Saturday, August 30, 2014

Word Magazine # 26: Rejoinder to James White: Erasmus and Apologetics

Image:  Erasmus (1466-1536).  This humanist scholar compiled and edited the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, which formed the basis for the Protestant Textus Receptus (received text) of the New Testament.

Last week’s Word Magazine #25, which reviewed a Wretched TV Interview with apologist James White, drew its fair share of interest.  Most notably, James White himself offered a screen flow video response to my presentation on Monday, August 25, 2014.

I have now recorded and posted a rejoinder to James White:

In the rejoinder I summarize and respond to four points regarding James White’s response:

Image:  Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007).  Metzger taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and wrote extensively on New Testament text criticism.  His work "The Text of the New Testament" (first published in 1964 and appearing in three later editions) has influenced a generation of pastors and scholars in explaining and championing the theories of modern text criticism.

1.  JW took issue with my critique of his comments in the Wretched Video regarding the “Erasumus rushed his Greek NT to print” legend and the as yet unsubstantiated lost ending of Revelation anecdote, suggesting instead that one should consult his written work on these topics.  Therefore, in this rejoinder I point to specific passages in White’s The KJV Only Controversy where he perpetuates the “Erasmus rushed his Greek NT to print” legend and the lost ending of Revelation anecdote.

Image:  Henk Jan De Jonge (b. 1943).  De Jonge is emeritus professor of NT and Early Christianity at the University of Leiden.  His 1980 article "Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum" debunked a long held legend regarding the incorporation of the CJ by Erasmus into the Textus Receptus.

2.  JW attacked my defense of the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8) in the traditional text.  Though this was a rather minor part of my initial review, and, admittedly, one of the most difficult parts of the TR to defend, White gave most attention to it.  In my rejoinder I point to the tenacity of the CJ and its preservation in the Western church.

I also noted here JW’s perpetuation of another Erasmus legend, that of Erasmus having made a rash wager or promise to include the CJ only if a Greek manuscript of it could be produced.  This legend is found in White’s KJV Only Controversy, likely borrowed from Bruce Metzger, and is reflected in his dating of codex 61 as having been created in 1520.  The legend was thoroughly debunked by H. J. De Jonge in a 1980 article, Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum, which even led Metzger to revise his comments on the CJ in the Third Edition of his influential The Text of the New Testament.

Image:  Front cover of David Trobisch's 
"A User's Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek NT" (SBL, 2013)

3.  JW took issue with my challenge of inconsistency in those who attack the traditional text for its inclusion of readings with weaker external support or for conjectural emendations (like that alleged in Beza’s version of the TR at Revelation 16:5), but who make use of the modern critical text which also often  prefers minority readings and suggests conjectural emendations.

In this discussion I noted David Trobisch’s observation in his A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (Society of Biblical Literature, 2013) that though the NA 28 editors refrained from noting conjectures in the apparatus, “this does not imply that the editors are principally against conjectures.  Producing an eclectic text always open the possibility that in some cases no manuscript containing the original reading has survived. No matter how many text witnesses exist, the initial text may have been lost.  Noting theoretical reconstructions of the oldest text form is good practice for editors of eclectic editions” (p. 43).

Thus, I reaffirmed my contention that it is inconsistent to critique the TR as an eclectic text for editorial philosophy when that same philosophy is also reflected in the modern critical text.

Image:  Folio from p45, one of the famed Chester Beatty papyri whose discovery in 1930-31 marked the "Period of the Papyri" (1930-1980).

4.  JW contended that one cannot possibly engage in meaningful apologetics regarding the NT if he supports the traditional text.  I challenged this view, describing it as “Modern Critical Text Only-ism.”  I also challenged JW’s rather odd contention that meaningful text criticism only came with the modern papyri discoveries. In response I pointed out that the major challenges to the TR came in the Enlightenment influenced nineteenth century, long before the modern papyri discoveries, citing E. J. Epp’s description of 1930-1980 as the “Period of the Papyri” (“Textual Criticism” in The NT and Its Modern Interpreters [Scholars Press, 1989]:  p. 83).


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Vision (8.28.14): The abuse of our Lord

Image:  Modern tourists visit a site which claims to be "The Dungeon at Caiphas' house"

Note:  Here are some notes from the exposition of Luke 22:63-65 from the am sermon on 8.17.14 Christ on Trial:

And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him (Luke 22:63).

Luke begins:  “And the men that held Jesus…”  The verb here is synecho.  In addition to simply holding, the verb also has the sense of to surround, to hem in, or to encircle.  This is before the age when people thought anything about the humane treatment of prisoners or those in custody.  In the first century you were guilty unless proven innocent and the punishment began even before your trial ended.  Ironically, it is the life and teachings of the man they encircle that will result in humane treatment for those accused of crimes.

Luke continues, saying “they mocked him [empaizo:  ridicule, make fun of, trick, or deceive], and smote him [dero:  beat, strike, hit].”  We don’t know which was worse, the emotional abuse they inflicted or the physical abuse.  I feel sure that no blow they laid upon him hurt as much, humanly speaking, than when his eyes locked on Peter’s at the moment of his third and emphatic denial (v. 61 a).  Blows were laid upon our Lord that the eye could not see.

And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? (Luke 22:64).

In v. 64 we see one example of both this emotional and physical abuse laid upon our Lord.  The guards apparently had picked upon from the trial that Jesus was acclaimed as a prophet by the people.  So, they thought it would be great fun to blindfold him [perikalypto] and to strike him in the face, all the while saying, “Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?”  Get it?  We complain about bullying today, but we don’t know what bulling is—what the bullying was like that our Lord underwent for our sakes.

We see first the physical brutality Jesus endured.  The verb here for “to strike” used of their hitting Jesus in the face [a description omitted in many modern translations] is typto.  It is the root for the English word “type” which has the sense to hit so as to leave a mark or impression or, we might say, a bruise.  Some of us are old enough to remember typewriters where a key with a raised letter would strike the ribbon held to the paper and leave a mark.  Recall:

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

We see also the irony of their mockery.  What have we seen in this Gospel?  Jesus is a great prophet.  What he prophesies comes to pass.  He sends men toward Jerusalem and tells them they will find a donkey upon which he will ride and they go and find it as he said (cf. 19:29-34).  He sends men to prepare the upper room and tells them they will see a man with a pitcher of water and they are to follow and ask a room of him. And they find it exactly as he said (cf. 22:7-13).  He predicts one will betray him and Judas does (cf. 22:21-23, 47-48).  He predicts Peter will deny him before the cock crows, and he does (cf. 22:34, 56-62).  Perhaps the greatest irony is that Jesus predicted their very mockery and his own death as well as he resurrection:

Luke 9:22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

Their mockery reminds me of the Russian cosmonauts who went into space and reported they could not find God there, so he must not exist.  Silly men.  You prove nothing when you claim God does not exist, because you cannot see him.  So these men prove nothing but their own spiritual darkness in mocking our Lord who is the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.

And many other things blasphemously spake they against him (Luke 22:65).

Notice especially Luke’s conclusion in v. 65.  The word that stands out here is the verb blasphemeo.  Though it can mean to speak against, slander, or insult a man, the most powerful meaning of the verb, of course, is to speak sacrilegiously or profanely about God.  What is Luke’s not so subtle point?  To blaspheme Jesus is to blaspheme God, because Jesus is Lord!  Perhaps Luke gave us this verse to alleviate our disgust at how Christ was so shamefully treated.  The one whom these men scorn and ridicule, myriads will fall down before and worship.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WM # 25: Review: Wretched Interview with James White

I posted a new edition of Word Magazine (# 25) today.  This episode offers a review of this youtube video from Wretched Radio in which host Todd Friel interviews RB apologist James White of issues related to text and translation of Scripture.

I took exception to several things in the video including:

1.  Confusing a concern for the traditional text of Scripture with KJV-Onlyism.

2.  Undermining the traditional text by disparaging Erasmus' printed edition of the Greek New Testament (1516), including charges that the edition was riddled with errors because Erasmus rushed the work into print to beat Cardinal Ximenes' Complutensian Polyglott to the market and that the ending of Revelation (the last 5 or 6 verses) is filled with "bizarre" readings.

3.  The implication that the so-called Comma Johanneum (in 1 John 5:7-8) in the TR lacks ancient attestation.

4.  The implication that support for the traditional text is rooted merely in threadbare traditionalism.

Here also are some links to resources mentioned in the podcast:

a.  My blogpost (tract):  A Brief Guide to Bible Translations.

b.  Google Books entry for Anne Reeve, Ed., Erasmus' Annotations on the New Testament:  The Gospels (London:  Duckworth, 1986).

c.  Franz Delitzsch's Handschriftliche Funde (Leipzig, 1861).


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Vision (8.21.14): Slander

Note:  The following story appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of The Messenger, the bimonthly magazine of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Salisbury, England.  This is the church where Malcolm Watts is the minister.  He preached at the Keach Conference and at CRBC in 2011 (see here).  The story is a reminder of the dangers of the tongue (see James 3).  May we learn to be good stewards of our speech.

A farmer’s wife once spread a slanderous story about her Pastor through the village where she lived, and soon the whole countryside had come to hear of it.

Some time later the woman became quite sick and confessed that the story was untrue. After her recovery, she came to the Pastor and craved his forgiveness. The old Pastor said, “Of course, I will gladly forgive you if you will comply with a wish of mine.” “Most gladly,” replied the woman. “Go home then,” he said, “kill a black hen, pluck the feathers, and put them in a basket and bring them here.”

In half an hour she was back. “Now,” said the pastor, “go through the village and at each street corner scatter a few of these feathers, the remaining ones take to the top of the bell tower and scatter them to the winds, and then return.” She did so. “Now,” he said, “go through the village and gather the feathers again – and see that not one is missing.”

The woman looked at the Pastor in astonishment. “Why,” she said, “that is impossible! The wind has scattered them over the fields everywhere!”

“And so,” the Pastor said, “while I forgive you gladly, do not forget that you can never undo the damage your untrue words have done.”
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Five Books on Credobaptism versus Paedobaptism

A couple of young people who occasionally drive from Williamsburg to attend our church, recently asked me to recommend some books on a confessional perspective on believers' baptism by immersion, as they are studying the issue of credobaptism versus paedobaptism.  Here are five suggestions (listed in chronological order by the year published) with a few annotations:

1.  John L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858; Gano Books, 1990).

This is the companion volume to Dagg’s Manual of Theology (1857).  It provides a classic defense of believers’ baptism by immersion (pp. 13-73).  Special focus is given to the linguistic argument regarding the verb baptizo with references to its uses in ancient Greek.

2.  Fred Malone, A String of Pearls Unstrung (Founders Press, 1998).

This booklet, originally written in 1977, describes the author's transition from being a Presbyterian to being a Baptist.  It can be read online here.  For a fuller treatment on the subject of baptism you can also read his book The Baptism of Disciples Alone:  A covenantal argument for credobaptism versus paedobaptism (Founders Press, 2003).

3.  Samuel E. Waldron, Biblical Baptism:  A Reformed Defense of Believers’ Baptism (Truth for Eternity Ministries, 1998).

This 80 page booklet from a leading contemporary Reformed Baptist systematic theologian provides a careful exegetical, theological, and practical discussion of baptism.

4.  Hal Brunson, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror:  Two Parables of Paedobaptism and One Parable of the Death of Christ (iUniverse, 2007).

This self-published book from a former Southern Baptist who considered becoming a Presbyterian but who eventually became a confessional Baptist offers a creative take on the topic by imagining a discussion between the Presbyterian B. B. Warfield, the dispensationalist J. N. Darby, and the confessional Baptist C. H. Spurgeon.

5.  W. Gary Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism:  A Critique of the Westminster Standards on the Subjects of Baptism (Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2010).

A pastor and scholar describes his transition from the Presbyterian to the confessional Baptist position through a study of the Westminster Standards.  For my written review of this book look here (for the same review in audio look here).

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Reformed Baptist Trumpet

I just sent out the most recent edition of the Reformed Baptist Trumpet, the quarterly e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (Vol. 5. No. 2 April-June, 2014).  Yes, we know it is a little behind. Hopefully we will catch up with the next issue!

The entire issue has also been posted to the RBF-VA website.

In this issue:

  1. Info on the 2014 Keach Conference which will be held Friday PM-Saturday AM, September 26-27, 2014.  Speakers:  Jim Savastio and Earl Blackburn.
  2. Article by W. Gary Crampton:  Reformed Theology and the Sabbath.
  3. Review of Tom Chantry and David Dykstra's Holding Communion Together by Jeffrey T. Riddle.
  4. Paradosis article:  Excerpt from Benjamin Keach's 1693 sermon "The Blessedness of Christ's Sheep."
Hope to see you at the Keach Conference,

Jeff Riddle, RBT Editor

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Vision (8.14.14): Christians, Violence, Government, Military Service, and Murder

We had a good Sunday School discussion last Lord’s Day following lunch on the topic of what the Bible teaches about non-violence and retaliation.  We also pondered the duties of Christians to government and whether or not a Christian can serve in the military, as well as the meaning of the sixth commandment.

Here is a summary of some of the points and passages we looked at:

1.  There are places in the Bible where Jesus teaches non-violence and non-retaliation.  In the Sermon on the Mount, he teaches his disciples to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies (cf. Matt 5:38-42).  We must understand the context of Jesus’ teaching and consider that Jesus was preparing his disciples for how to respond to persecution.  When arrested, he tells Peter to put away his sword (Matt 26:52).

2.  Civil government is ordained by God to restrain evil and the civil authority “does not bear the sword in vain” (see Romans 13:1-7).

3.  The apostles taught believers to pray for those in civil authority and to honor and obey them (cf. 1 Tim 2:13; 1 Peter 2:13-17).  Note that they did this even when the government was clearly pagan!

4.  When there is conflict between obedience to God and obedience to men, we must obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29).

5.  As to Christians in military service, notice that when soldiers came to John the Baptist he did not tell them to leave their posts but not to misuse their authority (Luke 3:14).   Likewise, when Cornelius became a Christian Peter did not require that he leave military service (see Acts 10—11).  Paul urged believers to be content with their status in life (1 Cor 7:20-24).

6.  We also discussed the meaning of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:23 NKJV:  “You shall not murder.”).

Here is a follow up from John D. Currid, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, from his commentary on Exodus, Vol 2 (Evangelical Press 2001):  pp. 45-46:

20:13:  ‘You shall not murder.’

The Hebrew word for ‘murder’ is rasah.  It occurs forty-seven times in the Old Testament.  In every instance but one it speaks of one human being killing another.  It is never used of a person killing an animal.  In addition, rasah is never employed in contexts of war, capital punishment, or self-defence.  Most often it denotes planned or premeditated murder in the form of revenge (Num. 35:27, 30), or assassination (2 Kings 6:32).  Unpremeditated killing, known as manslaughter in English common law, is also prohibited in Numbers 35 because it is rasah.

It should be noted that the verb does not specify any particular person(s) as its direct object.  The form is thus not qualified in that way.  Consequently, it is likely that suicide is included in the prohibition.

Jesus’ interpretation of this law goes well beyond the physical act of murder (see Matt. 5:21-22).  It also ‘forbids murder of the heart,’ as Calvin puts it.  Indeed, it is the hand that gives birth to murder, but it is the heart infected and inflamed with hate and anger that conceives it! (cf. 1 John 3:15).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Word Magazine # 24: Review: Rodney Stark's "The Victory of Reason"

I recorded and uploaded a new Word Magazine (episode # 24) today. The topic is a review of Rodney Stark's "The Victory of Reason:  How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success" (Random House, 2005).

Also below is the first of four Templeton Research lectures Stark did in 2006 at Vanderbilt University which present some of his ideas on religious marketplaces (all four lectures are worth viewing):

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Vision (8.5.14): The Power of Darkness

Note:  Here some notes to the conclusion of last Sunday morning’s sermon, focusing on Luke 22:53b.

Finally, Jesus declares to those who came to arrest him, “but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (v. 53b).

The phrase “the hour” does not refer to chronological time but to kairos time.  Earlier in his ministry, Jesus could say at the wedding in Cana of Galilee:  “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4).   Now, he says to those arresting him, it is your hour, your moment, to take me to the cross.  It is the time for the power of darkness to be manifested.  The Messiah must be crucified.  The wrath of God must be poured out.  Without the shedding of blood there is no redemption; there is no restoration.

But Jesus also knew that after the power of darkness would not prevail, in the end, over the power of light.  The hour when evil triumphs will be followed by the hour when God triumphs, the hour when God has the victory in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  In the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus says: “Father, the hour is come:  glorify they Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee” (John 17:2).

I have had interest in the impact of Jesus on our culture and society.  It is an impact I often try to emphasize with college students when teaching course on The Life and Teaching of Jesus.  Along these lines, I recently finished an interesting book by Baylor University sociologist and author Rodney Stark titled, The Victory of Reason:  How Christianity led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005).

The book’s conclusion begins with this paragraph:

Christianity created Western Civilization. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls.  Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire modern world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800:  A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists.  A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos.  A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth—a world truly living in the “dark ages” (p. 233).

I think Stark is right in his analysis, but it fails to consider an even worse hypothetical.  If Christ has not come and the gospel not been heralded, our problems would have been far greater than our material, cultural, or political state.  It would have been far worse than not having universities, banks, and eyeglasses.  Had Christ not come and the gospel not been heralded, we would still be living in the spiritual dark ages, under the power of darkness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Violence and Religio-Social Background

I wanted to do a follow up post for a conversation some of us had over lunch last Sunday at CRBC.  We got started talking about the Israel-Gaza conflict, including the breakdown of the cease-fire, apparently from the Hamas side (see this take and this one).

I mentioned to the folk at my table that this brought to mind a passage from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir Nomad (Free Press, 2010), which I am reading as a follow up to her first memoir Infidel (Free Press, 2007) in which she describes the typical attitudes towards and experiences with violence among Somali Muslims.  At one point she gives an anecdote from when she was working as an interpreter for the Dutch government and was called in to help a Dutch teacher meet with the parents of a Somali boy who had attacked his Dutch classmate.  The account leads to this reflection on her own experiences:

To the Dutch teacher I explained that, in Somalia, strong clans teach their children, both boys and girls, the merits of physical aggression:  how to be the first to deal a blow; how to respond if you are surprised with a blow; the art of deception in aggression; how to pretend you are down and then strike; how to pretend to apologize and then regroup, change your tactics, and hit back.  My older cousin used to take me to “fighting practice” after school when I was about five or six.  I was encouraged to pick a fight with a classmate, who was encouraged to pick a fight with me.  We poked out our tongues at each other, made faces at each other, and called each other names, “You are a low, accursed, shameful, dishonorable, kinteerley.”  Then, surrounded by cheering older relatives, we went at each other.  We kicked, scratched, bit one another, wrestled until we were covered in bruises, our little dresses torn, our knee caps scraped from all the falling.  You were defeated if you gave up first or if you cried or ran away.  In all three cases you would undergo a severe verbal and physical beating from your fighting coach.  In my case my coach was my older cousin, the only daughter of my mother’s twin sister (p. 188).

Her comments bring a new understanding to the apparent Hamas action.  It also made me think of the video that went viral a few weeks ago showing a Lebanese boy mercilessly hitting a Syrian refugee boy, at the urging of older children and adults [warning:  some will find this unsettling]:

To me this opened a window on cultural differences and how these should not be looked at in a value neutral way.  It also brought to mind the wide ranging impact and influence of the one who taught "love your enemies," "turn the other cheek," and "do unto others, as you would have them do to you."   

Monday, August 04, 2014

I love this time of summer...

I love this time of the summer, when you go out to the garden and bring in the harvest. This is what I saw on the kitchen counter this afternoon.  Fresh green beans (which Llewellyn cooked for supper, mixed with fresh onions also from the garden), squash, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes (lots of Roma, with which Llewellyn has already canned a number of jars of spaghetti sauce for the winter).  You can also see fresh eggs gathered from the hen house.  We have the best layers I think we've ever had (thanks to the Hamricks!).  There's also a freezer bag filled with blackberries picked from bushes growing in our ditch facing Plank Road!

I also thought of this verse from Isaiah, which we read at CRBC a few weeks ago (we're in the midst of reading through Isaiah-Jeremiah-Ezekiel one chapter at a time in our worship services):

"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isaiah 61:11).