Monday, August 04, 2008

A Critique of the 2008 Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, Resolution One pt. 2

Awhile back, actually June 18 of this year, I started to critique the first resolution made by the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) in their 2008 national meeting. What they wrote is a common position in the FBFI, even though it isn't right. First let's review the actual resolution again:


Loyalty to God and His Word: Resolution Affirming the Biblical View of Inspiration, Texts, and Translation

Whereas The Bible claims that it is plenarily and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in its original writings;

The Bible claims that it will be preserved by God throughout the ages;

The Bible claims that its Spirit indwelt readers will be illumined by the Holy Spirit as they read;

The practice of translating the Scriptures into common languages was affirmed by the practice of Jesus Christ and the practice of the New Testament Church;

The Bible makes no claim to the specific manner by which it would be preserved, or to further inspiration or perfection through any translators in any language;

The FBFI affirms the orthodox, historic, and most importantly biblical doctrine of inspiration, affirming everything the Bible claims for itself, and rejecting, as a violation of Revelation 22:18-19, any so-called doctrine, teaching, or position concerning inspiration, preservation, or translation that goes beyond the specific claims of scripture.


I had gotten down to the second line in my analysis, so I'll pick up where I left off.

Line Three of the Resolution

The Bible claims that its Spirit indwelt readers will be illumined by the Holy Spirit as they read.

Shouldn't I just agree with this part and move on? Do I actually disagree with this line in the resolution? I agree with their statement. So why not move on? I ask, "Why is this line in a resolution that claims to be about "inspiration, text, and translations"? What does Holy Spirit illumination have to do with these issues?

I love the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but I don't know why it is included here. I, however, have several guesses:
1) The Holy Spirit will tell you what Scripture is saying even if the Words are not there. That would be a bogus application of this doctrine. I hope that isn't what they meant.
2) The Holy Spirit can help you understand when it is a translation that has words that you can't understand. I don't know why they would mean this, because that would favor the King James translation argument. I don't think this is what they meant.
3) The understanding of the Holy Spirit guiding a believer into truth today is found only in the illumination ministry of the Holy Spirit. This would be a subtle attempt to debunk the canonicity argument, that is, that the Holy Spirit will bring believers into agreement on what His Words are. Maybe they were trying to do something here. If they were, it doesn't work, because the same Holy Spirit that could canonize all 66 books can also canonize all of the Words through His leading of His people.

I can't think of any other options than these three, and of them I would guess that the resolution committee was headed toward #1, but who knows?

Line Four of the Resolution

The practice of translating the Scriptures into common languages was affirmed by the practice of Jesus Christ and the practice of the New Testament Church.

This is where they are going on the offensive with their position in more ways than one. They do this in two primary ways:
1) They are saying that the modern translations are the common languages that the KJV is not, so that the modern versions are superior based on Jesus' example.
2) They are saying that Jesus used a translation that was available at that time and we can safely assume that it is the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. From this they can extrapolate that Jesus endorsed a corrupt translation and so can you.

Technically, I can't criticize an update of the words of a translation, as long as they are accurately translated, because that is what we have in our hands. Many changes to letters and spelling of words were made on the KJV between 1611 and 1769 and some even since. However, the KJV is modern English. It isn't middle or ancient English. We can barely read middle English---think Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English, what it was originally written in. A value of sticking with the King James version of modern English would be the standardization of the text. I really don't want to argue this one, because I think it is far from what is most important.

The second one of these is where we have major problems. With all my discussions and debate with those who deny the perfect preservation of Scripture, the one Scriptural argument they offer is this one. They say that Jesus provided an example of accepting errors in Scripture. Even if Jesus did actually use the Septuagint, I believe it is quite a reach to call this an exegesis for the acceptance of an errant text. The difficulty we have here, however, is the foundational idea that Jesus was using the Septuagint.

What is the trouble with this assumption?
1) The New Testament never says that Jesus was opening a translation. Never ever. That is a complete speculation on their part and then they build a doctrine on it.
2) If the only Greek Old Testament to use was the Septuagint (LXX), we know by looking at the LXX that a large chunk of the quotes of the OT attributed to Jesus do not match up with the LXX. Many do match (which I will explain later), but they don't explain why many do not match up. What was Jesus "using" when He wasn't quoting the LXX? I would hope that question would matter to the modern version supporters.
3) We have many reasons from the actual text of Scripture to believe that Jesus was not using the LXX. First, when referring to the Old Testament to His audience, Jesus used the three-fold division of the OT, which the LXX does not follow (Luke 24:44). Second, "jot" and "tittle" (Matthew 5:18) refer to Hebrew letters. The Greek does not have jots or tittles. Third, when He used the word gegraptai ("it is written," perfect tense), he was talking about exactly what was written down, not a translation. Fourth, James affirmed that the Torah was the text by which preaching was done on every Sabbath in every town of Judea, and elsewhere, in the synagogue (Acts 15:21). Fourth, Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience, who knew Hebrew. He didn't need to translate for Jews.
4) If Jesus quoted the LXX, He would have been endorsing a corrupt text, which clashes with all of the teaching throughout Scripture on a pure and perfect Bible. If there is another legitimate or viable explanation for why the LXX and the quotes of Jesus match up, we should look for it, based on a biblical presupposition of the purity of Scripture.

Seeing that God preserved His Words in the Hebrew and that the Septuagint is a corrupt text (even by the testimony of the conservative textual critics), what should be our understanding of the apparent differences between the OT text and its quotations in the New?

1) Jesus targummed, that is, He quoted and commented as a rabbi would. Jesus knew the Hebrew and the Greek, so if He wasn’t reading in Greek, He could do the translation on a fly, imparting some commentary as well, especially His being God Himself, much of this becoming Scripture based upon His own authority. Thomas Strouse writes about the Jewish practice of targumming as seen in Luke 4:16-21:

1) The reader stood, received the scroll, and opened it (vv. 16-17). 2) The reader read the OT Scripture and then gave his running interpretation or Targum of the passage at hand (vv. 17b-19). 3) The reader rolled up the scroll, handed it back, and sat down (v. 20). 4) The reader preached his sermon or word of exhortation (cf. 21 ff.). This synopsis of these aforementioned biblical texts reveals foundation knowledge about the NT Christian's practice of employing the OT Scriptures in the synagogue.

Several commentators affirm Christ's employment of the Targum, including Geldenhuys who states: "As far as we know, He read in Hebrew and translated into Aramaic, the common spoken language at that time." G. Dalman finds reflections of the traditional Aramaic paraphrase (Targum) in the present passage in Luke [4:18 ff.]. Norval Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ, Co., 1979), p. 167. Cf. also Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1992), p. 155; Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, Luke (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publ., 1990), p. 73; and William Manson, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Luke (London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1955), p. 41.

2) There was no “the Septuagint” that we know for sure of in the first century. Even today the textual scholars don’t know exactly what “the Septuagint” is. Jerome makes mention of three different versions of the Septuagint that already existed in his day:

Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint acclaim Hesychius as their authority, the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies of Lucian the martyr, the intermediate Palestinian provinces read the MSS which were promulgated by Eusebius and Pamphilius on the basis of Origen’s labors, and the whole world is divided among these three varieties of texts.

H. St. J. Thackeray, Septuagint, The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Volume IV (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ., 1939), pp. 2724-2725, writes:

The main value of the LXX is its witness to an older Hebrew text than our own. But before we can reconstruct this Hebrew text we need to have a pure Greek text before us, and this we are at present far from possessing the original text has yet to be recovered. Not a verse is without its array of variant readings.

3. Why do some of the LXX translations of the Hebrew match up with the NT quotations of Jesus. If there were an LXX in the first century, rather than Jesus quoting from it, for which we have absolutely no evidence, the more likely occurrence, also giving respect to a high view of inspiration and preservation, is that Christians who did some of the translation work took the Words of Jesus and out of respect for Him used the words for translation. This is a position posited in Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, a standard work on the Septuagint.

We have good reasons to reject the theory that Jesus quoted the Septuagint, ones that will allow us to fit the presuppositional truth of an inerrant Bible.


Charles E. Whisnant said...

"As far as we know, He read in Hebrew and translated into Aramaic, the common spoken language at that time."

That quote is one that after all these years, I have failed to know. Now that is worth reading your blog.

Its these things that really keep you level headed, and keeps you learning, and not getting so high minded.

Thanks again

DT said...

I think your explanation still misses the point. We can debate about the origin of the Septuagint and all, but the fact is Jesus clearly read from a different version when He was in the temple (Luke 4), and referred to it as scripture. If He were translating, which of course is presumption, why did He take out the word "God" twice from Isaiah 61:1? Is Jesus a great Gnostic conspirator trying to undermine His own deity and introduce corruption into scipture? Why did He ass "recovering sight to the blind?" Septuagint or not, what Jesus read, or translated, was different from the quote we have of Isaiah. And that's the point of the resolution: a scripture doesn't have to be perfectly, verbally preserved to be scripture. Jesus wasn't loyal to one version - neither do I have to be.

DT said...

sorry, I meant to say, "Why did He add". . .

Kent Brandenburg said...


I obviously haven't missed the point of the Septuagint argument. It just doesn't work as an argument. Consider Luke 4, when Jesus begins his public ministry. The words aren't even all from Isaiah 61. He also brings in some verbiage from one other place in Isaiah. When he says, "it is written," He is making a point about preservation, that we have it to refer to, but He is not quoting some passage verbatim, but targumming, as I said. If not, then we all have a problem with verbal inerrancy. Do you believe in the verbal inerrancy of Scripture?

This is classic harmonization of Scripture.

DT said...

Yes I believe in verbal, plenary inspiration and the inerrancy of the scriptures.

But let's focus at the argument at hand. In Luke 4:17-21, there is no doubt that Jesus was reading from a book. What could be more clear than "the book of the prophet Esaiah. . .he had opened the book. . he found the place where it was written. . " Then our Bibles typically have the rest in red letters because it is assumed Jesus simply read what was there. Whether he read or not, targummed or not, the text specifically says "the place where it was written", indicating that verse 18 is a word for word replica of the passage in the book from which Jesus read. Is it the septuagint? Most scholars would say yes. Can I prove that? Absolutely not. But again, what appears here is different from the reference, which is undoubtedly Is 61. It's the same message, the same concept, but different words. I think your problem is you can't reconcile that with your thinking:

"4) If Jesus quoted the LXX, He would have been endorsing a corrupt text, which clashes with all of the teaching throughout Scripture on a pure and perfect Bible. If there is another legitimate or viable explanation for why the LXX and the quotes of Jesus match up, we should look for it, based on a biblical presupposition of the purity of Scripture."

In other words, what Jesus did contradicts your presuppositions about biblical preservation, so there has to be another explanation.

Kent Brandenburg said...


He couldn't have opened a scroll of Isaiah 61 and read what we read in Luke. First, it contains something from Isaiah 61 and from another place from Isaiah, and again, I don't have either place in front of me looking at it, but I'll come back with it later perhaps. Second, what we read in Luke 4 doesn't even match up with the Septuagint.

I asked if you believed in verbal inerrancy. That's all I asked. I didn't ask verbal, plenary inspiration. I assumed you believed that, but do you believe Scripture is without error verbally. That is the historic and Scriptural view of inerrancy.

Also, the presuppositions I have are also the ones Jesus had. I got them from Him: Matthew 4:4; 5:18; 24:35. Those are all Jesus. Jesus isn't going to contradict those teachings.