the record straight—except to note that my participation in this event, though happily entered into, was minimal. I am making no comment on conduct in handling the artifacts or statements made in my absence.

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The Textual Reliability of the New Testament

I was interviewed by Nick Peters on his Deeper Waters podcast today. Two-hour, live program. He’s going to interview Craig Blomberg next week about his new book. Nick is doing a terrific ministry. I encourage you to give a listen:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/grok558/2014/04/19/the-textual-reliability-of-the-new-testament

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