Monday, December 30, 2013

What Do the Multiple Version Men Leave Us With?

If I were to rank the recent stir-ups that related to the Bible, as to national interest, they would be the following:  (1)  Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson's homosexuality comments, (2)  John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conference, (3)  NCFIC Holy Hip-Hop panel discussion, and (4)  Mark Driscoll charged with plagiarism for several of his books.  If I were to rank a number five, it is the hub-bub over the documentary by Chris Pinto that questioned the veracity of Tischendorf's Sinaiticus Greek New Testament manuscript.  This included comments from Dan Wallace, a debate between Pinto and James White, several blog posts attacking Pinto from various sources, and a lot of mileage in discussion forum debate.  Why did this number five create such a furor?

Sinaiticus is really important to a multiple versions position.  The advocates of multiple versionism rely on a few apparently old manuscripts and this is one of their few.  If Sinaiticus is blown apart as a fraud, it really makes them look bad, so they've got a lot banking on its defense.  So why wouldn't someone like Bart Ehrman get involved, who is considered the foremost textual critic?  I'm guessing that the Pinto documentary doesn't make any difference to him.  He doesn't believe in inspiration, let alone what manuscripts should be trusted as authoritative.  The reliability of Sinaiticus wouldn't change anything for him.  The people who care the most about the authenticity of Sinaiticus, that is, that it is a very old, very trustworth manuscript, are evangelical and fundamentalist "textual critics."  Textual criticism became the go-to position for evangelicals around the time that Benjamin Warfield reinvented the meaning of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Now they have their wagon hitched to textual criticism and must defend at almost any cost.

I had never heard of Chris Pinto and his films until this dust-up.  It's obvious that he is respected enough to inflame the evangelical textual critics.  He comes across as disinterested in anything but the truth.  I have noticed that a major attack on their part, if not the primary strategy, is to portray him as a kook, biased out of latent King James Onlyism.  This means almost nothing to anyone expect for evangelicals and fundamentalists.  If you are KJVO, you are regarded as loony, and Pinto's curiosity as to the origin of Sinaiticus has brought him the label of KJVO.  Saying someone is KJVO isn't any kind of evidence or proof.  It is the debate equivalent of a sucker punch.  It is not arguing in good faith; however, if it sticks, he's done for, because that's what that charge does in evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism.  You aren't credible then on any other subject.  James White has made his chops, almost a career, with his opposition to the King James Version, spinning that into respect among evangelicals and fundamentalists, who were embarrassed by their brothers loyal to the Textus Receptus and the King James Version.  

I haven't read enough of Pinto's theory to comment on its credibility.  The theory for which he presents evidence is that a Constantine Simonides forged Sinaiticus, so it isn't an ancient manuscript.  I don't think Sinaiticus is credible as a replacement for what believers received for hundreds of years, but Pinto's theory is that it is a forgery, so of recent origin.  Pinto is casting doubt (more doubt) on Sinaiticus, which is so necessary for a textual criticism/multiple version position.  There is strong attack on Pinto, coming from the usual suspects, attempting to smear him in a manner that I have found the normal technique among these men.  I'm not talking about the typical James White gesticulation of tongue snapping, rolling the eyes, and a supremely condescending tone of voice.  I guess his supporters like this and think it comes across well.  I am talking about the whole "tin foil hat" and "conspiracy theorist" clap trap.  Is there a conspiracy against the Words of God?  I guess not.  Because if you believe in a conspiracy, you're a whack job.  The idea of a conspiracy doesn't surprise me, since the backstory of the Bible, part of its overarching narrative, is a conspiracy.

Again, I don't trust Sinaiticus.  I don't believe that God's Words get "found" after being lost for hundreds of years.  That's not backed by the Bible.  It isn't starting with scriptural presuppositions.  I don't even think it's evidentialism, because it is based so much on speculation.  I already reject Sinaiticus based upon a historical and biblical bibliology, doctrine of the preservation of scripture.  I don't need Pinto's material to do that.  But I listened to the White-Pinto debate, and White didn't come across credible.  He treated Pinto disrespectfully, which unfortunately is normal for White (and other of the critics of multiple versionism---read this as an example, which is regular fare from this guy).

None of the above, however, is what this post is about.

As I hear these men defend Sinaiticus and modern versions at all costs and attack the traditional text of scripture and the King James Version, I always wonder what they are accomplishing with all of this.   How does multiple versionism help us?  I know that they might say that we are getting closer to the original text of scripture -- that we are not sure, but that we think we're closer based on certain humanly derived principles of textual criticism.

In reading multiple versionists, I sometimes hear thanks given to them for exposing a dangerous doctrine, for saving someone from some felonious road of deceit.   They never say what is the danger or what the deceit is.  In making those types of judgements, I go to scripture to see what is error, what is true, and what is false.  I would except the deceit to contradict the Bible and the truth to agree with it.  If the Bible teaches it, someone isn't being protected from something good by not believing what the Bible says.  As I see, this multiple versionists are protecting themselves.

When the multiple version apologists are finished, what do they leave us with?  Here's their legacy.

1.  They leave men with the wrong source of scriptural bibliology.

The textual critic, multiple versionist has never started with the Bible.  He didn't go to history to find the historical, biblical position on the preservation of scripture.  He didn't and doesn't develop a biblical position before he starts in with his textual criticism.  He is not a man of faith, in other words, because faith always starts with what God says.  You know you will be wrong when you don't start with the Bible to come to your position.  You will read zero development of theology as a basis of the multiple version point of view.  Nothing.

The last issue of the Biblical Evangelist republished an article by Douglas Kutilek on Psalm 12, concerning the doctrine of preservation.  A very, very long article was intended to establish that Psalm 12 teaches the preservation of the poor and needy and not the Words of God.  So here is Kutilek attempting to "liberate" the Bible from teaching on the perfect preservation of scripture, and what does that leave us with?  We are to depend on a handful of scientific gurus to reveal what God's Words are.  Kutilek buttresses his point on gender discordance, and in so doing, is dishonest in not revealing the purposeful gender discordance that is found in pronouns that refer to the Word of God.  There are multiple clear examples of this in the Bible, and, therefore, taught in Hebrew grammar and syntax.  I and many others have communicated to Kutilek on this, but then he would have to admit that error, so he continues to propagate the misrepresentation.  He says that "them" in Psalm 12:6-7 must refer back to poor and needy based upon gender agreement.  Again, that's not true.  I'm not saying that the passage doesn't teach the preservation of the poor of needy, but that the plain reading, and why many Christians have read it this way, is the preservation of God's Words.

2. They leave men with doubt about the Words of God.

Men don't think they can know what the Words of Scripture are.  This is the byproduct of the work of textual critics and multiple versionists.  If you can't know what the Words are, then you can work from there on all the other things you couldn't possibly know.

3.  They leave men without reliable authority for belief and practice.

They may say sole scriptura, but they believe and practice something different.  Sole scriptura relies on the Bible alone for doctrine.  The multiple versionist relies exclusively on so-called science for his position.  He does not trust God would do what God said He would do.  He staggers in unbelief.  If men cannot know what the Words are, then how can they know what the doctrine is or its application?  Men are left without reliable authority.

4.  They leave men with an apology for atheism and agnosticism.

Bart Ehrman is a favorite for atheists and agnostics.  When the authority is shifted to science and textual criticism, then we are now at the mercy of that practice.  The atheist and agnostic uses the material of the multiple versionist against Christianity.

5.  They leave men without a history of the doctrine of preservation of scripture.

For all the teaching in historic theology, this history is dismissed or ignored.  The multiple versionists don't talk about how they reject historical doctrine.  They are silent on this.  They don't want people thinking about it.  They're big on history when it supports them, but they are silent here when it eliminates their position, revealing it to be of entirely recent origin.  Multiple versionism is a new doctrine.  It doesn't have a history in churches.

Much more could be said on this, and even other bad things we are left with, but the mulitple versionists don't leave Christianity or any of us professing Christians with anything good.  It's all bad.  How is believing that God preserved all His Words in the language in which they were written a danger?  Isn't the danger in the doubt?  In the uncertainty?  Not being sure what the Words are?  Isn't the danger in leaving a historic and biblical position?   If the King James Version has all the doctrines and is an overall good translation, what they themselves say, then why not leave it alone?  Why pursue it like it is a very strange and unorthodox teaching?  Muliple version men don't leave us with much good, if any at all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How Long Were the Original Manuscripts Around? Considerations on the NT Autographa and Early NT Apographa from Scripture and Patristic Writers, part 4

Irenaeus, who probably wrote his Against Heresies between A. D. 180-185,[i] while discussing the reading “666” concerning the mark of the beast and the presence of a variant reading of “616,”[ii] stated:
1. Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies [of the Apocalypse], and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony [to it]; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, [if reckoned] according to the Greek mode of calculation by the [value of] the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six; that is, the number of tens shall be equal to that of the hundreds, and the number of hundreds equal to that of the units (for that number which [expresses] the digit six being adhered to throughout, indicates the recapitulations of that apostasy, taken in its full extent, which occurred at the beginning, during the intermediate periods, and which shall take place at the end), — I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name, deducting the amount of fifty from it, so that instead of six decads they will have it that there is but one. [I am inclined to think that this occurred through the fault of the copyists, as is wont to happen, since numbers also are expressed by letters; so that the Greek letter which expresses the number sixty was easily expanded into the letter Iota of the Greeks.][iii] Others then received this reading without examination; some in their simplicity, and upon their own responsibility, making use of this number expressing one decad; while some, in their inexperience, have ventured to seek out a name which should contain the erroneous and spurious number. Now, as regards those who have done this in simplicity, and without evil intent, we are at liberty to assume that pardon will be granted them by God. But as for those who, for the sake of vainglory, lay it down for certain that names containing the spurious number are to be accepted, and affirm that this name, hit upon by themselves, is that of him who is to come; such persons shall not come forth without loss, because they have led into error both themselves and those who confided in them. Now, in the first place, it is loss to wander from the truth, and to imagine that as being the case which is not; then again, as there shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture, under that such a person must necessarily fall. Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number], when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him, as supposing him not to be the expected one, who must be guarded against.
2. These men, therefore, ought to learn [what really is the state of the case], and go back to the true number of the name, that they be not reckoned among false prophets. But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await[.][iv]
A footnote in the Ante-Nicene Fathers text to the “in all the most approved and ancient copies” clause in this quotation reads, en pasi toiß spoudaioiß kai arcaioiß antigrafoiß. This passage is interesting, as showing how very soon the autographs of the New Testament must have perished, and various readings crept into the mss. of the canonical books.”[v]  Does this clause indicate indeed that the autographs were already gone?  A number of factors suggest otherwise.  First, the conclusion is entirely an argument from silence. That the autographa are not specifically mentioned does not necessitate their nonexistence.  Second, Irenaeus wonders that anyone receives the corrupt reading 616—after all, the correct number is in “all the most approved and ancient copies.”  As the autograph of the Revelation, by definition, was only in one place, but a great number of copies had been made from it (a definite implication from Irenaeus’ declaration, and one in favor of a correct textual transmission), his statement apparently relates to the ease of access to one of these “approved” and “ancient” copies, which would have corrected misunderstanding concerning the apocalyptic number for those who were proclaiming 616. An indirect indication of the loss of the less easily accessible original was not in view.  Third, what surely made these copies “approved” was the certainty of their identity with the autograph, which would certainly have been much easier to establish if it was still extant, rather than lost.  The word antigrafoß was used for a “certified copy of an official document”[vi]; these copies could have been made directly from the original penned by John the apostle, or at least had a verifiable and short genealogy to the autograph.  It is noteworthy that “all” of these approved copies, not “most” or “almost all,” read 666; this also suggests their common recent derivation from the original.  Fourth, Irenaeus had absolute certainty concerning the correct text;  666 was “the true number . . . the sure number,” and partisans for the alternative were worthy of “no light punishment” who will “necessarily fall” as “false prophets” for adding or taking away from Scripture (Revelation 22:18-19).  Even those who unknowingly advocate the wrong number require “pardon.”[vii]  His certainty concerning the correct text is consistent with yet extant autographs.  Fifth, “those men who saw John face to face” were still a controlling factor limiting textual alteration;  they apparently were able to verify the correct text and were interested in doing so.  Irenaeus’ statement concerning the existence and distribution of authoritative “approved and ancient copies,” which he knew with certainty reflected the Johannine autograph, does not demonstrate the early loss of the original and the rapidity of universal textual deterioration—it rather testifies to the opposite.
            Caius, who apparently flourished in Rome at the beginning of the third century,[viii] in a work against the heresy of Artemon, stated:
The sacred Scriptures [the followers of Artemon] have boldly falsified, and the canons of the ancient faith they have rejected, and Christ they have ignored, not inquiring what the sacred Scriptures say, but laboriously seeking to discover what form of syllogism might be contrived to establish their impiety. And should any one lay before them a word of divine Scripture, they examine whether it will make a connected or disjoined form of syllogism; and leaving the Holy Scriptures of God, they study geometry, as men who are of the earth, and speak of the earth, and are ignorant of Him who cometh from above. Euclid, indeed, is laboriously measured by some of them. And Aristotle and Theophrastus are admired; and Galen, forsooth, is perhaps even worshipped by some of them. But as to those men who abuse the arts of the unbelievers to establish their own heretical doctrine, and by the craft of the impious adulterate the simple faith of the divine Scriptures, what need is there to say that these are not near the faith? For this reason is it they have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them. And that I do not state this against them falsely, any one who pleases may ascertain. For if any one should choose to collect and compare all their copies together, he would find many discrepancies among them. The copies of Asclepiades, at any rate, will be found at variance with those of Theodotus. And many such copies are to be had, because their disciples were very zealous in inserting the corrections, as they call them, i.e., the corruptions made by each of them. And again, the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these; and as for those of Apollonius, they are not consistent even with themselves. For one may compare those which were formerly prepared by them with those which have been afterwards corrupted with a special object, and many discrepancies will be found. And as to the great audacity implied in this offence, it is not likely that even they themselves can be ignorant of that. For either they do not believe that the divine Scriptures were dictated by the Holy Spirit, and are thus infidels; or they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and what are they then but demoniacs? Nor can they deny that the crime is theirs, when the copies have been written with their own hand; nor did they receive such copies of the Scriptures from those by whom they were first instructed in the faith, and they cannot produce copies from which these were transcribed. And some of them did not even think it worthwhile to corrupt them; but simply denying the law and the prophets for the sake of their lawless and impious doctrine . . . they sunk down to the lowest abyss of perdition.[ix]
Caius assails his opponents for their corruption of Scripture, evidencing that such alteration of the words “dictated by the Holy Spirit” was considered a damnable crime.  One of the ways he proves that his opponents, rather than his own party, were the corruptors of the text, is his statement that the heretics were not able to indicate the source of their own copies.[x]  The allegation that the Artimonians “cannot produce copies from which [their own] were transcribed” would be empty if the orthodox were not themselves able to demonstrate that their copies matched the autographs.  This suggests that the originals were still extant in Caius’ day.

Note: this entire study is available as an essay here.

[i]           “Irenaeus,” pg. 520-521, A Dictionary of Christian Biography.

[ii]           “666” is certainly the correct reading, as even CT advocates aver;  it is “strongly supported by P47 a A P 046 051 all extant minuscules itgig vg syrph, h copsa, bo arm al” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce M. Metzger (New York, NY: American Bible Society, 1994; 2nd ed.), note on Revelation 13:18).  Nevertheless, the Revised Standard Version notes on Revelation 13:18 that “other ancient authorities read six hundred and sixteen,” while the New Revised Standard Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version, and New American Standard Version, among others, reference this undoubted corruption as well.  The Antichrist will doubtless appreciate these modern Bible versions for confusing the issue of the number of his name.

[iii]          This bracketed sentence is followed by footnote #258 in AN, which reads, “That is, X into EI, according to Harvey, who considers the whole of this clause as an evident interpolation. It does not occur in the Greek here preserved by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., 5:8).”  While it is true that this sentence is not in the section quoted by Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History 5:8 he quotes Irenaeus as follows:  “Now since this is the number in all the good and ancient copies, and since those who have seen John face to face testify, and reason teaches us that the number of the name of the beast appears according to the numeration of the Greeks by the letters in it . . .”  And going on later he says concerning the same point, “We therefore will not take the risk of making any positive statement concerning the name of the Antichrist [and he continues the quote]” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, trans. Kirsopp Lake).  Eusebius leaves out much more than this one clause—he skips from the first part of book 5 chapter XXX:1 to near the end of XXX:3 (AN:XXX:7331-7333), with the evident intention of not quoting the entire passage.  That a particular clause within the section skipped does not occur, because the entire section is missing, is a weak argument for an interpolation.

[iv]          AN:XXX:7331-2.

[v]           Footnote #252, AN:Footnotes:7610.

[vi]          Antigrafeia/oß, Greek-English Lexicon, H. G. Liddell & R. Scott, (9th ed. w/rev. supplement.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996).  The word is also used in a more general sense.  Among the apostolic “fathers,” the word appears in MPoly 22:2; 23:5; Pap 29:1. (cited from the Accordance module Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, ed. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999); Module version 1.1.)  Note also 1 Esdr 2:19; 6:7; 8:8; Esth 13:1; 3:14; 4:8; 16:1, 19; 8:13; 1 Mac 8:22; 11:31, 37; 12:5, 7, 19, 23; 14:20, 23, 27, 49; 15:24; and Bar 6:0 in the LXX.  The word does not appear in the NT.

[vii]         If Irenaeus were alive today, would he not consider the textual controversy a separating issue?

[viii]         “Caius,” pg. 141-2, A Dictionary of Christian Biography.

[ix]          The work is now lost; fragments have been preserved in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 5:28.  The text that follows comes from Fragments of Caius: Against the Heresy of Artemon, AN:III:48591.

[x]           Requiring others to provide the sources of their copies was a test of accuracy employed by others as well.  For example, Jerome, while arguing with Rufinus over falsifications in the latter’s translation of Origen’s Peri ÔArcwn, stated, “At all events, to cut short a long discussion, I can point out whence I received the Peri ÔArcwn, namely, from those who copied it from your manuscript. We want in like manner to know whence your copy of it came; for if you are unable to name any one else as the source from which it was derived, you will yourself be convicted of falsifying it” (Jerome’s Apology for Himself Against the Books of Rufinus, book 2, NPN-2:23:20687).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What the Worship War or Music Issue Really Is About

I've been talking about the music/worship issue here for quite a few posts, and will continue next week, Lord-willing.  We can go back and forth about how someone judges what is wrong and right, or whether someone can even judge what is wrong and right, but ultimately that's not what this is all about.  In almost every case, it's impossible for the two sides to come together, because it isn't about what the two sides even argue about.

The music/worship issue is not about one side believing there is a standard for God, that lines should be drawn, and that the other side, after much study and prayer and concern, doesn't see there being a standard or lines to be drawn.  One side does believe there is an objective standard, does believe that lines should be drawn.  The other side has mainly three other reasons for where it's at.  First, for many, they just want to listen to and play whatever music they want.  They really like their own music, and they don't want to give it up.  They conform their version of Christianity to what they like.  That's now acceptable, so why not?  So, one, people don't want to give up their own music.  Related to this, they don't even want to be judged for their music.  They don't want to feel guilty about their music. Usually there will be anger here if they're even judged.  They want complete acceptance and complete toleration with no judgment at all.

The second reason is all about numbers.  Churches use all the forms of pop music as a church growth method.  It has worked a lot.  Related to this directly is money and success and "God's blessing."   The church uses the music among other similar means of amusement, they get bigger, the offerings are bigger, more money for the leaders, they are recognized for success, and there is the assumption that this is God working somehow.   The music is huge, even as Rick Warren has said in his Purpose Driven Church book.  It's key to the whole deal.  If they don't start with the music or give it up, the numbers go way, way down.  They shrink exponentially.  It doesn't even work.  These people wouldn't even be able to continue without the music.  It's that important.  It's more than the music, but the music is pivotal -- a necessity.  Obviously the numbers relate to what people like, so one and two go together.  These churches allow whatever dress, music, entertainment -- generally, what anyone wants in the world.  They encourage it -- it's a big part of their religion.

The third reason is the bigger picture -- coalitions, sales, parachurch, etc.  If you judge someone is wrong, you're out of the club.  This is called unity, but it really is just getting along.  The huge coalitions are held together by toleration and acceptance.  This expands the audience for music and books.  The colleges and seminaries can keep their numbers up.  The less restrictions, the more inclusion.  More and more can get along and you can keep up the big national and worldwide coalitions.

Those are the three things that this music issue is really about.  It's not about what the Bible says.  It isn't about what will honor God.  It isn't.  It never has been.  The side I'm talking about in the worship war didn't start with a study of the Bible or a concern over some kind of apostasy on music, because of the overtly restrictive standards.  It started with what people like, which related then to getting bigger, first locally and then nationally.  The discussions about whether it will honor God or what the Bible says begin on the side of those with music standards.

If you have a church without music standards and you have a church with music standards, the one without is almost always going to be bigger.   If it doesn't matter, why shouldn't everyone go to the church with no music standards?   Why not have God and the music that you want or like?  The churches with music standards should just send all their people to the ones with none.  On the other hand, if they are going to be distinct from those churches with no standards, they are going to tell you that those churches are wrong.  They are going to take a stand and tell you they are wrong.  What else would the churches with no standards expect?

I believe there is a lot at stake here, because the music/worship issue is much bigger than what the churches with no standards will say.  People's view of God is shaped by the music.  The church becomes like the world and there becomes little to differentiate.  It's only getting worse.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not Ducking the Homosexual Issue

To get a certain disclaimer out of the way, I've never seen a Duck Dynasty, so I'm not a fanboy.  I'm not even interested in watching.  I do have a beard, so perhaps there is a latent follicle prejudice.

However, I do watch clips from news shows on Real Clear Politics.  I've done that for several years.  I often watch the panel discussions on the Sunday shows, which are available on RCP on Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes I watch them Sunday night.

The issue is what society tolerates and what it doesn't.  It's true it isn't a first amendment issue per se.  Here's what he said that caused the brouhaha.  It was GQ magazine, an article on Phil Robertson.  He was asked, "What, in your mind, is sinful?"  What has been targeted, mainly, is the following:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

And a little earlier, he said,

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.

Douglas Wilson writes about this:

The memorable words of T.S. Eliot in the Four Quartets come to mind — “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” This goes particularly for toney producers of reality shows, who are unaccustomed to having one of the swamp people emerge from the fens to inform them, denizens of a sophisticated and urbane cosmopolis as they are, that the human body was given just one sex organ and the poochute is not it. They got a little too much actual reality from one of their reality stars and so they went all Eliot on him.

Several reactions occurred, that made news.  A & E, the producer of Duck Dynasty, kicked Phil off for these things being reported in GQ.  Certain stores decided to stop selling Duck Dynasty things, like Cracker Barrel, which has now decided it would be better to keep selling them.  Would you say it is no great mystery that more Duck Dynasty fans go to Cracker Barrel than do homosexuals?  Do you wonder what made them remove the items in the first place?

OK, now to the issue.  It's not first amendment, because Phil can keep saying those things.   The issue has two parts:  (1)  Tolerance, and (2)  What We Should Be Free to Say.

There is a lot of bad behavior and language that doesn't stop people from being fired.  We're expected to tolerate that.  We're supposed to put up with public displays of intimate contacts between the same sex.  However, when we say what we think about that, we can be fired?  The issue here is what is tolerable.  Certain behavior should not be tolerated by the public?  It once was outlawed.  Homosexual behavior was once part of the intolerable behavior.  Now criticizing that behavior is intolerable behavior.  This was a good comment from Michael Brown on the Piers Morgan show:

It's not bigoted to say that God designed a man to be with a woman. It's not bigoted to say that sexual acts outside of male-female marriage are prohibited in Scripture. We can debate that. It's not bigoted to say it. To me, what's bigoted is that he gets fired. Look, you have reality TV shows celebrating polygamy, celebrating polyamory, celebrating teen sex, gay kids losing their virginity as teenagers on Glee, that's fine. That's not a problem. That's to be celebrated. When he says, you know, I'm a Bible thumper, I hold to Biblical values, I believe a man was made by God to be with a woman, and I hold to these things, how is that bigoted? How is that basis for being fired from his show?

What I have kept hearing in interviews and panel discussions is that if Phil had just supported traditional marriage and opposed same-sex marriage, he would have been fine, but that he was disgusting and offensive.   He elaborated some on his opposition.  What is disgusting and offensive is homosexual behavior.  Phil was much more delicate than Hollywood is about these matters.  He didn't use foul language.  Vagina and anus are fairly scientific words.  I would agree that these were at one time inappropriate, but the people "offended" use much worse.  His words are not profanity.  He could have been profane, if he was profane, but he was not profane.  He used the least offensive words to describe those body parts.  It really is just a matter of not tolerating biblical beliefs in the public square.

I read Andrew Sullivan's post about it, and he defended the continued employment of Phil, but said that Phil reduced everything to sex.  No.  Phil got the rebellion right where it was.  The rebellion is against design and he represented the basics of it perfectly.  Andrew Sullivan didn't know what he was talking about, because he doesn't know what he's talking about.  The rebellion, not retaining God in the mind, turns the mind reprobate.

Professing Christians are upset, because they (however many this is anymore) already don't like putting up with homosexuals.  They expect tolerance.  The tolerance of homosexuality is already a problem.  They feel guilty about tolerating it.  If they are going to tolerate it, they want tolerance.  That's how I read it.

There is also a big segment of the country that foresees losing the freedom to point out sin.  Phil Robertson can still point out sin, but if he can be fired for this, then sometime soon, he won't be able to say it at all.  I believe people see that coming.  This issue isn't over.  If A & E loses the Robertson show, because they won't let Phil continue, I think this will blow into something even bigger.  My guess is that A & E will relent at some point and try to save face in some way.  The best case scenario in the culture war would be for the show to end, and for people to wake up a little to where we're at.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Encyclopaedia Britannica on Christmas

Have you ever looked at the development of the Christmas festival? It is interesting and thought-provoking. I have reproduced below the article from the Encyclopaedia Britannica on Christmas so you can get a sense of what mainline historical scholarship says on the subject. The article mentions that one needs to read about the development of Epiphany also; both the Christmas and Epiphany articles are on my website here. I also provide, on my own website, some of my own comments and my own view on whether the church should celebrate Christmas. If you wish to publish pro-or anti-Christmas comments in the comment section on this post, you are more than welcome to do so, but keep in mind that I may not respond, including making a response to either further explicate or justify my own view on the matter. Anyway, to the article:

CHRISTMAS (i. e. the Mass of Christ), in the Christian Church, the festival of the nativity of the Jesus Christ. The history of this feast coheres so closely with that of Epiphany (q. v.), that what follows must be read in connexion with the article under that heading.
The earliest body of gospel tradition, represented by Mark no less than by the primitive non—Marcan document embodied in the first and third gospels, begins, not with the birth and childhood of Jesus, but with his baptism; and this order of accretion of gospel matter is faithfully reflected in the time order of the invention of feasts. The great church adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany; and before the fifth century it was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come on the calendar, whether on the 6th of January, or the 25th of March, or the 25th of December.
            The earliest identification of the 25th of December with the birthday of Christ is in a passage, otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of Theophilus of Antioch (A. D. 171-183), preserved in the Latin by the Magdeburg centuriators (i. 3, 118), to the effect that the Gauls contended that as they celebrated the birth of the Lord on the 25th of December, whatever day of the week it might be, so they ought to celebrate the Pascha on the 25th of March when the resurrection befell.
            The next mention of the 25th of December is in Hippolytus’ (c. 202) commentary on Daniel iv. 23. Jesus, he says, was born at Bethlehem on the 25th of December, a Wednesday, in the 42nd year of Augustus. This passage also is almost certainly interpolated. In any case he mentions no feast, nor was such a feast congruous with the orthodox ideas of that age. As late as 245 Origen, in his eighth homily on Leviticus, repudiates as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Christ “as if he were a king Pharaoh.”| The first certain of mention of Dec. 25 is in a Latin chronographer of A. D. 354, first published entire by Mommsen.[1] It runs thus in English: “Year 1 after Christ, in the consulate of Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon.” Here again no festal celebration of the day is attested.
            There were, however, many speculations in the 2nd century about the date of Christ’s birth. Clement of Alexandria, towards its close, mentions several such, and condemns them as superstitions. Some chronologists, he says, alleged the birth to have occurred in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the 25th of Pachon, the Egyptian month, i. e. the 20th of May. These were probably the Basilidian gnostics. Others said it on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi, i. e. the 19th or 20th of April. Clement himself sets it on the 17th of November, 3 B. C. The author of a Latin tract, called the De Pascha computus, written in Africa in 243, sets it by private revelation, ab ipso deo inspirati, on the 28th of March. He argues that the world was created perfect, flowers in bloom, and trees in leaf, therefore in spring; also at the equinox, and when the moon just created was full. Now the moon and sun were created on a Wednesday. The 28th of March suits all these considerations. Christ, therefore, being the Sun of Righteousness, was born on 28th of March. The same symbolical reasoning led Polycarp[2] (before 160) to set his birth on Sunday, when the world’s creation began, but his baptism on Wednesday, for it was the analogue of the sun’s creation. On such grounds certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from the 6th of January to the 25th of December, which was then a Mithraic feast and is by the chronographer above referred to, but in another part of his compilation, termed Natalis invicti solis, or birthday of the unconquered Sun. Cyprian (de orat. Dom. 35) calls Christ Sol verus, Ambrose Sol novus noster (Sermo vii. 13), and such rhetoric was widespread. The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to the 6th of January, accused the Romans of sun-worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of the 25th of December had been invented by the disciples of Cerinthus and its lections by Artemon to commemorate the natural birth of Jesus. Chrysostom also testifies the 25th of December to have been from the beginning known in the West, from Thrace even as far as Gades. Ambrose, On Virgins iii. Ch. I, writing to his sister, implies that as late as the papacy of Liberius 352-356, the Birth from the Virgin was feasted together with the Marriage of Cana and the Banquet of the 4000 (Luke ix. 13), which were never feasted on any other day but Jan. 6.
            Chrysostom, in a sermon preached at Antioch on Dec. 20, 386 or 388, says that some held the feast of Dec. 25 to have been held in the West, from Thrace as far as Cadiz, from the beginning. It certainly originated in the West, but spread quickly eastwards. In 353 – 361 it was observed that the court of Constantius. Basil of Caesarea (died 379) adopted it. Honorius, emperor (395 – 423) in the West, informed his mother and brother Arcadius (395 – 408) in Byzantium of how the new feast was kept in Rome, separate from the 6th of January, with its own troparia and sticharia. They adopted it, and recommended it to Chrysostom, who had long been in favor of it. Epiphanius of Crete was won over to it, as were also the other three patriarchs, Theophilus of Alexandria, John of Jerusalem, Flavian of Antioch. This was under Pope Anastasius, 398 – 400. John or Wahan of Nice, in a letter printed by Combefis in his Historia monothelitarum, affords the above details. The new feast was communicated by Proculus, patriarch of Constantinople (434 – 446), to Sahak, Cataholicos of Armenia, about 440. The letter was betrayed to the Persian king, who accused Sahak of Greek intrigues, and deposed him. However, the Armenians, at least those within the Byzantine pale, adopted it for about 30 years, but finally abandoned this together with the decrees of Chalcedon early in the 8th century. Many writers of the period 375 – 450, e. g. Epiphanius, Cassian, Asterius, Basil, Chrysostom and Jerome, contrast the new feast with that of the Baptism as that of the birth after the flesh, from which we infer that the latter was generally regarded as a birth according to the Spirit. Instructive as showing that the new feast traveled from West eastwards is the fact (noted by Usener) that in 387 the new feast was reckoned according to the Julian calendar by writers of the province of Asia, who in referring to other feasts use the reckoning of their local calendars. As early as 400 in Rome an imperial rescript includes Christmas among the three feasts (the others are Easter and Epiphany) on which theaters must be closed. Epiphany and Christmas were not made judicial non dies until 534.
            For some years in the West (as late as 353 in Rome) the birth feast was appended to the baptismal feast on the 6th of January, and in Jerusalem it altogether supplanted it from about 360 to 440, when Bishop Juvenal introduced the feast of the 25th of December. The new feast was about the same time (440) finally established in Alexandria. The quadragesima of Epiphany (i. e. the feast of the presentation in the Temple, or hupaponte) continues to be celebrated in Jerusalem on the 14th of February, forty days after the 6th of January, until the reign of Justinian. In most other places it had long before been put back to the 2nd of February to suit the new Christmas. Armenian historians describe the riots, and display of armed force, without which Justinian was not able in Jerusalem to transfer this feast from the 14th to the 2nd of February.
            The grounds on which the Church introduced so late as 350 – 448 a Christmas feast till then unknown, or, if known, precariously linked with the baptism, seem in the main to have been the following. (I) The transition from adult to infant baptism was proceeding rapidly in the East, and in the West was well-nigh completed. Its natural complement was a festal recognition of the fact that the divine element was present in Christ from the first, and was no new stage of spiritual promotion coeval only with the descent of the Spirit upon him at baptism. The general adoption of child baptism helps to extinguish the old view that the divine life in Jesus dated from his baptism, a view which led the Epiphany feast to be regarded as that of Jesus’ spiritual rebirth. This aspect of the feast was therefore forgotten, and its importance in every way diminished by the new and rival feast of Christmas. (2) The 4th century witnessed a rapid diffusion of Marcionite, or, as it was now called, Manichaean propaganda, the chief tenet of which was that Jesus either was was not born at all, was a mere phantasm, or anyhow did not take the flesh of the Virgin Mary. Against this view the new Christmas was a protest, since it was peculiarly the feast of his birth in the flesh, or as a man, and is constantly spoken of as such by the fathers who witnessed its institution.
            In Britain the 25th of December was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede (De temp. rat. ch. 13) relates that “the ancient peoples of the Angli began the year on the 25th of December when we now celebrate the birthday of the Lord; and the very night which is now so holy to us, they called in their tongue modranecht (modra niht), that is, the mothers’ night, by reason we suspect of the ceremonies which in that night-long vigil they performed.” With his usual reticence about matters pagan or not orthodox, Bede abstains from recording who the mothers were and what the ceremonies. In 1644 the English puritans forbad any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II. revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view.
            Outside Teutonic countries Christmas presents are unknown. Their places taken in Latin countries by the strenae, French etrennes, given on the 1st of January; this was in antiquity a great holiday, wherefore until late in the 4th century the Christians kept it as a day of fasting and gloom. The setting up in the Latin churches of a Christmas crèche is said to have been originated by St Francis.
            AUTHORITIES.—K. A. H. Kellner, Heortologie (Freiburg im Br., 1906), with Bibliography; Hospinanius, De festis Christianorum (Genevac, 1574); Edw. Martene, De Antiquis Ecclesia Ritibus, iii. 31 (Bassani, 1788); J. C. W. Augusti, Chrisl. Archaologie, vols. i. and v. (Leipzig, 1817-1831); A. J. Binterim, Denkwurdigkeiten, v. pt. i. p. 528 (Mainz, 1825 &c.); Ernst Friedrick Wernsdorf, De originibus Solemnium Natalis Christi (Wittenberg, 1757, and in J. E. Volbeding, Thesaurus Commentationum, Lipsiae, 1847); Anton. Bynaeus, De Natali Jesu Christi (Amsterdam, 1689); Hermann Usener, Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Bonn, 1889); Nik. Nilles, S. J., Kalendarium Manuale (Innsbruck, 1896); L. Duchesne, Origines de culte chretien (3e ed., Paris, 1889). (F. C. C.) (pgs. 293-294, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. VI. New York:  Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1911).


[1] In the Abhandlungen der sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1850). Note that in A. D. 1, Dec. 25 was a Sunday and not a Friday.
[2] In a fragment preserved by an Armenian writer, Ananias of Shirak.