Wednesday, March 25, 2015

John Owen on Apparent Contradictions in Scripture

When preaching last Sunday afternoon on “Stephen’s Final Sermon” in Acts 7 I spent a bit of time addressing Stephen’s mention of 75 Israelite souls who came to Egypt at the time of Joseph (Acts 7:14) in comparison to 70 as mentioned elsewhere in the OT (cf. Gen 46:26-27; Exod 1;5; Deut 10:22).  One solution I suggested was that Stephen's number included the offspring of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh.  If so, here is a place where the NT supplements information from the OT.  I also noted that given enough time, light, reason, and information solutions can be reached for all apparent tensions that arise in Biblical hermeneutics.  Along the way I also shared this quotation from John Owen:
We have seen that there are some difficult passages in the Bible, occurring frequently but irregularly throughout the Scriptures, and so there are some apparent contradictions scattered therein which are to be diligently searched into and reconciled—something which can only be achieved by legitimate interpretation (Biblical Theology, p. 814).

Indeed, the path of pre-critical interpreters was to seek rationally satisfying harmonization in the face of “apparent contradictions.”  For Owen solutions can only come through diligent and faithful interpretation.  In the quote above from Adversus Fanaticos, Owen’s point was that solutions to such tensions did not come from seeking mystical experiential insight but from soundly and soberly dividing the word.


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