Friday, March 31, 2017

Podcast on Biblical Inerrancy and Exegesis, Part I


  1. Hi Bryan - really enjoyed this. Where I've arrived at epistemologically, too. A couple of related tangential things that you might like to address in a future podcast or post, but it's up to you:

    1) I do think that 2 Tim 3:16 is the lynchpin for a complete-canon sort of Biblicism. But it seems to me that a sort of existential interpretive choice still needs to be made... i.e., the trust that the 'God-breathed Scripture' mentioned is that which the church ultimately accepted as its canon (at least for the OT, and NT, leaving aside the equivocation over the apocrypha). There's no other criteria, really, as to what the canon is other than when the church made a uniform decision, having remained in communion previously despite having slightly different canons. What I mean is that we have to trust that decision was right despite that process or canon list not being explicitly described in the text - a sort of assumption that enables us access to a complete 'God-breathed Scripture for every good work' as a sort of expression of unprovable trust. Of course, even a canon list in the text would beg questions as to what the contents of these labels actually are or should be anyway - 'Jeremiah', etc - so I think we'd always have to make some sort of 'leap' in interpretive choice to make the Bible the chief authority. And the value of 'sola scriptura' or the like is of course that we at least have a fixed reference points rather than the vagaries of supplementary traditions (i.e. which tradition to follow? By what criteria?)

    2) Given that your view of inerrancy is pretty flexible, I wonder what you make of the idea of interpolations in the NT? You've probably come across the arguments about Tertullian not quoting certain Pauline verses against Marcion you would have expected him to, leading some to suggest that shows those verses were inserted later as anti-Gnostic measures (such as here: Impossible to prove absolutely, of course, but I wonder if that could be said to be a possibility without fear, in that the Holy Spirit could have guided those changes until the uniformity of the canon was reached. Given that we're open to the possibility of additions to the law 'in the voice of Moses', I wonder if a similar approach can be at least entertained here - the early church clearly accepted any purported changes, if such there be, as we have no manuscripts without them. I can find little on this from orthodox scholars, btw, so would be grateful if you could point me in the direction of something if you know of it.

  2. 1. I think you're right, Ben. We are just as stuck without revelation if we don't have the right revelation. So we must have an accurate canon in terms of what is taught by the canon. That's true even if a book or two were left out or put in. The key is what is revealed by the canon, regardless of how big or small it is. I do think that we must make a faith decision to trust that God has not just inspired but preserved what He inspired via the church recognizing the correct canon.

    2. I have no issues with interpolations when we're talking about things that exist elsewhere in Scripture. This is why I don't have an issue with people taking the longer ending of Mark as Scripture. I don't necessarily buy the Tertullian argument, but it wouldn't shake me any. Plenty of passages in the NT would refute Marcion and other types of Gnostics, so if he were to interpolate some of these ideas into a Pauline text, it really doesn't change the teaching via revelation we have. I hope that helps.

  3. Hi Bryan - very helpful, thanks. I suppose I feel that evangelicals can often quote 2 Tim 3:16 without being aware of or stating that there is something of an interpretive choice/application/'leap of faith' involved to accept a closed-canon Bible as we have it as the referent - a choice made out of trust and faith, to be sure ('Trust in the Lord with all your heart,' etc.).

    Good thoughts re:interpolations. I suppose that the finality of Jesus (i.e. Hebrews 1 ' these last days...') could mean there was less flexibility in Scriptural development for the NT than with the OT - the possible later provenance of much of Deuteronomy, second Isaiah or Daniel being some of the 'many time and many ways' God may have spoke then.

    As for the Apocrypha, I'm not sure there's really anything in there that would offer aberrant theology, canonically read. I just don't accept it as Scripture because our Protestant forebears (and some Church fathers) didn't, and I'm not sure there's anything in there that would significantly alter my theology if I were to accept it as Scripture.