Monday, August 03, 2009

Eastern Errancy Answered

My friend Rhology has cross-posted an inquiry about Orthodox views on inerrancy both at his blog HERE and at a corporate blog to which he contributes, Beggars All, HERE. I chose to respond on the latter blog but am posting my response here as well. I've altered the original post so that it will not look like a response to an inquiry but simply to stand alone and present the content of said response.

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In debates with conservative or fundamentalist Protestants (the two terms are not synonymous), Orthodox are charged with "acting like liberal Protestants." What is ironic here is that liberal Protestants accuse us of being fundamentalists. What was that Chesterton said about orthodoxy again...?

I understand that certain camps within Protestantism label themselves as "conservative" and others as "liberal," while other camps label themselves as "liberal," while still others resent the label of "liberal" given them by the self-appointed "conservative" wing of Protenstantism. Certain hot-button issues seem to be the litmus test for this (inerrancy of Scripture, satisfaction atonement, authority of Scripture, for example), and said issues come complete with lexical definitions for each issue, provided as well by the self-appointed "conservative Protestants" themselves, thus framing the debate before it even gets started.

I would state at the outset that I view their rather arbitrary claim to be the, well, arbiters of "conservative orthodoxy" (little "o") to be rather unfounded and, therefore, not pertinent to this debate. The more I read of the way the Church Fathers (most particularly Chrysostom, Irenaeus, and Basil) interpreted and read the Scriptures, the more I'm convinced that the labels "conservative" and "liberal" -- and, in particular, the way they are arbitrarily used within some Protestant circles -- means very, very little to an Orthodox Christian. I do not mean to cast aspersions on the desire of so-called "conservative" or fundamentalist Protestants to be faithful to the Scriptures or to the saving events to which they attest. Rather, I would state that the degree to which they are forced to stretch in order to do so sufficiently (at least, to their own satisfaction) is misguided and unnecessary.

We are accused, when stating that minor factual or historical errors may exist in the biblical text, of confusing the roles of God and man, or as Rhology put it, making "a strong distinction between God and man," This dichotomy, however, often drawn by fundamentalist or "conservative" Protestants between God and men is not based on a sound Christology. A sound Christology demands just such a distinction between divine and human natures, as the human and divine natures of Christ were, in fact, sharply distinct one from another, though they were never separate. As a man, Christ needed to sleep. As a divine One, however, He "neither slumbers nor sleeps." As a man, Christ thirsted. As a divine One, He has no need of any sustenance.

Likewise, as a document written by humans, the Scriptures contain minor, inconsequential inconsistencies, such as exactly what was written above the cross.A commenter in Rhology's combox (Seth, whose comment can be found HERE) looked to harmonize the four accounts by distinguishing between a τιτλος (a title, as in, Christ's name and town of origin) and a επιγραφη της αιτιας (an accusation made of Him), but such a resort misses the point of a biblical account entirely.

From the Orthodox point of view, it makes no difference whatsoever if the precise words on the sign are reported incorrectly. What is important here is that there was a Cross onto which said sign was nailed, and that a divine Savior hung on said Cross for our salvation. This major event was reported by all four evangelists with σταυρωσαντες δε αυτον (Matt.) and εσταυρωσαν αυτον (Mk., Lk., Jn.), and all four are translated to mean "He was crucified" and "They crucified Him." It is clear to us that we may never know what the sign said, as the gospel writers, being men, reported different things. Yet this (ultimately inconsequential) detail does not get in the way of the Scriptures providing a faithful witness, consistently, to the fact of the Crucifixion. One may also refer to the details of the sign as inconsequential since the discrepancies in question are not ones of contradiction but rather mere addition or subtraction of details; the former would be a much more severe charge than the latter.

Just as we do not see every minor detail in Scripture as needing to be airtight, neither do we see every detail in icons as needing to be historical; Mary is depicted in the Ascension icon. St. Paul (and, sometimes, even Mary!) is present at Pentecost. These are included to make theological points. While, granted, the differing inscriptions (and/or "accusations," if one prefers) make no other theological point than the fact that He was accused of being the "King of the Jews" (which He was, of course, the Church Fathers nevertheless later preferring to place the title "The King of Glory" over icons of the Crucifixion), the fact that minor discrepancies were present in no way invalidates the divinely inspired proclamation of our Lord's suffering on the Cross. Any skeptic who would dismiss the unanimously attested-to latter proclamation based on the former inconsistencies is so insincere a searcher and so blindly dismissive of Christianity at the outset that it would be fruitless, in my opinion, to engage such a person in the first place.

Just as both Christ -- who experienced weakness and humiliation as man yet was ever omnipotent God -- and Scripture -- which contains minor, inconsequential inconsistencies yet remains god-breathed and inspired -- simultaneously show forth divine and human natures, so the Church manifests itself as theanthropic, both vulnerable to horrible abuses within it, yet still guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. Bishops engaged in power struggles, they anathematized whole swathes of Christendom out of sheer ego…yet the council of Nicaea declared Christ to be ομοουσιους with the Father and with us.

The idea of an incarnate Lord, susceptible to weakness and death, Who is yet the unchanging Source and Ground of all Being…is scandalous.

The idea of a Bible written by men who got some details wrong yet preserved a Holy Tome breathed by God…is scandalous.

The idea of a Church whose very shepherds have beaten and neglected the sheep in shameful ways and to shameful degrees yet which has yet been led into all truth and continues to be the Pillar and Ground of said Truth…is scandalous.

Yet there it is: Divine. Human. Incarnate. Salvific.

42 comments:

Cameron said...

Great post, David. Thanks for sharing it here.

s-p said...

Good job, David. I think there are several assumptions that frame the argument before one even begins that need to be addressed, and one of the major primary ones is "authority" within the Church. The protestants have backed themselves into inerrant sola scriptura by rejecting all other "human authority" (as if God could inerrantly inspire the Bible writers but no one else since...) The entire post reformation house stands or falls on SOMETHING in Christianity being inerrant other than any human agency. It can't fall on "God speaking to men" anymore because EVERYONE says He does that, so the only "objective" thing left is a static text. It is not good enough that God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow, so the Bible is the next and really only thing left. The reasoning is circular, by their own definition of the relationship of the Bible to God, if the text can be shown to be in error then it defacto casts doubt on God. The only thing they can imagine without inerrant scripture is ecclesial chaos, but they fail to see they have it already. sigh.

Rhology said...

Thank you sir.
I'll probably respond soon, but I understand that you have your hands full.

John said...

Speaking as an Orthodox Christian, if you want to talk about "we", and "the Orthodox point of view" as if you are speaking for what Orthodox believe, I would like to know where you get the idea that "we" believe there are minor errors in the scriptures.

"the infallible and sacred writings declare to be due to no other than to the one true God" - Augustine letter CII

"the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error." - Augustine letter 82.3

"We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them" - Gregory Nazianzen, Oration II.

"I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself." - Justin Martyr to Trypho

"Now it is the opinion of some, that the Scriptures do not agree together, or that God, Who gave the commandment, is false. But there is no disagreement whatever, far from it, neither can the Father, Who is truth, lie;" -St. Athanasius, Letter 19, Section 3.

s-p said...

Hi John, I've seen those quotes brought out, but I'm not convinced in their contexts that they defend the modern Protestant notion of "inerrancy" (every scientific, geographic, astronomical etc etc. details are accurate). Those were written in an entirely different "church culture" than we have today, and I think we have to do a little more digging to be sure the Fathers are saying the same thing the Protestants mean today. I've never seen a patristic writing trying to reconcile the numbers and geneologies in the OT to prove the inerrancy of the Bible. I think that kind of "inerrancy" was off their radar screen. But... I may be wrong...I'm just doubtful.

Rhology said...

I think that kind of "inerrancy" was off their radar screen.

And the ad hoc distinctions that David Bryan has made here were on their radar screen?
Or could it be that when they say that the Father can't lie, they mean the Father can't lie?

s-p said...

Hi Rhology, "Telling the truth" and a writer not getting all the details right about incidentals of a story are two different things. God does not lie, men (even those led by the Spirit) have human limitations. The Bible is a God-man document, not men channelling God. One can believe that and not deny ANY of the core dogmas of the Christian faith (one of which is not mentioned in the Creed is the inerrancy of the scriptures...hmmmm).

Darlene said...

Coming from being a Protestant Evangelical who is now intensely drawn to the Orthodox faith, I will continue to honor the Holy Scriptures as God-breathed and inerrant in their original languages. With that said, I'm not all that concerned about the minor discrepancies (apparent?) as to the inscription/s on Christ's cross. Just watch the History Channel (which I did recently btw) and they'll hand ya a platter full of discrepancies and contradictions in the Scriptures, some seemingly legit, some not. The Christian sect I once belonged to many years ago made it a practice of looking for what we would call "apparent contradictions" in the Bible. None of this ever caused me to waver in my faith because I knew that the inward change which had been wrought in the depths of my soul was REAL. I knew I was in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelt inside of me. That reality overshadowed what might appear to be contradictions or discrepencies within Holy Scripture. And so this is true for me even till today.

Remember, we are told by the Apostle Peter that there are some things within St. Paul's letters that are "hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures." I think I will stand with St. Athanasius, St. Justin Martyr, St.Gregory Nazianzen, and blessed Augustine on this one. Better that we should put our hands to our mouth and admit we lack understanding, than find fault/weaknesses within the Holy Scriptures possibly bringing injury upon ourselves or others.

John said...

s-p: My question was of course... not "what is the correct view of inerrancy", but rather "how do we know David is representing 'the Orthodox view'".

... however ...

Do the fathers write in defence of genealogies to defend inerrancy? Err.. yes they do.

"is there not irrational profanity in the hasty condemnation of the evangelists as false because the genealogies are different, as if both could not be true, instead of considering calmly the simple fact that frequently in human life one man may have two fathers" - Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean. III.3

I'm not sure how you see their church culture as different.

Rhology said...

s-p,

So God can breathe out sthg that's wrong?
Isn't it special pleading to say that the details are wrong, but you're just SURE that the main msg wasn't mistaken as well? And what does that say about EO Sacred Apostolic Tradition? What if one of the details that it got wrong was its claims to inspiration by God or godly authority? How would one know?


Darlene,

I'm not happy about my friend David Bryan's conversion to EOC, but I do wish at least he'd take your far more reasonable stance wrt to the Scr.


John,

Exactly. And I made that point in my post.

In case anyone missed it, however, David Bryan is packing for a cross-country move, with 2 small children. So let's be very patient with him - he has much bigger fish on his plate now (to tastefully mix metaphors).

Darlene said...

Rhology,

You said, "I'm not happy about my friend David Bryan's conversion to EOC, but I do wish at least he'd take your far more reasonable stance wrt to the Scr."

Yes, having followed some communication between the both of you, I am aware that you are displeased with his decision to become an Orthodox Christian. However, I do think David has not expressed himself well in regard to this matter of the discrepancies of Scripture. I trust from all that I have read from his blog thus far, that he has a high regard for Scripture and honors it as God-breathed. However, I would say with regard to this article, he is not in harmony with the history or Tradition of the Orthodox faith, although I think he would probably disagree. This, of course is my mere opinion, but it is influenced by all that I have come to know as Orthodox thus far.

I think God is merciful in many areas where our understanding may be off but our heart is to love Him, to learn from Him, and to obey and serve Him. After all, if the Lord were to require perfect understanding of doctrine and the Scriptures from each of us, who could pass the test? So it is that we should continually call upon His mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,a sinner.

David said...

I thought that this was an excellent post and I agree with you entirely.

I think that it should be pointed out that this was a matter on which the Fathers of the Church disagreed with each other; there are multiple opinions to be found in the early Church writers. I agree with you, though, that the Fathers' ideas of inerrancy were much different from the modern Protestant concept.

While I'll accept John's quotes from Sts. Gregory, Justin, and Athanasius, I question his quotes from Augustine. Augustine was hardly a bastion of O/orthodoxy; whether or not he personally was a heretic I'll leave for the Church to decide but more than a few of his ideas were heretical (see the Council of Jerusalem in 1667 [give or take a few years, I can't remember exactly when it was]). You'd be hard-pressed to find him celebrated as a Saint in the Orthodox Church before about 1950.

Nonetheless (and I apologize if this was already pointed out and I missed it), for Augustine, inerrancy extended only to the originals of Scripture, not to recopies or translations: "For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it."

But, while we're quoting semi-orthodox "Fathers," there's this, from Tertullian: "Never mind if there does occur some variation in the order of the [gospel] narratives. What matters is that there is agreement in the essential doctrine of the Faith" - Against Marcion, IV:2.

Continued...

David said...

And to quote an undoubtedly Orthodox Father (St. John Chrysostom, whose ideas I think you unintentionally summarized to a certain extent in your post): “But the contrary,” it may be said, “hath come to pass, for in many places they are convicted of discordance.” Nay, this very thing is a very great evidence of their truth. For if they had agreed in all things exactly even to time, and place, and to the very words, none of our enemies would have believed but that they had met together, and had written what they wrote by some human compact; because such entire agreement as this cometh not of simplicity. But now even that discordance which seems to exist in little matters delivers them from all suspicion, and speaks clearly in behalf of the character of the writers.
But if there be anything touching times or places, which they have related differently, this nothing injures the truth of what they have said. And these things too, so far as God shall enable us, we will endeavor, as we proceed, to point out; requiring you, together with what we have mentioned, to observe, that in the chief heads, those which constitute our life and furnish out our doctrine, nowhere is any of them found to have disagreed, no not ever so little.

But what are these points? Such as follow: That God became man, that He wrought miracles, that He was crucified, that He was buried, that He rose again, that He ascended, that He will judge, that He hath given commandments tending to salvation, that He hath brought in a law not contrary to the Old Testament, that He is a Son, that He is only-begotten, that He is a true Son, that He is of the same substance with the Father, and as many things as are like these; for touching these we shall find that there is in them a full agreement.
And if amongst the miracles they have not all of them mentioned all, but one these, the other those, let not this trouble thee. For if on the one hand one had spoken of all, the number of the rest would have been superfluous; and if again all had written fresh things, and different one from another, the proof of their agreement would not have been manifest. For this cause they have both treated of many in common, and each of them hath also received and declared something of his own; that, on the one hand, he might not seem superfluous, and cast on the heap to no purpose; on the other, he might make our test of the truth of their affirmations perfect. - Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 1:6.

I think that Scripture itself also argues against inerrancy.

Continued...

David said...

"How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the Law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?" - Jeremiah 8:8. The Prophet Jeremiah is here endorsing, in words attributed to God, what was a widespread concern amongst early Jews and Christians in era 300 BC - AD 300, namely, that the "pen[s] of the scribes" were intentionally changing Scripture. Some Protestant apologists have tried to reinterpret this passage to mean that the scribes were wrongly interpreting Scripture, but this is distorting the clear meaning of the passage in its historical context. There are NO midrashic interpretations that survive from Jeremiah's era; they came later. A scribe's job was to act as a copyist, not an interpreter.

A chapter before that, Jeremiah is even more shocking: "For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices." - Jeremiah 7:22.

And, in the New Testament, St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:10-14 makes very clear that he is stating his own opinion and not God's in at least one instance: To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): "A wife must not separate from her husband. [...] To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her."

In other words, at least some of Scripture, according to St. Paul here and Prophet Jeremiah above, is the words of men, not of God.

The passage of Scripture that is most often proof-texted to support Biblical inerrancy, 2 Timothy 3:16, which states that Scripture is "God-breathed" must also be taken out of its historical context to support this point of view. The first thing that needs to be noted about this passage is that St. Paul is here referring to what we call the Old Testament; he's certainly not referring to his own letters and, as at least two of the Gospels (Luke and John) date from after his death, he's definitely not referring to the Gospels.

The writings which make up our New Testament were not considered "Scripture" until much later. Even as late was the 120s, St. Justin the Martyr refers to the Gospels as "memoirs of the Apostles," not using the word "Scripture" to describe them or attributing Divine inspiration to them. And, of course, the first time that we find our whole 26 book New Testament (which no additions or subtractions or "doubtfuls" in the equation) is very late, in 367, in a canon written by St. Athanasius.

Also, according to Scripture in Genesis 2:7, man's life is also God-breathed, and I doubt that anyone here would attribute inerrancy to humans.

One of the things that most disturbs me about Protestant ideas like Sola Scriptura and Biblical inerrancy (as well as other "essential" features of Protestantism like iconoclasm) is their resemblance to (and, possibly, influence by) similar Muslim ideas. Comparing the Islamic ideas regarding the Koran (that it is entirely inerrant and has existed in heaven with God since before Creation) is a little unsettling.

I've gone on way too long here, though, and I apologize for the multiple comments it took to get this all in. Once again, David, great post!

John said...

David: (I assume you are a different David), of course if the fathers disagreed, I again question if David's view can be presented as "the Orthodox view".

Concerning Augustine, Photius (~860AD) called him "Holy Augustine" as does St Mark of Ephesus (1455AD), and St Justinian (~560AD) called him one of the "Holy Fathers". And there was one undivided church for a thousand years. Are we seriously to believe that we are hard pressed to find him celebrated in the undivided Orthodox church?

Is there anybody outside of King James Onlyists claiming that all copyist errors are inspired?

Tertullian: Did he say the variations are an error? Everybody knows there are variations. Not everybody considers that an error.

Chrysostom said that there is "discordance which seems to exist". Yes, clearly there "seems" to exist discrepencies. Everybody knows that. Whether the "seemingly" discrepencies are in fact discrepencies is the actual argument.

There are no fathers that I know of saying that scripture can have errors. There are many who said it can't. I don't see anything quoted here that would lead me to pit one father against another.

Concerning 1Cor 7:12, you seem to imply that an apostolic command that is not supported by the words of Jesus is dispensible. This is different to saying there might be some minor discrepancies of detail in narratives.

The options seem to be (a) Paul is doing a one-off insertion of his opinion into scripture that cannot be extrapolated to his general writings. In this case, it doesn't help the thesis. (b) Paul is saying that this command comes from his full apostolic authority, but his readers won't have heard it before because it is not a saying of Jesus. In this case, it doesn't help the thesis. (c) Paul is saying that apostolic teaching can be flat out wrong if not supported by Jesus' words. I expect you don't want to go there.

Concerning the dates things were considered scripture, firstly what of 2Pet. 3:16 and 1Tim. 5:18 which both call NT books scripture? Secondly, how would the dates matter? Are you implying that the old testament is really inerrant, but the Gospels are not, but on a lower level of inspiration?

Darlene said...

Genesis 2:7, is that not talking about pre-fall Adam? If so, wasn't Adam considered perfect in God's sight at this time?

David said...

>>David: (I assume you are a different David),

DW: Yes.

>>of course if the fathers disagreed, I again question if David's view can be presented as "the Orthodox view".

DW: I think what we're looking for here is the consensus or overarching theme. The Fathers agreed on many issues, some of which would later come to be regarded as essential aspects of the Orthodox Faith. St. Irenaeus was a chiliast. St. Polycarp was a Quartodeciman. St. Clement was probably an iconoclast to a certain extent, as was St. Irenaeus. But prooftexting these Fathers to support these positions today is out of line with Orthodox Patristics (it's entirely in line with Protestant "Patristics," though).

>> Are we seriously to believe that we are hard pressed to find him celebrated in the undivided Orthodox church?

DW: Believe it or not, Augustine was not on the calendar of Saints nearly anywhere in the Orthodox world until the 1950s which is, not ironically, around the same time that Patriarch Athenagaros of Constantinople began his rapprochement with the Roman Catholics.

>> Is there anybody outside of King James Onlyists claiming that all copyist errors are inspired?

DW: You'd be hardpressed to find an copy of the Bible in English that doesn't include some copyists' errors and interpolations. The last eight verses of St. Mark's Gospel, for instance, and passage from the (I think) third letter of John refers very explicitly to the Trinity.

>> Tertullian: Did he say the variations are an error? Everybody knows there are variations. Not everybody considers that an error.

DW: We'll use the Gospels as an example. They disagree amongst each other as to what color the robe Christ wore before the Crucifixion was. The robe could only have been one color. Whichever evangelist records the color other than that which the robe was is in error.

Continued...

David said...

>> Chrysostom said that there is "discordance which seems to exist". Yes, clearly there "seems" to exist discrepencies. Everybody knows that. Whether the "seemingly" discrepencies are in fact discrepencies is the actual argument.

DW: How do you reconcile the example above?

>> Concerning 1Cor 7:12, you seem to imply that an apostolic command that is not supported by the words of Jesus is dispensible. This is different to saying there might be some minor discrepancies of detail in narratives.

DW: Notice that St. Paul uses the word "command" to refer to what the Lord says and simple says "I say" when he refers to what he is saying. He's making the distinction, not me.

>> Paul is saying that apostolic teaching can be flat out wrong if not supported by Jesus' words. I expect you don't want to go there.

DW: I wouldn't go nearly that far, but the Apostles, even after Pentecost were capable of error individually. This is, after all, why the Church is Conciliar, even in the beginning, with the Jerusalem Council. Only in Council could they say "it seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit." The Bible clearly records that St. Peter was in error about Gentiles coming to the Faith and St. Paul records his own rather harsh rebuke in his letter to the Galatians. If you're saying that the Apostles were not capable of error individually, you're coming rather close to Roman Catholic claims about Papal Infallible. Too close for my comfort.

>> Concerning the dates things were considered scripture, firstly what of 2Pet. 3:16 and 1Tim. 5:18 which both call NT books scripture?

DW: And I'll counter with -- what about the letter of Jude which refers to the books 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses as Scripture? How do we reconcile an inerrant letter in the New Testament citing two books which are not Scripture as Scripture?

>> Secondly, how would the dates matter? Are you implying that the old testament is really inerrant, but the Gospels are not, but on a lower level of inspiration?

DW: No, I'm pointing out how you're taking the words of St. Paul out of their proper historical context. Do you really think that St. Paul (whose writings make up the majority of our New Testament) considered his own writings as Scripture? That's attributing much more hubris to the Holy Apostle than I care to do.

You raise some very good points, but I think that in the end the Scripture speaks for itself against inerrancy. I forgot in my original post to mention the words of Christ himself in Mark 10:5, in which he states that the OT laws of divorce came from Moses (and, therefore, not God). Are we to assume that Moses is also infallible? I look forward to your reply.

David said...

Darlene,

I think that you're splitting hairs at this point, but:

I would say that Adam was not considered "perfect" in God's sight because, as Fathers like St. Maximos the Confessor make clear, he was not yet deified, therefore, not yet perfect. "Good" is the word that Scripture itself uses in Genesis to refer to pre-fall Creation, not "perfect."

David said...

I thought I should add a note here on Augustine, since I seem to have introduced the issue.

Let me state first off that I do not doubt that he is a Saint and a Father of the Church. As I said originally, the Church has never said otherwise and so I will not.

However, there is no doubt that he held heretical opinions. Even the other Fathers who cite him or speak about him are rather reserved in their acceptance of him. St. Photios, whom John mentions, in his "On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit" that Augustine can still be accepted as a Father, in spite of holding heretical opinions, due to his express willingness to alter his opinions in the face of the phronema of the Church, or consensus of the Fathers. Many of the Fathers who talk about him, such as St. Nikodemos, put forth the rather dubious assertion that whatever is attributed to him which is heretical must be "garbled by the heretics," that is, intentionally changed by others later on to support their views.

Augustine's teachings have never been accepted in toto by the Church. He, without doubt, held certain heretical or at least questionable, opinions, especially regarding the nature of grace and original sin.

His case is comparable to that of Origen in many ways. Origen was generally accepted as an Orthodox Father for quite some time and even revered as a Saint, since he died a martyr. St. Gregory Nazianzen and other Fathers of the Church took up his defense when some of his ideas were called into question. Eventually, he was anathematized by an Ecumenical Council as a heretic.

What spared Augustine a similar fate, I think, is exactly what St. Photios pointed out about him: he was willing to change his beliefs when the Church contradicted him. I think it would also be unjust to be too harsh towards him, as he had at his disposal only a rather flawed Latin translation of the Scriptures. One of his key points about original sin, in fact, hinges on this Latin version's mistranslation of a certain passage in Romans. He worked with what he had. Origen, on the other hand, knew the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew and was even working on a side-by-side of five different versions of the Scriptures when he passed away. He had no excuse.

Be all that as it may, to quote Augustine to make a point about Orthodox consensus of the Fathers is questionable... and reaching.

We should be looking here to establish what is the mind of the Church on the matter and, following the example of the Blessed Augustine, conforming our own opinion with that.

John said...

Concerning Augustine, I believe the oldest surviving manuscript of the church calendar is Codex Epternacensis, dating from 700AD, and Augustine is celebrated on the normal western date of August 28. So the statement that the Church never celebrated him till 1950 seems to be demonstrably wrong.

As you allude to, all the Fathers have their own idiosyncrasies. I don't know why nobody can quote Augustine without going into a major excursion about his orthodoxy. It's not as if I only quoted Augustine. When Gregory writes of the "accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle", it is no less clear, nor of Justin saying "no Scripture contradicts another" or Athanasius "there is no disagreement whatever".

Concerning the color of Christ's robe, if you are referring to Matthew referring to it as κοκκίνην (scarlet) and Mark saying πορφύραν (purple), the colors are ambiguous enough to not warrant comment. That's why Lamentations 4:5 in a typical Hebrew based English translation has "purple", but an LXX translation like NETS translation says "scarlet". The LXX translator thought that κόκκων was a good translation of ‏תוֹלָ֔ע. Colors are not a precise thing.

Concerning the apostles erring, and your comparison to papal infallibility. The New Testament scriptures have been accepted in a concilliar fashion by the Church. Thus the comparison is better made with the Nicean creed. On the other hand the Pope claims to speak infallibly apart from the consent of the Church (non autem ex consensu ecclesiae). I suppose it is possible that the Church could have selected only some apostolic documents as scripture, and rejected others. But the point is, these books are accepted scripture. I'm sure all the prophets erred in their personal lives, but that has never been an issue.

You say you "wouldn't go that far" in saying the apostles can be flat out wrong in doctrine, but then why bring up 1Cor 7:12?

You say only in Council could they say "it seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit." but then 2 Peter says of scripture "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Why is it different?

Concerning Jude, the text never says Enoch or the AoM is scripture, so the comparison to 2Pet. 3:16 and 1Tim. 5:18 doesn't hold.

Concerning whether Paul considered his own writings scripture, I don't understand the point of the speculation. If Paul thought that say Genesis was scripture, and if he thought it therefore has certain qualities by virtue of it being scripture, and if you believe what Paul wrote is scripture, then what Paul says must apply to himself, whether he was conscious of that or not. Your only escape seems to deny the NT as scripture, or else to create categories of scripture where Genesis has these qualities, and the Gospels and Epistles do not. But you don't seem to want to go there.

Concerning Mk 10:5, he doesn't really say they didn't come from God. How do you want to interpret this... that Moses and therefore the scriptures really screwed up on this central doctrinal point? Do you really want to go there?

David Bryan said...

Well. Quite a discussion. Thanks, y'all, for chiming in.

John, I must say, your patristic quotes speak well to the topic at hand...really, though, I won't add to anything David W. said (incidentally, I'm a "David W.," too, so that's rather funny to me), as he said almost exactly what I was going to.

I must also side yet again with s-p in his assertion that quotes like the one from St. Gregory are not meant to be taken as woodenly as modern fundamentalist Protestants in the West would have us do with regard to inerrancy. For example, in Oration 2, which you cite, St. Gregory is contrasting Orthodox Christian use of Scripture, not with some other use put forth by a heterodox group, but rather with the use of legends of pagan Greeks -- legends which were known to be false historically. Instead of seeing our Scriptures as mere myths, then, we extend the accuracy out to affirm that, yes, our Faith is based on historical reality. As for the "jot and tittle" allusion, well, he, like our Lord, preferred to respect the exact phrasing of the Scriptures (as do I, believe it or not), regardless of whether such phrasings were always reconcilable chronologically. That Greeks are known for their hyperbole should be taken into account as well. Nevertheless, respect for the jot and tittle should be maintained, just as those aspects of Orthodox iconography which do not correspond to photo-realistic paintings or historical events should also be respected and maintained.

For example:
I would not think of mutilating St. John's gospel so that the cleansing of the temple occurs no longer at the beginning of Christ's ministry but rather at the end (as the synoptics would have it).

Nor would I dream of inserting the meeting of five disciples and the incident at the wedding in Cana into the synoptics so that they would no longer have an immediate, 40-day period of fasting in the desert following Christ's baptism and thus be reconciled to St. John's chronology.

Nor further would I ever consider it appropriate to wrench around which came first, second, or third -- the forty days in the desert, the calling of five disciples, or the beginning of Christ's public ministry -- since Matthew and Luke present a different order for these than either Mark or John, both of whom differ from each other as well.

My point is this: the gospels are meant to be a "string of pearls," as it were: anecdotes that reconcile with one another very nicely in terms of being recognizable events attested to by multiple witnesses. Some gospels place these events on different timelines, while others omit or add other events.

These discrepancies, however, do not invalidate the Scriptures' trustworthiness in terms of speaking to the events' importance -- we can say, for example, that Christ really did cleanse the temple and that it really was for the reason given in all four gospel accounts.

However, if someone would like to attempt to harmonize the issues above, I'd be most interested, as I am not so foolish as to preclude that there might be a reconciliation between them...I fail to see how, but I do not possess all knowledge, obviously.

Peace to y'all.

John said...

The gospels don't even pretend that they are presenting a chronological account. That may be the expectation of 21st century man: that chronologically is the appropriate way to lay out a story, but it wasn't necessarily the expectation in ancient times. Luke generally is more chronological, but Matthew clearly follows a thematic approach. Once a particular theme is broached he puts down all the material that is related to that theme. Luke occasionally brings forward future events like a movie might jump into the future or past for dramatic effect.

The question then becomes, is one of the gospels in error because it isn't laid out in the order I want it to be laid out?

Concerning Gregory, I'm not seeing there the issue being "respect" for jot and tittle, as if the Greeks were accused of swapping stories around through lack of respect for it. Rather their problem is they "think but little of the truth, and enchant ear and mind by the charm of their fictions and the daintiness of their style." The problem seems to be lack of truth in Greek legends, in contrast to accuracy to jot and tittle in scripture. If the only truth is chronological, maybe you should rearrange the gospels.

Rhology said...

David W,

Howdy! A few comments.
this nothing injures the truth of what they have said.

Except this: They got stuff WRONG. And it becomes simply a question of fideistic special pleading to say, "Well, they got some things over there wrong, but on the stuff that's really important to me, they totally got it right!"
AKA reshaping God's Word in your own image. Usually mainline American evangellyfish like to rewrite it to write out the things that make them uncomfy, so they can believe in their Word of Faith confess it and possess it type stuff. But you're doing the same thing toward a different end.


that God became man

Maybe. Unless that part was errant.


that He wrought miracles

Unless those parts were mistaken. Don't forget, a lot of the miracle accts don't match!


that He was crucified

Or maybe He wasn't, maybe they got that part wrong. After all, only one of the Gospels mentions Simon of Cyrene. The accts of the thieves on the crosses differ. etc.


I think that Scripture itself also argues against inerrancy.

But maybe those parts are errant, so your case is self-refuting.


Jeremiah 8:8.

You do realise there were multiple copies and lines of transmission of the Scr, don't you?
Or is this another case of special pleading - you're just SURE that THIS passage is inerrant. Somehow.
It's like one of the elders of my church says: It's inspired in spots, and you have to be inspired to spot the spots.


Jeremiah 7:22

Context, my friend. Context.
22 “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.


1 Corinthians 7:10-14 makes very clear that he is stating his own opinion

Paul usually referred to Jesus Christ as "Lord". He was saying he had no clear command from Jesus' own mouth. But that's not the only way God inspires Scr.
He goes on to say:
25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.
40 But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.

Further, once again we have to check the context. This is a letter from Paul. Not everything in the letter is straight command. It's what he said. If he intended to command, OK, it's a command. If he intended to dispense advice but not enjoin the advice with a "you MUST do this", then it's advice. This is the latter. We can tell by reading it with a heart and mind disposed to understand it, not to prove a point that is totally foreign to it.
Finally, how do you know he really said what you think he said? Maybe that part was errant.


2 Tim 3:16...is here referring to what we call the Old Testament

Which you just called out as errant in your comments on Jeremiah.
One thing we're seeing clearly, that humans, devoid of the Spirit, can be VERY errant.


Comparing the Islamic ideas regarding the Koran (that it is entirely inerrant and has existed in heaven with God since before Creation) is a little unsettling.

The Islamic doctrine of the Qur'an is better matched to the Christian doctrine of the Logos, Christ, just FYI.


(cont)(Stupid Blogger)

Rhology said...

(cont)


David Bryan said,
I fail to see how, but I do not possess all knowledge, obviously.

You seem to be vacillating when it suits you - you were just SURE that the Cross inscription accts were irreconcilably inconsistent, I pointed out you don't have all knowledge, Seth explained it, and you didn't say "I do not possess all knowledge, obviously" or anything like that. Why the change now?


John said,
The question then becomes, is one of the gospels in error because it isn't laid out in the order I want it to be laid out?

EXCELLENT question, and one that David Bryan and his errantists comrades need to, and (according to what I've seen, fail to) grapple with.

Peace to all,
Rhology

David said...

John brings up a great point in regards to the Gospels. St. Papias of Hierapolis, a hearer of the Apostle John and friend of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, is one of the earliest (if not the very earliest, ca. 120) witness to how the Gospels were written and by whom. He says this exact thing:

"Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

I think that the suggestions of somehow harmonizing the Gospels are a little dangerous. Tatian the Syrian already did that, and he didn't fare very well for it.

If we can excuse the apparent inconsistencies between Gospel accounts in this way, there are still issues with considering the Bible inerrant. Take a look at Leviticus 11:13-19, for instance. Perhaps there's something I'm missing by not knowing Greek and Hebrew, but the bat is not a bird and this passage seems to clearly state that it is. Maybe someone can explain this... or maybe Scripture's science isn't inerrant?

To John's point about Enoch and AoM not being called "Scripture" in Jude, this may be true, but, at least in the case of Enoch, they are certainly invoked with what is common Biblical language for citing a Scriptural authority. "Enoch...prophesied thus..." Are you really willing to debate that St. Jude didn't believe Enoch and AoM to be Scripture when he wrote his letter?

And Rhology: "The Islamic doctrine of the Qur'an is better matched to the Christian doctrine of the Logos, Christ, just FYI. "

I agree completely. I wrote a post about this on my blog a long time ago, actually. But I think that Protestants in general have moved in the direction of making the Bible the "Word of God," rather than Christ.

Rhology said...

This is one of the things that is so annoying about errantists like David. You end up following atheists in making facile objections to the Scripture. You're calling God either incompetent or a liar.
Your bat/bird thing is laughable. Seriously.


Are you really willing to debate that St. Jude didn't believe Enoch and AoM to be Scripture when he wrote his letter?

1) Maybe Jude didn't really write that. Maybe that part is errant. You treat the text as errant only when it suits you.
2) Yes of course he didn't think they were Scr. He quoted the parts of them that were true. Quoting them as true doesn't make them inspired any more than 1 Kings' quoting King Ahab makes Ahab inspired.


I think that Protestants in general have moved in the direction of making the Bible the "Word of God," rather than Christ.

Keep in mind the Scr and Jesus both refer to Scr as the word of God many times.

David said...

Of bats and birds: Hey, I admitted I didn't know the answer to the question. The article you link to, I think, explains it very well, but I've also read (I'll try to find the reference later) that Hebrew comes fully equipped with a word that means something like "flying mammal" which could have been used in that place. Like I said, I don't speak Hebrew or Greek, so I don't know.

Maybe Jude didn't really write that. Maybe that part is errant.

I'm not sure where you're getting the implication that I think Jude didn't really write something because it's errant.

Yes of course he didn't think they were Scr.

Scripture, whether the Old or New Testament, wasn't handed down in a box set all at once. As I've pointed out here already, the first time in history we find our whole New Testament with no additions, subtractions, or "doubtfuls" is in 367. During the formative years of Christianity and Judaism (1st and 2nd century especially) there were LOTS of debates about what belonged in the Old Testament.

Protestants have re-introduced those debates by choosing the Masoretic over the Septuagint for their Old Testament. This is an interesting choice, considering what we now know about both. The Masoretic is the same Hebrew edition that was chosen by the Jews at the anti-Christian Council of Jamnia (circa 200). The Septuagint is Christianity's Scripture (it is consistently quoted to the exclusion of the Masoretic in the NT); choosing the Masoretic over it grants 2nd century Jewish rabbis divine inspiration and inerrancy.

Rhology said...

Hebrew comes fully equipped with a word that means something like "flying mammal" which could have been used in that place.

Haha, kind of like NT Greek has a word that means "cousin/distant kinsman" which could have been used instead of "adelphos" when designating the other children of Mary the mother of Jesus?


I'm not sure where you're getting the implication that I think Jude didn't really write something because it's errant.

Hey, all bets are off when one posits errancy. Maybe the tradition that assigns Jude's name to the epistle is errant.


During the formative years of Christianity and Judaism (1st and 2nd century especially) there were LOTS of debates about what belonged in the Old Testament.

But not at Jesus' time. They all agreed about the extent of the OT by then.
And how does this apply to your strange point about Enoch or AoM?

Rhology said...

I admitted

The problem isn't your admission. The problem is your attitude. Here's what you said:

Maybe someone can explain this... or maybe Scripture's science isn't inerrant?

The implication is obvious - if someone can't explain it, then it's probably errant.
Maybe you just don't understand it. Maybe no one understands it (now). How does it follow that it's probably errant? Wouldn't it be far better to say that God has never been wrong before and He knows far better what He's talking about than I ever will? And thus to hold to inerrancy?
You're still bucking under the authority of God. You want to be autonomous. I urge you to repent and believe the Gospel.

David said...

But not at Jesus' time. They all agreed about the extent of the OT by then.

No, they didn't... As I pointed out about the Masoretic vs. the Septuagint, the debates were still ongoing well after the time of Christ's earthly ministry. And even, due to Protestant innovations, still are.

This, of course, brings up brand new questions. Which is inerrant: the Septuagint or the Masoretic? If you say it's the Masoretic, then you must (1) admit that the Jewish rabbis at the anti-Christian Council of Jamnia were divinely inspired in their editing of Scripture and (2) be willing to do away with the support of the Fathers, like Augustine, Gregory, Justin and Athanasius, cited earlier, because they all accepted the Septuagint (or, in the case of Augustine, a Latin translation thereof which included the deuterocanonical books.

I think it's important to establish which Bible we're taking about before we start wondering if it's inerrant.

Rhology said...

Why didn't Jesus' enemies ever challenge His quotations of the OT, then? Just curious.

And I don't really think you understand the inerrantist position, since you're asking whether the Maso or the LXX is inerrant. The AUTOGRAPHA are inerrant, and they are preserved in the manuscript tradition, not in any one manuscript.
Finally, "accepting the LXX" is not the same as accepting as canonical all the books that often accompanied the LXX in its codices for convenience' sake, and b/c they were thought useful for public reading though not inspired. You need to make those distinctions, b/c they did.

David said...

Why didn't Jesus' enemies ever challenge His quotations of the OT, then? Just curious.

I don't know of anywhere in the Gospels that Christ quotes from any of the disputed books. Also, arguing that it didn't happen simply because it's not mentioned is a dubious argument. Christ, as the Apostle John testifies in his Gospel, did and said many more things than are recorded in the Gospels.

And I don't really think you understand the inerrantist position, since you're asking whether the Maso or the LXX is inerrant. The AUTOGRAPHA are inerrant, and they are preserved in the manuscript tradition, not in any one manuscript.

Which, in the end, makes inerrancy entirely theoretical and, ultimately, meaningless.

Finally, "accepting the LXX" is not the same as accepting as canonical all the books that often accompanied the LXX in its codices for convenience' sake, and b/c they were thought useful for public reading though not inspired. You need to make those distinctions, b/c they did.

And the Orthodox Church continues to do so. Also, it's very clear that Christians of the first 400 years or so differed on which books, both of the New Testament and the Old, were inspired and which were just "good reading."

Rhology said...

You (should) know as well as I that the Canon is thought of as a group. Law, Prophets, Writings.
You know, Christ's enemies engaged Him a lot, and He them, a lot. No mention of any dispute. How convenient for you.
The apostles also engaged many enemies. No mention of any Canon dispute. But I guess you can just assume it was there, can you? Kind of like you assume that EOC is authoritative, despite the question-begging nature of that assertion?


Which, in the end, makes inerrancy entirely theoretical and, ultimately, meaningless.

How?


And the Orthodox Church continues to do so

Well, be more specific. You don't even have a closed Canon of Scr (neither does Rome), so that's no surprise. But we Reformed have moved on. Come join us.

David said...

The apostles also engaged many enemies. No mention of any Canon dispute. But I guess you can just assume.

Unfortunately, we don't have those debates preserved during the time of the Apostles themselves, but we do have them from very early. See St. Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho the Jew.

I think it's very telling that the Protestants accept a version of the Bible whose origins are explicitly anti-Christian.

How?

Your point seems to essentially boil down to "well, somewhere in there in the original text there is inerrancy, and if it's not inerrant then the problem is the translation or later additions..." The problem, of course, is that we don't have the originals of the writings of the Old Testament, and so there's no way to look at these for ourselves.

You don't even have a closed Canon of Scr (neither does Rome), so that's no surprise.

The canon of Scripture was closed by the Orthodox at the Council of Jerusalem in 1672. I believe the Roman Catholics closed theirs at Trent around the same time, but I'm not sure.

But we Reformed have moved on. Come join us.

And let's talk about the founders of the Protestant Reformation, who would have liked to take their editorial scissors to the New Testament as well. Luther wanted to get rid of the Letter of James because of it's tricky little comment about "not by faith alone." Kind of hurt his argument. As for me and mine, we will worship the Lord our God. There is no need to "reform" the teachings of Christ and his Apostles or to abandon the Church which hell shall not prevail against.

Rhology said...

Protestants accept a version of the Bible whose origins are explicitly anti-Christian.

You apparently don't know that the Prot OT takes into acct the Maso AND the LXX?
And the diffs between the 2 are not very large. This is kind of reckless polemics on your part.


The problem, of course, is that we don't have the originals of the writings of the Old Testament, and so there's no way to look at these for ourselves.

We DO have a way to look at them - the mss tradition. Unfamiliar with textual criticism too, I see. May I suggest you do a little more reading and listening and a little less talking when you don't understand things?


The canon of Scripture was closed by the Orthodox at the Council of Jerusalem in 1672. I believe the Roman Catholics closed theirs at Trent around the same time, but I'm not sure

Wrong on both counts - Kallistos Ware says that there are a couple of books under dispute to this day.
And Trent passed over a couple of books in silence. Open Canon.
(And Trent was mid-16th cent, FYI. A good memory key is that it was the counter-Reformation council.)

Luther wanted to get rid of the Letter of James

See here for info on that.
So what? Luther isn't a Pope, nor a Patriarch, nor does our church claim infallibility. Why do you guys always bring up these irrelevant points?

As for as worshiping the Lord, if God's Word is errant, you don't know much of anything about Him. Your position is hypocritical and your god incompetent. The biblical God is much bigger, and I commend Him to you.

David said...

You apparently don't know that the Prot OT takes into acct the Maso AND the LXX?
And the diffs between the 2 are not very large.


The basis of all modern Protestant translations is the Masoretic. Occasionally, the LXX is mentioned in the footnotes as a "variant reading." The LXX is not a "variant reading." It is the Bible of Christianity.

Kallistos Ware says that there are a couple of books under dispute to this day.

Where does he say this and what books is he referring to?

So what?

So much for the man who innovated the "Scripture alone" heresy. Apparently, he meant "Whatever I consider Scripture alone." This is the overarching theme of Protestantism: what is right TO ME, not "to us and to the Holy Spirit." It is essentially an exercise in individualism; not ironically Protestantism arose at the same time as European nationalism and individualism. The two feed off a common current of thought.

Rhology said...

the LXX is mentioned in the footnotes as a "variant reading."

B/c it mostly agrees with the MT. Like I said, no biggie.


Where does he say this and what books is he referring to?

I believe it's 3 Macc and he says it in "The Orthodox Church" if I'm not mistaken.


So much for the man who innovated the "Scripture alone" heresy. Apparently, he meant "Whatever I consider Scripture alone."

He didn't invent it. Jesus did, in Mark 7 and many other places. And after him there was Paul in 2 Tim 3, and after him were many CFs who held to it.


what is right TO ME, not "to us and to the Holy Spirit."

So typical and so misunderstood. It's BOTH. Jesus held individuals responsible for rightly dividing the word of truth. And for joining together to worship Jesus in the church.
Besides, you don't know if "to us and to the Holy Spirit" is correct or not, since you believe in an errant text. At least try to be consistent with your stated position, please.

s-p said...

I detect the discussion is moving in the direction of "heat" rather than light... But, my question is, "What Orthodox doctrine, other than biblical inerrancy itself, is really changed or altered or supported or not by "Scripture"?" After being in a "Bible Church for over 20 years, teaching Scripture etc etc. for all those years, I cannot name one teaching or practice of the Orthodox Church that is not supported by even "inerrant" Scripture. I'll grant you inerrancy, but that doesn't change a thing about what I believe the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ and Him crucified and the nature and praxis of the Church. It seems the real bottom line is not about "inerrant Scripture", its really about MY interpretation of Scripture. There is not a single Orthodox belief or praxis that NEEDS "errancy" to be justified. So in my mind the whole discussion is kind of pointless, really. Its not like anything really hinges on it one way or the other.

David said...

s-p,

I agree with you and I think I'm going to leave off here with this topic. I think we're all getting a little worked up over what really isn't, in my opinion, a very important topic. A better topic, I think would be a broader comparison of the way Protestants and Orthodox respectively treat Holy Scripture.

I'Ve asked Rhology, over on his blog, if he'd be willing to debate on some of the more essential differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism, such as the one I name above, but he doesn't seem willing to do so. I'll wait and see if he accepts my invitation.

For my part, in this debate become argument, I'd like to apologize for allowing it to get heated and also for, I think, going a little too far in a couple of my arguments. I didn't intend to show any disrespect to Sacred Scripture, but I think that I came danger close to doing so. I'll submit my first post on this topic, quoting St. Chryosostom on the matter, and leave it there.

David

John said...

To state the bird problem more succinctly: whether a bat is a bird is irrelevant. The issue is whether a bat is a ‏הָע֔וֹף. Since the only witness to the meaning of ‏הָע֔וֹף is the Hebrew people themselves, the answer is self-evident that a bat is a ‏הָע֔וֹף.

Concerning what Jude thought was scripture - again irrelevant. The issue is not whether Jude the person is inerrant, the issue is whether Jude the book is inerrant.

BTW, The Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties should be consulted before alleging an error, although I haven't had to consult it thus far since these are easy ones.

To throw a bone to the other team however, the copies of scripture we have may be errant. Rhology agrees with this. However this would not be a reason to descend into radical skepticism. In the same way, Rhology characterizing an errant text as an invitation to decend into radical skepticism is overdone, and in fact Rhology would not apply this thinking to other things in his life. On the other hand, to agree with Rhology, belief in an errant text does invite a whole range of difficult to solve theological problems. As a counter point to that though, Rhology's response of "So what?" to Luther's meddling in the canon seems to make inerrancy a minor issue. Not much point arguing about the color of Jesus robe if the option is open to toss out the whole book.

Concerning the canon debate of the 1st century, Jesus seems to show a tendancy to only quote scriptures that his listeners will unambiguously agree is scripture. Thus most people see Jesus restricting himself to the Pentatuch in dealing with the Saducees. Many see in this an implied canon dispute. Some don't agree with this interpretation though. I don't see Jesus' non engagement with a canon debate as proving anything.

Concerning the council of Jamnia, I don't believe they produced a canon list, so we don't know what may or may not agree with them.

There are records of Jewish disputes about the canon for many hundreds of years after Christ. The Church fathers who seemed interested in following the Jewish canon didn't agree with each other which seems to indicate the Jews didn't agree. I don't see why we would assume that it was settled at the time of Christ but became unsettled later. If it was settled, I don't see that we can know for sure what it was settled to be.

David Bryan said...

I agree that this is much more heat than light and that we've pretty much said all we're going to say, so I'm closing comments for this post. Thank you for your interest.

I'd like to commend John for an excellent final post, in which he shows great fairness for both sides of the debate (although I'd debate whether we can separate a man from his work, but, for another time).

Peace.