According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Do You Read the Bible? Incarnationally, Inspirationally, Inerrantly, or Inexpertly?

Today's posting brings out some important questions for us to think about concerning the nature and relationship of biblical inerrancy to Christ's Incarnation.... I'll commence by asking the following questions:
 
  • Is Christ more important than the Bible?
  • Is theology be first centered in Christ or in the Bible?
  • How were the early Christians informed of Christ?
  • How were the believers in the OT informed of Yahweh?
  • Was it necessary to have a Bible to believe in Christ (or Yahweh?)
  • What place does the Bible have in relationship to Christ?
  • Did the Bible inform the early church of Jesus her Lord?
  • Or rather, did Jesus inform His church of Himself through the Hebrew Scriptures?
  • Did Jesus add to these Scriptures, subtract from them, or simply re-interpret them?
  • If Jesus did add or subject was it from the Pharisaical interpretations of Scripture?
  • Did early Christianity function without a Bible in the early church?
  • If not, what did they use? What place and purpose did the Holy Spirit have?
  • What place and purpose did the Holy Spirit have in the Old Testament?
  • Is Christ's Incarnation more central to theology than doctrinal inspiration?
  • Is biblical inspiration based upon Christ's Incarnation or the other way around?
  • How is inspiration and incarnation mutually accommodating or reactive?
 
In reading Wallace's argument I could not determine whether he removed the projected need for inerrancy, or simply reinforced its need based upon his own circular argument? I suspect the latter, however, a commenter did think this same about Wallace when saying: "Reading the Scriptures as mere ancient documents (no more inerrant than any other ancient documents) one can get to Jesus is Lord. Then, given that Jesus is Lord and that He considered the Scriptures to be the word of God, you can arrive quickly at inerrancy. We must believe that the Bible is the word of God because Jesus is Lord. For if we believe that Jesus is Lord because the Bible is the word of God, then, as it was with Bart Ehrman, the collapse of inerrancy leads to the collapse of faith in Christ."
 
What is clear to me is the importance of interpreting Scripture, both i) by itself internally, and ii) externally through outside sources lost to us its readers over the long millenias of time. I have argued before in earlier posts that it is basically an impossible task try as we may to determine the import of Scriptures as it is portrayed through its many cultures and events of the Bible. Even so, must we do the hard work of exegesis as it is possible, however limited or arcane. One may be a committed Jesus follower but it is important for Jesus' followers to know the Word of God - unreferenced by their own predispositions, suppositions, dogmas, or epistemologies. But in order to do that one needs to know oneself and one's group of believers, their needs, wants, and frame of reference. When boiled down we may have produced our own (religious) beliefs about God, His Word, and His Incarnation rather than God's Word itself. Thus the challenge to "interpret the Word" without getting in the way of it with our own wants and needs, views and opinions. Subscribing to the view inerrancy can do just that... it can obscure God's Word by our wooden (or literalistic) reading of its pages.

So what do you think? The way you answer these questions will pre-inform you how you may read the Bible... and how you read the Bible will affect how you think of our Lord. In the article today by Dan Wallace comes the evangelical argument for biblical inerrancy using a Christological method of argumentation based upon Christ's incarnation. I found it specious and unhelpful. Rather than answering the obvious question that Jesus didn't read the Hebrew Scriptures inerrantly Wallace instead went on to place precedence of Scripture over our Lord Himself.

For myself, I do assert the authority and inspiration of the Bible, but stop short of asserting the need for its inerrancy. It's only inerrancy lies within its description of God's salvation for man who has given to us abundantly this saving knowledge through His Son Jesus. As such, the word inerrancy is a slippery slope disallowing further biblical research and contextual construction... that is, it prevents asking further questions of God by stopping our asking questions all together. Which is never a good thing.

Too, it preferences a simplistic reading of the Bible that becomes clouded by personal nuance and prejudice. I'd rather God's Word be a more objective guide than one so simplistically, or subjectively, informed. One that grants latitude over literalism with its concomitant arguments for legalism over love, even as Jesus did so long ago when confronting the Scribes and Pharisees' own private (unloving and legalistic) interpretations of the Word of God.

Even so, doctrines like inerrancy can do just that - provide a harsh/hardened basis for unmitigated legalism preventing sight or sound of the divine words love, mercy, forgiveness and judgment. Let us not fall into this trap of doctrinal thinking. God's Word is larger than that. It's scope broader than we can often understand. And if we fail in this regard than we have darkened God's own council by our own fleshly words of wisdom and justice. Words that should never stand in the place of God's words when bounded by our own councils of what is "right" and "wrong." The bible isn't about that... its about opening up our hearts in submission and service to the councils of God against all the hell that we hold within our sinful hearts to act graciously and firmly in love towards those we would feel naturally inclined to hate, harm, banish, and mistreat. Let us not be the Pharisees of our day. It would be unworthy of our great God and King, our Lord and Savior.

R.E. Slater
December 13, 2013 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
A Bibliology Grounded in Christology
 
by Dan Wallace
December 6, 2013
 
The center of all theology, of the entirety of the Christian faith, is Christ himself. The Christ-vent—in particular his death and resurrection—is the center of time [(I call this the mid-point of salvation history - r.e. slater)]: everything before it leads up to it; everything after it is shaped by it. If Christ were not God in the flesh [(sic, the Incarnation)], he would not have been raised from the dead. And if he were not raised from the dead, none of us would have any hope. My theology grows out from Christ, is based on Christ, and focuses on Christ.
 
Years ago, I would have naïvely believed that all Christians could give their hearty amens to the previous paragraph. This is no longer the case; perhaps it never was. There are many whose starting point and foundation for Christian theology is bibliology. They begin with the assumption that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I can understand that. Starting one’s doctrinal statement with the Bible gives one assurances that the primary source of theology, the scriptures, is both true and trustworthy. I don’t start there, however. I have come to believe that the incarnation is both more central than inspiration and provides a methodological imperative for historical investigation of the claims of the Bible.
 
Sometimes the reason why doctrinal statements begin with scripture is because the framers believe that without an inerrant Bible we can’t know anything about Jesus Christ. They often ask the question, “How can we be sure that anything in the Bible is true? How can we be sure that Jesus Christ is who he said he was, or even that he existed, if the Bible is not inerrant?”
 
Inductive vs. Deductive Approaches to Inerrancy
 
My response to the above question is twofold. First, before the New Testament was written, how did people come to faith in Christ? To assume that having a complete Bible is necessary before we can know anything about Christ is both anachronistic and counterproductive. Our epistemology has to wrestle with the spread of the gospel before the Gospels were penned. The very fact that it spread so fast—even though the apostles were not always regarded highly—is strong testimony both to the work of the Spirit and to the historical evidence that the eyewitnesses affirmed.
 
Second, we can know about Christ because the Bible is a historical document. (Even if one has a very low regard for the Bible’s historicity, he or she has to admit that quite a bit of it is historically accurate.) If we demand inerrancy of the Bible before we can believe that any of it is true, what are we to say about other ancient historical documents? We don’t demand that they be inerrant, yet no evangelical would be totally skeptical about all of ancient history. Why put the Bible in a different category before we can believe it at all? As one scholar wisely articulated many years ago, we treat the Bible like any other book to show that it is not like any other book.
 
Warfield’s Two Premises
 
We are not asked to take a leap of faith in believing the Bible to be the word of God, or even to believe that it is historically reliable; we have evidence that this is the case. I enlist on my behalf that towering figure of Reformed biblical scholarship, Benjamin B. Warfield. In his Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Warfield lays out an argument for inerrancy that has been all but forgotten by today’s evangelicals. Essentially, he makes a case for inerrancy on the basis of inductive evidence, rather than deductive reasoning. Most evangelicals today follow E. J. Young’s deductive approach toward bibliology, forgetting the great, early articulator of inerrancy. But Warfield starts with the evidence that the Bible is a historical document, rather than with the presupposition that it is inspired. This may seem shocking to some in the evangelical camp, but one can hardly claim that Warfield was soft on bibliological convictions! Let me prove my point with a lengthy quotation from his Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), p. 174:
 
“Now if this doctrine is to be assailed on critical grounds, it is very clear that, first of all, criticism must be required to proceed against the evidence on which it is based. This evidence, it is obvious, is twofold. First, there is the exegetical evidence that the doctrine held and taught by the Church is the doctrine held and taught by the Biblical writers themselves. And secondly, there is the whole mass of evidence—internal and external, objective and subjective, historical and philosophical, human and divine—which goes to show that the Biblical writers are trustworthy as doctrinal guides. If they are trustworthy teachers of doctrine and if they held and taught this doctrine, then this doctrine is true, and is to be accepted and acted upon as true by us all. In that case, any objections brought against the doctrine from other spheres of inquiry are inoperative; it being a settled logical principle that so long as the proper evidence by which a proposition is established remains unrefuted, all so-called objections brought against it pass out of the category of objections to its truth into the category of difficulties to be adjusted to it. If criticism is to assail this doctrine, therefore, it must proceed against and fairly overcome one or the other element of its proper proof. It must either show that this doctrine is not the doctrine of the Biblical writers, or else it must show that the Biblical writers are not trustworthy as doctrinal guides.”
 
Notice how often Warfield speaks of evidence here as the grounds for believing in inerrancy. The evidence is historical, exegetical, and doctrinal. Two statements stand out as crucial to his argument: “If they [the biblical writers] are trustworthy teachers of doctrine and if they held and taught this doctrine, then this doctrine is true…” and “If criticism is to assail this doctrine… It must either show that this doctrine is not the doctrine of the Biblical writers, or else it must show that the Biblical writers are not trustworthy as doctrinal guides.” Warfield’s argument is one of the most profound paragraphs ever written in defense of inerrancy. If you’re reading this quickly, go back and let it sink in for awhile.
 
Metzger’s Challenge: The Bible Doesn’t Affirm Its Own Inerrancy
 
In 1992, when Bruce Metzger was on campus at Dallas Seminary for a week, delivering the Griffith Thomas lectures, students would often ask him whether he embraced inerrancy. Frankly, I thought their question was a bit uncharitable since they already knew the answer (he did not). But as one who, like Warfield before him, taught at Princeton Seminary, and as a Reformed scholar, Metzger certainly had earned the right to be heard on this issue. His response was simply that he did not believe in inerrancy because he felt it was unwise to hold to any doctrines that were not affirmed in the Bible, and he didn’t see inerrancy being affirmed in the Bible. In other words, he denied Warfield’s first argument (viz., that inerrancy was held by the biblical writers). It should be pointed out that Metzger did not disagree with Warfield’s second argument. In other words, he had a high view of the Bible, but not as high as, say, the Evangelical Theological Society, precisely because he did not think that the biblical writers held to the doctrine of inerrancy.
 
The Role of 2 Timothy 3.16
 
I felt the import of Metzger’s argument even before I had heard it from him, because I had long ago memorized the passage from Warfield quoted above. When I was working on my master’s degree in the 1970s, I was convinced that Warfield’s twofold argument needed to be examined and either affirmed or rejected. So I wrote my master’s thesis on an arcane point of Greek grammar. It was entitled, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament.” I chose that particular topic because it directly affected how we should translate 2 Timothy 3.16. Should we translate this verse “every inspired scripture is also profitable” with the possible implication that some scripture is not inspired, or should we translate it “every scripture is inspired and profitable,” in which case the inspiration of scripture is directly asserted?
 
I spent over 1200 hours on that thesis, working without the benefit of computers—in the Greek New Testament, in the Septuagint, in classical Greek, in the papyri—to determine whether adjectives in anarthrous constructions (constructions in which no definite article was present) could be predicate or whether they had to be attributive. All of this related to 2 Timothy 3.16 because the adjective “inspired” was related to the noun “scripture” in an anarthrous construction. Further, of the dozens of New Testament grammars I checked, not one gave any actual evidence that adjectives in such constructions could be predicate. A predicate adjective would be translated as an assertion (“every scripture isinspired”) while an attributive adjective would be translated as a qualification or assumption (“every inspired scripture”).
 
I felt an obligation to the evangelical community to wrestle with this issue and see if there was indeed genuine evidence on behalf of a predicate “inspired.” I charted out over 2200 Greek constructions in the New Testament, as well as countless others in other corpora—all by hand—then checked the primary sources a second time to make sure I got the statistics right. When an ice storm hit Dallas in the winter of 1978–79, cutting down power lines in our neighborhood, I had to work by lamplight for a week to get the first draft of the thesis in on time. My conclusion was that “inspired” in 2 Timothy 3.16 was indeed a predicate adjective. And I supplied over 400 similar examples in the appendix to back it up! These 400 examples had never been discussed in any New Testament grammar before. I believed then, and I believe now, that supplying this kind of evidence is a worthy use of one’s time. The main part of the thesis ended up being the first piece of mine accepted for publication. It appeared in Novum Testamentum (one of the world’s leading biblical journals) in 1984 as a lengthy article. And the editors kept my opening comment that my motivation for the article was to help resolve some disputes about bibliology raging at the time in American evangelical circles.
 
I mention the above autobiographical note for two reasons. First, the question of the nature of the Bible has been, and still is, a very precious issue to me. Obviously, to spend over 1200 hours on where to put the “is” in one verse of scripture shows that I regard such a text to be rather significant! And that such a passage is a major verse on verbal inspiration should show that this doctrine is important to me. Second, the conclusion I came to is equally important: I can affirm, with Warfield, that the biblical writers do indeed embrace a high view of the text of Holy Writ. To be sure, this verse is not all there is in defense of inerrancy. But it is a crux interpretum, deserving our utmost attention. I must therefore respectfully disagree with Professor Metzger about Warfield’s first argument.
 
Christological Grounds for a High Bibliology
 
Where does this leave us with reference to inerrancy? I arrive at inerrancy through an inductive process, rather than by starting with it deductively. My epistemological method may therefore be different from others, but the resultant doctrine is not necessarily so. At bottom, the reason I hold to a high bibliology is because I hold to a high Christology. Jesus often spoke of the Bible in terms that went beyond the reverence that the Pharisees and Sadducees had for the text. They added traditions to the Bible, or truncated the canon, or otherwise failed to handle scripture appropriately. Jesus had a high view of the text, and it strikes me that I would be unwise to have a view different from his. Indeed, I believe I would be on dangerous ground if I were to take a different view of the text than Jesus did. Thus, my starting point for a high bibliology is Christ himself.
 
Some may argue that we can’t even know what Jesus said unless we start with a high bibliology. But that approach is circular. Making a pronouncement that scripture is inerrant does not guarantee the truth of such an utterance. If I said the moon is made of green cheese, that doesn’t make it so. At most, what such pronouncements can do is give one assurance. But this is not the same as knowledge. And if the method for arriving at such assurance is wrongheaded, then even the assurance needs to be called into question. A web of issues brings about the deepest kinds of theological assurance: evidence (historical, exegetical, hermeneutical, etc.), affirmations, the role of the Spirit, etc. One does not have the deepest assurance about inerrancy simply by convincing himself or herself that it must be true. Indeed, I would argue that such a presuppositional approach often caves in on itself. Now if inerrancy is true, what harm is there in examining the data of the text?
 
Now, someone may say, “But how do you know that Jesus actually held to a high bibliology unless you start with that presupposition? How do you know that the Gospel writers got the words of Jesus right in the first place?” I think that’s an excellent question. I would use the criteria of authenticity to argue that he did indeed hold to a high view of the text. The criteria of authenticity, when used properly, are criteria that Gospels scholars use to affirm whether Jesus said or did something. Notice that I did not say, “Gospels scholars use to deny whether Jesus said or did something.” The criteria of authenticity should normally be used only for positive results. To take one illustration: The criterion of dissimilarity is the criterion that says if Jesus said something that was unlike what any rabbi before him said and unlike what the church later said, then surely such a saying is authentic. I think this is good as far as it goes. It certainly works for “the Son of Man” sayings in the Gospels. The problem is that the Jesus Seminar used this criterion to make negative assessments of Jesus’ sayings. Thus, if Jesus said something that was said in contemporary Judaism, its authenticity is discounted. But surely that would create an eccentric Jesus if it were applied across the board! Indeed, Jesus said things that were already said in the Judaism of his day, and surely the early church learned from him and repeated him.
 
How does this apply to Jesus’ bibliology? Since his statements about scripture are decidedly more reverential than those of the Pharisees or Sadducees, the criterion of dissimilarity requires us to see that Jesus did, indeed, hold to a high bibliology. Of course, I am not arguing that the average Christian for the past two thousand years needed to think about whether Jesus said something. But I am arguing that even the evidence from a historical-critical perspective points in the same direction. And I am arguing that in the modern world, and even postmodern world, for evangelicals to ignore evidence is tantamount to a leap of faith.
 
I must confess that I did not at first embrace a high bibliology because of applying the criteria of authenticity to the sayings of Jesus. No, I initially embraced a high bibliology because I believed that the Bible’s testimony about itself was sufficiently clear and certainly true. But when I came to grips with Warfield’s inductive approach and Metzger’s denial of Warfield’s first argument, I realized that, for those engaged in serious biblical studies, historical evidence needed to be assessed before dialogue with those of a different perspective could begin. The fact that many evangelical students abandon inerrancy may in part be due to them not wrestling with more than a fideistic claim. What harm is there in adding historical evidence to one’s arguments for a doctrinal position? Why are so many afraid, or unprepared, to do so? The impression this gives to many students is that such views are defenseless.
 
Incarnation as Methodological Imperative
 
Permit me to address one other issue. If Christ is at the core of our beliefs, then the incarnation has to loom large in our thinking about the faith. When God became man and invaded space-time history, this served notice that we dare not treat the Bible with kid gloves. The incarnation not only invites us to examine the evidence, it requires us to do so. The fact that our religion is the only major religion in the world that is subject to historical verification is no accident: it’s part of God’s design. Jesus performed miracles and healings in specific towns, at specific times, on specific people. The Gospels don’t often speak in generalities. And Paul mentioned that 500 believers saw the risen Christ at one time, then added that most of these folks were still alive. These kinds of statements are the stuff of history; they beg the reader to investigate. Too often modern evangelicals take a hands-off attitude toward the Bible because of a prior commitment to inerrancy. But it is precisely because I ground my bibliology in Christology rather than the other way around that I cannot do that. I believe it is disrespectful to my Lord to not ask the Bible the tough questions that every thinking non-Christian is already asking it.
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
Select Reader's Comments
for more go here
 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
Reader 1 - To assume that having a complete Bible is necessary before we can know anything about Christ is both anachronistic and counterproductive. Our epistemology has to wrestle with the spread of the gospel before the Gospels were penned…. If we demand inerrancy of the Bible before we can believe that any of it is true, what are we to say about other ancient historical documents?“
 
Reader 2 - It seems to me from reading the original article that Dr. Wallace keeps interchanging the terms "inspiration" and "inerrancy." In fact, he uses Warfield's book to make his case for inerrancy when the book's title is INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE, not INERRANCY AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE.
 
Reader 3 - Like others previously, I concur that Wallace never demonstrates "inerrancy" in his article. And, his work on 2 Tim. 3 does not demonstrate inerrancy that I can see.
 
My own view on Paul's use of "God-breathed" (a term research to date indicates that he himself coined) is that he is calling to mind the life-giving nature of Scripture. "God-breathed" meant that God was giving life to a being. So, in Gen. 2 - God 'breathes' into humanity the breath of life. In Ezekiel God breathes life - through the Spirit (spirit, breath, and wind are all the same word in the OT - significantly) - into the dead, dry bones - a resurrection! And, in John 20 Jesus "breathes on the disciples" and says "receive the Holy Spirit." This is a new creation breath of life.
 
I think that is really all that Paul is getting at in 2 Tim. 3. That the Scripture can bring us "life" - not just physical, but real life, eternal. Life in God. Why? Because, as Wallace ably points out - the Scripture points us to Jesus. That, in fact, is also Paul's point in the context. V. 15 "and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The sacred writings, the God-breathed (life-giving) Scripture leads to salvation through Christ Jesus. They point us to Him and it is faith in Him, as the risen king, that transforms our lives and brings us victory.
 
Reader 4 - I  would echo two points made here in previous posts and elaborate on one of them:
 
(1) Wallace does appear to assume that "inspired" entails "inerrant" but that begs the question.
 
(2) It seems to me that the most one can derive from Wallace's "incarnation" approach to the question is the general conclusion that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, should adopt the same attitude toward Scripture as did our very Lord. I would agree with that. Taking such a view does have significant consequences. For example, b/c Jesus cites the Old Testament as authoritative for right conduct and revelatory of true God, so also should we--and hence reject all forms of Marcionism ("a Gnostic ascetic sect that flourished from the 2nd to 7th century a.d. and that rejected the Old Testament and denied the incarnation of God in Christ.")
 
But this view has limitations as an argument for inerrancy. First, and obviously, it entails nothing (directly, at least) about the New Testament.
 
Second, it also does not even follow from this view that Jesus believed that the Old Testament is inerrant. That Jesus appealed to the OT in instructing his followers and refuting his critics entails only, as Wallace's labored-upon text (2 Tim 3:15-17) itself actually says, that the OT scriptures are competent and capable of instructing us in God's way of salvation and righteousness for the purpose of making us effective doers of the good.
 
Third, and perhaps most problematic for Wallace's argument, Jesus himself did not grant the OT absolute authority in matters of right conduct but, evidently, took a critical attitude toward it, at least in part. In his most important sermon, Jesus explicitly repeals an OT law, forbidding his followers to retaliate evil for evil as was permitted by the Torah (Matthew 5:38-42). If Jesus believed the OT scriptures were inerrant, how then could he even qualify any text of scripture, much less reject a text of the OT as properly instructing us in the way of righteousness?
 
Reader 5's reply to Reader 4 - Well stated. I agree with you until your third point (last paragraph). There is no indication in the antithesis that Jesus is contradicting the Torah but the Scribal and Pharisaical interpretation and application of that law. Mt. 5:38-42 may be interpreted quite differently (and several commentators do) from the one you give. It seems much more in keeping with the whole series of antitheses and the context (5:21-48, coming in the context of Jesus calling for righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees - 5:17-20) and even within the statement itself that Jesus is arguing against personal retaliation. They "eye for an eye" was not a license to take Torah into one's hands as a vigilante. But, was to be executed within the confines of a decision of the community. Jesus is not contradicting the punishment of the community; but the abused interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees.
 
Reader 4's reply to Reader 5 - I quite agree that Jesus is addressing the legal practices of the covenant community. The lex talionis governed the reparation of harms and punishment of crimes within the Torah. The intent of the lex talionis was not to justify retaliation as an absolute standard of justice but to limit retaliation to the measure of equality ("one for one"). Even within the Torah, therefore, the lex talionis did not express the ideal of justice for the covenant community. That ideal, as Jesus himself taught, was the law of love: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Indeed, the Torah itself points this way: the law of love for the neighbor is prefaced by a prohibition of taking vengeance against the neighbor (Lev 19:17-18). Jesus, who teaches the full intent and highest measure of the righteousness that Torah desires (Matt 5:17-20), thus instructs the community gathered around him that what is to define right relationship among them must exceed the lex talionis. The community of Jesus is to go beyond retribution against evildoers and enemies as the standard of justice; and transcending retribution leads us to complete love, including both neighbor and enemy, which is what God intends for us (Matt 5:38-48).
 
Reader 6I don't think that scripture attests to its own inerrancy in a Chicago Statement sense. And Wallace's grammatical analysis of 2 Tim 3:16 is irrelevant because all the verse attests is that Scripture comes from God for a purpose and serves that purpose. Yes that means a serious regard for Scripture ... but doesn't speak at all to most of the arguments that cause feuds in evangelicalism (historicity of Adam, nature of flood, genre of Jonah, whither the wandering saints of Matthew, etc. etc. etc.)
 
 
 

No comments:

Post a Comment