Saturday, August 01, 2020

WM 171: Why does James White refuse to debate Mark 16:9-20?

I have posted WM 171. Listen above or view this video.

Here are some notes:

First, some background on recent discussions concerning an online debate with JW:

Back on Saturday July 18, 2020 I got a text from Samuel Nesan of Explain Apologetics asking me if I would like to be a participant in a 2 on 2 debate regarding the text of Scripture in which I would represent the TR position.

I texted back that I’d be happy to discuss this as a possibility and we ended up talking on the phone on Monday July 20. In that conversation, Samuel asked me what topics I would be interested in discussing. I suggested that rather than a general discussion on the modern critical text versus the traditional text, that we choose a particular passage to discuss. The passage I suggested was the traditional ending of Mark: Mark 16:9-20, since it is accepted as genuine and inspired by those who embrace the TR but generally classified as secondary and even spurious by those whom embrace the modern critical text. Also in that conversation, Samuel said he was planning to contact JW about taking part, as well as Stephen Boyce. I suggested Pastor Dane Jรถhannsson as partner in the debate.

The next afternoon, Tuesday, July 21, I got a text back from Samuel saying he had talked to JW who had indicated his preference for a 1 on 1 debate, rather than a 2 on 2 debate. He also reported that rather than the traditional ending of Mark, JW wanted to debate either the CJ or Ephesians 3:9.

Later that day I sent the following email to Samuel:

Hi Samuel,


I am open to doing the debate one on one with JW.


I also think it would be best to focus on one singular text.


For this type of discussion, I think it would make more sense to focus on a passage that is more typical of the differences between the texts (modern critical and TR) and that deals with a more substantial number of verses. Since the ending of the Mark is one of the two most significantly contested texts in the NT (along with the PA, John 7:53--8:11), I suggest we make it the focus.


I also think it would make sense to have a very clear thesis statement, which one person would affirm and the other deny.


Would White be willing to defend the following thesis: "RESOLVED: Mark 16:9-20 is uninspired and spurious and should not be considered part of the Word of God."?


I have heard White say that he would be willing to address any disputed text in the TR, so I assume he would be more than willing to address the traditional ending of Mark as one of the two most significant textual variants in the NT….


If White declines the opportunity for a one of one debate with me on the ending of Mark, Dane is still willing to join with me for a two on two debate with Stephen Boyce and another participant.


Blessings, Jeff


On Thursday, July 23, Samuel called me again to say that JW had stated his refusal to debate the ending of Mark. I then told Samuel that if JW did not want to defend the modern text of Mark 16:9-20, I would also be willing to debate the PA or Luke 23:34, but that I would not prefer a discussion of 1 John 5:7 for fear that Muslim apologists, like Muslim by Choice, would immediately post excerpts of JW’s presentation to further their attacks on the integrity of that text and the doctrine of the Trinity, as they have done in the past with previous JW presentations.

On Monday, July 27 I received a text from Samuel that read as follows:

JW …. said that your position is a theological position and not based on the manuscript evidence. He feels you should be able to debate any variant as it would challenge your position.

Samuel added, “I just don’t see the debate with JW working out.” He therefore suggested that we move on from discussions with JW and go back to original idea of the 2 on 2 format and try to make arrangements with Stephen Boyce to debate either the ending of Mark or the PA.

I texted back to Samuel on Tuesday morning, July 28:

Samuel, interesting response from JW. So my position is based on theology but his isn't? Sounds like he is unwilling to defend the modern text reading of either of the two major textual variants (the ending of Mark or the PA) against an able TR defender, supposedly because our view is not based on "evidence." Odd. About two years ago we were both approached by a church to have a debate on text. As in this case, I accepted, and he declined. His excuse then was that the venue location was too obscure (he would have to take a "puddle jumper", as he put it, to get there) and there was not adequate interest in the topic. This, despite the fact, that the location was a major metro area (Roanoke) in Virginia and there is obviously interest. A few weeks later he tried to invite himself to a TR conference being held in Atlanta claiming we would not debate him. Very odd.

I also told Samuel that I would still be willing to do a 2 on 2 debate (as he had originally suggested) with Stephen Boyce, since JW was unwilling to debate me.

A few hours later (12:31 pm) the same day, I sent this text to Samuel:

A thought came to me today before closing the door on JW. What about two separate debates? The first on Mark 16:9-20. The second on a text in the TR not supported by the majority. Acts 8:37 perhaps. I might even entertain Rev 16:5.

Samuel relayed my message to JW and responded later in the day with this note:

I informed James and he just replied that he would be addressing this on the Dividing Line today…. We will keep you posted on his actual response whether he would accept or not….

My first thought on receiving this news: Why is JW sharing this on the DL when we are in the midst of a three-way conversation about trying to get this event set up? Is he trying to find some reason to justify not having to define or defend his position on the ending of Mark? Or, Is he trying to provide some cover for his unwillingness to participate in this debate?

Late Tuesday evening, I then received a text from Samuel:

Dr. White sent this via email:

"Well, I'd like to invite him to listen to my comments and explain why he would want to address texts that do not define his position rather than the ones that do?  If we did the longer ending of Mark, for example, the fact that it appears in the majority of texts is not relevant to TR Onlyism because that position rejects the majority reading in Ephesians 3:9, etc. Only my position really has anything to say to the issue, because the actual textual data is just not relevant.  So why not use the texts that actually highlight the real issue?"

Second, some responses/observations on JW's refusal to debate Mark 16:9-20:

First, I find it strange that JW broke off the conversation with me and Samuel and decided to take his case to his DL audience.

Second, I find it interesting that JW placed all the focus on Mark 16:9-20 and did not mention that I also offered to debate the PA and Luke 23:34. He also never mentioned that I also offered to do two debates: the first on Mark 16:9-20 and the second on a TR text with only minority support (like Acts 8:37).

Third, I found his reasoning against debating Mark 16:9-20 unconvincing. It is one of the two most significant variants in the NT!

Fourth, JW continues to show that he does not really understand the TR (Confessional Text position).

Fifth, Mark 16:9-20 is clearly an appropriate text for debate.

Sixth, the ending of Mark is one of the few texts upon which JW has produced some written analysis. See Part II of his revised the King James Only Controversy (2009): 316-320.

Seventh, it is clear that JW would prefer to debate passages from the TR with minority support, since he perceives this would give him an advantage.

Third, conclusion:

As things now stand, I continue to offer to JW the opportunity to debate Mark 16:9-20 as one of the two most significant variants in the entire NT. It provides a clear difference between the modern and the traditional text.

Would White be willing to defend the following thesis: "RESOLVED: Mark 16:9-20 is uninspired and spurious and should not be considered part of the Word of God."? 

If JW is not willing to debate a TR advocate, like me, on this text, perhaps he would be willing to debate a Majority Text advocate (like James Snapp). I will suggest to Samuel Nesan that he reach out to James Snapp regarding this.

Since JW is not willing to debate me on this topic, I will also suggest to Samuel Nesan that he invite Stephen Boyce to take up this discussion with me.


Friday, July 31, 2020

The Vision (7.31.20): The Fading Away of the Rich Man

Image: Blueberries with morning dew, North Garden Virginia, July 2020

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 1:9-11.

For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways (James 1:11).

James works upon the consciences of the rich by reminding all men of the brevity of this life. See v. 10b: “because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (cf. Isaiah 40:80).

He continues in v. 11 to describe how the rising sun with its burning heat soon withers the grass and its flower fades “and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.” Go to any nursing home, yeah, to any cemetery, and you see the condition of the youth of yesterday. All the beauty queens, all the athletes, all the intellectuals, all the successful businessmen, statemen, and captains of industry have gone the way of all flesh. James speaks directly to the rich: “so shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

Those words remind me of General MacArthur’s famous speech in which he said, Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.” But MacArthur was wrong. They do die, and then they fade away from memory. And what is more, even their death is not the end. As Paul said in Hebrews 9:27: “and it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”

All the richest men of past generations have already discovered this, whether Nelson Rockefeller, Howard Hughes, or Steve Jobs. And all the wealthy of the present generation, whether Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, will find it out soon enough.

Christ ended his parable of the barn builder in Luke 12:20 with the rich man hearing the Lord say to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:7: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

The truth also is that you do not need to be a fabulously wealthy to be the rich man who is addressed here. You simply have to be a man who rests in himself and his own ability and who falsely thinks that everything is going to keep going just as it is now forever and ever. It will not.

James challenges us to ask ourselves: Where do I find my greatest contentment and consolation in life? In Christ or in the things of this world?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.14-15: The Tyrants Maxentius and Maximin

Image: Bust of Maxentius (AD 276-312; Roman emperor 306-312). Pushkin Museum, Moscow. 

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s Book 8, chapter 14-15.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters describe political turmoil that arose during the decade long Diocletian persecution, which included the rise of two tyrants: Maxentius in the West (Rome) and Maximin in the East. This volatility would lead ultimately to the rise of Constantine as emperor.

Chapter 14 describes the rise of Maxentius, son of the deposed Maximin, as the tyrant of Rome. Not only did he persecute Christians, but he lived a life of gross moral debauchery, which included forced adultery and rape. He put many Romans, including senators, to death. Worst of all he engaged in witchcraft and magical practices, including ripping up pregnant women to explore the entrails of their fetuses. He is described by Eusebius as a Caligula-like figure.

Meanwhile, another tyrant arose in the East named Maximin (aka Maximinus Daia). He also practiced magic and was filled with superstitions. He energetically persecuted Christianity and attempted to restore paganism, including ordering pagan temples to be built in every city. He engaged in drunken excesses, riotous living, and the sexual assault against women.

The only ones who opposed him were the Christians, who suffered greatly under his persecution. Eusebius notes how a Christian lady [Dorothea, according to Rufinus] of Alexandria rebuffed Maximin in order to maintain her modesty.

He then notes how a woman of Rome [Sophronia, according to Rufinus] was likewise attacked by Maxentius but took her own life by the sword.

Chapter 15 notes that during the remainder of the ten years of persecution there was no respite from the plotting and warring of the two tyrants. Even travelers on the sea were not safe, as they might be accused of siding with the enemy and made subject to torture, including death by crucifixion or fire.


These chapters again describe the disorder within the empire and the rivalry among the tryants Maxentius and Maximin, which would eventually lead to the rise of Constantine, who would end persecution and bring peace to the church.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

John Calvin: "Away with the error of Nestorius..."

I recently heard an anti-Protestant pundit claim that Protestantism commits the error of Nestorianism in Christology. I thought of this as I happened to be reading a few sections of Calvin’s Institutes yesterday and ran across these statements:

“Away with the error of Nestorius, who in wanting to pull apart rather than distinguish the nature of Christ devised a double Christ…. Let us beware also, of Eutyches’ madness; lest, while meaning to show the unity of the person, we destroy either nature” (Institutes, 2.14.4).

“I have testified that we do not agree at all with Nestorius, who imagined a double Christ” (Institutes, 2.14.7).


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review posted: Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus

You can listen above to an audio version of my book review of Jeffery Smith, The Rich Man and Lazarus: The Plain Truth About Life After Death (Evangelical Press, 2020).

You can also read a pdf of my written review which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2020): 244-245.

Enjoy! JTR

Monday, July 27, 2020

New Books from Poh Boon Sing

I got a package of books in the mail a couple of weeks ago from Pastor Poh Boon Sing of Damansara Reformed Baptist Church in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Pastor Poh has been been redeeming the time during the quarantine by reformatting some of his old books (I had read his book on The Christian in the Chinese Culture a few years ago and found it to be an excellent resource) and producing some new works from his teaching ministry on various topics.

You can find all of these books on amazon in paperback or kindle editions, if you are looking for some profitable summertime devotional reading.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Eusebius, EH.8.13: Church Leaders Martyred During the Diocletian Persecution

Image: Martyrdom of Anthimus of Nicomedia and others, Miniature from the Menologion of Basil II, c. AD 1,000.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 13.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter begins by listing the various rulers of the churches who became martyrs during the Diocletian persecution.

First in the list is Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia, who was beheaded.

Others include the presbyter Lucian of Antioch;

Tyrannion, bishop of Tyre;

Zenobius, presbyter of Sidon;

Silvanus, bishop of Emesa;

Silvanus, bishop of Gaza, beheaded at the copper mines at Phaeno, one of 39 martyrs there;

Peleus and Nilus, bishops of Egypt;

Pamphylius, presbyter of Caesarea, whom Eusebius describes as “the most marvelous man of our day”;

Peter, bishop of Alexandria;

Phileas, Hesychius, Pachymius, and Theodore, bishops of Egypt.

To these could be added “countless other famous persons as well.” Eusebius promises to write more in another work.

The chapter then turns to discuss the Roman government. This is typical of Eusebius, to parallel descriptions of church and imperial leaders.

He notes that before the time of persecution, the Christians had enjoyed peace and prosperity.

Reference is made to the so-called Tetrarchy, set up by Diocletian, in which power was shared between Diocletian and Maximin, as emperors, and Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, as Caesars.

It was under the Tetrarchy that the persecution had begun in 303, and which would last a decade till 313.

Eusebius notes that Diocletian fell under a “fateful disease” and became “deranged”, and this resulted in him resuming life as a private citizen in 306.

According to Eusebius, of the Tetrarchs, only Constantius (father of Constantine) lived “in a manner worthy of his high office” and did not persecute the Christians or tear down their churches, but even protected them.

His son Constantine was made emperor (one of the Tetrarch) after his death “by God Himself, the King Supreme.”

The chapter closes with reference to the later struggle for power between Constantine, Licinius, and Maximin, which resulted in the deposition and death of Maximin and the removal of his public monuments and memorials.


In this chapter Eusebius honors the church leaders who died as martyrs during the Diocletian persecution (303-313). He also describes the rise of Constantine to imperial power, providing a perhaps overly positive portrayal of Constantine’s father Constantius, and noting the rise of Constantine as divinely orchestrated.