Friday, January 29, 2010

Answering the SharperIron Article on Preservation part five

What is superior, so-called external evidence or Scripture? None of us have seen Jesus. None of us have witnessed His return. Peter saw the Lord in His second coming glory, an "eyewitness of His majesty" on the Mt. of Transfiguration, and yet he said that he had "a more sure word of prophecy." The predictions of Christ's second coming in the Old Testament and in the apostles (2 Pet 3:2) were greater than the evidence of the actual, genuine variety of Peter's real experience with Jesus at His first coming. And yet, the written Words of God are superior. Shouldn't that guide us in the matter of knowing what we know?

We haven't seen Christ and yet we are to believe He's returning merely on the force of Words that have been written. Why? The prophecies always come true. You have always been able to count on what God said. You always will. That makes those Words evidence, more evidence than what men typically depend on as proof. It may not make sense to give up one's whole life to a Person as his Lord, His Despotes (2 Pet 2:1), His Sovereign Boss, Who He has never seen, just based upon Words. That may not seem like enough evidence. But those Words are trustworthy.

I see what God promised regarding His Words and so I believe that He did that. I reject textual criticism because it clashes with what God said He would do. It might seem more smart. But I trust that God would lead His people to the Words they would need to live, assuming that they wanted to live what He said. Should we doubt the authority of God's Words, doubt either God's ability or willingness to follow through what He said He would do with regards to His Words? Of course not.

In my last post in this series, I answered a few comments under an essay written by Aaron Blumer at SharperIron, Preservation: How and What? In the 17th century, John Owen had quite a bit to say about bibliology, and he speaks regarding the understanding of the "Word of God" as the written Words of God. In his Biblical Theology, just recently translated from the Latin and only yet in hard copy, he wrote (p. 791):

I freely grant that God spoke before any of His words were ever committed to writing. And so, in that sense, I freely agree that the Word of God existed before the Bible. But when the same word came to be written down, did it somehow cease to be God's Word? The nature of the word is in no way changed by its being reduced to a written form. . . . [T]he word of God came to be written, so that we might God's will from God's Book (2 Timothy 3:16). To the Scriptures we are constantly sent by God Himself in order to learn of His will from His Word (Deuteronomy 17:19; Isaiah 8:20; John 5:39). Special blessings are reserved for those who are found constantly meditating on God's written Law (Psalm 1:1-2).

He continued going after those who would spiritualize the idea of the Word of God (pp. 791-792):

A[n] . . . objection is as follows, 'The word is near us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts (Romans 10:8), and the word of Christ is said to dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and obviously that word is not a letter, is not written.' To which I make reply that the word which dwells in us is the word of faith which the Apostles preached (Romans 10:8), and the Apostles preached nothing but what was written by Moses and the prophets (Romans 16:26). Indeed, Paul asserts that word to be the written word most openly and unambiguously (Romans 10:11).

The Word of God is the written Words of God. God promised to preserve those Words in perfection. We should assume the perfection of God's Words. Owen wrote (p. 828):

Our contrary doctrine asserts the perfection of the Scriptures, and that from the following considerations: 1. From its Author, who is God. God operates with nothing imperfect, means or end. from a perfect cause only perfect results may be expected. And why could, or should, God, wishing to reveal His will, not reveal it in a perfect manner? Shall it be said that he was unable to do so? That would be to blaspheme His infinite wisdom and omnipotence. Was He unwilling to do so? That would be a slur on His infinite grace and goodness. God must, therefore, have provided a faultless revelation of His will. . . . In every respect, then, is the written Word perfect.

Please notice that Owen says the written Word is perfect. Not was. Christian men viewed the apographa as perfect, the copies they used to be identical to the originals. Inerrant originals is a new concept, originated by Warfield in the late 19th century. The term inerrancy itself was a word concocted to separate the autographa from the apographa in the matter of perfection. This wasn't how men believed until then. They assumed God fulfilled His promises.

The Septuagint Argument

A major argument for the sake of proving that Scripture does not teach perfect preservation is that Jesus quoted from the Septuagint, which was a corrupt text, with different wording than the original Hebrew text, therefore, He wasn't concerned about the very Words of Scripture. What is important, the argument would go, is that we get the message, so these small numbers of textual variants (hundreds of thousands according to Bart Ehrman) do not matter, and this is buttressed by the example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint.

I've mentioned in posts and in the comment section here that Owen had already obliterated that argument. Someone then commented that they had read his material and didn't see that. Let me show you.

Beginning on p. 540 of his Biblical Theology, Owen starts a small section entitled: "Digression on the Septuagint Greek Version of Scripture." In his second line, Owen wrote:

About this version I might as well say what Protagoras puts in the mouth of Laertius, when discussing the gods of the nations, "But concerning such gods I make no claim to know whether they exist or not."

He ended his first paragraph:

[T]here are not lacking scholars who dismiss the entire story of its origin as being hopelessly embroiled in worthless Jewish fable.

On the end of p. 543, we read:

Whenever and by whoever completed, it is quite clear that the Septuagint was a product of the time when the Jewish Church was rushing headlong to ruin, and from that fact alone we should know how much it had been carried down to our own time whole and uncorrupted (author note: Owen is assuming how much it actually was not whole and was corrupt).

He continued on p. 544:

However, despite all of this, the point will be made that our Savior used this version and so commended it to the Church. This is rather like that of the author who solemnly tells us how our Lord used to sing mass and perform as a sacrificing priest! This could be brought out of the New Testament writings with about as great degree of probability as his endorsement of the Septuagint!

Owen then gave the better explanation for what people see in similarity between Septuagint and Jesus' quotations. First he admits some of the sameness: "Certainly, there are frequent phrases in the Greek New Testament which agree in wording with the Septuagint, where the version differs from the Hebrew." And his explanation is several fold. However, he ended the paragraph on p. 544 with this:

Christian users and copiers of the Septuagint would naturally adapt their quotations to those given in the New Testament. The asserters of this certainly have strong probabilities for their opinion.

Luke 4 is often used as an example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint, since the Luke quotations of Jesus does differ from the Hebrew text there. Owen makes one comment on the Luke 4 passage on p. 812:

Further, we might note how, in this work of Bible exposition, Christ Himself anticipated His ministers by His expositions of the prophets in the synagogues of the Jews.

Owen called what Jesus did in the synagogue in Luke 4 to be "expositions." I along with others have said that Jesus "targummed." Owen calls them "expositions," not quotes.

Owen isn't sure about the origination of what is called "the Septuagint." He certainly doesn't believe that Jesus quoted from it. He says that Jesus was expositing in Luke 4, not quoting. He did not think that Jesus quoted from it or endorsed it, and has other explanations for the similiarities between the Septuagint and the New Testament quotations, one of which is that the copyists of the Septuagint stuck in the New Testament quotations as their translation. Those targums were not in line with the Old Testament Hebrew text, but they would then follow along with the wording in the Septuagint.

This leaves us with a high view of inspiration and preservation. It gives an explanation for the Septuagint that fits with God's promise of perfect preservation. Or in other words, it takes away a "reason" not to live by faith.


d4v34x said...

Re the Septuagint portion here: Luke 4:16 says ". . . [H]e went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."

There is no reason to think He didn't actually read. The Bible states that's what he was going to do when he went up to get the scroll.

There's no reason to think that the words recorded in Luke 4 aren't what he actually read.

There is good reason to think, based on a plain understanding of Luke 4 that He read from a scroll that was not worded exactly the same as, for instance, the Masoretic Text, and treated that scroll as authoritative.

And let's just say He was "targumming", He, of all "people" could have quoted from strict memory. Why would He "targum"

Kent Brandenburg said...

I don't think we should assume that he doesn't read. However, we shouldn't assume that later what we read in Luke 4 was what he read. He did read, but He also targummed. I believe there is good evidence for this in that the last part, to set at liberty them that are bruised, is not in Isaiah 61:1. He was using a different place in Isaiah explain the Isaiah 61:1 text. If he was reading from that scroll, he wouldn't have found in there part of another scroll.

Notice what I'm doing though David. I'm taking a position from the Bible on preservation, found in history, and taught in Owen, and then I'm explaining the passage with that presupposition. This point of trying to come up with a way to justify errors in Scripture---where does that come from?

d4v34x said...

Bro. B.,

What I am doing comes from taking God (speaking through Luke) at His Word. If He says it was written there (and He does), it was written there.

I think that exempts me from charges of haphazard justification of errors (necessarily resultant from my theology, no less!) in Scripture.

Kent Brandenburg said...


It's fine to take him at His Word. I have no problem with that. Luke says there was one demoniac in Luke 8 at Gadera. The Matthew and Mark accounts differ in that Matthew says there were two men, and then we also see Gerasene, etc, different locations named. What do we do? We harmonize. Classic harmonization. I think it is easy to harmonize based upon a conservative interpretation. So we look at what Jesus said and it isn't what we see either in the Masoretic Text or in the Septuagint, either one. This isn't unusual. What I'm talking about in my post is going at this idea that we can buttress a corrupt text by a point made that Jesus used a corrupt text. We don't have to attribute different words to the acceptance of a corrupt text. If you are not making that point, what point are you making, David? Should I not asume that you were defending that point, that is, that Jesus actually read those Words, Words that aren't even found in Isaiah 61:1 in the last phrase?

d4v34x said...

Bro. B.,

You approach this passage bringing presuppositions based on other passages. I'm leaning towards approaching the other passages based on presuppositions arising from this passage. From that perspective, I don't feel the need to defend anything that Jesus didn't feel the need to defend (at least as far as was recorded).

Last word is yours.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I believe my methodology, looking at plain doctrinal statements to get my doctrine, explicit teaching, and then interpreting the non-explicit from that, is the correct hermeneutic. You take an implicit conclusion, and then apply that to the explicit statements, interpreting the explicit in light of the implicit. Of course, I'm challenging your implicit. It says "Jesus read," yes. I don't question whether He read. I question whether what is written after that was the actual reading. It doesn't "read" like it was what he actually read. I've already made that point and you've seemed to ignore it. The last phrase isn't in Isaiah 61 in any text or translation in existence. The words of Jesus in Luke 4 don't match up with the Hebrew Masoretic or the Septuagint translation, either one. We also have a historic basis for harmonization. I gave you an example from the Luke 8, maniac of Gadera story, of how men harmonize.

I also provide a historic, orthodox, believing basis for my position by quoting Owen. Perhaps you could produce the historic basis for your position. Your position is one that long follows the publication of the critical or eclectic text. I don't know whether you are attempting to justify a corrupt text as acceptable or not; it's just that that's been the point of the Septuagint argument.

What's ironic in this is that the Septuagint argument supporters are arguing with specific words ("he read") for a position that doesn't really care about specific words.

I'm saying that Jesus read. He did. But the Words He read aren't recorded. What is recorded is something else that any rabbi did with a synagogue reading, that is, He targummed. My position matches what we read actually happening.

Anonymous said...

Luke 4:18 and the LXX by fundy


Looks like he's responding to what

you wrote.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Anonymous.

Nothing he says does any harm to what Owen wrote. Nothing that he wrote answers that point. It's obvious that some men of that day thought Jesus quoted from the Septuagint, but they weren't thinking through the implications of that thought as it related to what men believed and wrote about the matter of perfect preservation of Scripture. Bob is giving it his best shot, but that is the extent of the exegetical work that Bob's got at his disposal. Obviously, there's some trouble for Bob too if he thinks that Jesus quoted from the Septuagint of Isaiah 61, because it doesn't match up with the Septuagint either, which would say again, that it matches my view, that Jesus was targumming.

Anonymous said...

I pretty well convinced of what
your arguing for. I am sure you have argued/discussed this
with him before.If this does not derail this thread: What do you
think about what Owen said about the chapter on origin of writing and the other chapter on hebrew vowel points being instituted by Ezra, but ultimately a divine innnovation?


Phil said...

What do you think about the
geneology in Luke 3 where it
mentions Sala as the son of and Cainaan as the son of Arphaxad. In Genesis 11 it does not mention that Cainaan. His name does appear in Genesis chapter 3 in the Septuagant, but is absent from the geneology of I Chronicles so the Greek translation is inconsistent. I only ask because if Luke has him in there, Then either Luke or Genesis is wrong and has a messed up chronology in trying to date the earth.

Claymore said...


Genesis 3 covers only to the days of the Flood. Arphaxad was born afterward - that is why there seems to be an inconsistency, you seem to be confusing antedeluvian history with post-deluvian. However, to answer the main point of your question, the Hebrew Language mutated at various times in history, just as all living languages do. I Chronicles mentions Arphaxad's son Salah as "Shelah" but the spelling in Hebrew is very close. "Salah" begins with a "Scin" making an "S" sound but "Shelah" begins with a "Shcin" which has an "Sh" sound - the only difference is where the dagesh is placed. A similar phenomenon occurred in the days of the Judges (Shiboleth vs. Sibboleth).

Claymore said...


Genesis 3 covers only to the days of the Flood. Arphaxad was born afterward - that is why there seems to be an inconsistency, you seem to be confusing antedeluvian history with post-deluvian. However, to answer the main point of your question, the Hebrew Language mutated at various times in history, just as all living languages do. I Chronicles mentions Arphaxad's son Salah as "Shelah" but the spelling in Hebrew is very close. "Salah" begins with a "Scin" making an "S" sound but "Shelah" begins with a "Shcin" which has an "Sh" sound - the only difference is where the dagesh is placed. A similar phenomenon occurred in the days of the Judges (Shiboleth vs. Sibboleth).

Phil said...

Oops. Claymore, I meant Genesis 11 when talking about the Cainaan mentioned in Luke 3,but abesent in Genesis 11.Where do you get that the main point of my question was about Sala/ Shela/the Hebrew language?It was about Cainaan listed as his(Sala's) father in Luke 3 but absent in Gen 11. I was wondering how Bro. Brandenburg would harmonize it(Not to mock or be challeging, just to see how he and otherswho belived in perfect preservation would have dealt with it). Would he say that the guy mentioned in Christ's geneology in Luke should be in Genesis? Or because of his absence in Genesis sholud he not be in Luke? Is there Hebrew support in any type of manuscript or in the margin of a mauscript that indicates Cainaan should be there? It would help when mapping out the chrononlogy of the earth

Claymore said...

My apology for not getting your main point correct. In the Hebrew and Greek languages the word "son" (ben and huios respectively) do not necessarily refer to an immediate son - it may be referring also to a grandson, son-in-law, etc. As such, names may be left out (see Mattew's genealogy which leaves out several names).

Aaron B. said...

Part two in my series on "Preservation: What and How?" posts tomorrow.
I'm not responding in it to the five part critique here (yet). There is more groundwork to lay first.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'll happy to read that you've been persuaded by scripture to believe in perfect preservation like the historic church. ;-D Instead of the new, post-enlightenment, post-Warfield revisionists position.

By the way, as far as my writing a five part series---let's say that I commented on your blog at SI. I would say that I might write the same total amount there or more than I have here. I also dealt with people's comments in my posts here. You never leveled the Septuagint argument (yet), but someone brought it up here. I'll look forwad to reading what you write, although I'm gone at least until Monday back to see my son at West Point.

Aaron B. said...

Kent wrote...
"Aaron mentioned that Moritz and others have examined the preservation passages and come to very similar conclusions as the authors of TSKT did."
Actually, what I meant by that observation was that others have examined the passages and come to conclusions similar to mine, not similar to yours. Sorry I wasn't clear on that point.
More later.